Thursday 24 April 2008

Sailboat Winch Maintenance - Stripping and Re-greasing

Just returned from a few days sailing on the yacht of a good friend of mine. First day out we noticed that one of the main winches was a tad stiff and revolving none too smoothly.

We decided to strip it down, clean it, re-grease and re-assemble it. This sounds a daunting task if you have never done it before, but in fact it is really quite simple and any sailor can do it easily with the few simple tools required and a little patience and care. It is a good exercise and one that should be included in your general maintenance programme from time to time.

Take a look at the illustration and you can see what you need. Some winch manufacturers supply a key for unlocking the top inner ring, but in the absence of that, Allen keys, a hammer(hard rubber preferred), brush, tube of winch grease, rags and a bucket with a goodly depth of diesel fuel in it. I prefer to use diesel as it is readily available(from your tank if you are in a far away place), but kerosene is ok too.

Insert the key in one of the holes in the top plate and tap it anti clockwise until it revolves. Once freed it should undo four to six revolutions quite freely. Always be super careful as you lift it off so that if it slips or falls, it drops inboard not outboard.

Gently prise off the main cover - usually done by standing astride the winch, one foot in the cockpit and the other on the deck and working it upward until it comes free. If it hasn't been off for sometime and dry inside, it could take some effort to move it and then come suddenly. Once again ensure that you have some ready hands outboard in case a loose part pops out unexpectedly. Remove the self tailing piece as you go and place in the bucket.

Take a Allen key the right size and undo the three or four screws at the base of the gears unit. From here you take each piece(cogs and spindles) and place them into the bucket as you go, noting carefully the order in which they come apart. Be careful not to dislodge the pawls and springs as they tend to fly away in directions you would rather they didn't!

Wash all parts thoroughly in the diesel with your brush and then wipe clean with the rag. Lay them out in order on your cockpit seat as shown.

Wipe a thin coating of the grease on spindles, inner surfaces and flat surface of the base. Grease the bearing races well and ensure they run well. Dob liberally into and onto gears and cogs. It is good to have them well coated but don't overdo it - too much grease and the surplus tends to dry out and go hard over time.

Re-assemble taking care that every part goes in in the correct order and fits properly. Check that you have not left any stray bits in the bottom of the bucket.

Refit the top ring, polish with your rag and you will have a shiny new winch again.

Spin it a couple of times and you will hear the satisfying way it revolves freely with the muted clicking of a newly greased winch - you will be most pleased with yourself.

Allow yourself a couple of hours for the first winch - after that it will be cinch.

We carried out this operation and the winch sounded so good that we stripped down all the others on the boat the following day - great fun.

You can read more about daily maintenance when you are passagemaking in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship 'Tere Moana' downloadable from my website

Sunday 13 April 2008

Selecting Paper Charts

With all the digital technology and nautical software available to we mariners it is tempting not to have paper charts on board. However, for the reasons listed below you would not set sail on long passages without them. The new print on demand waterproof charts are a great on.

Paper charts are key navigational tools on nearly every vessel, even with advances in technology that make digital electronic charts affordable and convenient. They serve as a primary means to plan and record routes, an accurate backup to electronic charts and a reliable source of interesting information about the waters where you enjoy boating.

New Print-on-demand technology now makes paper charts as up-to-date as possible, with the latest Notice to Mariners, corrections, and NGA & NOAA safety updates available daily.

Who creates them?Charts of U.S. waters are created by the National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Agency (NOAA), which produces more than 1000 charts covering the U.S. coastlines and major waterways, plus coast pilots, tide and current tables. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), produces charts of international waters, lists of lights, sailing directions, sight reduction tables, pilot charts and other publications to complement charts.

The Canadian Hydrographic Service (CHS) is the source for charts of Canadian waters.
Chart SelectionSince U.S. charts are in the public domain and are not subject to copyright law, many private companies produce them in paper and digital form. We carry an extensive selection of these charts.

Consider the following selection criteria when choosing a chart:
Scale: Common chart scales range from large (e.g. 1:10,000) to small (e.g. 1:2,000,000). Remember, a large-scale chart covers a small area, and a small-scale covers a large area.
Kinds of charts: World and international sailing charts are used when voyaging across oceans or a long stretch of coastline.

For example, Chart 530 covers the area from the Aleutian Islands to Mexico and Hawaii at a scale of 1:4,860,700 with very little detail. General charts are considered coastal cruising charts with a scale between 1: 150,000 and 1: 600,000. They show much more detail than international sailing charts but still not enough for navigating close to shore or sailing into port.

Coast charts provide excellent detail for coastal navigation and all but the smallest harbors at a scale from 1: 40,000 to 1:80,000. Harbor charts show a relatively small area in great detail and should be used when making port. Often they have insets that show critical areas at a scale of 1:10,000.

