Learner Driver

Grehan

Well-known member
Joined
11 Jun 2001
Messages
3,731
Location
Inland France + Oxon.
Crumbs this is tricky. Is it supposed to be . . fun?

I come from an industry background where 'Who's suing who' is required reading. Now I'm dabbling in one where everyone makes 'Confessions'.

Getting to grips with the proper practical sailing stuff is as difficult - or easy - as I had expected. Take it easy, learn from the inevitable mistakes. Take it seriously, do the theory. Basic skills, keep calm, try and be sensible, be modest and courteous, suss out and respect the rules of the game. Throw-up to loo'rd. In fact, learn to use the loo'd. Etcetera.

But The Marina is a different kettle of fish.

After 30 years of proudly developed near-perfect (modest! . . .) motoring skills, I'm learning to 'drive' something 37ft long and 12ft wide, that has a Ferrari's value, what doesn't exactly go where she should quite a lot of the time, especially in reverse, what was actually designed to sail not motor, in amongst a very tightly laid out car park crammed full of Rolls Royces (or at least BMWs).

Stress, I should cocoa. Fenders (socked or otherwise), yes siree Bob. Doesn't help, though. Need an air-bag. Amused and horrified onlookers, by the dozen. Wife and acolyte helmswoman in tears. Children, losing respect, provide birthday card of chimpanzee with hands over eyes.

Worried, I'm trapped in the bloody camp site with all the other floating caravanners and their rattling halyards. And I've already watched (a) many folk making equally embarrassing/nerve-wracking/expensive balls-ups and (b) other folk making the most perfect of approaches, twirls, reverses, double salkos, 3-point turns, back flips, moorings-up, etc.

Come clean, all you time-served Jolly (?) Jack Tars . . is this the worst bit?
Just exactly how contrite, humble, humiliated and apologetic should I be?, or stupid am I?, or is this just par for the course? How d'ye learn and how long does it take? Should I take the trouble to find out who owns all those unoccupied yachts I scraped-by, or is a scrape or two the inevitable price that everyone just accepts paying for berthing in a very crowded marina? And if I should track down the owners, what do I do or say?

PS
And just for the record, what are your 10 fundamental, "this is what really needed to be learned that time", sailing rules, wrinkles or learnings-from-bitter-experience?

Bit of a tall order, eh?
Sorry.
Very sorry, actually. Oh God, I'm going to get found out now.
 
G

Guest

Guest
Thank you.

Made me chuckle. Especially the bit about the children's chimpanzee birthday card.

Just once or twice I have managed the perfect double salko, 3-point turn, back flip in front of an appreciative audience. But only after stepping on a nautical banana skin.

p.s. please don't bump into my boat!
 

Rabbie

New member
Joined
4 Jun 2001
Messages
3,895
Location
East Sussex
Grehan. Thank you for a most honest, amusing and entertaining description of what most of us boat owners have gone through. Don't worry. Your experience is entirely typical of all of us when we were novices. After 20 years 'messing about' in boats, I still make cock-ups and so do most yotties, hence the 'confessionals'. Remember, the elements are there to help or hinder you.You are correct about marinas. Better to find yourself a swinging mooring where you can make most mistakes at your leisure without too many on-lookers!, and less chance of insurance claims!. Then you can migrate into the realms of pontoon berths where windage rules and you can continue to learn. Best 'o luck but keep away from Emsworth for the time being !. Rab.
 
G

Guest

Guest
Grehan

Welcome to the club and many thanks for the smiles, chuckles and rueful shakes of the head as I (and probably all the rest) remembered the sheer embarassment and ignomy of "worst mooring memories".

As you scrape by you will realise that:

o - The twenty perfect manoeuvers are NEVER witnessed by anything more approving than a passing seagull.

o - The one slightly iffy mooring attempt will be witnessed by at least two ex-Commodores and the local "I sailed around the world in a teaspoon" sailor.

o - The truly memorable "I want to die." effort will be in front of an audience of at least 200 people.

In the latter case at least one person will come over and "sympathise" with you in terms that make you feel like slashing your wrists.

e.g. "I nearly did something similar once off Ushant in a Force 10 when I was on my 172 foot, engineless, four masted barque crewed by 12 year old children with learning difficulties."

