Saturday, 19 February 2011


This week, I ventured some distance out of my comfort zone and did my RYA Powerboat Level 2 qualification. I say "out of my comfort zone" not because it's something too hard for me to do (although see below...) but more that even though my job is one of ongoing learning, I very rarely learn a new physical skill. I've had stroke correction sessions, and have had several Total Immersion sessions, but these were in something that I already had the fundamental grasp of. A better parallel might be the handful of water skiing lessons Peter and I had in 2004 in celebration of my first book being published; or more recently, the two years of cello lessons I had before swimming took over my life. This unfamiliarity of task, plus the fact that I have undeniably quite poor co-ordination, reactions and kinaesthetic sense, made me rather full of trepidation about the whole venture, but excited about trying something new (plus, I need this to work for Swimtrek, so it's part of that next bit of the swimming adventure too).

So, I put myself in the very capable hands of the nice people at Edgebaston Watersports, and, looking for all the world like a tellytubby in my multiple layers of wetsuit, salopettes, thermals, fleeces, hats, sweatshirts and jacket, I set forth to try and get to grips with powerboating. Firstly, let it be noted that, in spite of wearing so many clothes that I could barely reach over to tie my shoes, it was absolutely FREEZING on the water. All those hours of cold water swimming have apparently made no difference to my tolerance for cold and it wasn't long before I was wishing that I'd done this at a more civilised time of year.

But in spite of that, it was a really positive experience, mostly due to the relentlessly positive, constructive and clear instruction from our instructors, Ben and Jake, who bore my inadequacies with an impressive degree of patience and good humour, and did a great job at helping me to get my head around it all. I wasn't terrible at it, and I definitely got better as we went along and did eventually get my qualification, but I'm also not a natural and I think it's going to take some practice yet to really embody those skills. It reminds me of learning to drive - when you have to think about every movement really carefully and you can't imagine how people can do it so effortlessly. Hopefully, this will be the same. But even though I've still got a lot to learn, I finished the course feeling like I was able to exercise reasonable control over the boat, and be safe (for myself, and for others), so that seems like a good enough result to me.

As an aside, my heart is still definitely IN the water, rather than ON it. Particularly on the first day of the course, the wind was very gentle, and the surface of the reservoir looked thick, glassy and delicious; all I could think about was diving in and swimming, and how nice that would feel, especially compared to my frustrated sense of awkwardness and unfamiliarity at the tiller of the boat. I really can't wait until the Spring and we can get back into the water.

But thanks to everyone at Edgebaston Watersports for providing a safe and enjoyable course, and especially to Ben and Jake for their fantastic tuition - I heartily recommend them to anyone in this neck of the woods needing to get their qualifications.

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