Sailors have to be prepared, mentally and materially, for whatever the sea might throw at us. Theo Stocker introduces the February 2022 issue of Yachting Monthly

What is the worst thing you can hear on a boat?

A thump or a splash, quickly followed by – hopefully – a shout from the crew.

‘The mast’s gone!’, or ‘We’re aground!’ are two possibilities that frequently play on a skipper’s mind.

It’s one of the quirks of sailing that we like thinking about the disasters that might befall us.

Not because we want them to happen, but because we want to be prepared, mentally and materially, for whatever the sea might throw at us.

Anchoring in a sandy Cornish cove one blissfully calm summer’s night, my tidal calculations proved woefully out.

As water ran out beneath our keel, an almost imperceptible residual swell was enough to send a thudding jolt shivering up through the hull and deep into my psyche.

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Few skippers have avoided that moment of dread – at least not the honest ones.

Pete Goss reflects on the seamanship that can help keep us out of such a predicament, and how to keep crew safe and boat afloat, whether the grounding was deliberate, slight or catastrophic (p34).

We also have a first hand-experience of a mid- Atlantic dismasting and how the solo skipper dealt with the wreckage and sailed 1,500 miles home to safety (p40), as well as expert advice from Bruce Jacobs, on how he keeps the masts on his sail training vessels pointing heavenward, and the likely issues with furling gear, halyards and rigging that could otherwise escalate into a more serious situation (p28).

If that’s what we’ve got to look forward to when we set sail, then why do we bother?

Because the sea often deliver experiences about which landlubbers can only dream.

Nic Compton has discovered the joy of family sailing aboard a Freedom 33 amid the strictures of a pandemic (p18), while one young couple have been soaking up the Instagram-worthy atolls of Polynesia aboard their Vancouver 42 (p44).

And closer to home, YM contributors share their favourite islands around the UK and Ireland (p50).