Monday 27 December 2010

Panama Canal Closed to Sailboat Transit Due to Flooding from Record Rainfall

'The Panama Canal has reopened after being closed to ship traffic because of flooding in the region, officials said.

The canal reopened Thursday, 17 hours after prolonged heavy rains and flooding required that it be closed for just the third time since it was opened 96 years ago.

Flooding in the region forced thousands of people to evacuate their flooded homes. Two 11-year-old children and an adult were missing, Newsroom Panama reported online Wednesday.

The rains, which forecasters say will hang around for months, damaged Panamanian crops and roads, including the collapse of one to the Centennial Bridge.

The Panama Canal Authority said ship transit was "temporarily suspended" Wednesday because the Alajuela and Gatun lakes were at the highest levels ever recorded, Newsroom Panama reported. The 48-mile-long, man-made shipping channel was closed in 1989 when the United States invaded Panama to depose strongman Manuel Noriega, and in 1915 and 1916 because of landslides, CNN said.

Manuel Benitez, executive vice president of operations for the canal authority, said the closure was necessary because transit through the canal could be affected by the currents of the Chagres River, which flows into the channel on the way to Gamboa.'

This news report from UPI brought to mind my transit of the famous Panama Canal in my own yacht and I post the extract from my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship Tere Moana':

'The dinghy pool at the PCYC (Panama Canal Yacht Club, now no more) contains a variety of underwater obstacles to snag the unwary approaching tender. Most of them are sharp and laying at exactly the right angle to slice through or hook into and tear the millimetres thick rubber of the bottom or sponsons. On their second trip, one such of these catches our not so vigilant crew off guard - fortunately only metres from the dock - a quick glance over the side shows an ever increasing stream of air bubbles under pressure, racing to the surface(quite fascinating in other circumstances!) and a hasty retreat with paddles foaming the still water follows, taking the Avon back to the dock - fastest she had ever moved under manpower!

Hauled out, upended and inspected, it is found not to be a life threatening rent and can be patched. Naturally, the repair kit is still with our little ship, moored 1.5 kilometres away, and completely innocent of events. So, our intrepid crew begin the usual search by knocking on the few boats that are actually in the marina berths and naturally again, some tender hearted sailor comes to our rescue - sibling crew is usually called up for this kind of incident, with expectations realised. With thorough drying, scuffing and gluing, our crew are able to effect a suitable repair and retire to the bar whilst curing - there is always an upside to any catastrophe!
Many a steamy night follows with our crew frequently sleeping in the cockpit under the stars, only to be driven below when the next deluge passes through. A tropical rain shower is very different in terms of intensity than what they were used to and once below, conversation can be very nearly drowned out with the drumming on her coach roof. She enjoys the coolness of it and is pleased that it washes the salt out of her sails, off the rigging and topsides - she will have to remind them tomorrow to sluice down the teak decks with salt water from the canvas bucket - this keeps them nice and tight by keeping the teak strips slightly swollen and tight up against the black sikaflex caulking.

Next morning she is rudely awakened with a not too delicate bump on her starboard side - this announces the arrival of the Admeasurer, which in number comprises four swarthy Panamanians with very black moustaches and big boots, clumping around her decks and below measuring everything they can lay a tape alongside or around. Because the majority of their work is large merchant vessels, cruising yachts just don't fit into their matrix. A cruising yacht not having a funnel, bu the box on their form requiring an entry, they measure a starboard dorade vent - necessity is the mother of invention! Many curious questions follow until finally, with a bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label changing hands they depart, instructing our crew to be ready for when a Pilot will be delivered for the transit.

Documentation progress is slow and when the final stamp with payment required is to be at the Panama Canal Commission, a $50 taxi ride takes them to the PCC office. This office is positioned mid way along the canal and most inconvenient - but considering ships travel both ways through the canal, there is a certain logic to it being at the Gatun Locks. With document stamped and USD495 paid (transit fee which has increased currently to USD600 plus a USD850 buffer fee - refundable if not used) our crew hasten back aboard to await the arrival of the Pilot.

Pilot on board by 5.45am next day and informs the captain that 6.5knots have to be maintained for the 21 nautical mile journey. Now, she thinks to herself, that means she should be there on the other side and therefore in the Pacific by lunch time. What she doesn't understand is that in between times she has to negotiate the three locks along the way - up and into Gatun Lock, down to Pedro Miguel locks and finally, Miraflores Locks - this all takes time and will probably use up most of the day. The captain is a little concerned that running the engine so hard for so long may cause problems. She knows that the motor is good enough, but lets her captain fret anyway. Running into the locks, rafting up with other yachts, handling the monkey lines as they are hurled down onto her decks from above and bouncing around in the turbulent waters of the locks all goes well and she is rather pleased with herself and her crew.

