Select Page

Effective crew briefings are a vital part of the good on-board communication that helps everything to run smoothly on a sailing vessel at sea, whether it is cruising or racing.

Involving everyone on board, including children, with sailing a boat will make the experience more satisfying for all and will also maximise the chances of remaining a motivated team if conditions start to get tough. This process starts with a safety briefing before departure, which is especially important for crew who have not sailed on the vessel before.

When underway it is also important to get into the habit of briefing everyone before each manoeuvre takes place. When hoisting the mainsail, if everything goes perfectly it may feel as though it’s easier to just get on with doing it yourself, however, it only takes a few moments to talk though the procedure first:

“Jo will take the sail ties off, working forwards from the back of the boom, and then stand at the mast ready to bump the halyard up. Once she’s there we will slow down, I’ll let off the mainsheet and Claire will turn the boat to point into the wind. When I give the signal, Jo will start hauling the sail up and Pete will tail the halyard at the companionway.”

This simple explanation gives even those with minimal sailing experience a clear vision of what’s going to happen and what their role will be. At the same time, you’re free to keep an eye open to spot any problems at an early stage.

Preparation and planning

Preparation and planning are key elements of effective skippering that help to identify potential hazards and reduce the time you will need to spend on navigation and pilotage. Time spent below with your head in the chart, pilot book or tide tables is time that you’re not in tune with what’s happening on deck, so as part of your planning make sure you have all the information you might need at your fingertips.

Even for a short day sail returning to initial home port you should have a clear understanding of the weather and tidal patterns for the day, as well as knowledge of any local regulations that may be in place. On a longer passage it’s also important to have a plan B that you can execute in the event that the it doesn’t go according to expectations. This plan should include ports of refuge accessible from your expected route.

Don’t let events overtake you

Relaxed skippers think ahead and are prepared for a wide range of eventualities. However, there may still be times at which things start to happen too fast, with a risk that events will overtake the rate at which the skipper can cope with them.

A common example of this is a tricky pilotage situation, potentially at night, when it’s critical to recognise times at which the boat is travelling faster than you can navigate. The obvious solution, slowing down, often does not come to mind in such situations, but reducing speed from say 5 knots to 4 knots gives a lot more thinking time than the 20 per cent difference in speed suggests. There may even be occasions in which it’s helpful to stop for a short while – so that you can catch up with events and get ahead.

A variety of strategies to buy additional time when necessary is therefore one of the most useful elements in a skipper’s armoury. Heaving to, furling (or partially furling) the headsail, and stemming the tide are prime examples.

All the above is not to say that good skippers don’t enjoy a stint on the helm, taking part in deck work when in open water or, for instance, preparing a meal under way, but it’s important to recognise that these tasks are secondary to their skippering role. However, if you’re sailing short handed, maybe with only one other crew member, then it is likely that all tasks will be shared equally, even if important decision making affecting the safety of the vessel and crew will always remain the responsibility of the skipper.

Electric motors and hybrid systems

In recent years there have been considerable advances with the development of electrically powered propulsion in the leisure marine sector. This includes developments with inboard and outboard electric motors, hybrid systems, lithium-ion battery technology as well as solar, wind and hydro powered generators.

Repairing chips and dings in gelcoat

The gelcoat topsides of a GRP boat can be pampered and restored to their former glory relatively easily when it is ashore. Gelcoat is only a very thin outer layer of the hull, often less than 1mm thick, so you should avoid cleaning it with highly abrasive cleaners, or an-ything that could potentially damage its surface.

Nautical paper charts – a reminder of the basics

The nautical chart is an indispensable tool for navigation. A chart is a graphic representation of an area of the sea which might also include coastlines, estuaries and islands. All cruising leisure boats should carry up-to-date paper charts.

Dripless shaft seals

Dripless shaft seals are designed to completely stop water from entering a boat’s hull via the stern tube. There are two main types of dripless seals known as face seals and lip seals which many boat manufacturers now fit to production boats.

