Sometimes this is a difficult decision because there’s a schedule to keep. The skipper may feel obliged to get to another location because a person aboard has a flight from there, friends are waiting, the boat must get back to the charter company, etc. The decision to turn back or stand on shouldn’t be primarily influenced by any schedule, real or imagined. It should be based on a careful assessment of the factors affecting safety first and comfort second. The more experience you have, the better you’ll be able to make an informed decision that’s right for your boat and its crew. Each situation is different, even in waters you’ve traveled before. Getting out of the harbor and into open water may be uncomfortable, but when the boat is out in deep water things may change for the better. In some cases, it may be more difficult or even dangerous to get back into the harbor if you turn around than it was getting out. If the weather turns unfavorable while you’re en route, the decision should consider what the conditions may be at the destination or at an alternate harbor, and how far you have to go. Have you determined a “point of no return” where a decision must be made? If everyone is seasick or someone is injured, that could be an important factor. If you’re not completely confident in the ability of the crew or the boat to cope with difficult conditions, that could affect your decision. Take the time to consider the options, but ultimately it’s the skipper’s choice and responsibility. There’s no shame in turning back – it’s often the most seamanlike decision to make.
Priscilla Travis spends more than 110 days each year on the water, takes photos, and writes about nautical topics.