Leica Digilux 2, 90mm. f10 @ 500 sec ISO 100. This kind of outrageous, thoughtless and dangerous behaviour is just too common these days.
During my travels around the UK and the Mediterranean many things occur to me but perhaps the saddest is that few people take going to sea seriously. We are cocooned in protection and with the knowledge that if we make a serious mistake we’ll be rescued. In any one year in Britain the RNLI rescues over 200 sailing yachts that had run out of fuel. In the first place, why did they run out of fuel? Secondly why did they not sail themselves to a marina and fill up? What else is quite clear is that very few people have any idea of what they are doing. I realise that we all start with no knowledge and there is a lot to learn but there are very few people setting a good example. So the mistakes and bad seamanship get passed down and the old skills are lost.
In this post it is my intention to explain some of the most common mistakes and misunderstandings. To discuss things that you won’t find in any book. There are plenty of them out there which will explain how to moor, how to trim your sails or bleed your engine but none of them discuss etiquette or manners and basic common sense, this post will show you how to appear competent and polite. It will enable you to set a good example to others and to feel proud that you at least know that you’re doing it right.
If you own a motorboat you should know how you are perceived by other sea users. As far as I can make out motorboats are only popular if you own a motorboat. To everyone else afloat motorboats are simply a nuisance. There are many reasons for this. It is not because other people are envious. In a politically aware world nothing seems more incongruous than a huge motorboat that gobbles up the worlds finite fuel supplies at an extraordinary rate. When the whole world is becoming aware of the effects of pollution and global warming and are making efforts to reduce emissions, it doesn’t sit well with many people. The idea of a 50 foot motorboat using 100 gallons an hour while just a handful of people are transported from one restaurant to another just doesn’t seem quite right these days.
Leica Digilux 2, 90mm. f7 @ 500 sec. ISO 100. It should not be possible to take a photo like this at sea. This motorboat is TOO CLOSE.
Another reason motorboats are so unpopular is because they make wash. Wash makes life miserable for everyone else. Wash from a big boat can and does travel miles before that energy is spent. Just because you are a fair distance from an anchorage doesn’t mean a thing. Every boat in the anchorage will be set rolling. This is upsetting and potentially dangerous. Motorboat drivers never look back and they are long gone by the time their wash hits the boats at anchor. I can tell you that I have had many holidays utterly spoilt by this wash. If it wasn’t for the wash these anchorages would be perfect. It’s not just yachts that get set rolling, even the motorboats at anchor get thrown about. It seems a shame to me that the comfort and pleasure of so many people are spoilt by just a few impatient people.
Digilux 2, 90mm. f9 @ 500 sec. ISO 100. Even with the flattening effect of the camera’s lens, the size of the wash is clear.
Motorboats are not popular at the fuel pontoon either. Most yachts and small boats just need a few gallons of fuel but if you’re waiting for a motorboat to fill up you might have to wait an hour or more.
Motorboats are also loud and disturb the peace. In a marina it is rarely a yacht that causes a wash or noise. The modern trend on motorboats is to use the bowthruster at every opportunity. There is nothing that demonstrates incompetence better than this. Bowthrusters are noisy and for the most part unnecessary.
Motorboats smell. How many times have you seen big motorboats literally pumping out huge clouds of stinky black smoke that everyone else has to breathe. At anchor motorboats run generators to power the fridges, ice makers and air conditioning systems. If you’re downwind from this it can make your life very unpleasant. If not from the fumes then the noise of the exhaust, often the only thing you can hear in a quiet anchorage.
Motorboats go too fast. In marinas and near anchored boats where people may be swimming, there is always a motorboat going too fast. At sea motorboats pass too close, too fast and always in front of another boat.
If you have a motorboat you will have to work much harder to set a good example. I want everyone to have fun on the water but for that to happen everyone must think of others.
The professionals often make moving boats look easy. They do it quietly, efficiently and politely. There is no need for shouting. Shouting is a sure sign that you don’t know what you are doing. You blame your novice crew but it’s not their fault. In every situation it is the skippers fault. If they don’t know how to do something it is because you have not explained it properly.
One of the best things you can do is say to yourself, “What if?” What if my engine stops in the harbour entrance? How will you sail out of trouble if your sail covers are on? Is your anchor ready to drop at a moments notice?
