Confession: Why I tried to tow a yacht with a tiny tender

In this month’s Confession, we hear how losing all power lead one skipper to resort to desperate measures

Many years ago, my late father owned a 22ft Westerly yacht that he used to cruise the Firth of Clyde.

I missed no opportunity to take his little beauty out for a spin whenever I could, even though I had no practical skills, no qualification – in fact, no idea what I was doing!

So, one very sunny day, I took Alouette out sailing for the day with my girlfriend, Sharon (also lacking any boating experience).

After a pleasant few hours, we headed back to Alouette‘s swing mooring off Port Bannatyne (Isle of Bute) and I dropped the sails and motored in on her 8hp outboard.

As we neared the mooring, I felt we were approaching a little too fast, so I popped the outboard into reverse and gunned it. Suddenly, I realised the engine was just over-revving, without slowing us down.

I threw it into forward and applied the power, but again it had no effect. Finally, it dawned on me: I’d snapped the propeller shear pin.

Now we were drifting (at some rate) right through the other moored boats and heading straight for a rather expensive-looking yacht.

“Push us off, push us off” I yelled to Sharon, waving my arms and urging her to go forward.

With much heaving, we managed to avoid any damage to both Alouette and the expensive yacht and drifted clear of the moorings.

Then the next problem arose. We were only 100ft from the extremely rocky shore, onto which we were being swiftly blown.

Not having the knowledge, experience or common sense to drop the anchor, I hatched another plan. I ran to the little fibreglass tender tied to the stern, and fired up the 2hp outboard.

“Throw me a line, throw me Alouette‘s bow line,” I instructed Sharon, which she promptly did. I then wrapped the line around my free arm as my other hand gripped tightly onto the outboard’s tiller.

With the 2hp outboard screaming, I turned the little tender out to sea until the rope became extremely taught, nearly wrenching my arm from my shoulder socket.

Trying to pull a 22ft boat against the tide and wind with the use of a small tender, a 2hp outboard, and one arm alone was never going to be an easy task.

In fact, it was like being hung, drawn and quartered, with Alouette‘s bow line threatening to wrench me from the boat as well as topple the tiny tender, which was bucking all over the place.

After what seemed like hours, I gained some control, made some headway though the moorings and arrived back at Alouette‘s home mooring where I tied the line fast.

I’m now a happy (and, I’m glad to say, qualified and skilled) motorboater, with a 24ft sportscruiser, but looking back I always grimace at the events of that day. For starters, why on earth didn’t I tie up to the first boat I fended off? Words fail me.

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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