This obviously means "You pillock. How did you manage to do that on a windless day in a Marina in such a small boat with an engine and a mature crew?"

The best advice I can give is:

o - Be "enigmatic" with your crew. (i.e. If YOU don't tell them what you are going to do THEY won't know when you get it wrong.)

o - Treat every outcome as if you actually intended to do "just that". (e.g. Give a smile of satisfaction as you manage a perfect "in off the red one" between the pontoons and a grunt of sheer pleasure as you bury the bows into the marina pontoon as a temporary alternative to securing the bows with a mooring rope.)

o - Apologise to NO-ONE. (Anyone who has the temerity to question your competence obviously has no knowledge of the finer points of sailing YOUR boat.)

o - If anyone comes within 10 metres of your boat you go into "sneer routine". (This consists of the "leap forward and fend them off" manoeuver followed "the sneer". The whole point is that they didn't need to be fended off but they now have doubts about their own adequacy as obviously you spotted something that they missed.)

o - Finally - get a patient Insurer who is in it for the "long term". (i.e. when you start claiming against others!)

Best regards :eek:)

Ian D
 

billmacfarlane

Active member
Joined
16 May 2001
Messages
1,722
Location
Brighton
Very witty. We've all had embarassing moments where our boats have displayed an uncanny ability to go exactly where we don't want them to but with experience we can minimise the moments when we're the subject of a highly entertaining scenario which is mildly amusing to all except the owners of the boats we make contact with. I can't make out Graham whether your under playing your skills for the sake of a good read. If not please do one of two things:
1. Take your boat out to play under engine and get to know it really well. Things like turning circle forward and astern, which way and how much the stern kicks, stopping distance etc. Hopefully that knowledge will give you enough confidence not to play dodgems in a crowded marina.
2. Get yourself to a sailing school and learn under someone else's tuition. None of us would find it funny to arrive at our boats ( I actually have ) to find chunks out of our gel coat.
 

gus

Member
Joined
16 May 2001
Messages
408
Location
Larkhall, South Lanarkshire
Don't try and run before you can walk before you can crawl. In otherwords the best way to learning to get it right is to start in a hard dinghy. Start with oars then progress to an outboard. Learn to manouver a dinghy properly and you will soon realise that bigger boats are just like bigger dinghys - just bigger. Get to know what it is you are trying to do and how you are going to do it. Sometimes, as you will realise, it is not a matter of being too gentle doing a manouver, particularily if there is a bit of a wind blowing. I bit of speed and power is required to maintain control, but you must remain in control by knowing what you are doing and that only comes with practise.
 

peterb

New member
Joined
16 May 2001
Messages
2,834
Location
Radlett, Herts
I would back up what Bill says. Practice makes perfect, but it has to be aimed practice. Just going out sailing won't help. Going to a sailing school for a boat handling course will help, but mainly in learning the exercises that you need to try on your own boat.

A couple of bits of advice though. Learn how to manoeuvre at minimum speed, and how to recognise when you might need something more than the minimum; after all, if you must hit something, it's better to do it slowly. And when you're working out how to berth or unberth your boat, remember that the boat might have other ideas; have Plan B ready. If your plan is for the stern to go to port as you leave the berth and then for you to motor out going ahead, be ready for the stern to go to starboard. Don't fight it, go with it and motor out backwards. Do it with a smiling face and everyone will think you meant it (as you did, of course).
 
G

Guest

Guest
Bill

Missing a bit of gel coat is never "funny" but it shouldn't come into the "end of the world" category either.

Best regards :eek:)

Ian D
 

cynthia

Member
Joined
16 May 2001
Messages
556
You could always cultivate the neighbours, several of ours have obviously got our measure and rush out to take the mooring lines. Never thought to wonder why till now!

Possibly the biggest fenders in the world might have given them a clue.
 
G

Guest

Guest
Grehan - I think we've all been there and done that, but are too shy (or proud) to admit it.

