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Riding the Tides

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Photo by Jim Raycroft

Capt. Barry Bramhill

Riding the Tides

Sometimes the customer isn’t always right—and shouldn’t be.

Even the most carefully planned charters can encounter hiccups, but quick thinking can usually turn even the worst situation around. Capt. Barry Bramhill, who has been at the helm of the 141-foot Big City for seven years, explains how he managed to recover from one such miscue while working on a previous megayacht and the important lesson he learned from it.

Staniel Cay, Exuma Islands, the Bahamas:

Midday The first mate and bo’sun take out a charter client, his wife, his aunt, and his two daughters on a 31-foot Pursuit tender to explore islands, beaches, and cays in the area. Capt. Bramhill stays behind to repair the electrical system of the other tender, a 16-foot RIB.

5 p.m. The first mate radios he’s run the Pursuit aground on a sandbar as the tide is going out. Since the crew is away from the yacht, Bramhill launches the RIB himself, a job that usually takes three hands. He locates the Pursuit on the yacht’s GPS using coordinates provided by the mate and sets off.

6 p.m. Bramhill finds the Pursuit as the sun is setting. He sees the crew and guests in chest-deep water attempting to push the boat off the sandbar.

7 p.m. The Pursuit is still high and dry, and the daughters are complaining of being cold as the temperature drops with the sun. Bramhill decides to leave the mate and bo’sun with the Pursuit and take the guests back to the yacht on the RIB. It’s dark, and the RIB’s nav lights don’t work due to the electrical problem Bramhill hasn’t yet fixed. With the aunt and the daughters chilled, Bramhill must decide: go fast to shorten the trip but subject everyone to wind chill or go more slowly and take more time but keep everyone a lot warmer. He ends up going as fast as is prudent and comfortable but unfortunately does not have a GPS onboard the RIB so he must follow a course based on his memory. Eventually the RIB and passengers return safely to the yacht where blankets and hot cocoa are distributed and everyone retires with a good story to tell.

10:30 p.m . The tide comes in enough for the crew to power the Pursuit off the sandbar and return to the megayacht.

In reconstructing events later Bramhill discovers why the tender went aground: The wife saw clear water and wanted to go straight to it despite warnings of shallow water on the plotter. Lesson learned? A good crewman never ignores charts and is always strong enough to resist the desires of charter guests when they aren’t prudent. Fortunately, Capt. Bramhill says, these guests rebooked a charter two years later.

This article originally appeared in the January 2012 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.