The RYA is, of course, the first place that people go to for their training. Or is it?
You might think it would be but quite often it is the local chandlery that gets the first questions about owning and using a boat. I know – I used to work in one, and I may just have saved a few lives in the process.
The sweet old gentleman
How about the sweet old gentleman who came in one day to enquire about charts? He wanted to know the minimum needed to ‘navigate the Solent in safety.’ We fetched him the latest Admiralty Small Craft folio, extolled their virtues, and laid one out on front of him.
He bent down to look at it, fumbled in his pocket, put on a thick pair of glasses, and bent down even more. To our amazement, his nose was virtually touching the paper before he said ‘Ah, yes – I see how it works….’
‘Crikey’ I said to my colleague Ginger, when the customer had left. ‘He really shouldn’t be out sailing with eyesight that bad, should he?’ Ginger just gave a shrug. “Well,” he said, “Come to that, he shouldn’t really have been practicing medicine. He’s just retired as the local GP….”
The safety conscious guy
Then there’s the safety aspect. Another punter came in and asked how a flare worked. He had been told he needed some on board, especially a rocket or two if he was going some distance offshore.
We had some dummy display flares behind the counter, so I scooped one up and showed it to him.
“This is a rocket flare,” I said. “Goes up one thousand feet and burns at 30,000 candela. “ The punter was suitably impressed. “Oooh,” he said, with genuine reverence. “How does it work?”
“All you do,” I said, as if I had personally invented the thing, “is pull off the bottom like this, and this little chord will drop out…” I hadn’t realised that as I was doing this, the snout of the rocket had dropped towards his chest. “Then just grab it, and pull hard, like this….”
I can’t repeat the word the punter said as he dropped to the floor like a shell-shocked veteran. When the whoosh of a rocket didn’t pass overhead and blow the bookstand to bits, he shakily got back to his feet and gave an apologetic shrug. “It wasn’t real, then?” he said.
Lastly Mr Antifoul
But perhaps the saddest case of misinformation was the punter who came in asking about antifouling. “Someone told me I had to paint antifouling onto my boat,” he said. “Where does it go?”
“Well,” we told him, “You paint it on the bottom, from the keel to the waterline.”
“Not right up to the deck, then?” he asked.
“Oh no” we laughed. “You don’t want to do that.”
The man looked lost in thought for a moment. “Oh dear…” he said at last.
Jake Kavanagh, marine journalist.
Find books for your course at the RYA Shop
Our handy guide shows the books & DVDs that go with your course!