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<p class="intro"><img src="MG22-1+Feature/$file/school.gif" width="283" height="45" /></p>
<p class="caption"><img src="MG22-1+Feature/$file/school_1.jpg" width="500" height="479" /><br />
Instructor, Doug King goes over chart reading with students.</p>
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<p class="style1">By Chris Beattie</p>
<p class="intro">Just when you thought you had this whole boating thing
figured out, along comes a guy like Doug King. Doug is an accredited
Yachting Australia instructor with Sandringham Yacht Club in Melbourne.
He has a lifetime&rsquo;s experience on the water, including time on
board recreational, commercial and government vessels up to 20 metres
in length. From a boat handling point of view, Doug has pretty much seen
and done it all.</p>
<p class="text"> At a meeting a few months ago, we discussed the various
Yachting Australia boat handling training schemes with the CEO of Yachting
Victoria, Ross Kilborn. Ross suggested that Club Marine might want to
jump aboard one of the training courses to let readers know what&rsquo;s
involved. It would also be a good opportunity to refresh my own, and
Club Marine CEO, Mark Bradley&rsquo;s boat handling skills. As it turned
out, the experience was a real eye-opener, in terms of what we thought
we knew &ndash; and
how good our boat handling skills were &ndash; vs the actual reality.
In short, we found that there was a considerable discrepancy between
our perceived abilities and those required to complete YA&rsquo;s national
Powerboat Handling Certificate course. As we made our way through each
component of the course under Doug&rsquo;s able tuition, it became increasingly
obvious that we were both more than a little rusty in a range of areas. </p>

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<td height="40" class="caption">Doug and Mark tangle over mooring knots and ropes.<br><img src="/images/spacer.gif" height="50px" width="217px"></td>
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<p class="text">The course aims to equip boat operators with a thorough
knowledge of all that is necessary to go to sea in a powerboat in a competent
and safe manner. It is aimed primarily at trailer boat owners, although
the skills and subjects covered apply equally to much larger vessels.</p>
<p class="text"> A comprehensive collection of relevant literature is supplied
at the beginning of the course, covering pretty much everything that
needs to be considered prior to, and after getting your boat wet.</p>
<p class="text"> The theory aspect of the course covers everything from
basic safety, through to State laws, engine and drive configurations,
hull types, safety equipment, radio operation, weather forecasting, collision
regulations, the buoyage system, navigation, emergency procedures and
coastal waters.</p>
<p class="text"> The practical work covers such on-water activities as
manoeuvring in confined spaces, coming alongside and berthing, high-speed
boat operation, anchoring, holding station and man-overboard drills.</p>
<p class="text"> And for someone who thought they had a pretty good grasp
of most of the above, I have to say I found myself wanting in pretty
much every area. Like so many others who go to sea for enjoyment and
recreation, I was smugly unaware that there was still so much more to
know about the whole thing.</p>

<p class="text"> A typical Powerboat Handling Certificate course comprises
six nights of instruction and discussions, each approximately 2-3 hours
in length. In addition, there is a day of on-water instruction and evaluation.
The entire process can also be compressed into a weekend, with one additional
weekday night, depending on demand and who is running the course.</p>
<p class="text"> Overall assessment is a combination of written examinations
and observation of practical skills.</p>
<p class="text"> A typical course would involve a group of ten to 15 people,
with one instructor for the theory sessions and two for the supervised
practical work. We were fortunate in having Doug&rsquo;s attention entirely to
ourselves, but otherwise our experience was mostly typical for anyone
undergoing the course.</p>

<p class="text"> At our first theory session, Doug handed out a veritable
library of printed material for us to absorb. There were instructional
pamphlets on everything from emergency and survival procedures, to chart
symbols, safety regulations and practices, vessel operations and handling
and a number of other relevant subjects. In addition, we were given a
very helpful DVD titled Boat Smart from the Start. Produced by Marine
Safety Victoria, it uses video footage of a variety of boating scenarios
to instruct and covers just about every subject included in the course.
Definitely a valuable tool in its own right for anyone wanting to refresh
their knowledge of boating-related issues and skills.</p>

<p class="sub"> THE BIBLE </p>
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<p class="text">Doug also handed out our individual Power Boating Workbooks,
upon which the course is based. The Workbook is basically the Bible for
the course. Every subject covered in the course has its own section in
the book, with a Q and A-style test worksheet at the end of each chapter.
Safety equipment, engine operation, refuelling practices, knots and ropes,
trip preparation and planning, towing, docking, marine markers, navigation
lights, the effects of tides and winds and interpreting weather forecasts
and synoptic charts are just some of the subjects covered. We were expected
to study the relevant sections thoroughly prior to each night&rsquo;s
instruction, and Doug would then take us through the material, sometimes
expanding on the subject with a slide presentation or practical exercises.</p>

