Saturday, October 28, 2006

Marine VHF Radio use

I have just been running an SRC (Short Range Certificate) radio course today. I have been running VHF radio courses for about 25 years now and have noticed a major change in the last few years.

In the past it would be quite difficult to get students to speak out loud when they were doing the practical exercises and many people would be very self conscious despite my best effort to avoid this situation.

In the last few years this inhibition seems to have disappeared almost completely, the only reason I can think of is the common use of mobile phones in public places. I think that many people have become used to holding conversations in public like this and no longer feel self conscious when talking over the radio.

One of the results is that the standard of the students attending SRC courses has improved drastically and it is now rare for me to have a student on a course who struggles with the practical side. It would be nice to think that this is because I am a better teacher than in the past, but I do not really think this is the cause.

Maybe there is some benefit from those annoying conversations you hear when someone is talking out loud on their mobile phone on the train or in a restaurant!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Yacht Ownership, part 2!

It is not unusual for me to take on a student who has just purchased their first yacht and on discussion find that they have spent over £500,000 or more on their new toy.

Often this has been the result of some long held dream that has finally been achieved by years of hard work developing a business that makes this purchase possible.

If I had been consulted first, I would have recommended that instead of buying a brand new 40-50 yacht, that their first boat should have been a slightly tatty 30-32 footer. In a smaller boat any errors would have been less critical, but I have noticed that owners are often far more nervous handing a new boat than one that already has a few minor bumps and scrapes. This nervousness itself is sometimes the cause of problems.

This smaller boat would have allowed the owner much more room for error and experimentation so that they had a good feel for boats before taking on the considerably greater challenges of a larger yacht.

In the past if you owned a yacht you probably came from a nautical family, you would have grown up sailing and rowing dinghies, sailing as crew on the family boat, then your first yacht would have been a small vessel with minimal facilities. Every few years this boat would have been replaced by one a few feet longer and by the time you could afford a 50 foot yacht, you would been very experienced at all aspects of running and maintaining a vessel.

This experience is rare now as people can afford to buy quite large yachts as their first boat. Unfortunately, no matter how many courses you take or which instructor you go to, they can not cover all the experiences that are required to feel comfortable and safe skippering a larger yacht.

New Yacht Ownership

Students often ask for my advice about purchasing a yacht, particularly with reference to what they make and size to buy.

I always find this a difficult question to answer because I personally feel that it is very hard to justify the costs and time involved in owning a yacht. I understand the pleasure to be gained in having your own vessel and to have it set up so that you know how it works, and it is personalised to your taste, but the expence involved is quite considerable and I believe that most people who buy their first boat do not realise quite what is involved.

I normally recommend that people charter boats for a few years before considering purchasing. The main benefit of chartering is that you know the cost upfront, but also after you have been sailing you do not have any concern about looking after the boat (with many keen sailors working long hours to pay for their fun, this can be a big factor). Another factor that I mention is that after you have owned a yacht in one area for a few years there is a tendency to become a bit tired of visiting the same ports.

Chartering gets round all these things, you can have different boats, visit different areas and not have the worry of how well the boat is moored when a storm blows up.

Of course the downside is that you are never sure of the condition of the boat you will charter and they are never equipped the way you would prefer. A more practical issue is that of learning to drive a new vessel in a tight space, perhaps with your family looking on!

My advice to people considering buying a yacht is that unless you are retired, taking a long period off work, or in a position that the cost is not important you are better off chartering. Alternatively if you feel that you do want to own a yacht, joining a good syndicate ( or something like Smartsail ( can be good choices, but they do need careful consideration first to ensure your goals are compatible.