We hit the high sea with the new Amwaj Marina yachting school
Time Out Bahrain staff
We chatted to Nabeel Hijris who’s launched a new yachting school at Amwaj Marina.
Have you ever wondered at the wisdom of allowing people to just buy a boat and take it straight out onto the water with no training?
The Gulf is one of the areas in the world where there is currently no legislation requiring those skippering boats to have any proper qualifications, which seems a pretty scary set of circumstances. But Dubai recently passed new water safety rules and it looks likely Bahrain will follow suit, hopefully within the next five years.
So, if you’ve got, or are thinking of getting, a boat, where can you go to learn? And what about those considering a career on the water? Is overseas study the only option?
Well, until recently, the answer would have been the Yacht Club and yes – that is, you could learn at the Yacht Club, but for courses offering a commercial professional qualification then you would have had to sail away, as it were.
BISS, Bahrain International Seas, Services is the brainchild of Nabeel Hijris who, at the tender age of 26, is entitled to call himself captain with qualifications allowing him to skipper vessels up to 500 tonnes gained in Southampton, UK.
He explained: ‘I originally wanted to be a pilot but when I visited the UK and looked into the costs, I realised it wasn’t going to happen, at least not at that point. Feeling a bit disheartened, I went to stay with my aunt and one day she showed me something on the internet - Zero to Hero in 12 weeks, a sail training course that allows you to get your sailing master’s ticket really quickly.
‘To be honest, I really didn’t like sailing very much at first and I was glad to move into power boats and this is now something I love.’
Operating out of Amwaj Marina, BISS offers courses ranging from basic jet-ski right up to day skipper and helmsman – both of which carry commercial recognition.
All the courses are run under the regulations of the UK’s Royal Yachting Association (RYA) giving qualifications that are recognised internationally.
Nabeel says: ‘There are a lot of people operating boats around the islands with little or no idea of what they are doing or what they should be doing. This is one of the few areas where sea travel is unregulated so we really welcome the news that regulations are going to be put in place, if you’re going to take a boat out and take other people on board as passengers, then there are some really basic rules you should be following both for your safety and for others on the water.’
Aside from the jet-ski courses, for which Nabeel admits uptake has been lamentably low ‘though hopefully this will change when new regulations come into force’, BISS starts out with the RYA Level 1 powerboating course, which costs BD100, runs over a full day and takes in basics such as pre-start checks, safety equipment, starting and stopping, securing to a buoy, coming alongside, being towed, awareness of other water users and man overboard.
The Level 2 looks in more depth at all these issues as well as weather forecasts, affects of current and tide, maintenance checks and emergency action – this course is credited by the international Maritime and Coastguard Agency.
The next two levels are intermediate and advanced which start to look at the use of charts to plot a passage, navigation, berthing in different situations and radio operation. The advanced course also takes in boating at night and manoeuvring in rough weather and from this, the next step is the day skipper qualification.
This course, which is being taken up by many of the professional seamen already working around the island, is a must for those thinking of cruising further afield. It looks at plotting a course and steering to tides, fixing your position, collision regulations and emergency and safety procedures.
And this, along with the helmsman’s course, which looks at all these issues in greater depth, can be the ideal lead into a commercial career at sea.
But the courses are not just for adults and aspiring professionals, the RYA classes are suitable for kids aged 12 upwards, with some lessons are available to over eights, and Nabeel is really keen to see more youngsters in the classroom learning how to take to the waters responsibly.
And if, unlike Nabeel, you actually like the idea of the romance of sail, there are also plans to introduce sailing courses in the near future. To find out more log onto www.bissmarine.com.