Round The Island Race

This weekend is the annual Round The Island Race – oh deep joy.
For those unaware of this fine tradition, The annual Round the Island Race is a one-day yacht race around the Isle of Wight. The race regularly attracts over 1,600 boats and around 16,000 sailors. This makes it one of the largest yacht races in the world and the fourth largest participation sporting event in the UK after the London Marathon, the Great North and South Runs.
It is open to any yacht.
If  you ignore all the sooper dooper teflon coated carbon fibre professional yachts crewed with lithe athletic young men, you are left with any grizzled amateur sailor who owns a boat. If it has sails, is water tight and the skipper knows where the IOW is, it can race.
MOBOer’s are excluded!!!

Weather

The weather  for RTI race usually is an extreme of either end  of the Beaufort scale. It’s either blowing an 11 force hooley or blowing nothing, zilch, bugger all.
2012 saw an horrendous start to the race. The wind was around a force 10 and the start line was too narrow. This caused many yachts to crash into each other. Yachts limped back into marinas missing complete masts and rigging and holes in hulls caused by “T boning” It was a miracle that no one was killed.
In 2014  it was the total opposite. 1500 boats made it to the south side of the island when the wind suddenly just died. They took five  hours from the Needles to reach St Catherine’s Point when a sea breeze kicked in. However, just as they were within sight of the line, the wind in Stokes Bay died and their final flourish was delayed by a further hour to record a finish time of 8 hours and 51 mins.

Basic Rules

Get to the start line at about 4 am, haul up as much canvas as possible and once the gun goes. sail like the clappers towards the Needles. Then turn left along the south side of the island up past Bembridge and back to Cowes. Depending on the wind the professionals can do it in about 2hrs 30mins.
And that seems to be the only rule! Crashing into each other is obligatory, loosing parts of the boat is de rigueur and MOB is all par for the course. Normally it’s total chaos and utter madness.
For us  MOBOer’s left at home,  it means the following

Pre Race Friday

  • The annual ritual of watching yacht crews trying in vain to get the large self adhesive black race stickers to stick to their hull in a stiff breeze.
  • Listening to skippers briefing their crew in loud braying voices. Crew not taking any notice.
  • Being without marina WIFI. It has ground to a halt because 1600 boats are trying to download weather updates every 10 minutes.
  • Eating onboard as  there is no room in any restaurant. Crews need to fill up on pre race carbohydrates and copious amount of alcohol.

Race Saturday

  • Lots of noise at 3 am as the yotties get up to fry bacon and clamber into foulies
  • Lots of noise at 3.30am as yachts start their phut phut engines and leave for the start line
  • 4am – Silence
  • Empty marinas for most of the Saturday
  • Deserted restaurants
  • Spectator fun as the boats return mid afternoon missing bits of masts, holes in sides, torn sails and injured crew.
  • There is no point going out, the Solent is awash with yachts tacking hither and thither all over the place.
  • Its a complete waste of time to call Solent Coast Guard for a radio check. They are far too busy dealing with MOB’s and don’t even think about getting any help from the RNLI because they too are up to their gunnels dealing with sinking vessels.

Moral of this story…ditch the canvas and get a boat with 2 huge diesel guzzling engines and watch the race quietly bobbing at anchor!
 

Fender Kicking

Fender kicking is to boat buying what tyre kicking is to car buying. A pointless, souless, time consuming waste of a day.
Perhaps it’s pier pressure (a little marine humour there) that causes otherwise sane people to immediately start planning the purchase of a larger boat the same day they take delivery of their new one.
All it takes is for some so-called friend to float by in a boat that’s 6 feet longer and 5 knots faster saying, “Do you want to come out with us”?
You give it a try and the next thing you know, you’re visiting boat brokers, saving searches on Google, scouring eBay, Gumtree, every online boat site and putting your 3 week old boat on BoatShed.
Tragically, you’re hooked. Another classic example of the need for a Just Say No campaign on our nation’s coast and waterways.
Sadly we have just fallen into this trap. I am not going to bore you just suffice to say we have seen what we want if the right boat in the right condition came onto the market. And that’s the crux, the meaning of  “The right condition”.
My idea of tidy and well maintained obviously is no way close to someone else’s. Believe me have we seen some horrors. so I am going to impart some advice and my interpretation of some common broker terms

