My Sea Sense Experience
By Kathy McArthur
Let me start by saying I live on a boat. Now that statement in itself would lead one to believe that I know something about boating. Nothing could be farther from the truth at least that was the situation before I attended the Sea Sense Boating course for women.
My History with Boating and Meeting the Boating man of my Dreams
I have always loved the ocean and my hobby for the last 7 years has been traveling and photographing lighthouses. My fiancee and I were drawn together in the beginning by our mutual love of the water and lighthouses and I was especially excited when I learned he lived on a boat. What a perfect place to live. The Boat ( a 41ft motor yacht) is in Houston on Clear Lake. I remember very clearly the first time I saw the boat, I fell in love with it. I’d heard other people say that sleeping on a boat is like going back to the womb. I experienced that feeling and loved being rocked to sleep by the water each night.
After returning from my trip to the boat for the first time, I enrolled in the Power Squadron boating course. Richard was such a sweetheart and attended the classes with me even though he is qualified to teach these classes. I at least learned some boating safety, and boating terms during these classes, but still no hands on experience. Richard and I had taken the boat out exactly twice during my first trip to Houston and I was behind the wheel for about 5 minutes in the Houston Shipping channel with all these huge freighters coming at me and me fighting the wheel and never giving it enough time to respond before I panicked. It wasn’t exactly my idea of a good time .
Discovering a Way Point
Richard was the first to discover the Sea Sense Boating Course for women online. He told me about it and ask me if I would like to go. Before I thought it through, I said yes. He and I agreed that I should do the 5-day course and settled on a date, April 2nd.
It wasn’t til a couple of weeks later that it hit me…What was I thinking, agreeing to go live on a boat!! with several women for 5 days!! who certainly would have years more boating experience than me and think I was a stupid bumbling idiot. For weeks until the moment I got to the boat for the course, I would get knots in my stomach every time I thought about it. I didn’t really express what I was feeling with Richard cause he kept telling all our friends how I was going to this course and how I would come back knowing more about boating than he knew. Unknowingly he added to the pressure. I have never backed away from a challenge, but I feared I was (pardon the pun) in over my head.
The Big Day Arrives (White Knuckle Day)
I left Little Rock at 6am and flew into Sarasota at 10:30am. I arrived at the Holiday Inn Marina and found the boat without problem, but I was early and the classroom was not yet ready for the classmates. I went back to the hotel pool and sat for awhile and had some lunch. I did notice 2 other women sitting together with suitcases watching the boat. I went over to them and sure enough they were there for the coarse. After introductions and determining that we all were equally nervous, we became instant Allies. We all acknowledged that we had butterflies in our tummies but that we were eager to learn as much as possible.
After waiting about 30 minutes, we were given the wave to come aboard by Captain Patti Moore, our soon to be boating guru. We all headed to the boat.
The boat was a beauty. A 42 foot Grand Banks Trawler…My 2 other classmates were 5’1” and 5’3” so they very graciously offered to sleep in the split bunk aft cabin. Patti slept on the sofa and I (they never let me forget it) got the master cabin…Huge bed, nice air conditioning and my own head…They all took to calling me the Queen…Hey I could deal with a few snide remarks to have my own cabin.
After Patti made us very much at home, the instruction began immediately…We were all like sponges soaking up every word that Patti said..Taking notes furiously, but none of us minded we were there cause we were on a mission and we all loved our b oats. That first day we went over all the safety features and rules that one needs to know to be safe on the water. From Flares (3 in date) to PFD’s we looked at everything in the boat. We learned how to shift the chemicals in the fire extinguishers to make them fire more easily.
Our next lesson that day was on coiling and throwing line. Things that are so common-sensish but that you never think about. Cleating lines, snubbing lines, etc.
Then up to the bridge. I think that we all feared this place more than any on the boat. Patti gave us the most wonderful tips and instruction. We did the gear-shift shuffle and learned one of the most important lessons that day, “ Neutralize the engine that’s getting you into trouble”. Also that neutral is very much your friend and always gives you time to think.
By 5pm we were all exhausted. We were all kind of looking at each other then someone, I think Jan(Jan and Paula were my two classmates), said “It’s happy hour isn’t it?” Well we rushed to the liquor store as quick as we could and all overindulged that night because we had been so tense. But it was turning into a wonderful experience….
