Tom Cunliffe has assessed hundreds of sailors for the RYA Yachtmaster exam. He shares a few skipper's tips with us...

Skipper’s tips – cheap and cheerful

Skipper's tips

A cheap exercise book makes an effective logbook – or you could buy a ‘proper’ one

Some people enjoy using a ‘store-bought’ logbook, with columns of a size and content determined by the publisher. There is, however, a different way to go. Each of us must decide what data we want to log.

Our needs change with time. Not long ago, all that was required for safe navigation were columns for ‘Time, log, course, barometer and weather’, along with, perhaps, a final one for ‘engine’. The last fix, of course, would have been on the chart. Today, we should log the GPS position, while ‘course’, at least, demands further examination. Is it ‘course steered’, ‘course over ground’, or both?

Many of the columns in commercial logbooks are irrelevant to most of us, yet they leave us feeling irrationally guilty because we haven’t filled in ‘oil temperature’.

The answer is a cheap, hard-backed exercise book. Rule one side of a double-page spread with the columns you choose and use the other leaf for ‘remarks’, from ‘Gurgler buoy at hand’, to ‘Skipper just threw up his kippers’. More fun, cheaper and more effective in the end.

Skipper’s tips – horses for courses

This might sound obvious, but judging from what one sees, it may not be. A skipper should give a moment’s thought to who’s being asked to do what. If a prospective berth looks tricky, get the ship’s boy to jump ashore with the lines, not Grandad. And when a fit girl of light weight offers to pull down a recalcitrant mainsail when time is short, it might be better to select the rugby player who’s trying to wriggle his mighty shoulders into the cockpit locker to find a fender.


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