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How to avoid expensive mistakes when you buy a new or second-hand yacht. 

Available on Amazon here


Icom IC-M35We review the Icom IC-M35 handheld.  Read the full review here.

GMDSS A User's Handbook

By Denise Bréhaut

GMDSS A user's handbook








The Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) provides a fast and efficient way of calling for assistance at sea, whatever the size of craft or its geographical position. Since it was first published, this book has helped explain the system for anyone using GMDSS and has been excellent pre-course reading for students.



SafaSail HatThe SafaSail Hard Hat looks just like a sailing cap, but will help protect you if you get a bang to the head.  See our review here

Passage Planning - crew competence

yachtThe Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) requires yachtsmen to take account not only of routeing, tides, weather, and navigational hazards: it also requires us to bear in mind the competence of the crew.

“The MCA expects all mariners to make a careful assessment of any proposed voyage taking into account all dangers to navigation, weather forecasts, tidal predictions and other relevant factors including the competence of the crew.”

For those crews who sail together regularly, it's a fairly easy call. We know that Jim hates being out in rain and gets sea sick. We know that Sally is a bit weak on navigation, but a brilliant helm. But even if you think you know your crew well, it's easy to get it wrong.

Developing a macho culture, where people are encouraged to tough it out is the very opposite of safe sailing. The best crews, the ones that win races and sail huge distances, have a culture of being open about both their strengths and their weaknesses.

It's too easy for an inexperienced skipper, nervous about his or her own weaknesses, to develop a culture where everything is 'fine', until mild hypothermia sets in because Jim is feeling too seasick to go below, and has sat huddled under the spray-hood for the past six hours.

But perhaps the most dangerous skipper is the one who thinks he knows better than the pilot book, and won't confess his own weaknesses, even to himself. Competence isn't just a matter of having the right skills - these can be developed, and very few skippers starting out with newly acquired qualifications will have all the necessary skills and experience for a passage. In sailing, experience is everything. Experience has to be gained. And you won't gain experience by staying in port.

Competence is more than just skill. It's the ability to assess your margin of weakness, and to allow for it. A competent crew is one where the members know their limits, and are prepared to admit them, but are also willing to stretch themselves to gain that little bit more experience.

Competence is about forward planning - making sure that the anchor is ready to drop when you're making a tricky entrance or exit, or having the mainsail ready to drop if you think you're coming in a bit fast. It's about setting an anchor watch if you're not completely confident in the holding.

Competence is about knowing where to get help or advice if things go wrong (and often the Almanac can be a great help). Competence is the willingness to ask questions until it all becomes clear.

And competence is increased if the crew are well fed, well supported, and well briefed. Victualling may be the last thing on your mind when you're doing your passage planning, but if Jim has got his favourite tomato soup, or Mike has his porridge, then they are going to feel more able to cope with any problems that do occur.

The crew briefing is not only a good time to make sure that the crew know what your intentions are, understand the passage plan, and know what to do should you become incapacitated, but it's also a good time to listen.

The questions that a new crew ask will very quickly reveal their worries. Making a sober assessment of the competence of the crew is never going to be a written part of the passage plan - unless you really want to upset people - but it's still a vital part of making a safe voyage.
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