Don’t Shout to (at) Each Other, Signal

After 37 years of marriage and 50,000 sailing miles together we have finally learned that shouting to each other from the helm to the bow and back again when anchoring, docking, hoisting the spinnaker or just lashing down the dinghy does not work well. Shouting leads to misunderstandings, miscues, and mistakes.  What does work is a set of simple to understand hand signals. You may want to make up your own. Here’s how we do it in docking, anchoring and mooring maneuvers with the person on the bow giving direction to the person at the helm.

To signal “go ahead”, we wag a finger at shoulder level in a forward direction. To signal that we want to continue on going forward faster we hold a hand raised at shoulder level with a finger in the air and spin it around as if making cotton candy. To say “go slower” we pat the air visibly at waste level.

To signal that it is time to stop, we raise a clenched fist. If we need to stop really quickly, as we did picking up the mooring yesterday, we raise the fist and shake it hard…accompanied by a glare of disbelief. For “go astern” we use a hitch hiker’s thumb waged backwards at shoulder level. When it is time to stop reversing, we use the clenched fist again.

To signal that the bow has to go to port, we just face forward and raise the left arm outstretched to horizontal. Same deal for “go to starboard.” If we want the helmsperson to steer to a spot, such as a mooring, we point visibly at the mooring. When the bow person has no idea what the helmsperson is doing we use the universal shrug. If the helmsperson has done something boneheaded, it’s the palm to the forehead.

As you can see, no matter which of us is on the bow, the bowman is always right. Hence why shouting really doesn’t work.

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