Many yacht owners purchase vessels that are larger than they are used to operating in the past which results in natural anxiety. Additionally, insurance companies often require a minimum number of hours (commonly 40 hours) of training by a licensed captain before they are allowed to operate the yacht on their own.
I provide all levels of education for owners who want to improve their proficiency and safety on the water.
Docking / Close Quarters Boathandling
Docking a larger vessel, especially in windy conditions, causes the most grief for owners and is the most common request for training. Operating in the marina environment presents the highest risk exposure with respect to damage to your or another’s yacht.
There are endless combinations of wind, current, other boat traffic, marina hazards, and water depth that all conspire to turn a proper approach to your slip into a nightmare in an instant. The good news is that there are skills and tricks that remove much of the anxiety. Combine that with practice and your comfort level will increase rapidly.
- Pre-underway checklist
- Risk assessment
- Crew coordination
- Crew communication
- Proper line handling commands
- Proper use of cleats and lines
- Constant wind awareness
- Solo / shorthanded docking
- Peculiarities of single engine motor vessels – e.g. trawlers
- Peculiarities of sailing vessels under power and saildrives vs. conventional inboard prop shafts
- Proper use of bow and stern thrusters (and when not to use them)
- Back and fill (spinning any boat in its own length)
- Handling twins, and moving laterally without thrusters
- Docking in crosswind / crosscurrent
- Docking alongside with wind either way
- Proper use of springlines when landing and departing
- Heavy weather
Most folks use phone apps to navigate their car on the road, and they tend to use modern chartplotters in the same way by following their progress as a little arrow on the screen. As a result, there is a prevailing perception that traditional navigational skill is unimportant. On the contrary, it is useful to understand the basic principles of navigation such as dead reckoning, LOPs, fixes and running fixes, estimated positions, etc. Most recreational yachts (especially those under 70 feet in length) do not have space near the helm for maintaining a proper plot, and most owners don’t want to be bothered with that level of effort anyway.
The good news is that there are some specific skills that you can keep in your navigational “toolkit” that will keep you safe and that you can easily use on EVERY voyage no matter how short.
- Turn bearings
- Danger bearings
- Visual ranges
- Using radar ranges and bearings
- Bathymetric navigation (using your depth sounder)
- Navigation rules