After a week on the water it was time to hit the books for some theory.

Day 6

Monday morning. Armed with our pencil cases, Breton plotters and dividers we all bundle into the classroom (right next to our accommodation) and await our teacher Andy. On the desks in front of us we have pre-prepared RYA theory packs containing practise charts, tide tables and a work book. It had been a while since most of us had seen the inside of a classroom!

We started the day with a basic introduction to charts, how to calculate bearings and distances and recognise markings. Didn’t take long to realise that chart symbols could be a week course all on its own, there are hundreds! Also, it was the first time most of us had picked up dividers or a plotter. After several exercises we all seemed to be getting the right answers. We then moved on to variation and deviation and three point compass fixes. More exercises under the watchful eye of Andy. The final session of the day was tides, making a start at mastering the horizontal effects of the tides and the varying strength and direction of flow.

Homework for the evening: dead reckoning and estimated position calculations. As all good students we chose to forget the day’s theory with an impromptu wine tasting session led by Fay. After four bottles this led nicely to the pub and ensured that the homework was left till the early hours!

Day 7

A long day of tidal calculations! Andy soon worked out that our quietness was only partly due to the taxing classwork; last night’s entertainment played a part too. The day started with simple exercises and ended with real mind benders. We kept asking if they were trick questions; answers were just not adding up and pencil lines on the charts were making no sense! We estimated positions, calculated the effects of leeway and measured tidal heights. Simple mistakes were all too common: Ahmed spent the whole morning measuring distance on the wrong scale. The icing on the cake for me was completing a tidal calculation on completely the wrong port, Plymouth and not Falmouth. “Take a deep breath?” said Andy.

The last hour of the day we spent on IRPCS (International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea). Thankfully after last week’s sailing we had covered most of the fundamental rules and so the session served more as a reminder and our brains were given some rest. By 5pm we were all quite ‘brain dead’

Homework tonight covers lights and sound signals. Sensibly we all disciplined ourselves to do the work before dinner and spent an entertaining hour trying to make up sayings to make the memory game easier.