Confession: RIB training exercise on the Solent turns into fright night

In this month’s Confession, we hear how one night training exercise on the Solent turned into a near miss

I decided a few years a go that I wanted to buy a RIB, so obviously I needed to learn to drive one and get qualified.

After some research, I found myself on the Isle of Wight a few weeks later, embarking on an intensive week-long course that would, hopefully, mean I’d be rewarded with my RYA Powerboat Level 1 and 2, ICC and Sea Survival Certifications.

All was going rather well until the day of the night passage; we’d spent most of the afternoon learning about running lights, markers, and planning our passage from Yarmouth to Lymington, via
a few buoys and other landmarks in the Solent.

We set off from Yarmouth at the dead of night, and once in the channel it was all very eerie. The Solent was still like a mill pond, there was a full moon overhead and no one else was around, so all was silent.

After all the old ‘Jaws’ and ‘Piranha’ jokes were out of the way, we spotted the Wightlink cross Solent car ferry. I quickly adjusted our course as to avoid a collision.

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A few seconds later my instructor told me to change course to avoid the ferry. I told him I’d seen the ferry and all was well, only he asked me again, this time more insistently.

Again, I assured him I could see the ferry and all was well, when my instructor hastily took the wheel and steered us away from the ferry which, I suddenly realised, was almost on top of us.

It then dawned on me that as the ferry appeared to me as a silhouette and I did not know the running lights, the ferry was in fact travelling towards us, while I thought it was going away.

After my instructor spoke to me about the situation we had just found ourselves in, it was decided that now was the best time for me to learn the ‘lights of the night’ with a little quiz.

“Right, what vessel is that?” said my instructor pointing into the distance. “A high-speed moving vessel less than 10 metres in length,” I replied. “Well done, what’s that?” “A vessel restricted by its draught.” “Good,” mused my instructor.

This went on a while and despite my earlier mistake, I started to feel rather good about my new-found knowledge of night lights and passages and the subsequent mastery of all offered questions.

So good in fact, that rather than wait for a question, I started pointing all around and advising my instructor with great certainty what everything was.

After a few incisive reports of maritime mastery, I encountered a vessel I could not identify. “Dave?” “Yes?” replied my instructor. “What’s that boat over there, that one with the weird looking lights on it?” “Oh that…” replied my instructor, “that’s a house!”

The author of every confession we print wins the original Stephen Shaw cartoon artwork (above) and an Icom IC-M23 Buoyant VHF Marine Transceiver handheld VHF radio worth £165.

For your chance to win, spill the beans on your funniest boating moments in 650 words. Email your story to:


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