Aye aye Captain!

Views from the marina

Three months have come and gone by since my last post. I settled back at home, started university and time has flown since then. But from my experiences last year, travel can never be missing from my life and the call to be back out on the water is still ever present.

Having completed the theoretical portion of the Master of Yachts sailing limited certificate from IYT, I still needed to complete the practical portion for it. What better way then than to plan to do just so three weeks from finals in St Martin?The Maritime School of the West Indies is the only one offering the course in the Northern Americas so choosing a time was slim in pickings. Good thing I have great friends in my school program!

I thus left Canada in a tizzy, excited for a week of sailing, but incredibly nervous. This certificate allows me to be a captain for boats up to 200T or a first mate for ones up to 500T. No small beasts there. Would I be up to it? How demanding will the examiner be? The imposter syndrome was strong, but there I was boarding a tiny 20-people flight from my transit airport in Antigua to St Martin.

Ile Fourche

I spent the week on the nice 43 foot monohull named Sundowner with five other people. My friend Mal from Seamester joined me, and we were part of a group made of a South African expat living on the island for the last 30 years, a local from St Kitts and a British guy working on a sailing trimaran in the BVI’s. Our instructor was a local who told us he would be the Grinch for the week to best prepare us for exam day.

With those incredible greetings, we started the course right away doing a bare boat check; we practiced docking, Man OverBoards (MOB’s), mooring, anchoring and sailing tactics. We left on Wednesday for a two day overnight passage where we plotted our way around the island to Tintamarre island on the French side, had a beautiful sail up to Ile Fourche, officially in St Barths, and night sailed back to Simpson Bay.

The island was a verdoyant green basking in the Caribbean warmth and its good weather. We bonded as fellow sailors over each stories’ and learned a ton from our still-in-character instructor. Not bad for a Thursday.

By the end of the week, we finally returned to the marina and realization that the next day would be our exam settled in. We cram quizzed each other on our theoretical knowledge over a delicious meal of Indian food. Food is always the right way to settle a bout of nerves.

Now picture this. Saturday morning, the boat is ready by the time the examiner arrives, gentle giant Garth. We gather in the cockpit and Garth points to me and says: “You take us out of here”. Great…

I come out the slip, everything goes smoothly. Phew one thing less. The wind is gentle in the lagoon and my docking on an opposite dock goes fine, with a tinge of extra speed that simply made the boat go a few feet too far, nothing to worry. I get in queue for the bridge that leads from the lagoon to the bay, pass through, get the sails up and out we go.

By now, I’m more confident in my passing chances, but sailing is still my weakest point. Never mind that, mother nature is a true goddess and she offers me gentle enough winds for smooth sailing. My MOB skill is just fine with the barest use of the engine. Wonderful. I get quizzed on theoretical knowledge will going down the coast and after an hour goes by, I pass the wheel to the next student. Wow, I think, have I done it?

The rest of the day sees an uptake on wind speed that makes for fun sailing and sees the use of the spinnaker. I anchor by late afternoon and go on a mooring with ease if I say so myself. I can’t keep the grin off my face. A beautiful day of sailing with little issues with my manoeuvres? Wow, I definitely wasn’t expecting this to be going so well. I silently thank our instructor for the week.

Everyone finishes their skills and we dock for the final time of the week in the marina. Garth congratulates everyone, we all passed! I can now officially be called a captain and I’ll be able to work with my license once I complete a medical and a safety course.

Your two new captains right here!

That’s quite something to write down jeez!

What a week really. St Martin is a beautiful island and seeing the other leeward islands off on the horizon makes anyone want to come back to explore. I’m looking to come work in the area this summer, but first I have to pass my finals! Being back out on the water was all I could ask for, bringing down the wanderlust to just bearable in time for the study rush of end-of-semester’s.

View in Antigua

After celebrating with the crew, I flew off and enjoyed a lovely eight hour layover in Antigua which was spent by the beach, a coffee in hand. It made for the fourteenth country this year, something unbelievable for me to count. Antigua was all beauty from the air and from the tiny sliver I saw, is promptly being added on to the ever-growing list of places to visit. With those thoughts in mind, I finally flew back home and wrapped up on a wonderful week on St Martin filled with laughs and smooth sailing.

Until next time, Bee.

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