Tim Griffin of East Cowes-based Griffin Marine Services, is a man with a mission. He wants all power boat users to be aware of the perils that can be thrown up by the unforgiving sea, and know just how to deal with them when the need arises.
Tim offers courses on all forms of power boats, from jet skis and RIBS to palatial 24-metre motor cruisers. We asked him to explain why he feels courses are so important to anyone venturing out on the high seas in any form of the boats their companies embrace.
Although he covers all ranges of courses, we asked Tim to specifically elaborate on the top-end Motor Cruiser market. He said: “The courses available fall into the categories of helmsman, a two-day course; day skipper, a four-day course; coastal skipper which is a five day course, and after that you can get your certificate for coastal skipper, yacht master coastal and yacht master offshore.
“We also run navigation and theory courses, because it is not just about driving a boat, you need to know about navigation – the rules of the road so to speak. And then there is VHF and first aid. We are almost like a One Stop Shop.”
The helmsman course is basically an introduction to boating, making users safe in familiar waters by day. As Tim pointed out: “The most difficult part of driving a boat is getting it off the pontoon without hitting anything. Then after a play out in the sunshine, you have to put the boat back on to the pontoon without hitting anything.
“And of course you have to remember a boat does not drive like a car – it drives like a shopping trolley! And of course there are no brakes. Suddenly you think ‘how do I stop this thing’ and we make sure you do know how.
“With a motor cruiser you need one hand on the steering wheel and one hand on each of the two throttles – basically you need to be an octopus, or come on a course and learn how to do it calmly and sensibly.” Another vital factor, according to Tim, is being aware what the wind and the tide will try to do to you, and trying to make the elements your friends. He continued: “Any fool can drive a boat in a straight line or around a corner, but the thing about these courses is that you receive a basic understanding, and are not going to cause chaos and mayhem to other boat users.
“You also need the understanding of charts to know where the rocks, deep water, shipping lanes and the like are. Depending on where you are in the Solent you have to give vessels of more than 150 metres in length a clearance of 1,000 metres ahead and 100 metres either side.”
The Royal Yachting Association courses cater for motor cruisers up to 24 metres, with Tim’s own training vessel half that length. He says: “I wouldn’t advise anyone who wins the lottery to go out and buy a 24mt boat – that’s nearly 80ft. The thing with a smaller boat is that you will use it more. It is lovely to have a huge ‘gin palace’ but it does restrict you in places you can go with it. About 30ft is a nice size, but when you start getting up to 50ft you do start running out of places to take it.”
Basically the helmsman course is fine for cruising the Solent, but as the courses progress you learn how to leave harbours at night, and continue to gain knowledge through more advanced courses to do short coastal passages by day or night, in unfamiliar water such as going across the English Channel or to the West Country or London. “The RYA courses are very progressive and structured from jet skis to motor cruisers and from helmsman to yacht master,” says Tim. “A lot of other countries copy the RYA, which is recognised worldwide.”
Tim, who grew up in Sandown, set up his company in 2003, but prior to that had been teaching various aspects since 1987. Unique to the Island is the fact that Griffin Marine Services is also a commercial training centre, and undertakes instructor courses. He points out that most insurance companies these days require evidence of some sort of basic qualification. Training is almost your own insurance policy – avoiding accidents is better than paying for them.
Tim smiled; “Normally it’s the wife who books the husband on the course because she is petrified every time he leaves the pontoon. Sometimes this job is like being an instructor and a marriage guidance councillor.”
But Tim’s expertise does not end there. He also offers courses at Level 1 and 2 Stage for powerboats the latter generally accepted as a driving licence of the sea. It provides boat users with a wide range of essential skills so that they can handle there boat in varying weather conditions, make sure they can anchor it properly and assist in Man Over Board situations.
Such factors such as safety equipment, navigation and entering of ports safely included. Boaters are also offered the facility of intermediate, advanced powerboat and even instructor and advanced instructor powerboat courses.
Clearly courses are well worth the outlay, with Tim saying: “The Solent is a bit like the M25, so if you can handle a boat there you can handle one anywhere. We have everything here that you would ever expect to come across.”Clearly the idea of boating is that it should be fun and enjoyable. By taking a certified course it makes you feel confident to take your family and friends out on to the water safely. But inevitably there are dangers, particularly in an area where there are changing tides and weather conditions surrounding the Isle of Wight.
It is best to be in harmony with the sea, and if you are out in a Force 8, you respect it, you slow down and you go with it. You have to respect the water because it can be tough out there. Level one powerboat courses can be taken by youngsters of eight. They can do level two powerboat at 12, and they are endorsed by being out with a responsible adult, but that drops off when they reach 16. Tel: Tim Griffin on 07876 623124 or 01983 826026.