Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Cruising Course Day 5 - ASA 104/114 Tests and Maneuvers

Every day so far Captain Tracey making coffee has been our alarm clock...but not this day.  Since we were in Bradenton, he spent the night at his place in Bradenton, so it was just us students on the boat.  I got up and made the coffee.  My wife says I'm an early riser...I've just not been good at sleeping when the sun is up since I left college.

Being in port, we were once again able to take advantage of marina showers.  The Twin Dolphin Marina has a nice setup with a number of nice clean private bathrooms upstairs with plenty of hot water.  After the shower we had eggs and bacon with potatoes for breakfast, finishing up some of the provisions.

We then took our ASA 104 (bareboat chartering) and 114 (cruising catamaran) written exams.  Both exams covered the material out of the respective books (Cruising Fundamentals for 104 and Multihull Cruising Fundamentals for 114). The 104 exam was a similar format to the 101 and 103 tests with 50 true/false questions and the remainder as multiple choice.  Unlike the earlier tests, these focus more on the various systems found on a larger boat (engines, plumbing, electrical, propane), trip planning and navigation, weather and emergencies.  Here are a few examples of the types of stuff on the test:
  • True or False: Diesel engines use special spark plugs.
  • True or False: Float plans are filed with the Coast guard.
  • Multiple Choice: What should you do if you find yourself dragging anchor?
  • Multiple Choice: Using a supplied chart, plan a course between different points and determine your ETA and fuel requirements.  Provided performance specifics, calculate your speed and fuel used.
  • Multiple Choice: What is the proper phraseology to hail someone on the VHF radio.

The 114 exam was a bit different.  It consisted of less than 50 questions with point values ranging from 1/2 point to 2 points (100 point total).  There were true/false questions, multiple choice questions, and short answer questions.  The test focuses on the differences between a cruising monohull and a catamaran.  Here are a few examples of the types of questions found on this test:
  • True or False: Jack lines are not needed on a multihull because they are more stable.
  • True or False: Catamarans have good windward ability.
  • Multiple Choice: How can you reduce sailing on the hulls while at anchor?
  • Multiple Choice: Excessive speed in heavy seas can cause what to happen?
  • Short Answer: Explain the various types of bridge decks found on catamarans.
  • Short Answer: How does the stability of a multihull differ from a monohull?
After taking the tests, we took the catamaran out for some maneuvers.  We went out and practiced heaving to, which is a tiny bit different in a catamaran due to the limited travel of the mailsail boom, mostly just a bit touchier in getting the boat to stabilize.  Then we practiced man overboard drills...and practiced, and practiced.  It's a good thing though, as my wife and I as well as the other couple will eventually be the sole crew on a boat, getting this maneuver right when short-handed is an important skill.

After the maneuvers, we went back to the marina and those of us that didn't get to take the boat out of the marina now got our chance to maneuver the boat in the marina.  With the breakwater that protects the marina, there are a couple of pretty tight 90 degree turns...especially tight for a 41' long, 23' wide boat.  With the twin engines, even a catamaran that large is pretty maneuverable.  I was able to put it back in the slip without too much difficulty.

We then sat down and went thru the tests.  Unlike our other course, we got to find out exactly which questions we missed...not that there were many.  Neither of us recall our exact scores on the 104 exam other than they were both above 90% (and I think my wife did slightly better than I did).  I got a 95% and my wife got 87.5% on the second.  So, we both passed and now have our 104 and 114 certifications.  Yea!

Technically this is the end of our course, but we weren't scheduled to pick up our charter until the next day.  Tracey let us and the other couple that was there for the 104/114 course stay on the boat an additional evening so we didn't have to go hunt down a last minute hotel.  We're getting a lot of experience with what it is like living on a boat.


  1. That's awesome...congrats on the certifications! Sounds like you're having a blast.

    You mentioned the two engines and maneuverability. Are you able to run one in forward power (don't know what it's called on boat engines) and one in reverse to make a tighter turn? I'm thinking like it's a double track vehicle (like as tank) where you oppose the motion of each side to make the turn. Hope that makes sense.


    1. Hey Mike,

      Happy Thanksgiving! You've got the concept. Most catamarans have an engine in each hull and each has it's own throttle/transmission control (if you are familiar with the single lever control of a monohull inboard, just imagine two next to each other). Very similar to a tank or Bobcat front end loader, you can run one in forward and one in reverse so you can pretty much spin in place. So, while the boat has a much wider beam (width), you get some unique maneuvering options. Of course, not all catamarans have two engines, but those that do and have them spaced far apart can help with maneuvering such a wide boat.

  2. Hey mate, I'm about to take the 114 written exam. You use the Rick White book (Multihull Cruising Fundamentals) to study? Any other advice? Thanks!

    1. Yes, everything for the ASA test was in the Rick White/Harry Munns book. It has been a while since I took the test, but it was pretty straight forward from the book. If you have taken the other exams, they are similar except that there are some short answer (instead of multiple choice/guess).

      We didn't have any other materials...having been on the catamaran for a week. If you review the content of the book, I'm sure you will do fine.