Fourth Period: The Final Exam
At 5 a.m. we woke under a blanket of books and paper charts. I had dreamed charting problems all night, but we still hadn’t plotted our course. The temperature had dropped into the 40s and, oh joy, the wind was still up.
We had a destination, but only Emily had the confidence to work out the course on the charts. Capt. Day arrived and reviewed our work with approval. We prepared to depart. I took the role of captain again.
“Emily, at your leisure, please cast off the starboard line,” I commanded. She handled the lines expertly. We were off on our journey.
Heading out, all our discussions about markers and buoys came to life.
“Red right returning, unless you are headed to Texas?” Day joked.
I couldn’t imagine trying to run the Intracoastal Waterway without going to school first.
At a blind turn, I blew a short blast on the horn to notify any traffic we were coming. Emily enjoyed her victory in charting. Precious’ engine chugged us onward.
“Reduce your speed under a bridge” Day warned. “You never know if another boat will slip from behind the apron. But not too much. If there is a current, you need adequate steerage.”
“See that boat’s port bow? When he is crossing paths with you, he has the right of way.” He coached us on the basics as we cruised, and in context the instructions were easily remembered. Boating things are best learned by doing.
Day guided us toward an anchorage. We discussed how different types of anchors are used based on the size of the boat and the type of bottom. We used a Bruce anchor because it sets quickly and holds well in tide changes. He had taught us to come up with hand signals before a trip to ensure good communication between bridge and bow. On our trip, a raised fist meant “neutral.” It sure beat yelling through the windshield and over the wind.
Once anchored, Day handed us our test packets. We took our exams on the aft deck. It was a team test and open book. By this time, working together was something Emily and I were very good at. We missed only two questions on the entire test. We cruised back to port.
The Final Bell: Graduation Day
Back at our slip, Day started talking me through the steps and then stopped. He realized I was a split second ahead of him, handling the boat on my own. My initial cockiness was gone. As I was handed my diploma, I started thinking about a more advanced course. Boating school was fun.