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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


Right thinking, Wrong solution!

Being surrounded by the sea and dependent on it for trade, the United Kingdom has a strong emotional bond with its lighthouses. For generations they have symbolised the safe return of the mariner from the dangers of the deep.  Even those who never set foot on a boat of any sort have watched them on holidays to the coast, and climbed them as visitor attractions. The story of Grace Darling, the daughter of the Longstones Lighthouse keeper, who rowed out into a storm on 7th September 1838 with her father to rescue the sailors of the foundering Forfarshire is burned into our nation's mythology, and is one of the founding stories of today's Lifeboats.

But we no longer light beacons to warn of invasions or wave red flags in front of cars, delightful as these seem to the imagination.  And even the traditional 'Flare Pack' has taken a secondary place to GMDSS assisted locator beacons for leisure craft in distress.  These days, you can pick up the satellite phone and call Falmouth MRCC from almost anywhere on the planet.

So we need to be careful not to dismiss this latest move to downgrade the important of our Lighthouses as merely another 'cost cutting' exercise.   Trinity House is a hugely respected, independent organisation, and its vastly experienced elder and younger Bretheren are drawn from the most experienced sea captains, and its Master is elected from their number.

But the mind-set of Trinity House is primarily focused on commercial shipping. And a glance at the detailed proposals following the review of Aids to Navigation raises questions for commercial as well as leisure mariners.

Read more: Right thinking, Wrong solution!

A 'Confusion' of Yachts?

What is the new collective name for a group of anchored yachts at night?  It used to be a 'fleet'.  But these days a better collective noun would be 'A Confusion'. 


Because more and more yacht skippers are ignoring the Collision Regulations and inventing their own personal colour scheme for anchor lights.

Last year I had the pleasure of bringing a 45' Motor Sailor back to the UK from Crete. She didn't sail well into the wind, and we decided to anchor in Methoni on the South West corner of the Peloponnese to wait for a better wind angle for crossing the Ionian.  

It was one o'clock on a moonless morning - one of those nights when the words black and hat come to mind.  But the entrance to the bay is wide, easy and gentle. The only hazard is the pier on the left of the bay which sticks out into the anchorage, but it's well marked with a flashing green light.

But on entry, there wasn't just one flashing green light.   There were at least three.  All over the place. And some reds.  And some flashing contraptions that could have been anything.  All of these abominations were on anchored yachts.

Once we'd sorted it all out, found our spot, and anchored for the night, I did wonder if I should have tied up alongside one of the yachts sporting a flashing green light and said I'd mistaken her for the pier. 

The Collision Regulations are quite clear:

Rule 30 (a): A vessel at anchor shall exhibit where it can best be seen:

(i) in the fore part, an all-round white light or one ball.

Not a green flashing light on the mast or a red light on the stern, or a disco light on the anchor chain.  

Ignoring the Collision Regulations is dangerous, stupid, unnecessary, and could well invalidate your insurance if there's an accident.  Particularly if your personal choice of light is the same as a navigation light, or the light marking the end of a pier, or a cardinal marker.  It's sheer stupidity.

So why do people do it?  One yacht skipper admitted that he put a 'special light' on the yacht at night so he could pick out his own yacht from the crowd when returning at night in the dinghy.   Another said he thought it made him safer, because 'everyone did it'. 

But the core of the problem is a combination of ignorance, laziness and a complete lack of professionalism.  There's no excuse for not knowing the most basic Collision Regulations. If you don't want to buy a book, they're available online free of charge here.

And on most modern yachts, it's often just a matter of flicking the right switch.  The one marked 'Anchor Light'. 

Yachtsmen used to be seen as hard-core professional seafarers. But these days we're increasingly seen by commercial shipping as 'amateur', 'irresponsible' and 'unprofessional'. We're at risk of becoming the caravans or cyclists of the sea.  

