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Powerboat Plans for the 2020 Season UPDATE

Progress: 2020 Powerboat Plan What's Progress Looking Like? This will be a far shorter read than the plan I published in the Autumn (see below). This is just a 'story so far'. Want a long read? Read that one again! Support 1 has been 're-tubed'. Her inflatable tubes were starting to go soft on every possible occasion. We tried leak repair, but that failed, so we've invested in a new set of inflatable tubes. We commissioned a Dartmouth company, Demon Ribs / Ribtube, to do the job, and they came up trumps. Can one say 'trumps' nowadays? It's not orange, it's the original bright citrus yellow. There's a joke in there somewhere.

Thanks to Demon Ribs Instagram feed for the photo

Most important, we invested in her some 10 years ago. She has a great hull, so we've probably given her at least 10 more years in our service. She and Support 3 are excellent workhorses. They're our lifeboats, along, of course, with 'Safety'. Support 3 is newer. She's not yet ready for refurbishment, but we plan to do the same for her when she's ready for it. Support 2 now has her controls on the better side of the console for tuition, the inboard side. We took her back to her supplier Wolf Rock near Kingsbridge for that. The supportive seat plus a fore and aft legroom adjuster have both arrived. So have the optional airline style seat belts, the dedicated gel cushions to sit upon, and the van door mirrors to help those with neck problems keep lookout astern. The frame to mount the seat is on order. I don't know about you but I can't wait to see what fun we'll all have in her. From this season on her primary purpose is as a teaching boat for Powerability and RYA Powerboat Levels 1 and 2 for Sailing Members who want to develop their Powerboat skills. My job is to help you go as far as your determination and ability will take you, and then to work with you to see if you can go that little bit further. We can stay inside your comfort zone, or we can push the boundaries. Man Overboard recovery training is planned. Working hard with Anna, I've scheduled these into the programme [not published at the date of writing this update], broadly two sessions a month, one on a Tuesday, one on a Saturday. Small groups of four folk plus an instructor, 'Safety', one of Support 1 or 3, and Dead Fred. We're keeping a log of all who perform this training. The objective is that volunteers, especially Support Skippers, do this at least once a year, and that all our Powerboat Instructors teach more than one session each. Powerability is a continuous programme. Roger Holroyd is co-ordinating how we're delivering this both to individual Sailing Members and to members of Groups. He'll let us all know when he's got hos planning finished. Vessels suitable for delivering this are the NAB, The Farries Flyer (ARC) and Support 2. We're anticipating a lot of Powerability Certificates this year. Powerboat Level 2 is an area where I want us to run courses to meet demand. Some will be one to one tuition on Support 2, some will be six person courses with two instructors and two boats, some will be Support 2 making perhaps a seventh person with a third boat and instructor. We'll run some courses mid-week and some on Sundays over more than one weekend. I don't have a handle, yet, on the perfect duration on the water for a Support 2 course for someone with limited mobility. The angle of the ramp to the pontoons, and avoiding getting chilled are key factors here, too. So we'll learn together. Actually, you will teach Dart Sailability what you need. Continuous Powerboat Handling Improvement is something I see running alongside the Man Overboard training, but using a different part of the river. We have ideas on what to teach, you have ideas on what you want to learn, so we'll work this out together. More bulletins? When there's something to say. Need something I've missed? I'm not a mind reader. If you don't tell me then how will I know? Tim Trent Chief Power Instructor


Autumn update

As many of you know I took over as Chief Power Instructor from Andrew Cushen in September 2019, and I'm building on his excellent work both when he was in my role and previously as Principal, and the work Richard Fellender put in before him in the same role. They've given us a very firm foundation and worked hard to commission truly excellent vessels and help us get our skill levels up to where they are today.

I'm going to warn you. This is a long read!

Powerboating for those with disabilities

As well as excellent vessels they've laid another foundation stone, the RYA Powerability scheme, a scheme Dart Sailability shared with the RYA. They adopted it, made some changes and rolled it out nationally.

What's Powerability?

It's a scheme that recognises that not everyone chooses to go afloat under sail, and also that some who like sailing also want the chance to learn to drive a powerboat. That's the short description. Here's the long one.

How do you get on board?

