Świnoujście – wherever wind blows – Świnoujście. Sailing in Poland.
800 EUR / week / cabin
This is how sailing adventure begins. Learn the ropes and get a great amount of sailing experience and knowledge on this sailing internship training.
An ideal trip starting and finishing in the same place on the western Polish coast. We sail wherever wind will allow. Possible destinations (weather dependant) will be:
– Polish coast
– Southern Sweden
– Denmark (Bornholm or Copenhagen)
This is a mile building experience for all those who gather the miles or hours in order to complete their sailing education in course of the trainings. We’ll try to spend as much time as possible at sea in order for you to get your sea – legs and learn your knots.
You’ll be a part of the crew, which means you’ll have to stand watches (also night watches), participate in everyday duties. Tutoring by an experienced skipper will be a part of the journey.
You’ll need to participate in rota – cooking for other crewmembers which normally happens twice per week. In the course of the week you’ll be able to gather around 350 – 400 nautical miles of sailing experience in the unforgiving waters of early spring Baltic Sea
I dedicate this entry to: Piotr ‘Szadzio’ Sładek and Grzesiek Kaniak – for their valuable advice on yacht repairs and maintenance. Thank you very much! I also dedicate it to all couriers and postal workers keeping the UK going throughout the lockdown. Take everything I wrote below with a pinch of salt😉
The day when in March 2020 Boris Johnson bowed to public pressure and ordered a full lockdown of the United Kingdom, everything at the boatyard stopped hour by hour.
A small quirky boat hangs sadly on the huge belts of the gantry. I suspect that the employees have left on purpose, to deter someone who would think of playing with the crane in their absence. That would make sense because one day such an idea comes into my mind when I evaluate options of how to be back on the water.
Someone has left brushes and cans under their yacht, another has left a half-painted hull. Abandoned tools are lying around. In an area that is normally busy on a daily basis, even in winter time, there is an unnatural stillness. Silence prevails. Life here is on pause and this space is filled with lonely yachts which wait in anticipation of what will happen next.
For the next few weeks, I am living within my little triangle with sides of the length of about 400 meters. On its corners we have: a yacht, a bathroom, and an ASDA supermarket. This is my world for the first twenty days of the lockdown.
A note appears on the glass door of the marina office. “Clyde Marina management … with great regrets … due to the epidemic … We will definitely be back! … Kind Regards.” A moment later, another one appears: “Couriers with deliveries for Mr. Bartosz Sowisło aka. of the ‘Flying Polishman’ yacht, please contact by phone …”. This handwritten, inisignificant piece of paper initiates the first of several threads into which I will share a further story.
COURIER AND DELIVERY
A seagoing yacht does not seem to be a very complicated device. Hull, mast, engine and lots of ropes. Seemingly. In this hull there are several installations, hundreds of meters of pipes, tubes, more tubes, cables and wires, fuses, connectors, lamps, and even more lights. Handles and valves. Bolts and pulleys. Electronics and switches, even more switches, light bulbs, fittings, shackles, thimbles, bushings and only the devil himself knows what else.
It all breaks down, requires periodic repairs, replacements, polishing, cleaning, lubrication or maintenance. The fact that during the season cruises everything can be repaired with one pocket knife, adhesive tape and Sikaflex might be considered as a minor miracle. But before the season, the boat requires much more care and attention. And especially before the visit of Maritime Office – it all has to be top – notch.
Roughly 99.8% of all these parts have two things in common.
First of all: they are horrendously expensive, because they must be “for the yacht”. This means that they must have a placard with for example ‘Wheelmark’ proving compliance with some directive, issued by some Very Important Institution that takes care of the safety of sailors. If there is a part that does not seem to require approval and all related attestations, it should be ‘Marine Grade’. If it is not marine grade, the yacht is said to be sinking even before it is launched, this is according to sellers of abovementioned parts.
According to practitioners, it will at least rust, corrode, flare up, and start to leak badly before it goes completely to the dogs. I’ve got no clue how much of that is the truth, so I follow standards, and search for the ‘yacht parts’ which shortly brings me to the edge of bankruptcy.
Secondly, none of these parts, for unknown reason can be purchased in nearby ASDA, or even from the miniature DIY store inside of my magic triangle. So, you have to order them online in the shops called intriguingly: chandleries.
The name chandler, apparently, comes from ancient times when no one heard of ‘wheel mark standard attestation’ and chandleries on the British Isles sold mostly candles, apparently bought in large quantities by sailors. In the twenty-first century, a candle in chandleries is probably impossible to find. On the other hand, now you can find there tens of thousands of various useful and fun items. You need an ashtray with a picture of an anchor, two 120 Ah batteries, 20 meters of braid–on–braid rope? No problem. All of this is within easy reach of your fingertips. In the cave of Aladdin, branched into hundreds of corridors, in the abyss of the Internet.
