Own up to your sailing sin for the chance to win a handheld VHF radio. Open to UK residents only


International incident – a confession by Edward Sutton.

After many years, I am still embarrassed by a stupid oversight during the first trip in our newly home-assembled kit 19ft Seawych yacht.

We launched her into Portsmouth harbour, hoisted sails and with little wind, started the new 5hp outboard to push us out into the gently ebbing tide.

My wife and I knew the harbour from past adventures but it was new to our two sons, who were excited to see warships on the quays.

Continues below…

All was fine until the outboard spluttered, died and refused to restart, leaving us drifting along, making use of the light wind. However, despite every tactic learned from dinghy racing, we drifted across the fairway towards the quays and in particular towards a US warship who had crew sitting on a board painting the hull.

This activity seemed to have a magnetic effect on our boat which defied my efforts to restart the engine and frantically pump the tiller.


The amused painting crew made ready to fend off our mast but just before we created a potential ‘International Incident’, a furious harbour police launch arrived to tow us clear.

I then discovered the air vent on the outboard fuel tank was closed!

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