We had a wonderful holiday in the Philippines over New Year, particularly the week we spent on Cuyo island. We stayed at the excellent Coco Verde Beach Resort and had the place to ourselves for 4 nights. We spent our time snorkeling and relaxing, enjoyed great food, cold beer and even wine with dinner. One day, we took a trip to Quiminatin island, a good two hours away by fishing boat. The snorkeling at Quiminatin was gorgeous – we saw dozens of species of fish, brightly colored living coral, huge clams, and lots more.
But the thing that really got me about the snorkeling trip was the boat ride. It was uncomfortable: sitting on a narrow plank for hours, particularly in wet swimming trunks, doesn’t make for a happy backside. But the thrill of the sea really got to me. Scudding along with a mild swell and your destination visible on the horizon: is there anything better? (Actually I’ve a sneaking suspicion that there’s more than a little salt water in my blood. Perhaps this was my inescapable destiny).
I’d talked about trying to get a boating license for a while. I can’t even drive. so it didn’t seem like a top priority. But that boat ride to Quiminatin and back convinced me. I signed up with the Corsa Nàutica school in Barcelona last month and did an intensive course over a weekend. Friday a couple of weeks ago, I took the theory exam in a high school in Sarrià (you’ve never seen so many floppy-haired posh types in your life) and today, the Generalitat has confirmed that I passed. Damned good of them. That’s the only test necessary to become a Skipper of Recreational Vessels so I now have to turn up for some hours of practical experience and radio communications and I’m done.
Shiver me timbers, and avast!
(If you’re thinking about doing something similar, I had a pretty good experience with the Corsa Nàutica school, based at the Port Olímpic in Barcelona. Friendly staff, decent course materials and so on.)
Here’s some additional information about the PER qualification.
There are 5 standard qualifications in Spain for boats and yachts: PNB (Patrón de Navigación Básica), PER (Patrón de Embarcaciones de recreo) – the one I’m working towards, PY (Patrón de Yate), CY (Capitán de Yate) and PPER (Patrón Profesional de Embarcaciones de Recreo). I understand that the PPER is needed if you want to work as a professional skipper.
The PER exam includes questions about parts of the boat (this bit’s basically a vocab test), beacons and other signalling apparatus, safety, simple navigation, international legislation, and nautical charts. The nautical charts section involves being able to find your location based on compass bearings to two charted objects, tides, correcting for magnetic deviation, and that sort of thing. You’re allowed up to 13 errors in total, and only two of them can be on nautical charts.
The exam is the only part of the qualification which you can fail – the other components being 2 days’ practical and several hours’ radio experience, which need to be done with a registered school.
Here in Catalonia, the exam is in both Spanish and Catalan, something which can actually help at times, if you speak both (e.g. ‘el bichero’ in Spanish is called ‘la gafa’ in Catalan, which gives more of a clue as to what it’s used for). Doing the exam when neither of these languages is your mother tongue is tricky but then the vocab is new to most people. And if Clive James can teach himself French by reading Proust, you or I can get through a few dozen multiple-choice questions with a bit of study beforehand. I have a feeling that you could probably pass the exam without doing the course, but you’d need to be a better student than I.