Somehow the only chandlery in Ardrossan, a place where there are approximately 150-200 yachts at winter, went bankrupt. How it has happened must be a mystery to economists. So, whether I like it or not, I am doomed to shop online. Just to make it clear: I have never liked buying online, but it’s only in Ardrossan that I start to hate it honestly and selflessly.
The procedure for purchasing any, even the smallest, item is as follows:
Find out what it is called in Polish
Find out what it’s called in English
Record every possible and impossible dimension
Search for an hour until you manage to find a possible match
Check and compare every possible dimension.
Once I confirm this is what I am looking for…
Look at the price and consider it to be some cruel joke of an overzealous capitalist
Repeat steps 5 and 6 until you find an item that has been reasonably priced
Throw into your basket and try to find other items on the same site that you may need, so that you can get everything done in one go and in one delivery
Find the rest of the items you need – at an astronomical price, while concluding that chandleries in the UK have some very subtle price collusion
And wait a little longer, because throughout lockdown, consumption continues, all trade has moved to the Internet. Couriers, like Stakhanists in the early USSR, exceed the norms, logistic centres are red hot, the pound flows hand too hand, all to the glory of Chinese GDP growth
Pick up a parcel
See that either the sender made a mistake and packed the wrong thing, or … well, you accidentally ordered the wrong item. So, you have to repeat the fun from the very beginning
Receiving the package, which I so nonchalantly allowed myself to put in one sentence equivalent, is just fun by itself. On the second day, I call it “courier hunt” and start ranking who is winning at the moment. Me or the couriers. The rules are very simple: I manage to pick up the package – a point for me. Failed – point for the courier. The first day is 2: 1 for me.
What is the difficulty, you may ask?
The yacht, where I live, sleep, freeze, work and do my DIY stands in a boatyard, which is a huge paved square near the ferry harbor, from where ferries regularly sail to the Isle of Arran. I am about 400 meters from the marina office. Under normal conditions, there would always be someone sitting there. The courier would come, throw the package on the floor and you could pick it up at any time. When the office is closed… Game on!
At first, I naively believe that someone might be interested in my message hanging on the door. Unfortunately, they presume, I must have written it accidentally, or while drunk in Vietnamese. It does not arouse much interest in the suppliers and I find out via text message that ‘no one was there to receive my parcel’. Some pulley or string that I purchased could not be delivered. 1:0 for couriers.
The next package I expect is very important. It comes from Poland and inside there is an electronic equipment worth several thousand zlotys. The stakes of this sparring are boosted by the fact that the equipment is already registered with the Polish Office of Electronic Communications. Registration took about six weeks and a wheelbarrow of paperwork. So, I sit in the yacht shivering from the cold and instead of doing something useful, I start following the route of the DPD courier on their website. DPD tells you how many stops the supplier has to skip before reaching me. So, I sit down with a stopwatch, calculator, paper and pen in my hand and calculate the average for each stop. When I manage to set some values in the sweat of my brow, it turns out that it should be enough time if I leave myself when the courier is three stops away from me.
I pass a false start. I cannot predict that the guy might have vanished somewhere along the way. Maybe he’s gone to lunch, maybe he’s met a chick on Tinder, or maybe he’s just lingered on the toilet? It’s enough that my calculations turn out to be worth shit, and in the wind that separates the periosteum from the marrow, I put down roots into pavement for a good fifty minutes. But it’s already 1: 1!
A bit of a luck, almost at the same moment a gift from another courier company arrives, who I do not expect at all today. There is a small triumph and the day ends with a win.
I’ve been playing with couriers for a good two weeks. One day I experience disgraceful failures, and the next – glorious and memorable victories.
In one of the epic duels, I am forced to give up. It was a tough fight! In front of me there is quite a competitor: DHL. I decide to take him by surprise, using the DPD method. I make the reconnaissance by fight, counting the corrections in the sweat of my brow. I arrange an ambush on a bench. I have a great view of the battlefield on one side and the harbour basin on the other. I quietly check the latest tracking details – refresh the website. When it seems that I cannot lose this time, the notification says: “There was no one there, the parcel was not delivered”. Oh, you! How’s that!?! I check frantically. Where’s the error? Where’s the mistake? The message reports: a courier still two miles from Marina already knew that nobody would be there and returned to the sorting plant. Damn it.
I am launching diplomatic means. I am writing an email using the contact form. I hope that I will get a response back on the next day. How naive. How much I underestimate the adversary! Over the next four days, with the regularity of the metronome and the repeatability of mass production in the six-sigma standard, the same thing happens over and over again. The courier is delivering, but probably in an invisibility cloak. I write e-mails fiercely. I start with the polite ” would you be so kind “, then a bit more resolute ” could you “, through the naughty ” can you “, and finally the mocking ” you’ve gotta be kidding me “. And in the final act of desperation: ” wtf!!! “. AND…
I understand that I have to give up. The act of surrender is such that I have to walk to the point where I can pick up the package. Two miles one way, one of the gas stations. When I get there, it turns out that the opponent was not enough just to beat me. He still has to depress me, press my neck to the ground with his steel hand, make me beg for mercy whilst on my knees.
