Silent Night

Seamanship manuals are full of good advice about chafing gear. Usually, it’s all about making sure your ropes don’t wear through, but an infuriating by-product of chafe for anyone who enjoys a good night’s sleep is a rafted-up neighbour’s warp creaking in your fairlead. The…

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A Piece of string

Hands up the sailor who’s never dropped a vital shackle pin into the water? The most common victims are halyard shackles, undone and done up ever time the sail is handled. Often hands are cold, the vital pin slips through the fingers, and why, oh…

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Duff leads

Many a yacht crew has to struggle with heaving in a purchase because the lead off the final block is bad. The purchase will have been calculated assuming it works properly, yet if the fall is graunching around the cheek of the lower block as…

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Give her a sheer

Wind-against-tide anchoring is always a potential nightmare. The problem is that the boat lines herself up with the tide, which places her more or less stern to the wind. She then begins sailing merrily up to her anchor and even over it. At best, this…

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Standard pressure

The predicted tide height can vary by a foot or more depending on atmospheric pressure. Wind and other local factors are important too, but less easy to second-guess unless you know your area. All tidal height predictions assume ‘standard pressure’ on the barometer. You can…

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The mighty bull rope

This tip is offered to all gaffers and boats fortunate enough to have a bowsprit. If you’re anchored with wind against tide, rig a block or bullseye to the bowsprit end and run a line through it with both ends led back on board. Bring…

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Oops!

The calculation to avoid involuntary drying out when anchoring on a falling tide is a lot easier than many imagine. Forget trying to interpolate between tiny soundings on the chart in order to guess the depth where you are. Just fill out the tidal height…

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Sail on the Moon-tide

If you sail in central southern England, you’ll find spring high waters equate to midnight and mid-day. Down in the west country they fall around 0600 and 1800. On the Thames they’re usually in time for a latish lunch and so on. Neaps clearly come…

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Calibrate the log

The easiest way to calibrate a log is to wait until you’re operating inside a lock somewhere – in a Dutch canal for instance – note the speed over ground (SOG) from the GPS and set the log speed accordingly. You won’t be far out.…

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An easier furl

Roller genoas have revolutionised cruising under sail, but without a bit of basic maintenance they can still make life a lot tougher than it need be. Winter or spring is the time to read the manual, give the beast an internal clean and, if so…

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Main only

All sorts of boat handling manoeuvres under sail are more easily executed under mainsail only. Often, this involves sailing closehauled, which is where problems can arise. A close-hauled headsail ‘bends’ the wind around the back of the mainsail, which means the main must be sheeted…

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It’s all in the canvas

It’s often said that while old boats may be full of character, they don’t sail like the latest models. This boat left almost everything standing in the Round the Island Race recently. She was built in the 1930s and is sailed by a family crew,…

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Stuck in the mud?

If you’ve run aground in soft mud and she won’t back off the way she went on, try spinning her 180 degrees around on her keel. Once turned, you should be able to blast off the mud into deep water because a standard propeller delivers…

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Safety in extremis

Different countries have varying regulations, but at the time of writing it is legal to sail into a wind farm within UK territorial waters, so long as you don’t anchor or come closer than 50m to an upright. The idea of yachting amongst the pylons…

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Overtaken by time

‘Spot the entrance by looking just east of the Martello Tower’, warbles the pilot book. The trouble is, any pilot is only as good as its compiler’s most recent visit. In a place with massive development going on continually, it’s only reasonable to expect a…

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The destination waypoint

It’s understandable that many skippers navigating with plotters make only minimal use of waypoints. The destination waypoint is still well worth plotting, however, even if you don’t bother with any others. It enables you to see at a glance how long you have to go,…

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Man is not lost

With GPS so reliable, it’s easy to become complacent in fog. Looking for Chichester Bar beacon, for example? Just bung in a waypoint and hit ‘GoTo’, we think. The trouble is, the beacon was moved last year and the chart found on a recent charter…

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Taking up the slack

When there’s a foot or two of slack left on a mooring line that’s been made up, it’s always tempting to tidy up by popping a turn of the standing part (the section between your boat and the dock) around the cleat. Nine times out…

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One final waypoint

On a passage of some length (South Coast to Cherbourg, or East Coast to Flushing, for example), it’s tempting to make the final waypoint at the outer harbour entrance. Once inside after dark, however, shore lighting can make spotting the lights of the inner harbour…

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Don’t hog the hammerhead

Hammerhead marina berths can seem as rare as oaks growing in mid-Channel, especially if you’ve a larger-than-average yacht. A special place is reserved in a nasty corner of Davy Jones’ Locker for those thoughtless mariners who secure bang in the middle and take up space…

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Heeling Error

In these days of GPS navigation, people tend to ignore changes in deviation caused when the boat heels and lumps of structural iron alter their relationship with the compass. Some boats, especially those with iron keels, can exhibit enough ‘heeling error’ to make a significant…

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To Spring or not to Spring

Midships cleats are very useful in marinas for rigging lines that prevent the boat from surging fore and aft. These are not true spring lines however. Boat ‘A’ is rigged marina fashion, and there’s nothing wrong with this. Boat ‘B’ is rigged with real springs…

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Instant position lines

When you’re piloting close inshore and everything is happening fast, trying to take and plot magnetic position lines is generally a bust. Here are a couple of ways to check a bearing without using the handbearing compass. Object abeam - If the object that forms…

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Get the grib

Are you looking for really sound wind and weather forecasting on your desktop, anywhere in the world, large area or small, with three-hour intervals and up to seven-day prognosis? We all are, aren’t we? Well, here’s a great solution, and it’s absolutely free. Go to…

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Holding station

Holding station in a strong breeze, it’s only natural to try to hang in head-to-wind. In fact, most modern yachts don’t like this. Left to themselves they tend to end up with the wind over the quarter. This makes it far less stressful to let…

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Compensating for leeway

Here’s an easy system for making sure you apply leeway correctly on a course to steer. First construct your one-hour plot; next, sketch the wind on the chart. As soon as you can see which way it is blowing you, it’s obvious how to adjust…

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Keep a track

Using a chart plotter without activating the ‘projected track’ feature is like eating chips without salt and vinegar. ‘Projected track’ creates a line emanating from the image of the boat which shows where she will be in a given time, always assuming speed, current etc.…

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Cardinal errors

Everyone who has been on a navigation course knows what cardinal marks mean. If you have not had the benefit of formal training, the following may help with the topmarks and the black and yellow paint in daylight: The mark, be it buoy or beacon,…

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Early-morning fog

When you awaken on a what ought to be clear, quiet morning to find mist like this crawling around, don’t be disheartened. It’s the last of the night dews falling out of suspension – ‘radiation fog’ to give it it’s technical name. This isn’t the…

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