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Triton Survey comments on ‘Most captains have lost control of yacht’

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Triton Survey comments on ‘Most captains have lost control of yacht

In an effort for others to learn from these sometimes scary incidents, we asked What is your key lesson learned when it comes to losing control of a yacht?

  • Always test your equipment before you enter confined spaces, especially in windy or fast current conditions. And if you do have any problems with any of the control stations, figure it out before you go in.
  • Don’t panic, and do what is needed to gain control.
  • Be prepared, and expect it to happen every time.
  • Do everything very slow in close-quarter maneuvering.
  • Always only go as fast as you want to hit something in close quarters.
  • Pay attention to small electrical and electronic issues. They can be a sign of more excitement to come.
  • Do your best to keep the cables clean and dry. In my incident, someone put a splice between the shift head and the gearbox. We changed the cable.
  • Always assume any component can fail at any time, and operate with that in mind. For example, docking should be done in neutral, applying thrust only when needed. Never approach a dock under more power than absolutely necessary. You will do a lot less damage when you lose control at 1 knot than you will at 5 knots.
  • Have a plan B and C in place and practiced for when the system fails.
  • Check for anchor gear functionality and always have anchors ready to deploy.
  • Train the crew how to dock from a captain’s perspective. Train what each line going over does and how they affect the maneuver.
  • Take it off of autopilot earlier, reduce speed earlier, always put the vessel in neutral prior to entering a tight area.
  • Think three steps ahead.
  • It happens fast, and a good crew can make all the difference between damage and getting away without any dings.
  • Never leave electronic controls energized when near other boats or docks unless you are at the controls.
  • Never approach a dock faster than you are willing to hit it.
  • Go slow. The older I get, the more conservative I get. Perhaps that’s why insurance companies like me.
  • Electronic components installed on the exterior of the vessel are subject to deterioration over time and require regular inspection. Proper battery voltage is critical to electronic control reliability. When the system “glitches” once, replace the obviously affected part or the entire system; it is critical to safe operation.
  • I instill in my crew that the first action to take is throttle back. It should be automatic. It will get me to the bridge in a real hurry, and it will lessen the damage in case of collision.
  • It is a helpless feeling. You’ve got to get those engines shut down immediately and get an anchor down. Then, the entire system needs to be torn down and inspected. I’ve had the same system fail numerous times in a row after technicians “repaired” it and declared it operational.
  • Remain calm, always approach a dock like you may lose control. Slow is pro.
  • You can’t be too slow when you dock. Slow is pro.
  • With today’s yachts using computers and electronics for everything, a failure is almost a given at some point. Always have as many manual back up systems as possible, and test them regularly. Your last option in an emergency is dropping an anchor in hope of avoiding or at least minimizing damage. Make sure the crew is trained and practices free-fall anchoring.
  • We always, always, always perform steering, gear and thruster checks prior to casting off lines, even if only shifting berths.
  • It happens. If it hasn’t happened to you, it will. It will happen at the worst possible time. But remember nothing is so bad that it can’t be made worse. (Not my quote, but it is a good one.) The point is, don’t quit when it happens. Stay calm. Think. Communicate with crew. There is always something you can do to help the situation.
  • Prepare the crew to step away and let it happen; sometimes it is inevitable and the only concern is crew injury.
  • It’s really all about staying calm and having well prepared crew. Before every single time I dock or get off a dock, I have a meeting and go through every single scenario, even if it’s perfect weather, because you never know what can happen mechanically. My crew is never complacent. Always have roaming fenders ready and someone who knows how to drop the anchor on your command. Calm, cool and collective. And well trained.
  • Mechanical backup is great, but it’s still not foolproof. Test systems regularly.
  • Test your clutches and bow thruster before you untie the boat. Do not let eager crew or guests loosen a single line until you tell them to.
  • Yachting can be hours of endless pleasure interrupted by moments of sheer terror.
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About Dorie Cox

Dorie Cox is editor of The Triton.

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