Short stories from the Slipway - 1

As a cruising sailor the risks of being at sea have been drummed into me and I hope I pay due attention most of the time and at the least minimise risks. Similarly as a car driver I know that the vast majority of car accidents occur at a relatively low speed, 30mph and within 25 miles of home, whether leaving or arriving. So I should have known that my problems would most likely occur close to my mooring and before I had fully hoisted sail and was gently slipping through the waves half way across Weymouth Bay with a smile on my face. It was on a Thursday afternoon that I persuaded Peter, an experienced Squibb racer, to join me on my newly acquired sailing boat for a race around the buoys. I had temporarily moored my boat, Dulcibella, on a Council pontoon in the inner harbour whilst the new WSC pontoons were installed and my mooring, equipped with rod buoys and a floating line, got ready. Along with my boat was an Avon Redcrest and this, being quite heavy, needed to be left on my mooring whilst we ‘raced’ and also to enable us to get ashore once we had moored Dulcibella back on her new mooring. We slipped the Avon into the water off the Council pontoon, tied the painter so that the dinghy would not hinder us and manoeuvred out of the rather tight mooring I had been allocated. Sliding under Weymouth lifting bridge we proceeded downstream before turning to starboard and very gently motoring up between the bank and the club fore and aft moorings to S3, my allocated spot. New boat, new crew, new problem. As we eased upstream we gave way to a small tender being rowed across our bow. ‘Mind you don’t foul the mooring lines with your prop’ they shouted with some chuckling. Peter and I chuckled back as we eased cautiously onto my mooring picking up one of the rod buoys. With Peter hanging onto the mooring line we held position as I proceeded to tie the dinghy painter to the rod buoy. ‘Ok all tied off, let go Peter’ I shouted and engaged the prop. All of a sudden the engine stopped. I quickly hit the OFF button. This was not good news! I shouted at Peter to make fast at the bow. Surely not. Not first time. Well I was right and wrong. Twas not the mooring lines but the dinghy painter! As I leant over I realised that the mooring lines were intact but in my focus on the new mooring and the myriad of lines around us, I had forgotten that I had used a long painter getting out of the Council mooring. Whilst I had shortened up before mooring I had left a long bight dangling enticingly for the prop to eat. The line was immovable despite my earnest efforts lying flat in the dinghy with arms and shoulder submerged. My first race was a DNS! A few days later with the generous help of Mike the line was cut and the only damage was my self esteem. Lesson learnt: If it can dangle it will; check and check again before engaging prop.

Submitted on 27th July 2021