Tag Archives: cruising sailboat

Can You Hear Me?

Yes, I know – things have been quiet here on the blog for some time now. This is what happens when life gets even busier than usual. Rather than provide a VERY long list of all that’s been going on, let me jump right to what I am doing at this very moment: boning up on VHF radio know-how (well, technically, taking a short break from boning up on VHF radio know-how in order to write this post).

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If you’ve been following the blog for a while you will know I’m bound and determined to do some serious sailing in the foreseeable future. And when I say sailing, I don’t mean a dingy on the reservoir, I mean a cruising sailboat circumnavigating the planet (hey, we all need dreams, right?). It turns out that more and more places in the world are adopting actual standards for skippers and crew of vessels heading off into the wild blue yonder. This, of course, is a good thing. I remember a couple of hairy incidents maneuvering our Columbia 24 in and out of tight Florida marinas back when I knew pretty much nothing about sailing. Back then (we are talking the 80’s) there were no standards – you took the helm and took off. And, yes, if this sounds a tad dangerous and somewhat foolish, it was not the best way to get your proverbial sailing feet wet.

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Fabio on his maiden voyage – Finlayson Arm – Progress is being made on the sailing front. At least Fabio has now been out on the water… There’s another blog post in the works to fill you in on the details of our sailing lesson.

With this in mind (and very much aware of how much I still do not know about sailing), I’ve been getting ready to get my ICC (International Certificate of Competency). This isn’t a straightforward online test like the Pleasure Craft Operator Card handed out by the Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons – CPS (though, said card is now mandatory if you wish to be at the helm of a boat in this country). [Need your PCOC? Here’s the link: PCOC at CPS)]

The ICC actually requires you to be able to handle a boat under sail, dock and undock, and prove you know what you are doing in terms of basic navigation. And, you need to have your ROC(M) – Restricted Operator’s Certificate (Marine) – basically a license to operate a VHF radio. I’m working my way through self-study material for VHF operators provided by CPS (beyond boring, someone should update the course material!) so I know how to send out a Mayday call (heaven forbid!), should that ever be necessary.

In the course of learning about VHF radios I discovered that the new generation of radios have built-in GPS systems that allow users to push a button and fire off a distress signal that alerts the coast guard to your exact location. These Digital Selective Calling (DSC) – Capable radios may make the rest of what I’m learning about sending out an actual message quite obsolete.

I’ve also learned that in order to use this feature I will need to get something called an MMSI (Marine Mobile Service Identity) which is issued from the government of Canada and which is unique to your boat, not your radio. (If you need to apply for one, here’s the link.)

While I was looking around for how much one of these radios is going to cost (Christmas is coming, after all), I stumbled on this presentation posted online by Boat US which, if you are now as obsessed with VHF radios as I am, is definitely worth checking out: BOAT US DSC Radio Presentation

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These days you don’t need to know Morse Code to get your VHF license. Whew!

BRAVO-YANKEE-ECHO for now!

Winch Handles vs Ice Tools

When I quit farming, I suddenly found myself with a lot more time to write and enjoy some of my other passions. I also realized I had extricated myself from a farm time vortex and needed to think about how to make the most of my remaining functional years here on the planet before I got too ancient and could no longer drag myself out of the nursing home…

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About a year ago, I was lucky enough be be asked to be a crew member for my brother’s sailing trip in the Caribbean – after six weeks or so on the boat I returned home and all I could think about was when I could get back on the water… 

Sailing was something I’d done a bit of years earlier, as was climbing… I picked up that hobby/sport again at the beginning of 2015 after a break of a couple of decades and haven’t looked back! I’ve documented a few climbs here, here, and here. Early on in this reinfection with the climbing bug I met this guy:

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I have actually lost count of how many things we’ve climbed since we met about a year ago… and, we are still climbing. Which has brought up the interesting question of – what next? How are we going to combine these two very different ideas of fun? Rock vs water… ocean crossings vs mountain summits… Or, is there a way to combine the two?

It turns out that there are some amazing climbing destinations accessible from the water… Kalymnos in Greece comes to mind… Thailand is another popular destination… There’s also climbing in Puerto Rico and Mexico and… well, all over the place, when you start thinking about it. You can even sail right in to Squamish…

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On Virgin Gorda we brought our dinghy in to the tender mooring area and then swam ashore to do some bouldering… Yes. This is my idea of heaven on earth. 

Sometimes the climbs start in the water (I had an awful lot of fun playing in the boulder zone of Virgin Gorda last year) and sometimes one might need to do a bit of a bus trip to get to the base of the mountain, but it turns out that sailing to various climbing destinations might just be an ultra cool way to go about this…

Consider this blog post to be a planted seed. We are a year away from actually getting on a boat (at this point we are thinking Turkey/Greece/Italy might be a good place to start), but I have already started brushing up on my boaty skills with a navigation course put on by the Canadian Power and Sail Squadron. I was a member years ago (and, in fact, took an earlier version of this course way back in the last century) and hope that plotting dead reckoning points and solving distance/speed/time equations will help keep me occupied while we get ourselves organized to pack our belay devices and head for the high seas…