This past Sunday I had the opportunity to participate in an on-water boat training course, sponsored by Freedom Boat Club Charleston and the nonprofit BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water. Entitled “Women Making Waves”, the three-hour Intro to Boating course is intended to make hands-on education affordable to South Carolina residents.
Limited to up to four students per boat, each woman is ensured some time at the helm. Being a relative new boater, I was up for the chance to brush up on my skills. My group of boaters included Kathy and Amy (hey girls!), led by our pro captain Marti. Kathy, Amy and I all had some boating experience – some more than others – but we all found that we needed to practice the same things, which made for a nice group.
Marti works for New Freedom, based in Florida, and is constantly traveling anywhere and everywhere giving boating instruction. She has a killer tan to show for it, too!
On to this testosterone-free learning experience! It was a fabulous, sunny afternoon, and we all met at the dock of the Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina. Life vests on and a brief safety check, then we were underway in our Scout powerboat.
Feeling comfortable in my Coast Guard learnings and one season on the water, I volunteered to go first. I was quickly humbled in performing the most basic maneuvers. We began with what Marti referred to as “the power of no power”. Unsure at first of what she meant, we proceeded to learn of the delicate balance between the use of power and momentum to make your boat respond. Lessons learned here: be patient, go slow, give your boat time to react to your commands. At this point it was evident that we each had our own levels of comfort and insecurities. I was certain on more than one occasion that we would hit something, but thank goodness Marti was on her toes to save us when necessary.
I need to pause here to exclaim about the harbor view! Amazing to be surrounded by all three of the in-water Naval watercraft at Patriots Point! Yes, looking up we see the USS Yorktown, straight ahead the USS Laffey, and right in the water with us (almost hit it a few times myself) a submarine. We are in the water boating around in this little area surrounded by massive monuments to our history. Totally amazing! It was often hard to take my eyes away and focus on the water to which I was purposed.
On next to turning our boat, or more correctly pivoting it, using both backward and forward powering maneuvers. Very cool, and skills that are so crucial to understanding the “push and pull” of directional movement.
Then, the dreaded docking. Oh no – my palms were really getting sweaty now. Among huge sailboats and the repeated presence of the harbor water taxi, we each managed to get our boat to the dock. I was scared and impressed at the same time. Of everything we learned this is by far the thing we each need to practice the most!
Out on the harbor we go, finally able to increase the throttle. Following channel markers, we gained some experience handling the presence of other watercraft. We saw the good and the bad, which is a reminder that you need to be prepared for anything!
Lastly, we were taught how to properly cleat at the dock. A bit tricky but easy enough. That last little loop can sometimes be confusing! Marti took the helm (thank you, Marti!) and brought us back to our home dock.
Training over and feeling more comfortable with our progress, we started to relax. Conversation flowed, and we vowed to all practice in our respective boats. I see a reunion in our future!
There is also an Intermediate Boating class that is offered. Next time this show comes to town, I’m in again. In the meantime, members of New Freedom can get as much free instruction as they desire, which is something to check out!
Overall, a great experience which I highly recommend. And great company of fellow boating ladies.