Yachting Monthly reader Graham Cownie owns up and confesses his sailing sins. Submit yours at yachtingmonthly.com for a chance to win a new VHF radio

Many years ago I spent a week on one of Her Majesty’s destroyers.

Coming in to dock alongside in a tight space, the captain kept speed on, almost to the last minute.

He explained that he was worried that the strong onshore wind might drift him onto the docked ship he had to pass while squeezing into his space.

It was a tricky manoeuvre and his daring seamanship left an indelible impression on me – unfortunately.

About a year later my wife and I set sail on our honeymoon bareboat charter in the Ionian.

After a few uneventful days we approached a tricky harbour for a bow-to mooring.

Because of depth constraints this required approaching tight to the stone jetty, then doing a rapid 90° right turn while dropping the stern anchor to apply the brakes and hopefully coming to a neat halt.

Because there was a very strong onshore wind this would have been a tricky manoeuvre – even for a very experienced sailor.

Continues below…

I was no such thing.

I recalled the nifty manoeuvre performed by Her Majesty’s finest and recalled his advice about keeping speed on to avoid drifting down onto the other boats.

Undaunted by other considerations (and keen to impress my new wife) I duly went for it.

Just at the right moment I spun the boat round to point at the jetty, chucked the stern anchor over the back and held the warp, waiting for the anchor to bite.

Nothing happened.

We continued unchecked towards the jetty. Like a rabbit caught in the headlights I watched my impending doom unfold.

Any thought of putting the engine into reverse never entered my head. The crash was spectacular.

An enormously loud bang, the boat stopped instantly and the mast briefly bent forwards alarmingly before returning to upright. Thankfully it all held.

We two very shaken, very amateur yachties tied up and inspected the bow.

A huge V-shaped gash in the stem, probably almost an inch deep, bore stark witness to our high-speed arrival.

I tried to convince myself that the charter company wouldn’t notice this minor blemish when we returned the boat. Amazingly no repair bill followed.

Ever since I have crawled into moorings like a tortoise on sleeping pills.

Oh, and we’ve now been married more than 37 years, which is the amount of time that it’s taken me to own up to this!


Submit your sailing confession for a chance to win a floating handheld VHF
UK residents only
The Standard Horizon HX210E waterproof VHF radio is worth £134.95.
It boasts a water activated strobe, 6W transmissions, largest-in-class screen an FM radio and more.

Enjoyed reading A smashing start – one sailor confesses all?

A subscription to Yachting Monthly magazine costs around 40% less than the cover price.

Print and digital editions are available through Magazines Direct – where you can also find the latest deals.

YM is packed with information to help you get the most from your time on the water.

      • Take your seamanship to the next level with tips, advice and skills from our experts
      • Impartial in-depth reviews of the latest yachts and equipment
      • Cruising guides to help you reach those dream destinations

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.