Clear? Clear!

telling-storyIt’s no secret! Boaters love to tell stories and quite often, the more times told, the grander they become.

As we listen to boaters’ stories, we enjoy the entertainment, but also hear the underlying message.

One boater told his story to a group of boaters who were enjoying refreshments in the cockpit, about a yacht Captain who really screwed up when exiting a lock in the Trent Canal.

In the Trent, as in other systems, vinyl covered cables are installed vertically down the cement walls for boaters to use during both the raising and lowering process.

The cables simplify holding boats in place—just loop a bow line and a stern line around two vinyl cables. Then, a crew member holds the other end of each line to walk it up or down the cable as the lock fills or empties.

The lock master instructs boaters to hold the line—not tie it.

When the locking is complete and the lock doors are opened, the lock master signals the boats to exit the lock.

yacht-cableThe yacht Captain in Mike’s story started up his twin diesels and shifted into forward. Because his boat didn’t move as he expected, he bumped up the throttles. The other boaters in the lock were anxiously waiting for him to get out of their path, and watched with anticipation for him to get moving. He bumped up the throttles more.

Twang! Crash! The bolt in the bottom of the lock cable popped out of the cement, flew into the air and crashed into his yacht, then recoiled into the cruiser behind. Luckily, no one was in the direct path of the flying bolt, cable and nylon stern line.

The Captain’s crew had—you guessed it, tied the stern line to the cable and he hadn’t checked with his crew to verify that it was actually untied, before shifting into forward.

You can imagine the discussions that followed Mike’s story. But, the underlying message here is “Responsibility”. Sure, the line shouldn’t have been tied to the lock cable; but, it is the Captain’s responsibility to verify dock lines are untied and aboard and the crew is ready, before engaging the motor(s).

Always check before engaging the motor

This check should be done every time before pulling away from a dock—whether a lock, a gas dock, or even your own home dock.

The Captain can look directly at the person responsible for that line and ask “Clear?” and not shift from neutral until a “Clear!” answer is returned. In noisy locations or on noisy boats, hand signals work well. For example; the Captain can point at the line and the crew member can respond with a “Thumbs Up” signal.

It only takes a couple of seconds for the question and response to and from the crew person on each dock line.

This simple procedure can save embarrassment from swinging and crashing against your slip neighbor’s boat; or even from serious damage and possible injury from the recoiling nylon rope.

Question “Clear?”   Response “Clear!” Now, you are good to go.

Leave your comments below: Share the procedure you use before leaving a dock.


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