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Sail Away Girl Dumb Moves made by Seasoned Sailors

Dumb Moves – Sailing – Sail Away Girl


Hello Sailors,

The topic of Dumb Moves made while sailing appears to be hot at the moment since I saw it one of my sailing magazines and also in a comment thread on Facebook.

The comment thread on Facebook had me in tears I was laughing so hard! The thread started because one of the members recognized that there were many terrified new sailors in the group. Terrified because they didn’t feel they had sufficient experience to sail.

So to prove that it is a constant learning experience for all sailors, no matter how long or often they have sailed, the members were asked to share some of their Dumb Moves from sailing.

Here are my favorites with no names shared to protect well…the guilty.

Sail Away Girl Dumb Moves helming or navigating

Dumb Moves – Navigation:

  • “I’ve run onto rocks twice because I was looking a charts and didn’t believe what I saw. Once I actually had quite an audience at a popular anchorage in Barkley Sound. There was clapping and raising of beers in my general direction. Took a chunk of fiberglass out of the keel that day. Now I read charts then double and triple check.”
  • “My first time on night watch I thought I saw something in the distance. I grabbed the binoculars and looked. I reported that I thought someone in the distance had a ‘blown spinnaker’. And in the time it took me to hand the binoculars to the captain to see, the moon had cleared the horizon and no longer looked like a flapping sail. I still have not lived that down, three years later.”
  • “Getting stuck in a tree:-)……Wrapping my mast around a tree trunk that overhung the channel, while avoiding a collision with a mega yacht that was docked”
  • “I was driving into a shallow, narrow channel at dusk after an 8-hr passage, and didn’t realize just how much the 25kt wind + current was setting us… Suddenly we were aground in an ebbing tide. We tried to motor off w/ no luck, then tried to kedge off, put the anchor in the dink and when crew tried to row into the wind to set the anchor, one oar snapped in half. Finally ended up staying the night aground at a 40-degree heel, impossible to move around boat at that angle… Tide floated us free @ 0600. Luckily it was just sand/mud, so no damage to hull. Crew did have the brilliant idea to stuff a potato in our heater exhaust outlet to keep water out! Always keep a potato aboard.”
  • “My best grounding was when Tow Boat US casually asked me ‘what the hell are you doing here?’ and then HE got stuck. Oh, yeah, that was a fun 8 hours (it actually, truly, for once was not my fault)”

Dumb Moves – Helming:

  • “The time we were hungover from a regatta party and as we bravely waved goodbye to the event organizer, put the boat in reverse, pulled in the lines — and we hadn’t attached our helm wheel. We liked to take it off to make more room in the cockpit for guests and forgot to put it back on! We felt like a couple of idjut yay-hoos. Later, we developed a Departure Checklist for departure from docks or anchorages — and when my granddaughter read it aloud as we prepared for a sail, she said, ‘Make sure the STEERING WHEEL is on?'”
  • “Our first sail on our first boat, whole family aboard. I had read the book…it had little arrows pointing out the wind direction. I’m at the tiller, crew goes up to raise the main, the breeze catches the partially raised main and pushes it to one side, crew says ‘turn her into the wind’, not seeing any of those little arrows and having no idea where the wind is from I push the tiller over and the boom nearly knocks him off the boat.”
  • “On the helm sailing towards the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, husband is below taking a nap, I’m chatting with the delivery captain we are working for. After a few moments of intriguing conversation, the captain removes the pipe from his mouth and quietly says ‘I do believe we have turned 180 degrees’. I look around and sure enough, while talking I did a 180 and was heading back to NY. I whispered, please don’t tell you know who and at that moment a voice from below sounds off ‘way to go sharpie’.”

Sail Away Girl Dumb Moves on a Dinghy

Dumb Moves – Dinghy Mishaps:

  • “I’m a pro at lowering the dinghy without the plug in place. “
  • “I often throw plate scrapings overboard, which usually ends up in the dinghy. “
  • “At the cove we frequent at Catalina, every time someone loses a dinghy, the harbor patrol trolls it through the harbor and we call it the tow of shame!”
  • “Many, many dumb moments, but the most embarrassing would have to be my dinghy driving efforts in the early days – after dropping  off passenger at the wharf I had to reverse out and then drive past a lot of big powerboats in slips. Because I was so nervous I turned the throttle the wrong way and roared backwards at full revs. Trying to compensate I put it into forward and proceeded to bounce off each and every powerboat. One guy came running up the dock to ask if I needed help – I just waved him away nonchalantly as if this was how I always drove the dinghy.”