Mechanical- 3 levels

  1. Well maintained. Full service history is available, everything works first time, every time. Can eat your dinner off the engine bay floor
  2. Needs a service. Clouds of billowing diesel smoke on starting the engine. A bit of a rattle.
  3. Not been used for a long time.  – Seized gears, no oil, nasty sound from something expensive IF you can get the bugger to start, engine bay full of gunge. Smell of something over heating and burning. Walk away.

Tired – 4 levels

  1. Lowest level of neglect. A bucket of hot soapy water and some elbow grease normally resolves this problem
  2. Medium neglect. Add to above  a steam cleaner, carpet cleaner, industrial strength heads cleaner and bucket of bleach.
  3. High neglect. All of above applies plus new upholstery and foam, new carpet and new headlining. Outside needs a steam clean and some serious polishing.
  4. OMG – Walk away!! Full hazard suit required and  wipe your feet on the way out. The best way to deal with this is 2 gallons of unleaded and a box of Swan Vestas. Light blue touch paper and stand well back

Finally….Check all the fridges. I am  amazed at the amount of people selling a boat who leave the fridge full. I have opened fridges to be recoiled from the odour of milk turned to yogurt and an unidentifiable piece of food that is growing more mould that medical science could create a new antibiotic out of it.

VHF Radio Bloopers

So come on… own up….
Who gets a bit flustered while communicating on the VHF Radio?
Getting your “overs”and”outs” mixed up, forgetting where you are, what boat you are on. We all do it.
We recently changed our boat and I had to make a conscious effort not to keep calling out the old boats name. However some people just get it plain wrong.
A recent example in the Solent one busy Saturday went like this….

  • “Hamble Point Marina, this is yacht Numbnuts” (clear lack of confidence in the voice….)
  • “Yacht Numbnuts, this is Hamble Point Marina, can I help you.. ?”
  • “Yes please…… over”

At which point you could imagine the person going ….. why on earth did I say that… you idiot… you idiot…?
The good folk at Solent Coast Guard must have the patience of saints considering some of the radio traffic I have heard. Not a week goes by at the height of the summer without some idiot jamming the PTT button open and flooding the emergency channel 16  with blaring music or broadcasting to the world a serious domestic row.
We have all heard  Fifi  Double-Barrelled posh totty  discussing last nights hilarious drunken antics in Cowes – OK Yaaaar, Super, Frightfully good wheeze.
Just move to a working channel and keep it short.
Then there are the foreign skippers whose command of English leave a lot to be desired and need some serious translation.

Roger and Out

On the RYA Radio course we are all taught correct radio technique but sometimes you just want to throw some of it out of the window.
The times I have itched to call out “Breaker Breaker Rubber Duck, we have a convoy and there’s a bear at your back door”
On a recent trip across the Channel when the only boat is sight was the boat we were in convoy with we did exactly that. Instead of the normal
SEAWICK – SEAWICK – SEAWICK, this is JESSICA – JESSICA – JESSICA. It was more of the case of
“Oi SEAWICK – you got your ears on?!!”
Other things we are taught is never to say “Over and Out” in the same sentence. “Over” means you want a response  and “Out” means you have finished. But please can we bring back the word ROGER….. meaning to “I understand”
Whats wrong with a ROGER – saves time and conveys everything needed???? You chose which answer makes more sense.
Boat Numpty this is Hythe Lock you are now free to enter –
Answer 1.
ROGER!
Answer 2.
Hythe Lock -Hythe Lock -Hythe Lock, this is Boat Numpty -Boat Numpty- Boat Numpty,  all received and understood, Boat Numpty listening channel eight zero out.
No contest really.
In the previously used US spelling alphabet,”Roger” was phonetic for “R” meaning received and understood.  In the current spelling alphabet (NATO), R is Romeo.
Now if you want to yell out “ROMEO” to the burly ex-submariner lock keeper at Hythe Marina , you go right ahead, at your own risk. I wash my hands of all responsibility from any following consequences.
Finally……
“Roger Wilko” is never ever used, we are sailing a boat not flying a Spitfire.
Chocks away Ginger

Slip Slop Slapper

I am a slip slop slapper! Let me explain.

