Tag Archives: ICC

Smooth Sailing


Days like this are great if you want to photograph masts reflecting in glassy water, but not so good for doing anything remotely like sailing…

Having just returned from a day on the water it seems like a good time to do a bit of an update on the sailing front. Despite the fact we don’t have a boat (yet), I have marked November 1st as the date we will head for Europe (Greece? Montenegro? Croatia? Italy) for a sailing trip. We still haven’t pinned down destination or duration of the trip, but one way or the other I am bound and determined to be aboard a boat of some sort, for a while, heading somewhere.

While the details of the trip are still somewhat fuzzy, what is absolutely clear is that there is no time to be lost between now and then when it comes to getting myself prepared to take the helm and cast off the lines. Given that one now needs to have an ICC (International Certificate of Competence) in order to sail in most European waters, I signed up for a five-day sailing course through Sea to Sky Sailing. My original dates were to be at the end of March on one of the company’s boats, but then Dani and Toryn decided they would hire a Sea to Sky instructor to come over here to the island to teach them on their boat, Easy Rider. Because they had an extra berth, they invited me to join them, which makes a lot of sense given that a) we’re practicing on a boat we will sail on in the future and b) we’ll be sailing together in the future so it makes sense we’ll all be learning the same way to do things.


Katabatic winds? My study notes are serving two purposes. First, they are supposed to be helping me retain info needed for the ICC written test (my aging brain no longer holds onto details the way it used to). Second, in keeping with one of my 2017 resolutions, I’m trying to add more visual elements to my notes and journals. This has been an interesting process for someone who has never tried to draw anything. If I feel brave, I might post more sketchy efforts here at some point.

On the down side, the dates of the new training session are March 11-15, which has thrown me into a bit of a panic. Before then, I need to have completed the theory part of the course and get my VHF license plus get in a bit of sailing practice. My studies are well under way, but the clock is ticking now and I’m starting to have dreams eerily like those that tortured me throughout high school and university. In those dreams I show up for an exam and find I have studied for the wrong course or I try to get into the examination room and the doors are locked, or I’ve missed the exam date by a week or I open the exam booklet and discover I can’t read the language written on the page.

On the practical side, though I’ve sailed on and off for decades, my experiences have always been as crew. It’s quite a different thing altogether to be in charge of the boat. So, for the past several weekends, we (Dani, Toryn and I) have been trying to get out on the water before we are thrown into the deep end (not literally, I hope). Our first expedition was a bit hairy as the winds kicked up and we were all very rusty (fouled the jib quite handily and rattled ourselves quite thoroughly). Sailing brother, Sascha, popped over from Vancouver the next weekend and put us through our paces in very light airs in a fun expedition to Sidney Spit, a picturesque spot within spitting distance of Sidney.

Main goes up GOPR9464.JPG

Up goes the mainsail…

That trip went pretty smoothly and included practicing picking up a mooring ball. At the end of it, we felt a bit more confident that we had not actually forgotten everything we had ever known about sailing. After enjoying a tasty barbecue in the cockpit, we also remembered how much fun it is to sail somewhere and then share a meal!


Today we took Easy Rider out again, looking forward to sailing in light winds so we could do a bit more tacking practice. Sadly, the forecast 5 knots of wind wound up being 0-1 knots. Flat calm. It was easy enough to hoist the sails, but from that point on we bobbed around in the millpond with two gigantic limp hankies decorating the boat. What forward movement we actually managed to accomplish was more the result of the current pushing us than any impact from the non-existent wind. The fact there was not a single sailboat (other than us) out there should have been a hint that perhaps today was not a good day for sailing.


We may not have buried the rail today, but it was mighty pleasant lounging around on the foredeck as we puttered back toward the marina.

Undeterred, we floated around for a couple of hours before dropping the sails and motoring back to the dock. While uneventful sailing trips are generally a good thing, today’s journey to nowhere gives mellow a whole new meaning.

Wildlife count: 2 seals swimming, 2 seals perched on rocks, 2 dolphins and a bunch of sea birds. Note to self: Take a bird identification book to the boat.


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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).


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.


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


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