We were at anchor in our yacht. The anchor was holding fine and we were facing SE as the tide was ebbing. We were showing an anchor ball in the fore part of the boat – hoist by the spinnaker halyard with the bottom of the anchor ball secured to a D ring just inside the forestay so that it was clearly visible.
There were only a handful of sailing boats out on the water. At about 1200, we saw a sailing boat, that had been tacking to the North of us, heading in a SSW direction directly for us. This did not worry us unduly as another boat had also crossed our path in a SSW direction shortly before and had given us a wide berth. This yacht had a very low cut Genoa which prevented us from seeing her cockpit or side decks, and did not appear to be altering course to allow for the fact that we were in her path.
We did not want to jump in too early with a warning shout so waited, assuming that she would duck behind our stern. A cable off and nothing was happening, nor at 100 metres. It then became apparent that the skipper of this boat had no idea of our presence and so as he closed to within 50 metres of us we shouted in no uncertain terms.
Awakened from his reverie he popped his head out on the lee side and saw us directly ahead. He initially luffed up. Fortunately he did not lose too much way doing this and was then able to bear away and go behind us. We were too stunned to remonstrate and he offered no apology but just stared at us open mouthed. He did not appear to have crew.
It is the closest I have ever come to a very nasty accident. He would have T-boned us amidships. Deep cut Genoas are all very well but they are terribly restrictive in terms of visibility and any skipper, especially a single-hander must ensure that they have a clear picture of the water all around their boat at all times. There is no excuse for not keeping a proper look out at all times.
This report illustrates that the principles of “Defensive Sailing” may also be applicable when at anchor. If you are in a boat at anchor and consider that you are at risk of being run into, we suggest the following:
- Use the horn at an early stage to attract the attention of the other vessel as soon as there is concern at risk of collision.
- Get everyone in the cockpit or on deck.
- Don lifejackets if they are not already being worn. (If the lifejackets are stowed below, they may be inaccessible if there is a collision and large ingress of water.)
- Start the engine – it may be of use for an emergency manoeuvre to avoid collision.
- Be prepared to slip the anchor.
- Know your vessel’s position in case you need to call for assistance.