They had all heard some awful stories of major damage to small vessels in transit and were somewhat fearful of this leg of their journey. She felt somewhat intimidated in the Gatun Locks by a merchant vessel whose bow some 15 metres up, loomed forward over her own bow and she thought that it could have given her just a little more sea room.

The turbulence in the locks as the water rose and then lowered was quite dramatic, and she had the crew dancing around her deck constantly watching and adjusting her fenders - she was very protective of her unsullied flanks and did not want them tarnished by some unfeeling merchantman, whose only concern was to get out the other end to continue its pecuniary voyage. She also knew that if she got on the wrong end of a small bump from one of them, her hull would pop open like an egg. The captain having to sign an indemnity to the PCC, was also acutely aware of this.

The captain, perched on the stern rail in the Gatun Locks suddenly spots two large porpoising fish astern and close to the lock gates. They are a pair of very big Tarpon and apparently these fish regularly use the canal system to traverse into the Pacific and vice versa - fee free of course!
Cruising between Pedro Miguel Locks and Miraflores she passes the Pedro Miguel Boat Club to port and smugly notes all the yachts out on 'the hard'. They were in various states of repair and many of them looked like they had been there for quite some time - this club was famous for voyagers returning home for respite before venturing into the Pacific, with many of them never coming back to continue. Obviously, she muses, folks from the Atlantic side - but to her crew, the Pacific was their home and held no such fears.

Finally, into Miraflores Lock and the last batch of 'bump and grind', her nose pointing west, the huge massively steel strapped and dripping gates crack open to reveal a sliver of ever widening blue which is her first view of the mighty Pacific Ocean. She feels a jet of excitement pass through her and realises that at last this is the beginning of a great voyage - the crew also seem to be somewhat stimulated and prattle on about how smart they are to get thus far unscathed! Indignantly, she would like to remind them, if it wasn't for her they wouldn't be here at all! She remonstrates by heading for one of the pylons of the great 'Bridge of the Americas', until Anglo crew noticing, brings her smartly back on course and on a heading for the Balbao Yacht Club. She claps onto a mooring, shuts down and releases them ashore and the club bar, to find the first gullible bunch of sailors who will listen to their pathetic babbling! This is the first time using the repaired dinghy in anger again and it holds up well.'

Extract from 'Voyage of the Little Ship Tere Moana'. Images courtesy Google.

You can read more about sailing in the Panama and San Blas cruising grounds in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship Tere Moana' downloadable from my website

Ron Holland Super New Ketch 'Christopher'

Having owned a Ron Holland design yacht(albeit only 13 metres)and being blessed with the fantastic sailing abilities of the sailboat from the board of this architect, I have followed the career of Ron Holland and his designs as he has progressed further and further into top end super yacht vessels. As I have blogged before (see my post of August 2008 'My Dream Sailboat')about my dream cruising yacht being the RH designed Discovery 55, I felt that his latest classic design ketch coming in at 46metres(150 feet) should have an airing. Take a look at the following extract from and marvel at the beautiful lines of this classic design 'Christopher', launched early December:

'Launched in December and due to be finished in January, this week's featured yacht is the 46m (150ft) ketch the SY Christopher, Ron Holland's latest design.

She was launched in the UK's Falmouth waters in early December by ship builders Pendennis, who partnered with Ron Holland Design and Palm Beach Yachts International to build the new yacht.

The launching was something of a celebration as over 400 Pendennis staff were present, along with the owners, at the end of 22 months of hard work, and many more months before that in design mode.

Father Jonathan Bielawski from St Mary's Immaculate Parish Church gave her a customary blessing before she slipped into the water.

Now its enormous masts have arrived at the shipyard, and there's no time to lose, as the Christopher is due to participate in her maiden race at the St Barths Bucket regatta in March.

The carbon fibre rig was shipped from Southern Spars in New Zealand, one of the leading producers of yacht rigging globally.

When she is finished, three staterooms and a study will provide the owners and their guests with accommodation for up to 12, with a further four cabins forward, sleeping eight crew.

Ron Holland says this yacht represents all of Ron Holland Design's latest thinking with regard to a performance oriented cruising yacht.

Designed to reflect the styling of the classic yachts of the past, they have designed a sweeping sheerline and counter stern to emphasise her traditional lines. These aspects, together with the decision to teak clad her superstructure, have given Christopher a close connection to the magnificent sailing yachts of earlier years. These features camouflage the leading edge design detailing that was driven by their clients' desire for uncompromising sailing performance.

