(c) Dave Robson of www.aquapower.co.uk
(Copy of Dave's email )
'These notes are based on my experiences of organizing many cruise in company events for both private groups and for National boat magazines, including several across the channel. This is by no means an exhaustive list and no doubt other people will have other views or ideas of their own. So dig in, add your own thoughts.
As with all your boating, a bit of time spent on planning, goes a long long way. Make sure everyone is happy with the journey and you’ve planned a route on up to date charts. Yep GPS is good, but only if you know how to use it properly and only if it doesn’t break down, you can’t beat a good paper chart.
Check the weather, from a couple of reliable sources, for the whole trip, you don’t want people taking chances to get back home in poor weather. If the weather don’t look good, don’t go. It’s a braver skipper that says we’re staying put, than one that goes and scares the crew to death.
Make sure all the boats/crews are capable of the trip and are kitted out with all the necessary equipment ie tools, flares, spares etc and you all have plenty of fuel, its been done before, 10 miles out and a boat runs out of fuel, you checked it didn’t you… no no you did …mmmm
If the trip is a long one, file a passage plan with the coastguard, they are there to help, but please remember to phone them on a landline when you get to your destination. You don’t want to be sitting in the pub at the other end, wondering why there’s 2 helicopters and 3 lifeboats out practicing…. They’re looking for you dime, so phone them as soon as you arrive at destination.
Ok, onto the boat trip itself. VHF radio comms are vital for a large cruise, choose a working channel before you leave, to keep CH16 free and maybe nominate someone as cruise leader as a central control point for VHF calls. Please please all wear your killcords, ask Paul and Kathleen what happened to the boat in front of them last year and the high speed chase that followed. I am currently involved in giving advice in 3 separate court cases where 5 people lost their lives last year alone…. Why…. No killcord.. all the same outcome, run over by runaway Rib.
On the cruise, its best not to follow along in a big long line, if the boat in front suddenly stops, will you !!!! If someone falls out of the boat infront, will you (1) see them or (2) stop before you hit them. A better idea is to split the boats into groups of maybe 5 to 7 of equal ability and speed, then cruise along side by side, but again with a reasonable gap in between incase someone suddenly turns to avoid debris in the water. The next groups can follow along a few minutes apart.
Have 2 of the biggest, best, preferably twin engine boats, with very experienced crew as lead boat and follow up boat (to pick up any stragglers). There’s nothing more reassuring when struggling in bad seas in a small Rib, to know that not far behind is a monster Rib ready to help if you need it. Even if they only transfer a very nervous crew onto a much bigger (therefore psychologically safer ??) boat.
If bad weather hits and the sea gets wild, oh and this is the only time you do this, get the small boats to follow behind a bigger one, this will flatten the sea out a little bit and make the ride more comfortable (and safer). But slow down and pay attention, incase the boat in front suddenly stops or a crew member falls out. We’ve followed ferries back across the channel before !!
Fog…. mmm…. Not good. You should have fitted for long offshore passages, a radar reflector, but the problem is they ain’t great, so as a small boat you still might not be seen. Slow down, lifejackets on please !!! Because you’re going slower its now safe to get each group of boats, still side by side, but much closer together. If you’re in a very tight group you will show up on radar like an oil tanker….. everyone will avoid you now !!!!!!! We tried it on a test for a magazine, it works. Don't forget to use your foghorn... and listen for others.
As I said at the beginning, a few hints to make the cruise go smoothly. Most of all have a really great time, get stuck in with the stories in the pub, of the big wave, the satisfaction of the first channel trip, maybe the dolphins or seals that joined you for a few minutes, or the fantastic sunset as you pulled into the harbour.'
(c) Dave Robson.