A mind of her own

Long-keeled yachts with their rudders hung from the keel itself – or a long fin with a skeg for that matter – have a well-deserved reputation for being hard to handle astern under power. It’s easy just to say, ‘There’s nothing I can do. She…

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A clean heave

To heave a line ashore or to another boat, it’s best to follow a set procedure. Here’s what ships’ crews do. It works just as well on a yacht. Coil the line neatly, clockwise, into your left hand Step on the bitter end of the…

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Very Poor

You may hear the term ‘very poor’ creeping into the visibility department of shipping forecasts. The Met Office website defines this as ‘less than one kilometre’ which coincides with the old definition of fog. When quizzed, the Met Office said that fog remains as it…

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Unseen dangers

A recent consultation document from the RYA draws attention to the possibility that renewable energy facilities at sea may give rise to two unexpected dangers. The presence of large quantities of steel, cabling and electricity may cause local magnetic anomalies that can upset a compass…

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Odd or even?

You might be surprised to learn how many male skippers suffer from some degree of colour blindness. The sea’s rules and regulations do little for this silent minority, but one area where a clue can be found is in the numbering of buoys and beacons.…

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Shove it in

Oddly enough, the most common reason for a yacht diesel failing to start relates to when it was last shut down. If it has a ‘pull stop’ device (usually a toggle on the end of a ‘push-pull’ cable), it’s easy to forget to shove this…

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The ball’s up-tide

In the days when light vessels were still found in tight waters frequented by ships heading up for ports, the pilots used the way they were lying to tell at a glance how the tide was setting. When the Calshot Lightship in the central Solent…

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Damn the decimals

A typical GPS readout of a Lat/long position serves up 3 places of decimals. To put this in perspective, 2 places gives accuracy to 20 yards. The third is purporting to pinpoint the span of our outstretched arms, which used to be called a fathom.…

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Don’t get a face-full

When you’re releasing a snap shackle under load, on a cruising chute perhaps, keep your face averted and well clear of the action. Lines suddenly released from tension can turn themselves into a good facsimile of a circus ringmaster’s whip!

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Work the gravy train

Many headlands offer an hour’s ‘free tide’ on an inshore eddy just before the main turn, but when it comes to serious corners such as Lands End, Dover Strait or the Chenal du Four, a veritable gravy train may be up for grabs from the…

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Decent shore lines

To be able to do its job in any circumstances, a dock line on any but the largest cruising yacht should be at least the length of the boat. You need four of these, one for each function. A couple of even longer ones are…

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Ditch the extra windage

Next time you’re anchored and the weather situation looks like deteriorating badly before morning, have a serious think about unnecessary windage. The most obvious thing is to lower your spray hood – very likely that’ll save you ten square feet at deck level. Next, drop…

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Sleep when you need it

It pays handsomely not to try and fight your metabolism when you’re setting watches. If the skipper likes a kip an hour after he’s eaten his curry, give him the middle watch from midnight until three and let him sleep in the evening when it…

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An electrical shield

Next time you’re caught in an electrical storm, grab your handheld VHF and your spare GPS, and pop them in the oven. Shut the door and don’t light the gas! Whatever happens to any instruments with masthead antennae, the clobber in the cooker will be…

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Weigh them up

If you’re under the illusion that you have to change your lifejacket gas-bottle cylinder every year, you may be wrong. Examine it closely and you’ll see a ‘safe weight for operation’ in the small print on one end. Take it home and pop it on…

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Ease the strain

Anchored at the end of your tether in storm conditions when doom seems nigh, try motoring slow ahead towards the anchor. You won’t make any headway against the gale, but you will ease the strain on the poor old hook. Experiment to find how many…

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Easy on the chafe

Here's a neat solution for dealing with the sheets of a rolled genoa when a removable inner forestay’s set up. If they’re left to themselves they’ll have a good try at chafing the blade jib that’s doing all the work. A couple of karabiners on…

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A sorry sight

There’s usually a lot that can be done with halyard, sheet, outhaul and kicker to shape up a sad-looking mainsail, but if you find yourself underneath one that looks like a bag of flour after you’ve tried all you know, it’s time to consign it…

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Lighten our darkness

Sailing into or leaving a strange harbour at night is never funny, but if you’ve no choice a little moonlight can make a big difference. If you can time your movements for a couple of hours or more after moonrise that’s a real bonus, especially…

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Watch the glass

It’s all very well having the latest forecast from the radio, but sometimes a weather system winds up more than expected, as we all well know. Unless you’ve a barograph or one of the magic electronic equivalents, it pays to log the barometer every hour…

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One in a hundred

Because the nautical mile is about 2000 yards in length, it is also more or less 6000 feet. Conveniently, there are 60 minutes in one hour, which means that in one minute, a boat travelling at one knot will have moved ahead by 100 feet.…

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Fill ´er up!

Fuel tank gauges have a habit of ‘failing dangerous’ and many a yacht has had her diesel splutter to an ignominious halt with the gauge still reading encouragingly full. The answer is to run a column in your log book for ‘engine’. With ‘on’ and…

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Chips with everything

The unsung hero of boat husbandry is a cheap plastic gallon jug of ordinary malt vinegar. Not only does it give your chips that special something, it can be used for any of the following: 50:50 with water to clean salty varnish – especially below…

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Hands free

It’s surprising how many folks with autopilots only use them on passage. It’s grand not to have to steer for hour after hour, but freeing up an extra hand to stow a sail or prepare lines and fenders is equally useful, especially for two-up crews.…

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Tom and Dick

If you’re going off watch and you’re feeling a little ‘Tom and Dick’ (that’s ‘seasick’ in East London), don’t even think about struggling into a bunk up forward that may have your name on it. The best chance you have of survival is to nip…

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