Johannes Erdmann during maneuver training for the practical test
Do you know the thought? Someone in the immediate vicinity is just about to get a driver's license and you ask yourself, "How much would I still know about the material today?" After all, you've learned and known everything by heart.
Over the years, however, in most cases a routine of its own has developed, and many details have been mentally put aside, innovations only half noticed. After all, you have had "the rag" in your pocket for years and you can get along quite well on the road. But what if you had to take such an exam again?
This just happened to me. However, on the water. Exactly 14 years after my sports boat license in See.
The story is as follows: From the end of the year we want to start a new phase of life in the Bahamas and take new guests on board every ten days to our most beautiful islands with our catamaran "Maverick XL". The islands that we have already visited and enjoyed several times with our own boats. But those who take foreign guests with them at sea are faced with a different legal situation than private sailors. And that meant for me to quickly get a sailing license during our stay in Germany.
More precisely, a sport sea vessel license, which is valid like a permit for commercial voyages. "That shouldn't be a problem for you after four Atlantic crossings," were the first comments uniformly when I announced my new job on our blog. But even for a long-haul sailor, such a certificate is not easy to make. On the contrary, similar to when a truck driver has to go back to driving school after 14 years on the road. Actually even worse, because the SSS is much more extensive than a car driver's license. Navigation, meteorology, seamanship and shipping law are the topics.
Buffalo with the goal in mind: Johannes Erdmann on board the "Maverick XL"
It wasn't as if I had never heard or seen any of this before. 14 years ago I did my training as an SKS at a small lake in my hometown Wolfsburg, I went to the club house one evening every week and listened to the lectures. Back then there were no multiple choice questions and no points for consistency. As an inland sailor who has never been to the Baltic Sea, I swapped a ton when I checked the cards. And following the logic of the wrong bin, a course line was torn off in the wrong direction - and ended up somewhere completely different than planned. "Failed," it said. There would have been enough time to catch up on the theory test before the training trip and the practical test in the summer, but the organizers had miscalculated and there was not enough space on board the training ship. So I was encouraged to try again next year. It stayed that way. I never finished the SKS.
That same summer came the first seaworthy cabin boat, a Shark 24, with which we (and the sports boat license, d10 HP engine) explored the Danish South Seas. Since we have never chartered boats, I no longer needed an SKS. I had learned the theory and navigation in the SKS course and then in reality I didn't mix up tons. The practice came by itself in the following two summers on the Baltic Sea. Three years later I even found the Caribbean as a single-handed sailor.
But now I suddenly lacked the necessary patent in the preparations for our charter business. I would have loved to go to school during the months here in Germany, have the extensive material explained to me in a yacht school and then take the exam. But the time was too short. In August we arrived in Germany with our "Maverick Too" from the US and now, in October, we want to fly to the Bahamas again. However, all of the SSS theory courses run over the winter, the practical trips mostly in spring. The last trips in autumn were already fully booked.
Man overboard exercises to the point of freezer burn
So I decide to add the material to myself in self-study. At the end of August I grab the textbook and start reading. But optimism quickly gives way. It's amazing how extensive the material is. A training skipper also comments on our Facebook page and gives me practically written notice that I will rattle through the exam if I try to teach myself the material. Anyway, I quickly get away from the idea of taking all the partial exams at once. If you fail an exam, you have to wait two months. Time that we don't have, because the new ship is already waiting for us on the other side of the Atlantic. So everything has to work out the first time. At the first exam in mid-September in Hamburg, I take the major subjects of navigation and shipping law, at the second exam in mid-October, meteorology and seamanship.
For the last two weeks before the first exam, I hardly do anything else except study, study, study, calculate tides and turn circles on the exercise map. In the English Channel, how practical. We just sailed through a few weeks beforehand. The first exam is supposed to start at 9 a.m. on Saturday, so I book a cheap hotel on the outskirts of Hamburg and head there from Wolfsburg on Friday afternoon. One last evening in peace with the book, a few last courses on the menu. The desk in the hotel is far too small for the large map. Feels like on-board conditions. So fold the card twice. In the evening I lie in the bunk and notice the tension. When was the last time I had such test anxiety? I learned less for my Abitur.
Navigating under on-board conditions in the hotel room: the table is much too small for the large exercise card
So that I don't have to erase all course lines from the exercise map, I bought brand new ones for the day of the exam. When I curled up the next morning, it tore me ten centimeters. How embarrassing. If "der Erdmann" comes to the test with a tattered card, it will be a first impression …
I'm way too early at the DSV and have to wait half an hour. I look for a place at the very end of the gigantic room and start spreading out my utensils. The card check goes quite well, but time is short for the many tasks. Still, I'll finish to the minute. I have two hours to go through the catalog of questions with a coffee in the car, then it's time to take the shipping law exam.
