Is the al­lure of learn­ing to dr ive a boat enough to drag a re­cal­ci­trant teenager away from his iphone? MBY’S ed­i­tor puts it to the test with the help of his son Ned

Motorboat & Yachting - - Contents - Words and pic­tures Hugo An­dreae

Ed­i­tor Hugo’s son, Ned, gets his first taste of in­de­pen­dent boat­ing

Idon’t know if it’s the same with all teenagers but try­ing to get my 15-year-old son in­ter­ested in any­thing that doesn’t in­volve food, a screen, a short skirt or a hard leather ball is next to im­pos­si­ble. It doesn’t help that dur­ing the school hol­i­days he rarely emerges from his den un­til the sun has passed its zenith nor that his sum­mer sport of choice is cricket, which seems to oc­cupy ev­ery re­main­ing hour of his wak­ing day. This all con­spires to push boat­ing so low on his list of pri­or­i­ties that it hov­ers some­where be­tween show­er­ing (a wor­ry­ingly rare oc­cur­rence) and be­ing pleas­ant to his par­ents (never).

I have tried to point out that this is not con­ducive to a happy home life, at least not in our house­hold, where boat­ing isn’t just

an ac­tiv­ity that we can en­joy to­gether as a fam­ily but also puts threads on his ever-length­en­ing back, cour­tesy of my job edit­ing MBY. Un­for­tu­nately, ra­tio­nal con­ver­sa­tion seems to have very lit­tle ef­fect on the teenage brain, pre­sum­ably be­cause nei­ther ra­tio­nal thought nor con­ver­sa­tion fea­ture highly on any teenager’s agenda. In fact, con­ver­sa­tion of any kind is usu­ally re­stricted to a se­ries of grunts con­ducted with eyes still firmly locked on the smart­phone screen that rules his life.

If this seems a harsh as­sess­ment of my son and heir, Ned, I can only as­sume that it’s a par­ent thing. I’m told by oth­ers that he’s a charm­ing boy who’s bright, chatty, tal­ented at sport and bril­liant with younger chil­dren. But only away from home, obvs.

If boat­ing was ever go­ing to pen­e­trate the self-ab­sorbed bub­ble of his teenage years, I came to the con­clu­sion that some kind of en­forced in­ter­ven­tion would be nec­es­sary. Try­ing to teach him to drive a boat my­self was clearly not an op­tion, all pre­vi­ous at­tempts at pa­ter­nal guid­ance be­ing met with barely dis­guised con­tempt, but there was a slim chance he might lis­ten to a pro­fes­sional in­struc­tor, par­tic­u­larly if he or she were young enough to be con­sid­ered a kin­dred spirit. Some form of in­cen­tive usu­ally helps too, ei­ther fi­nan­cial or bet­ter still some­thing that can be boasted about on so­cial me­dia.

A bit of de­tec­tive work re­vealed some promis­ing leads; the RYA’S Power Boat Level 2 (PB2) train­ing scheme is open to

any­one over the age of 12, al­though they won’t ac­tu­ally send you the cer­tifi­cate un­til you turn 16. The added in­cen­tive was orig­i­nally go­ing to be the op­por­tu­nity to helm the fam­ily sports­boat this year so that he was ready to take it out on his own next sum­mer, but a chance en­counter with Honda’s mar­ket­ing team en­abled me to go one bet­ter. Keen to pro­mote Honda’s youth­ful as­so­ci­a­tions (it spon­sors the RYA Youth RIB Chal­lenge) and its part­ner­ship with alu­minium RIB builder High­field, their dealer Hendy Ma­rine of­fered to loan Ned a 4.6m RIB of his own for two weeks, pro­vided he passed his PB2.

When pre­sented with this out­ra­geously gen­er­ous of­fer, I did de­tect a mo­men­tary flicker of in­ter­est be­fore nor­mal ser­vice re­sumed with a vol­ley of Snapchat self­ies to his mates. It was ex­actly the cat­a­lyst I needed to trig­ger my fi­nal deal-clincher. A quick ring around fel­low school par­ents with salt in their veins and I’d lined up two of his class­mates to join him on a PB2 course. With three re­luc­tant teenagers to whip into shape I could now go look­ing for a suit­able in­struc­tor/vic­tim will­ing to take on the chal­lenge...