Sunburn is an occupational hazard for all sailors. Every year I manage to get my forehead sunburnt. The combination of salt water, sun and wind is corrosive at the best of times. Completely ruinous to our pale European complexions . I know better but always seem to forget that even early on in the season, Factor 200 must be worn at all times.

I sometimes think it’s amazing how quickly culture, science and attitudes evolve. If I look back on my 50 something years on Earth, times have certainly changed.One thing that I think has radically been rethought are the advances and attitudes towards sun protection. Things have certainly come a long way since I was a child.

I have to say Mum was very due diligent with the ample slatherings of Ambre Solaire. I was marinated in more grease than a basted Christmas turkey and smelt like a walking Bounty Bar. Half the sand from the beach was normally rubbed in too. At the age of 5 I had no idea exfoliation would soon catch on as a must have beauty treatment. At the time it was just bloody painful.

As a teenager, like a lot of girls of my era, I had to have a tan, and this was before the advent of TOWIE. I shudder when I think of this but my choice of sun protection was either  Johnsons Baby oil, or Mazola. Another trick was to cover a  piece of cardboard  in silver foil and reflect the sun back on to my face!  Believe me if I thought it was going to make me brown, I have used it.

Can you imagine teenagers doing this now?  Because I certainly can’t.So I thought I would look at the different types of sunburn to be avoid.

The ‘Not The Face!’ Burn

This is where you have diligently put on a beanie and sunnies, but forgot about the rest of your body.  Maybe you wanted a body tan without the ageing qualities of face wrinkles. However the pain will definitely outweigh your choice to wear a hat in the first place.

The ‘I was only outside for 10 minutes’ Burn

You might be just been going down the river, or stepping ashore for lunch. You’re not even in a swimsuit, and yet your face and shoulders have the tinge  of lobster thermidor.  You should really be wearing an SPF in your daily moisturising to avoid situations like this. Men take note. That includes that bald spot.

The ‘I Actually Wanted a Tan So I Did This on Purpose’ Burn

The classic error of most Benidorm bound Brits. They have yet to learn that the sun is their enemy. So they go out with their coconut oil and deliberately lie out in the full sun for hours, rotating at intervals to get an even fry. When they return to their  hotel rooms they realise that instead of the even brown copper tone they were going for, they have the texture and sheen of a hot peeled tomato.

The ‘Invisible Flipflop’ Burn

Who puts suncream on their feet? Nobody has the flexibility or foresight to do that. I fall into this catagory. I permanently have flip flop seared branded feet.

The ‘I wore a fancy strappy vesty thing’ Burn

This burn is like the invisible flip flop burn except all over your upper body. Instead of thinking you look like a beach fashion babe, you have in fact a burn similar to a semi-permanent neck tattoo. A choice that seemed cool at the time but will show up very badly on a classy evening in the yacht club bar.

The ‘I tried’ Burn

This is the burn where you’ve clearly made some effort to apply suncream, but have missed spots. Streaks or patches appear because you have slapped it on in a hurry as an afterthought. . The patchy coverage leaves piebald proof that suncream is indeed effective if you actually put it on evenly.

The Australian “Slip, Slop, Slap campaign is drummed in to Aussie kids from a very early age and with good reason, Sun induced skin cancer in Australia kills over 2,000 each year and its on the rise in Western Europe too
So…..Slip on a shirt, Slop on the sunscreen and become a Slapper with a hat.

Mutiny

Roger  is the skipper of our  boat which makes me the crew. There are a lot of important tasks and duties that the crew needs to be able to carry out effectively and one of them is to mutiny.