Yet, there it is. It has a huge green sticker with the word “HOLD” on it. Oh nibblers, I am so close! I give the number of the undelivered parcel to a Nice Lady working on the petrol station. It is correct. My name is correct as well. But, but … Nice lady has a system. The system absolutely demands a barcode that I don’t have. Me and lady stand looking for a solution. I want it … She can’t give it. I want, I want so much, with my whole being. She really can’t. How could that be, without a barcode, so indecent, so not so Christian after all, what people would say! We debate. We are brainstorming. The lady makes an unsuccessful phone call to a friend. She looks at the delivery history, she exclaims in frustration and says, “It is just some fucking nightmare” I nod my head eagerly confirming. It is what it is, but definitely not a wet dream. The nice lady finally says: “Ohhhh fuck it! Write on a piece of paper that you have picked up the package, leave your phone number and that’s gonna have to do… ”. In the end, the Scottish – Polish rebel spirit that does not bend in front of the soulless system finally prevails.
However, the most mysterious are the parcels delivered by Royal Mail. Limited traceability, so it feels like a blind fate. I buy goods that later circulate somewhere. Nobody knows exactly where. The sellers say it was delivered, but who picked it up? Certainly not me, but the living spirit of the marina. So, I bully sellers with e-mails and phone calls, but parcels dissolve into thin air, evaporate as a drop of water in the desert. It’s gone and it’s delivered, piss off. Due to the epidemiological threat, there are no signatures now, so it is not known who is picking up, but someone is picking up.
One day I get a mysterious email. From the marina. Intrigued, I read: “In the laundry room, under the sink, middle shelf, under the garbage bags. There you will find what you are waiting for” I’m flying at breakneck speed and they are all there – to one! It turns out that there is someone in the marina and he is my silent ally. The postman has a ” safe spot ” where he quietly, probably under the cover of night, places parcels. I don’t know where the hiding place is. So secret. Perhaps behind a garbage can, perhaps in a fox hole, or perhaps a loose paving slab. It doesn’t matter, that what was supposed to reach me – it arrives.
There were still many parcel stories. On Good Friday, I took a taxi all the way to Greenock. It contained explosives, and these cannot be shipped by courier. Later, I arrange the logistics so that my packages are delivered to a small DIY store and then to a friend who lives in nearby Saltcoats. Each of these threads deserves a completely new and, I hope, interesting story. I will describe on another occasion.
The marina in the lockdown is extinct, unnaturally silent. The only thing you can hear is a megaphone repeated ad nauseam: “Coronavirus is a national emergency. Stay at home, save lives, protect the NHS. Everyone can give that, everyone can get that ”. On Thursdays at 8 p.m., two ferries sirens, their crews pounding furiously against the metal railings. This is known as ” clap for Boris ” and later ” clap for NHS””- a new practice that is born during an epidemic in the United Kingdom. All in all, only these sounds and the sounds of the outside world remind us that the cause of my struggle with couriers, loneliness and almost complete isolation is a great story that still unfolds before our eyes and which we will tell in several dozen years. Just like our grandmothers talked about the war and our parents about martial law in Poland, 1981.
Boatyard is unnaturally quiet. When there is no wind, I hear silence at night so poignant that I have not heard once in over a year in London. That’s beautiful in itself.
National Express Night Bus 501, departing from London Victoria at around 11pm, arrives at Glasgow’s Buchanan Station normally around 7.30am. Ticket costs only a dozen or so pounds, it’s relatively independent from weather conditions, and with a bit of luck, there won’t be a two-metre-tall basketball player sitting next to you keeping you smashed against the window through the whole journey. Happened to me as well. True story.
Most of the time it’s half empty and, your trip is done in no time: you get on, you go to sleep and you wake up the next morning in Glasgow. Included there is a short break for a piss, a fag, and a coffee or whatever else one would like to do around three in the morning at some stop right in the middle of nowhere. Line 501 became my favourite means of transport connecting London and Glasgow between November and March, moving to or from the yacht in Ardrossan, I cover this route probably five times.
This time the decision to depart from London isn’t spontaneous, I should rather say it is forced by circumstances out of my control. I had planned to visit the yacht in the last few days of March, as to give myself three weeks to prepare her for a safety inspection of the Polish Maritime Office. However, I am going earlier, due to the upcoming chaos we hear about from various news all over the world on the development of the coronavirus epidemic.
When I learn that Israel is probably the first country in the vicinity of Europe to close its borders, and all toilet roll disappears from London’s supermarkets within two days, I begin to realize that if I want to do anything on the yacht before the season starts, I have to go to Scotland. Immediately.
