'Til the butter melts

Pursuing the cruising dream in 32' of sailing ketch

Silver Linings – and why Current is King


“Roar!”… (The sound of engines.)

(Shouting voices.)

“Roar! ROOAARR!”…  (BIG engines.)

(More shouting voices, louder.)

These are the sounds that get your attention, particularly when you’re down inside the boat and can’t see outside very well, and you’re a little nervous about being in this alien land called a “Marina” anyway. There are an awful lot of boats in a very small space, and the currents rip through like they have somewhere very important to go. It can be challenging.

And so it was this morning for a vessel named “Five Star” and her skipper. He was aiming for a slip across the alley from ours, and the entry against a 1.5 knot current was requiring more skill and experience than he possessed. Things were not going well.


Third time’s the charm, they say. On his third attempt to maneuver for the slip, he’s let the current push him just a little too close to the row of boats along our pier, and Sionna, it seems, is about to be the point of contact. The tip of Sionna’s mizzen boom, to be exact. As he backs (and Nicki and I are standing on deck now, wishing we could help, or teleport him and his 30,000 pound boat into her slip, or SOMETHING…) the elegantly shaped and laboriously finished teak handrail on his starboard side slips under the end of our mizzen boom (which overhangs the stern by nearly 3 feet), the hardware of our boom gouging valleys in his wood and scrapping varnish, until the bronze tang that holds the mizzen sheet blocks gives way with a resounding “Bang!” and he’s free again.

Finally he settles into a berth – though not the one intended. He’s laying against a concrete pier and the stern of another boat (with padded fenders out, this time), and he’s waiting for the current to go slack – which is what he should have done in the first place. He’s heard that several times in the last half-hour.

Current is King. You can see the ripples coming off the bow. Doesn’t look that significant, but it’s a force to be reckoned with, believe me!

Just for a review, “Current” is the horizontal movement of water, from whatever cause. A flowing river, a rising or receeding tide, a prolonged wind from one direction in shallow places like the Chesapeake Bay. All produce currents of varying strengths, and all can raise hob with the maneuvering of a boat in close quarters. You can’t fight it unless you have room to maneuver, so lacking room, the answer is always to wait. The current will ease when the tide changes.
So waiting is what the “Five Star” is doing now. Tied conspicuously in the channel against a boat and a post, looking for all the world like a docking attempt gone bad. Which of course it was. How embarrassing. No holier-than-thou here, however. I’ve been in a couple embarrassing places myself, and I’ll be there again – boats teach humility.

But you know, there is a silver lining, even to boat damage. The 53-year-old bronze bail that snapped saved our wooden boom from anything more than a little crack, easily repaired with a bit of epoxy. And the reason that bail broke was because it was already cracked about 90% through, fatigued from a half-century of normal use. Rather than failing when we were hard pressed at sea some dark night, it broke now, when we have the leisure to fix it.

The broken bail. The shiny part of the break is all that was still holding this piece of bronze together. The dark surface is the crack.


There’s usually some bit of good that comes from something bad. You just have to be open to seeing it.

Author: s/v sionna

Living the dream in 32'. We left Maine on August 18th, 2016, and have gradually worked our way south until we felt warm enough. After spending the summer in Maine, working to replenish the cruising kitty, and rehabilitating an old house. we’re headed back on the boat, bringing Sionna back home to northern waters. Follow our blog here!

7 thoughts on “Silver Linings – and why Current is King

  1. Ur so very right on with this post. Boy have I messed up in several docking attempts, even with bow thruster, but it adds experience!!


  2. Reblogged this on Live Free 2 Sail Fast and commented:
    I done the docking thing that’s adds “experience” too, and they are right about there being a positive side to most things- good read from someone out there doing it-


  3. Good judgement is result of experience, experience is a result of bad judgement.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Often true, but I would say not inevitably! My first career (pilot) shows that one need not learn only from ones own mistakes. Had the skipper of that Grand Banks taken the time to learn his boat and its limitations BEFORE bringing it into the confines of the marina, I’d have had no topic for this blog!


  4. The current in Charleston is amazing! We would watch it glide by in horror. Boats teach humility – ain’t that the truth! Glad the damage was easily fixed.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Technology, Arrogance and Experience | 'Til the butter melts

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