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How to avoid expensive mistakes when you buy a new or second-hand yacht. 

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GMDSS A User's Handbook

By Denise Bréhaut

GMDSS A user's handbook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) provides a fast and efficient way of calling for assistance at sea, whatever the size of craft or its geographical position. Since it was first published, this book has helped explain the system for anyone using GMDSS and has been excellent pre-course reading for students.

 

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SafaSail HatThe SafaSail Hard Hat looks just like a sailing cap, but will help protect you if you get a bang to the head.  See our review here

RYA adds logic to the confusion

RYA LogoToday's announcement changing the name of the RYA Coastal Skipper ticket to Yachtmaster Coastal should come as no surprise to those who hang around the RYA circuit.  It's been on the cards for a while, along with possible changes to the Yachtmaster Ocean certificate. 

There is some logic to the change.  The take-up for the Coastal Skipper course, let alone the independent exam, was poor, and the RYA is, after all, a business.  It needs to generate more revenue from its main income earners and what better way than to add yet another 'Yachtmaster' qualification to the pack?

And there is also some logic to the name changes.  Yachtmaster Coastal, Yachtmaster Offshore, and Yachtmaster Ocean now form the three levels of competence for yachtsmen internationally. 

But the RYA has so far failed to deal with other problems relating to the Yachtmaster exams.  There are three things that we believe it needs to address.

Firstly, it needs to address a further bit of confusion. The main justification put forward by Jim Stevens, RYA training manager, is that it will "remove any confusion between the Coastal Skipper Course and the exam, which has resulted in many people thinking they are qualified when in fact they have only attended the course." 

Unfortunately, the RYA still keeps the title 'Yachtmaster' in the shore-based course: "the Yachtmaster/Coastal Skipper shore-based course and the Coastal Skipper practical course remain unchanged".  As a working delivery skipper, I've had a number of people tell me that they've done their 'Yachtmaster' when in fact they have only attended the shore based course, and this name change does nothing to address that little problem.

Secondly, the Yachtmaster Ocean course urgently needs revision. Whilst being able to use a sextant is a good idea, with the advent of statellite navigation systems, the development of satellite telephones, and the almost universal use of chart plotters and computer based navigation, it's looking more and more like the 'morse code' question.  Useful to know, but of little practical use. 

I hear all the old salts hurrumphing into their beer.  But frankly, anyone who has tried to carry an almanac , the three volumes of AP3270 and a sextant along with all their sailing kit through Easy Jet check in without paying a vast overweight fine, and growing muscles like Rambo in the process,will know what I mean.

I have to declare a vested interest.  As someone who qualified for their Yachtmaster Ocean ticket by passage, experience, and training, but fluffed the exam because some of my sextant derived lines of position were a little dodgy, I still feel sore.

But there is a further, and perhaps more fundamental problem with the Yachtmaster Ocean exam.  As a working delivery skipper, I was running a delivery from Spain back to the UK a few years ago.  My first mate was a really great guy who had just completed a "Zero to Hero" Yachtmaster Ocean course with UKSA.  As such, he was more highly qualified than me, but told me that he didn't want to 'skipper' because he didn't feel he had enough experience.  Quite apart from the fact that Yachtmaster Ocean qualilfied skippers should have enough experience to run a yacht from Spain to the UK without a second thought, the issue was shown to be a practical risk only 24 hours later.  On watch, motoring on the second night, the lights of an approaching vessel told me that we were 'head on' with a vessel over 50m.  I asked him which way he was going to turn, and the answer was 'Left'.  This was a fundamental 'rule of the road' mistake that could have put us in danger, and was, simply, a matter of lack of experience.

If this were an isolated incident, I would dismiss it.  But the problem has arisen on several occasions with crew who have done their Zero to Hero Yachtmaster Ocean courses, but have gained them by sitting on a yacht on one or two long passages, and concentrating on the sextant bit of the exam as if that were the most important part.  It isn't.  And the RYA should urgently address the problem of Yachtmaster Ocean qualifications being awarded to people who, frankly, lack the necessary experience.

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