‘Is it windward or leeward?’
I’ve been sailing for more than 30 years, yet it seems that I don’t know windward from leeward. To my mind, a berth on the windward side of a pontoon is a windward berth. And a berth on the leeward side of the pontoon ought to be called a leeward berth.
Apparently not. Most sailors equate ‘leeward berth’ with ‘lee shore’ and to them it means a berth on the windward side of the pontoon, while a ‘windward berth’ is on the leeward side. This makes no sense to me but most experts agree – including my colleague Chris, who had to research the definitions thoroughly after I questioned his use of them.
Now I know why, when I call up a marina and ask for a leeward berth, they usually give me one on the windward side of the pontoon. That’s the trouble with being a mostly self-taught skipper who sails solo. There are things I learned wrongly, long ago, that have become ingrained and there's nobody else on board to correct me.
Windward or leeward, a berth that’s easy to get into is often hard to get out of, and the snuggest berth for a windy night is rarely the easiest to get into. Quite often we don’t have a choice.
On p18, Chris and Theo demonstrate six boat-handling techniques for when you find yourself blown on or blown off in an awkward spot, hemmed in by yachts that cost more than yours. A bit of practice before your summer cruise will really pay off when you’re groping around an unfamiliar marina at night looking for berth 63 on pontoon W, or trying to get back out of it with an unhelpful breeze and a contrary tide. I’m grateful to Clipper Marine for lending us a new Bavaria 34 for the photo shoot – and relieved that Chris and Theo returned her unscratched.
If you know anything about radar, you’ve probably heard of ‘radar-assisted collisions’. These usually involve two people misinterpreting the picture on the screen or taking the same avoiding action at the same time, but an error by one operator can be enough. On p26, Denis Gorman – who didn’t even have radar – describes his own narrow escape and explains some things that all sailors ought to be aware of.
Don’t scratch the gelcoat! There are six essential techniques for getting in and out of tight or awkward marina berths.