I pack quite chaotically. Taking mostly packages with various spare parts, screws, silicones and a mix of other crap. I also pack two laptops and some randomly picked out garments. The rest of my modest English belongings stays at my friend’s apartment in Canning Town, London. I already have some of my stuff on the yacht, so it will be ok. I’m on my way.
As usual, it is calm, warm and cosy on the bus. Only disturbance to a blissful peace is one quite noisy English gentleman in his 50s. From the scrapes of his story spelled out into space, I put together that this gentleman is trying to get to Glasgow for the third time this week, but there is always something coming in his way. Usually some tricky liquor store, deceitful pub, or treacherous party. It is Thursday and the poor gentleman has not managed to get to Scotland since Monday. I close my ears to his surfacing and try to sleep, but I can’t, because… I start to suffer from a strange cough, plus I feel like I’m developing a fever. Great.
The English Odysseus, returning to his Scottish Ithaca, once again seems to be facing an obstacle. A moment later it would turn out that, again, he’ll not be able to make it to his destination. He carries out ethnographic research. His scientific method is the direct interview, so he begins to question all passengers about their ethnic origin. Some of them, like me for example, pretend to be deaf and simply ghost him. Some passengers are more sociable, or maybe less assertive, and willingly share where they come from. At this time Odysseus, probably overjoyed to boast about his eloquence, with amazing ease brings out from the recesses of his brain all sorts of national stereotypes, which he willingly and a loudly shares.
Passengers quickly establish an international social committee. “Batter” is its working name, and the first and the only point of the statute is to, well, beat up Odysseus. One of the members of the committee is so eager to go about implementing the program that he forgets about the two coffees he has on the table in front of him. They glide in an exceptionally picturesque way into the aisle of the bus, splashing around with refreshingly boiling water. The co-passenger, and probably the life partner of the committee’s voluntary activist – really doesn’t like it. She pacifies her partner with an efficiency of the riot control police squad. It seems unbelievable that you can use the terms “baby” and “fucking moron” in one sentence and in reference to one and the same person. On top of that she finishes the whole thing with a passionate kiss. As if she wasn’t already taken I’d probably propose on the spot.
Someone comes to his senses, which in this particular example mean approaching th phlegmatic driver who closes the whole topic with a few short sentences thrown to Odysseus: “That’s it buddy, You’re being racist. You need to leave the coach now” . Odysseus doesn’t even protest too much. He vanishes in the darkness of the night. Glasgow will have to wait for him.
It is only 10 minutes walk from Buchanan bus station to Glasgow Central Station, where the trains depart to Ardrossan. When I get to the station, I feel as if I made the route from London on my feet. My luggage weighs heavily, I’m sleepy, I’ve got a fever of about thirty-eight degrees centigrade. On top of that, it rains cats and dogs. I wait for another hour for the train.
When I finally arrive to Ardrossan’s marina office, all I need to do is pick up the two packages that are waiting there for me. I put all my belongings on a cart and drag it to the yacht. The interior of the boat is extremely unwelcoming at the moment. It is cluttered with sails, lifebuoys, ropes and other junk. Most of the floor panels are missing since my last visit when I disassembled them to let the bilges to dry properly. I must jump from frame to frame when I move inside the salon.
I manage to drag myself on to the nearby ASDA supermarket, where I buy a whole basket of food and a random electric kettle. I also try to buy aspirin. Shelves with medication, as well as those with rice, noodles, and of course toilet roll, are as empty as if it had been purged. The store resembles shops in the second half of eighties in Poland, which I vaguely remember from my childhood. I find a sole box of paracetamol and a bottle of some green syrup which label says All in One. I drag myself onto the yacht, lock myself in the left aft cabin, turn on the fan heater. Before I fall asleep, the boss from my London’s job calls to inform me not to come to the office on Monday under any circumstances. The company’s management made such a decision in light of the developing epidemic. Well, I was proactive for once, I did not plan on showing up on Monday anyway. When I finally drift off, it’s around 5pm.
I don’t wake up until the next day.
The following days merge into one. I am sick like a dog. I eat whatever I can get my hands on, which does not bother me too much, because I’ve got no appetite anyway. I sleep, lie down and drink tea whilst listening to the howling of the wind. I can’t cook anything, because unfortunately the gas cylinders are empty.
I am tired of some deeply embedded cough, which seems to originate at the very bottom of my lungs. I speak to one of my friends who is a doctor, and she diagnoses me over Messenger App that based on the description of the symptoms, it sounds like I have viral bronchitis. Did I have the coronavirus at the time? I do not know, although it seems possible to me. After all, I came from a city, where you travel by metro, pressed like a dried date so obviously there was a high chance of catching something.
These days UK was at the stage of ‘herd immunity’. At the time the only guidelines I found on the NHS (National Health Service) website were ‘If you have symptoms – isolate yourself’ and ‘don’t call 111 until five days after symptoms start’. Well, I do not call and treat myself with the obtained paracetamol, the green, nasty-tasting syrup and aspirin found on the yacht. Aspirin is maybe nine years out of date, but I’m convinced it does the best of all of these drugs.