One of my targets is to take as many folk through the Powerability scheme as wish to go through it. Doesn't matter whether you're part of a group or an individual member, we're being even more proactive in offering it to you. Part of the responsibility is yours, too. Make sure the team on the day know that you want to go further with your personal Powerability scheme. Make sure you have access to your own log book.

Can it be made more straightforward?

We're doing a few things to make it even easier to learn.

We've modified the NAB dory at zero cost to bring the throttle inboard so an instructor can help you with it if you need help.

We've looked hard at the Farries Flyer (the ARC) and at its second steering position. Self propelled wheelchair users can manoeuvre under it with good clearance for legs, but some of the larger powered chair users find it doesn't quite clear their legs. We have a simple and almost zero cost engineering solution planned by The Two Rogers, Astley and Marsden, with Juliet Prentice modelling for it with her powered chair.

We're working on Support 2, Jano, as well. She's an excellent powerboat, lively and responsive, and we've learnt a lot about your needs for her over the past year since the Essex Trust very kindly donated her to us.

The key thing is supportive and comfortable seating. I've chatted to and taken input on the phone from many wheelchair users. David Pendlebury has been instrumental in taking this input along with recommendations from Andrew, Roger Marsden, Richard and others on how to handle modifications. It's been a team effort. He and I have identified how we can modify the seating plan at low cost and preserve the resale value of the vessel, always an important consideration.

We're choosing a seat from the RS Venture Connect, specifically designed for physical support on the water, and installing it on a strong stainless steel space frame, using the existing bolts that hold the original seat in place. We're planning for the flexibility of deploying different seats, too. That original seat assembly goes into store.

We've taken delivery of gel cushions that let any water drain through. To start with they're for sitting on. You'll help us by briefing us on your spine cushioning needs during the season. And there's nothing preventing your bringing your own lumbar cushions.

We're adding an optional airline seatbelt, a lift and release, so you can choose to be located positively in the seat. We've chosen airline style because it's a style everyone is familiar with and can release fast if needed, and we have an extender belt for those wearing bulky clothing, too.

The console is migrating to the port side of the vessel to allow the instructor access to the throttle lever. This meets the RYA's 'Instructor Position' requirement.

Some folk, me included, have neck movement that ranges from restricted to impossible. For the first time we'll be installing rear view mirrors on the console, large ones, van door mirrors. That means you can take your own responsibility for keeping a lookout astern if you have difficulty in turning to see behind you.

We think this addresses most needs, but you have the chance to prove us wrong. So please tell me if more needs to be done. Do it in person or by email, but do it!

What about general Powerboat skills?

Every winter Anna Chrystie works very hard on the season's sailing schedule. I'm working with her in the New Year to schedule in two things, general Powerboat skills for us all, me included, and RYA Powerboat Level 2 courses. And some of those courses will be at the weekend. Others will be one-to-one training using Support 2.

I'm proud of how well you all handle the boats and do the things we ask you to, those who volunteer to take the powered vessels out. What everyone wants to do is to get even better.

Moving from being pretty good to being excellent and unflappable is part of the road to becoming a Powerboat Instructor, if you wish to. It also means that that old chestnut 'Shouted Advice From the Shore' is less tempting for someone to offer you!

We all, no exceptions, even our team of instructors, need to improve our close quarters handling. It's different every time, different wind, tide, boat loading, marina berth. And we're scheduling regular sessions throughout the season, guided by our instructors, to work on topics including manoeuvring in a confined space with a big tide running, the skill that can escape us when everyone is watching us!

It's not just a learning thing, it's social, too. So who's bringing donuts?

You want to get it right first time every time, and to be proud of yourself and your skill. My job's to help you to make that happen for you.

Did I mention this is not just for volunteers? This is for our whole membership, for every one of us who drives a powerboat, or who manoeuvres a sailing vessel under power

RYA Powerboat Level 2

I've been talking to the RYA about how we ensure that everyone who wants this qualification can work towards achieving it. I mean everyone. There's a bit of background to get to grips with first. You can skip over it if you really want to.

PB2 is a very important RYA qualification. A holder of a full PB2 is entitled to receive the International Certificate of Competence (Power) which is accepted as showing that you are competent to drive up to a 10 metre powerboat with as much engine power as you can afford, and to do this in most foreign nations. A full PB2 is also the first step towards a Powerboat Instructor certificate. A full PB2 can be commercially endorsed. You have other courses to pass as well, and a rigorous medical, but the commercial endorsement means you can take paying passengers to sea in suitable weather conditions in a 10 metre powerboat with a large amount of horsepower in hours of daylight, bouncing from wavecrest to wavecrest and shaking their fillings out.

