James Stevens answers your Questions of Seamanship. This issue - should the skipper continue his passage to France with inexperienced, seasick crew or divert to Poole?
Jim has recently qualified as a commercially endorsed Yachtmaster Offshore. His first job is with a charter company in the Solent that advertises weekend cross-Channel trips on board a Bavaria 40.
His first crew is five young men who arrive on Friday evening armed with a kitty full of euros and industrial amounts of alcohol.
They have also booked a restaurant in Cherbourg. As they are drinking alcohol during the safety brief, Jim decides that the trip should start early on Saturday.
The crew are keen to go, cracking pirate jokes and ready for anything, but only two have any sailing experience.
On Saturday, they all rise at 0600. The weather is clear a SW Force 5 and wind is forecast gusting Force 6 occasionally.
They motor sail to The Needles with the first of the west-going tide, then set course for Cherbourg 60 miles away, close hauled.
After a couple of hours the crew, who have been chatting excitedly, go quiet.
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Three hours in, about 18 miles from The Needles, three of them are feeling ill.
What does Jim do? He knows they will feel better once in port, but Cherbourg is still 42 miles away.
Most professional skippers have faced this situation.
If Jim carries on, the
chances are he’ll be skippering singlehanded with a miserable crew by the time he gets across the Channel.
My view is that he should turn back, head for Poole and cancel the French restaurant.
The crew will be so relieved to get into the lee of the harbour they will have forgotten about the expected delights of France and will be happy to eat out in Poole, and recount their adventure.
The passage to Poole is on a reasonably comfortable point of sail and there is a favourable tidal stream.
On the next trip, Jim will realise that it’s best to keep them off the alcohol on Friday before sailing and do a short shakedown evening passage to see if the crew are up to it – it’s best for charter companies not to raise hopes of a cross-Channel trip when it’s often not possible.
People recover from seasickness almost instantly once the boat is in calm water, and most crew members feel a lot better on the second day.