<p class="text"> Once we commenced the course, it became readily apparent
to both Mark and myself that we had a bit of catching up to do.</p>
<p class="text"> I was particularly rusty on some aspects of buoyage and
marks. Given the type of boating I&nbsp;mostly do, which is generally day trips involving
fishing and family activities, we are not often confronted by a wide
range of marine marks and beacons. So it was good to refresh my knowledge
of such signage as special marks, isolated danger marks, the cardinal
system and so forth.</p>
<p class="text"> And as someone who didn&rsquo;t master tying shoelaces until I was almost
into double digits, the&nbsp;knot-tying section was a bit of a challenge.
But a little encouragement and tuition from Doug had me tying clove hitches,
bowlines, sheet bends and half hitches like a seasoned old salt. The
trick, of course, is to regularly practise knot-tying, even when you&rsquo;re
not on the water. Once you have the&nbsp;few crucial knots in your repertoire
and can do&nbsp;them in your sleep, you&rsquo;ve pretty much got them
for life. </p>

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<p class="text">For the practical part of the course, we persuaded Doug
to come with us for a two-day lap of Port Phillip Bay. Normally, the
on-water component of the course would involve a day of instruction and
exercises, but since we had a bit of spare time coming up, and the Club
Marine Recovery Centre just happened to have a Sunrunner 3300 in need
of some on-water evaluation, we thought we&rsquo;d go for broke. While the Sunrunner was not strictly
in keeping with the spirit of the trailerboat focus of the course, apart
from launching and retrieval &ndash; which we performed separately
at a later session with a trailer boat &ndash; every other aspect
of our classroom and practical curriculum applied.</p>

<p class="text"> As it turned out, the Bay laid on a near-perfect mix of
conditions to test all the theory we&rsquo;d absorbed over the previous few weeks. </p>
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<p class="text">Prior to the trip, we&rsquo;d spent a few classroom hours working on
a chart of the Bay and planning our course. Included in the planning
was a thorough briefing on chart reading, symbols and compass coordinates &ndash; again,
areas that I&rsquo;d become a little hazy on over the years.</p>

<p class="text"> Prior to departure, Doug took us over the boat with a
safety checklist, ensuring we were familiar with the locations of all
the safety equipment, such as PFDs, flares, ropes etc. We also went over
trip preparation, including projected fuel consumption, provisioning
and engine start-up procedures. From an insurance company point of view,
engine starting, while a relatively simple procedure, is actually a critical
part of the start of any boat trip. Particularly when it comes to petrol-powered
inboards, it&rsquo;s crucial to ensure that there are no petrol fumes
inside or around the engine compartment prior to start-up. In our case,
we ran the engine ventilation pump for around a minute before starting
the engines and warming them up prior to casting off.</p>
<p class="text"> Once Doug was assured everything was shipshape and that
we&rsquo;d completed
all of the necessary checks and preparation, we cast off the lines and
headed out into the Bay.</p>
<p class="text"> This part of the course was where we put all the theory
into practice. Such things as radio usage, navigation, marker reading
and pilotage, reading and using leading marks, compass course steering,
time, speed and distance calculation and anchoring were all incorporated
into our schedule.</p>
<p class="text"> We did the Bay in an anti-clockwise direction, departing
from St Kilda Marina and ending the first day at the halfway point &shy;&ndash; Queenscliff
at the Bay&rsquo;s southern-most point. Being at the mouth of the Bay
allowed us to observe the leading marks and channel markers that guide
vessels into one of Australia&rsquo;s most treacherous waterways. The
water at the heads happened to be in a particularly nasty mood that evening,
so we were able to combine bad weather boat handling exercises with observing
and understanding leading marks &shy;&ndash; all I can say is that I&rsquo;d
suggest anyone avoid this particular stretch of water after dark if you
possibly can, or at least make sure Doug King is onboard if you do have
to be there.</p>

<p class="sub"> TIGHT SPACES </p>
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<td><div align="right"><img src="MG22-1+Feature/$file/school_8.jpg" width="200" height="400" /></div></td>
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<td height="40" class="caption"><div align="right">Many boat owners would find the close quarters manoeuvring exercises
useful.</div></td>

