In 1 metre seas and 15 to 20 knot winds, a Bayfield 32 was returning to Whitby. Before entering the harbour the sails were dropped. The genny sheets ran out and when the motor was started one fowled the prop. The motor was useless. The crew could not raise the genny probably because the sheet was tight around the prop. They could not raise the main because they were facing downwind. The anchor remained on the bow while the crew fought with the sails, the seas and the wind. Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to the skipper and his boat which ended up on the reef but at least he and the crew are safe because they were able to walk ashore.

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  • We tend to forget that sailboats have three means of motion control not two. Sail, motor and anchor!
  • The outer harbour, in my view, is intended to allow boats to sail into relatively sheltered water while they accomplish the dousing of sails. I realise that many skippers are shy of manoeuvring in close quarters but we in Whitby, are really very lucky in having such a space for that purpose.
  • Dousing your sails while still on the lake removes one of your options.
  • Ensuring that stopper knots are, and remain, on your sheets is not just a convenience but a significant safety feature. When sheets run out you not only lose control of the sail but it is an almost certainty that they will foul your prop when you start your engine.
  • If your engine fails for any reason, raise your sails again and if you can't do that then drop your anchor.
  • Everyone who sails out of Whitby harbour should be aware of the shoal or more correctly the reef West of Thickson's Point that extends out from the shore about half a mile. You can be sailing in 15 to 20 feet of water then without warning you hit the rock. There may be gaps that you have been lucky enough to sail through before but be warned it is very tempting to cut the corner and steer straight for the lighthouse; don't do it!

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09 Dec 2017;
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