Considering a sailing adventure to Mexico? Just look at how engrossed that guy is in the book! Grab a copy of the Unauthorized Guide to Sailing in Mexico, and you too can find yourself sitting on a Mexican dock with an oversized (but very attractive) hat.

Unauthorized Guide to Sailing in Mexico

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Entries in professional maritime (12)

Wednesday
Jun012011

lessons learned during a delivery collision

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This is not the blog post that I would like to write, but I think it’s important that I do. For those of us moving other people’s boats around for hire, a typical reason they’re hiring us is because we’re better than they are.

We’re captains. We’re the guys with sea time, the guys who know what the clouds mean, the guys who know what single engine prop walk does and how to use it to your advantage.

But at least for me, I’m still a guy. And after ten years of being behind several different helms and going back and forth along the California coastline more times than I can honestly remember I finally hit a boat. Now I’ll get the drama out of the way and admit that it was a glancing blow to a dinghy sitting on davits of another vessel that was docked while I got out of the slip. Impact speed was under half a knot and the damage is probably (and hopefully only) in the few-hundred-dollar range. But either way I was spending my next day calling owners, and my paying customer, and explaining how I managed to cause everyone a lot of headache. And avoiding headaches and having a smooth operation was the very reason I was hired in the first place.

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It was a common enough event: making a tight exit on a vessel I’ve never operated before, with a strong wind blowing laterally. Backing out as much as I could to clear the bow, by the time I got forward propulsion going the stern was being sent laterally into the docks that I had just reversed from.

There are of course numerous ways to avoid the situation: using warping lines and/or waiting for the wind to die down would have solved the problems I encountered. However beyond the maneuvering lessons to be remembered here are two other lessons I learned from this event.

#1 – Feel Sorry For Yourself Later. Subsequent to causing a ruckus in the marina getting underway (and finding no damage to our vessel), we encountered a mainsail furler failure that resulted in a jammed-open position. Wind was ~20 knots, seas where 8-10’, and all of it was on the nose. My sole crewmember was seasick and puking in the cockpit and we were 15 miles offshore. I had to bullride the boom to free the outhaul that had tied itself around a block, and got whipped in the face by the line. Sitting in the cockpit I remembered that I have two lives onboard, the safety of the vessel, and a family back home to care about. So I could feel sorry for myself later but it was time to buckle down and remember all training and experience. From that point forward, we actually had no more problems and everything else went textbook.

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#2 – Awkward Adult Conversations. No one likes to have them, and calling a fellow boat owner to let them know you hit their vessel definitely qualifies as one. Calling your sweet-as-pie client who will undoubtedly never ask for your services again now and saying “Yes ma’am, this is the captain you hired and you have some insurance claims coming your way.” is up there as well. You can take your pick as to which you’d rather have to deal with but let me tell you that neither one is any fun.

What I found interesting though was that within hours two other delivery skippers had pulled me aside, and looking around to make sure no one was listening, told me of the accidents they’ve had, as recent as a couple in the last month. It’s the kind of thing that you’ll never hear from a potential captain and they’re certainly not going to give you that phone number for a reference. One guy simply said, “.. the only guys not having problems are the ones who never leave the dock…”.  I don’t think there’s any excuse for maritime collisions in general and I’m certainly not offering any here for myself, rather my intent is to hopefully let current and would-be captains know that yes, you will screw up. It’s why commercial drivers and higher mileage drivers pay more for insurance: you’re just doing it more often so the risk goes up accordingly despite your skillset.

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Although it was a rather small incident in the grand scheme of things and perhaps not the “crucible of humiliation”, a Biblical quote kept popping up in my head of: For in fire gold is tested, and worthy men in the crucible of humiliation.

When things go well, it’s easy to walk around with your head held high and have a sense of dignity and integrity. Having that sense of inner fortitude when you’re explaining your failures publicly and in writing is a whole different ballgame and one that has really made me take stock.

When there are problems, especially when they are of your own making, that is when it is most important to maintain your poise and confidence. Conducting oneself with honest integrity while under fire via a maritime accident is not a lesson I would like to repeat but it is one that I believe I have met properly.

Now if only I had gotten that departure right I could have skipped the lesson entirely.

Sunday
May292011

what i bring on a yacht delivery 

If you find yourself needing to move a boat from A to B, hopefully this video will be of some use to you when outfitting your kit.

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