Learn to tie a bowline and a round turn and two half hitches
These two knots will cover you for any situation you might encounter. Both will come undone after a load has been put on them. A bowline has a thousand uses on a boat. If you’re not sure what knot to do, tie a bowline.
Be aware of Beare’s Law
Beare’s law is the law of accumulating catastrophe. It can apply to any situation but for some reason is particularly appropriate when applied to boats. Here’s an example: Sailing one day in a force three, beam reach, calm sea and the block on the bob stay decides to break, this in turn causes the top of the mast to snap off, bringing down the mainsail and the boom with a bang. The bang was the skylight closing shut breaking the glass which falls onto crews head. Crew is now unconscious and bleeding, on deck you are trying to clear the mess but there is a big ferry coming at you and even if he has seen you he’s going to pass very close and put up a huge wash which would be dangerous. You start the engine which starts then stops almost straight away. Your prop has picked up a dangling halyard and so on and so. Bad things can happen on a boat with an agonising certainty and a surprising swiftness.
General Advice regarding mooring
Before moving your boat or mooring it think about what the wind is doing. Is there a tide? You cannot fight these elements. You must let them help you. Much has been written about mooring but if you always look to the wind and tide and try to picture the manoeuvre you need to do and think about how the forces will act on your boat you probably won’t go far wrong.
Put fenders out, on both sides, you never know what may happen, you might suddenly be forced to change your mind. Have three ropes ready. One on the bows and one on each side at the stern. They should be fairly long so they can be thrown if necessary. One boat length should be enough. Coil them and lay them down on deck so they are ready to use. When you pick up the rope later to use it, re coil it. It shouldn’t take long but it guarantees a good throw.
Remove sail covers and bend sails on. Your engine might breakdown but you can keep control of the boat using your sails. Make sure the anchor is ready to drop for the same reason.
A Boat is not a car. If you are having difficulty getting in to a space and you can get a line ashore, then do it. It’s how they used to do it in the old days. Often a rope is better all round. It’s certainly quieter
Only start your engine a couple of minutes before you depart. The engine will warm up while you gently motor out of the marina. Remember the smell from your engine, even if it doesn’t smoke, will travel far on the wind and perhaps spoil someone else’s breakfast/lunch/snifter.
Yachts, Understand Prop walk and prop wash
Prop walk is the effect when you go backwards and the propeller causes the stern of the boat to go sideways. Most yachts will pull the stern towards port. This knowledge can be helpful when coming alongside for example. If your prop walks to port then mooring to port will always be easier than mooring to starboard. To ascertain your prop walk, go hard astern from forward and see which way the stern goes. Do this in a non wind, non tidal situation. Twin engined motorboats are a special case see later in this article.
Prop wash is the effect of the flow of water from the propeller over the rudder. This is helpful when trying to turn your yacht in a tight space. My friend Tom calls this manoeuvre the “Power Turn” and I can’t think of a better description. If your boat kicks to port the best way to turn it is to turn to Starboard and then just before you stop turning, go astern and leave the helm where it is. Before you gather any sternway gun it forwards. Repeat until you have turned. Twin engined motorboats are a special case again, see later.
Most Yachts will go backwards, even old ones. Chances are they will need a bit of space to do it but eventually once they have way on they can be steered quite well. She can be coaxed if you keep the revs down, this will reduce prop walk to a minimum allowing her to go backwards as straight as she is able.
A word on boat hooks. Handy to have around to pull a rope or a dog out of the water but do not use them on another boat they can easily damage the finish. Especially do not use one on a classic yacht, you will not be popular. In France it seems to be obligatory to come in holding the “Gaff” and to poke at anything given the opportunity.
If you have enough crew have one of them with a fender, a “roamer” which can be casually dropped between two boats when or if needed.
Do not use a human as a fender. This is OK on small boats but a big boat will maim. If you can’t get a fender in there get out of the way. Gel coat can be repaired.
Do not use other boats stanchions to fend off. Use a roaming fender, or use the hull.
Get fender socks. They smarten up the boat but more importantly they protect not only your topsides but the topsides of the boat you’re going alongside.
