Check aloft the easy way

You may be completely confident of your rig if you set it up yourself, but if it was left to anyone else it’s worth checking your pins and clevises before a passage. If you can’t conveniently go aloft, rack the binoculars down to their shortest…

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Freshen that nip

Chafe is the great enemy of the far-voyaging sailing vessel. From clipper ship to mini-yacht it’s the same old problem. Even on short runs, especially downwind, some rope somewhere is going to suffer damage from a nasty lead. This one has been worrying away at…

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A clean tow

The towing boat in this illustration had a problem because of her self-steering. It wouldn’t take much of a tweak from a towrope with 7 tons of yacht on the end of it to bend something. She therefore rigged a simple towing bridle, a good…

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A long Bowline

You might be forgiven for thinking this was a tip about not securing to rotten old tree stumps, but it isn’t. The point to be made is that the knot used is a bowline with a big loop, not a round turn and two half…

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Hull Speed

Many modern yachts have very powerful engines. This one is using hers to travel at hull speed – or flat out. You can tell she can’t go faster by checking out the huge hollow in the wave form along her hull. It’s tempting to ‘give…

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Keep berthing to yourself

Unless you really need assistance – in a strong offshore wind, for example – ‘helpful’ line-handlers on the dock are often more of a hindrance. Ever noticed that if you pass an unskilled person a line, they’ll almost always pull it? That might be the…

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Gybe-ho!

Much is written about how to gybe a mainsail safely, and every instructor makes sure his students are dab hands at heaving in the mainsheet to control the dreaded boom. The headsail, however, is often forgotten. Unless you have a full crew looking for work,…

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Hang ‘em high!

Once you’ve dealt with the weevils, it’s a sound plan to rig some cheap netting to stow the long-term veg. This frees up locker space, keeps the victuals well aired and allows regular easy checks to toss out any rotters. It also adds a picturesque,…

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Evil Weevils

Time was when the only places you expected bugs in the dry goods were deep in the tropics. You could always be confident of anything bought in a British shop. Well, not any more! This little chap and his family were discovered this summer in…

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Sort ‘em out

It’s so easy to let this happen when you’re approaching a berth. This poor skipper doesn’t need it, especially if had been blowing hard. She just wants to see that line go ashore and be made fast. No grief, no tangles. It’s all in the…

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Don’t run out of chart

Just because you’ve bought an electronic chart chip doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve acquired every chart you’ll need for an area. It’s always worth checking through the details you’re going to use before you get there for real. This one literally ran out just when the…

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’Ello ’Ello ’Ello!

Cruising in foreign waters, you never know when you’ll be boarded by the authorities. They may leave you alone for years, then suddenly, one day, there they are! It doesn’t pay to be complacent about carrying documentation. Ship’s registration papers (SSR document is fine), evidence…

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Track versus Rolling Road

Running down towards a waypoint in a sailing boat, it’s often better to use the compass option from the ‘GoTo’ menu than the alternative ‘rolling road’. The trick is to adjust the course steered so as to keep the bearing of the waypoint and the…

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Look behind you

When you’re on watch in a following breeze, be extra vigilant regarding the wind strength. A considerable increase in force won’t feel like much when you’re running, and the boat may not start to complain until it’s nearly too late. Reefing can then be a…

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GPS Man Overboard

With a tidal stream running, a GPS ‘Man Overboard’ position is of little practical use unless you’ve noted the time the button was activated. The Fix is, of course, a geographic one, and the casualty is immediately drifting away from it. After six minutes, a…

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Stalling the mainsail

A useful guide to setting up the mainsheet traveller is to closehaul the sail with the sheet, then bring the car up to weather until the luff stops lifting. In light weather, it can be acceptable to heave it all the way across until the…

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60-mile rule

By some quirk of mathematics, a 1° course error delivers a vessel a mile to one side of a destination that is 60 miles distant. Two degrees sets her two miles off and 5° will result in five miles (5.25 to be strictly accurate). The…

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LED alternatives

Rather than stick with established technology, it sometimes pays to replace standard navigation lights with LED alternatives. They’re just as bright, if not brighter, with as little as 1.5 watts draw as opposed to 15, and if one element should go bust (10,000 hours life…

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Chucking your lines

These days, we get plenty of encouragement to become ‘greener’ sailors. Usually it’s about not discharging oil, making more use of holding tanks, or whimsical suggestions about collecting our spent antifouling for safe disposal. Wouldn’t that be nice? Here’s a small contribution to the cause…

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Dropping the bucket

When you need a bucket-full of seawater, make sure you have a longish lanyard. Tie it to the boat because under way the pull can be considerable. To make sure of a decent fill every time, don’t just drop it in and hope for the…

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Salvage

Always discuss the deal before you accept a tow. If you've run out of fuel on a calm evening, a friendly fisherman might pull you in for a bottle of scotch, but if your boat is in undisputed danger and you accept a tow willy-nilly,…

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A quick fix

If your GPS goes down and you don't fancy a major plotting bonanza to fix your position, look for an identifiable object ahead or astern (somewhat off your course if need be). Steer to bring it right onto the bow or dead aft. The steering…

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Keep clear

If you’re an habitué of the North Sea you’ll be aware of the fact that the small rings charted around gas and oil platforms mean you must keep at least 500 metres clear. If you’re just passing through, you might have missed the note on…

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Carry a snorkel

All yachts should carry a simple mask and snorkel for that evil day when the propeller gets wrapped up. Flippers are good too, but not essential. Cutting the shaft free of fishing tackle, mooring ropes or even the skipper’s underwear is not difficult for a…

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