This is an extremely important skill that every sailor needs to know how to do. We’ve all been in those situations where the skipper is being really crabby and getting on your nerves.

The times when the skipper is way too concerned with your inability to tie “bunny knots” and  keeps telling you they are called “bowline knots” not “bunny knots”.   Then he gets really cranky when he can’t untie your “Susie Special” knots which you use instead of the “bunny knots” because they’re much easier to tie but not so easy to untie.

Then there are the days when the skipper gets really pissed off because you forget (again as he likes to point out) to untie the fenders from the boat while we are leaving our moorings and they fall into the water. And it is really his fault because he complained that your “Susie Special” knots couldn’t be untied so you tie the fenders on with knots that do come untied easily. You just can’t win!

Or those days when he asks you to bring him a beer but the boat is all tippy on moving water  so you bang your legs against everything and you get some really giant and very unattractive bruises everywhere.
These are the sort of  days when being able to effectively mutiny really comes in handy. Up until now, I’ve held off with the whole mutiny thing because I didn’t learn it on my RYA  course. It seems like a really important skill. The instructor obviously ran out of time otherwise I’m sure it would have been covered.

But this is all going to change. It is important to keep learning new things when it comes to boating, so I’ve been studying up on the whole mutiny thing. This is what I’ve learned and I am going to share with you because I imagine your skipper really gets on your tits sometimes too.

First make sure you know what the correct definition of “mutiny” is. Some people mistakenly think it is a “conspiracy” or “rebellion” against a superior officer to overthrow them. It isn’t.

It is a way to teach your skipper a lesson not to be a knob to the crew.
Besides your skipper isn’t really superior. A smart crew just lets him think he is so that he feels important and does all the hard jobs like hoist the anchor.

How To Mutiny

  1. The tried and true method is pushing your skipper overboard and then motoring away as fast as you can. Make sure your skipper can swim first. Otherwise, it is just plain mean.
  2.  When the skipper is in the dinghy and waiting for you to get in, you can just untie the tender (assuming it isn’t tied on with an “Susie Special” knot) and let him drift away.
  3. Get some help. It is much easier to mutiny if you have some co-conspirators. I’m the only crew member on our boat and I think it would be much easier to mutiny if I had some help.
  4. Get one person to lure the skipper into a false sense of security and one person to helm the boat in order to make a speedy get away. If you want to help, just lurk around on L pontoon at Universal Marina down towards the bottom end. That’s where we keep our boat. I’ll distract Roger and you can hide down below when he isn’t looking. Then we can “surprise” him. It will be fun.
  5. Make up a story to tell your skipper’s friends  when they call looking for him. It is important to be prepared with a convincing story otherwise they might become suspicious and call the police. I’m going to go with something along the lines of: “He is in the shower and says to take a message.”
  6. Watch some inspirational movies about successful mutinies. “Mutiny on the Bounty” springs to mind.
  7. Take notes and photos during the mutiny. You do have a blog to update and it is important to document these things.

Re-read steps 1  and 2. Do not take notes or photos and do not update your blog. Otherwise, they might use this as evidence to hold you without bail.

Bunnie Knots

If you are all wondering why I call bowline knots “bunnie knots” its because its the only way I can remember on how to tie one.

First a loop is made near the end of the rope, which will act as the rabbit’s hole. Then the “rabbit” comes up the hole, goes round the tree right to left, then back down the hole. This can be taught to children with the rhyme: “Up through the rabbit hole, round the big tree; down through the rabbit hole and off goes he

Bunnie Knots!

Basic Boat Maintenance

Boat maintenance is  a difficult area that can be approached in one of two ways. Do it yourself, or find a decent therefore a horrendously expensive marine engineer.
Sometimes, maintaining items can cause problems. Sometimes what the eye doesn’t see is best left alone is the best philosophy.

Bilges

Bilges are nasty. They are the bits that exist under the floor boards. Anything that gets spilled or wet on board, such as champagne, gin or wine, will eventually find itself making its way to the lowest part of the boat, where an electric pump will disgorge the offending liquids into the sea via a one way valve in the side. That is the theory. One of the most annoying aspects of boating is the inability to trace the source of accumulating liquids in the bilge.

