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Old 29-04-2010, 13:54   #1
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Challenge: Would You Have Helped ?

Sorry for the long story---------------------

So what, if anything, would you have done in the following situation?

The setup---
My wife and I were sitting in the cockpit enjoying some cold beverages while connected to a public mooring ball. The location is in a bay that is very well protected from waves but because of the surrounding geography can be gusty and shifty when the wind is blowing hard. It was blowing hard on this day.

The observation---
A beautiful black hulled 55’+ sloop is motoring into the leeward edge of the public mooring field towards a ball at what appeared to be hull speed! Of course they went by too quickly for any chance to grab the painter let alone actually secure it to a bridle!
Round #1

From the black smoke bellowing out of the stern it would appear the captain has placed the boat into full astern. The mooring ball is near the stern on the port side when the forward momentum is stopped and I truly believed the prop was fouled. About that time a gust hit the boat and swung the bow greatly to port forcing the boat to float over the bouy. A deckhand tried to grab the painter on the starboard side when it popped up and thankfully missed since the boat was fully abeam to 25kt gusts.
Round #2

Capt tries to back towards the ball but in those conditions the boat turns into a large stern too Windex that doesn’t get any closer than 15’ away and parallel to the ball. This goes on for a few more minutes. Time for another cocktail!!!
Round #3

By now it is clear the majority of the boats in the anchorage are watching the spectacle with the same interest that we are. Captain decides that forward is a better option and does a very large 360 turn coming into the same ball at about a 45 degree angle into the wind. No doubt how this will end. He takes off too much headway too early and is blown off 10’ shy of the painter.
Round #4

At this point I’ve broken out the binoculars and can see a male and a female on the bow who appear to be in their late teens and a very white haired elderly man who is and has been at the helm. Captain tries another loop and comes up nearer to straight upwind but once again loses headway and steerage too soon but does get just close enough that the young man on the bow makes a stab for the thimble in the painter and catches it with the boat hook. Unfortunately he has stretched to his limit, the boat is going backwards and there is not enough slack left to get the boat hook out of the inside of the thimble. PLOP!! One boat hook in the water.
Round #5

Another loop, another approach. All looks well but the captain apparently isn’t aware that his docking crew have no means to reach the painter now.
Round#6

Another loop, another approach. This time to a different ball. Crew has another boat hook. Captain makes a decent approach but the spare boat hook is too short to reach to the water!!!! After missing again, foredeck kids figure out how to extend the boat hook.
Round#7

I discuss taking the dink over to see if I can help. Grab fins and mask to retrieve their boat hook in case it has sunken and become detached from the painter. I decide to finish my beverage and give them two more tries. Another loop and approach with the extended boathook but once again they fail to get the bow to the mooring ball painter before the wind blows them off
Round #8

This time they loop around and decide to try a DDW approach. Thankfully they miss because they are at wake board speed as they pass by the ball.
Round#9

Off I go in the dink to do my good deed for the year. I get along side this beautiful black vessel and offer to assist. The captain immediately says “we got it this time”. He proceeds to make two mistakes, not carrying enough speed and not going dead upwind.
Round#10

I renew my offer and this time it is accepted. I ask for the longest dockline they have so that I can loop it thru the thimble and motor it over to them should the get within a boat length of the mooring ball. They hand me about a 20’ piece of line despite my requests for something longer. I gently suggest making a very large downwind loop and coming straight upwind to the buoy. I rig the line and wait….Here they come, looking good, but once again too slow. I can’t even get the end of the dock line to the boat. It doesn’t help that this boat must have nearly 7’ of freeboard at the bow.
Round #11

This time I am less “friendly” and suggest that they either give me a longer line or give me two more lines that I can tie together. A 50’ line is tossed down to me. I add the first line on and loop it thru the painter and wait for the next attempt. This time he actually came up and stopped the bow pretty close to the ball. I handed the lines up to the kids and watched in astonishment as they took the docklines over the lifelines to the bow cleats. HOLY CRAP!!!! I was able to convince them to run them under the lifelines and thru the chocks to the cleats just as they ran out of line!!! With some instruction I was able to instruct the captain how to slowly motor forward to bring the bridle in so it is less then a mile from the buoy. SUCCESS!!!! I offered to look for the boat hook but the captain said it floated quite far away before sinking. He and the kids thanked me and I motored back to my boat wondering what in the world this group was doing on this boat. At least they were downwind of everybody and there was lots of room around them.
Round #12


Had the boat not been so large I would have used my dink as a bow thruster but my 4hp was no match for the winds. I also contemplated suggesting I come aboard as it appeared the captain was not very good at controlling the vessel. This would have been the easiest but I decided I did not want to incur any liability should something beyond my control happen.

Would you have helped or would you have let this group struggle indefinitely?
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Old 29-04-2010, 14:09   #2
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No, you did the right thing.
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Old 29-04-2010, 14:17   #3
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You ask a very interesting question- to put it more generally: Do you let people struggle doing something inane or do you try to help them out of their morass? I think you did what should have done- let them fail enough to realize they are doing it wrong, and then try and show them a better way. If you intervene too early they will never learn anything, too late and they will be too angry to learn...
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Old 29-04-2010, 14:24   #4
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This is going to be a great thread.

