Diaries of a sailing instructor

Vessel Name: MenorcaCruising
27 May 2013 | Menorca
27 May 2013 | Menorca
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27 May 2013 | Menorca

Springing off a dock

Gusting 35 knots in Mahon harbour and its the last day of the sailing course with only a few things to complete. Alongside docking and springing off, being the majority of it. We had practiced getting alongside a dock where we were getting blown off heavily and now it was time to try getting off a [...]

27 May 2013 | Menorca

Man Overboard

Teaching Man Overboard procedures to students.....always the drill dreaded most on a boat. Probably these days best to call the exercise crew overboard. This drill evokes panic even in a practice situation and briefing everyone first can help to reduce this panic but guaranteed not to eliminate it. Recently [...]

Springing off a dock

27 May 2013 | Menorca
Heidi Frith
Gusting 35 knots in Mahon harbour and its the last day of the sailing course with only a few things to complete. Alongside docking and springing off, being the majority of it. We had practiced getting alongside a dock where we were getting blown off heavily and now it was time to try getting off a dock when we were held fast to the dock by the wind.

Firstly, we set up our bow and stern lines and fore and aft spring lines as if we were staying and then discussed our options for getting off the dock. Obviously, very limited.

We set up the spring line from the aft boat cleat to well forward of the boat on the dock, doubled up so we could slip it. We placed three fat fenders on the far aft section of the port side and prepared to depart with the engine in reverse and the wheel hard over towards the dock. By the time we had set up the lines and finished the brief, the wind was blowing harder and a little more constant, it was in doubt as to whether we would get off the dock.

Hoping to look like a pro, we watched as the bow of the boat started to move away from the dock. However, the engine was at its full capacity RPM wise and we did not want to push it any further but the bow would not come through the wind. After trying this manoeuvre a few times, we gave up and put the kettle on for a cup of tea.....always have a back up plan!

The forecast showed the wind dying down so the plan was to wait for this to happen but in the meantime I decided to call our principal John, just to give him something to laugh about, a little entertainment on a cold, blowy day in Menorca (summer is due to arrive next week...have no fear). Well, in true James Bond style and despite my protests, he got the Marina Manager Paco to launch the zippy little RIB and they both came to the rescue!

With a line from the starboard cleat and a 50hp engine pulling the boat from the bow with the engine in reverse and wheel towards the dock with spring line still attached, we still had difficulty getting the bow through the wind. We were concerned that if we let go too early the bow would be blown back hard onto the dock minus the fenders at the bow, as they were now protecting the stern quarter.

Eventually, we slipped the spring line, took up the bow line and motored forward safely away from the dock to have the wind die down about half an hour later to less than 15 knots. Literally a few hours later, we were sailing with full sails and making very little headway due to the
light airs!

Lessons learnt

1. Allow the prinicipal of the school to feel he is a hero.
2. But.....remember he will tell everyone that story for the next few months
3. Always carry a spring line at least two boat lengths long
4. Always carry as many fenders as you can store.

Man Overboard

27 May 2013 | Menorca
Heidi Frith
Teaching Man Overboard procedures to students.....always the drill dreaded most on a boat. Probably these days best to call the exercise crew overboard. This drill evokes panic even in a practice situation and briefing everyone first can help to reduce this panic but guaranteed not to eliminate it.

Recently whilst teaching in Antigua with all female students and following the usual briefing re the importance of keeping the overboard person in sight, alerting all crew, throwing in anything that floats and stopping the boat as quick as possible. Well, I guess I hadn't briefed quite so clearly as one of the girls did decide to deploy the horseshoe buoy with danbuoy, light and drogue attached.

All good practice when whilst recovering the safety gear we lost the boat hook. So now we have a fender floating around, a horseshoe buoy and danbuoy in the water and luckily a floating boathook. Even luckier we had a second boat hook and were able to recover all three successfully.

Lessons learnt, make sure everyone understands it is only a practice session and not to really throw anything in or worse still make a mayday call and have a second boat hook handy.
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