Report on Skippers Refresher 2021

The BTOSC Skippers Refresher is an annual event to which club skippers are invited to refresh skills. This has never been more relevant than after the disruption caused by the Pandemic. To this end, and to avoid having all skippers on the same yacht at the same time, the BTOSC committee agreed on a 5 day midweek charter with a RYA YMI on hand for one of those days to help put us through our paces.

We assembled early (12:00) on the Monday at Hamble Point, hoping to pick up our vessel (Blue Otter) up with minimum delay. However, the fates conspired against us and it was after 16:00 when we finally slipped from the pontoon. Our aim for the first half day day was to refresh ourselves on boat handling under power including:

  • Standard mooring and departures from pontoons
  • Springing off
  • Perpendicular Parallel Parking (aka ferry gliding into a restricted berth)
  • General reversing practice
  • Reversing into berths

Blue Otter

The second day we had a YMI join us. He was tasked with stretching us and helping us refine our skills. He recommended that we should tighten-up on a few aspects of good practice, namely:

  • keeping lines tidy in the cockpit and off the floor
  • descending the companionway backwards, and
  • closing the cockpit hatch closed whenever any crew are forward

He recommended that if crew are sent forward, skippers should instruct them not to return of their own volition but wait for the evolution to complete and a signal to return. He also provided some new insight into turning in restricted conditions and he also taught us all a new method for MOB pickup under sail and engine. This was really a “sailing skills” exercise which looks very much like MOB practice. The advantage of this new method are that it is simple to remember and explain and the results appear to be more repeatable. Time will tell on this but our initial impressions were universally very favourable.

A moment to relax near NewTown Creek

Day 3 saw us investigate Bembridge as the tides were suitable. The afternoon found us saw us anchoring in Osborne Bay. This revealed an unwelcome tendency for Blue Otter’s anchor chain to “back up” and jam the windlass. At the end of the day, we said goodbye to Ian and hello to Colin. This evening was the only real opportunity for a night sailing exercise which we conducted up Southampton Water where we moored and ate (on board of course!) at Marchwood SC pontoon while waiting for darkness to fall. Lots of tug activity with a Container Ship, Disney Magic and views of the Queen Elizabeth moored at Southampton Docks.

Disney Magic
Queen Elizabeth

The night sail itself was a straightforward passage back to our berth at Hamble Point. Something most if not all of us have done several times before. It never ceases to amaze me how even the biggest ships can somehow manage to hide themselves even when they are directly ahead down a waterway such as Southampton Water. There is plenty of room of course, but it can still come as a surprise when the mysterious shadow morphs into a massive ship quietly making its way up to the docks.

Day 4 and 5, which was a half day, was an opportunity to demonstrate and then practice the “sailing skills” exercises with Colin.

Overall, this event was a great success. It was great to be back on the water after so long, honing our skills and learning new ones too.