Give ‘em a break!

It’s round about this time of year that pilots of huge ships in places like the Solent, Felixstowe and the Thames start to get jumpy. The skipper of the yacht ahead of this vessel probably imagines he’s got all the room in the world. He…

more...

Check that waypoint!

We know we make mistakes from time to time inputting all those lat / long numbers into our GPS units when we’re plotting waypoints. The classic answer for checking a lat / long position plotted at sea is to note its range and bearing from…

more...

Squall!

You can never be sure what’ll happen when a cumulonimbus (‘Cu-nimb’) cloud like this comes your way, but you’ll be lucky if the answer is ‘nothing at all’. If the horizon beneath the ice-cream castle is obscured, you can be sure you’ll get rain and…

more...

A clean cut

Every sailor should carry a knife. You never know when you’ll need it. This one has a locking blade as well as a variety of other useful additions, but it’s the blade that counts. So long as it locks, it’ll never fold up and slice…

more...

Knock ’em in, not out!

Are your seacocks the old-fashioned (but still the best) bronze lever-and-cone type such as Blake’s? If so, when you’re servicing them this spring, it’s a safe bet that at least one will be unwilling to come loose after you’ve unbolted the flange. Rather than unhinge…

more...

A lifeline in the fog

We’re coming into the foggiest months of the year right now, and with GPS we are so much safer than we used to be. However, nobody but a madman would navigate in fog on the assured assumption that the instrument can’t fail. In the days…

more...

Look behind you

It’s a new season and we all tend to forget the way a following wind builds up unnoticed. Running in 30 knots of breeze at 7 knots, the apparent wind is only Force 6. Turn into it for any reason, expected or otherwise, and it’s…

more...

Backing off

When you run aground in mud going straight ahead, the first option is to try motoring off directly astern, following the groove you’ve just dug. However, if you’re well stuck, it’s worth knowing that most gearbox-propeller combinations don’t deliver so much oomph astern as they…

more...

Sage advice

An old sailing instructor who’d seen it all was once asked about his attitude to such issues as wearing life jackets, or ‘winging it’ through a tide race when he knew it was neaps and the weather moderate. His reply was salutary. ‘If ever you’re…

more...

Halo, Halo!

When you see a halo around the sun or moon, stand by for dirty weather. We aren’t talking here about those little ones that fuzz themselves around the heavenly body. These big chaps are sure-fire harbingers of unpleasantness. Watch the barometer. When it starts falling…

more...

Plotting the tides

These days, secondary port tidal heights don’t hold the terrors they used to – not if you’ve a plotter, that is. Here’s a readout from a PC unit. Most hardware plotters offer the same service, if you know where to find it, and it means…

more...

Dodgy Charts

We’d all like to keep our charts corrected as per the book, but for some of us it isn’t always possible. Perhaps we’re too busy making ends meet, maybe our folio is too huge to contemplate the numbers of Notices to Mariners we’d need, or…

more...

A clear course

This boat is heading at ‘three-two-five’. If the navigator asks the helm to steer ‘three-twenty-five’ he’ll get what he wants just the same. But if the course had been 315 (‘three-one-five’) and he’d said ‘three-fifteen’, he could have been mis-heard on a windy night. The…

more...

Bag it up

Mainsheets are a constant challenge to the sailor who loves a tidy cockpit. This reader has had his sailmaker run up a neat, zip-up bag which keeps it out of the way. The crew has been zealous with the coil so it will probably run…

more...

Ready for action

Cow-hitching the coil of the genoa furling line to a guardrail is a great way to stow it on any boat that’s not too huge. If you’re right-handed and the line is on the port side, as it often is, the natural way to make…

more...

Ready for action

Cow-hitching the coil of the genoa furling line to a guardrail is a great way to stow it on any boat that’s not too huge. If you’re right-handed and the line is on the port side, as it often is, the natural way to make…

more...

Heel her off

When you’re aground and the tide is a long time coming (or worse), if all else has failed, try attaching a rope to a spare masthead halyard. The angle of heel this can produce is dramatic and may well lessen your draught sufficiently to do…

more...

Get shot of it

Nothing is so vile as a 150 per cent genoa with a low-cut clew when it’s reefed well in. These sails are designed for Mediterranean boats which habitually sail in light airs, but in the higher latitudes of home waters, we spend much of our…

more...

Ease the sheet

Sailing closehauled with main and genoa set, the mainsail usually ends up somewhere near the midline of the boat. This is because it’s receiving air that has already been ‘bent’ inwards by the genoa. A cruiser’s headsail, which is cutting clean air, is typically sheeted…

more...

Watch the Amps

Some modern plotters are so power hungry that their backs are designed to dissipate heat. While this offers the useful option of using them as toasters if the global GPS signal should fail, it also means we flatten our batteries in short order if we…

more...

Keep ‘em handy

A useful way to encourage the hands to wear harness tethers on deck is to make it easy. Instead of hanging them around your neck when they may not be wanted, try keeping them hitched either side of the cockpit – one end clipped to…

more...

A question of courtesy

Not all boats that race are flat-out ‘Grand Prix’ jobs. Many a cruiser enjoys the odd weekend’s sport with the local club. A boat like this could easily be taken for a cruiser, which on any other day she may well be. Today, however, she…

more...

Upping the downside

Modern fractional rigs with tall, narrow self-acting jibs are a joy to sail upwind. Unfortunately, many of these otherwise excellent headsails become unsheetable when you ease off onto a reach using only the gear supplied. The sheet position does not allow enough downward pull to…

more...