The results will not be available until Sunday morning. I am the first on site again and am therefore also the first to enter the room. "Erdmann? Navigation: Passed. We still have a few questions for you on shipping law." Au Backe - a review. I almost fell through. Memorizing the paragraphs has never suited me. Wait an hour and a half, then I'm allowed in. And pass the review. Puuuuh. The first part is done.
Four weeks later I'm back in the exam, this time meteorology and seamanship. Again, I've memorized all of the hundreds of questions. But in the exam I am surprised when I have to answer several questions about details that were only dealt with in three sentences in the textbook. In addition to the textbook, I had several scripts on meteorology downloaded from the Internet and I actually think that I learned well. But I also have a cold and a big head. The outcome is uncertain. Did I still make it - or do I have to go to the re-examination the next day? I dont know. To be on the safe side, I study the whole evening and then lie awake until 3:30 in the morning. Weather constellations circle through my head. The results are back around nine o'clock. And this time it worked right away, I passed. What a relief.
All that remains is the practice trip. A practical exam is scheduled in Heiligenhafen six days after the second theoretical exam - but all places on the training trips are occupied. Fortunately, our friends from Ecosail-Yachtcharter still have a BG-approved yacht in the water that we can charter. A Dufour 40, a lot of ships. I register without further ado and get the confirmation a few days later.
To test: a Dufour 40. A lot of ship for a crew of two
Now I have to get a crew together quickly, but the appointment is on a working day and we have to practice a little man / person overboard maneuvers beforehand. All friends have to work. So Cati will be my only crew again. That must be enough, I think.
On Wednesday evening we will take over the ship in Heiligenhafen and cast off on Thursday morning so that I can familiarize myself with the ship. Practice one day, then the exam. Was that too optimistic? The training trips last seven days and the ships are manned by six people. This means that every sailor has only a little more than a day to be able to do all the work. But there are advantages to having a teacher on board who knows the examiners and knows what to look out for. I miss such a contact person on board. But that can't be changed anymore.
I also quickly realize that the tight crew was a mistake. It takes two or three hours to get really familiar with the boat. In addition, it is lousy cold and the ship can only be sailed with a lot of effort. Even hauling in the huge mainsail after almost every attack takes time and effort. We do about 30 man overboard maneuvers and have heavy arms in the evening, worry that we will not be able to get a line at all the next day.
In the absence of a lifebuoy, the lifebuoy flies overboard 30 times
In the morning we wake up with severe muscle soreness. Outside, the rain is pounding on the deck. Geez. Around noon it is our turn, first of all to follow another training ship to the Heiligenhafen yacht yard, where we lie down on the quay wall and wait until the test is over in front of us. Then everything goes very quickly. The two examiners step over to us and off we go. "Cast off, out on the sound." On the way, I have all sorts of tasks to do in the corner of the map. Positioning by bearing compass, radar, course conversions, operation of the radar, waypoints … In between, a look at the weather maps that I had luckily downloaded that morning. Then the sails go up outside. Man overboard with and without machine assistance, turning, jibing, the whole program. The exam time goes by in a flash, but everything is called up. It's good that we practiced. Just like the theory test, practice is tough. But everything is going well. When we dock at the charter jetty after an hour and a half, congratulations. "Passed."
Cati and Johannes Erdmann at the bow of their charter yacht after passing the exam - frozen through, but happy
What a relief! I feel a great burden lifted from me. If I had just rattled through one of the five tests, it would have had major consequences for our plans. But everything is fine now. The bill is on its way and the new life in the Bahamas can begin. And better still: the certificate was really fun. A lot of knowledge and skills were required, and I can really say: it's worth it. Even after four Atlantic crossings and three long journeys, I've learned a lot.
Tomorrow morning at 6 a.m. our plane leaves Berlin across the Atlantic. In the next few weeks we will prepare the catamaran for charter operations and then hopefully start our first tours at the beginning of December. We can't wait to take the first guests on board.
Tonight, however, there is still a big milestone in our lives: The crowdfunding for the DVD of our trip with "Maverick Too" is running out. The threshold has been taken, the film is already in production and will be on the market for Christmas. All those who have participated in the crowdfunding will of course get the DVD a little earlier. So if you want to buy a DVD quickly, you can do so until midnight. We are very happy about the great popularity!
Further information: www.zu-zweit-auf-see.de and www.maverick-charters.com