IF IN DOUBT, WIND SHIP

Occasionally it is necessary to sail off a mooring with other yachts moored abeam on both sides and all of you head to wind. Having decided on the favoured tack, you will usually be confident either that you can gain enough way to sail out…

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WHOSE RIGHT OF WAY?

A useful aide-memoir when crossing another vessel in daylight with both boats under power, is to ask yourself which of her sidelights you would be seeing if it were dark. A red (port) light would suggest that you are to take care, so stay out…

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A LULL IN THE STORM

The cold front is often the most spectacular feature of a weather system, with violent squalls, towering cloud formations, veering wind and perhaps dramatic quantities of precipitation. After the front, a clearer, windy scene usually brings fairer weather in its wake. Sometimes, the bending of…

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HEELING ERROR

The effects of changes of heading on some steering compasses are well known and are tabulated as deviation. Heeling can also displace a compass needle in some vessels on certain headings, especially those with a large chunk of iron ballast. For practical purposes it is…

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A SHORTER SCOPE

It is well known that three or four times the maximum expected depth of water is a good starting-point for deciding scope when anchoring with chain cable. This rule is not cast in stone, however, and you might safely may opt for less cable if…

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KEEP ON TRACK

For close piloting inshore, it is important to steer down a straight track from one navigation mark to the next. Merely 'aiming' the boat will not be enough if there is any cross-set. As soon as you round a mark, line up the following one…

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DON’T BE TOO QUICK TO BELIEVE

When dealing with a daymark in an area strange to you, it pays to resist the temptation to leap to conclusions. Sometimes its identity will be obvious beyond any reasonable doubt, but if you have even the slightest misgivings, it’s worth cross-checking. Try comparing its…

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IDENTIFYING A COLLISION RISK

Out at sea, collision risk is checked by ascertaining whether or not the vessel in question is maintaining a steady bearing relative to you. Initially, this is spotted by keeping your head still and seeing whether a distant ship remains in place over a particular…

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TURNING UP

The only certainty about how to make fast to a cleat is that there are a number of equally good ways of doing it. In deciding which to use, the questions to ask are: If I secure it like this, will it be impossible for…

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Radar watch in the real world

To be fully effective, a radar operator should be watching developments almost constantly. In a small yacht where perhaps only the skipper is qualified to interpret the screen, this may be an unrealistic ideal. Obviously, another lookout must be detailed if traffic is heavy in…

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Lifting a swimmer

The subject of how to lift a man-overboard casualty is endlessly mooted in sailing schools and among cruising people. If a boat has an electric or hydraulic anchor winch with a warping drum, however, her crew need generally look no further. Even a powerful hand-operated…

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Running a Back Bearing

This method for keeping a boat on track as she moves down a safe line from a known charted object is moderately accurate. The trouble is that deciding which way to turn when the reversed bearing becomes larger or smaller than the ideal is the…

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Checking for drag

By far the best method of observing whether or not an anchor is dragging is to find a natural transit of two objects more or less abeam when the boat is head-up to the hook. For crispness, these want to be reasonably close. You can…

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Instant relative bearings

Everyone knows that at sea, a collision heading can be defined by noting whether the relative bearing of the other vessel remains constant. Out in the open, there is time to take compass bearings or wait to see if a ship moves along the guardrails…

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Tidal observations

Sailors in the central Solent can always tell the direction of the tide at Calshot by noting how the light float is lying. The authorities gave this vessel an anchor ball when they towed away the old lightship many years ago. The ball is on…

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Give them the end

When rafting up alongside another yacht, you often have to pass a line to someone on board her. There is a tendency to give the other crew a long length of rope, then ask them to feed it around a cleat somehow, and back to…

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Read the water

Working into a narrow river or harbour entrance in a strong tide, you can generally discern by eye where the deep water is, especially if it’s breezy. Tide running against or across the wind cuts up the water where it is flowing fastest. This is…

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Keep it on the winch

Before self-tailing winches, a sheet was always cleated off after winding it in. Many of today’s yachts don’t have sheet cleats, leaving no choice but to rely on the self-tailing jaws. This is all very well until someone tumbles against a winch where the jaws…

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Doubling up on anchor power

Anyone who usually anchors in tidal rivers could be forgiven for abandoning any ideas of setting an extra hook. It’s all very well reading about swivels, rolling hitches on the bight of a cable below the water, and ‘Bahamian moors’, but the possibilities for any…

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Explore that plotter

The first thing some people do when they buy a new piece of equipment is study the manual. Others fall back on the old maxim of not reading the instructions until all else has failed. Many of today’s electronic chart plotters will deliver a full…

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Easy on the tide

Novice skippers have lots to think about, but if secondary port tidal heights are making you doubt whether you are ready to take a yacht to sea yet, stop worrying! Remember for now that only in exceptional circumstances will there be less water than it…

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