Hav­ing re­cently read Nick Burn­ham’s story on the new gen­er­a­tion of boat clubs spring­ing up around the UK, I de­cided to give the guys at Ur­ban Tru­ant a call. Not only do they run a num­ber of High­field Honda RIBS as part of a fast-grow­ing boat share club based in Swan­wick ma­rina, but they also use them to teach a wide va­ri­ety of RYA train­ing cour­ses. The fact that it is run by a cou­ple of 40-some­thing City boys who gave up the bright lights in favour of a south coast life­style sounded even more promis­ing. I duly booked the boys in for a two-day PB2 course over the sum­mer half-term, pay­ing a lit­tle ex­tra to se­cure an in­struc­tor all to them­selves – it didn’t seem fair to in­flict them on any other pay­ing cus­tomers.

On the ap­pointed day I de­liv­ered the three young des­per­a­dos to Ur­ban Tru­ant to find that their in­struc­tor looked al­most as young as them. In fact, 23-year-old Dom An­drews proved to be the per­fect choice: young enough to join in the ban­ter but old enough to com­mand re­spect when needed. A bright, mod­ern class­room and the prom­ise of a pris­tine High­field 760 RIB pow­ered by a Honda BF250 to come was enough to hold their at­ten­tion for the first hour of class­work cov­er­ing safety, weather, sea state and tides. Then it was over to the boat for safety checks, pay­ing par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion to the kill cord, and get­ting to grips with the steer­ing and throt­tle with some ba­sic ma­noeu­vres.

By the time I picked them up later that af­ter­noon they were all buzzing. Dom had clearly worked his magic and some of the in­for­ma­tion about col­regs and car­di­nal mark­ers had clearly stuck, but most of all they were high on the adren­a­line of helm­ing such an im­pres­sive craft. Rather than nan­ny­ing them through ev­ery manouevre Dom had asked them to use their own ap­proach, only step­ping in if there was any dan­ger to crew or boat. Let­ting them fail and then help­ing them to fig­ure out their own so­lu­tion was clearly a far more ef­fec­tive ap­proach than my usual ‘Dad knows best’ style of coach­ing.

Day two started the same way with an hour or so of chart­work, learn­ing how to recog­nise the var­i­ous marks, read lat and long, cal­cu­late depths and plot a course. Then it was back to the boat to put the the­ory into prac­tice by plot­ting a course across the Solent with the added in­cen­tive of a fish and chips lunch in Cowes, if they got there safely. With each of them tak­ing turns at the wheel while the oth­ers helped tick off the var­i­ous way­points and chan­nel mark­ers Dom man­aged to keep all of them en­gaged in the process. Things only got bet­ter af­ter lunch as he taught them how to ex­e­cute a safe high-speed turn be­fore the se­ri­ous busi­ness of re­cov­er­ing a man over­board with the aid of a weighted fen­der called Bob. Get this wrong and it would have been game over for Bob and their PB2 cer­tifi­cates, but still Dom man­aged to make it fun while en­sur­ing all three of them got Bob safely back on board. A fi­nal hour back in the class­room go­ing over ev­ery­thing they’d cov­ered in the last two days and it was time for the mo­ment of truth. Re­mark­ably, all three had passed and while un­der no il­lu­sions about their rel­a­tive in­ex­pe­ri­ence, they were now qual­i­fied to skip­per a boat on their own. Like it or not I would now have to de­liver on the sec­ond part of my bribe.


Fast for­ward eight weeks and it was my turn to find out if Ned could re­mem­ber ev­ery­thing he’d learnt. Steve Har­ri­son at Hendy ma­rine had just given me the keys to a brand new 4.6m High­field, which looked far too nice to un­leash my son on. Its sturdy alu­minium hull and chunky in­flat­able tubes were a lit­tle too spot­less for my lik­ing and that 50hp en­gine sud­denly seemed like a lot of power for a 15-year-old to take charge of. I had taken the pre­cau­tion of speak­ing to my in­sur­ers MS Am­lin and af­ter a bit of ne­go­ti­a­tion man­aged to add the boat and Ned to my ex­ist­ing pol­icy for an ex­tra £112. The only stip­u­la­tion was that for the first week I’d have to be on board with him, but for the sec­ond he was free to go it alone.

