MOB six boat lengths off the stern!
Today was all about MOB drills. MOB stands for Man Over Board and I would say this was the best part of the entire week.
We left our anchorage in Boca Chica and headed towards the Atlantic Ocean to do some tacking and jibing drills in heavy seas. We soon got bored (and hungry and tired) since the beating of the seas was relentless and we kinda got the drills down. So we turned back into the bay and decided to have lunch as a place in Key Biscayne called No Name Harbor. It was a gorgeous small harbor full of boats. There was an amazing restaurant on the harbor where I had the best beans and rice ever! (or maybe it was the exhaustion talking).
After lunch, No Name Harbor became our training grounds for docking under power. Sailors often say that “docking is a spectator sport” because people enjoy seeing others struggle trying to dock or picking up moorings. So add a bunch of students, a crowded harbor with expensive boats, and we really had some people entertained and some very nervous! Luckily the only casualty of the exercises were a few mollusks that experienced a quick death while being crushed by the stern of the boat in one of our touch and go trials! Other than that, by the end we were surprisingly competent at “parking” the boat in tight spaces and maneuvering around the other boats while their owners anxiously stared.
But this day was really all about MOB drills. We left the harbor and sailed directly into the middle of Biscayne bay and that’s were the “fun” (aka stressful, high-pace, running around like a headless chicken) started. By now we were pretty comfortable with most of the basic maneuvers so doing MOB drills was a way to put them all into practice. In sum, the drills involved a MOB dummy (a life preserver ring) that the captain would throw in the water and then scream “MAN OVER BOARD!”. The helmsman would then start shouting directions (“TRIM FOR BOARD REACH”. “READY TO TACK IN 30 SECONDS!” etc) while the rest of the crew executed the commands (or at least tried – and in some cases just stared trying to figure out what to do). The MOB maneuvers involved turning the boat around in specific ways so that you can stop the boat right at the level of the MOB. It was not as easy as it sounds and the first few times we either ran over the MOB (oops) or stopped too far so we had to go around again.
We did these drills over and over again switching roles until the procedure became automatic. It was exhausting and exciting. It required us to be “on” at all times and tons of physical work trimming the sails to the specific maneuvers. By the end we were picking up the MOB in our first try! I think this is really what adds value to this course. Many could argue that they could learn to sail and all other boating stuff by simply reading books and sailing with friends. Yet, I bet it is rare for people to get to practice as many MOB maneuvers with this intensity outside of a sailing school. I know that in real life we would simply turn on the engines on and turn around, but it gives me peace of mind to know that I can recover a MOB under sail if needed.
We finished the day by anchoring off Key Biscayne and enjoyed some beers while watching two 10-year-old kids practice sailing around our boat.