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Why crew need better tender training

Friday 6 September I sent out an email personally addressed to most of the deck crew registered on our database, junior and senior. The email concerned a survey being carried out by the PYA on behalf of the RYA about yacht tender operations. The RYA is considering creating a new course aimed at these operations, (I emphasize that they are CONSIDERING... Nothing has been decided) The PYA is running the survey to gauge opinion. I sent out my email to encourage as many people as possible to respond. I expressed in it my view that this is a good idea. Actually I believe very strongly that this is a very good idea indeed and long overdue.
'You would' I hear you say. 'You are a training provider out to make money out of us unemployed dock walkers trying to find work'.

In fact one of you did say exactly that in one of the sixty five emails that I received in the first two hours after the message was sent out. I fear that my inbox may explode tomorrow morning! Leaving aside the fact that we are talking about VOLUNTARY not mandatory training and the fact that profit margins on practical boating courses are wafer thin - this is not about money making. This is about SAFETY and I make no apologies for what I am about to say. If you don't agree with me then follow the link below, do the survey and say in the text box that you don't agree with a new course. The RYA will have full access to all the replies. If you DO agree with me, then it is even more important that you complete the survey.

I still teach a range of courses at Bluewater; one of them is Personal Safety and Social Responsibility (PSSR). On this course we discuss onboard safety. I always ask the class if any of them have ever been placed in a situation where they felt unsafe and exposed to danger. This question relates to any previous employment, not just yachting, since many have not yet found work on a yacht. There are usually tales about people being asked to work on roofs or up chimneys without adequate gear or training. There are others in the class who have already found work on a yacht, and in some cases have been working on one for years, but have never got around to doing the course before. Among these students, over the last ten years, I have heard an extraordinary number of times that the most frightening experience was when they joined their first yacht and were expected to drive the tender. All too often they covered up their insecurities and got on with it and (usually) got away with it. Does that make it right? I don't think so.

Tenders are often driven at night by crew who have inadequate training and experience for night-time operations. The RYA Powerboat Level II takes two full days and does not even cover night navigation. So, as another of my email respondents asked, why not make the RYA Advanced Powerboat certificate the 'gold standard' qualification instead of the PB II? The answer is simple: by the time a young deckhand has gained enough boat operating experience to qualify for the Advanced Powerboat course they are already getting set to study for their Yachtmaster. By this stage, having 'gotten away with it' for two or three seasons, they are genuinely less at risk than they were when they started.

In my view, there is a need for more up-front training to be available to new crew in areas such as night operations, basic navigation, handling of guests during transfer... And possibly more. Please do the survey and give your input!

From the email responses I have read so far it would seem that junior crew are more suspicious of this idea than more senior crew. I guess this is understandable since they have already incurred a lot of expense before the can get their first job. But don't forget, NO-ONE is ever going to make this training compulsory. This is about making a course available for those who want it, which is recognized and relevant.
Whatever your view, please do the survey here.

About the author

Training Director
I joined the Royal Navy as a seaman officer after university and served on various types of vessels including frigates, destroyers, and finally in command of HMS Mentor; a navigation and seamanship training vessel teaching RN trainees and foreign navies.