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<p class="text">The following day was dedicated mostly to close quarters
manoeuvring, which we did at the Blairgowrie marina. Personally, this
was one aspect of the course that I was particularly looking forward
to. While we do tend to spend a fair bit of time on a variety of boats
of different sizes and configurations here at Club Marine, my experience
is that you can never spend too much time honing close quarters skills.
This is particularly relevant when it comes to twin engine/twin screw
vessels, where the dual drivelines &ndash; especially twin legs &ndash; add
a number of variables to how a boat will behave in any given situation.
Throw in wind and tide movement, and getting a boat to do your bidding
in a confined space can be quite a challenge &ndash; or it&rsquo;s
always seemed that way to me, at least.</p>
<p class="text"> Under Doug&rsquo;s expert tutelage, though, it wasn&rsquo;t too long
before it all made sense. The key factor was that a boat can only be
manoeuvred if it&rsquo;s under power. By gently engaging and disengaging
gears and legs, in combination with subtle helm adjustments, we were
soon berthing and coming alongside like veterans. Like knot-tying, it&rsquo;s
all about practice and maintaining your skills, but being able to do
it initially under the guidance of a qualified instructor, who could
pick up bad habits and gently coax us to try new ways of doing things,
we were soon driving the boat with much more confidence.</p>

<p class="text"> Another key part of the manoeuvring equation is coming
alongside and departing a berth. Again, both Mark and I benefited from
being put through our paces in a variety of situations and manoeuvres.
A number of influences, including wind direction, tide and available
space need to be considered when approaching or leaving a dock or berth
and each combination of circumstances requires different solutions. Another
crucial aspect is how to configure the lines to ensure the boat is secure.
The use of springs is a key to ensuring the boat doesn&rsquo;t move too much with tides and winds and
also aids in manoeuvring out of a tight berth. Again, like much of the
rest of the course, we were rusty in these areas and having to perform
the various manoeuvres and exercises as though we were total novices
allowed us to fine-tune our boat handling skills considerably.</p>
<p class="text"> Doug said the on-water component of the course usually
presented the greatest challenge to participants.</p>
<p class="text"> &ldquo;The primary focus is on handling boats in confined
spaces and berthing manoeuvres. While there is no secret to how this
is done &ndash; and
once explained and demonstrated, progress is quickly made &ndash; the
concept that boats operate in a dynamic environment and generally speaking
handle the opposite to motor cars can take time to master.&rdquo; </p>

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<td><img src="MG22-1+Feature/$file/school_9.jpg" width="500" height="322" /></td>
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<p class="text">One final on-water exercise involved responding to emergencies,
mostly focused on man-overboard scenarios in which we simulated a particular
situation and then manoeuvred the boat to pick up the victim.</p>

<p class="text"> As someone who spent a large part of my youth on the water,
with quite a gap until much later in life when I returned to boating,
I&nbsp;have
to say that I had taken my skill levels for granted. I&nbsp;had assumed
that there wasn&rsquo;t much more to know about the game. And that&rsquo;s
the key to the Powerboat Handling Course, as far as I&rsquo;m concerned.
It exposed my complacency and reinforced the fact that, when it comes
to safe and enjoyable boating, you can never stop learning.</p>
<p class="text"> As Doug said: &ldquo;Typical participants range from experienced boaties
to novices and all are catered for. The beauty of the course is that,
while the basics are covered in detail, for those with experience, greater
detail is accessible and existing practical skills are extended. The
focus is safety and how to do things the right way easily.&rdquo; </p>
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<td><div align="right"><img src="MG22-1+Feature/$file/school_10.gif" width="120" height="200" /></div></td>
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<p class="text">I can heartily recommend that anyone who spends recreational
time on the water owes it to themselves &ndash; and their passengers &ndash; to
think seriously about Yachting Australia&rsquo;s Powerboat Handling course.
After all, boating is supposed to be all about enjoying ourselves, and
it&rsquo;s so much easier if you and your passengers have confidence
in your abilities.</p>

<p class="text"> Yachting Australia&rsquo;s National Powerboat Scheme has been running
in various forms for well over 30 years and was developed on the basis
that yacht club safety and patrol boat operators needed good skills to
reduce risks when operating boats amongst yacht fleets. The course has
expanded to fit in with Yachting Australia&rsquo;s (and Yachting Victoria&rsquo;s)
goal of being leaders in on-water training across popular boating activities.
There are great courses for sailors as well; from small dinghies to ocean-going
keel boats.</p>
<p class="text"> The Powerboat course is delivered around Australia by
recognised Yachting Australia Training Centres and by YA accredited and
approved training providers. Graduates are presented with a special National
Powerboat Scheme Certificate of Completion that is endorsed by the Federal
Government and the Australian Sports Commission. Cost is around $250
per person. The course is also recognised for the purposes of licencing
in most States.</p>
<p class="text"> Yachting Australia powerboat instructors are experienced
powerboat handlers, many with commercial boating qualifications and all
experienced in adult learning techniques. And they all share the same
passion for boating and the desire to pass it on.</p>
<p class="text"> For information on Yachting Australia powerboat and other
boating courses, go to: <a href="http://www.yachting.org.au" target="_blank">www.yachting.org.au</a></p>

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