Mission to Marsh: Slow starter but powerboating provided the thrill it promised

The News sports reporter Jeff Marshman tries his hand at powerboating
The News sports reporter Jeff Marshman tries his hand at powerboating
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Powerboating is a fun, fast and exhilarating sport.

That’s what the handbook I received at the start of my two-day RYA Level 2 handling course told me.

But with no prior on-water experience, it was up to me to form my own opinion as I bid to learn the basics of boat handling and seamanship at Royal Southern Yacht Club, Hamble, last month.

Thankfully, the man who wrote the aforementioned RYA complete guide to powerboating – Paul Glatzel – was one of two course instructors ready to show my group of five newcomers the ropes, if you’ll pardon the pun.

Knot joining would wait until the afternoon of day two, though, as Powerboat Training UK’s Glatzel and Chris Moody wasted no time in getting us out on the water at the earliest opportunity.

Experiential learning is the way to go as far as powerboating is concerned, and following a safety briefing and group discussion of the necessary considerations when heading out to sea – we were out of the classroom.

More appropriate attire than the jumper and tracksuit bottoms I had arrived in awaited in the form of a thick waterproof jacket and salopettes.

And with my lifejacket securely fastened I was on board one of two impressive boats provided by Honda before I knew it.

But why me and why powerboating?

Well, those of you who are regular readers of either The News or Sports Mail will know by now that I quite like a challenge.

Mission to Marsh has seen me tackle platform diving, mixed martial arts fighting and gliding, to name but a few.

So when the opportunity to man a powerboat was presented to me, it made sense to embrace yet another new sporting venture.

And there I was on a cold, rainy Monday afternoon enjoying my first taste of powerboating and all it had to offer.

Paired with RYA communications officer James Ayles and instructor Moody, the three of us were soon out on the River Hamble to master the basics.

I say basics, but by the end of an exhausting day I had learned boat handling, securing to a buoy, summoning assistance, leaving and coming alongside and man overboard.

As I said before, the best way to learn is to do.

The majority of people reading this article will probably not understand the powerboating jargon I just spewed in my brief description of day one’s itinerary.

So allow me to elaborate in common tongue as to my achievements and the highs and lows of my first-ever experience on the water.

Firstly, though, I have to commend the RYA for their stance to limit the number of learners per boat to three.

With a lot to learn and two days to do so, it makes logical sense to allow each and every course applicant a good amount of time at the helm (in the driving seat), which this most definitely ensures.

And with five in our class and two boats, I was one of the lucky two afforded even more time to put into practise what it takes to be a competent powerboater.

Oddly, given my introduction to this article and my own preconceptions about powerboating, all of the fun I experienced on day one was from going slow.

There is, I was repeatedly told, an art in doing nothing when in a powerboat.

This was best seen when ‘coming alongside’ – using the wind and stream to berth the boat by gliding to a stop alongside a pontoon.

And I have to say the feeling of having complete control over something so powerful by doing so very little was deeply satisfying.

My highlight of the day followed in the man overboard exercise, which basically prepared you for what to do in the emergency situation when somebody had fallen in the water.

That ‘somebody’ in our case was a weighted fender with an amusing permanent marker-drawn face, complete with a perhaps inappropriate beaming grin.

Regardless, the fact I was able to put the skills I had learned in the ‘coming alongside’ to rescue and recover an object representing a distressed human being was a proud moment.

My ability to finally distinguish between port (left) and starboard (right) was another.

Thankfully, instructor Moody was brilliantly tolerant in allowing both myself and Ayles to make little mistakes throughout our learning and turn the boat around to try things again and again until confident.

And it was with a sense of real eagerness and anticipation that I arrived for my second and final day at Royal Southern Yacht Club – keen to build on what I had already learned.

That was after I had dragged my weary body out of bed – it turns out powerboating absolutely exhausting work.

The mood of the group was one of excitement when we were informed that the day’s plans were essentially to navigate our way across to the Isle of Wight.

There would also be time to handle the boat at planing speed (going fast) a la James Bond.

That would have to wait, though, as Glatzel delivered an interesting lesson on charts (the seas’s equivalent of road maps) and tides – essential for planning our passage from the River Hamble to Cowes.

Having taken everything on board, we were ready to set sail with action plans at the ready.

Keeping an eye out for cardinals (danger and directional markers in the sea), myself and Ayles were to experience the sheer thrills that powerboating can provide, after finding a suitable space on The Solent to anchor.

With Moody to thank for explaining that important and significant process, Glatzel then arrived on the larger of the two impressive Honda boats to teach the two of us ‘planing’.

Put simply, it was the fun, fast and exhilarating aspects of powerboating in one short and spectacular burst.

With the wind rushing through my hair and water splashing my face, I experienced the adrenaline buzz usually reserved for 007 himself.

It’s not often I am lost for words or for that part unable to put them down on paper (as this article goes to show) but, really, until you have experienced powerboating for yourself, it is hard to describe the rush.

Think roller-coaster but without the loops.

After all that entertainment, it was time for a sit down and some lunch in Cowes, which was gratefully provided by the guys at Honda.

And with our navigation to and from the Isle of Wight completed, all that was left was to thank Glatzel and Moody for a brilliant two days and gleefully accept my Level 2 Powerboating qualification.

The good news for me is that the fun is set to continue as I am currently in the process of sending off for my International Certificate of Competence, ‘ICC’, to allow me to go powerboating abroad in Europe.

I’d highly recommend others who may be interested to do similar!

n For more information on how you can gain your RYA Powerboat Level 2 qualification, please visit: rya.org.uk/wheresmynearest/Pages/CourseDetail.aspx?code=PL2C