An inclusive review conducted by the RYA to determine how realistic the conditions in their tender operator course are compared to those found in most actual yacht operations has concluded it is: “Nowhere close, not even a little.”
“Anyone can drive a boat after a good night’s rest, in pleasant silence, with nothing to look at but the channel markers and the bald spot on the back of your instructor’s head as he pre-fills your pass certificate from the seat forward of the helm.” Says Grate Scott, head of course development for the RYA. “It’s getting the guests home safely at 3 in the morning when you haven’t slept in 21 hours, the music is so loud it’s making the nav lights jiggle, and you are fairly certain none of the female passengers are wearing knickers. That’s where you separate the boat handlers from the handlers boating. And you can quote me on that.”
This thinking has taken the RYA back to the drawing board; and has ushered in a daring approach. The new course is to be expanded to 3 days from the previous 2, and interestingly will start at 9:00 PM with a shot of tequila.
“Our plan is to as closely mirror the average deck crew’s actual experience as possible.” Says Mr. Scott, before going on to explain that while he’s aware it’s frowned upon for crew to over-indulge the night before a charter or owner trip, he is equally aware that many junior crew members ignore this entirely and, with that in mind, wanted the course to reflect the reality that many tenders are being operated by people who feel like a shaggy dog’s breakfast.
To simulate this the rest of the first evening of the course is spent going from pub to pub until everything is shut and then sitting on a dock until someone points out the students have to be up in 2 hours. Everyone then turns in for a brief nap before being woken up by a fresh-faced instructor who is disappointed in them and tells them they will have to skip breakfast as they are late. From there it is straight into shouted orders.
Mr. Scott confessed there were significant challenges in setting up the course, not least of which was finding instructors willing to work late at night whilst trying to teach over music being played at a volume most would term ‘damaging.’
“Equally difficult was finding attractive passengers willing to sit in a small boat out on the Solent, late at night, wearing next to nothing,” the director continues. “At this stage I’ve signed a retainer with a local modelling agency, but as this has driven the course cost to almost £4000 per student it could be unsustainable. If we don’t get any takers we may just have to offer a cheaper course in which the students take turns dancing and asking the driver what time he gets off work.”
The course is expected to be on offer by the end of March, and if it proves popular Mr. Scott has plans to review a number of other yacht courses to see if they can’t be made more realistic. Early ideas include a Master’s level seamanship course in which candidates will berth a large vessel in swirling currents while a guest badgers them with difficult to understand questions, and a practical engineering workshop in which all tasks commence in the middle of the night with students being woken by an obnoxiously loud alarm.