Enhanced Content: Many private companies have taken the core data from government charts and enhanced it to provide additional value. Waterproof charts are printed on synthetic paper for use on deck or in small boats. Fish/dive charts show GPS positions for reefs, fishing grounds and wrecks.

Being Chart SavvyLatest editions: Many charts change frequently, so look for the edition date, which is printed at the bottom. A list of the most current editions of NOAA charts is available at

Chart Catalogs: NOAA, NGA and CHS publish free chart catalogs, which we have available in our warehouses. These show the coverage areas for each chart and are essential for planning a trip.
Chart Number 1: If you are unfamiliar with reading charts, ask for a copy of Chart No. 1 which explains the symbols and abbreviations used on nautical charts.

Depths: Water depth may be given in feet, fathoms or meters, and is generally measured at low water. This means that it is a conservative measure of whether you’ll run aground; generally the tide level will be higher and you’ll have some breathing room.

The Compass Rose: There are usually several compass roses printed on a chart, oriented to the North. Direction is measured as a straight line from the center of the circle to a degree number on the compass rose. The true direction is printed around the outside, the magnetic direction around the inside of the compass rose. The variation, which is the difference between true and magnetic North, is printed in the middle of the rose, along with the annual change.

Charts Available From West Marine:
Print-on-Demand charts from NOAA by Oceangrafix
Standard charts from NOAA, NGA, Canadian Hydrographic, plus privately produced charts
Print-On-Demand by OceanGraffixPrint-On-Demand charts provide the latest updated information, and have become the standard for timely accuracy.

New Print-On-Demand editions are available five to eight weeks before traditional lithographic charts, using digital technology, and they don’t print until you order them. They are updated daily with the most recent local and regional Notices To Mariners corrections, unlike traditional charts that are months (or even years) out of date. Because of this guaranteed up-to-date accuracy, we believe Print-On-Demand charts add an important level of safety for mariners, since coastlines gradually change, sandbars move, storms rearrange submerged hazards and the government alters its regional information. These charts are approved by NOAA, meet USCG carriage requirements, and are SOLAS compliant.

Full size Print-On–Demand charts are single-sided, either 36” or 42” wide, and between 36" and 48" in length. Distinctive graphics and vibrant colors make them easier to read than traditional paper charts, and they include added safety information, boating tips and emergency procedures.

Our Print-On-Demand charts are printed on heavy-duty water-resistant paper and are shipped directly to you by three-day FedEx ground service. Print-On-Demand charts are also available in-store at our Ft. Lauderdale and San Diego locations. They cost the same as traditional charts and the difference in quality is substantial.

Reproduced courtesy of Westmarine at

You can read much more about navigation and charts in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship 'Tere Moana' downloadable from my website

Friday 11 April 2008

ARC Rally 2008

ARC 2008 races ahead as entries reach 150 yachts - 27 February 2008.
Since its inception in 1986 thousands of cruising enthusiasts have enjoyed crossing the Atlantic with the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC). This year is no exception, with entries racing ahead at 150 yachts by the end of February and set to reach the upper limit of 225 yachts by the end of April.

Commenting on the continuing popularity of the ARC, director of World Cruising Club, Andrew Bishop, said: “The ARC is special and for many cruising sailors it is the “must-do” event on their cruising calendar, whilst for others it provides the inspiration they need to help them achieve their ambitions to set off long distance cruising.” Entry packs for ARC 2008 can be obtained from World Cruising Club or downloaded from the website.

Here is an excerpt from one of the yachts log closing on the finishing line in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia - just to whet your appetite!
Land Ahoy!
14 December 2007
An excerpt from EHO1’s arrival log.

Beneteau First 47.7 ARC2007 Racing Division “At dawn a call of “Land Ahoy” filtered down below as we spotted Martinique to our starboard.

‘Gin’ watch, who was at the time the ‘on watch team’, kept this little bus moving whilst ‘Tonic’ file through showers and generally tidy below so that we look just a tiny bit presentable!! The finish line plan is in place, with each crew member in a role; we have two on the bow to record the finish time and hoot our success and a full tacking team in the cockpit ready to beat over the finish line.

The weather as always is blowing a hooley - we expect nothing less anymore, despite the promised 10 knots on all the weather charts. She has made this adventure harder than any one of the crew could have imagined, but they have smiled all the way through. Mother Nature appears not to be prepared to give us a break for one minute in this final push for the line, she still throws us around the boat.

The radio is prickling with chit chat as other yachts make their 5 miles and 2 miles calls to the ARC Finish Line - we are currently 20 miles from the line and I cannot wait for my chance to put in our first 5 mile call. Overall we scrub up pretty well as a team - the corporate shirts are being pulled from the bottom of bags where they were put after race start day for safe and clean keeping. Our run to the line was just as challenging as we tacked across at exactly the same time as another boat, whose name I didn't get. It was still blowing a hooley when we crossed at 13:29 hours local time (17:29 hours UTC).