Before you have left the port ensure that all your mooring ropes are coiled and put away. Do the same with the fenders. NOTHING looks worse than a boat at sea with its fenders swinging about.
Once inside the harbour put fenders on and set up mooring lines as discussed earlier. There are two ways to tie a fender, a clove hitch or a round turn and two half hitches. I recommend the round turn. It takes a few moments longer but it will not come undone by accident and is easy to undo. A clove hitch can slip depending on the rope. I have a great collection of fenders I’ve found over the years because they were poorly tied off.
Look to the wind and tide and decide how you will come in. Brief your crew. If you’re not sure if it’s possible to get the boat in one way consider another way and make sure your crew know about it. Do not be ashamed to ask the marina for help, you will pay enough to be there, get your moneys worth.
Always manoeuvre your boat at the slowest possible speed. There should be no need to use lots of revs on the engine. The only time it may be necessary to go quicker is when there’s a bit of wind.
Never leap from a boat. Always step ashore casually, it looks so much better and is considerably less dangerous. Wooden pontoons do wear out and rot. I have seen feet go through planks before.
If there is someone there to take your lines all well and good but personally I prefer to do this myself since you have no way of knowing the experience of the helper and often their good intent can cause you to make a mistake.
Learn to throw a rope. Nothing looks more impressive than being able to throw a rope a good distance. Not only that but it could be a life saver one day. Here’s how: (if you’re right handed) Take the rope end in your left hand and hold it with your thumb, then coil half the rope and place a finger over it to hold it, coil the second half of the rope. You will throw this second half. The weight of the coil will allow the rope to be thrown a good way. As you throw with your right hand release your finger and let the second coil fly. Make sure you keep hold of the end with you thumb. If you do it right you can throw a 50 foot rope 50 feet.
There are various ways to tie up a boat but initially I would simply get a line ashore and tied off with any old knot. Once all the lines are ashore you can re-adjust them and tie them correctly. I like to lead the lines back to the boat so that they can be adjusted from the boat and when you leave you can simply slip the lines. If you have eyes at the end of your mooring lines you can slip the eye over a bollard or cleat but do not put your lines over someone else’s. If you can, slip your eye up from under their eye and then onto the bollard, this way you can both get your lines off easily.
When tying up ask yourself this: How will my neighbour get his line off without untying my line? You do not want people untying your lines because there is no guarantee at all that they will do it well and you may return to find your boat rubbing against the pontoon. If you can tie up so you can both get away without resorting to untying someone else’s lines all the better. If this is not possible you should ask your neighbour what their plans are and if your ropes will be a problem to him? Its just good manners to consider other people. Perhaps you’ll even make a new friend.
One thing often seen is someone on the end of a rope pulling like crazy. It is far safer to put a turn of rope over the cleat or bollard. This will take the strain in place of your back. The best way to pull in a heavy weight is to put a turn on the cleat and to lift the rope in front of the cleat. This is called sweating up. When you have pulled it as far as you can, quickly take up the slack. Repeat as often as necessary. With two people a great weight can be shifted.
Special note for the Med:
Generally a small rope or chain is led to a mooring on the sea bed. You use the small rope to get too the actual mooring. When lifting up the rope be very careful not to scratch your (or perhaps even more importantly your neighbours ) boat since the line is often covered in barnacles. I recommend giving some slack at the stern, pulling up the bow line as tight as possible (without straining yourself) then pulling tight on the stern ropes which are cleaner and easier to pull. If your boat is not tight it’s likely that at some point it will hit the quay. Do not follow the example of other boats which are all loosely tied up. Every time the wind blows I see damaged boats. The boats that are not damaged are the ones that are tied up snug. A fender hanging off the transom does nothing but wear away the gel coat. If you want to be sure, try and pull your boat in. If you can make it touch the quay, then so can the wind.
There are many ways to tie up a boat and much depends on the bollards ashore and the cleats and fairleads aboard your boat. One thing you don’t want is ropes chaffing on any part of the boat and do not put all the rope on the cleats so that you can’t see the cleat. What if you need to get it undone in a hurry? The way to make a line fast to a cleat is to put one full turn around the base, one figure of eight and then one twist to hold it. As with the one round turn and two half hitches, it is the turn that takes the strain, the knot just holds it in place.
