To take the RYA Yachtmaster Coastal and Offshore exams you need to have successfully sailed specific miles, of which half should be in tidal waters. Offshore requires experience of 2,500 miles, and Coastal requires 800 miles, therefore tidal miles of 1,250 and 400 should have been logged respectively.
The Yachtmaster scheme is world recognised and highly regarded as a qualification, so it’s important the integrity of it is maintained. If a Yachtmaster had never experienced sailing in tidal waters and found themselves having to sail in tidal waters, they would struggle. It would be obvious the experience hadn’t been gained, and the Yachtmaster qualification would lose its reputation.
This it’s why it’s so important you understand what tidal waters mean for your Yachtmaster qualification and where you can gain the experience.
In this short guide, we will explain in simple terms what tidal water is, including examples of the tidal water you can sail in to get the required miles for your Yachtmaster exams.
What is considered tidal water?
The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) describe tidal water as being a water area where published stream, current or tidal range data is available, and the influence of which is significant enough to require the effects to be taken into account to plan and execute a safe and efficient passage.
Some areas in the world don’t have large tides so are often described as being non-tidal for the purposes of the Yachtmaster exams. These includes places such as the Mediterranean, Baltic, Black Sea, Caribbean, and Caspian Sea.
Yes, they do have tides, but the tidal range is so small (around one foot) that they are not significant enough to be considered tidal waters for your exams.
So where can you get tidal water experience?
What is an example of a tidal water?
The First Class Sailing courses take place on the Solent, which is ideal, because the Solent has great tides. In fact, the Solent and Southampton area is renowned for tidal water due to the unusual phenomenon of the “Double High Water” effect, leading to 4 tides a day.
Other areas in the UK which are good examples of tidal water include the Bristol Channel. It has one of the largest tidal ranges in the world. The tide here is made greater by the narrowing of the channel. In springtime, the tidal range in the Bristol Channel can exceed 14 metres in some areas of the waterway.The Channel Islands also has impressive tidal water. It’s believed that Jersey has the third highest tidal range in the world, with the difference in the high and low tides being up to 12 metres in the spring. Similarly, tidal waters in Guernsey are also some of the highest you can experience.
The largest tidal range variations in the world can be found in the Bay of Fundy, the waterway between the provinces of Nova Scotia and Brunswick in Canada.
Why it’s important you gain tidal water experience
Sailing in tidal waters should not be difficult. In fact, it can make things like parking a boat easier, provided you know how to make best use of the tide of course. But you will need experience of it in your learning journey towards the Yachtmaster qualification. You need to gain the appreciation, understanding, and experience of sailing across a tide or approaching a turning point that has a lot of tide pushing you onto a wall or towards a bridge.
One of our team, Charlie had this to say:
“In my early days as a sailor, I will never forget turning the boat in a strong tide up the River Hamble in the Solent with a low bridge not too far away. Once beam on to the tide the speed at which we were carried towards the bridge was alarming to say the least. A lot of engine grunt was needed to get us through the turn and my legs were like jelly for a good 10 minutes afterwards.”
You also need to experience of calculating the tide. It is something we do in the Yachtmaster and Day Skipper shorebased course, but you still need to have done it in real life. The examiner will want to know and see that you can draw up a course to steer that takes account of the tide. He or she will want to know that you can work out how much water to anchor in and how much the tide will rise or fall whilst you are at anchor and therefore how much chain to pay out. You need to be confident at this – if you have not had to do this before in real life it will show.
This is the reason that at least half your miles need to be in tidal waters.
The tidal water miles will need to be logged, as the examiner will want to see a record of them. The ideal place to keep such a record is in a Logbook like the RYA Logbook (G158). If you haven’t kept one of these then just put what you have done on a spreadsheet to give to the examiner. They will want see things the follow things for what you have done:
- dates of each trip
- the name and type of vessel including size
- the details of the voyage such as start and finish ports and any places visited along the way, the max wind strength, and your role on board (skipper, mate, crew)
- the number of days on board
- the distance logged and whether it was tidal or non-tidal
- the number of night hours
- and ideally the signature of the skipper.
If you are making a record retrospectively then the signature of the skipper may not be possible. Don’t worry.
If you feel tempted to exaggerate your miles (particularly tidal miles), we would caution against it. Examiners are very astute at determining how much experience candidates have really had.
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