April 2015 – Sticky Stapylton

Sticky ends the Cold War

April’s speaker was Sticky Stapylton, a trainer and teacher certified to teach practically everything in the sailor’s repertoire up to Yachtmaster Instructor and Yachtmaster Ocean.

Sticky rather surprised us before the meal by leaping to his feet and saying a bloodthirsty Grace, calling for the sending of doves with sharp beaks to cut the throats of those who sell bad beer to sailors. (Visit this website if you’re curious – Ed.)

Whence the “Sticky” sobriquet, someone asked? At some point in his army career (as Sticky tells it) and at the height of the Cold War, he was responsible for stores. Found he had 385,000 bottles of Gloy glue in his charge, resulting from an annual standing order from the 20’s that no one had remembered to cancel. Being a man of resourcefulness and imagination he persuaded the powers that be to experiment with making a weapon of it, by putting the stuff in shells. So successful was this at stopping tanks in trials at Larkhill that Gorbachev got wind of it. Glasnost and the collapse of the USSR followed shortly after, and Sticky got his name…

Sticky as MoB colourSticky’s theme was Man Overboard, a subject that is richer than one might think, and can be a matter of life or death. This could have been a bit dry (or wet? – Ed) but Sticky kept us on our toes, entertained, provoked and educated us. He brought a wealth of experience and spoke with the authority you would expect of a military man, and a man who’s covered a lot of sea miles. There are clever devices on the market that claim to help retrieve a MoB. Some help, many are expensive. Many makeshift devices can work fine, if you’re quick and know how to use them. A decent 6-part tackle is a good start. But to really address the risks there are more fundamental things to look to. Can you heave to? Have all the crew been properly briefed on the essentials of safety and boat handling? Have they, for example: tried their lifejackets on; know how and where to clip on; know where the flares are and how to fire them; where the first aid kit is and what’s in it; how to start the engine?

One anecdote recounted the couple who holed the boat, managed to deploy the life-raft, find the flares, and fire one – unfortunately into the life-raft, setting it alight. Had they not been towing a tender we might never have heard this tale. Sticky’s subject matter may have been narrow, but he was right to persuade us to go for it.

It is important stuff, well worth discussing in detail, and many of us were inwardly reviewing our own arrangements as we listened. One day any one of us could find ourselves indebted. (Sticky’s website is here – if you want a copy of the crew briefing checklist he offered mail him at instructor@sail-help.co.uk mentioning that you are a Chipping Norton Yacht Club member.)