Diagnosing the cause can take logic and skill… Have you struck a rock and is there a hole in the bottom? Fishes swimming in the saloon are a clue.
Have you overloaded the boat with crates of fine wines and she is sailing low in the water? If so, inflating the tender and transferring some of the offending crates may well be action enough to solve the problem. Drinking the wine will invariably be too little too late.

So this is the procedure to follow if you fail  to diagnose the problem:

  • Take to life raft and enjoy the Chateauneuf de pape 1928.
  • Put out the obligatory Mayday call.
  • Ask that the Lifesaving services take their time, a good vintage wine should not be rushed
  • A further suggestion that the rescue helicopter approaches carefully to avoid a sediment raising in the rotor downwash will ensure your wine stays perfect.

Engines

Yotties sneer at engines. The comment at the club bar that yours is a 12 cylinder, 84 valve, twin cam, 2000 horse power  diesel  engine, powered by bio-green recycled McDonald chip oil, will invariably receive a look of disdain from the moustachioed Terry Thomas lookalike perched next to you at the bar.

Sarcastic remarks such as: ‘Drake never needed an engine”, “Nelson beat the Frogs without an engine”, they were real sailors they were” and “mines a triple Bombay Sapphire”, will wing it in your direction. In one sense he is right….when they stop unexpectedly they can be expensive, and a right pain. Motoring across the path of a rapidly approaching super tanker off Southampton Water when all goes silent is a a scary experience in its own right.
There are several options, only one correct.

  • Put out your fenders
  • Inflate the tender, attach the outboard, and call Sea Start on the mobile.
  • Cover your ears with your hands and sing laa laaaa laaaaaa laaaaaaa at the top of your voice

The solution is plain. Place your hands over your ears and sing VERY loudly. This will drown out the 1000 decibel horn the tanker is now blowing frantically  and will protect you from hearing your expensive, and precious boat smash to smithereens when 100,000 tonnes hits it.
So it  is worth spending time and money on engine maintenance.

Engine Vitals

Firstly locate where the engine is, not always as straight forward as it sounds. Normally buried under abandoned deck chairs, oily rags and discarded antifreeze containers in a dark and dank hole in the floor. Always make sure that you have enough fuel on board. Years of experience has shown that fuel is vital for the reliable running of engines. Finally oil. All engines require oil. With these basics in mind, there should never be problems with the engine.

Anodes

For those not familiar with the term “sacrificial anodes” they are large lumps of zinc designed to fizz away to bugger all. No young lambs being slaughtered on a high alter in sight. The truth is  the  only thing  sacrificed is your bank account.
Why pay £80 for 5 lumps of metal I hear you ask especially if you happy for them to dissolve into thin air, Well salt water is corrosive. It loves nothing more than to try and eat your expensive underwater engine bits. The idea is that salt water attacks the anodes instead of destroying your more prized prop, trim tabs, engine legs and shafts. Therefore are high on any maintenance list.

Light Bulbs

Often over looked, one of the most basic items that will need maintaining are light bulbs.Its a fiddly job as boat bulbs tend to be finger-nail sized, with two lethal prongs at the base.
The dangers in the changing them are many. Firstly, on finding that a bulb has failed, the question is, are there many more providing enough light that the changing of the failed bulb can be delayed. They are usually located in hard to reach places that require half the boat dismantling to get to them.  An attempt will require hacking through the bulb cover to reach the failed bulb. I found that a screwdriver and hammer sometimes helps but is rarely successful. After 3 destroyed bulb covers, and holes in the ceiling lining, I twisted the cover, which unscrewed with ease.
Once you have removed a 5 or a 10 watt bulb, do not  be tempted to replace it with a 20-watt bulb.
Not unless you have maintained the smoke alarm and fire extinguisher

Love me Tender………..

