Sailing Lesson in the Fog

People give up a weekend and schedule for a sailing lesson weeks, sometimes months, in advance. I really hate to cancel a class since it is so disappointing for the students. I have taught an introductory class (ASA 101 Basic Keel Boat) in 20 to 30 knots of wind. I’ve taught a class in between rain showers, but the most challenging was a Coastal Cruising (ASA 103) class in heavy fog.

In the Coastal Cruising class, we do everything that is in an introductory class, plus we add navigation, anchoring, mooring, and man overboard drills. This particular class was on the Thames River in New London, Connecticut. The Thames River is less than half a mile wide, but on this day the fog was so thick that while we were sailing down the middle of the river, we couldn’t see either side.

So here I was with four students eager to learn with visibility of about five boat lengths. Fortunately, I know the river well and knew that just south of Crocker Boatyard there is a very nice yacht club called the Thames Yacht Club. On the west side of the Thames, the yacht club has a mooring field; and on the outermost edge of the mooring field, they moor a platform that they use for race committees. It is a platform about 20 feet square with a small roof. The club calls this platform the “The Queen Mary”.

Even though I couldn’t see the river bank or anything else, I kept our training boat within sight of The Queen Mary. We spend several hours practicing tacks, jibes, anchoring and MOB drills.

Then the US Navy decides to bring in a nuclear submarine. I never saw the sub, but escort vehicles would pop out of the fog for a minute or two then disappear. There was the sound of huge engines rumbling in the background.

I had been on the river when subs were being moved before, so I knew I would be safe in the mooring field, so we burrowed deeper in the mooring field. I know the skippers at the yacht club and knew no one would be out in that weather.

Then of course about a half hour before we had to go home the fog lifted. The students got all their lessons in and had a great time. Other than a neckache from pivoting my head trying to see everything, it all worked out well.






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