Master and Commander

Quite rightly I have to take both a theoretical and a practical exam on my knowledge of things nautical before I can sail away. The qualification is known as your license.

The didactical approach for the theory exam is interesting. You are not given classes nor a text book, but a folder with 16 previous test papers. You are then told that by taking all these previous tests you will teach yourself the correct answers to the obscure and arcane questions. I understand the logic. The same questions come back over and over again. It is a bit like pattern recognition.

I study like crazy. I find it difficult to study at home as there is the lure of the computer. I need a very quiet place.


I take 16 of these tests – each has 50 questions.

I have to go to the university for one last project and subsequently go to the  university library to study.  After some minutes, the head librarian comes over and asks me to leave as I am no longer a university employee nor visiting scholar. How are the mighty fallen!

Actually, one of my tasks prior to retirement was to establish an alumni policy. I should have got on with it.

Anyway, I go to the Onna village library, where I am welcomed and study away to my heart’s content. No harm done.


After 16 subsequent exams, I am only making 3 or 4 errors in 50 questions and feel very confident.

The theory test is held at the Okinawa Marina in Awase. It is very formal with an invigilator who walks around the room to make sure we are not cheating.


This is my test document with my ID number and my desk number .



The exam of course  contains many questions that I have not seen before.

Oh dear, I fear I have failed! I will only know on Saturday.

I head down to the Marina to get on with my next major task – repainting the cockpit and the cabin roof. The existing paint has been exposed to  years of intense UV and is in very poor condition.


It is crazed.

So again this calls for a lot of sanding. I hope that most of the crazing will be filled with the primer and the 2 coats of paint. Very poor condition areas, I will treat with an acryllic filler before painting.  I hope to paint next week but there is a lot of tedious work to be accomplished before the paintbrush hits the deck.

I have a long chat with Kiyuna san. He shows me engine progress.


Much rebuild – new piston rings, valves ground, new alternator and starter motor, er not yet fitted. Nearly there.

He asks me if I am going back to Scotland. I tell him that there is really no reason for me to go back there. He replies, ” Neil san, sometimes no reason is the best reason.” Discuss.

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3 Responses to Master and Commander

  1. Mike Taylor says:

    Like your Jacques Cousteau red cap. Rôle model ?

  2. calderi says:

    New questions are sometimes given less weight as far as pass/fail, but used as discriminatory measures for the exam, if you follow. So there is hope. We tried having lay observers for our medical exams, but had to stop as they wanted to fail anyone who did not get 100%. We pointed out that in ten years or so the answers change considerably, which applies even to nautical exams.

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