First sail of the year 2010

The forecast was 3 to 4, North / North-west. Great for sailing in Pevensey Bay. Except I don’t think we got more than f2.

My wife isn’t always available to sail with me, and friends sometimes have other commitments, so finding crew isn’t always easy. So I’ve been wanting to give single-handing a try for a while, but didn’t want to attempt it with another pair of hands just-in-case. So today I took my wife and she agreed to do nothing while I tried to single-hand.

There are some places where single-handing is easier, and some where it’s harder. The floating mooring we had at Fambridge would have been great, boat hangs to the tide, untie and off you go. Coming back, with minimal way on, up-tide, I don’t think it would have been too hard to pick up the mooring. But we’re in a marina, and as Kooshty doesn’t go backwards with much control (long keel), so we berth forwards. Getting off the pontoon was easy, the wind was just pushing us on so I untied and stepped aboard, prop-walk astern carried us out into the fairway facing the right way. My first real trial was tying up in the lock, but I managed that – though wouldn’t fancy doing it in a full lock. After that we had a lovely gently mosey around Pevensey Bay.

Coming back in I managed to get along-side in the lock again – it was going OK, then went all wrong but I managed to recover and got tied up without any embarrassment. Out of the lock and to our berth. I was taking it very easy, very slowly. We’re on the left of a finger, on the right of the fairway which means that when turning into the berth the boat has a tendency to drift off the finger pontoon. My intention was to nose in and then reverse, prop-walk and stern-way then carrying us down the fairway a little so that I could approach from the other direction so that when turning into the berth any sideways drift would be onto the pontoon not away from it. All was going well, nose in, astern, slowly back out and down the fairway. This is where it all went horribly wrong.

I pushed the throttle lever (single morse control) forward from neutral and waited for the prop to grip and stop our sternway… Nothing happened. I gave a bit more throttle, still nothing, uh-oh what’s this, we’re going faster backwards. Both gears I had were reverse! By now the bow was coming across the fairway and I was worried about swiping boats with my bow. I asked my wife to go forward to fend off. Luckily I didn’t hit anything, but by the time my wife got to the bow we were heading backwards, away from the boats I was worried about, and now into an open berth (fortunately between two finger pontoons with no boat on either). I called my wife back and asked her to try and fend off at the rear (I was still trying to steer and find a forward gear) but we had too much way on, we struck the pontoon, I have no idea how fast, it just felt too fast.

Thankfully we didn’t hit any other boat. The only damage I have been able to see on our boat is minor – luckily we hit square-on and our stern is straight and flat, the force was taken across the entire stern and not just a corner. I have yet to check inside the stern-lockers for anything not showing from the outside, but I will do next time I’m at the boat – I was a bit shaken up at the end of the incident and wasn’t able to think clearly enough to check at the time.

That our first time out this year ended so badly does depress me a bit. I’m not sure I’ve fully thought through the situation yet, and don’t know if I’d do anything different if it happened again. I suppose I need to look at the gear box and see whether, if the problem happens again, trying forward gear again and again is likely to cause it to ever engage, if not then it’s obvious, I just fend off until we stop – we’re unlikely to have much way on so hopefully we wouldn’t go far.