Day 1

I arrived at the boat, Shanti II, moored at Woolverstone Marina on Monday morning at just a few minutes before 9am. All the anxiety about getting stuck in traffic and being late now behind me, I walked down the pontoon with a racing heart and a smile on my face.

Shanti II

Within a few minutes, the crew had gathered and introductions were made. There would be six of us living on this small boat for 5 days. I was impressed at how friendly everyone was, and more impressed that this friendliness and willingness to work together carried on throughout the week. But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Day 1 was all about boat familiarisation and safety procedures. So after the initial safety briefing, and a cup of coffee or two, we donned our life jackets and fired up the diesel engine.

Orwell Bridge - taken at Woolverstone Marina

Within a few minutes, we were out on the River Orwell, and motoring away from the Orwell Bridge. We found a couple mooring buoys next to each other that weren't being used and each of us took a turn motoring the boat around them in a figure of 8.

Note: Buoys are pronounced 'boys' in the UK, and not 'boo-ees' like I was taught in America.

This little bit of boat handling manoeuvre was fairly simple and straight forward, at least that's how it looked when we were watching our instructor Bev do it. In reality, there is a lot to think about and be aware of.

First off, we were in a fairly busy river. Keeping an eye out for other sailboats or large cargo vessels was one of the first lessons we learned. (note: I have since had the pleasure of sailing in The Solent from Gosport to the Isle of Wight, and back. I have thus revised my perception of what a 'fairly busy river' is, and conclude that The Orwell isn't busy at all. Not even remotely.)

Then, there was the tide. First rule of the water is 'Tide is King'. Wind is important, of course, but the tide is more likely to alter your course. And if you aren't paying attention, a low tide can ruin your day.

As we circled the two buoys in turn, we had to take into account that the tide would be doing its best to push us off course. And even though we were motoring, the wind was also having an effect on the boat's course.

And if that wasn't enough, there were also a number of moored boats very near to the two we were using for our figure of eight. Hitting one of them would be bad news.

We all completed the exercise with flying colours and our appreciation for boat handling was growing fast.

After lunch, our training moved quickly onto Man Overboard exercises, MOB for short. For this, we employed the faithful services of 'Bob' - Shanti II's man overboard expert.

Bob - A fender and a bucket

The MOB exercise basically goes like this:

  • Someone trows Bob into the water and shouts 'man overboard'.
  • The helmsman (or helmswoman) quickly turns the boat into the wind until the jib backfills with wind and the mainsail comes over. This de-powers the boat and essentially brings us to a standstill (called 'heave to' in sailing terms).
  • Someone gets on the radio and calls 'may day may day' on the emergency channel.
  • Someone else starts the engine.
  • We then come about and motor past Bob, throwing him additional floating devices as required.

  • We are now travelling downwind, i.e. the wind is to our back. In a real-world scenario, we may, if going slow enough, pluck Bob out of the water on this pass. But the theory is that we'd be going a bit too fast as the wind would be pushing us forward.
  • So, we travel about 5 boat lengths past Bob and come about, into the wind.
  • Now, with the wind on our bow, when we take power off the engine the wind will slow us a standstill and we are in a better position to save our crew mate. 
This is the official RYA (Royal Yachting Association) man overboard procedure. In the real-world, we would take into account the weather, waves, water temp, etc. and do everything possible to get the person out of the water as quickly and safely as possible. 

Here's what it looks like in action:

With Bob safely rescued (about 10 times) we headed back to port. We did our daily de-brief and had dinner. We also talked about the journey we were going to take the next day, and who would be doing what. Then it was 'Rum-time!'

The marina had a pub, and we were all ready for a drink. But, damn it, the pub was closed (being a Monday night and all). So our leader Bev suggested another pub, just a 20 minute walk down the river to Pin Mill.

This 20 minute walk turned into a 30+ minute, 2 kilometre trek through muddy, slippery woods in the pitch black of night. I have to say, at the time I thought it was a lot more effort than a drink in a pub warranted. But looking back, I'm glad we did it and it is just another fun memory from the week. I'm also really glad we got a taxi back to the marina.

The inside of the boat, looking aft (to the rear)

My bunk
The back hinged up and it was quite a bit more roomy than you would first think

The forward cabin (2 bunks)
The head (toilet) is the door to the left.

This is ship is at Pin Mill
Although that ship will never sail again, it is loaded with photo opportunities