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The Sailing Course.

I met up with Les, my instructor for the next two weeks, and was introduced to the others on the course. Two were intending to do the Fast track Yacht masters course, another wanted to get some certification because he had booked a sailing holiday in Ibiza, and I needed to know something before setting up sail. What a fantastic two weeks. It went too quickly to really enjoy but I must give credit to all the staff running the course for their help and support in all that mattered. On the first day we were given a safety briefing, a run through of all the important information that was needed, kitted out with life jacket and wet weather gear before setting off to sail to Ceuta. Now for those of you that don’t know about Ceuta, its Spain’s little Gibraltar on the North African coast! (I wonder if they are prepared to give this headland back to Morroco) The crossing was pretty much as expected, winds between 4 – 6, the odd fishing boat out with their long nets straying across the straits – with no signage up, and the ferries racing over at a fair rate of knots. As we arrived in the harbour at Ceuta one of Rock Sailing Schools other yachts was moored up. However, this one was not on a visit, it had been impounded by the Spanish Guardia Civil for ‘some reason only known to them’. An evening in Ceuta at a nice bar but we couldn’t find anywhere that had Sky TV as Spurs were playing that night and I couldn’t pick it up on my IPad.

The following day we headed off around the headland to Smir. As the winds were building up and current going against us, we had to head out quite some distance from the headland before turning to head for Smir. By now the waves were pitching the boat up and down and entry into the marina of Smir was not an easy task. But we got there, fuelled up, paperwork presented to the customs office and a berth found alongside a wall at the far end of the marina. It was surprisingly empty but then it was only February. A night out in the walled town, a good meal and then back to the boat. The next day the winds had really picked up so we had to sit it out for a further day before attempting our return across the straits. An early start but a very late finish, we were being pushed way off course. An 8nm journey turned out to be over 22nm due to the effects of both current and wind – gusting between 6 and 8+, and it was late into the evening before we finally got back to our berth. And trying to make out all of those navigation lights at night, a bit of a nightmare!!

The next few days were spent in the classroom, studying for our exams. Having swotted up prior to starting the course I thought I would have it easy but there was always something new to learn and much that I had forgotten! Four days in the classroom followed by a number of exams was something I was use to providing not receiving, but we all managed to get through in the end. Another couple of days in the marina due to the weather gave us plenty of opportunity of passage planning, getting the washing done and catching up with my son. Eventually the weather broke and we were able to get out into the bay to finish off the rest of the course. Tacking, gybing, man over board – well a fender really, but we still had to recover it, and learning how to moor up and leave a pontoon without damaging the boat. Thankfully all was completed to a competent level and, certificates in hand, I returned back to the UK.

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