Apart from the cabin, which is quite warm, the rest of the yacht is some sort of an ice – box. Outside, the wind howls moving the masts and rigging of the vessels. During the few days I spend in the bunk, it’s grey, it rains every now and then. Overall feeling quite bleak.
With bated breath I read how other countries are closing their borders and introducing increasingly stringent restrictions on incoming and outgoing traffic. I planned to offer cruises in Scotland, and later on other Western European waters, to Polish sailors. So to my ill – health adds a train of thoughts driving continuously across my brain about the success or failure of this plan.
There is no question of doing any work on the yacht. The most important thing for me now is to somehow regain strength. Only thing I manage is to put the name and home port onto the lifebuoys and to attach the flashing lights to the new life jackets.
On the fifth day, I am getting well enough to realise that I took my last shower six days earlier in London. But where and how to take a bath here? Can’t use marina facilities, I am feared of responsibility for infecting the entire town with a coronavirus.
I am calling the broker that sold me the yacht back in November. Chris, who worked for Clyde Marina at the same time. I ask him about my options. At first, he is very surprised that I am still in Ardrossan, convinced that I have already returned to London. Then himself and his colleagues come up with a plan for me. They arrange my shopping, because I’m already on the crumbs for food, and then tells me: “Take the flathead screwdriver with you. When you enter the restrooms, there is a disabled toilet on the right. You can open the lock with a screwdriver. You can use it, just try to walk around in such a way that you do not have contact with other people.”
The next morning, I get word that the British government has declared a lockdown and that the marina will be shutting down until further notice. Buses, long-distance trains and most of the planes cease to travel across the country. I am stuck on a boat standing on hard in the boatyard.
Probably you’d have never thought of Poland as a country with some extensive leisure sailing traditions. Before WW II we’ve had very limited access to the sea, and in the period of socialism, because of the politics, sea – sailing was activity limited to very few people. In the ’90s and 2000s’ the situation changed rapidly and Polish people started to enjoy spending time at sea much more often. Polish sailing is governed by the Polish Yachting Association which is also responsible for registering yachts, and issuing certificates of competences for leisure sailors.
Compared to for example the Royal Yachting Association – it is relatively easy to acquire certificates allowing to command relatively large vessels without territorial limitations. Polish certificates are widely recognized in the European Union, and obtaining them is several times cheaper than climbing, for example, the RYA path. The system has been simplified a few years ago, and at the moment path from zero to hero consists of three ranks.
That’s the most basic certificate issued. In order to get it, you need to participate in training and pass theoretical and practical examinations. Training usually lasts between five to seven weekends, but there are schools that prepare you for it in five intensive days. You’ll learn boat handling under sails (tacking, jibing, docking the boat under sails, man overboard maneuvers) and engine, ropework (knots, mooring, etc.) and some safety aspects of leisure on the water. After acquiring this certificate, you’re entitled to sail any sail-powered vessel on the inshore waters, but also at sea: up to 2 nautical miles from the shore, daytime.
That’s level two. This certificate can be obtained only if you can document your sea – time. The minimum is: 200 hours in at least two cruises. There are plenty of offers of Polish companies where you can complete your sea- time onboard of their skippered vessels in course of their sailing adventures. It usually works this way, that you sail with other people who collect experience hours, and you’re actual crew on the yacht. It’s great fun and indeed an adventure, something you’ll never experience on a chartered vessel in Greece or Croatia. You’ll get to know what it is to keep the watch at night or sail a few days in a row.
In order to get a certificate, you’ll also need to participate in training that lasts approximately five days. The syllabus is similar to inshore skipper training, but this time you’ll learn all maneuvers on a much bigger boat – and that makes a significant difference. You’ll also learn terrestrial navigation, International Rules Preventing Collisions at Sea, safety at sea, meteorology, pilotage etc. You don’t need to have Inland Skipper certificate, but you must have the knowledge required by it
If you successfully pass the theoretical and practical exam, you’ll be allowed to command vessels of up to 18 m without any territorial limitations.
is the top of the ladder in the leisure sailing system. Funnily enough – there is no exam for it. You need to be the holder of Yacht Skipper certificate, and document following sea- time: a total of 1200 hours at sea in a minimum of six cruises. Out of those: one hundred has to be completed on a vessel with a length exceeding 20 meters, one hundred on tidal waters, and four hundred of independent command of the vessel at sea.
It allows you to be in command of sailing vessels without limitations in terms of their length – but based on other regulations it is in fact limited to 200 GT. Considering that average seagoing sailboat weights between 10 – 15 GT it is more than enough.
How is sea-time documented?
After each cruise, skipper issues so-called: “Opinia z rejsu” which is in fact ‘Crew Member’s Certificate of Passage’’ where he indicates: number of hours, miles, whether these were tidal waters, visited ports, and other necessary information. Command hours are confirmed on the so-called “Karta Rejsu” (“Captain’s Certificate of Passage”) and are countersigned by the vessel’s operator.
