Paul Glatzel sent us a copy of the Advanced Powerboat Handbook (2nd Ed), RYA Powerboat Handbook (2nd ed): Amazon.co.uk: Paul Glatzel, Pete Galvin: Books
and so I thought it would be worth giving a ‘brief’ overview here for those of you who are either not aware there was a new version out or who were wondering about ordering it.
Only for people doing the Advanced Course?
I don’t think Paul will need to worry about invitations to the Booker Prize, but this is a book for people who are more comfortable in a dry suit than a tuxedo anyway! As with many of the RYA publications it comes across as though its not quite sure if it is a book (with a nice flow and logical progression through it) or a set of course notes. It is, after all, designed as a companion to people undertaking the RYA Advanced Powerboat course. I’ve not done that course nor seen the predecessor to this book so will leave it for others to comment in more detail on its utility for that – but as Paul Glatzel is so heavily involved in that type of training it is hard to imagine that he’ll have missed the mark.
While there are obviously people who have done the Advanced Powerboat course, and many who will be considering it, I suspect the vast majority of RIBnet users haven’t done the Advanced Course but have picked up a lot of knowledge through practical experience, and reading magazines and sites such as this one etc. I fall in that camp, and the question then is whether this book would add anything to that knowledge, or indeed be at a level way above our heads.
The introduction makes a point of saying that it won’t repeat ground that is already within the Powerboating Handbook or RYA Start Powerboating, but the first few chapters did seem to cover content I remember from my RYA PB Level 2 course. Perhaps almost inevitable, and possibly in marginally more detail but it did make me wonder whether trying to split the content between books was really effective. Perhaps most surprising is that the “kill cord” is never mentioned at all, and whilst hinted at briefly the CG66 is also skipped over. By the time you get to “Advanced” level you are presumably expected to make your own mind up about life jackets, but it might have been worth reviewing clothing (and the potential need for 275N jackets) for those who are progressing from short journeys to more adventurous trips.
The Boat Handling, Col Reg and Navigation sections make up about half the real content in the book and certainly deal with greater depth than covered in the PB2 course although most of it will be available in other publications or magazine “how to” sections gathered over a number of years.
Even for people who do the Advanced course, which can be undertaken in only one type of craft there is useful content here on twins, jet drives, shaft drives and forward facing drives steered with joysticks. If you are going to drive something different though then it will probably take more than digesting a few pages of the book to get the most out of it.
The navigation sections do assume a background level of knowledge beyond that typically taught at PB2 courses, and so recently qualified skippers may find a knowledge gap between the techniques in this book and the basics they already know. Experienced skippers are likely to have encountered many of these techniques or those who have undertaken one of the RYA’s navigation courses will have learned them. There is nothing revolutionary here, but if you’ve never given much thought to navigation or simply relied on a chart plotter there is some significant learning here. There are some helpful tips, and an understanding of how navigating at 30 knots in the open means “good enough” is what you need rather than micro-precision in many circumstances. Practical advice is surely what we would expect from such a handbook and I can understand the RYA’s desire not to promote a specific product, but advice like “choose a [hand bearing compass] which is easy to use and works effectively at night” and “choose plotting instruments that will work well on a small fast moving craft” aren’t really helpful. This is just stating the obvious – it would be far more useful if the book highlighted features of the generally available products that make them well suited to different applications – especially since so much purchasing is done on-line these days without the opportunity to touch and feel the product. Similarly with the “lifesaving equipment” section – which obviously depends on the individual application and environment so a universal recommendation is not possible – but a list of equipment with almost no discussion of the relative advantages of each left me wondering why it is really there.
The weather section assumes prior knowledge that anyone looking to go to sea really should have in order to understand the forecast properly. However it is one of the clearest illustrated meteorology sections I’ve seen in a marine publication for a while. However what it is lacking, as is often the case, is an explanation of what it means to the skipper in a practical sense.
Getting more advanced!
The section on buoyancy and stability was particularly readable and the wave theory chapter was one of the better explanations I’ve seen on this with a clear link between the environmental conditions and the actions of the helmsman. The chapters on rough water and higher speeds address questions which are asked here frequently. I was surprised to see only a couple of sentences on shock mitigation / whole body vibration given its ‘de-regueur’ in the commercial world at the moment, and the importance of the helmsman in that process.
The pages on search patterns and helicopter work were also probably the most detailed I have seen anywhere. Whether they justify almost 10% of the book for skills which most skippers will never use is possibly a matter for debate, but they should at least be interesting to most readers.
