Martin Northey

Martin Northey Principal of The Iberian Sea School

Martin Northey founded the first RYA (The Royal Yachting Association) sea school in Portugal over twenty years ago.

In addition to being a maritime journalist he is an RYA Yachtmaster Examiner (Retired) and Instructor for sail and power with a commercial endorsement, he is also an Advanced Powerboat Instructor and holds the top qualification for sailing in Portugal (Patrao do Alto Mar).

He has coached literally thousands of pupils to success in RYA courses and examinations up to Yachtmaster standard and beyond. He has owned several boats himself and helped many others with their purchases.

"My mission is to promote the highest standards of ownership and operation"


Martin - Boats and Boating History


Sailing in the Solent
Sailing on Tomahawk aged 5

The first time I went to sea in a boat was from Cowes in about 1949 at the age of five when I sailed with my step grandfather Ralph Gore on his 12 metre called Tomahawk. I remember he asked if I would like to go up the mast in the boson’s chair, it seemed to be a very long way up and to my relief I realised that he was joking.

Following that experience Ralph sent me for Christmas one year a book called ‘Sailing Primer’, which I still have. Apart from Enid Blyton’s ‘Famous Five’ and 'Biggles' I think that this was the only book that I read when I was young.

An Enterprise

At the age of 14 using all the money saved up from Christmas and birthday presents plus a generous top up from my mother & father I bought an Enterprise dinghy, I named her Salome. One of my first crew was the headmaster of my school, a retired Naval Commander, he asked me my boats name and I replied ‘Salome’, he said ‘is that because she unrigs very quickly!’ My reply was non-committal as I was not completely sure as to what he meant!

My next sailing experience was with a friend called Pip and his parents for a week in the Channel Islands and France; I was 14 and thoroughly enjoyed the cruise. The boat was a 26-foot Scod and the owner had just bought the very latest direction finding equipment, it was called Beme Loop and with this wonderful bit of kit, we managed to find Cherbourg in thick fog.

My next boating experience was at the age of 22 when I worked as deck hand on board a 120 foot Fairmile, which was a converted submarine chaser. Based at Mackay in Queensland we went on five-day cruises round the Whitsunday Islands. She had been converted to carry 24 passengers in 12 Morwena an 18ft Irish Glenboatdouble cabins, plus the skipper, the engineer, two hostesses, the first mate and me! It was my job to clean the loos, scrub the deck, polish all the brass and every afternoon for two hours steer the ship whilst the skipper had a sleep on his bed on the bridge. I found it very hard to maintain the concentration needed to hold a straight course and spent most of my time dreading the skipper waking up and then seeing from our tortuous wake what a dreadful job I had been doing of holding a straight course!

I did not own another boat until I was 40. For the past two years I had unsuccessfully been trying to give up my very heavy smoking habit, I had tried will power, that had never got me beyond 9 in the morning when I could be found standing outside the village shop waiting for it to open so that I could buy some more cigarettes. Acupuncture did not do any good either, nor did hypnosis. However, when enjoying a summer holiday in Cornwall with my wife and children, I saw a very pretty little clinker built, gaff rigged, 18-foot cutter for sale in a boat yard. The price tag on it was £950 or near offer. I said to my wife as we walked past, ‘it would be fun to do some sailing again, and that boat would be ideal for us and the children’, she replied, ‘why don’t you give up smoking, and with the money that you will save buy it. You spend about £750 a year on smoking, the owner would probably take £750 for it and you will pay for it in a year of not smoking’. I replied, fine but I only have one problem and that is that I don't have 750 pounds at the moment', she replied ' well I have and you can have it if you give up smoking'!. The following two days passed without my smoking a single cigarette, on the third day we went back to the boat yard and bought ‘Morwena’. One of my first sailing experiences with Morwena are described in my article ‘Rolling in the Mud’, which you will find under ‘Martin's Sailing Stories’ in this web site.

Tawnie YeckI bought my next boat two years after buying ‘Morwena’. With Morwena, I had sailed from Poole to Chapman’s pool to the west and explored the Solent to the east. I had now got the bit between my teeth and wanted to go across the Channel. I saw her advertised in Practical Boat Owner. Described as ‘Tawnie Yeck’ a 23-foot wooden sloop, she was ashore at Christchurch and as soon as I saw her I thought she was wonderful. She was almost identical to a Scod but three feet shorter. I sailed with her for several years exploring the south coast as far down as Cornwall and across the channel to France and the Channel Islands. The worst weather I ever sailed her in was a Force 8 when I crossed the channel from St Peter Port to Weymouth. It took 22 hours, my only crew lay down below being ill for most of the passage, Tawnie Yeck looked after us every inch of the way.

I remember once anchoring in Poole harbour and rowing ashore to the beach, when I landed there was an old man standing there, he said to me pointing at Tawnie Yeck, ‘Is that your boat’, I replied that it was and he said ‘she will always look after you’. He could tell from her pronounced sheer and classic lines that she was a good sea boat.

