In the last week I have run into two transatlantic yacht delivery stories that have opened my eyes, but for two very different reasons.
Two people best described as ‘suicidal idiots’ made international news for having to be rescued nine times before even getting out of European waters while moving their yacht from Norway to Maine. This is the wrong way to do it, and if someone can’t get through their thick hides that they need training and guidance before crossing the North Atlantic, they may very well die from their stupidity.
On a more positive note, I have also heard about a planned yacht delivery from San Diego who have even gone so far as to hire a sailing instructor to help them get to Europe and in their preparation have achieved their RYA Yachtmaster qualifications. Where even the best prepared get killed at sea (I have known three experts die in four years) this couple are going about it the right way…
Let’s have a jaunt through the story about how not to do it before talking about the couple who are going about things the right way.
Two US sailors bought a yacht in Norway and flew out to sail her to their home in Maine. Their qualifications aren’t known, but they made the news for all the wrong reasons when they were rescued for the ninth time by a lifeboat before even getting out of European waters. This even earned the attention of world famous yachtsman Robin Knox Johnson who said to the BBC;
“It costs between £6,000 and £8,000 every time a lifeboat is launched. These guys are costing the RNLI a fortune. They need to frankly pack it in or, I hate to say it, get the hell out of our waters.”
Sailors all over the world have lined up to discuss the antics of the disastrous duo who are a shocking reminder why you should get the training equivalent to your sailing plans.
Let’s look at the plans afoot for a delivery from California to the Mediterranean in the coming months – the right way to do it.
I have some friends who run a sailing school near Gibraltar on the Mediterranean. Their instructor is signing off work for a couple of months to help deliver a 52ft yacht from San Diego to its new home port on the Mediterranean. When I heard of this, I wondered if the business was doing that badly?
No, was the answer. A couple of their clients had little oceanic sailing experience yet really enjoyed sailing so after buying their yacht in California, have done an intensive RYA Yachtmaster sailing course over a number of months yet still wanted someone with lots of experience to help them do the trip.
You need around six months to train to that level even on an intensive course. You will do a 20 hour Day Skipper shore based navigation course, as well as another 20 hours on a Coastal Navigation course.
You will do a lot of sailing to get experience, in all weathers, day and night. You will be tested as you climb the rungs of the syllabus, and can really only pass the Yachtmaster if you are an instinctive and reflexive sailor. By this I mean your training kicks in instantly when you face a situation such as engine failure, man overboard, fire or any number of other accidents or incidents.
Most sailors never have the embarrassment of having to call the rescue authorities yet have many a tale to tell of how they got in some fix or another but made it home. Some of us actually enjoy scaring the pants off landlubbers, an unfortunate trait many an old salt can’t shake off!!!
Having the skill and initiative to get out of a fix is part and parcel of sailing. If you don’t have the skill to sail out of Hayle harbour without setting fire to your boat, then don’t do it. It is also a matter of personal pride that from 99% of the incidents you never call for help because you can fix them yourself.
In doing the Yachtmaster intensive course so you will get just enough sailing experience to be a good sailor. The couple in question learned to respect the sea from the start, and still felt that though qualified they needed a mentor for the whole trip, so went to Sunset Offshore to discuss whether they might hire their instructor for a couple of months to do the delivery? The company gladly offered to help.
The newly qualified Yachtmasters knew damned well that sea god Neptune won’t let you off his trials and tribulations with a limp piece of paper – if you are to get across an ocean you must pass practical, not just theoretical tests where the price of failure is death.
Their adventure begins in the next month and they should be enjoying life afloat on the Med this summer having had a hell of an adventure just getting to their sailing grounds. We wish them all well!
I saw your link to the Sailing School,” close to Gibraltar”. Web they said to the island of Mallorca (Spain), the Canary Islands (Spain) and Barcelona (Spain) (?), why they have to do close of Gibraltar reference?. They are not the sailing schools in Gibraltar?
Not a bad place the Strait of Gibraltar to the training of skippers, always with strong winds for the East or West, swells from wind, tidal currents of several knots, saturated domestic traffic crossed Algeciras-Ceuta (Spain) and international. With frequent suspensions of service ferry for rough seas. I examined in 78’ (Yachtmaster) on this space of southern Spain.
The question is to know which channel emergency rescue call your friends if necessary, near schools. (The Palma radio, Barcelona Radio, radio Las Palmas or Gibraltar radio? I guess that they take on the training ship’s flags according the naval protocols and etiquette to the waters where they sail, I think it is a red-yellow- red.
The school was mentioned because we knew of the upcoming trip and contrasted that with the crew taking the yacht from Norway.
The Boating Hub
A trans Atlantic yacht delivery requires careful planning and requires a seaworthy yacht with suitably experienced and qualified crew. We deliver many yachts across the Atlantic, some are assisted passages with the owner on board and others we organise all the crew. The most important thing is to have regular access to weather data. In this day and age I wouldn’t cross without a satellite phone!