So you’ve made the decision to sell your boat, but there’s a problem – your family and friends love the time you spend afloat. Don’t worry – just follow these easy tips and it won’t be long before they never want to see the boat again.

If, on the other hand, you are buying a boat or want to get your family or friends boating, this is definitely your list of things to avoid.


1. Bark orders from the wheel

Effective skippers check that everyone is set up in advance of each manoeuvre, taking the time and effort to ensure everyone has a clear understanding of their role. Standing behind the wheel and yelling at your crew is the best possible way to set them up for failure and humiliation. If you can keep it up for a couple of weekends, the chances are they will never want to see the boat again. To avoid this, see Sailing with your family: how to be a successful skipper.


Reefing a yacht

Don’t bother reefing, even if the boat is unbalanced and a big enough portion of the rudder is out of the water to make it almost impossible to steer.


2. Jump!

When you’re barking orders from the helm you have no chance of properly focusing on where you’re steering, and certainly won’t be tuned into the gusts sweeping through the marina that are sure to swing the bow at least 30 degrees downwind.

Ensuring your crew feel the blame every time you fail to stop the boat neatly alongside is pure genius and makes the next stage – insisting they jump a four foot gap – work every time. However, it’s important to ensure the boat is moving away from the pontoon – even the most desperate skippers won’t try this one when the boat is still moving towards the dock, especially if the wind is blowing the boat on, as the consequences are too dire to contemplate.


3. Reef late

We all know about the old adage that, when sailing a cruising yachts, if you think you need to shorten sail it’s already past the optimum time to do so.

Fortunately, there’s an excuse you can trot out to justify hanging on to full sail even when the cabin windows are under water and the rudder is permanently on the brink of stalling, making it impossible to hold a straight course. While cruisers need to reef so that their boats are comfortable in the gusts, raceboats adopt an entirely different strategy – they choose a sail plan that allows them to remain fully powered up in the lulls.

Just don’t mention that the reasons the race boats can do this is that they have decent laminate sails that don’t stretch into a shape that has all the aerodynamic efficiency of a sack, or that they are equipped with top-notch deck gear that allows their fully focused crews to depower effectively in the gusts, without flogging the entire mainsail.


Motoring a yacht into rough seas

Missing a tidal gate is guaranteed to dampen even the most ardent of spirits.


4. Drag the anchor

Denying people sleep is recognised as an effective means of torture. The good news is that you can easily achieve that without pressurizing anyone into an overnight crossing of the English Channel or North Sea. Simply go to your most popular local anchorage – the more crowded the better.

Start by working out how much chain you ought to use, then put only half that figure down. The best place to drop is as close to other boats as possible – you can always justify the decision by saying that like them, you wanted to anchor in the optimum spot. It’s even better if you manage to dump the chain right on top of the hook and don’t bother to dig it in with the engine.

If possible, choose a day when the wind is forecast to build in the night, or the tide turns in the early hours. You’re guaranteed a fun night of fending off other boats, untangling anchors and trying multiple times to reset yours. Getting back to work or school on Monday morning will be a blessed relief to your friends and family on board.


5. Anchor a mile from the pub... in the rain

Sitting in an idyllic remote anchorage is one of the many joys of cruising, providing the weather is suitable. However, anchoring half an hour’s row from the pub in half a gale and pouring rain is a different matter and you can always justify it by pointing out the saving you’re making in mooring fees for the night. For bonus points make sure there’s no food on the boat, so that you have to go ashore to eat, and choose a location where the only viable landing place is as muddy as possible.

To help you choose a spot, see: Seven special British boating pubs.


6. Flat batteries

Keep forgetting to turn the fridge off, or connect the shorepower charger, when leaving the boat. This works even better if the electrical installation on your boat allows the engine start battery to be connected to the domestic bank. The potential for a couple of weekends of hanging around, going nowhere, with the saloon and an aft cabin in utter disarray thanks to the need to access the engine and battery banks is too good to pass up. This approach also has the advantage that, since you can’t leave your mooring, no one will get hurt and there’s no wear and tear on the boat. While it won’t do anything for your batteries, a new set is sure to impress any potential buyer.


Reversing on to a dock in front of a crowd

Get as many people as possible involved when you’re mooring up and make sure they all know it’s their fault when it goes wrong.


7 Breakages

If you’ve had enough of the boat then you will want to spend as little time as possible on maintenance. This means you’ll eventually encounter so many breakages and malfunctions that you’ll scare off even the most patient and thrill seeking friends and family.

This strategy works even better if you take the opportunity to get some sleep immediately after a major breakage, leaving your crew to figure out the best course of action.

If you do want to give them a headstart, try: Boat maintenance: how to look after your boat.


8. Miss the tidal gate

This one’s a winner every time – why spend Saturday night in a decent restaurant, when you could be battling against a foul tide and going exactly nowhere for six hours? They will soon get the message.

This one also works if your harbour or marina has limited tidal access – spending half the night hove to in a building wind and nauseating sea state is guaranteed to put everyone off sailing for the rest of the season.

For a bit of good advice, try: Sailing with your family: how to be a successful skipper


Written by: Rupert Holmes
Rupert Holmes has more than 70,000 miles of offshore cruising and racing experience, in waters ranging from the North Sea to the Southern Ocean and Cape Horn. He writes about all aspects of boat ownership and marine travel, including destinations, seamanship and maintenance, as well as undertaking regular new boat and gear tests. He currently sails around 5,000 miles per year and in the past couple of seasons has cruised from the UK to the Azores, as well as winning his class in the 2014 two-handed Round Britain and Ireland Race. He also owns two yachts, one based in the Mediterranean and the other in the UK.