It has been a year since I was first accepted to join the Picton Castle for a 3-4 month stint in the South Pacific. At the time, my inexperience with sailing didn’t really bother me. After all, the PC website advertises that they cater to complete novices. Now that so much time has passed, I feel like I really should know much more about sailing before I fly out to Nova Scotia.
With the easing of Covid restrictions, I’ve been able to find some boats around Ireland that will be undertaking short cruises during the Summer. I’ve started applying to a few of these yachts to see if any of them would be willing to take me on and show me the ropes. About a month ago, one skipper wrote back and said “yes”, I could help him move his yacht from Dingle to Derry after the D2D race which kicks off next week. I will be working with an 8 person crew over about 7 days.
As it happened, one of his crew dropped out of D2D two weeks ago and he offered me the open spot. This is a fantastic opportunity to get some experience. My involvement in the race extends my total voyage length to around 13 days between racing and moving the boat between ports.
D2D is quite a short race. All going well we’ll be able to make it to Dingle within about a day and half. This is assuming that my inexperience doesn’t prove too costly. Once in Dingle, I’m not too sure what the plan is. Maybe we’ll take the boat out while waiting for the Dingle-Derry crew to turn up, or maybe I’ll do some sightseeing. The South Pole Inn is only a short distance from Dingle, after all.
The Only Spanner in the Works
The only major problem that I have at the moment is insurance. This is an issue both for the Picton Castle and the D2D race. The PC presents its own woes, but in the immediate future, all I want is personal protection for the few days I’ll be taking part in D2D.
I’m a little paranoid when it comes to insurance. It isn’t enough to have simply purchased a policy. You have to be certain that you are operating within the bounds of what the insurance company will allow. I have seen insurance companies refuse to pay out more than once because of some perceived transgression on the part of the claimant. To that end, I have taken to emailing my plans to insurance providers to ask them if they provide suitable cover. All 29 companies I have contacted have said “no”.
Multitrip.com have yielded the most gutting of all the responses I received. Earlier this week they claimed they would provide cover for my trip. However, when I phoned them to close the deal, the service provider on the other end of the line retracted the offer and referred my case back to the underwriters. At the time, this really hurt. I was so close to solving this relatively simple, and yet so hopelessly protracted situation.
Part of the problem is a perfect storm comprised of three parts – Brexit, Covid, and Sailing. Typically UK based insurance companies provide cover for sailors in Ireland, with Topsail being one of the most popular providers. Since January, these companies have stopped providing cover to EU citizens. Covid, and the fact that the tail end of my voyage trails into the UK has made insurance companies skittish about travel restrictions. And finally, the fact that I’ll be spending a week and a half on a floating box in the Atlantic Ocean does not inspire confidence.
At one point I started phoning yacht clubs around Ireland to ask them who covered their members. I got talking to a wonderful young person in Kerry who, by pure chance, is a second-year computer scientist in the college where I work. This person has texted me contact details for several insurance providers over the last few days and put me in touch with some proper sea dogs. I definitely owe them a pint when I get to the West coast.
Hopes and Expectations
I’m under no real illusions about this trip. I expect it will be hard work. I’m not unfit, but I’m nowhere near as fit as I would like to be. I barely know my sheets from my halyards. And so far, I only have the bottom half of my foul weather gear. I’m definitely not as prepared as I would like to be.
But this will be my first time setting foot on a boat as a member of its crew. I’m going to have an incredible opportunity to make some contacts, learn from some people with experience, and, potentially, open the doors to future voyages while waiting for the PC to depart.
I want to come back from this with an accurate assessment of how well the sea agrees with me, and how hard I am going to have to work to become a functioning member of the PC crew. All in all, this is the best possible preparation I could be doing short of taking part in the Picton Castle’s own Bosun School.
Our date of departure is June 9th, Wednesday next week. So things will move very quickly over the next few days. Still, I’ll try to post an update before setting out for Dun Laoghaire. All going well I’ll be able to report a successful trip ’round Ireland’s Southern Coast on Friday.