Vix's mother had managed to get herself into a RIB so was bobbing around in the Bay waiting for us - frantically waving a Spurs flag. The foghorns blew and our little team cheered with delight as we put this race to bed. Pottering into the marina the foghorns blew once more from many of the other yachts to signify our achievement, as they did with every boat that entered which was lovely.

We approached our berth and were met by a whole host of people which was lovely. I must say I am delighted we arrived in daylight - a night time arrival would have been much more subdued! (Note to self - never finish a race in the dark!!!) So - the celebrations began and I was doused in champagne - a terrible waste!!!! We were handed baskets of fruit and rum punches in their quantity from the St. Lucian tourist board which was well received.

Check out the ARC rally website on - now is the time to sign up for the 2008 Rally before it is too late - go for it!!

Reproduced courtesy ARC Worldcruising and their other site for cruising sailors

Having completed the ARC twice myself - once as crew and the second time in my own yacht 'Tere Moana' I can recommend it as a thouroughly exciting and enjoyable experience. Apart from the learning curve you will go through, the friends that you make and the experiences you will encounter are irreplacable.

You can read more about the ARC Rally in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship 'Tere Moana' on my website for sailors

Sunday 6 April 2008

International Navigation Light Rules

Recreational boats operating at night are required to display navigation lights between sunset and sunrise. Recent changes to the Inland Navigation Rules make them nearly identical to the International Rules, so we will describe the International Rules to simplify the choices.

Basic rules:
1. Sidelights are red (port) and green (starboard) and shine from dead ahead to 112.5° aft on either side.

2. Stern lights are white and shine aft and 67.5° forward on each side. (Thus, the sidelights and stern light create a full circle of light.)

3. All-round lights are white and shine through 360°.

4. Masthead lights are white and shine from 112.5° on the port side through dead ahead to
112.5° on the starboard side. They must be above the sidelights.

5. Sailboats under power are considered powerboats.
Sidelights may be combined into a single “bicolor” light.

6. Powerboats less than 20m (65.5') in length need to show sidelights, a stern light and a masthead light. Power vessels less than 12m may show a single all-round light in lieu of the separate masthead and stern lights.

7. Sailing vessels less than 20m in length need to show sidelights and a stern light. These may be combined into a bicolor light and stern light, or a single tricolor light at the top of the mast.

8. Sailing vessels under 7m must have an electric torch or lantern available for collision avoidance.

9. Oar-driven vessels can show either the sailboat lights, or use the electric torch/lantern option.

10. When anchored outside a special anchorage, power and sail vessels under 20m must display an all-round light. Vessels under 7m are exempt, unless anchored in a narrow channel or anchorage, or where other vessels usually navigate.

11. Sailboats with sails up during the day, but which are also under power, must fly a black “steaming cone,” with its point downward, where it can be seen. When under power they must follow the rules of the road for powerboats.

UCSG Requirements
Boat Length: 16' 40' 65' 165'
Under Power: Sidelights, Stern Light, & Masthead
Under Sail: Sidelights & Stern Light
Rowing: Same as "Under Sail"

At Anchor:
All-Round Light (night) or Black Anchor Ball (day) when outside a designated anchorage

Visibility Range: 16' 1nm sidelights,
2nm All others

40' 3nm Masthead,
2nm All others

65' to 165' 5nm Masthead,
2nm All others

Reproduced courtesy Westmarine

You can read more about navigation and lights in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship 'Tere

Tuesday 1 April 2008

Wichard GYB'Easy Boom Brake

Gybe safely with Gyb'Easy, the new Wichard boom brake.

Why a boom brake? Gybing remains one of the most challenging operations on a sailing boat even for experienced sailors and can possibly generate injuries and material damage.

An inadverdent gybe is always a danger and any product that can reduce the possible risks is worthwhile. This new unit from Wichard took out the Mets 2007 Dame Award in the Deck Equipment category.

Gyb'Easy is an efficient and safe solution to reduce such risks.

Concept: Thanks to the frictions of the specific line called Gyb'Flex passing over the boom brake, the boom is allowed to gybe smoothly and without jerks. The more the line passes over the openings, the more the friction is increased and hence the brake efficiency.

Settings of the Gyb'Easy: The adjustment is made thanks to the tension of the line. 3 different positions exist for a better adaptation of the mainsail and wind conditions.

Easy installation: It takes a few minutes to install it on a eye strap of the boom. Two different fittings can be implemented to fit with all the deck configurations.

Making use of new deck hardware such as this unit leads to and encourages safer sailing - we recommend it.

You can read more about safety in sailing in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship 'Tere Moana' on my website