Always manoeuvre as slowly as possible, if your engine was to fail or the cables break you might find yourself charging the quay at 5 knots. I have seen this many times and it has happened to me on a client’s newly painted boat. Thankfully I was going slowly and no damage was done.
Always turn off your engine as soon as you have a line ashore so that your neighbours don’t have to breathe your fumes.
One should always wash a boat down after it’s been covered in salt but if the salt has been allowed to dry it will not come off unless it is soaked and rubbed off with a sponge or brush. Just spraying water at it will not remove the salt. Salt is highly corrosive and can allow electrolysis so should be removed, especially at the end of the season. Salt attracts moisture and so compounds the problem.
Don’t waste water. Buy a hose with a tap on the end.
The way to fill up a bucket from the deck of a boat is to drop it onto the water’s surface upside down. The bucket then sinks and fills. Haul aboard. Do not do this when the boat is moving as the force could take you over the side!
This seems to be a real mystery to so many people. All anchors today are designed to be “Dug In”, An anchor not dug in is relying purely on the weight of the anchor and chain. This might work for calm weather but as soon as the wind picks up, you could be in trouble. In theory the anchor should set itself as it drags but if it picks up weed or a plastic bag it may not. The best way is to dig your anchor in once then you can relax.
You must know what the bottom is. This can be ascertained by either looking over the side in the Med or from the chart in murky waters. Make sure your anchor works in this bottom.
Decide on your spot. It is always worth anchoring in the proximity of other similar boats. Yachts move differently to motorboats. Do not go close to another boat unless the anchorage is crowded and there is no choice. Respect other peoples’ privacy.
Too many times I have seen this scenario: Bloke on helm, wife on anchor duty. Bloke shouting instructions from the cockpit to cover up for the fact that he had manoeuvred badly. Might I suggest the Woman goes on the helm and the bloke does the much harder, messier job of lowering the anchor.
Slowly bring the boat to a stop with the wind ahead of you. Try not to use the engine to stop or your prop walk may twist the bows away from the wind. Once the boat is stationary drop the hook and slowly motor backwards. (or simply let the wind do it if it’s strong enough). Do not drop the chain on the anchor. It should pay out as you go backwards. Let out 3 times chain for the depth of water. EG: in 10 feet of water let out 30 feet of chain. However, in really crowded but calm anchorages it is possible to reduce scope to half of this. If you are having trouble getting your anchor to dig in try letting out 5 or 6 times scope as you motor backwards. The longer the chain, the straighter the pull on the anchor. Once dug in bring the chain back in to reduce scope.
Whether or not you have a windless it is good practice to occasionally hold the chain as it pays out so that it allows the anchor to dig in gradually. Do not keep holding but rather let the chain go taught and then release it. Repeat a few times and this will help to dig in the anchor. When you are dug in well you should remain stationary even with plenty of revs in astern.
Take a look around and note the position of your boat to others and perhaps to a landmark or two. Then relax. Standing on the bows looking at the water will change nothing. If you wish to demonstrate how little you know do this. I see it when practically every new boat turns up. I do not understand what they hope to achieve. To me it demonstrates a lack of confidence in anchoring.
If a neighbour thinks you are too close, respect their opinion and re anchor. If you are not happy with your position then again the answer is simple. Re anchor until you are happy. What is too close? This is a very subjective subject but my reckoning is this, if you can toss a biscuit into someone’s cockpit from your boat then they are too close. When I say toss, I mean either an underhand throw or a throw as you might skim a stone. Keep a packet of digestives aboard for this purpose.
I recommend practising digging in your anchor under easy circumstances as a way of learning how a “dug in” anchor feels. Find an area with sand or mud -Weed and rocks are notoriously hard to anchor in- and practice. You may find you can use full revs in astern and still not dig out the anchor.
When you bring in the anchor motor forward gently so that you, or the windlass is not doing all the work. If you let the windlass do this work it won’t be long before it’s ruined. Once the chain is “up and down” you should be able to pull out the anchor. Sometimes this can be quite hard. The easiest way to pull out the anchor is to take up the slack on the chain as the bows dip with the swell and the yachts buoyancy will do the work. If there’s no swell just wait for the wash from a passing boat. Like this you should be able to gradually pull out the anchor.
