Boat Handling Course Report


The Course

As the first stage to qualification for skippering the club boats the BSAC Boat Handler course is now being taught at Oxford BSAC. This equips trainees with the skills necessary to safely take charge of a vessel in open water. An additional 20 hours experience is required before then moving onto the Diver Cox’n (diver coxswain) course which then qualifies us to pick up divers and snorkelers. A bit of a palava, but it then means we are insured, which with an adventurous sport is a bit of a must.

The Report

So bright and early this August Saturday morning we made our way down to Chichester with the club RIB Naiad. Having already completed much of the theory in the clubhouse classroom we were expecting a largely practical day, and that was how it turned out. Club member and RYA Instructor Andy White showed us the basics of getting the boat ready, unloading from the trailer and getting going. We then took turns on the controls, getting a feel for the boat and putting navigation lessons into practise – making sure we went the correct side of appropriate buoys, checking the GPS and watching our depth on the fish finder – as we headed out of the Itchenor towards the sea.  

We spent a bit of time on slow-speed skills. These are tricky but quite good fun to try and master. It is far too easy to go too fast – often overshooting the buoys we were trying to circle/figure of eight/snake between. I found it much easier in reverse, which I think is one of the key lessons. Besides the difficulty of some of these skills we all left satisfied that we had improved during the day. It also made me aware of just how responsive our 5m RIB is – this was the first time I had been in it, let alone controlled it – it was a lot of fun.

After a brief lunch stop (at the Hailing Island Sailing Club) we headed out to sea to practise high-speed turns. It was about this point I realised I should have let my lunch go down for a few more minutes, although I did manage to hold onto it it was a very bumpy ride – with mixed excitement and fear with every wave we jumped. Judgeing the sea and choosing the best point to start a turn we practised the art of making a smooth arc at speed. We then did figures of eight, gaining in confidence as we went. We got wet. Very wet. Thankfully the water at this time of year is a pretty pleasant temperature. But in the end I think we got the idea, and had a lot of fun trying.

One last skill was ‘man overboard’ – simulated with a weighted buoy thrown randomly by our instructor behind us. We had to deal with this ‘incident’ by the skipper instructing the crew members to keep the buoy in their sight (and point to it) while performing a high speed turn, before creeping up to and collecting the buoy in a controlled manner.

We then headed back into the estuary and practised lots of slow speed skills, debriefed and recovered the RIB to the trailer.

This was a great day out which I would recommend to any diver or snorkeler. It improves your understanding of boats, teaches you practical skills and is a lot of fun.

Saturday 13th August 2011