The Boatyard Book – a boat owner’s guide to yacht maintenance, repair and refitting

The Boatyard Book is a fully illustrated 224 page practical reference manual that provides advice for boat owners on planning and carrying out annual maintenance, repairs, upgrades and refits of sailing yachts and motorboats, up to 20 metres in length.

Rudders and steering systems – Part 1

Rudders and steering systems. A rudder is one of the most critical parts of a boat. Rudder failure is a common occurrence on neglected or overworked boats and a very unpleasant and potentially dangerous thing to happen when you are out at sea.

Wooden Hull Repairs

While wooden boat hull maintenance is mostly straightforward, it is always a good idea to take expert advice on any repair job needed doing to a wooden boat, unless you have done the job before and know what you are doing.

Steel and Aluminium Hulls

The two metals used for hull construction are steel and aluminium. These are both very strong materials and will last a long time as long as they are cared for, which primarily means protecting steel boats from rust and aluminium boats from electrolytic action.

Antifouling for leisure boats – Part 3

Antifouling is one of the least pleasant boat maintenance jobs to do, but it has to be done. The very worst job of all is removing the old antifouling as this can get seriously messy and is very hard work.

Marine diesel exhaust checks

You should inspect the exhaust system for corrosion damage regularly, especially around the injection bend. If you have noticed the engine exhaust smoking a lot during the sailing season this can also indicate a number of potential problems.

Understanding your mast and rigging

The rig of a sailing boat is put under huge stresses and strains so it is important for inspections of a yacht's spars and rigging to be...

Safety Equipment Checklist for Boats

Safety Equipment Checklist for Boats   Liferaft line attached The liferaft will not work unless the trigger line is...

Avoiding collisions at sea – how to stay safe on the water

Boats have many blind spots, including the headsails of sailing boats. Always keep a lookout, stay safe and remember that...

Essential boat engine checklist

Boat engine checklist Engine oil level check Even if you have checked it previously, confirming the engine oil level is up...

How to Avoid Collisions At Sea With The ColRegs

      Every Skipper Needs Accurate Knowledge of the IRPCS ColRegs As a responsible skipper it is every skipper’s duty to learn and apply the IRPCS...

Boat Handling – anchoring

Anchoring your yacht or motorboat Anchoring is one of the most important boat handling skills. If you can set an anchor...

Sailing Boat Rig Care

The rig of a sailing boat is put under huge stresses and strains so it is important for inspections of a yacht’s spars and rigging to be carried out at regular intervals.

Understanding boat engines

Irrespective of what kind of engine a boat is equipped with and who does the work, the regular care and maintenance of a marine engine is essential. The most common cause of marine engine failure is widely known to be lack of maintenance.

Sterndrive maintenance

Sterndrives are a popular form of propulsion in the powerboat market, but require a fair amount of care and maintenance. The main factors to be aware of are salt water corrosion, lubrication and regular inspection of the bellows, the condition of which is vital to prevent water from entering into the hull.

Winch Servicing

It is not essential to service the winches when a boat is ashore, but if time allows I prefer to do this maintenance job when the boat...

Boat electrics

All boat owners should have a basic knowledge of electrics, both to avoid encountering electrical problems at sea and to stand a chance of solving them should they occur.

Always have an emergency grab bag to hand when at sea…

  Grab bag: In the event of having to abandon ship, it is recommended to have a designated waterproof bag to carry...

Boat electrics inspection checklist

With the boat ashore, here are some recommendations for carrying out a boat owner electrics inspection. Safety is always paramount so remember to do the checks with the batteries off. Wearing a head torch helps, make notes as you go and only tackle a repair if you are 100% sure you know what you are doing:

Hull inspection – the annual checks

With the boat ashore for the winter it is time to do a hull inspection - the annual checks. Are there any scratches and chips in the...

Weather forecasting tips

Most weather forecasts present a general picture of what to expect in your area over a given period of time. We rely on such...