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Old 29-04-2010, 14:25   #5
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Wow!!! Inane and morass in the same sentence??? It pays to enrich my word power.

You eloquently describe the dilema I was facing. Of note that I failed to include above, was that this process was started late in the afternoon and the dwindling light helped to convince me to act before they found themselves flailing in the dark. From start to finish this event was probably nearly an hour long.

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You ask a very interesting question- to put it more generally: Do you let people struggle doing something inane or do you try to help them out of their morass? I think you did what should have done- let them fail enough to realize they are doing it wrong, and then try and show them a better way. If you intervene too early they will never learn anything, too late and they will be too angry to learn...
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Old 29-04-2010, 14:26   #6
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I would have helped, probably sooner as it seems they were just lucky they didn't hurt themselves or the boat.
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Old 29-04-2010, 14:27   #7
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Hopefully. But would you have helped them? If so, at what point? If not, why?

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This is going to be a great thread.

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Old 29-04-2010, 14:29   #8
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I would have helped...however if the person you’re trying to help is very incompetent you run the risk of personal injury or loss.
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Old 29-04-2010, 14:40   #9
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I have helped in some somewhat similar circumstances but much earlier in the process.

It's possible for the inexperienced to harm themselves and/or others and early intervention is usually best.

Someone said experience is what you get right after you needed it.

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Old 29-04-2010, 14:50   #10
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Well, I sense a certain smug schadenfreude on the part of the assembled company -- shame on you all. How skillful I am -- you all think with glee -- compared to that bozo on the beautiful 50-footer.

I also don't believe that anyone was really interested in the question to help or not -- it was just a good excuse to tell the story and laugh at someone else's expense, plus to show how gracious you were in actually helping them out of their trouble.

I remember years ago, I was sailing a cat for the first (and thank God, last) time, in the Windward Islands. The boat was anchored in Saltwhistle Bay and everyone was on land having dinner at a restaurant. A sudden and vicious squall blew up, and I could see that the boat was dragging. My crew and I ran as fast as we could and jumped in the dink, and raced over just before the boat went onto the coral reef on the western end of the bay. Cranked up the engines and got away.

Meanwhile it's blowing about 40 knots and rain is coming horizontally. We try and try to anchor, but we can't get it to dig in. Moreover, I can't maneuver for some reason. The boat pulls hard to port and doesn't obey the rudder. We can hardly see, and every time we circle around we are at risk of hitting the coral reef barely below the surface. We are getting tired.

Out of the blowing rain, a dinghy full of cheerful (although very wet) English sailors comes at us with a line attached to some mooring buoy, and quickly the situation is resolved.

No word or gesture suggested the slightest hint of the kind of disdain which is dripping out of the original post in this thread, although we must have looked like a bunch of complete idiots. No one knew at that point, including me, that the gearbox of the port engine had come apart, which was why the boat wouldn't maneuver (one of about a dozen mechanical failures on that cruise, including a prop falling off, and that was my last charter trip).

And I'm sure they didn't put up a smug post on a forum the next day. I did, however, send them over my last bottle of single malt the next morning.

On the odd chance anyone is actually interested in the question -- to help or not --

We consider it a sacred obligation to always help, no matter how much trouble it is, other sailors who need it. There but for the grace of God go I -- I always think -- and I am just grateful to have the skills or the gear to be able to help. All of us are amateurs with various degrees of clumsiness, compared to a real professional mariner. It's not really good to laugh at other amateurs' clumsiness. As skillful as we may think we are, we look even worse, to a real professional mariner (who call us WAFI's, did you know? wind-assisted f*cking idiots).
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Old 29-04-2010, 14:56   #11
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Wow, how did my post deserve a shame on me?
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Old 29-04-2010, 14:56   #12
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Well done!

I did some thing very similar watching 3 people try to load a horse into a horse trailer at a show.

I agree with Newt..They need to reach the Ok we could use some help stage or your just inviting an argument and appear a nosey know-it-all do good-er.

We watched a very similar fiasco with a 50+ foot pacemaker one day...I elected to just sit and watch as their attitudes were clearly bad, cussing and screaming at each other...they eventually succeeded about round 15 as well.
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Old 29-04-2010, 14:58   #13
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I would have helped and think that you did the right thing. Given what you described however, I would have been fearful of the guy running you down in the dinghy.
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Old 29-04-2010, 15:09   #14
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Don't be a cranky pants Dockhead! Just because he posted it here and was frank about it doesn't mean he was ungracious at the time.

I would have helped, prolly about at the same time as the OP.

But then I double parks cars for people who are trying to park on my street and are clearly suburbanites and can't get into a space twice the length of their car.

And while I am very nice and do the *oh no big deal, everyone has trouble once inna while* at the time, I tell some pretty funny stories at the dinner table and while we sit on our front porch watching those who do succeed (finally) we give scores Olympic style of technique; as in Hey watch, this one is gonna be a 5! it's gonna be 3 attempts for sure!

And I have gratefully taken help that was offered on the days when I was the bozo...
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Old 29-04-2010, 15:23   #15
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But then I double parks cars for people who are trying to park on my street and are clearly suburbanites and can't get into a space twice the length of their car.
If you parallel parked them instead they wouldn't get ticketed !


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