None of us are perfect and we all make mistakes. Find out more about common sailing and boating errors from our experts and what you need to do to ensure a happy day on the water

Being smacked in the head with the boom

This is a common mistake and most often occurs during tacks and jibes. Heavy weather, fatigue and equipment failure can also be a contributing factor.

Wearing protective head gear can reduce impact injuries.

Sailor and emergency physician Andrew Nathanson, MD, who has carried out an extensive study into sailing injuries, also recommends that if you are crewing then situational awareness, as well as good communication before manoeuvres, are both essential.


Being too close to other boats

It is important to respect personal boating space and to remember that there are different rules depending on the type of boat.

Extra attention is needed when waterways are busy to avoid any collisions.

The Boat Owners Association of The United States advises that in any situation “thinking like the other guy can help everyone maintain a comfortable distance”.

Communicate using your VHF, hand signals, or anything else available to tell the other skipper what you’re planning to do, and give him or her the opportunity to suggest a different approach.


When it comes to mooring, slow down

Clearly the couple on this yacht should have slowed down considerably while they were trying to moor- always approach any hard surface only as fast as you are willing to hit it!

They could have also done with reading Yachting Monthly’s expert’s guide to stern-to mooring.

To moor stress-free, there are three basic rules to follow:

On your way into the marina, check wind direction and current (it may be different from what you experienced outside the marina); Always test your reverse gear as things will get extremely hairy if it fails, especially in a tight space; Check drift before the final approach, and use some rudder or throttle to turn the bow into the wind/current which will slow you down. This will allow you to regain control.

Find out more by watching Motor Boat and Yachting’s video: Cruise Further, Cruise Safer – Stern-to berthing.


It takes skill and patience to launch/load a boat onto a trailer

Launching and recovering a boat is never straightforward.

But making sure everything is tightly secured is vital to avoid any mishaps – like launching the boat before you’ve reached the water.

It’s also essential that you consider the conditions before you attempt a launch/recovery. Avoid any exposed areas; consider wind strength and direction.

Beginners are advised to practice reversing with a car and trailer in an empty car park before facing a busy weekend at your favourite boating spot.

For more tips, watch Maritime New Zealand’s guide to launching and retrieving your boat. Article continues below…


Accidental gybes

Accidental gybes can happen to anyone. Rig a preventer to avoid man overboard or head injuries.

Rigging a preventer or using a boom brake should allow the helmsman enough time to correct any errors.

Find out which one is best for you by watching Yachting Monthly’s Boom Break Group test.


Man overboard

Man overboard can happen at anytime which is why it is essential to practice with a bucket and a fender as often as possible.

A slick response can really make the difference.

Read PBO’s top tips for man-overboard, as David Harding and the crew of the Mystery 35 Agatha brave a wintry Force 6 to test out the best responses.



A yacht broaches when its heading suddenly changes towards the wind due to wind/sail/wave interactions for which the rudder cannot compensate.

This causes the boat to heel dangerously.

Read Yachting World’s guide to what you should do when you start to broach.


Running aground

Always check your charts and the echo sounder to make sure you don’t end up stuck like this yacht.

If you do run aground, make sure that everyone knows what the plan is to get going again.

Read PBO’s guide to the most effective way to free your boat.

And last but not least…don’t forget to have fun!