Day 2 (White Knuckles are tanning)
We awoke to a beautiful sea and weather. We were all anxious to get started and Patti began immediately by starting our lessons on Dead Reckoning. We learned to look at the Compass Rose and what Magnetic North was. We us the parallels and we learned about Way points and charting a course…It was great fun and we all decided so far so good. We also talked about tide tables and the different type of markers on the intracostal waterways and on the inland waterways.. We learned to read the charts and tell about fixed markers and floating markers.
Then we took the boat out. It was a very windy day and Patti was at the helm most of the time because the water is so shallow there, but we each took a turn at being behind the wheel and all agreed that we were quite intimidated. We decided to stay at the Seafood Shack Restaurant/Marina in Bradenton. It was a really rough docking due to the wind and we had no dockmaster to help, only an inexperienced waitress who stood there with both bow and stern lines in her had and wouldn’t tie them to give anything to back against. It was pretty harry there for a few minutes, but we made it safely and had dinner at the restaurant then off to bed to dream of all the stuff we had been taught that day.
Day 3 (knuckles are only slightly pale)
We learned all about the Engine room. This particular boat had 2 diesel engines and we learned that one should have a check list of all the things to check on an Engine and the Generators each day that you take the boat out.. I made a mental note about the great checklist I would create on Excel when I got home. We learned all about checking the oil, checking the fuel and water filters, about some of the spare parts that one should carry. We came out of that engine room all going uh,uh,uh,uh, like the guys on the TV show, home improvement.
We took the boat out after our lesson and charted a course for the only lighthouse in the area, I was so thrilled. My hobby is photographing lighthouses. I have traveled all over the US and this would be one more picture to add to my file.
We decided to stay at the Buccaneer Inn Restaurant and Marina on Longboat Key,Fl
Patti gave us more instruction that afternoon on lines and securing the boat.. We dined in the restaurant to the tunes of Big Mama and swen…They were quite a pair and a favorite with the local crowd. We had loads of fun.
Day 4 (hey,we might make it through this course)
Once again we had morning classroom before taking off. Our lesson for this day was Tides. All about Tidal stations and Mean lower tide and interpreting the tables. All about the rule of 12’s. About how to anticipate whether the tide will be with you or pushing against you. Patti is such an incredible communicator and instructor.
We then again all took turns docking the boat in very impressive winds. We all had to make 2-3 attempts, but we all did it. Bow first.
We headed to Sarasota but asked Patti if we could anchor out for lunch, just to get the hang of it. It was a wonderful experience and we learned about the windless and gypsy. We learned to turn our bow into the wind when anchoring and about backing up to set the anchor.
We arrived in Sarasota at Marina Jacks and got settled in for the night. Paula and I took off walking and checked out the downtown area, quaint. Jan’s husband met us for dinner and brought 2 very nice friends of theirs who had just relocated to that area.
Jan’s husband was so nice he insisted on picking up the tab for everyone.. We had a wonderful dinner and delightful conversation and Jan and her husband graciously offered to take me to the airport the next day when we finished our course.
Day 5 ( I can’t believe it’s already over)
Our lesson this morning was about the GPS and plotting Latitude and Longitude. Also about the importance of a log book. We learned about the 3 ways to locate way points. We learned that the GPS can tell you what the wind & current is doing to you so you can modify your course. We learned that 1 minute of latitude is equal to 1 nautical mile..isn’t that amazing that I would know those things.
Some of the abbreviations on the GPS are:
XTE - Crosstrack error (track is what uou’d like to travel and the arrow shows how to get back to course.
TTG - Time to go to til you reach your waypoint
TIM - Time of Day
TLg - Trip log distance in nautical miles
BRG - Bearing in Magnetic compass
DTG - Distance to go til you reach your waypoint
COG - Course made good or coarse over ground
SOG - Speed over ground
We headed back to the holiday Inn Marina where we had began. We all felt that Patti was our new hero for life and wished that we had ¼ of the boating knowledge that she possesses.
We arrived a little after lunch and Jan brought us in with all the guys on the dock watching and waiting to see what would happen, but she did a great job. We packed and unloaded all the stuff, had time for goodbyes and the 3 of us (students) went to the bar for a finale drink. We all agreed that we wouldn’t have traded this experience for anything. We all tried to get Patti to say we were the best sea-women she had ever taught (ha Ha) but we never heard her say that. We had a wonderful learning experience and agreed that we would recommend this course to everyone we knew. We couldn’t wait to get back to our significant others’ and tell them all the things that Patti said they were doing wrong. (just kidding)
It was truly the experience of a lifetime…
Thank you Capt. Patti Moore and Thank you Sea Sense.
Their web site is www.seasenseboating.com