My late father, ex-Royal Australian Navy, WW11 and long-time recreational boater, once told me when we had gone ashore from the family cruising boat for a BBQ around the campfire when I was around 12 years old, that during your boating life you will never learn everything there is to know about boating!

I recall him saying that if anyone says they know it all, then it’s time to give up boating and try something else!

Every time we go out, whether it is by ourselves or with others, we will subconsciously learn something. No one day on the water is the same; different tides, breezes, winds, waves, swells, weather, surrounding boats, and people on board with you.  We could go on and on with an entire range of variables. This is why we don’t stop learning.

Miles and then more miles under the keel is what counts. You can do every theory course ashore on offer, but there is nothing like the actual boating experience on the water to learn and perhaps confirm that classroom knowledge.

I recall changing sails in a tough Sydney to Hobart race years ago. It was blowing 40 knots and it was time to get the number 4 off and replace it with the storm jib. I went forward, got the sail down and laid across the top of it. The boat went through the next wave, picked the sail up that I was on top of and over the side I went, luckily still attached to my harness but a bit battered and bruised. When we finally got underway again one of the afterguard (always easy from back there!) told me the same had happened to him. I wish he had told me.  Some years later in a similar situation, a mate did the same thing and I quickly told him to sit with his back to the bow and hang onto the sail instead of lying over it.

Recently, when setting a cray pot on the east coast of Tassie, I ventured into where the chart plotter said it would be ok, nothing marked so all good, pot baited and ready to go. “She’ll be right mate” I thought! Bang, a rock not marked on the plotter, and I had collected it! I knew that I shouldn’t rely on the plotter but took no action to simply look over the side. The result was a stainless prop that was well and truly twisted and bent and the need for a new gearbox on my Suzuki 150HP motor! So lesson learned, don’t rely on chart plotter and look. Having told a few others of my misfortune, they all knew “that rock” that’s not marked on the chart plotter and so do I now.

No doubt Dad was looking down and said “I told you so”.

With boating, you will never stop learning.  Every trip is knowledge, every trip is a little more experience.


Peter Hopkins


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