Simon Jinks, RYA Instructor, talks fog; thick fog.

Maybe it's only fair that after years of examining others, I got my comeuppance. All those times inflicting a 'blind nav' fog exercise, on some poor candidate, it was only a matter of time until they got their own back.

I'd volunteered to skipper one of the Ocean Youth Club ketches, John Laing. But first I had to be assessed to check I could manage the boat and crew. The week long assessment would be run by the Skipper, Mark Todd, a chap I'd checked out 10 years previously. I wondered what he had in store. I also wondered if I had been nice to him on his exam...

Examinees blind revenge

As I piloted out through the Needles channel on the first day, on route to Weymouth, we chatted about the skills and demos that I'd need to complete. The list was daunting, MOB under power and sail, fog exercise, fire drill, abandonment, mooring under sail, it seemed endless and I wondered what I'd let myself in for. The tables were definitely turned.

Mark, who was fast turning into Capt. Bly in my mind, said we'd do a short fog exercise on route, probably for about 45 minutes. So with that happy thought, I popped below to log our passing of the Fairway Buoy and note a change in wind direction.

Five minutes later, the first mate called down the hatch to say the fog had come in. Visibility was near zero. Here we go, I thought, fog ex started...

Looking up the steps to thank him, with a wry smile attached firmly to my face, I noticed the steering wheel and helmsman had disappeared.

We were in fog for real, thick fog. The first mate looked concerned.

Think. Think. Think. This is for real.

  • Everyone in lifejackets - both on and off watch
  • Sound signals started
  • Position logged with time, heading and speed. Then logged regularly
  • Lookouts and listeners posted either side of the mast and a rota established
  • Radar switched on and a constant course and safe speed maintained
  • Watches shortened so that the crew can maintain concentration
  • Safety kit readied - just in case

We'd entered sea fog. It was spring, the sea was cold and the change in wind direction brought a gentle, warm and moisture rich south westerly that had reacted with the cold sea to form fog. Only a change in wind direction, wind strength or sea temperature would change the situation.

As the hours passed, how I wished for the 45 minutes of simulated fog. After five hours and with bulging eyes we closed Weymouth Bay and only then did the fog lift enough to allow us to enter port.

The kids onboard thought it had been a boring trip because they couldn't see anything. Strangely, I thought exactly the opposite for the same reason.

By that time Mark had achieved the status of sea-prophet, whatever he said, came true. We therefore decided to leave the planned fire drill until we were alongside, just in case.