Many, many years ago, when we started talking about buying a motor boat, we knew that one of us would have to get a boating licence...
At the time, there were three boating licences : Level one would allow you to steer a boat within a 2 miles limit from the shore. You only had to register into a ‘boating school’, take as many classes as needed plus steering lessons, study the maritime code, take the exam (code and steering) and pass it, of course. Quite easy, really. And mandatory for boats using a 10 horsepower engine and higher.
The second licence allowed you to go motor boating on rivers and canals in Europe. If you had already passed the level one maritime licence, you only needed to take an exam about the fluvial code (mainly different signals, etc.).
Then there was a second maritime licence much more difficult to get, extremely hard to get actually but it allowed you to navigate in open seas. You could cross the Channel from Brittany to Great Britain because besides knowing the maritime code, you’d learn how to navigate by the compass and/or the stars. You’d learn to read a maritime map, how to chart your trip, etc, etc.
At the time, this licence would allow you to steer oil tankers and freighters, with a little bit more training I imagine! But anyway...
So my brilliant and better half took boating classes.
He got his level one licence very easily, went on to get his fluvial licence and passed it very easily again.
And then he decided to take lessons and go for the third licence!
I don’t think he ever wanted to steer an oil tanker. I hated the mere idea to cross the Channel in our own boat... but this licence was very stimulating for him so he studied hard and got it with dazzling results! Brilliant, so brilliant!
We celebrated his success and we bought a boat. We had a lot of fun with our friends and children.
One year went by and then the Master of the Seas said it would be a good idea for me to get the first licence just in case he’d get sick one day and couldn’t steer the boat back to the harbour...
I answered it’d be much better for everyone aboard to drop anchor and wait for him to feel good.
I don’t like boating this much. Actually it’s more like a ‘I-hate-boating’ feeling.
Years ago, I went down in family legend for jumping into the sea, fully clothed and for swimming back to safer ground, always for a good reason of course. I’m a very good swimmer and a rotten passenger/sailor!
Then one day, I relented and signed up at his former boating school for a course which would inevitably allow me to get the first degree licence.
I heard many words of cheer! And I went to school!
The teacher was a former captain in the marine, the real thing, rough and tough. Exactly what I needed to restore my faith in boating.
There were at least thirty students and only one woman, me.
The first class didn’t seem very hard so I went to the second one, feeling more cheerful.
Stupid me. I had forgotten that my right and left have always been completely mixed up. And knowing right from left while steering a boat is a very essential point. Oops, not right from left but starboard from port side.
The guy had been a captain in the marine. He had the soul of a buccaneer. By the way, did buccaneers have a soul?
‘Now I shall ask the following question to the lady over there.’
‘Which lady? Oh me.’
The man was fiendish.
‘What do you mean, milady? You do not know the answer. You know what? Your husband has been my best student ever and there you are, unable to answer the easiest question correctly.’
Then he’d turn his attention to the other students, all male, remember, who were already kind of laughing at me.
‘This is quite extraordinary. Her husband is brilliant, so brilliant and she can’t even answer the easiest question!’
Sycophantic laughs from the male students.
So it went on and on and on and on until the end of the class.
Really unbelievable. I was harbouring murderous thoughts.
When I got home, I had made up my mind. Never again!
I told my husband that I was suddenly getting very tired of being married to such a brilliant man. If he did not want me to run away with our son and our dog, he had to accept the fact that I would never ever get any boating licence.
I don’t know why but he seemed to agree with me. He mentioned having a few words with the teacher and maybe, giving the course just another try, just to show the captain I had more guts than he thought.
Believe it or not but I bought it. So I went back to ‘school’. ‘I’ll show you, Henry Higgins, I’ll show you’ (famous song from My Fair Lady) ringin’ in my ears.
Actually the captain did show me...
‘So melady is back! I talked to your husband. He told me you’re complaining about me manners. Allright. So you don’t like me manners. Well, I don’t like loosing me time with you even tho you’re married to me best student ever!’
The guy sure had guts.
I left, never to return. We made sure we had a good anchor.
Now we have a new bigger boat with a much better anchor which I have yet to learn to use just in case.
I still don’t know starboard from port side. I do know one of them is green and the other one is red but which one? Doesn’t matter anyway since I’ve seen a new buoy yesterday, a big red thing with two black circles on top. I’ve been told it means there is a wreck down there so I’m wondering whether or not I’ll go boating again.
*Good luck, and Good Night*