Tenders are a necessary part of boating. Occasionally you will find yourself mooring  either on a buoy, a floating pontoon or anchoring in some isolated creek. In each of these instances failure to carry or tow a tender means enforced isolation.

During the busy summer months many marinas operate a water taxi service which can be irregular and expensive.  They are skippered by manic gap year students, wearing designer yachting gear and mirror sunglasses. Driven in the manner of a Parisian taxi driver high on E’s in a very battered boat with more dents than a stock car.

Therefore, tenders are a necessity.

Types of Tenders

Using the tender  with appropriate powerful outboard  requires much greater skill than the handling of the mothership itself. There are several types of dinghy available. All have the ability to provide  an adrenaline rush in excess of a bungee jump.

The simple humble type:- entirely manual and lacking in maintenance needs.  Normally propelled by oars and not an engine. Not popular amongst MOBO’s or the more affluent yottie, but it is unlikely to inadvertently break  the bank  or the harbour speed limit. Quite often made of wood or rigid plastic. Usually found tied up in the dingy park, full of water with a plastic container as a bailer. Owned by Yotties moored mid river.

The most common type:- The Inflatable. These tenders are stored inflated or deflated onboard, or towed behind. During the height of the summer, marinas are full of crew breaking into a  sweat inflating these up with a manual foot pump.

The  Macho dinghy:- Found attached by steel davits on the back of  huge MOBO’s  They rarely take to the water as its too much hassle to winch them on or off.  They boast a proper steering wheel and  the occupants sit astride a central console in the manner of a motor bike.

Guide to launching and engine starting.

Inflate the dinghy using the time honoured method, the foot pump. Get the crew to hold the dinghy aloft whilst you attach a line to the front. You gently kick the base of the dinghy launching it over the side, and walk to the back of the boat where you tie it on.

So far so good.

Dinghy engines are basic, and very heavy. It is suggested  that a typical 4 horse power outboard engine can be carried and fitted onto the back end of the dinghy with minimal effort.

Yeah right, if you happen to be a Bulgarian weight lifter on steroids.

Remember to put in the rigid floor before handing the engine to your crew member. If you don’t, the tender takes the on the attitude of a clam shell trapping said crew member. The crew will attempt to attach the engine without dropping it in or capsizing the tender.

Once the dinghy engine is attached, the engine can be started. This can be a source of amusement.

This involves standing unsteadily in the tender, perspiring and repeatedly pulling  on the starter cord. In the unlikely event that the fuel is switched on, the petrol tank vented, the choke correctly set, and the throttle set to idle, it is possible, just possible,  the engine will start.

Unless of course you own a Macho tender (see above). In which case you will casually throw a leg across your saddle, turn the ignition key, rev up the horses and ride off into the sunset.

Boat Names

Boat names may not seem like an important thing.  And in the greater scheme of things, it probably isn’t.  But, considering the strong feelings many of us have for our boats; the fact that we put so much work, sweat and money into them; the fact they are a big part of our memories of so many good times, with family, with friends; the most of us feel that selecting the right name for our boat is important. So why do so many people get it wrong?

If like us you are a MOBO  many fellow cruisers will only remember you by your boat name, or your first name and your boat name -” Hey, there’s Roger from Jessica!  Oi, Jessica!”

The name you pick for your boat will reflect to others a little about you – about your intellect (or serious lack of it)  and your worldliness (size of bank balance) or your sense of humour (warped or just infantile)

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

One word works best.  Easy and simple over the radio but can be a bit boring. So keep it snappy and use your imagination. You can still have fun with just one word.
Aquaholic,  Seaduction, Dunworkin

Two is  where the imagination can run riot. And we MOBO’s are a past master of it. It’s because we have a sense of humour.  In most cases a  warped sense of humour, granted
Nauti Buoy, Frayed Knot, Sea-Nile, Knot working, Spent It,  Kids Inheritence,
I could go on ad infinitum

Three or more words  are a no no. Unless of course your rear end is big enough to take all the plastic graphics, you enjoy being the butt of all jokes or you are a complete knob. Seriously there is a boat in Gosport marina named “Dont tell the wife”

MAYDAY ,MAYDAY ,MAYDAY  – Don’t tell the wife,  Don’t tell the wife,  Don’t tell the wife.  I rest my case

If you are a catamaran owner please do everybody a big favour and avoid the use of any of these: Cat, Kat, Two, Dual, Meow, Purr. We get it, it’s a cat, and it has two hulls instead of one. Yes, yes, we know that. Move on. You are not being witty in any way shape or form by pointing this out. This would be like naming your baby girl, Gurl.

