Category: Licensing and Certification

License Issued and Received

Got it. July 22nd after a couple correspondences back and forth for clarifications and additional documentation requested, my license was issued. My license is good for Master of Vessels up to 100 Gross Register Tons along with the Auxilliary Sailing and Assistance Towing Endorsements.


I am not going to publish the insides, it’s full of PII (Personal Identifiable Information) and I don’t want to help someone steal my identity, but there it is.

USCG License Application

So my application is ready. I had to gather a few signatures on some forms, I now have to pay the $145 evaluation and issuance fee, and my application will be off to the coast guard. If everything goes as planned, I should have my Merchant Mariner Credential with my OUPV (Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessels), Master of Vessels 100 Gross Tons, Towing Endorsement, and most importantly the Sailing Endorsement to my Captain’s License. That’s one more step along the path toward preparing for bringing this schooner camp together. With that out of the way, and the winter of brainstorming interior designs suitable for the safe berthing and comfort for a crew of 8 (6 young sailors plus two licensed captains), I should be able to begin fleshing out this site with some greater details, and begin fundraising for the capital needed to build a real wooden schooner.

 

This has proven to be a true adventure already preparing to make all of this happen, and I think I may have decided on a name for our little ship. I have kept this name rolling in my head for a while to be sure it’s really what her name is going to be, and although it isn’t decided nor christened yet I am going to share what I think the name will be. I believe I will call our ship the Escapade.

USCG Captain’s License Endorsements Exams

Well, the endorsement exams were a whole lot easier than the OUPV and Master of Vessels exams. When I arrived at the exam center, and I was given one exam, it was quite literally a tick the checkboxes exercise. The first exam took less than 5 minutes, and the second exam I completed before and handed in before the proctor finished grading the first one I handed in. He looked at me like I couldn’t possibly be done. But to be quite frank and honest, I have been sailing quite a bit, and I know my terminology and I know the rules. After I got my scores, I walked out a total of 10 minutes after I arrived. If I can do that, then so can you, and so can your kids when the time comes.

USCG Captain’s License Exams

Well it’s taken quite a while to get through all the hoops, but I am not down to the last few items for my application for my Captain’s License. Last night I passed my exams for OUPV and Master of Vessels less than 100 Gross Tons. The tests weren’t as hard as I thought they would be, but I also studied like mad to assure I would pass. The hardest test, Plotting and Charting I scored 100%, so I am pleased about that. The rest of them, I didn’t score 100%, but I did well enough that I am pleased with myself. Most of the other stuff is memorization of shapes and light signals, and sounds used in restricted visibility (aka fog).

I have two more tests to take which I wish to take first rather than upgrade later and that is the sailing endorsement and the assistance towing endorsements. I’ll be taking those exams on Apr 5th, and quite frankly, other than a new detail here or there they are really extensions of what we already learned for OUPV and Masters and the answers are rather common sense otherwise.

Now once I have taken those, all I really have to do is bundle my application together and send it in.

You may call me…Captain.

o7

ASA103: Basic Coastal Cruising

This weekend we went on a two day (but not overnight) cruise around Fisher’s Island Sound. This time there was less classroom instruction on the finer points of sailing, and it was more focused on things like checking the engine oil and belts, making sure the battery banks are set properly for engine start/running and sailing, checking the bilge pump and making sure the automatic switch is working, toilet and holding tank and valve checks, how to properly start and stop a Deisel engine and other pre-sail safety checks. In addition to those technical safety checklists, we learned about navigation and how to use charts and dividers and why knowing the tide is important not just in navigating the bottom but also knowing the direction and force of the currents during ebb and flow. In places like the Race of Long Island Sound that can mean the difference of almost sailing twice as fast, or just stuck in place sailing against a 4-5 knot  tidal current.

Markers was another topic we covered, obviously we learned about red and green markers, bouys and bells, but this time we covered bifurcated markers, and obstruction markers as well as those yellow special purpose markers because we happen to have one in Fishers Sound used by UCONN for taking measurements of this and that.

So after that was done we had mostly a day and a half of sailing and performing drills.