Day Skipper Course
Henry Morgan

I started a dinghy sailing school and quite often would take clients sailing in Tawnie Yeck but realised that what I really wanted to do was to run a cruising school, in order to do this I needed a bigger boat, taking advice I learnt that you could do no better than a Rival 34. I sold Tawnie Yeck and bought a Rival 34 called Henry Morgan.
As soon as I passed the RYA Yachtmaster Practical Exam in 1989 I started using Henry Morgan for skippered charter and also started instructing RYA courses working for a friend Eddie Burrows. Eddie ran an RYA recognised sea school called ‘Moonfleet’ based at Cobb's Quay in Poole. His boat was a Moody 38 and we sailed every week 'in company' which created a competitive atmosphere between the two crews which was enormous fun for all of us. Eddie had been a Yachtmaster Instructor for some time and during the two years that we sailed together I learnt a great deal from him.  At the end of that time I passed the RYA sailing instructor’s assessment and became a Yachtmaster Instructor and started my own RYA recognised sailing school which I called 'Poole Harbour Sailing' which I based at Cobb's Quay and continued to work closely with Eddie.  On most weeks Eddie had more clients than he could fit on his boat and for a small fee passed them on to me.

I developed a reputation for offering longer cruises than most other sailing schools, the majority of my courses went across the channel and occasionally as far down as southern Brittany. I also did longer passages to the north coast of Spain, Holland and Ireland. Henry Morgan was an ideal boat for these longer trips.

Using my sextant in the Bay of BiscayKeeping a small sailing school going in the winter is not easy, so I would finish my courses at the end of October and earn a living driving lorries until the end of March. I also spent one winter in the recession as a motorcycle despatch rider, this I enjoyed very much as motorcycles have been a passion for a long time, but the money was not good and the mileage that I was doing on my own motorcycle too much. Therefore, that summer, I designed a programme of sailing courses from Gibraltar. In November, I sailed Henry Morgan to Gibraltar where I stayed until the end of March running courses that were almost fully booked. I continued offering courses from Gibraltar in the winter for three years; many people who sailed with me from Poole in the summer came sailing again in the winter to have another cruise in good weather.

However, November and March were not good months to be crossing the Bay of Biscay. I remember the last year that I did it I was returning to Poole in March when in a northwesterly Force 7, close hauled on the port tack in a position 60 miles north east of Finistere, I called up Finistere traffic on my radio and asked for a weather forecast. Their forecast was for more of the same for the next 48 hours and, as a part of his normal procedure, the radio operator asked me the size of my vessel. I replied ’10 metres’, his reply was ‘’this is a very small vessel for this type of weather’. I thought to myself as each wave hit us on the port bow making the whole boat shudder that he was absolutely right and resolved to get a bigger boat.

A few months later, I saw Navicula, a Rival 38 for sale at Valencia in Spain, with the help of my friendly bank manager I bought her without having sold Henry Morgan. Not only was it marvellous to have a bigger boat, but wonderful to have my own cabin, having for years used the quarter berth with my head on the chart table!

Coastal Skipper course in the Algarve

I had also realised that even with a larger boat I did not want to cross the Bay of Biscay in November and April every year, so made a decision to base my sea school at Lagos in the Algarve and changed my sea schools name to The Algarve Sea School. This was a great success and I sold the school in 2000. I had already decided that my future lay in motorboats as well as sailing and in that year took the Yachtmaster motor cruising exam and a year later became an RYA Motor Cruising Instructor.

In 2001 I assisted a friend, Julian Mead, in starting a sailing school called Portugal Sail and Power and worked for him as his Chief Instructor for a year.

In 2002 the RYA asked me to become an Examiner and in the same year I started my own RYA recognised Motor Cruising and Power Boat School which I have called ‘The Iberian Sea School’.

In 2009 following a very busy 7 years giving motor cruising and powerboat instruction I decided that I would like to instruct on RYA Sail Cruising courses again and so applied to the RYA to add Sail Cruising to my existing recognition.  The Iberian Sea School is now recognised by the RYA for Sail Cruising - Motor Cruising and Powerboat courses in addition to RYA Shorebased courses held in the school's classroom near Vilamoura.

I now live 20 kilometres north of Vilamoura and in addition to all the courses mentioned above also give advice as a ‘Boat Search Adviser’ as described elsewhere in this web site.




To see a google map showing the location of The Iberian Sea School at Olhos de Agua near Vilamoura click here

To see the school's certificates of recognition for running RYA Practical Sail Cruising, Motor Cruising & Power Boat courses click here. To see the recognition certificate for RYA theory go to the 'RYA Theory Courses' page. For the certificate from the RYA for ICC testing go to the 'ICC Courses' page.

Introducing the Iberian Sea School

The Iberian Sea School is an MCA / RYA recognised Motor Cruising and Powerboat School in Portugal, the MCA are the 'Maritime and Coastguard Agency' in Britain who are responsible for the issue of all Marine Qualifications on behalf of the British government, they delegate this responsibility for training and examining skippers of 'pleasure craft' to the RYA who are the Royal Yachting Association.

