Trip on Shropshire Lady II starting 2013-11-01 in BSANov13

Training trip 1st - 3rd November – report by skipper Jeff Birkin

Boat: Bavaria 350 ‘Shropshire Lady ll

Teaching a crew, in this case, Brian Adams, Dougal Matthews, Jerzy Wieczorek, Jade Barnes and Bill Barnes to manoeuvre a yacht under power requires four elements:

1) A decent boat, in this case Shropshire Lady 2 at Mercury MarinaMap

2) A marina willing to let you practise

3) 100% effort from all on board in addition to trusting what they are being told when, at times, it seems very counter intuitive

4) Good weather conditions. The latter is essential to reduce the likelihood of simple mistakes becoming expensive ones. Therefore, it was with considerable trepidation that I approached this weekend with the strong wind forecasts, worsening as the Friday approached.

After inventory check, handover, safety briefing and a cup of tea, I obtained the consent of marina management and began exercises during darkness in the relative calm before the expected

Saturday storm. All were introduced to the handling characteristics of the boat and practiced tight turns, approaches to pontoons and reversing. After performing extremely well, we finally quit just after 10:30 and returned to the berth. Bill and Jade treated us to a wonderful lamb curry helped down with

a few glasses of wine.

Saturday morning’s gentle winds strengthened considerably by the time we cast off, in sunshine, around 10:30 and began with a series of controlling manoeuvre practices, in very blustery conditions and always over 20 knots. This culminated with all making a successful 70 degree approach and touch on a Hamble River pontoon with now, extremely strong winds blowing the boat off. One managed a perfect approach, stop and gentle squeeze of the mid ships fender, despite a 32 knot gust less than a boat length from the pontoon. We stopped for lunch just as the only major downpour of the day arrived and subsequently obliged by leaving us 45 minutes later. Again, in sunshine and high winds but now with a strong ebb tide, we practiced ferry-gliding approaches to a nearby pontoon before finally sailing off to Ocean Village, Southampton. Although the winds in the main channel were consistently over 30 knots with occasional gusts of 50 knots, it was a pleasant sail on 1/3 Genoa.

Arriving inside the marina did not offer the expected levels of shelter with 20-34 knot gusts, limited room for mistakes and expensive yachts moored near our berth. My stress levels were already quite high so I decided to bring us alongside myself. We then discussed the use of mooring lines before we doubled them all ready for the further stormy conditions predicted for the evening. Later, after chatting about several points including engine checks, we emptied a few more bottles before heading to Steak and Spice on Canute Road, for an enjoyable meal.

Sunday morning saw an extensive discussion between the crew as to how to leave the berth given the strong gusting winds at 90 degrees to the boat threatening to blow us onto the adjacent gin palace. The winner of the draw then took us out of the marina without drama or incident before we sailed back to the Hamble in identical conditions to the previous day. Just to be clear, I had every faith that all the crew would have made the same safe manoeuvre, hence the draw.

After a substantial brunch (thanks Brian) each practised parking and leaving the boat’s permanent berth both forwards and reversing. This required sufficient competence to account for the strong tidal stream across the fairway, gusting winds during approach and limited space due to the adjacent vessels. Everyone succeeded brilliantly with little or no input from me and my roving fender.

Because this was such an unusual trip, I asked the crew to give me a few words about what they

got from the weekend. Here are some edited comments:

A trip with a difference, Learnt a lot, sorting out confusion between prop wash and prop kick; practicing ever more adventurous approaches to pontoons, in the face of ever increasing wind and tide. We had some really good theory sessions too.

More practice than in a year of club cruising. We acquired confidence in routine manoeuvres and practiced judging when weather dictated something special. Lessons were learned that should save some expensive and embarrassing future incidents.

We have never been able to spend as much time on the wheel as we achieved. There is no substitute for hands on experience, tutoring and time. My confidence has been increased 1000%.

Learnt an awful lot in a very short space of time and feel much more confident in slow speed and close quarter manoeuvres – also much happier with how to rig spring lines fender etc for coming alongside and securing the boat in the berth. I'm keen to put what I've learnt into more practice. I'm sure there's still a lot to learn.

Thanks to all the crew for giving 100% effort and trusting my instruction. Also, special thanks to Bill and Jade for the curry in addition to provisioning for the weekend.

Mercury Marina  50.8707,-1.3103