It’s a strange feel­ing to sit in the back seat of a boat while your prog­eny takes the helm for the first time, but to be fair to Ned

“Rather than nan­ny­ing them through ev­ery ma­noeu­vre , Dom asked them to work out their own ap­proach and let them dis­cover whether it worked or not “

he rose to the oc­ca­sion. Dom’s ef­forts had not gone to waste and af­ter a bit of fa­mil­iari­sa­tion with the boat, he took to it like a duck to wa­ter. The High­field proved to be the per­fect boat for cut­ting his teeth on – small enough not to be in­tim­i­dat­ing but big enough to tackle a bit of sea and with suf­fi­cient per­for­mance (around 26 knots max) to ex­cite with­out scar­ing the horses. The twin jockey seats and tall helm sur­rounded by grab rails com­bined a nice high view­point with plenty of things to hang onto. In short, I had run out of ex­cuses to avoid cut­ting the apron strings, so with a fi­nal safety brief­ing and the added re­as­sur­ance of an alarmed Lifecord to re­place the stan­dard kill cord, I waved him off on his first unac­com­pa­nied trip from Poole to Stud­land Bay. With one of his PB2 class­mates sit­ting along­side him to share the re­spon­si­bil­ity, and a prom­ise to stay in touch on Ch77, they fired up the en­gine and headed off.


Half an hour later the VHF screeched into life with a clearly elated Ned on the other end. I’d shown him the ba­sics but told him not to use it un­less he got into trou­ble. “Bo­hemian Girl, Bo­hemian Girl, this is High­field. We’ve ar­rived in Stud­land and got the an­chor out. What do we tie it onto?”

I barely had time to re­spond that the bow cleat wouldn’t be a bad place to start when the sug­ges­tions started to fly in from lis­ten­ing boats. “I’d go for round your an­kle if I were you,” chirped one wise­crack. “Round the neck would be quicker,” re­sponded an­other. A lit­tle harsh per­haps, but a timely re­minder that Ned still had a lot to learn, not least that VHF is an open chan­nel rather than an en­crypted so­cial me­dia post!

All the same, by the end of the hol­i­day he’d clocked up 15 hours of helm time, much of it with­out any adults on board, and brought both him­self and the boat back un­scathed. Just as im­por­tantly he’d learnt a new skill, got a taste of in­de­pen­dence and dis­cov­ered the sim­ple plea­sure of go­ing boat­ing. He’d ac­tively en­joyed the learn­ing process and demon­strated the nec­es­sary re­spon­si­bil­ity to skip­per a craft safely. Heck, he’d even got up at 8am on sev­eral oc­ca­sions to make the most of the flat wa­ter and try his hand at wa­ter­ski­ing while I drove the High­field. I can’t pre­tend it has cured his ad­dic­tion to scram, screens and skirts but frankly I’d be a lit­tle wor­ried if it had – at the age of 15 even a High­field Honda can’t com­pete with a hor­mone high!

“He’d learn ta new skill, got a taste of in­de­pen­dence and dis­cov­ered the sim­ple plea­sure of go­ing boat­ing“

Dom runs through the all im­por­tant safety checks on the pow­er­ful High­field Honda Ned gets his first taste of high-speed han­dling while Tom and Archie try not to look anx­ious!

L E F T Ur­ban Tru­ant in­struc­tor Dom An­drews helps the boys get to grips with chart­work MIDDL E Ex­plain­ing the dif­fer­ence be­tween the var­i­ous car­di­nal mark­ers R IGHT Ned and Archie plot their route from Swan­wick to Cowes

Ned takes the 4.6m High­field on his first unac­com­pa­nied out­ing to Stud­land Bay

Tom, Ned and Archie cel­e­brate pass­ing their RYA Power Boat Level 2 train­ing to­gether

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