Polish rules for certification are frequently criticized in the country. It is said that it is too easy to get a Yacht Skipper license, because of relatively short sea-time required prior to the training and exam. But as they’re recognized in the countries which are the most popular sailing destinations in Europe, so holders of Polish certificates can charter yachts – they might be an interesting and cheaper alternative for RYA certification. What’s also important: Polish companies offering mile – building trips operate mostly in the North, on the Baltic or North Sea and building your experience there may be interesting preparation before you decide to charter a boat in the South and take all your family with you on island hopping in Croatia.
On a small sailboat, the skipper is that guy who usually just sleeps and eats. He docks and launches the boat, and from time to time tells his sea adventures which makes you feel like if you were nothing but a mere landlubber. Each person being in-command of a small vessel, especially on a sea-going sailing adventure with a crew with limited to none sailing experience, the skipper has one very important duty, that mustn’t be omitted at any time. It’s a safety briefing before a departure from a safe haven. It is important to listen to it carefully and try to as much as it’s practically possible. The reason for that is, that skippers also fell overboard, they may have a medical issue or might be vulnerable to any other judgment – impairing condition that human beings can possibly suffer from. Obviously, in a perfect world, there is a qualified relief crew onboard able and capable of stepping in, when actual crap hits the fan. But if that person sleeps or, for whatever imaginable reason, is unavailable? On top of that – safe manning rules apply only if you are on a commercially coded vessel. If you’re hitchhiker, or just sail with someone you know, privately – there maybe just nobody else qualified onboard. And what if the only qualified person has just disappeared 200 meters behind the stern? In an emergency – every second matter. It’s worth to know what to do. In the end: safety is everyone’s responsibility. It is unlikely, that you’ll remember each and every single thing you’ll hear in the course of the briefing. Those are tons of information. Below, you’ll find non–exhaustive list of things which are worth being aware of, and maybe if they’re reinforced during safety briefing some of them will at least partially remain in your memory.
Lifejackets and safety harness
How to put them on, when they need to be worn, how to adjust all these straps properly. It is advised to dress them whenever you are on the deck, or in the cockpit. Very important is to properly attach crotch strap. If it hangs loose may become a cause of the accident itself. The skipper will advise you as well when and how to use a safety harness. Remember to secure yourself with it always when you sail at night and you’re outside, but also when it is wavy, or when skipper tells you to do so for whatever reason. If you fall overboard at night chances of finding you are really minimal. Safety harness shall be attached to special belay points on the deck, or to a lifeline. Cockpit table handrails or mast are usually good places to attach yourself too. I’d not advise you to clip yourself into the helm. It makes helmsman job really miserable. At this point, the skipper will usually tell you about the most basic rule, while onboard of any sailing vessel. ‘One hand for the yacht’ – wherever you go on the boat – hold yourself with at least one of your hands.
Here you’ll learn about fire extinguishers, fire blankets, and their location. The skipper will also tell you how to prevent fire onboard. In practice, it means, that he’ll tell you how to operate the stove, to spare yourself the trauma of an explosion, and will remind you, that smoking is allowed only outside (if at all), far away from the gas cylinder storage. How and where to check the coordinates or in other words position of the vessel It is especially useful if you call Search and Rescue, and they’d like to know a bit more precise where exactly you are between Scotland and Norway for the sake of that example. Coordinates can be usually found on: radio, chart plotter, yacht logbook or on nautical charts.
How do you actually call SAR or Coast Guard?
The minimum knowledge you need to have on that subject is where to find distress pushbutton on VHF radio. As it is usually under a flap with the word ‘distress’ written on it – that shouldn’t be an issue. If you’d like to speak to someone over the radio – you need to remember that it is not a mobile phone, and to have an efficient conversation, you need to press and release push – to – talk button on the handset in right moments. To make sure, that everyone around understands that you’re in an immediate need of assistance it’s the best to follow ‘MAYDAY’ call protocol. It usually hangs just next to the radio. If you’re on an expedition somewhere really far away from the land there could be also: Long Range radio, EPIRB, SART or satellite phone. It is worth knowing what each of these things does, and how to turn it on. Ask your capt’n about it.
How to stop yacht in case of man overboard situation.
As one tragic event on the Atlantic Ocean in 2017 shown – it is very important to know it. Some married couple was crossing Atlantic making their ways towards the Caribbean, and skipper fell overboard. His wife, who knew literally nothing about sailing, continued on the same course for another two days before she managed to establish contact with a cargo ship passing by. All that time, she didn’t manage to drop sails and start the engine. Lady has been eventually rescued, but boat left with her sails on continued by herself for another week until she ran aground into one of the Caribbean Islands.
There are plenty of methods of man overboard rescue, and probably even more opinion which one is the best. My personal view is: immediately shout for help (if there is anyone to help), make sure you keep an eye on a person in the water, throw him lifebuoy, and heave-to boat.