To précis that, it's a big certificate. While we have small RIBS they don't have an abundance of power. They have just the right amount. You train for your PB2 on one of these:

The certificate entitles you to drive one of these:

So the RYA and we both take it very seriously, because of what it entitles you to do.

I asked the RYA about teaching people with disability to PB2 level. I know several of you who are wheelchair users want the qualification and we want you to have it if your determination and disability allows. The RYA view is simple. Meet all requirements of the certificate unassisted, then you get the full certificate. If you require assistance because of your disability we must endorse the certificate that assistance was required.

An endorsed certificate may have the endorsement removed at a later date, but does not entitle you to the ICC, nor to becoming an instructor, and cannot be commercially endorsed. You and we will make that decision together about the requirement for assistance as the course goes ahead. I'm pretty sure you'll tell us about needing assistance, too.

Does that mean folk with disabilities can't be Powerboat Instructors?

One of my Winter Projects is to have just this conversation with the RYA. We need clarity on what can and cannot happen. I see anyone with the determination and skill and who wants it badly enough as someone I want to put forward. I need to learn more about this. This is an area that requires a good discussion, because there is the brand new "Authority to Instruct" scheme for sailing. I'm hoping to work with the RYA on one for Powerboating. They may be working on it already. Watch this space.

Man Overboard and Safetyboat Training?

We're on it. "Dead Fred" the training dummy is our mainstay, and the HOPS Bow to Bow recovery method is the best I've seen. Even so we're going to assess a new system on loan from the RYA to see if it can improve on our current system. Nothing stands still. If there's a better mousetrap we want it.

We're going to do Instructor led MOB training regularly in small groups.

A lot of Safetyboat work is learning ever better seamanship, learning the route to approach a vessel in difficulties, learning when to open the throttle to reach a casualty fast and then the low speed control to arrive safely and perform the delivery of assistance. We each have to be the solution, not part of the problem.

We're also adding a local course, something we're designing in house that meets our local needs, too.

More skippers for the Farries Flyer

It's not that the boat, the Farries Flyer, the ARC, is hard to drive. She's a well mannered boat and goes exactly where she's put. The twin engines are easy to use. You can learn to use them as twin engines, or use them as if they're a single motor. She's tall, so she's affected by crosswinds, but that's all grist to the mill for a PB2 qualified skipper.

The thing about her is that her sharp aluminium corners worry other boat owners.

That means we have to be at our best when we skipper her into and out of the marina, when we manoeuvre her in close quarters. Bob Miller has a programme to increase the number of approved skippers. Part of that is his creation of a superb seamanship questionnaire, an armchair exercise. The really interesting thing? He doesn't need to see your answers! The questions are to make you think.

He and I each swapped our answers. Each of us had an answer or two that made the other think.

What we need are "swans" to skipper her; people who are serene on the surface whatever happens. We need people who will give our passengers total confidence in their trip. That's a mixture of experience and expertise, that is. If you'd like to show Bob and me that you have what it takes, ask him about it.

The future?

Over my year as your Chief Powerboat Instructor I'm looking for your help. I need to hear from you what's going right and what you would like to be improved. There's no way I can meet your needs without your input.

I have one major project in research for disability and powerboating.

I believe firmly that anyone who can drive a powered wheelchair should be able to drive a powerboat using a similar set of controls. My background project for this year is to work out how to source and install assistive controls on a powerboat. If it can be done in a Hansa then surely it can be done in a powerboat!

I'm looking first at fixed joystick input for throttle, gears and steering. And it's not straightforward. Or, I have not yet found the straightforward way of doing it. I'm aiming for something as off the shelf as I can find, and I'm researching it because I know a number of you have issues with grasping and moving a wheel and/or a throttle. I see no reason why that should limit your boating choices.

After I've solved the fixed joystick question, why not move on to a portable joystick that can be handed from helm to helm?

None of that will come to pass in the 2020 season. All of it is part of our charitable objectives.

Tim Trent

Chief Powerboat Instructor

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