We had some luck in 2019, resulting in the biggest purchase the club has ever made, and we put that purchase to full and good use during our dive in Lulworth that year…
Then this stupid thing called Covid kicked in, and suddenly the beautiful purchase we had made, was locked away in a shed and left alone to wait… and wait… and wait…
Well today, its wait came to an end, when we dug poor “Milly”, our beautiful not forgotten boat, out of her shed to take her for a warm up and trials, in readiness for the upcoming trip to Lulworth next month.
Thanks to Instructor Will’s dad, Stuart, we were kindly given permission to test the boat out at Island Barn Reservoir, a local stretch of water in Molesey. Far easier, and cheaper considering the fuel crisis, than a trip to the coast.
Almost three years passing had certainly put pains to our cerebral faculties, and it took us a few minutes to remember how to put the poor girl together, but suddenly it all came flooding back, and within a few moments, we had a proud red sea charger sitting before us…
After winching her up to the water’s edge, we lowered her carefully into the water. She floated! Half way there… The next question was would the engine start? The engine had been “winterised” before storage, so we knew she had been carefully tidied away. However, two years or more is a long time for an engine not to be used.
We attached the cables to the battery, and with baited breath pressed the starter button… An instant roar of life erupted, and our little 30HP was happily chugging away, ready for action! Our boat floated, and her engine ran, we were back in action!
After removing the tail wheels (yes, I know, we always forget), we quickly moored up on the pontoon to take on crew and equipment and our “sea” trials began in earnest.
No sea trial is complete without a good blatt at full pelt across the water on the plane. Not to mention it being brilliant fun too. On a day as hot as today, the generated breeze was also a grateful relief. She handled like a dream. Hurtling across the water without issue at 20+ knots.
After we all got that little excitement out of our systems, it was down to serious work. Brushing our skills back up to safety boat levels, ready to support snorkellers in the water. The wind on the lake was quite strong, so it added an extra challenge to handling the boat, but we were up for the challenge.
We started with some advice from Stuart, a power boat instructor, on some tricks and tips in ‘Holding Off’, when you stay in one place relative to something in the water like a buoy or divers in the water. Slow speed manoeuvres and returning and leaving the pontoon. Things which are all much harder than they sound… The key aspect, as I was regularly told when serving with the Royal National Lifeboat Institute, was “SLOW is PRO”. Anyone can drive a boat fast. The true skills are making it work for you at slow pace, when she’s far less reactive.
We spent a few hours practicing and repeating these skills until we were satisfied we had the muscle memory back, and the skills refreshed. Then we turned to the most important skill. Man Overboard drill.
Man Overboard, or in our case, collecting divers in an emergency, is vitally important to get right. You don’t want to run anyone over in the water, but at the same time, you have the get the boat close enough in order to recover them. It’s a dangerous task, but one if done properly, is controlled and effective. We used a training buoy to simulate a diver in the water. Throwing it out and spinning round to go collect it again.
Again, we successfully refreshed our skills and memories of all the manoeuvres and were satisfied that we would be able to safely manage the dives despite our long break from the water.
Happy that we were suitably refreshed, and slightly parched from being out in scorching sun for hours, we decided to call it a day, and returned to shore.
Packing up went smoothly, and many people at the site were commenting how beautiful and well maintained she was. As well as how well she moved in the water. We didn’t realise we had so many spectators of our training. It put a smile on our faces.
At the end of the day, tired but happy we left the site, reassured that we had tested “Milly” and ourselves satisfactorily, in readiness for the trip in the next few weeks. I can’t wait for more fun afloat…
Thank you Milly