Something wet, dripped with a soft plod sound onto the pillow right in front of my nose. I creaked one eye partly
open and tried to focus in the pre dawn light that was making its way into the forward cabin through the small square hatch above our heads. Plod, plod. Two more drops of wetness rained down onto my pillow. I sat upright and with two eyes now open, I scanned the general area above my pillow. As my focus adjusted I could see that the entire ceiling of our cabin, which was essentially the underside of the fibreglass deck of Rockefeller, was covered in condensation.
When Aannsha and I had climbed into bed the previous evening it had been quite chilly (6C / 42F) so we shut the cabin door and firmly closed the hatch above us to keep in as much heat as possible. That was rookie mistake # 1.
In the confined space of the V-berth our combined out-breaths, laden with moisture, had created a substantial amount of condensation and after nine hours sleep it was at saturation point and gravity had begun to do its job. I gently nudged Aannsha awake and suggested that we should get up and strategically position our bedding so as to avoid most of the mini internal downpour. Opening the cabin door and overhead hatch as wide as possible to allow fresh air in and moisture out, we dressed quickly, gathered our toiletries and headed for the marina facilities to brush our teeth and have a hot shower.
From watching YouTube videos and reading sailing forums, I had gleaned that marina facilities are either praised or criticised by yachties the world over. How good the facilities are, can make or break a planned visit to any given marina if they get a bad rap from a fellow yachty. This day however I was in no position to give advice either way, since I had never before set foot into any marina facilities. However in the Gibraltar marina I found the toilets to be clean, there was plenty of loo paper, the water ran hot very quickly and the showers were large with plenty of hooks to hang things up away from the wet floor. There will be more about marina facilities in future blogs.
Feeling refreshed after our showers, Aannsha and I reconvened back on Rockefeller and caught up on our Sailing A B Sea social media over bowls of breakfast cereal. We had to use our own Wi-Fi device for Internet connection as the code we’d been given the previous day for the marina Wi-Fi had failed to give any connection at all. Marina Wi-Fi is another bone of contention much discussed by yachties. A trip to the Gibraltar marina office revealed that the Wi-Fi was down because very strong winds had taken out some of the repeaters about a week before and repairs were possibly, maybe going to happen sometime next month or the month after. I guess that’s one tick in the negative column in my review of Gibraltar marina.
Before I get into the details of each of our shore based and water based RYA courses with Rock Sailing Gibraltar I’ll give you a brief overview of what was scheduled;
Shore based in ‘the greenhouse’ – RYA VHF Radio Handling
Shore based in ‘the greenhouse’ – RYA Marine First Aid
Days 3 to 7 (5 days)
Water based on ‘Rockefeller’ – RYA Competent Crew
Days 8 to 11 (4 days)
Days 12 to 16 (5 days)
Water based on ‘Rockefeller’ – RYA Day Skipper (practical)
Shore based on ‘Rockefeller’ – RYA Marine Diesel Engine Maintenance (practical)
On paper the schedule doesn’t look too daunting, but as I sit here writing this blog and think back to those 17 days, I have to admit they were extremely challenging, both mentally and physically. Possibly the most challenged I’ve ever been in my life.
Neither Aannsha or I had any sailing experience, in fact we’ve never even set foot on a yacht, let alone sailed one. We also didn't know whether we would be prone to seasickness or not. I figured that I wouldn't be because I had spent some time on engine powered live aboard boats on several 4 day scuba diving trips, however they were much bigger vessels than a yacht with a motion that is quite different. How Aannsha would fare was still an unknown quantity.
Aside from potential seasickness, there was also the hurdle of learning a whole new language. Did you know that there are no ropes on a yacht. There are however lines, halyards, sheets, a kicker, pennants, warps and rode and if, for whatever crazy reason, you took all of those off a yacht and placed them onto terra firma they would instantly and magically turn into just a bunch of ropes. I’ll get more into all of that sort of stuff once we’re actually out on the water. It’s still only Day 1 and we have a 09:30 lesson in ‘the greenhouse’ to attend.