Best suggestion I can give you to jump start the learning curve is to hire a good instructor from a good sailing school to come aboard YOUR boat for a day (or two) and let him/her take you through the basics of boat handling in close quarters. It will do wonders for your skills and confidence. If you take the family along as well, it's a great team building exercise, but then maybe you don't want to go through this in front of an audience (you may even discover that your wife learns faster than you do). That's how I learned the most in the shortest time many years ago. Best of success and good sailing....
 

Twister_Ken

Active member
Joined
31 May 2001
Messages
27,585
Location
'ang on a mo, I'll just take some bearings
After 30 years (and a bit) of sailing, the only time I get REALLY nervous is parking.

Only tips I've got are:
Be ready for anything and you'll be surprised by nothing. So lines and fenders on both sides of the boat. And keep a spare fender in someone's hand, just in case an unexpected bit of boat wants to make contact with an unplanned obstruction.

Make sure you and your crew know which is the important line to get ashore first. In my case it's almost always the aft spring (otherwise known as 'The Brakes').

Do everything at the slowest speed possible.

Good luck and keep practising.
 

davidwf

Active member
Joined
30 May 2001
Messages
1,259
Location
East Coast, Woolverstone
Totally agree, after 20 years sailing dinghys, and yachts kept on a swinging mooring I moved into a Marina. All those years meant nothing. I ended up hiring a sailing instructor for a days own boat tuition in the marina, best money I've ever spent. However I'm not perfect and still get it wrong big time but I do it very slowly and accept the invetiable with loads of fenders.

Watching others the worst thing youy can do is panic and start applying loads of power in the hope you can blast yourelf out of the situation. It rarely works and you just hit all that faster. a great tip if you have two or more crew is to go to an easy berth, drop one crew off and get them to walk round to yours to catch you. Keep at it it does get better and don't worry about going alongside other boats as long as its slow and you are well fendered.
 

Rachelle

New member
Joined
31 May 2001
Messages
20
Location
London
Cocky Beginner

I remember being on my Comp Crew course, reciting over and over in my head everthing I needed to do to gently rock on into the bearth. Did it twice perfectly and was greatly amused to watch another crew member (completing his Coastal Day Skipper) completely barge into the same berth and smack resoundingly into the pontoon, twice!

So when the Man asked me if I wanted to try moving OUR boat into our berth I felt reasonably confident that all would go well - imagine my horror when I came to a scraping halt, only stopped from smacking the bow into the pontoon by a quick thinking complete novice first time outer!

Eggy on facey - speed kills!

X;o)

Rach
 

Grehan

Well-known member
Joined
11 Jun 2001
Messages
3,731
Location
Inland France + Oxon.
Crikey.

Thanks for all the replies and good advice. Shouldn't you all be off sailing somewhere, not peering into a TV screen?
Action already being taken to find a suitable hired gun and midweek counselling sessions. Oh yes.
Keep your fingers crossed. For me and for you. General Solent area best avoided. Ha Ha, as if. [Ch 16] Solent Coastguard, Solent Coastguard radio cheque please.

Jesting aside, when you're a relative novice manouevring is particularly traumatic. Reassurance has been very gratefully received.

~:) does this mean something? Motor vessel sending out alternating current on stbd side, port side with satellite tv dish?
 

gunnarsilins

New member
Joined
16 May 2001
Messages
450
Location
Stockholm/Sweden
My last resort....

...is to aim for something cheap.
Anyway, the best one I ever seen (It was NOT me, I promise!) was the family in 30-footer trying to berth bows-to a pontoon in a crowded marina. In Sweden we normally do this, using an anchor from the aft.
The problem was the strong onshore wind and the craving for doing a smart manouvre under sail in front of 100-eds of onlookers.
So they came in under mainsail alone, anchor ready, fenders out, wife at mast and ready to drop the sail and husband at helm.
At a decent distance from the berth captain commandoed his wife to drop the sail. The halyyard was released....but all what could be seen was a few small wrinkles appearing along the luff. The sail sat like glued against the shrouds and the crosstrees. The she was moving fast and they had already passed the point of no return, now surrounded by other yachts anchor warps when the captain realized what was happening.
In a desperate attempt to slow down the boat he quickly throwed his anchor over the stern......chrash!!! was the sound of 15 kg´s anchor and chain hitting the bottom of the towed dinghy.......
In they came between two boats, hit the low pontoon with a soft thud and the bow started to slide upwards, upwards and upwards until the yachts bow pointed up against the sky in a most unbeliveable angle. Then the yacht slowly took halt and while everyone hold their breath she nice and slowly slided back into the water.
With absolutely no scratches whatever.
Very impressive!
 