If you do these things immediately, there is a good chance you’ll end up just a few meters away from a wretch who involuntarily chose freedom in the Ocean.
Heave – to is a very simple maneuver: you need to steer into the direction where the wind blows from until you cross its line. Once that’s done, you completely loose mainsail (just remove the rope from the winch and drop it on the floor), in the end, you turn helm hard towards the wind. You’re heaving – to, and remain almost in the same place.
Another steps are: turning on the engine (you need to be shown in the course of the safety briefing how to do it!), getting rid of the jib or genoa (these are sails in front), and securing the mainsail. With the engine running, and no front sails, approaching the man overboard shouldn’t be difficult.
If you haven’t understood a word of what I’ve just written – make sure skipper explains that to you or even practice with you somewhere on sheltered water.
In the event of an evacuation, you may have assigned duty. Usually, it will be: ‘take something with you and run to a raft’. It is worth knowing what you need to take and where it will be located. As some of these may be: ‘grab bag’ or ‘EPIRB’ – make sure you do understand what you’re required to do. The skipper should also explain to you, that throwing raft into the water just as it is, may not be the best idea, as raft will go its direction whilst yacht would remain where it was.
It is a matter of the utmost importance to memorize one thing: do not touch any object attached to a helicopter, which has not touched the water before. Helicopter generates a huge charge of static electricity. You don’t want to be the conductor for it to ground.
Use of toilet and other organizational things
Toilet on board of a vessel for God only knows what reason is called ‘head’. There are two things you need to know about the use of it: how to flush it – it is not that straightforward as one may think. Still, on a vessel, it is easier to use than in a submarine. Another important thing is sewage pipes. They’re VERY thin. It means that whatever you drop into the toilet bowl may very efficiently clog it. And unclogging isn’t a job you’d wish to anyone. The rule is: whatever went through your digestive system, this or another way can go into the toilet. The rest of it needs to be disposed of elsewhere. If you ask yourself if you’re allowed to throw in toilet paper, the answer is yes. Under that condition that you eat it first.
On sailboats running training or adventure scheme – everyone participates in navigating the boat. It is called ‘watch’. Make sure you know when is your turn and don’t come late.
It will be very difficult in such a short article to even touch on all of the most important things about life and safety onboard a small vessel. I hope that this blogpost will somehow make it closer to you. I hope as well, that you’ll never need to use the knowledge which I tried to pass on to you. Except for the use of toilets, of course.
This may be a bit controversial article, but yes, sailing can increase your chances in finding your second half, or at least improve your dating rating. As it is a Valentine Day today – let me try to explain you why:
1. You’ll do something very different than majority of the people.
Something that in general perception is dangerous and extreme (which in most of the cases isn’t). You’ll be perceived as adventurous, and full of passion.
2. You’ll have plenty of stories to tell
And with a little bit of storytelling gift – you can easily talk for three – four hours about one week trip. I’ve personally heard someone who described his sailing journey for five consecutive days. Continuously. You can make two hours out of it. At least.
3. You’ll gain self confidence
Especially boosted when you sail through the night in conditions which are just a bit more rough than calm. Especially, that during sailing adventures, you’re just forced to get out of your comfort zone. Space is limited, people you usually don’t know, they occasionally represent view of the world which is totally strange to you. Take it as it is, express yourself and embrace it all. Also, completion of a long passage will give you feeling of accomplishment of something remarkable. You’ll feel awesome and let yourself shine.
4. You’ll lose some weight
But, you need to spend some time on the boat to see the effect of it. It probably works this way, that as a boat constantly and so does your body trying to compensate for this movement. It isn’t cardio training, but continuous motion day and night. Additionally: you’ll usually eat very regularly, and if you sail on a cold seas it is chilly, so your body uses more calories. If it can be scientifically proven -no clue. But if you look at Trautman brothers, famous for sailing for over a decade onboard of Delos – there has to be something in it.
5. You’ll have tan like never before
You’ll have the most amazing tan you can imagine. UV rays reflected by the sea give tan which cannot be compared to any other. See yourself on Tinder? Slim and tanned?
6. It is opportunity to get to know well other singles
There are plenty of singles on sailing adventures – you increase your chance to meet someone onboard without this weird feeling and anxiety on how to make a first move, how to approach, what to say. You just say: ‘Hi, my name is… It’s a pleasure that we’ll spend the next week together’. Should it happen it is someone you like: perfect! You’ll have all week (or more) long to talk, get to know each other in the middle of the ocean, without phones distracting you. It is a great opportunity to open up. On top of that imagine: short stay in the harbor, great weather, you on one boat, some beauty of the opposite (or the same) gender on the other. Deep look in the eyes. Sense of urgency, rush of blood… you feel me?
