How I became a professional skipper

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How do people get involved in community boating? This week I spoke to NCBA senior trainer Lee Davies about her journey from boater to trustee, trainer and professional skipper.

How did you become interested in boats?  I see from your website that you come from a boating family in the time of cargo carrying.

Yes, my uncle worked on the BCN coal barges (in the midlands) and I’ve got a cousin with pleasure boats on the River Severn.  I suppose my interest in boats started in my twenties, when I was at a boat rally: I got talking to someone at a trade stall and was bitten by the bug basically. Within three years I had got my first boat. I refitted it myself and moved aboard with my daughter in 1986. I stayed living aboard until 2004.

Have you cruised much of the inland waterways network?

Yes I’ve gone all over: From the Leeds and Liverpool down to the docks, Shropshire Union and the Aire and Calder. I’ve done a fair chunk of the Grand Union and River Soar, the River Severn, the Llangollen and the Pontcysyllte aqueduct.

Any memorable cruises or favourite locations?

I liked it up on the Aire and Calder, and the Shropshire Union was a favourite in years gone by. Another memorable place was Middlewich on the Trent and Mersey. Me and my daughter used to take boats up to a music festival every year and meet up with friends.

How did you become involved with community boating and the NCBA?

First I got involved with the Ethel Trust community barge in Sheffield, and I ended up a trustee and a trainer. I found out about the NCBA from going to regional meetings and decided I wouldn’t mind having a go at that. I got forwarded for it and became a senior trainer and sat on the national training committee.

What does being an NCBA Senior Trainer involve?

A senior trainer is someone who has the CCBM (Certificate in Community Boat Management) and is an experienced skipper: someone who has lots of experience with 12 or less passengers. You have to be put forward by an accredited training centre; they’ll say we want this person to go to be a trainer. Then you can approach the NCBA to be a senior trainer. So now I can teach all of the courses that the NCBA do.

What advice would you give to a leisure boater who was interested in improving their skills with a view to working as a professional skipper?

Start with a community boating project and get your CCC (Community Crew Certificate) or a Boat Handling course then do your CCBM. On the Certificate in Community Boat Management they don’t just learn to manage a boat they get training on how to handle the group that come on board. Because at the end of the day the skipper is in charge of that boat, so it includes a vulnerable person policy, and risk assessments, it covers a lot of ground.

If you’d like to develop your skills with the NCBA check out our full range of courses on our main website.


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