robp

Active member
Joined
16 May 2001
Messages
1,891
Reckon you've already cracked it! Great sense of humour and an understanding that sod's law will always apply. Just get one or two suitably sure footed and lifejacketed kids to use roving fenders on the understanding that any gelcoat connection anywhere will get them a Chimp birthday card too. Their sense of pride is even sharper! Your ten "fundamentals" will come from just ten berthings or trips where someone is always around who will be pleased to offer a genuine and well meaning tip.
 
G

Guest

Guest
Like other postings I sympathise with your current position. If you have bought a boat then you'll be in the same place I was 7 years ago. Suffice it to say that the Chief Petty Officer and I had more rows in the first three months of ownership than we had had in the previous fifteen years of marriage.

I would generally agree with the advice given and would add a couple of thoughts of my own. Firstly, I would strongly advocate a day or two of on board tuition, I did this after eighteen months and learnt more in two days than I had in the previous 500. Secondly, avoid windy (>F4) days until you are comfortable with your manoeuvering skills. Things go wrong quickly enough without having to contend with an extra dimension. Thirdly, I strongly disagree with the, albeit touch-in-cheek, posting about saying nothing to the crew. They are the one's who'll get you out of whatever dog's doos you get in. Lastly, it has certainly helped me to have the mindset of "I've thought of everything I can, if it goes wrong it's only a boat and I am insured". I'm not advocating avoidance of responsibility but s**t happens and I don't believe that being tense from the off helps matters.

Best of luck and thanks for an amusing posting.

Chris Enstone, Rival Spirit
 

pugwash

New member
Joined
30 May 2001
Messages
985
Location
SW London
No matter how much you know...

...circumstances will come back to haunt you. Take courage from a story Miles Smeeton told me years ago. He was a celebrated sailor who cruised around the world in Tzu Hang, pitchpoled off the Horn, and wrote a wonderful book called Once Is Enough. He sailed into Auckland NZ and picked up a buoy off the yacht club then rowed ashore only to be told he'd made fast to the starting-line marker being used in the regatta that day. Watched by scores of people, he and his wife rowed back to the yacht to move her. Miles decided to row to the new buoy ready to take the line while his wife drove. Only when he saw his wife despairingly waving the gear lever over her head as the bow of Tzu Hang rose over his dinghy and sank her did he remember he'd forgotten to warn her that the gear lever came loose when put in reverse. As he told the story he laughed uproariously, and that's the point. To judge by your posting you're in the same mould. Welcome to sailing for pleasure!
 

andrewhopkins

New member
Joined
16 May 2001
Messages
172
Location
West End, Surrey, UK
slow, slow, slow

Everyone has agreed with you, it is the hardest bit but it will soon become the most interesting. My co-owner and I always squable who gets to take it out or in!

My tips are:

1. You never stop learning so if you make a mistake, think why and learn

2. Tide and wind both effect you in different quantities at different times. Stop outside the marine in plenty of water and see what happens to your boat.

3. You need water over the rudder to steer. If the tide is moving with you at 5 knots and you have no power, as 5 knots seems fast enough, you cannot steer the boat.

4. If you are not sure if something will work, leave a couple of crew on the pontoons and give them ropes to help "guide" you out. Dont worry about what other people think, it shows good seamnanship to take care.

5. Get someone to teach you a mid-ship spring with a bowline at one end and the other on your winch, it is a lifesaver and will solve most scenarios. I can get into marines single handed with that baby!!!

6. Finally go slow (unless tide and wind prevent you). If you hit another boat at .5 knots you wont do any damage, especially if you have fenders out. If you make a mistake, stop and think what to do.

Cheers
 
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