Skipper’s Tips #18 – Springing into Summer

At the beginning of summer 2016, I made the momentous decision to start walking down a different career path.  I’ve really enjoyed my time in the maritime industry and I will continue to go out on adventures with some of the amazing friends I’ve made since I first moved to the south coast of England in 1998.

After much agonising and looking back, I have finally embraced my new working life and found the strength to acknowledge the fact that my career in boating is at an end.  I have let my commercial endorsement lapse, my instructor’s ticket is out of date but I still have my Yachtmaster tickets (power & sail), my ICC is still valid and I will never forget all that I’ve learnt and all the incredible people I’ve met and worked with.  I will still be going to sea at every opportunity I get but now it will be to relax instead of work and I am so looking forward to getting my hobby back, even though I have a sneaking suspicion that it will be difficult to keep my trap shut.

It is my intention to keep my blog going too.  I will still be posting my adventures on here.  This will still be a platform for showing off my photographic prowess and of course, the ‘Skipper’s Tips’ will continue to find their way here – I’ve written 52 (one for every week of the year) so there are plenty to go yet.  Perhaps, one day I will put them all together into a book, who knows?

So, without further ado, here’s tip number 18…


Here’s another ‘boat handling’ tip and I know exactly why this one came about.  I’d been teaching two guys the necessary skills they required to get through their Yachtmaster exam and this is a scenario we came across one day, having just had lunch at the Folly Inn.  The tide was hoofing out, as anyone who’s been down the Medina when spring tides are running will testify it’s prone to do and we’d been seriously hemmed in.  With a little head scratching the guys came up with the answer and I’m happy to say it worked perfectly.  In fact, we even got a round of applause from some onlookers on the pontoon.  This technique will work equally well for both yachts and motor cruisers, although yachts have a distinct advantage as their sterns are usually curved in slightly and as such are less likely to get damaged as the boat is drifted astern by the tide.  It’s also much easier for a yacht to ferry-glide, as the keel works beautifully with the tide.

From time to time we all find ourselves in a less than ideal mooring situation.  It might have been easy on the way in, you know the scenario – wind blowing you onto the pontoon, no tide to contend with, other moored-up boats miles away,  However, when you come to leave it’s all changed. The tide is ‘hoofing’ through and the wind that blew you gracefully alongside the pontoon is now a hurricane and you have inches to spare at either end of your suddenly massive boat.

So what are our options?

Well, option one is to go back into the pub until the wind has died and the tide has stopped running. This isn’t as daft as it seems; if you’re not in a hurry and the wind is due to ease, then why make life difficult for yourself – just remember to stay on the soft stuff, drinking and skippering don’t mix.

Option two is to lean hard on your bow thruster and hope there’s enough power to pull the bow across the tide and then make a dash for it before you get swept onto the boat behind you.  This isn’t a good plan, as plans go, because it relies heavily on perfect timing and there is too great a chance of it all going badly wrong; you would be trying to organise the releasing of lines the bow thruster and the engines all at the same time – add huge amounts of tide and wind and you have a recipe for disaster.

The best option is one where we have control of the boat the whole time.  To this end, I would suggest using a ‘spring’.  Assuming your boat is facing into the tide, you will need to set the forward and stern lines as slips, making sure that the stern line is kept as short as possible, with a roving fender at the stern to protect the bathing platform.  Ideally, if you have enough crew, you should also have a separate person for letting go of the stern line.

Once everyone is correctly briefed, slip the forward line.  The tide will drift you gently backwards. As the stern line tightens up the stern will turn in, towards the pontoon and the bow will swing out into the tide. When the bow is pointing out far enough to clear the boat in front, slip the stern line and motor away from the berth.  If the wind is really strong, you may need to come astern on the outside (opposite side to pontoon) engine to ease the bow out against the wind.

N.B. If the tide is particularly strong, the moment your bow comes across the tide it will exert increasingly stronger sideways pressure on your boat, sweeping you side-on to the channel and drift you down the channel sideways.  The answer is to keep your bow pointing almost directly into the tide flow and continually adjust the ferry-glide as you make your way away from the pontoon – all the time balancing the wind trying to push you back onto the pontoon against the tide trying to pull the bow away from the pontoon.  Get this balancing act right and it’s a beautiful thing to watch, Nature balancing Nature.  Get it wrong and it will get very smelly, very quickly!

This was a good option, well considered by two Yachtmaster candidates who, as you might imagine, both went on to pass their exam – well done Brian and Paul!

This has been another Captain Corbett’s Adventure.  If I’m not in the office dreaming about delivering a boat or teaching Yachtmaster and Day Skipper courses then I’m probably off somewhere exotic on holiday!  Whichever it is, I will still be adding my adventures and skipper’s tips so keep popping back to make certain you don’t miss anything and remember:

The Meek may inherit the Earth but it is the Brave who get the Oceans!