Wednesday morning I cleaned out my cabin, packed my gear and said goodbye to the boat. I walked back up to the sailing school arriving at 0900, “Come on in, sit down, here is the exam paper, you have 2 hours” the Examiner said to me cheerfully. “Wow” I thought, this is the first hint of confirmation from another human being that I might have actually got my head round this!
I sat down and all my familiar friends were back around me, Almanac, plotter, dividers, plotting sheet. I felt very comfortable, until I started to work through the paper. I realised this was the first time I had worked through the calculation process without a pro-forma to copy from. There was a brief moment of panic, but it was short lived. My hand just started writing the figures down in the right order. Of course! Having done this repeatedly daily for the last month I really had learned it. The answers flowed quickly, I’d finished with plenty of time to spare and handed the paper over to the Examiner.
Next was a oral assessment, which was basically questions and answers about the trip. How had I organised the watches, provisioning, routing, currents, weather patterns, ongoing maintenance, stores, power considerations etc etc. The way the trip had panned out couldn’t have been better for me in many respects, since I genuinely had done and could prove all of the above.
At the end of it the Examiner shook my hand and gave me a sealed envelope to post to the RYA once I got back to the UK. I had successfully done it, sat and passed the RYA Yachtmaster Ocean exam!! It turned out that 30 years ago the Examiner had also set off out into the Atlantic with sextant and instruction books and taught himself, thus he was suitably impressed with my efforts.
I had just enough time for a beer with my shipmates before the taxi arrived to take me to the airport. Skipper was over the moon for me, having seen me drowning in a world of books and numbers, bordering on insanity for weeks.
And that was that, airport and a couple of planes later I arrive home to a large bunch of flowers, a lit fire and a newly installed electric blanket! I felt like I had just taken an exam and then had a really long bus journey home, so I insisted we drank Antigua Rum by the fire in the middle of this Thursday afternoon.
The 3 ton library had made it back home, I put my bags down and my thermals on.