Tender Driving 101

Jan 23rd 09
By Matt Brown

When it comes to safely and comfortably transporting guests in the yacht’s tender (keep in mind, this can be a key factor when they calculate the tip), there’s no substitute for experience. Having said that, here are some tips I’ve learned from my own experience as captain of a variety of “tenders-to.”

#1 – Know the Rules
Throughout my Yachtmaster training, the lectures paid more attention to the “Rules of the Road” than any other topic. Whether you’re driving a 200-ton superyacht or a 1.5-ton tender, the rules are the same. Knowing the rules cold [without having to think about them] along with quick decision-making are essential ingredients in the tender-driving recipe of success.

#2 – The Bow Line Is Your Lifeline
When docking a tender, it’s important to get your bow line tied up to the dock as quickly as possible. Your stern line is always secondary to this, as once the bow line is secured, you can use the engines to bring your stern in to the dock. Docking in high winds ups the ante considerably [see #6 below], as any tender with a decent surface area will move away from the dock very quickly indeed. Therefore, if your bow line isn’t holding the tender where it needs to be, you’re likely to be blown onto some ground lines, catch a yacht’s anchor or worst of all, wind up swapping paint with the boat next to you.

#3 – Whoa, Speed Racer
There is a certain courtesy that should be displayed when driving a tender in close proximity to other yachts; this is not only for safety but also for the guests’ comfort. For these reasons, certain ports have speed restrictions in place [usually three to five knots]. On the south coast of France and other superyacht hotspots around the globe, maritime police are using radar guns to record the speed of tenders and are issuing hefty fines and even revoking lawbreakers’ licenses.

#4 – Mind the Gap
In very busy ports and marinas, sometimes you simply don’t have enough space to dock “side on,” with either the port or starboard side of the tender on the dock. If you’re driving a RIB, a space-saving option is to fasten a fender to the boat’s bow and nudge it up against the dock. You can hold the bow onto the dock without any lines attached while the guests embark/disembark simply by using a little forward throttle. But be sure to mind the gap!

#5 – Bring Cover Ups
A Gucci gown covered in seawater is not ideal by any stretch of the imagination (unless you’re a guy). If there is wind, spray from your tender will most likely be thrown over your guests. So be sure to ask the stewardesses for a grab bag of towels or blankets to reduce the chances of their outfits and hairstyles being ruined before they’ve even arrived ashore for their reservation at the four-star restaurant.

#6 – Watch for Wake
I’ve seen inexperienced deckhands get this wrong, resulting in either themselves or their guests being thrown overboard. Whenever you approach the wake of another motor vessel, slow right down. This will save you an embarrassing apology afterward and possibly a tip from a charter guest.

#7 – Use Your Head
Driving tenders will present you with any number of situations and new challenges, but no matter what the context, common sense always rules at sea. Let’s take the subject of towing: When you want to tow a smaller tender into port, its better to tow it alongside rather than behind you – there’s nothing more embarrassing that having the tow line tangled up around your props or even worse, being sucked up into your jet drive. Naturally, there are other basic things to take into consideration as well, like making sure you have enough fuel for the length of the passage you are about to embark on. Remember always to do your pre-launch checks before departing.

#8 – Dropping the Hook
When anchoring the tender, make sure your guests are settled where they want to be on board and stay there. As a guideline, your chain length should a minimum of three to five times the depth of the water you are anchoring in. Finally, be aware of other boats near you – if the wind changes speed or direction, you will swing on your anchor chain (as will they) and you can end up dragging anchors and drifting into each other.

#9 – Stay in Touch
Always inform the “mother ship” when you’ve collected the guests from shore. This will ensure that the stewardesses and the rest of the crew are waiting on deck when your guests arrive. It also gives them enough time to put the finishing touches on any preparations they are making for the guests.

#10 – Experience is the Best Teacher
Remember that you will make mistakes, but through your mistakes, you’ll learn a great deal. These pressure points will take you the furthest if you’re able to embrace them rather than excuse them.



Tags: Essentials HowTo Safety 



Rating  Average 5 out of 5

19 Comments
  • Silva ribs (no longer building them) used to have the console near the stern and to either the port or Stbd side, driving along without being able to see over the top of the bow Zig Zag driving.