And they lived happily…
So let’s say you found him or her. And you lived happily ever after, but everyday routine kicks in, and you’re not sure what to do, to keep this other half with you. Answer for that doubt is even simpler:
If you go alone on the trip and your wife / girfriend / boyfriend / husband stay at home, they’ll become jealous a bit, but will also miss you a lot, and will be so happy once you’re finally back home.. Even in the best relationships it is necessary to miss someone from time to time.
It is a well known fact, that travelling and the way you spend your time somehow define you as a person. Going on holiday to a resort which looks the same as taken straight from the city center of town, chilling by the swimming pool and occasionally going to the beach or some organized tours will be for sure relaxing, but will it help you grow?
Sailing at sea or the ocean is the activity which allows you both: to help relax and at the same time: to learn. A lot. I’ve put together 10 reasons how sailing can help you boost your career, and grow personally. Have a good read and think where would you like to sail on your next holiday.
If you choose the right place to start, and most importantly the right skipper to start with, you’ll probably see very interesting types of leadership. Boat captains are taught to run a happy boat but at the same time they must maintain the highest safety standards, which requires a lot of assertiveness. This is a rare blend of personal skills you’ll encounter and take an example from.
You’ll do something different than most of the people. Imagine office conversations about holiday, and everyone saying ‘well this Tunisia all inclusive was really shit this year, they haven’t had my most favourite Chardonnay this time’ versus yours ‘I sailed the Biscay Bay this summer’. It makes you immediately stand out from the crowd and noticed by your colleagues and superiors.
You’ll learn a lot of interesting stuff if you are only willing to. Marine world is organized in a very interesting way. There are plenty of rules and regulations, plenty of techniques of staying safe at sea and not get lost. Plenty of ways of organizing life onboard the vessel. It will open a completely new world for you, and if you decide to proceed with your sailing hobby – learn a lot of new knowledge. Maybe some of the marine solutions will work for your industry? Maybe you can bring something new from your industry to sailing and boost the results of your company?
You’ll see on your own eyes all those theories saying about how the groups are forming. Should you join the cabin charter cruise which you’ll most likely do on the beginning, you’ll see how in the matter of hours group of people who don’t know each other at all, becomes fully efficient team cooperating towards common goal. This is fascinating observation for anyone who is leading teams at work. If you’re mindful and see this process accelerated on the yacht – you’ll probably be able to see it later on at work.
You network. A lot. There are all kinds of people coming for the sailing cruises. You’re in a small space, immediately having the opportunity to interact. You’ll meet: doctors, managers, company owners, specialists of all industries. These contacts are just given to you, and may become your friendships should you decide to continue them after the cruise. They’re always very natural and close. Who knows if your new mate from the cruise will not become your co-worker, boss or subordinate one year?
You’re moving out of your comfort zone which helps you grow and makes you happy. Living on a confined space for few days is really helping you grow your empathy and help you reading other people and their needs much better. These soft skills are highly regarded no matter in which country or industry you work or what position you have.
You gain distance and confidence – and it’s ALWAYS good to develop your career. Whenever next time someone is unhappy with the excel you have prepared, you just need to recall the time when you’ve been hit by the rough weather somewhere in the North Sea. This really helps you putting the excel into the right perspective.
If you go on organized sea – cruise, the only thing you have to worry is how to get to the start and how to depart at the end. Rest will be taken care of by the organizer, who’ll make sure you’re safe. This is really relaxing, and you will return much more rested than from any other holiday, and getting really relaxed on holiday is a key to self – motivate you at your work. Guaranteed.
You get inspired by others. Like it was mentioned earlier, there are all kinds of people sailing. There are plenty of conversations and stories flying around all the time. You learn from them, you can use them for your benefit in the future.
If you’re in social media or influencing – I guarantee that pictures onboard the yacht or at its helm will be the ones with the most likes and comments. Unless you are aerobatic pilot.
That’s very frequent question. Answer is very simple and straightforward. Willingness and a little bit of time.
To start sailing at sea, if you’ve never done that before, you’ll need to find:
Reliable sailing cruise organizer or someone from your family having a boat. Or alternatively charter a yacht by yourself, find skipper and another six people to share the cost of charter with you.
A bit of courage
Many people are concerned if they need some sophisticated equipment. Answer is yes and no and depends on your budget available.
Foul weather gear can be expensive if you go on the trip where it might be needed. Good quality clothes for beginners can cost about 200 eur if you buy them in Decathlon. There is no top limit in fact, but for occasional sailor, making 2 -3 trips annually they’re perfect, so unless you’re a fashion victim or plan working offshore – don’t go for anything more expansive.
Occasionally there are organizers who will give you weather gear, which is a very good option to start if you’re not sure if you’ll like it. Those clothes are worn on top of other clothing so they don’t maintain contact with the body of the other person who used it before you.
Another option to address this concern is coming for sailing in… skiing clothes. They’re made of the same materials, the difference is mostly in design.
Everything else you need is non – material.
You need ability to cooperate with others, willingness to spend time with other people and desire for the adventure.