Yotties – Please for the love of all things holy, forgo the word WIND. Yes, you are a sailboat and we know the wind propels you. so please be more original than Wind Dreamer, Wind Catcher, Wind Song, Wind Ketcher.
Passing Wind more like it, you are so are full of hot air.

Yotties  also have a love for  Greek mythology, Poseidon, Hermes, Aphrodite and the such like. Or they go for something completely unpronounceable in Hawaiian such as Pilialoha [pee lee ah loh’ ha] or  Hinuhinu  [hee’ noo hee’ noo].
Please don’t. One day you may need assistance and whilst your Hawaiian may be fluent, mine is not. Get a life.

Avoid the use of your real names and naming a boat after your wife or child is so ….well naff. Never ever run your names through an anagram solver. Just in case you are interested, an anagram of our names      (Roger-Susan) is ORGAN USERS – honestly. So very sad.

I have to admit we fall into this last category. Our boat JESSICA is named after our grand daughter. Then someone pointed out that as my husband is called Roger it was OK.  Hence the Roger Rabbit and Jessica logo on our rear end.

Saved by a floozy in a red dress!

Following Ferries

Britain’s oceans do not have signposts. The sea looks the same. It may be grey, brown, muddy or blue, but out of sight of land, there is little to go on. Therefore there is a need of navigation aids such as compasses, charts, satellite navigation, buoys and…… following ferries.

Close to shore, there will usually be visual clues to whereabouts you are on planet Earth. The Solent has  the 160-meter-high Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth and the Fawley chimney stack at the bottom of Southampton Water. Both are seen from 20 miles on a clear day and act as a point of reference for the navigationally challenged . Better still, they are lit up like Christmas trees at night.

The novice boater may well find that following ferries is the simplest method of navigation. However, it is a form of navigation that has yet to find its way onto the RYA syllabus.

Remember; You actually never follow a ferry; you simply go to the same place.

 Ferry Following

Ferry following can be a reputation saver when all other forms of navigation have failed. Such as attempting to find a narrow creek  that holds a well-known harbour, like Portsmouth.

Navigating by ferry does have some perils. If its foggy make sure you know which  direction the ferry is travelling. It will come as a  bit of a shock to find yourselves in Cherbourg instead of Fishbourne.  The ferries which operate between Gosport and Portsmouth, covering the 500 yards across the entrance of Portsmouth Harbour provide a reliable means of navigation where accurate arrival can be achieved at either one of these destinations.

Portsmouth Harbour offers some hazards worthy of note. They  relate to the rapid flow of incoming and outgoing shipping. There is also the ever present risk of being raked by machine gun fire if you stray too close  to the Navy Depot.

For those undertaking one of the RYA qualifications, such as Competent Crew or Day Skipper, there will be much mention of charts, dividers and plotters. Additional confusions such as Latitude and Longitude often rear their ugly heads. They are there for one reason only: the implements of navigation look good on a chart table, and multi-digital gobbledygook sounds good on the radio. However no mention of ferry timetables so to help you navigate to your next destination….

Ferries from

  • Southampton go to Cowes and Hythe.
  • Lymington go to Yarmouth,
  • Portsmouth go to Gosport, Fishbourne, Cherbourg, Caen, St Malo, Le Havre, Jersey, Guernsey, Santander and Bilbao.

It is suggested that you do not follow the Hover to Ryde, it can get a bit windy! If you are feeling very adventurous there is always Cruise ship following but that is whole different ball game.