When your anchor is back aboard and shipped check to see if there is weed stuck to it. if there is then remove it because it has been known to remain alive for a while so that when you anchor somewhere else you start a new colony of destructive weed where there was none before.
Leica Digilux 2, 90mm. f8 @ 500 sec. ISO 100. That’s quite a clump of weed on this boat’s anchor!
If you are using a boat with an engine go very slowly around anchored boats where there is a high chance that people will be swimming. Swimmers are very hard to see so keep the speed down. Every year I hear about another bather chopped to pieces by a careless motorboat owner.
If you must run your engine or generator to charge your batteries, do not do it early in the morning, during meal times or late at night. Wherever possible do this when there are no boats behind you. If someone complains then you must stop. If you cannot stop then you must up anchor and find a place where your fumes and noise will not offend others. Often the sound of generators is the only sound to be heard in an anchorage at night.
Some words on Strains and Forces
A boat is heavy. Even a 25 foot boat can weigh as much as 5 tons. 5 Tons moving at five knots has a lot of stored energy. This is easily enough force to kill or maim. I have seen many people with broken limbs because they tried to stop a boat. The answer here is to simply get out of the way. Gelcoat can be repaired.
There should be no need to pull like crazy on any rope on any boat. If the forces are large there will be winches. Use them. There is always an alternative way to do something. Use your brain, not your back. A boat is a natural crane. There is all you need. A mast with ropes and blocks and pullies. All it needs is a little imagination. The topping lift taken to a winch will lift the end of the boom, which can be swung outboard. Perhaps for bringing in an unconscious crew member who fell in. Or perhaps just an effortless way to bring aboard the ship’s beer and supplies.
When hoisting sails do not over tighten the halyards. You should not have vertical creases along the leading edge of the sails.
Some words on safety
When a rope or wire under tension breaks it can kill or maim. Just be aware of this fact and keep out of the line of fire. The same applies to bungie straps. When tensioning move your body so that is not directly behind the direction of pull
Gas hose needs replacing regularly. The date of replacement should be printed on the hose so that you know when it needs changing.
Some words on rubbish and waste
NEVER throw anything into the sea. If you have a holding tank then use it especially in harbours or marinas. Marinas should have pump out facilities you can use. If they don’t then complain.
The following is a table to show how long certain items take to biodegrade in the sea.
Cigarette butt 1-5 years
Plastic bag 10-20 years
Tins 50 years
Aluminium can 50-500 years
Glass bottle 1000 years
A word on VHF radio
In the Solent a common occurrence are boat users who call the Coast Guard for a radio check. This is admirable but channel 16 is for calling and emergencies only. There have been times when the demands for radio checks is almost constant. I cannot believe how patient and understanding the Coast Guard radio operators are. Please, please don’t do this. Instead ask a neighbour to check for you, pick an unused channel and see if it works. Chances are that if it works in the marina it will work at sea. Keep 16 free. Maybe one day you will need to contact someone in an emergency.
In the Marina
Rule one: No shouting. Your crew should be briefed before you come or go. If they make a mistake, chances are you didn’t explain what was required. Even if it is the crews’ fault, shouting will help no one. A bad experience aboard your boat could put your crew off ever going out again. Being skipper is a heavy responsibility.
Before leaving your berth double check the electric cable is unplugged. In the Med beware of the mooring rope that leads to the quay, it’s worth waiting a few moments after it’s been dropped so that you don’t pick it up as you motor out.
Drive slowly. Everyone uses a marina, there may be a kiddy in a tiny dinghy just around the corner. Can you stop? Keep to the starboard side of the channel. If some one is coming the other way and space is tight. Stop and wait. Be polite at all times. Try to be quiet. Not everyone goes out only for the day. It’s highly possible that the crew on some boats didn’t get in till 3 in the morning and would like to sleep a while longer. Do not assume that just because you are awake that everyone else is too.
Do not make wash. Never mind what the speed limit says, don’t make wash. Some motorboats still put up a hell of a wave even at 5 knots. Look behind you, don’t look at the wash itself, you will have a foreshortened view of it and it may not look too bad. Look instead at the action of your wash. Watch the moored boats. They should not move at all. If they are bobbing or pitching you may be making someone’s life uncomfortable.
