Wide in, tight out

Old racing hands know that the quickest way to round a mark of the course is to approach it wide, then tighten the turn as you round. Not only does this prevent others sneaking inside you as you turn, it also keeps you closer to…

more...

Give the kids a lure

Ever feel bad about trying to sail at two or three knots in light winds when the kids get bored and restless. Here’s the answer. Any time from May onwards – that’s now – the mackerel start running, and a slow-moving sailing boat is the…

more...

Yawl or Ketch?

We all know they both have two masts, the mainmast being ahead of the mizzen and considerably larger, but which boat is which, and how to remember it? The answer is that, in a yacht, the ketch steps her mizzen forward of the rudder post,…

more...

Identifying marks

You’ve spotted this buoy through the binoculars, but there are others not too far away. It’s critical that you have the right one, so how do you make sure? The easy answer is to steer across to the left of the picture so that the…

more...

To call or not to call?

It’s rare for foreign harbour authorities to want yachts to call them as a matter of course, and marinas in France, Holland and Scandinavia are often perfectly happy for you just to arrive then declare yourself. Back home, more and more authorities are interested in…

more...

Datums for GPS

If you’re still struggling with chart datums for GPS, YM’s postbag indicates that you’re not alone! Search an Admiralty chart and you’ll find a statement like this one. Once you know your chart’s datum – in this case ‘Ordnance Survey of Great Britain (OSGB) 1936…

more...

Learn to design

Kids playing up after two days in port? Game-boy’s batteries flat? Good. Set them the task of designing and building a yacht that will sail across the harbour. This one was created from a polystyrene dish that came from a Breton fishmonger with a plat…

more...

Over the waves

Making landfall in the dark it’s more than likely you’ll be looking out hard to identify lights. Unless you’re in sheltered water, there could well be a sea running that’s higher than your eye level as you sit at the helm. Height of eye sitting…

more...

Wave height and MOB at night

If you have any doubts about how wave action affects your chances of seeing a flashing light, try a practice man-overboard pick-up on a rough night using your floating emergency ‘flasher’ to mark the dummy. It’s a salutary experience, especially with the expensive millisecond super-powerful…

more...

Tell tales

Ever wondered what those telltales are for on a race boat or a cruiser with new sails? First, they’re for getting the boat bang in the groove sailing to windward. Trim in, then steer so as to keep the telltales on both sides of the…

more...

No Pinching!

Trying to sail too close to the wind almost never does any good and it’s a common mistake. The boat  slows down, especially in waves. This increases her leeway dramatically, so although she might seem to be pointing towards her objective, she’s actually sliding sideways…

more...

Use longer bowlines

GPS is the best friend we’ve got, but we all know that it suffers from the ‘rubbish in -  garbage out’ problem. Every time a waypoint is plotted on a paper chart and you’re at home on your berth, you can confirm you didn’t screw…

more...

Eyeballing a gap

When you’re entering a harbour or a narrow bay and you need to give one side a certain amount of clearance, bear in mind that while it may be impossible in practice to be sure of keeping a certain measured distance from a point, the…

more...

Winch power

When it’s blowing, don’t even try to winch in a big headsail sitting down. Manoeuvre your body so that you are looking straight onto the axis of the barrel, then grind using your shoulders for power. Even if you have to brace one foot against…

more...

Beating in the dark

Steering a cruiser close-hauled in darkness is largely a matter of feel. As the boat runs off the wind, heel angle may increase, and the boat will slow down when she comes fifteen degrees or more below her best course. As she luffs above the…

more...

Think before lassoing

‘Lassoing’ a mooring buoy by dropping a bight of line over it then heaving in the slack is a useful means of securing temporarily, especially where there is neither mooring ring nor pick-up buoy with its promise of a strop. The technique should, however, only…

more...

No misunderstandings

Any possible ambiguity can be cut out of helm orders by making all references in terms of the boat herself. ‘Keep it on the left’, when approaching a buoy could mean the helmsman should sail to the left of the buoy, but it might also…

more...

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 tug, you…

more...

60-mile rule

By some quirk of mathematics, a one-degree 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 five degrees will result in five miles (5.25 to be strictly accurate).…

more...

How far off?

From time to time, we all imagine we’ve anchored closer to the shore than is actually the case. To assess how far off the beach you are, don’t rely purely on first impressions. Spot something whose magnitude is recognisable in everyday terms – a person…

more...

Tugboat hitch

Securing a spring line to a winch barrel where there is no handy cleat is best achieved by the tugboat hitch. This is also the favoured method anywhere a single post or bollard must accept a line that may need to be released under serious…

more...

Look, no sails

Because most modern yachts sail well downwind under bare poles, dropping a mooring with wind against tide is easier than it looks. It’s often possible simply to make sure the sails are ready, then slip the mooring without setting anything at all. The yacht will…

more...

Dipping your loops

Where more than one rope must be made up on a shoreside cleat or bollard, always pass the loop of the second and subsequent lines through the loop that was there first. The geometry of this is hard to explain, but the result is that…

more...

NO HOOKS ON THE LEECH

Few abominations can compare with a ‘motoring leech’, but the leech line should really be the last resort in subduing the horror. If you over-tighten the line, it will end up by 'hooking’ the leech of the sail and ruining the clean airflow off its…

more...