Q. Amy, I currently hold my OOW 3000 ton and I am looking to upgrade. I am an American and I am thinking about getting dually certificated and obtaining my USCG license too. My significant other is a engineer who is also looking to improve his resume and get his Y4 or higher ticket. Between the two of us we have a lot of training and time in school ahead of us. A lot of our friends have warned us though that the time in school is just not enough to get through everything. What should we be doing before going to school and are they right? E.M.
A. Dear E.M., Your question is really timely. It is true that the time in school is not enough for some of the preparation work that is needed. The reason for this is that when the regulatory bodies placed minimum time frames for classes, they assumed a great deal of pre-study would have been undertaken in advance to prepare for the courses. The truth is that it is very difficult for yacht crew to get this time as you are working so many hours each day whilst on the boat that to add study time to your schedule is tough. It is also tough to get time off the boat so we try to minimize that and spend as little time in school as absolutely necessary. Unfortunately this combination can lead to a great deal of stress while in school and a difficult time being successful on the written examinations. The two best known schools in Fort Lauderdale are working together to get some digitization of course materials and e-learning concepts approved by the coastguard agencies to help with this problem. Fort Lauderdale is already a really good place to do your training because when the boats are in Fort Lauderdale the owners are generally not onboard, this is not to say that crew members aren’t busy, but we never have total downtime, so we have to take the next best thing. While we await this advancement, we must find a way to be successful in the shortest amount of time and with the least impact on our finances. So how do we do this? Some of our students are finding that taking on a tutor before and during the courses is a good idea to focus them in on the hot topics and their individual weak points which is harder to do effectively in class. Whether you take on a tutor or whether you study on your own, you definitely need to undertake pre study. Most of the schools will issue your course notes in advance if you book the courses and request the books be sent to you. Once you receive the materials, by honest with yourself about your skill level. Look through the materials and try to determine your weak points and strong points and set up a training strategy. You may find some of the software training programs to be helpful, you may need to get a series of reference materials or one of your colleagues or friends that has recently taken the course to help out, or secure a professional tutor from one of the schools. There is no quick answer to this, sadly but the more prepared you are when you enter the classes, the better.