If you’ve been to the pub and you’re drunk try to be quiet. There are many families with boats in a marina and kids are probably sleeping.
Some basic Etiquette
Do not climb on someone else’s boat without permission. Take off your shoes, or if you don’t want to, ask permission first. IF they don’t mind, fair enough but still check your soles for grit or doggo.
Yachts, don’t let your halyards bang against the mast. Not everyone likes to hear the sound of rope on aluminium. Not only is it annoying to many people but it is bad for the ropes and the protective coating on your mast. Further more modern ropes such as spectra dislike this treatment extremely and bearing in mind the cost of it, it seems the height of folly to treat it thus.
Keep noise down. This includes your children. Do you have to use the outboard on the dinghy? Could you not row? Rowing sets a good example to others. You will never offend anyone by rowing. Not only does rowing make little noise but it is also extremely good for you.
If you are going to use an outboard, bear the following in mind. 2 stroke outboards are smelly. If someone is having lunch it’s not very nice smelling exhaust gas. Do not fill the engine’s fuel tank while it is on the dinghy. Even with a funnel it’s practically impossible to do this without spilling fuel in the water. This spilt fuel will spread out and travel a long way and many people will be offended by the smell, not to mention the pointless pollution.
Before using a hose on the pontoon check to see who it belongs to. But whatever happens coil it down properly after you have done with it. Even if it was a mess before you started.
Do not untie other peoples lines or unplug their electric cable. If there is a problem get the marina to deal with it. If someone’s boat was damaged after you retied it you would then be responsible in law for any damage.
Do not run your engine in port. If it needs a run take the boat out to sea. The noise and smell of diesel engines is offensive to anyone down wind of you. Running a diesel engine at low revs and with a light load on it is about the worst thing you can do to it. The bores will become glazed and the only remedy is an expensive rebuild. Any engine needs to warm up fully. As the engine warms condensation is formed within. Just running an engine for a few minutes will produce plenty of condensation which will stay inside the engine and cause all sorts of problems. It may contaminate the oil which will reduce its efficiency and lead to premature engine wear.
In addition to the condensation problems running an engine for a few minutes will also cause your batteries to become discharged. A starter motor takes a lot of power, it could take as long as 20 minutes just to replace what was removed when you started the engines. If you think the engines need a run take the boat out to sea where you will not offend anyone with your noise or fumes. If you must run your engine try to do it during the morning or afternoon, not early or at meal times. If someone complains turn it off.
Do not play your music loud or late. Just because you like classical music doesn’t mean everyone does.
If you are going to fly an ensign then bring it down at sunset.
When climbing into a dinghy, always step into the centre of the dinghy. Many small dinghies are very unstable and will tip up if you stand on the sides.
Before untying the painter, start the engine first! If I had a pound for ever dinghy I have seen drifting away not under control while the person within is pulling and pulling on the starter cord trying to start a reluctant engine, I’d be a rich man!
When leaving the dinghy, turn off the fuel and close the vent on top of the fuel tank.
Always carry a pair of oars or at least a paddle for if you run out of fuel or the outboard breaks down.
Rafting calls for a very special tolerance from all parties. The basic rules here are when crossing someone else’s boat, Remove your shoes and pass infront of the mast. Do it quietly. Try not to come back too late from the pub and if you do keep the noise down. A friendly rapport with your neighbours is essential since knowledge of other rafters plans is very useful .
LEARN THE RULES. The international rules for avoiding collision at sea. (COLREGS) This is a basic requirement. The rules are extremely clever and do work but only if everyone follows them. DO NOT go to sea until you know them.
Keep a constant look out, situations can arise with surprising suddenness if you are not paying attention. (see Beare’s law)
Remember that the overtaking vessel must keep clear. Give other sea users room. There is no need to pass close to anyone except in a narrow channel. Motorboats especially should gives yachts a very wide berth since their wash can still be considerable even when they passed 500 yards away. If there are many yachts and you can’t help but go close then SLOW DOWN.