Day 1: We sailed through Fishers Sound and back taking turns at each station as helmsman, and grinders on the primary (Jibsheets) and secondary (mainsheet) winches. We each sailed in circles around all points of sail as well as sailing in figure eights for the same reason just a different sequence of sail points. As helmsmen we had to follow the channel markers including the bifurcated prefered channel markers and staying clear of the obstruction markers (black over red with two black circles on top)

 

Getting ready to Jybe

Getting ready to Jybe

Day 2: We returned to fishers sound and practiced anchoring once we reached a suitable anchorage, and once that was done we ate lunch at anchor. Then we sailed into the Thames River between new London and Groton and practiced Crew Overboard drills. I voted for the captain and lead instructor to be thrown overboard, but it seems he thought it would be better if we just used a throwable PFD. So the skipper threw the PFD while one crew member
stays on point, always pointing at the overboard Crew Member and calling out estimated boat lengths. Once MAN Overboard was called, we fell of the wind into a broad reach, and when the MOB was about 4 boat lengths away, tacked beam-a-beam which is to tack from the broad reach right into the other tack in a beam reach. We then sailed to downwind of the MOB and let loose the sheets to lose power as we approached the MOB coming up into he wind and picking up the PFD with a boat hook. On one of my turns I accidentally jybed instead of tacking…oi, that was embarrassing.

 

I dont know what we were all looking at, but I grab the binnicle like that and pinch the wheel so we stay on course while looking to the side. It helps prevent unintended steering into or away from the wind.

 

Afterwards we took the written test. Elyse scored a 90% which is great, and the ones she got wrong even I had to read the questions a few times because they were those lovable trick questions with double negatives or looking at a diagram to pick the right answer but the diagram itself is intentionally and misleadingly wrong to see if you’d get tripped up. Not enough of those to fail you if you got the straightforward stuff correct, but enough to keep you from scoring 100% if you didn’t parse the question properly.

One of the instructors, Jeff asked why I was taking these classes since I clearly already have a lot of experience sailing, and I told him both answers, which are true:

  1. Elyse wanted to learn to sail, and teaching your partner to sail yourself can often be a bad idea, and I asked if she wanted to go by herself or do it together. She wanted to do it together. Plus it would give her the added confidence that she knew I also know how to sail. Until we started taking lessons together she’s only heard me say it.
  2. I told him about my plans to build a schooner, become a USCG Master of Vessels, and ASA Instructor as part of my plans for Schooner Camp. It’s part of my development as an instructor to not just get certified as an instructor but also go through the program as a student so I have that experience too as that added assurance to parents that I am qualified to care for their children on the high seas.

So there we go. We are now both certified in ASA103, and with the SeaSprite23 I acquired a month ago and is almost ready to sail, we’ll have plenty of time to practice and just go sailing for fun rather than just going through instruction and drills.

I want to thank both Captain Dave and Captain Jeff for providing an excellent program and service. They are both fine sailors and they have a lot of experience to offer to new sailors in the New England area.

You can find them at American Sailing Academy based in New London, CT.

ASA101: Basic Keelboat, Day 2

So we woke up and packed new lunches, and lots of water for a day out on the water (and we drank all of it). We arrived at the dock at 9am, and we quickly got down to the business of reinforcing some things we learned yesterday after applying some of the book knowledge to an actual sail.


 One of the instructors brought a model sailboat to the table this time, and the principle instructor thought that was a great idea and used it a lot to demonstrate points of sail.

After an hour or so we were asked to complete our tests, I finished mine yesterday so I took the time to stretch my legs, talked with the instructors about our past sailing experiences, discussed my plans for Schooner Camp, some of our building projects past and present, and so forth. Once every one was done with their tests we went below to grade them and reinforce questions answered wrong. Elyse scored 92%, great job!!!

Skipper asked me to take the boat out of the marina so he could focus on the other students, we got stuck waiting for the tressle bridge to open, but otherwise uneventful. Once we were out into the river we hoisted the mainsail, did a few tacks then unfurled the 130 Genoa. Heading out toward the Long Island sound the wind slowly picked up to about 15 knots at its highest, and it was enough to put the boat on her ear, and we were moving along at about 7.5 to 8.5 knots over water for a good portion of the sail.

