Our Fastrack student struggles through days of tidal calculations before her Day Skipper exams.

Day 8

We started the day with a topic that proved a hit with the guys – GPS. Big discussion from the male contingency into how fantastic technology is and questions from the girls as to why we’re spending hours tearing our hair out trying to do navigational calculations when then GPS can do it all for us!

We then lurched into the theory of waypoints, COG and SOG for the rest of the morning, and pilotage and ‘course to steer’ calculations in the afternoon. I never thought there would be so much maths involved! I now have a muddled confusion of terms and methods in my head. I’m hoping that the penny will drop before the exams on Friday. Each mini session today ended with a quick fire sudden death round of buoyage and marks questions thrown randomly around the room to determine who would make tea. Unfortunately I was the one boiling the kettle on at least one occasion.

Homework tonight was a test paper that left most of us with more questions to ask than we managed to answer! I’m starting to feel a bit nervous now and wish we had some more time to digest the information.

Day 9

Our final day of theory before D-day tomorrow – the Day Skipper exams! Started the day with the all important topic of safety on board and what to do in an emergency situation. We were shown some amazing diagrams and pictures of an accident in fog between a 47 foot yacht and a tanker – the Wahkuna incident. We all agreed that we couldn’t image many things more scary than being practically blinded by the weather in a busy shipping channels, sinking and without any distress signals.

Weather was touched on briefly and Andy did a great job of explaining pressure systems, the effects of warm and cold fronts and frontal depressions, resorting to drawing diagrams when we looked back at him completely blankly. At least I now know why we have such changeable weather in the UK! We go into the topic in much more depth for the Yachtmaster theory exam, so I know that I have some serious studying to do.

Finished off the day with some passage planning exercises and some revision tips. All of us have ‘grey’ areas on the weeks study programme, I have a particular mental block with the tidal calculations, so I know exactly which chapter I’ll be hitting tonight!

Day 10

Exam day! We had two exams to complete, an hour and a half each. The first was ‘general knowledge’, covering charts and symbols, safety, lights and buoyage, collision reg’s and weather. Most was pretty straight forward and soon after finishing Andy marked the papers and we were told we’d all passed. One down, one to go! It gave us all some confidence for the second exam, after lunch.

The one I had been dreading – chartwork and tidal calculations. This involved drawing estimated position and course to steer diagrams and tidal calculations. After days of making silly mistakes with my diagrams and charts, I took my time in the exam and felt pretty confident with my answers. Thankfully our hardwork and study paid off and we all passed the second paper too. Before running out to celebrate Andy went through any areas we got wrong or misunderstood. I’m a Day Skipper!