Heaving to. This can be a very useful manoeuvre for a yacht. Basically it is a way of nearly stopping the boat under sail without dropping the sails. The yacht will turn with her bows about 45 degrees from the direction of the wind and sit quite happily even if conditions are quite rough. You might heave to if you are single handed and wish a cup of tea or you need to check your position on the chart. Heaving to is also an excellent way to reef. To heave to is easy, gradually bring the yacht into the wind so that when you tack you are virtually stationary. The yacht will tack, leave the jib backed and put the helm over away from the direction of the wind and lash it. That’s it. Experiment with the main sail to reduce the forward motion. Usually it needs to be let out so as not to fill. Older more traditional designs tend to hove to better than modern boats.
If you are passing an anchorage, even at a distance please be aware that your wash will certainly make all the boats at the anchorage roll uncomfortably. Remember these people are on holiday too and the anchorage would be flat calm if not for your passing.
Try not to pass in front of other boats. Again, your wash will be much worse and it’s simply rude to do so. Have respect for other sea users. For some reason, motorboats have to pass in front of other boats. This is the most commonly heard complaint levelled at motorboats. A motorboat can often be seen going out of its way just to go around the front of another boat.
Look behind you occasionally to see the poor yacht you just passed at over 20 knots. See him leap out of the water and smash down afterwards, sending a huge wave over their heads. Contrary to what you think, yachts do not enjoy doing this since if they are sailing they will lose all speed and will have to start again. Often, the roughest sea a yacht will encounter is caused by a passing motorboat.
Look behind you occasionally to see if your engines are smoking. Asides from the obvious pollution issues, did you know that that excess fuel not being burnt is washing the oil from the bores of the engine and destroying it? Did you know that it’s costing you money and giving motorboats a bad name? Get your engine serviced or clean the bottom of your boat. Black smoke is usually a sign of engine overload caused by growth on the hull or lack of maintenance of the engine. When accelerating a diesel engine do so gradually or the engines will temporarily overload causing black smoke.
Be warned, due the extreme accuracy of GPS today, it is unwise to use it with out keeping a good look out. There have been many reports of collisions with buoys by motorboats. The cause is because the waypoint of the buoy was taken directly from the almanac and the auto pilot was put on to steer the boat to this point. Which is exactly what it does. No surprise then if you actually hit it.
Listen to the weather forecast. If you are a novice and all your passengers are novices, what will happen if you fall over the side. You cannot rely on your mobile phone working more than a few miles offshore.
Remember that the sea is one of the most hostile environments on the planet. Without help you can only live for minutes in the sea. Respect the sea, do not throw anything into it. Take all your rubbish home, even organic waste. Be careful when refuelling not to spill. If you have a holding tank use it in areas where your excrement is likely to affect others, eg: swimmers.
Remember prevention is always better than cure.
Manoeuvring a twin engine boat
The steering wheel is only for turning the boat at speed. Rudders on a motorboat are tiny and hardly work at all at low speed. The way to steer a boat at low speed is by using the gear levers. If you wish to turn to port put the port engine in neutral. The starboard engine will push the boat to port. To turn to Starboard, put the stb engine in neutral.
Many motorboats go very swiftly when just in gear with no throttle. I see it all the time, the pilot swinging the wheel like mad and using the bowthruster to help him around corners, still going much to fast. What worries me most is that it’s not so much the speed but the obvious lack of understanding and control that these people have.
The way to go slowly in a motorboat is to take the engines out of gear as often as possible. To turn corners simply put one of the engines in gear.
To spin a two engined boat put one engine in fwd and the other in astern. If you move your boat slowly there will be no need for any throttle. Just slip the engines in and out of gear.
Bow thrusters are for holding your position once you are nearly moored. You have used the engines for getting into the space but now the wind is pushing your bows in so a little bow thruster is acceptable. If there is little wind there is absolutely no need to use the bow thrusters. Practice moving and mooring your boat at all speeds. Remember to think about where the wind is coming from it will affect a motorboat more than a yacht.
If you can moor your boat without using your bowthruster feel proud that you are setting a great example to others. Professional skippers that I know consider it a matter of pride to moor their boat under all conditions without using the bowthruster.
If you have enjoyed this post and have found it useful, please feel free to pass it on. Let’s all try and set a good example on the water so that we can enjoy the freedom of the seas for many years without the need for legislation. Thanks and fair winds.