I’m going to toot my own horn again really loudly here: I passed my ASA Coastal Navigation and Advanced Coastal Cruising certification exams! So within one year I’ve gone from being a complete and total newbie, not knowing the difference between a bimini and a boobie hatch, to something resembling a real mariner! The Advanced Coastal Cruising Standard states that the student should be "able to safely act as skipper and crew of a sailing vessel about 30 to 50 feet in length in coastal and inland waters, in ANY CONDITIONS" (emphasis mine).
Why get certified? For someone like me who is big on book knowledge but lacking in real world experience I’m hoping it will give more credibility with charter companies when it comes time to do another bareboat charter. And preparing for the exam gives you something to do when the weather is crappy or you can't spend any daylight hours outside. Plus it’s a real ego boost when you pass!
Both exams took about five hours together. During that time I plotted my course carefully around islands shrouded in thick fog, avoiding sunken wrecks, and taking into account leeway, current set and drift. Later I sharpened my #2 pencils, all the while scanning the sky for signs of the approaching cold front. I had to deal with my engine failing in a busy channel, running aground, and getting caught far from shelter in sea conditions way beyond my skill level.
The questions are all “short answer” type, so, as an example, a concise answer to the above scenario would go something like this:
1) Put on PFDs/safety harnesses
2) Dog the hatches
4) Obtain a fix
5) Stow and secure gear below
6) Locate emergency equipment (VHF, flares, bilge pump, lifeboat)
7) Assign helm to most experience helmsman
8) Maintain course parallel to or away from the lee shore
9) Maintain crew morale!
In the end my ship was dismasted and I had to manage that too (best taken care of after sharpening the pencils again, a quick bathroom break and few more sips of coffee). So it was quite an eventful few hours before we finally hauled her out and put her away for the winter.
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Yesterday Ricardo and I sailed the sailing club's Catalina 27 "Duck" out to Point Defiance. Anthony’s Fish House still had their dock put away for the winter, so we ended up floating into the Breakwater Marina next door. It was a little tense maneuvering around in those narrow channels, with four powerboats coming up right behind me and a sailboat in front. But I appreciated the opportunity to get some practice turning in tight quarters and docking.
After one pass through the marina to scope out our options we tied up at the fuel dock and the manager assigned us a different slip that wasn’t normally used for keelboats for $5. We walked over to the spot and you could easily see the sandy bottom through the clear water. And I wasn’t exactly sure how deep the draft of the Duck was.
“It’s pretty shallow”, he said, “but the tide is rising so if you run aground on the way there all you’d have to do is wait a little while to refloat.”
And as we cast off from the fuel dock he said, “By the way, do you have a fixed or swing keel?”
“Oh. Well, just go really slow.”
Well we made it OK and had a good walk up to the Point Defiance Zoo and then a stopped for a beer at Anthony’s. On the way back we ran into the marina manager who looked somewhat surprised to see that we made it OK.