‘The greenhouse’ was only a 5 minute walk from where Rockefeller was berthed and we were the last to arrive so we sat down at the two remaining desks at the back of the classroom and Peter from Rock Sailing Gibraltar began explaining VHF voice procedures, including how to make distress, urgency, safety and routine traffic calls. Then he went on to explain the VHF radio requirements and regulations we had to comply with and what exactly Navtex, EPIRBS and SARTS are.
After four hours we broke for lunch and my brain felt a little dazed as Aannsha and I sat down to eat a couple of fresh wraps at a nearby cafe. The last time I’d had any sort of formal lessons/schooling had been 38 years ago at a college in the UK, so it was a challenge to get my brain back into learning mode. Lunch hour passed quickly and in the afternoon session we got to apply the theory we’d learned in the morning, with practical training sessions on two isolated VHF radio simulators. I really enjoyed this part of the course and it confirmed what I had suspected, I’m much better at learning things in a practical way, rather than in theory. Our first day of learning ended just after 17:00 and we were informed that we’d both passed the course and our VHF operators licenses would be mailed to us in about six weeks. As Aannsha and I had a status of ‘no fixed abode’ Peter said it would be OK to use the address of a family friend in Javea.
Back on board Rockefeller Aannsha and I poured ourselves a couple of glasses of red wine and discussed the day's learning, made and ate dinner and once again checked our Sailing A B Sea social media before climbing into bed at 21:00 in order to get a good night’s sleep ready for our RYA Marine First Aid course the following day. Our fellow competent crew trainee Dan and our skipper Mareike were not due on board until the following evening and remembering rookie lesson # 1 we left the cabin door wide open to avoid the condensation issue.
The first part of the morning of day 2 was pretty much a rerun of day 1 but without any condensation dripping all over us and at 09:30 we were back in 'the greenhouse' where Peter's wife Carrie was ready to take us through the RYA Marine Fist Aid course. A few years earlier I had done the land based first aid course as part of my scuba diving training for the 'diver stress/rescue' and 'dive master' courses, so it was more of a refresher for me with the additional perspective of performing a lot of the methods within the confines of a boat and a wet environment.
The day's subjects ranged from how to clear blockages in airways, mouth to mouth resuscitation and chest compression CPR, cold water immersion and cold water shock. Drowning and hypothermia, heat exhaustion, heat stroke and dehydration. Some of the new things I learned were how to recognise seasickness and some of the many methods of treatment, the different types of first aid kits carried on various yachts and what first aid equipment should be in both your grab bag and your life raft.
It was another full on day and by 17:00 Aannsha and I were once again ready for a glass or two of wine. Carrie happily announced that we and everyone else on the course had passed and we were issued our RYA certificates in first aid.
As Aannsha and I were walking back to Rockefeller, feeling pleased with what we'd learned and achieved in the first two days, we noticed movement on board and as we got closer we saw luggage in the cockpit. It seemed that our sole occupancy of the yacht had come to an end with the arrival of our skipper/instructor Mareike and Dan a fellow competent crew trainee. We climbed on board to meet them both and began our introductions.
Dan was from England and was doing the competent crew course so that he would be more useful when he was crewing on board his friends' yachts in the coming summer months. He also had plans to complete his day skipper and coastal skipper courses by the end of the year.
Mareike was from Germany and had completed all of her training right through to instructor with Rock Sailing Gibraltar, she had also spent a lot of time on Rockefeller and was pleased to be teaching us on that particular yacht.
All four of us spent our first evening together on board sharing background stories and getting to know one another over dinner, several beers and a couple of bottles of wine. As well as the forward V-berth Rockefeller also has two aft berths and once again by 21:30 there was a general consensus to retire to our cabins and get a good night's sleep in preparation for day 3 (for Aannsha and I) which was the first of our five days of the competent crew course.