We practiced tacking and jibing, and avoiding collisions per the rules of the road and overall it was a lot of fun watching everyone take up their stations.

 
Elyse trimming up the main.

As I mentioned in the previous post, this sailboat is new to the current owner, so we were all learning something today. One of the folks was putting the sailboat so far on its ear that the boat started turning up her no matter how hard she tried to stay on course. Leaving the transmission in neutral causes the prop shaft to vibrate when we are moving at a good clip. It took a while to figure that out. At first we thought it was a shroud vibrating in the wind, then maybe the keel harmonic vibrating. When the skipper put the transmission in gear, the vibrations went away. Hmm, that’s something to look at.

 
At the helm with the wind in my hair, that backstay prevented leaning back with any comfort.

By the end of the day we’d gotten plenty of sun, and plenty of wind. Bringing the boat back in, the skipper asked me to man the helm again while fenders were deployed, sails furled, taken down and secured. This time the bridge was wide open for us so we didn’t have to putter around in circles, and once we got to the dock we cleaned up and packed up and our certification was logged in our books.

A really nice feature of being a student with American Sailing Academy (not to be confused with the ASA) is that current students are offered free evening sails on most Wednesday evenings at no cost. It’s a sales gimmick to increase continuing interest in ASA103, 104 and 105, but this a gimmick that has real value in giving students some more time and experience on the water. I am planning on taking advantage of it to log some more sea service recency for my USCG Captains License. I have enough time overall, but not within the last 3 years.

I want to thank both Captains Dave and Dave (yes both are Dave) for providing an excellent program and service. They are both fine sailors and they have a lot of experience to offer to new sailors in the New England area.

You can find them at American Sailing Academy

ASA101:Basic Keelboat, Day 1

So my Girlfriend, Elyse and I had our first day of sailing lessons today. Although I have been sailing all my life, I thought it would be fun to take these classes together, and additionally I want to get certified myself as well so I can say I have taken the classes as a student and not just trained to teach the classes. Plus it’s some more documented sea service for my captains license.

Anyway, on to the lessons. So since we live in eastern Connecticut, we chose the American Sailing Academy out of New London Connecticut. We woke up in the morning, packed plenty for lunch and lots of water just in case. Hey you never know, yesterday we went out to dinner and I spoiled my appetite by downing 4 glasses of ice tea because I was so thirsty.


We arrived at the docks at 9 am, boarded the boat and we all introduced ourselves to one another. Shortly we were at the table going over rigging, parts of the boat, the circle of wind and all the academic material about boats, pretty much all the stuff you’re supposed to already know if you studied the book they sent a full month in advance. Then some knots, with of course the main stumbling block for most folks being the bowline. We went through three different ways to tie it until everyone found a way that works for each person. I always have fun watching people learn to tie a bowline.

 
Learning about how not to get your hand mangled.

 

So the school bought the boat we were on this past fall, it was a 1986 35′ O’Day sloop. Despite the engine being run last night, it chose not to start this morning. After a bit of fiddling, checking the water separator, and checking the fuel, it looks like there was some air in the lines. So once it got started, it finally stayed started and we shove-off.

Once out of the marina and into the river Thames, we set the mainsail and went through some guided maneuvers, sailing close hauled to broad reached, tacking and jibing. The fun stuff, then for the last hour we took turns at the helm while someone else handled the sheets, and we had some good fun. We came back to the marina and the skipper docked the boat and we all went below decks to start our written exams. Now we were only asked to do half of the exam, but I went ahead and finished it. It was all second nature, and I had just completed the safe boating course a few weeks ago, so I had the rules of the road and all that fresh in my head.

 
Guess who’s going to be the Captain?

I asked Elyse whether she thought she got something out of the lesson and she thought it was very helpful to be able to see what she’s been studying in action. I think she’ll enjoy tomorrow even more with the less step by step instruction and being left alone to make the boat do what’s been asked.