I serve the first-time buyer with independent advice on the trade-offs between buying new and second hand; on deciding on the size, type and make of boat to suit them; and, on sourcing that vessel anywhere in the world.

I support the new owner in building the technical and human skills on which pleasure in their new investment – and their personal safety – depend. I offer the complete range of RYA Motor Cruising courses up to and including Yachtmaster plus Power Boat levels 1 & 2.

Increasingly, I am sought out by experienced skippers who wish to acquire or refine advanced skills in seamanship.


Welcome to my site. Here is a brief guide to the different sections, reached by clicking on the 'tabs' at to the left hand side of each page, or on the links below.

ICC Courses for skippering a motor boat or power boat of up to 10 meters in length, this page provides details on training and testing for the International Certificate of Competence (ICC) which is the qualification that people are required to have to skipper a boat in Portuguese waters.  The RYA certificate to show that The Iberian Sea School is an authorized ICC Test Centre is shown on this page. You will also find dates of courses on a boat supplied by the Iberian Sea School.

ICC Courses for skippering a motor boat or power boat of up to 24 meters in length, this page provides details on training and testing for the International Certificate of Competence (ICC) which is the qualification that people are required to have to skipper a boat in Portuguese waters.  The RYA certificate to show that The Iberian Sea School is an authorized ICC Test Centre is shown on this page. You will also find dates of courses on a boat supplied by the Iberian Sea School.

RYA Theory Courses show the RYA theory courses that are available such as Day Skipper and Coastal Skipper / Yachtmaster and the syllabus for each course. The RYA Certificate of recognition showing that The Iberian Sea School is authorized to run RYA Theory Courses is shown on this page.

RYA Motor Cruising Courses gives details of all the practical RYA motor cruising courses offered by The Iberian Sea School such as The Helmsman's Practical Course, Day Skipper and Coastal Skipper courses. The RYA certificate of recognition for The Iberian Sea School to run RYA Motor Cruising courses can be seen by clicking here.

RYA Powerboat Courses gives details of RYA Powerboat levels 1 & 2 courses. The RYA certificate of recognition for The Iberian Sea School to run RYA Powerboat courses can be seen by clicking here.

RYA Yachtmaster Training - Power gives information about my Yachtmaster preparation courses for motor cruising and an article by James Stevens, who until fairly recently was the RYA Chief Examiner and Training Manager, on the Yachtmaster exam.

Video IS HERE!  In the spirit of keeping my site always fresh and worth revisiting, I am delighted to present a set of web-based videos that will, I hope, communicate the satisfaction and thrill of learning with The Iberian Sea School.

Martin's Articles consists of a more than 60 articles that I have written during the last 12 years mainly on navigation and seamanship.

Martin's Sailing Stories & Shanties consists of stories that I have written over the last 25 years. Some have been published, some not. They relate my own cruising experiences. There are many more I have not yet written and, in time, will add into this section. There is also the well known sea shanty 'Spanish Ladies' on  this page.

Sail Cruising with ex 'students' - I have now been giving people sailing instruction for 25 years, many of those people are now sailing or have sailed on very long passages, this part of my site has descriptions of some of their experiences.

Boat Search Advice describes a service I offer clients to assist them in their choice of buying the right boat. This involves initial discussions to identify their needs; advice on cost of berthing, maintenance and insurance; and, then, actually finding the right boat, with continuing support and advice on cruising after purchase. This section provides two typical client references AND a list of boats that are being sold by students / clients of The Iberian Sea School.

Ask Martin where I am just your ordinary, everyday Agony Aunt. I get asked all sorts of questions. Here I share the most amusing (and important) questions and answers.

Martin's Blog I will try and write my thoughts here from time to time.

Latest News is where you will find RYA news, plus local news such as details of 'circulation tax', light dues, safety notices, important notices to mariners etc etc.

Splicing Service gives details of my making up of permanent mooring lines for boats / pontoons plus information on who will fit bumpers on your berth.

Martin's Motorbike Travels in Portugal, Spain and France. This part of my site is continuously growing and consists of descriptions and photographs of interesting places that I have visited in those countries using my motorbike rather than a boat.

Restaurants is dedicated to my recommendations on restaurants in the Algarve.

In addition, thanks to Skype, I now have a British telephone number - 0121 288 1498 - and so anyone in Britain can telephone me on this number and the cost will be the same as a normal telephone call to a fixed telephone in Britain. It is not a mobile phone and so I will only be able to answer calls to this number when I am at home.

ryalogoThe Iberian Sea School is recognised by The Royal Yachting Association as an RYA Training Centre for Sail / Motor Cruising and Power Boat Practical courses, RYA Navigation Theory courses and International Certificate of Competence (ICC) Testing for sail and motor.  If you would like to purchase books from the RYA click here to go to the RYA online shop.

The Iberian Sea School  Online videos click here