Sunday, September 7, 2014

Captain Karl

May I proudly introduce Captain Karl! 

Since returning from our amazing Medsailors trip to Greece (which you can read about here) Karl has been working tirelessly to become a qualified skipper so that he can charter a boat and take us all sailing in Croatia next year. 

When Karl puts his mind to something there is absolutely no stopping him and last weekend he completed the course with North West Power and Sail and is now officially a Day Skipper. Congratulations Captain!

The course started with the off-shore, classroom-based theory with Cheshire Training & Leisure where Karl learned all about basic seamanship, navigation, tides, buoys, safety and suchlike. There were five full days of tuition combined with quite a few evenings and weekends of hardcore studying! Being the committed student he is Karl even studied in between making pizzas:

And drinking a few beers to help him along the way:

After passing the theory tests the next step was to spend 5 full days sailing around Anglesey in North Wales practicing being a skipper and experiencing being in charge of the yacht. 

The first morning was spent navigating the locks in Port Denorwic before sailing through The Swellies in the afternoon. The Swellies are apparently notoriously complicated to navigate and you have to make sure you sail through at the right times because the drag from the tidal stream around the Menai Bridge is so powerful, once you commit there's no turning back! 

For the next four days Karl and the rest of the crew continued their quest to become qualified day skippers and learned about a multitude of seafaring responsibilities including: the 'rules of the road'; handling emergency situations (man over-board!); yacht handling under power and sail and night cruising to name but a few. Here they all are on board the yacht preparing to set sail:

As you can probably imagine a crucial part of becoming a day skipper is learning to be confident with sea navigation and how to read the GPS accurately, after all, none of us ever want to end up lost at sea! Below you can see the boat is positioned to the west of Holyhead next to Holy Island; apparently this is where most accidents around Anglesey occur due to the strong tidal currents so learning to effectively navigate through these tides is an absolute must. 

This was the crew looking west towards the Menai Suspension Bridge:

Even though the course itself involved long hours and a lot of hard work there was still definitely time to relax and enjoy a few beers! Here is Karl docked up in Caernarfon in his 'awesome' sailing attire... 

Even though it was a 'Day Skipper' course, night-sailing is a fundamental skill for any skipper as you need to be prepared for any eventuality, so this was naturally the next part of the course. The art of successful night-sailing is in the skipper's ability to navigate using the buoys. It was a little difficult for Karl to get any snaps of the night-sailing so here is the boat docked up in Holyhead Marina the morning after the night-sail. 


The next day the voyage continued past Puffin Island and the crew entered the Menai Straits from the East. Puffin Island is famous for its huge colony of Great Cormorants as well as lots of other birds. It's name comes from the fact that many years ago over 2000 puffins used to inhabit the island until sadly the brown rat was accidentally introduced to the island and now the puffins are few and far between (a little geeky North Wales fact for you)! 

The afternoon was spent sailing around Bangor and enjoying the spectacular views; Cilla Black and Patrick Moore are known to have flats overlooking the water (see picture below)! 


Frank (the course director) only knows two people (including himself) who would navigate the Swellies at low water and this is exactly what the crew did as they sailed back down the Menai Straits homeward-bound. 

They were incredibly lucky with the weather and you can see how still the water was in the morning. I remember from sailing in Greece that there really is nothing quite like waking up in the morning on a yacht, looking out to sea, the still water and drinking a nice hot brew, heaven! Karl is someone who very fortunately has a fairly strong constitution and does not tend to suffer from sea-sickness (unlike me...) and although it did hit him for a couple of hours on one of the days, on the whole he was sea-sickness free. 

Karl and Pete both successfully completed the course and by all accounts thoroughly enjoyed it. Intense, fun, new friendships, stunning scenery are all words that sum up Karl's 5 days away on the course. He seems to have made a good sailing buddy in Pete and they are hoping to plan a short sailing trip to either North Wales or Largs later this year to get more practice in. Below is their survivors photo! 

With a lot more to learn, some hardcore practice needed and a trip to Croatia to plan I think it's safe to say that Karl has found a hobby for life. He's feeling extremely excited about next years trip and can't wait to take us all away. 

A'hoy there maties, bring on next year! 

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