    But this is what almost happened to me in similar swells
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SlLmJEpanKQ&feature=related
    Posted by Capt_Chaos 03/02/2009 05:08:09

  • @ Jimbo - that reminds me of a story. I was once heading out to the Cannes Islands in a 14ft Novurania rib, with a Yamaha 150 on the back, and with a 25 knot wind straight on the bow and right into 6ft swells. The problem was that the drivers console was situated too far astern so the weight differential was slightly out, so with a bit to much gas she would literally go air born as the wind got ahold of the bow! It's very disconcerting though when you're waiting for the prop to hit the water again...it definitely feels like you're going to flip! I've heard a few deckies complain about the Novuranias...but I quite like them :)
    Posted by The Contract Yachtie 03/02/2009 04:02:49

  • Actually I think the most crazy thing I have done with a RIB would be almost flipping a Tohatsu one design racing 6 metre Rib with a 2 stroke race tuned 90 and race prop, Just off of Cowes on the Isle of Wight (during Cowes week) I had the best job ever of looking after 6 RS K6's while they raced in the solent back in 2001 including gold pass to Cowes Yacht Haven for much evening entertainment (a Big superyacht called Leander was there too) The swell was so large (could only semi plane at 10-13 knots) and I on purpose was trying to get Big airs but I powered up one wave and just as I left the wave I was hit by a 35-40knot gust and felt the Rib Float in mid air before the transom and engine submerge into the sea filling up the whole RIB with water. I love RIB'S
    Posted by Capt_Chaos 02/02/2009 17:05:51

  • "but we live and learn, don't we" or die trying You just reminded me of another rule
    30. when swimmers are in the water always turn off the engine(s) when they are boarding or aroung the tender. referring to chopped up crew/guests.
    Posted by Capt_Chaos 02/02/2009 16:38:28

  • I've done some crazy things with tenders and beaches - in St. Marten we had a beach day planned for our charter guests so loaded up the tender with heaps of gear.

    The plan was to then offload everything from the tender and onto the beach. What we didn't realise was that the swells that day were far too big to attempt any sort of "normal" beach landing.

    The swells were ridiculous - but due to time constraints we had to offload the gear no matter what.

    So we drop anchor to stop the tender from being picked up and unceremoniously dumped onto the beach but then enjoyed a farcical situation of the 1st mate holding the stern line while yours truly negotiated the rotating propeller blades while making runs to and from the beach and the tender.

    It wasn't long till we had a crowd of stunned onlookers waiting for someone to get either leveled by the waves or chopped up by the propeller.

    The things we have to do when on charter... but we live and learn, don't we?
    Posted by The Contract Yachtie 31/01/2009 17:17:33

  • @ junior - loving your work boyo - my understanding has soared to new levels. Truly inspirational.

    Hope to see you in action on that cluster of RIB's in the caribbean ;)

    Burn them all.
    Posted by The Contract Yachtie 28/01/2009 21:08:11

  • My captain always tells those of us who only take the tender occasionally that "neutural is your friend."

    Also have some of those drug-store rain ponchos for unexpected showers.
    Posted by TiffanyS 28/01/2009 20:30:15

  • All great stuff for where you have a dock. Any thought on beach landings?
    Posted by Captain Stern 29/01/2009 16:24:22

  • Ha thats funny Junior sounds like you work on Starship, I have to cope with a 10ft tender with a honda 20hp 4 bladed propeller, as for beach landings in a rough swell I ask guests to come to waist height while i surf in on a wave in reverse the 4 blades help out big time and I bring an auto bilge along too. On the last superyacht i was on we dropped the anchor (beast of an anchor) and sterned into the beach (Power boat level 1 stuff)
    Posted by Capt_Chaos 29/01/2009 19:32:50

  • Beach landings ? With charter guests ?? If we are talking about swimming at the beach, then we simply scan for sharks and jellyfish, throw them over the side ten meters out and stand by...if your talking about actually unloading DADDY WARBUCK'S and his Botox wife into the surf for a land excursion...well it just does not happen. If my crew even try it, Ill fire the little buggers. Normally we scan the waterfront very well for civilized offloading points before anchoring. The tender comes back to the yacht. Other techniques include the Helicopter dropoff, or, as I understand it, some of the newer purpose built superyachts are actually being fitted with gyro controlled steam powered catapults that can launch Daddy warbucks and his gang over the surf and into 5 star beach restaurants. Its been suggested that we purchase a couple sets of 3 meter long clown Stilts , wooden legs, for their trip back to the yacht.
    Posted by junior_1 29/01/2009 17:38:14

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