Have you heard the saying ‘Use it or lose it’? Skill fade is an unfortunate reality. COVID has restricted boating activity over the last couple of years so we should accept that maybe our theory and practical skills may not be quite as good as they used to be.
If you have been boating for many years skill fade might not be that evident due to you having attained a level of ‘unconscious competence’, things have become second nature. If you are relatively new to boating, no matter what discipline, you probably won’t have reached the point of ‘unconscious competence’ yet. You are more likely to be somewhere between unconscious incompetence and conscious competenc i.e. ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ and ‘I know how to do it but but I really have to think about it’.
Be honest with yourself regarding you position on the competence scale. Knowing where you are on the scale is a key factor if you wish to improve your skills on the water. An over inflated opinion of your abilities may get you into serious trouble. Surely, our aim as boaters is to have an enjoyable and safe day out on the water!
There are a great many excellent organisations, schools and people, willing to help new and novice boaters improve their skills. I would suggest that starting out with some form of formal training course such as those provided by an RYA Recognised Training Centre is a great place to start. Consolidating this newly acquired knowledge is fundamental to your progress in becoming ‘unconsciously competent’.
Equally important is the timeframe in which to consolidate the training. Sooner is better but this is not always easy or, for that matter, possible. If the latter applies consider asking for refresher sessions either in the classroom, for theory subject matter, or on the water for the practical elements. RYA Recognised Training Centres will be only too pleased to assist you as your move forward on your journey of discovery and your route to becoming a safe skipper.
Mendez Marine run regular VHF/SRC courses and half day refresher courses. The refresher courses are aimed at those who would like to improve their radio communication skills, practice using the radio in controlled conditions, update their skills on DSC etc. Refresher courses are tailored to suit the needs those attending and are structured to ensure everyones needs are met.
Boat handling in tidal conditions can catch the unwary boater out so why not have a day’s tuition with an experienced instructor. Refresh your tidal theory knowledge before venturing out on the water to practice some useful skills in dealing with tidal conditions.
After enjoying all that the Solent has to offer, you may wish to venture further afield. The Solent is relatively protected from bad weather and rough seas so leaving the Solent can seem quite daunting. An ideal solution for many boaters is to join a Cruise in Company, so you can mitigate the stress by travelling with others boats. These are led by an experienced, qualified skipper who will probably do the passage planning on behalf of the group but will also talk you through the process, considerations, contingencies etc.
Having completed a Cruise in Company why not plan a passage of your own and undertake the passage planning yourself. If you’re at all unsure, attend a passage planning refresher course and brush up your techniques whilst getting some assistance with your passage plan.
You are never alone. Don’t struggle with any complexities that you encounter in your boating, ask for help. Every day is a learning day and it can be quite refreshing to learn new skills.