We've all done it: that perfect moment when our skills, luck, sea conditions and an audience align. A manoeuver so seemingly impossible, yet exquisitely performed that it leaves the witnesses speechless, awed by your prowess as a nautical demi-God.
Oh sure, 99.99999% of the time the witness factor guarantees that you will bollocks up your landing, anchor set, tack etc. But that one shining moment when you pulled of the quintessential display of seamanship. That's what I'm talking about.
As an example, here's Captain Ron demonstrating the art of precision docking:
And here, Joshua Slocum describes a similar feat:
From Sailing Alone Around The World by Joshua Slocum:
"The bay was feather-white as my little vessel
tore in, smothered in foam. It was my first experience of coming into
port alone, with a craft of any size, and in among shipping. Old
fishermen ran down to the wharf for which the _Spray_ was heading,
apparently intent upon braining herself there. I hardly know how a
calamity was averted, but with my heart in my mouth, almost, I let go
the wheel, stepped quickly forward, and downed the jib. The sloop
naturally rounded in the wind, and just ranging ahead, laid her cheek
against a mooring-pile at the windward corner of the wharf, so
quietly, after all, that she would not have broken an egg. Very
leisurely I passed a rope around the post, and she was moored. Then a
cheer went up from the little crowd on the wharf. "You couldn't 'a'
done it better," cried an old skipper, "if you weighed a ton!" Now, my
weight was rather less than the fifteenth part of a ton, but I said
nothing, only putting on a look of careless indifference to say for
me, "Oh, that's nothing"; for some of the ablest sailors in the world
were looking at me, and my wish was not to appear green, for I had a
mind to stay in Gloucester several days. Had I uttered a word it
surely would have betrayed me, for I was still quite nervous and short
So tell us about your moment of glory....
I'll start with one of mine (okay: the only one of mine )
A few years ago we were stopping in at Little Current. We needed a pump-out and gas.
There were a couple of boats at the dock already with a gap just bigger than my 26' Nash between them.
I headed into the dock at a steep angle - straight in. I could sense the anxiety of people on the dock rise as I powered closer.
With perfect timing and precision, I pulled my tiller over and executed a textbook parallel park between the two vessels. Northern Lights fenders barely compressed as she kissed the dock and stopped at a point exactly between the two docked boats. Perfect! A choir of angels erupted in a chorus of Hallelujah! The respectful glances of the old salts that bore witness and the heaving bosoms of their wives were enough to tell all that they were in the presence of the second-coming of (place the name of your favourite sailor here).
Now before you get the impression that I can do no wrong, let me tell you about what happened a few hours later.....
We had docked in a slip that faces East. For those who don't know Little Current: there is a current flowing from the West as well as a prevailing Westerly. Backing out of a slip against the current and wind should not have been too much of a problem as there is plenty of room to back straight out and turn or back out into the channel.
This would have been fine except that someone (me) had left the dinghy tied to the dock-side of the boat. As I backed out the dinghy was pushed towards my bow and into the slip we had just left. When I turned to head out into the channel I didn't notice that the painter was running across the top of the finger dock, with the dinghy behind the dock.
I powered out, but felt my boat slipping towards the docks and the boats therein. I assumed it was the wind and current pushing me to starboard so I increased throttle and tried to steer away.
My wife was yelling something about the dinghy.
'Screw the effing dinghy! We've got a real problem!'
The dinghy was the problem if I but knew it!
The painter had ridden over the dock and the dinghy was hard against the finger. The more power I gave, the more our boat was swinging to starboard - right towards a row of brightly painted, and expensive, yachts.
Our starboard lifeline got snagged in the flukes of the Bruce anchor hanging off the bow of a glistening behemoth.
My wife, thankfully, bravely (and probably un-wisely) stood at the shrouds and fended us off. This prevented any contact with the other boat. (not a scratch!)
By the time I had eased back the throttle the dinghy had skipped across the dock, snapping half of its yoke in the process. The force on the lifeline bent a stanchion. Once power was reduced we were able to disengage from the anchor, and, with a little help from someone, push off and motor out into the channel and on our way. Fortunately the crowd that had witnessed my moment of glory were somehow absent for this fiasco. The angels were off doing something else too.
Anyway, forget about the screw-ups. Tell us about those legendary acts of boat-handling. They must have been witnessed to count.
The wind was blowing off my port beam. As a newbie, I was sure I would have to back out of the slip fast, slam the rudder over to take the stern starboard, then floor it to get the bow over and straight down the fairway.
I did it... and it worked like a champ. Of course, the reason it worked like a champ is that the two yellow power cords were still plugged into the boat, which caught the stern, jerked it around, and nicely set me up to go down the fairway.
Yep. A perfect Manoeuvre... or was it a manure-vre? And why is it when that happens, someone is always watching???