Friday, July 08, 2016

My Powered Pleasure Craft Driving License (PPCDL) Journey

It all started from my first jetski experience with colleagues at a teambuilding trip. Throttling amidst the choppy waves, going full speed and getting the feeling of being thrown up and down; enjoying a short reprieve, from the hustle and bustle on land, out in the middle of the waters - those were addictive and something I look forward to doing again.

But in Singapore, you need a Powered Pleasure Craft Driving Licence (PPCDL) in order to operate a jetski, or any other pleasure craft less than 24 metres in length, legally. We'll come to the point on what is a "pleasure craft" later. First, in order to obtain a PPCDL, you need to fulfill the following:
  1. You must be aged 16 years and above;
  2. Complete an approved PPCDL course (theory and practical) at any of the PPCDL approved centres by the Maritime Port Authority (MPA)
  3. Be certified by a medical officer that you have passed an eyesight test and are not physically handicapped
  4. Pass the PPCDL Examinations (Theory and Practical), conducted by the Singapore Maritime Academy 

PPCDL Approved Centres:

  • Changi Sailing Club
  • Marina Country Club
  • One Degree 15 Marina Club
  • Raffles Marina
  • Republic of Singapore Yacht Club
  • SAF Yacht Club
  • Singapore Police Force Aquatic Club
  • Singapore Polytechnic
  • Singapore Powerboat Association
  • Water-Venture (Changi)
A price comparison online showed that PA WaterVenture (Changi) had the lowest fees. You can log onto the onePA portal to search for available dates.

A search on Groupon yielded an even cheaper option (slightly below $200 for weekend) at Marina Country Club (at Punggol), with training provided by Maritime Education and Training Services Pte Ltd. The Groupon offer is not always available.

Some would prefer to have their PPCDL course conducted near the PPCDL Practical Examination site at Republic of Singapore Yacht Club (RSYC), to have a feel of the actual water conditions in the area. For us, we took the Groupon deal at Marina Country Club and signed up for refresher course at RSYC just before the Practical Examination.

PPCDL Theory Lesson

On 27 February 2016, My Brother and I turned up at Marina Country Club for our 1.5-day PPCDL Theory lesson, taught by an ex-Naval Officer. We were given each a course book, that would accompany us very closely till the Practical Examination. At the end of the course, we were given usernames and passwords to log into the training provider's website to download ten-years series of questions and other materials.

It was a huge load of things to remember - from the Rules of the Road (International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea), MPA Regulations, symbols and shapes, map reading, terminologies, colours and sounds. But it was also an eye-opener to a new maritime literature for me - including the beacons and lighthouses at and around Singapore, and the names of many islands in Singapore.

One advice given to me by the instructor was that I should not be telling the PPCDL Examiner that the purpose of me having the PPCDL was to jetski, as that would give an impression that I might be reckless and risk-seeking. Gulp.

Now I can watch Titanic, The Finest Hours and Captain Phillips with a much deeper appreciation of the lingos chanted by seamen. 

Practical Lesson

A week later, we found ourselves back at Marina Country Club on a Saturday morning, enthusiastically waiting for our first ever drive on sea.

Similar to Driving Licence practical examination, the PPCDL Practical Exam is also on a demerit point based system. Clock 20 demerit points = immediate failure.

Besides pre-drive equipment and boat checks, PPCDL trainee would also be tested mainly on unberthing, boatmanship and safety, man overboard drill and berthing during the PPCDL Practical Exam. There is also a face-to-face session with the Examiner, who would ask theory questions thereafter, before passing or failing the trainee.

Wefie with Instructor Terence

Man Overboard!

The rustic feel of Marina Country Club

Even though the steering wheel of a boat mirrors that of a land vehicle, the key difference in driving on land and on sea is that while you can step on the brake pedal and stop a land vehicle, there is no brake pedal for a boat. The boat continues to drift. To come to a complete stop, you would have to engage reverse gear to halt the drift. 

Another difference is that it is much easier to drive straight on a road, but on sea, you have to cast your sight afar and constantly adjust your steering wheel to stay the course.

Brother at the helm

Nice sea view for these new HDB dwellers

After practising several rounds, the post-lunch activity was to take turns at the wheel to drive ourselves to the waters near Pulau Ubin.

Punggol Beach

Our Vigilant Police Coast Guard

Pulau Ubin

We were glad to meet some of our course mates and learn from them on their reason why they were studying for PPCDL.

  1. To volunteer for the Waterways Watch Society
  2. Fishing Trips
  3. Canoeist trying out something new

PPCDL Theory Examination

We booked our PPCDL Theory Examination on 29 March 2016. The theory examination is within Singapore Polytechnic.

In order for us to take the theory examination, we needed to present the following:
  • Letter of certification by Medical Officer that we were not handicapped and passed the eyesight test. That costs us consultation fee of about $25 each from our Family Doctor, who must have not encountered PPCDL trainees coming to him for a long time
  • The training certificate issued by the approved training centre (We nearly had to miss the test because we couldn't locate one of our certificates, until I realised the 2 pieces were stuck together!)
  • NRIC

The ten-years series questions were useful in aiding revision of the PPCDL Theory. Some questions were tricky and required some thought process. The verbal sparring with my Brother just before the exam also helped. 

To pass the PPCDL Theory Examination, one needs to achieve at least 26 out of 30. My score was

27 out of 30!

We've passed!

PPCDL Practical Handling Examination

Chee Lee, my Brother and I found ourselves back to the sea on 14 May 2016 at RSYC, which is just beside the test site at Poly Marina. Due to my miscommunication, we had mistakenly booked 2 x 1-hour slots, from 9am to 11am. And our Practical Handling Examination was at 11am.

The long break, coupled with the birth of my son and the preparation of his first month's celebration, threw me back to pre-PPCDL days. The refresher, booked through the same training centre (METS), was greatly beneficial, especially with the very experienced instructor who fed us with tips and advice on how to remember the equipment and boat check procedures among others. 

The water condition was definitely much choppier than that at Marina Country Club, but not as severe as what our Practical lesson instructor who advised us to avoid booking an examination in the period of May to July due to the water conditions.

We thought we were late at 11.05am but the Examiner was still patiently waiting for participants. After a briefing, we were divided into pairs or trios. Since my Brother and I both registered as a group, we had the luxury of being paired up together.

Moments before our turn, my mind went blank. I recalled telling my Brother that he could decide if he wanted me to go first, get penalised and he could benefit from the observations since I was lost; or he could go first if he were ready. He decided to go first, and how sleek he was. After his pre-ops check, my mind was revived and I smoothly completed my checks.

Brother went ahead first while my mind continued refreshing

When it was my turn to take over the steering wheel, the worst thing happened. It rained. The first question from the Examiner was, "Anything else you want to do before unberthing?" Thanks to Chee Lee's previous reminder, I confidently turned on the lights.

The choppy waters caused my boat to slightly "kiss" the berth when attempting to berth. Fortunately, it was not so serious as to qualify for an immediate failure. A second chance in berthing redeeemed me.

After the Practical Handling Examination, we were led to the outside of an office where we waited for our turns to be interviewed by the Examiner face-to-face, one-on-one on the Theory aspects.

Caught in the rain but still elated with the first-time PASS

And so if you were still following me, according to MPA's definition,
Pleasure craft means any craft which is intended for use within the port exclusively for sport or pleasure purposes, but does not include any craft which is used to carry passengers on sightseeing tours within the port for which each such passenger is charged a separate and distinct fare.
Hence, a jetski is a pleasure craft.

On the same night, we promptly applied for the Powered Pleasure Craft Driving Licence via the Marinet portal!

Achievement unlocked :D

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