Professionalism doesn't cost much. Sticking to the Collision Regulations is one of the marks of a competent, safe skipper.  It makes everyone's life easier because it removes all confusion, all doubt. If there is an accident, it removes one possible source of blame.  And it should be a matter of pride for every yacht skipper that he or she not only knows the rules, but sticks to them.

I have to admit that the last laugh was on me.  A few nights later the weather turned nasty and we had a short rough sea to contend with. Suddenly, without warning, a brilliant white light started flashing on our own bow. It was too rough to risk going on deck to sort it, so it flashed away all night.  It turned out that the previous owner had fixed a white strobe light onto a deck fitting and the motion had switched it on.  Goodness knows what other shipping thought was coming towards them.  A north cardinal buoy making four knots over the ground, I suppose.

Col Regs Anarchy over Lights?

TriColourMost of us will be very quick to criticise those who fail to observe the Collision Regulations.  You only have to read the Yachting forums to see the arguments about who is, or is not, in the right when it comes to an accident at sea.  We instinctively appeal to the Col Regs when we feel we've been wronged.

So why are we increasingly ignoring them when it comes to lights?

Earlier this month, I had to enter the port of Methoni, at the bottom end of the Peloponese,  at 2.00am on a moonless night.  It's an easy entry - a wide bay of a harbour with a gently sloping anchorage.  The only hazard is the jetty, which sticks out into the bay.  But that has a flashing green light on the seaward end, so it should be easy to avoid.  But when we went in, there were at least three flashing green lights dotted about the bay. And a flashing white, a strobe, and some collections of lights that were nothing I had ever seen before.  

Read more: Col Regs Anarchy over Lights?

Calling Time on Flares?

FlaresThe RYA’s revised guidance on flares is both timely and sensible (see our story here).   Back in 2009 we wrote an editorial questioning whether the time had come to revise the official advice about their use.  So we welcome this careful, measured response to the issue.

Flares, even in-date flares, are dangerous.  Out-of-date flares are lethal.  As a yacht delivery skipper, I regularly find flare packs that are not merely ‘out of date’, but dangerously old, lurking in lockers on board.  Fines are increasingly common for carrying outdated flares;  the French authorities are, rightly, particularly fierce about this. 

But that’s not the only reason to question the reliance on flares as a means of attracting attention.  Today, there are better ways.

Read more: Calling Time on Flares?

Think again about Salvage

Litigation over SalvageBeing British, we tend to think that claiming salvage is rather unsporting. A bit like asking a potential girlfriend to pay for her share of dinner on the first date.  But those of us who are boat owners, or who have charge of other people's yachts, need to be constantly aware that a claim for salvage is a real possibility;  a possibility that grows ever more realistic in this age of swift litigation.  And Todd Tholke's action in suing the French America's Cup team for salvage of around $200,000.00 after 'rescuing' The Energy Team in San Francisco (see our story here) should give us further cause for thought.

I had a very similar dilemma skippering a recent yacht delivery.  We were sailing from Greece to Italy via the Corinth Canal, and the owner and I had calculated that, on leaving the Canal, we had enough fuel in the tank to get us safely to Kefalonia without having to use what was in the spare fuel can, so that we could re-fuel there before crossing the Ionian.  And we were, after all, a sailing yacht.  However, the first mate, being a practical sort, had decided that he didn't fancy trying to re-fuel from a can in choppy weather, and emptied all our spare fuel into the tank, declaring that it was better off there than in the tin!  What he hadn't thought about was what might happen if we had a fuel leak (which we did, later in the voyage) and were stuck without spare fuel on a lee shore.  Calling for a spare can of fuel  in that kind of situation would constitute grounds for a claim of salvage.  And the yacht was worth rather more than the cost of a can of fuel!  We returned to Piraeus to re-fuel, much to the grump of all concerned.  But I'd rather be safe than sorry, especially when responsible for someone else's yacht.

Read more: Think again about Salvage

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