The section on Radar is perhaps informative, but inevitably too scant to provide any real substance instead referring the reader to further training. Surprisingly though there is no real advice for the user on selecting an appropriate Radar Reflector (despite half a page on the topic!). Likewise the very brief section on AIS adds nothing of value as anyone who understands what is described there must already have a basic understanding of AIS.
For those looking to operate commercially there are sections covering this, although I suspect anyone looking to make a career out of it, or looking to start a new boating venture will find them wanting. Presumably in order to prevent having to constantly update the book and to keep it as international as possible the lack of substance here was intentional? However I think it could have done with more detail, not least to explain Categorized Waters (and “at Sea”) and also the manning requirements / qualification level for Categories of Vessel. Obviously that is a book in its own right (which the RYA provide to accompany its PPR course, http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1...XEJSROAZ4H3QFN
but it would help people understand issues which cause questions here and which the MAIB has made observations about previously.
What’s it lacking?
There are a couple of areas I think this book could have been enhanced, perhaps adding to its wider value rather than simply a handbook for the course. The first is probably the most common questions asked here – buying a boat. It would have been nice to help buyers understand some of the issues from the SSR, VAT, and transfer of MMSI numbers which all lead to confusion to simply a guide or checklist to help people understand things to check during the purchase process.
Another area I was surprised got no mention at all was the Recreational Craft Directive, which would have lead nicely into “taking your boat abroad”. The RCD isn’t something necessarily that meaningful to most UK powerboaters, but that’s why I think it deserves a paragraph or two – even if only to emphasize that little should be inferred from a rating; and it is potentially more meaningful to those who wish to travel around Europe. Many an Advanced Powerboater will be looking to cross the channel and whilst the book will help them with the passage planning and execution it won’t provide them with any advice on paperwork, regulations etc. which need to be considered.
Lastly, given the amount of discussion here on trailers and towing then I think some of the issues around getting your boat afloat should have been covered. Obviously the basics of Launch and Recovery are described in the earlier books in the series, but understanding setting up trailers, reversing with trailers, and some of the lessons people have learned through experience would have made useful additions. There is a chapter on basic care and maintenance but nothing about servicing trailer bearings, brakes etc. The fact these things aren’t covered in any detail on RYA courses actually makes them all the more important.
The RYA, ever keen to keep up with the latest innovations have produced an eBook version too. Frustratingly (and I assume this is the case for all RYA eBooks) it isn’t available for the traditional/paperwhite Kindle only for Kindle Fire and iOS/Android app users. Presumably this is due to the large quantity of colour images which would be nowhere near as vivid in grey/white – and because they have enhanced the ebook with a couple of video clips. If ever there was a market for eBooks which work on low power devices like the standard Kindle surely it is the yachting one, where power and storage space are typically at a premium! The eBook is no cheaper to the consumer which of course isn’t an unusual model in publishing but is a bit frustrating when clearly the production cost is cheaper. I wish publishers would consider adding some sort of interactive /animated content to eBooks to justify keeping the price inflated. Clearly this sort of publication is crying out for animations / video clips to demonstrate concepts.
The book is well illustrated and accompanied by photographs throughout. It does feel, as with many of the RYA publications, that the design lets it down and if I’d just spent £16 on it I might be a little disappointed at the amount of white space and “filler” which all contribute to the feeling of it being a set of course notes rather than a book.
My initial feeling on flicking through the book was that it covered a lot of ground discussed elsewhere. I have a collection of “sailing” books on my bookshelf and many diagrams looked familiar, albeit with more modern graphic design. However there is some real powerboat specific content in this book and probably in greater depth than I’ve seen elsewhere. The diagrams and layout make the individual sections very accessible but I did find that the whole book wasn’t an enthralling read. That was probably never its intention. If you are looking for a book to put on your list for Santa as entertaining or interesting reading then Dag Pike’s book I reviewed last year (BOOK REVIEW: The Complete RIB Manual, Dag Pike
) is probably more engaging. As a resource for improving your understanding of powerboating beyond the basics learned on a Powerboat 2 course it is certainly useful. For the typical RIBnetter wanting to extend the range of their cruising the navigation section will be particularly useful and accounts for the practicalities of navigating at speed on an open boat which is often ignored in “sailing oriented” publications.
It’s a shame that there isn’t a genuinely complete book that covers everything in one place, that’s not a criticism of this book which has obviously been developed specifically around the Advanced Powerboat Course Syllabus and with some resulting cost / length constraints to avoid selling people content they probably already own.