Using the rules of the road
Published on February 13th, 2023
Will Sofrin relives a memory for Soundings Magazine that would help to launch his career as a professional mariner:
I will never forget the first time I hit another boat. I was 19 years old and sailing a Beetle Cat through the inner mooring field of Newport Harbor, trying to impress a girl who had come to visit. I was a first-year apprentice at the IYRS School of Technology & Trades. It was a beautiful warm June afternoon with blue skies and a 12- to 15-knot sea breeze filling in.
I was sailing close-hauled but getting set unusually hard. Panicking because of how close I came to hitting a boat, I tacked without enough headway and put myself into irons. Sure enough, with no steerage, the bow of my Beetle Cat struck the stern of a moored 40-foot sailboat, cracking the V-shaped bumpkin that extended aft from the stern, which was home to the mizzen sheet block.
I was crushed and extremely embarrassed. I had just done the opposite of impressing that girl, and I knew I would need to get back to IYRS so I could call Clark, the program director, to report the incident. Clark came down to the campus and took me out on a launch to inspect the damage to the moored sailboat.
As it turned out, he knew the boat’s owner and he told him IYRS would cover the cost of the repair. The owner told Clark it was no trouble as he had been meaning to replace the bumkin and had a new one already made, sitting on his workbench waiting to be installed.
As we motored back toward IYRS, Clark looked at me and smiled, asking why I was so glum. I quietly mumbled, “I can’t believe I hit that boat.” Then with a chuckle, Clark said, “Ehhh, it’s OK, Will. Everyone hits a boat eventually. It’s just going to happen. That’s a fact. Lucky for you, you hit a small boat, much better than being on a 100-foot boat and hitting another 100-foot boat.” – Full report