Seasoned skippers and Yachting Monthly experts give their advice on a whole range of issues for the cruising sailor

Battery cross-connect

a battery cross connect switch on a boat

Andy’s own cross-connect switch for his battery

Andy Du Port head shot

Andy Du Port is a Yachtmaster Offshore, and formerly an RN specialist navigating officer and RYA Cruising Instructor

If your engine-starting battery should fail (and they do) could you use the domestic batteries instead?

Many yachts are fitted with a rotary switch (Battery 1 – Battery 2 – Both) which solves the problem. If you don’t have this, imagine entering an unfamiliar harbour, at night, in a stiff breeze and ask yourself what you would do if the starter motor refused to play.

For years I kidded myself that I would use jump leads, but came to realise that the chances of remembering which leads to connect to which terminal and in what order was simply not practical.

One solution is to install a ‘cross-connect’ isolating switch which connects the domestic batteries to the starter motor.

You may need to study 
the boat’s wiring diagram or get some expert advice, as I did, to ensure that you don’t cause too much damage!

Andy Du Port


Peace offering

Cake, cup of tea on the deck of a boat

Find the right time for a peace offering if you bump someone’s boat

Some years ago, we managed 
to moor our motor-sailer on the outside of a trot against the harbour wall in Port St Mary on the Isle of Man.

The wind had risen from a moan to a shriek and had us all running shore lines to the pier – noisy, bumpy but hopefully secure. But not for long.

At the height of the storm two fishing boats came round the pier head and simply pushed between the inside boat and the harbour wall.

Loud roars of protest had no effect, so after much adjustment of lines, we all settled down to make the best of it. The wind kept on rising and where possible, crew were sitting on the leeward deck of their boat, bracing legs against the yacht they were being pushed against by the force of the wind.

Brian Black

Brian Black has survived nine Arctic seaons since the mid-1990s and often finds himself getting out of tricky situations at sea

It could hardly have been worse, or so we thought.

Out of nowhere on that wild night came a sail training vessel (name of boat and skipper withheld).

She ploughed into us, stanchions ripped out, rigging torn from chainplates, rubber tires just about preventing damage to the hull. More yelling, ropes flung and blown away, more ropes this time finding something 
to tie onto. Chaos reigned. The crew of the trainer were wearing duffle coats and wellies, clearly
 not sea-cadets.

We found out later they were a group from a young farmers’ club.

Up to this point my wife had been keeping the children occupied, reading stories and trying to block out the mayhem on deck.

She was stressed, end-of-tether tired and understandably frightened. So it was not a wise moment for the master of the offending vessel to send one of his people across on 
a goodwill mission with a cup of tea and a wodge of cake. ‘Skipper’s compliments missus. He wants to know if you’d like something for your nerves ?’

Now here’s the tip. When things are bad, there are certain actions that just go to make them worse and this was a classic. The reply 
is unprintable.

So take a lesson from this, judge your moment well and be careful not to antagonise anyone who is at his or her limits.

Brian Black


Boat checks when leaving

Stopcocks on a boat

Checking stopcocks is just one of the tasks to complete before leaving your boat

Driving home after sailing is not the time to be worrying if you turned off the gas, pumped the bilges or closed the seacocks.

We have a check-off list which covers all this and more: battery isolators off, windows and hatches closed and secured, ensign and burgee lowered, cockpit lockers locked and so on.

We include things to take home such as wallet, house keys and phone. It doesn’t take long and you can enjoy the drive!

Andy Du Port


Always be able to drop it!

HNLMS Urania at anchor in a rather more peaceful setting

HNLMS Urania at anchor in a rather more peaceful setting

During my time as Commanding Officer 
of the Royal Netherlands Navy sail training vessel HNLMS Urania (27m, 80 tonnes) 
I had some less positive experiences, 
which have certainly brought me a number 
of unique insights.

One such time was in late October when there was a steady Force 8 as we were on the approach from the south towards the Enkhuizen locks, which separate the Markermeer at the south and the IJsselmeer to the north.

Harry Dekkers

Harry Deckers is an RYA Yachtmaster Offshore and has sailed around the UK singlehanded

With 180m to go, our speed was 5 knots and I put the engine in neutral. Due to the wind on the stern the speed did not really decrease so I put the engine in reverse to stop the 80 tonnes from floating into the lock too fast.

The moment I did so however, the engine stopped and we were in danger of crashing into the lock. A quick check showed some kind of electronic problem and it was clear we needed an alternative.

We made a sharp turn towards the wind, which quickly reduced speed. Once we started going astern, we dropped the anchor and finally we were at anchor… less than 100m 
to weather of the lock, not a good spot!

The lesson here? Aways have your anchor ready. On a 30ft yacht the setup of the anchor equipment is not the same as on Urania, but what you can do is keep the chain or rope neatly coiled and be able to release the anchor from the bow in seconds.

With regards to letting go – fixing your anchor on the bow with one or two ropes makes it easier to unlock than with a steel shackle as you can cut a rope with a knife which you always have to hand … don’t you?

Harry Dekkers