As we prepare for a few weeks summer sailing wherever the wind will take us around the UK, we look back at some of the lessons learned from our sailing adventures so far.
It’s easy and convenient to get what you need online, and can be cost-effective too. But that really only applies to major purchases (maybe electronic equipment, and so on). When you need something specific there’s no substitute for the expert advice of your local chandlery store.
We’re still novices, which makes careful communication essential, especially if you are tired and in situations where nerves can become frayed. If you don’t communicate properly, you might end up with one crew member contemplating jumping overboard and swimming for the nearby shore, and the other one contemplating letting them.
…is not automatically an emergency. Of course, this is subjective, and it’d be foolhardy not to call for help if you are becalmed without engine and drifting about in a major TSS. Or even if you simply don’t feel confident in a certain situation. In general, though, remember that the engine on a sailboat is auxiliary, and that you have sails. It might take a lot longer than you planned to get where you’re going, and could even be a bit of an inconvenience, but if you can sail out of a breakdown relatively safely, do so.
Closely connected with communication is the need to plan everything before you do it. Thinking about which lines are going where and exactly how you’re going to approach the berth is best done before you get there, not just as you’re making the final turn.
Put the bloody main up
Yes, we’ve all seen the sailing channels where they’re cruising the Bahamas in acres of sea room under the headsail alone. That doesn’t work when you’re fighting the tide and the wind without an engine in Falmouth harbour. Trust us, just put the main up.
Use your eyes
You must be imagining all those fishing boats off the northern coast of Spain because most of them are not showing up on the AIS, right? Wrong – they’re real enough. The same goes for the container ship that looms out of the darkness somewhere between Plymouth and Falmouth. In the latter case we didn’t have AIS anyway, but the speed at which this vessel appeared (and unexpectedly so) really drummed home the need to keep a good watch.
Gale force vs dead calm
We’ve read the books about Fastnet and so on, and we’ve watched the films about dealing with heavy weather. What we were never taught, and in fact what we never thought about until it happened, was how to deal with sailing with almost no wind and all of it in the wrong direction. Heavy weather and dead calm situations both need a carefully thought-out strategy, and the RYA and PZŹ should add a section on the latter to their training programmes.
You can’t catch fish with a spoon
Lacking any real lure, it seemed a reasonable proposition that the fish off the coast of Mallorca might be attracted to a shiny green plastic ice cream spoon, weighted down and spinning through the water attached to a hook on the end of a line (we didn’t buy the plastic, by the way, it was already on the boat). They weren’t.
Read all our Bunkside entries here.