At first glance, you may wonder what this has to do with microholding, but one of the key elements of self-sufficiency, when you have only a small space, is foraging, which includes fishing. And while shore fishing or even inland fishing (if you can get the permission) are okay, the biggest and bestest fish are to be found off-shore, for which you need a boat. Hence the RYA Powerboating Level Two course.
Although you can go out and buy a boat, jump in it and hammer out into the ocean with neither experience nor insurance, this is clearly insane! I mean, actually proper crazy mad. If you do that, “You’re going to die”, simple as that. And maybe take a few others down with you.
Hardly worth it for a bit of fish!
But the question is: is the powerboating course worth it for a bit of fish?
Firstly, there is the price to take into consideration. The two-day course with Marine Matters in Warsash cost me £325, which is pretty standard from what I can see. Once upon a time, the government subsidised these courses, but those days vanished together with all the cash in the treasury. Political!
Here’s how it went…
There were two of us on the course (with me being the total noob) and we started off in the Marine Matters classroom, where our instructor, Andy, gave us the low down on safety aspects and equipment. This was the precursor for us making sure we were ready for our first foray into the water and, within a couple of hours of arriving, I found myself heading down to the jetty.
The boat we were going to be learning on was a 6.5m RIB with a whopping 150HP engine dangling off the back of it. Apparently there is one packing 700HP, and I imagine it’s fairly nippy! Having got her ready and gone over the various features of the boat and tried to get my head around relearning left and right as port and starboard, Andy eased the boat out into the calm, sunny waters of the Hamble.
The next several hours were spent manoeuvring around a small area of the river, getting used to the effect of the wind and the tide, having a go at turning around and keeping still (which is proper tough), and “coming alongside”, with a brief break for lunch in the middle. I can’t really describe how different powerboating is from driving a car. There are no brakes, no pedals, it steers from the back, and the road is a big, blue, wobbly thing that never stops moving, and when its parked, THE BOAT KEEPS ON MOVING! That said, I can just about recall how strange driving a car was when I first started out. I just hope boating becomes second-nature too!
Back in the warmth of the classroom, we rounded off the day looking at boat shapes, buoys and maps (aka charts), which went on until fairly late in the evening.
The weather was not our friend on the Sunday, so we huddled around hot cups of coffee in the classroom for a few hours, while the rain cleared and the wind stopped smashing the place up. But our time was not wasted! After some more theory on the effect of the weather on boating, Andy set us the task of plotting out a course from the jetty in the Hamble all the way to Town Quay Southampton.
One thing that I hadn’t realised was that most of the buoys (maybe all of them) have names. And, in case you’re interested, once we had been kitted out with wet weather gear (no extra charge!), launched the RIB and made our way out of the Hamble, our route took us from Solent Point to Weston Shelf – stopping half way to drop down the anchor and have lunch – before trundling at 6 knots up to Southampton. I say trundle, because our journey from the two buoys was undertaken at 20 knots.
Now, I’m aware there are powerboat races with vessels that travel at 80 knots or so, but 20 knots fest fast. By which I mean FAST! The video at the top of the page is a brief clip of the journey back, by which time I was a little more used to travelling ‘up on the plane’. By the time we arrived back at Hamble Point buoy and the 6 knot limit, I was quite enjoying nipping across the tops of the waves, bouncing across the wake of the ferries, and was hardly screaming at all!
Once we were back at the classroom (after I’d sneaked the RIB back up to the jetty… first time!), we focussed on a few final points of theory, all of which is detailed in the book we were given, ‘RYA Start Powerboating’, so at least I have some way of remembering all the stuff I learned.
Items that were covered in the two days included:
- Safety information and equipment
- Boat preparation and pre-start checks
- Launching and recovering
- Coming alongside, keeping stationery, close quarter manoeuvres and using transits
- Knots (four as I recall…)
- Towing and trailering
- Weather and tides
- Rules of the Road (IRPCS)
- Charts and course planning / plotting
All in all, it was a great weekend and I feel a hundred times more confident about taking out my little boat (that I’ve had for four years and have NEVER taken out on the water).
So to answer our question: Yes! The Powerboating Level 2 course was definitely worth it… even for a bit of fish!