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Today is the final day of the on-the-water Yachtmaster prep course that I am taking with the big exam scheduled for tomorrow. Up to this point, the course has been excellent with myself and the three other participants being challenged on a regular basis. Each of us have swapped roles as skipper throughout the course, being responsible then for determining sail plan, navigation and crew organization. We have all practiced:

  • Navigation, without the use of GPS
  • Sailing to specific waypoints, again without the aid of a GPS or chartplotter
  • Docking (side tie – blowing onto the dock and blowing off, med moor)
  • Anchoring under power and under sail
  • Leaving anchor under sail
  • Picking up and leaving mooring buoys under sail
  • MOB retrieval (under power, under sail, at night)
  • Blind pilotage
  • Night sailing
  • Anchoring and leaving anchor at night
  • Passage planning (taking under consideration complicated tidal data, secondary ports, etc. etc.)

Alex, Bluewater Sailing’s owner and the course instructor, has remained extremely calm throughout the process, even while we have been short tacking his boat in and around the dangerous reefs. I’m not so sure that I would be that composed were we to trade roles and be using ZTC instead of his boat Chao Lay.

And if all of the above isn’t enough to cause some stress (it is, believe me), we have (had?) a little tropical storm looming on the horizon to threaten us. No, we have not forgotten that this is hurricane season and although we’re in a historically pretty safe place, all prudent boaters monitor the weather closely. Two days ago this was the forecast track for the area of disturbance some distance east of us. Note how several of the computer models have the storm tracking near or right over Grenada. If the storm was significant that would obviously not be good. Even having it come close though would make the weather pretty ugly here this weekend, exactly when the Yachtmaster exam would be taking place.

Today, two days later, the storm, now referred to as Tropical Storm Ophelia, shows a much more northerly track (typical after the storms really start to develop). We’re very thankful for that for all of the obvious reasons. Hopefully the storm tracks as shown in this photo, missing the Caribbean islands completely.