RYA Day Skipper – crawling before we run (part the one)

Blu Emu was resting on her laurels, or at least her hulls, in Saint Martin (abbreviated incidentally as SXM for some reason) in the Caribbean. Peters and May, who happen to be an international shipping company and not, as it appears, a Sydney clothing store or firm of slightly dodgy lawyers, needed the boat in Antigua. Antigua (with a much more boring abbreviation of ANT, although somewhat sort after as an Internet location by the Providers Internationale Soft Suede), was only about 100 nautical miles away as the pirates fly but that was a long long way when you are sitting in Australia wondering how your boat is going to get there!

Fortunately, we made contact with a Captain – yes, the capitalised honorific was appropriate – Greg who had skippered our new boat in previous times for the likes of the National Geographic while whale filming, and the Death In Paradise crew for episode 1, series 5. I’m not sure how the boat felt about being the “millionaire’s yacht” but she carried out her role with quiet aplomb worthy of aluminium. Stoic perhaps, or even Metallic.

Captain Greg agreed to pilot her on her last (for now!) Caribbean escapade to Antigua, righting all the wrongs that could be fixed and providing a manual simple enough for even idiots (that’s us folks, although it is less idiocy that lack of experience). He even said that he was going to buy her if we had not already done so, such was his love of her. Our trust and hope built high, bedded even more when we found that his family happened to own an entire island in Guadeloupe and was thus less than likely to “do a runner”.

Prepared, victualled (look it up… did you find it means buying food and water for a voyage?) and with a zarpe she was ready. I’m pretty sure you had to lookup “zarpe” too. Google fortunately provides us with a clear explanation:

Zarpe: first person singular (Eu) present subjunctive of zarpar.

Zarpe: third person singular (Elle and Ella, also used with voice and other) present subjunctive of zarpar.


Such is the wonder of information on the Internet… A zarpe is a customs clearance for vessels. You clear out of one country and receive a zarpe, and you must provide it to the next country you enter as proof of where you have just been and that you cleared out correctly, rather than clearing out quickly such as when being chased by irate husbands (wives are never irate of course… remember the honeymoon!).

After some tribulations, like a leaking shaft seal and 30kn and 3m swells, she arrived in Antigua and joined the Peters and May hired Zea Bremen. Modern ships have something called AIS, or Automatic Identification System, which allows anyone to track larger vessels throughout the world. You can see where Zea Bremen is right now if you want.

Lifted aboard, they kindly gave her the entire hold to herself, while the other 15 boats had to endure the “outside” above her.

RYA Day Skipper – crawling before we run (part 0)

There is nothing like a normal, relaxing and fun honeymoon. Concentrating on each other to the exclusiveness of anyone and anything else… which is why we decided not to do that, and instead our honeymoon consists of firstly, getting our RYA Day Skipper and ICC; secondly to look around what and where we will do with and leave our boat; and thirdly to spend time aboard our boat – which I have never seen with my own eyes! It is likely to be anything but relaxing, only a little time to concentrate on each other, and…well… it hopefully is fun.

Let me explain a little.

In case it isn’t obvious, Eraine and I bought a boat in 2018. To summarise, it’s the right boat for us, just at not the best time (years before we retire) and not in the right place (the Caribbean). But the price was good (in case you thought about that question). The blog gives some points along that purchase path.

We also were married in December 2018, but what with everything else happening we decided to postpone the nuptials until a more appropriate date. With some bloody mindedness worthy of a Darwin Award winner, we decided to incorporate the honeymoon and driving our new boat across the Atlantic on her way to the antipodes. After some snags, including some odd doubting of our own abilities to make the trip given our years in boats of 10-20 feet on placid lakes being preparation for our new boat of 50 feet across one of the most treacherous and long ocean passages on the planet. We instead found a willing shipping company and bravely paid them.

This ruined the quiet honeymoon Transat (sailor talk for trans-Atlantic crossing) plans, so we were forced to make things harder in other ways. Fortunately, this presented itself in the problem of, once our new baby arrived in Europe we didn’t actually have the requisite accreditation to touch her. In the same manner as sitting behind the wheel of a car while over the limit can get one in trouble, we couldn’t actually take ownership until we completed some training that wasn’t need in Australia. Strangely, in Australia one can go on a 2 day boating course to qualify for any boat upto, say, 20m (60 feet) long and then head off around the world in the sure knowledge that the Australian accreditation will, while absolute rubbish, allow one to transit through every country in the maritime world (I’m unsure whether it would work in Mongolia or Nepal, but no doubt some intrepid unmarried twit has got the Guinness record for trying it).

So in Australia we couldn’t find anyone who could appropriately train us in the manner that Europe has become accustomed. That is the International Certificate of Competency, or ICC. Oddly, the title manages to suggest ability without saying in what – basket weaving? Nose hair dying? Hmm…. Anyway, the French put great store on the ICC, as do the Dutch and sometimes the other EU member states. To get an ICC, you just have to complete the training in the country you want to visit, in their language only, get a local licence and pay money to turn it into an ICC.

Our French, Dutch, Belgium and German are shiite. Fortunately, most of the United Kingdom are also shiite at that, so the Royal Yachting Association has kindly agreed to give you an ICC if you complete one of their Day Skipper courses. Four fun-filled days on a motor yacht (in our case; you can choose the sheet/rope-twiddling version if you are a sailor).

Hence our plans morphed into: do our RYA Day Skipper in the sunny windless and tideless UK (you can tell where this is going, can’t you…), do some research across France about just how high their bridges are (to the nearest centimetre please – we need it!), and collect our baby from the clutches of the shipping company and drink champagne in, well, Champagne. Vive la France!

Oh, and we’ll be on our honeymoon so it will just be a normal, relaxing and fun time like everyone has…