A heavy hitter?

Clouds like this brute were common this summer, but there will be lots around in the autumn too. It goes without saying that you shorten down and kit up before it arrives. The question is, does it have your name on it or not? You…

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Slough it off

Anyone who regularly picks up a mooring under sail knows that when a yacht rounds up through 180 degrees with no drive on, the braking effect of her rudder drags off a surprising amount of way. It’s worth bearing this in mind if you find…

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Keep a flat foot

It’s important that a reef pennant heaves the new clew of the mainsail aft as well as pulling it down. If it doesn’t, the foot will have too much curvature and the reefed sail will be too powerful. A flat sail drives well without creating…

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Amidships for peace on Earth

People with tillers generally lash them amidships when they’re anchored or moored in a tideway. It stops the boat surging around and helps her drift clear of any optimists who have brought up closer than you’d have wished. Keeping the stick in the middle also…

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A spring in the wind

A brimming spring tide will hit the best part of four knots in the middle of the English Channel. Fourteen knots of true wind is a good sailing breeze for most of us if we’re beating. Ten will do. At eighteen knots in open water,…

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Flutter clutter

A fluttering leech makes a racket like a helicopter, it wears out a sail quicker than the wildest gale and it ditches air that could be helping the cause of progress. Most of us don’t flinch from giving the genoa leech line that firm tug…

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Dutch Treat

If you’ve cruised the Dutch inland waters or the Baltic Sea you’ll have noticed how well the boat sails when you come out again. Your bottom is clean as a butcher’s slab at opening time because any incipient growth from the ocean loses interest in…

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Wash-ho!

Wash is an ever-increasing pain in the cringles for sailors, especially on light-air days. When you fear it’s imminent, warn anyone on board who may not be in a position to see it coming. It could save a scald in the galley or a tumble…

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Waypoints for danger

We’re all used to placing waypoints in safe places, but sometimes the best technique for avoiding an unmarked isolated danger is to pop a waypoint right on top of it. It’s especially useful when you’re using a paper chart and you don’t actually mind which…

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Back up to the gale

If you try to come alongside a wall conventionally in a strong offshore gale, you’ll struggle to get anyone ashore. As you lose way the keel stalls and a modern yacht with a cut-away profile blows off to leeward in short order. One solution is…

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Use your loaf!

At sea on extended passages, nothing raises morale so much as the smell of baking bread. Some people just like doing it for fun and it’s great after a week or two of baguette bingeing. Here are five tips for making a loaf to lust…

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Paying the rates

If you haven’t studied for a Yachtmaster theory course for a while, you’ve probably forgotten about the ‘computation of rates’ table which sits quietly minding its own business in the front of an Admiralty Tidal Stream Atlas. You won’t find one in your almanac. The…

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Lead it right

A system like this makes moving the sheet car to the right place a breeze. For the full genoa, just move it fore or aft until any tell-tales at the top and bottom of the luff ‘lift’ at the same time when you’re a few…

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A path through the rocks

Even a chart plotter can sometimes be wrong. Threading your way through a well-trodden but tiny pass in the rocks, the smallest datum shift can put you in dire danger. The men who erected transit markers like this one centuries ago knew that if they…

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The double transit

Every skipper knows about lining up two objects ‘in transit’ to keep the boat on a straight track in a cross-tide. What’s less obvious is monitoring both sides of a gap such as this harbour entrance at Honfleur in the Seine estuary. Cross-tides run very…

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The cruel sea

Look at the sea that’s running just outside this harbour wall – and note how lovely and calm it is inside. This yacht has come outside to hoist her mainsail and right now her crew are wishing they’d slowed down in the flat water and…

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Flip the fenders in

It’s a sensible policy to rig warps and fenders in good time. Sailing along with them over the side well before you arrive is not so bright, however. It exposes them needlessly to the wash of your progress, and it looks terrible. The answer is…

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The choice

The Choice Raymarine plotter is set up to show both the conventional ways of navigating to a waypoint. Interestingly, the speed is given as 14 knots which means that almost certainly it’s a motorboat steering a straight line. If so, the rolling road display at…

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Keep ‘em clear

When a number of boats raft up an issue often arises about shore lines chafing on bows or quarters. Try leading a lighter line around the bight of the offending shoreline like this, and heaving it up just enough to clear the lead.

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Give her some air

When the wind’s so light your pipe smoke goes straight up (or it used to, before having fun was banned), any decent boat with a clean bottom will still sail. She won’t go anywhere, however, if her sails are flat. So ease those halyards and…

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COG, SOG and the log book

Any conscientious navigator accepts that the need to maintain regular log book entries has not been compromised either by GPS or the chart plotter. Amongst other headings, any log carries columns for ‘log reading’ and ‘course steered’. Race boats might add ‘speed through the water’.…

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Colreg mnemonics

It’s not easy to remember the details of the Colregs when you aren’t at sea every day, but sometimes there isn’t time to look up an obscure one in practice. Mnemonics can help. Here’s an example: Question: ‘Which side do you pass a dredger –…

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What a wreck!

Some readers will be sufficiently senior to remember when wreck buoys were green. Believe it or not, that’s two changes ago. Permanent wrecks that pose a danger to shipping are now marked with a set of cardinal buoys, but when a vessel goes down in…

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All set?

Crew like to be told what’s happening. If the hands are well briefed, the skipper is in with a far better chance of not making a ‘horlicks’ out of a berthing manoeuvre. Instead of saying, ‘I think we’ll go over there…,’ folks are far happier…

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Check the waypoint

We’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating early in the season. If you’re navigating with GPS and a paper chart, the easiest way to check each waypoint is first to punch them into the GPS on your home mooring using lat/long coordinates lifted from…

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Towing speed

If you’re ever unfortunate enough to require a tow, watch out for over-enthusiastic motor-boat drivers. A sailing yacht should not be towed at much above a speed equivalent to the square root of her waterline length (around 5 knots for 30 ft on deck). At…

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