Other Forms of Navigation

In order to aid departures and arrivals, a system of physical objects with unusual shapes has been devised to guide the seafarer. Consequently, the seas are cluttered with different coloured cans, cones, poles, posts and objects. Some of which defy any form of description.

Most are there for navigational purposes and to let the seafarer know which side of the sea he should be driving. Others are there for reasons that yet to be determined. Many are green, red, yellow, black, green with red stripes, red with green stripes, yellow and black, black and yellow. Some have horizontal stripes and some vertical. Then there are the ones that look like mutant trees growing out of the sea bed.

The Beaulieu River boast all manners of red and green trees growing from the river bed. In addition to all this sea debris, lights are  placed along the coast line to aid incoming and outgoing sailors to line up and avoid banging into anything.

Closer in to land, when approaching ports and marinas, green markers on the right and red on the left tell the Skipper where his or her boat needs to be. Quite often the greens and reds are so spread out that nothing short of the Hubble Telescope will do in locating the correct  path.

It is easy to remember. If the green  and red lights are on the same side as your boat navigation lights , you are travelling towards a safe mooring. Reversed and they are mismatched, you are travelling out to sea.

If they are multi-coloured, flashing  and there is loud music… you are following a ferry.

Boating Music.

Warm summers day, waves lapping on the hull, music playing in the background. Bliss.

Music plays a big part of my life. I use to play piano, the radio is on all day in the background and my iTunes contains over 3000 of my favourite tracks. I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s., just as popular music really took off. As a teenager I was a full card carrying member of the heavy rock head banging scene. Deep Purple, Pink Floyd and Meatloaf all featured highly. I then really went downhill and embraced Punk.

I have mellowed  some what since then, you will be glad to hear. Not sure that Black Sabbath or Guns N’ Roses quite tick the box these days
So what I wanted was some truly great songs to boat by. Obviously the theme music to Titanic was asking for trouble, Handel’s Water Music was a little too baroque for my taste,  and Captain Pugwash  – well its my phones ring tone, so that was out. I discounted Gilbert & Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore as too naff and Michael Rowed the Boat Ashore…..well let’s move on.

I decided to enlist a DJ friend (Tim King) of mine to help. He came up with a huge amount of suggestions and below you will find the definitive playlist I have on my iPod.

Susies Boaty Music Playlist

  • Beyond the Sea – Bobby Darin
  • Calypso – Roger Whittaker
  • Come Sail Away – Styx
  • Crusin’ – Smokey Robinson
  • Ferry Cross the Mersey – Gerry & The Pacemakers
  • Harbour Lights – The Platters
  • Hooray Its a holi-holiday – Boney M
  • If I had a Boat – Lyle Lovett
  • In the Navy – Village People
  • Island in the Sun – Harry Belafonte
  • Long Boats – Cat Stevens
  • Messin’ About on the River – Anita Harris
  • Night Boat to Cairo – Madness
  • On the Dock of the Bay – Otis Reading
  • Red Sails in the Sunset – Fats Domino
  • Rock the Boat- Hues Corporation
  • Sail On – The Commodores.
  • Sea Cruise – Frankie Ford
  • Sailing – Christopher Cross
  • Ship to Shore – Chris De Burgh
  • Sailing – Rod Stewart
  • Sink the Bismark – Johnny Horton
  • Sailing Away – Chris De Burgh
  • Sailing Home – Piet Weerman
  • Ships – Barry Manilow
  • Six months in a leaky boat – Split Enz
  • Sloop John B – Beach Boys
  • Summer Breeze – Isley Brothers
  • The Last Farewell – Roger Whittaker
  • The Tide Is High – Blondie
  • When the ship comes in  – Bob Dylan
  • Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald – Gordon Lightfoot

I am betting that no one of you will have heard of the song listed in red however it’s my favourite so I have uploaded it so you can listen to it.

Before you go into a mad copy and pasting frenzy, don’t worry, there is a downloadable printable  list here Boat Songs

I am sure there are plenty more so please let me know your favourites so I can add them to my playlist.