12 Crew News
The-Triton.com January 2017
Bring safety googles, instructor keeps crew alert By Dorie Cox Yacht crew dance about nautical rules of the road, in the road, dodge a loaded BB gun and watch for the sharp corner of a protractor while studying with Fred Wilson. These are just a few of the unconventional teaching methods that former yacht captain and chief officer Wilson employs to prepare crew for officer of the watch and other exams with his company, Fred's Oral Prep. "He ramps pressure right up, gets out dividers, boils water and starts sterilizing them," former student Capt. Malcom Banks said. "I'm not sure it's one of the sanctioned teaching methods. He didn't need to stab us, we definitely won't forget the answer." In fun and seriousness, former students said the 6-foot, ginger-haired Wilson is reputed to make grown men cry. "When they get answers wrong, the video goes on Facebook," Wilson, 38, said by Skype call from England. "But when they're annoyed with me, they tend to remember." The tools Wilson uses relate to priming, encoding, familiarity and other methods of recollection. With a degree in psychology, Wilson employs his specialization in memory formation and how people learn to encourage hands-on understanding, not just book learning. He said props and other sensory triggers are practical for yacht crew preparing for oral exams.
Tales from school and the sea
Surprisingly, Wilson said he struggled with academic life, but his parents insisted he attend university before he start a maritime career. "I understand why some students find it hard, it’s why I always wanted to escape to sea," he said. "Teachers don't understand why students don't understand." Capt. Banks said Wilson's personal stories about the sea make his teaching plausible. Wilson holds an MCA master 3000gt unlimited license and worked as relief captain on S/Y Endeavour, refit captain and chief officer on M/Y Haida G and M/Y Dona Amelia, and chief officer on motoryachts Victory V, Waterlily, Amante, Summerwind and Mirgab V. "With bridge procedures and compass work, he made training videos for the boats while in periods of overlap," Capt. Banks said. "He's not saying 'imagine a boat,' this is an actual
Fred Wilson of Fred's Oral Prep in Cowes, UK, dons fire fighting equipment to promote hands-on learning that triggers his students' recollections. PHOTO PROVIDED Wilson also creates educational videos (below). vessel. This is the scenario he had, how he dealt with it and what he learned." But Wilson claims his fame stems from “Fred's Totally Awesome Safety Meetings,” onboard training he created for crew during his years on yachts, complete with PowerPoint presentations, multiple-guess tests and Easter egg hunts. It was about 2012 when Wilson and his wife, Chief Stew Emma (Webb) Wilson, worked together on a yacht and pondered their future. "We decided to think about having a family on Monday, spoke about it on Wednesday and it happened," Wilson said. "I thought I had three years, but I didn't have an exit strategy."
And that is how his education, experience and future family came together more than a year ago in Cowes, Isle of Wight, UK, as Fred's Oral Prep. Although Emma Wilson said she tried to be a full-time mother and silent
partner while managing accounts and paperwork for the business, her job and the business have grown. "We soon realized that our fellow superyacht crew still love having their chief stew/purser looking after them," she wrote in an email. "I literally have students sending me photos in the suit shop asking me which one to buy. I do feel for them though, as it's such a stressful time." She plans to work full-time once their son begins school next year.
Time to test
Wilson works with each of his students to identify personal strengths and weaknesses. He guides them through a month of quizzes and studies before they come to the island for a week to stay in a rental house near the Wilsons’ home. Class centers around a big kitchen table. "He teaches there with all the sextants, polaris, charts...," Capt. Banks said. "By halfway through the week your brain is going to explode as information is ground in. You go in thinking you're reasonably prepared, but Fred takes it and polishes it until you understand the reasons. "He's aware of what each person needs, and I need the occasional kick up the a---," Capt. Banks said. "I need a structured environment because I struggle sitting at home. The total immersion worked for me." Former student Capt. Peter Watson is COO of a large company and said he was challenged when he started his own