Dumb Moves – In the Galley:

  • “‘Stupid stove will NOT light, no matter what I do!!!!’ (rather shrilly) to which I got the reply ‘here hun, let me turn on the solenoid for you’….. “
  • “Pouring alcohol into one burner of a two burner stove while the other burner was already lit….yep…that is really dumb. Had to throw a few burning items overboard while stomping out the vapor trails. Good ending…but a few tense moments…”

Dumb Moves – Sails:

  • “Put the jib sail on upside down. Looked hilariously WRONG when it was hoisted.” – Funny enough this was on the thread more than once.
  • “One of our first sails, Skipper was absolutely ANAL about using all the nautical terms; he ordered me to ‘go forward and grab the jib sheet so we can unfurl it on the starboard side’. I looked at him blankly and said, ‘and a gobbledy gook to you too!'”

Dumb Moves – On the Move:

  • “My boat is a 14′ trailer sailer and I snapped the mast in half a month after I bought it by driving under a tree before unstepping the mast.”

Dumb Moves – Racing:

  • “First race I ever sailed in we got too close to the starting buoy and was dragging it behind our boat.”

Sail Away Girl Dumb Moves while docking or in a slip

Dumb Moves – Docking:

  • “I threw a line to someone at the dock that wasn’t attached to anything.”
  • “Leaving the dock with the shore power cord still plugged in while your crew just stares at you… you’ll only do it once.” This one was one that was on the list many times by many different sailors.
  • “I also hit the dock locker so many times we posted a big, red ‘stop’ sign on it.”
  • “Coming in to a strange dock in a strange marina, under sail. Put the helm down to clear the boat in the next slip. ALMOST made it, until my spreader hit his shroud! TWIIIIINNNNGGGGG! I don’t EVER want to hear that sound again!”
  • “I was learning how to be the helmsperson and coming into a dock in Hampton Roads, Virginia with a bunch of people watching me. I thought I had everything under perfect control when Andy, my husband, kind of whispered to me ‘Pammy, you see that strong current pushing KANDARIK directly into the dock? Be careful.’ Smart me said to Andy from the helm, ‘Don’t worry I am going to kiss that dock!’ Well , I smashed into that dock so badly it took our port running light on the bow pulpit right off and crushed the bow pulpit! Andy’s only comment within hearing of all the on lookers, ‘That was some smooch!’ – This one is from my beloved Pam Wall who has sailed nearly her entire life and all over the world.

Dumb Moves – In a Slip:

  • “Plugged in the electric cable at the marina, and no power. Talked to the dock master who brought splitters and new cables – no luck. Had neighbors checking out out our switches and batteries – no luck. Spent the night with no power. Next morning someone helps us take the cable out, and it turns out we never gave it “the twist.” Uugh.”
  • Went on a three day charter on Lake Erie in the heat of August. We left our shore power cord on shore at the charter slip. Not accidentally. One of us asked the skipper if we should take it with us and he said no. None of us challenged him because he is a very seasoned sailor. Needless to say, it was a very hot and sweaty three days. We all knew better.  – This is my own experience as well as the other four sailors with me. :)

Dumb Moves – Anchoring:

  • “Forgot to have someone below feeding chain into the locker while hoisting the anchor so that we could reposition in a crowded anchorage on a moonless midnight. The chain jumped the windlass and we had to wait for 200′ of chain to thunder out while sleepy sailors peered out at the idiots making all the noise…”

I love this statement from one of the sailors in the thread:

“I have been sailing since the early 80’s. My list is so long and still growing. You have a choice, stay on the dock, research and worry about what might happen or put that research to work and just get out there and gain some experience.”

If you haven’t had enough of a laugh here’s a grainy but funny video on YouTube. It covers power boaters and sailor alike mishaps.

So take heart, no matter your level of experience, sailing is a regular learning experience for all of us and anyone can make dumb moves out there. One thing everyone repeated was that you usually only make a mistake once. :)

See you on the water,

Sail Away Girl