The yacht has refined underwater lines, sophisticated bulb keel and high aspect ratio centerboard. Her twin balanced rudders are an obvious departure for a large cruising yacht and have been incorporated to maximise sailing performance in strong wind conditions, and to allow space for a large tender to be deployed from the lazarette.

Christopher is the first Ron Holland design to be fully rigged with both carbon spars and carbon rigging, reducing the yacht's displacement while improving her overall sail carrying ability in strong winds.


LOA 46m (150.9ft)
Draft 3.8m (12.5ft keel up) 9.4m (31ft keel down)
Beam 9.5m (31.2ft)

Ron Holland's collaboration with Pendennis was a natural. They have one of the world’s leading custom superyacht build and refit facilities, and one of Cornwall's most important employers, based as they are at their 6.5 acre prime water front location in Falmouth, UK.'

Extract courtesy , images courtesy Sail-World and

You can read more about the excellent sailing qualities of Ron Holland designs in my ebook 'Voyage of the little Ship Tere Moana' downloadable from my website

Saturday 23 October 2010

America's Cup class AC45 and AC72 Catamarans, Construction in Warkworth, New Zealand

The new America's Cup Class AC45 and AC72 catamarans are creating a lot of excitement in New Zealand as that is where they are going to be built. Following my visit to the Auckland Maritime Museum and seeing the Americas Cup winner NZL 32 'Black Magic', I decided to call into the new BMW-Oracle production facility in Warkworth, north of Auckland. As I was on my way up to the Mangawhai Heads, I would pass through Warkworth on the way. Warkworth is a delightful rural town about one and a half hours run north of the city.

The first hull of the new AC45 has been released and the following is an extract by Richard Gladwell from :

'BMW Oracle Racing look to be set to put the sleepy northern Auckland town of Warkworth on the technology map with the establishment of a new hi-tech boatbuilding facility that will employ between 50-70 people.

The new facility to be known as Core Composites is off to a flying start with the production of the new America's Cup 45 class of catamaran, but will be also supplying to other boat builders and users of composite components.

Based in the old Rodney and Waitemata Times production facility, previously a major employer in the area, the building has plenty of open floor area and high ceilings – ideal for some of the big gear either already installed or on order.

Already one five axis machining centre is installed - which will handle a component of 6metres x 3 metres by 1.5 metres. Kerry Jones, who is in charge of the machining at Core Composites describes it as 'the Baby'. But it is the biggest machine of its type in New Zealand. A second 'Monster'machining centre will take components up to 26 metres in length.

'We have these two five axis CNC machining centers, a CNC lathe and some other equipment basically to handle the capacity that we have rather than outsourcing all the parts that we do for the rigging', explains Jones.

'We probably will outsource some specialised components – when it comes to America’s Cup boats we will have to do the hulls in America. That is in the Protocol', explains Chief Operating Officer, Stephen Barclay.

The grand scheme is to be able to build all components for the AC45 class on site and thanks to some liberal rules in the new Protocol for the 34th America’s Cup, only the hulls of the BMW Oracle Racing’s AC72 yachts need be constructed in the USA. A special team will be sent from New Zealand to USA to do this. The AC72 wingsail, foils and all other components can be manufactured in the Warkworth facility.

The five head 'baby' machining centre in the BMW Oracle Racing building facility - Warkworth. Capable of taking material up to 6 metres in length (the largest machine of its type in NZ) a second machine capable of handling 26 metres is on its way. 'We have the capability to do everything,' adds Jones, turning to the big five axis machining centre, which he refers to as 'the Baby'.

'This is the smaller one of the two that we have', explains Jones. 'It has a tilting rotary head so we have full five axis of movement on the head and a 6-meter stroke by 3-meter by 1.5 meter on the Z axis. '

Think of three dimensional drawings with width depth and height ('X', 'Y' and 'Z' dimensions) and you have an idea of the composite engineering art forms these machines can produce.

'It is the only one of its kind in New Zealand at the moment,' says Jones. 'We are getting a bigger one which is going in what we call the boat shed (really a huge two or three level room the size of a warehouse).

'This one will fit on the table of the big one', explains Jones to underline the size of the new beast.
'It is designed for the aerospace industry, and making spar component parts, it is quite widely used by Boeing and companies like that. It can machine up turbine blades, and not just marine stuff, but also automotive and aerospace components,' he adds.

'The machine are going to be used for doing a lot of the mould work for the composite construction', explains Barclay. 'We get the designs from the design crew and then we convert that into cutting files and then we basically supply all the mould components to the boat builders.

'In the past we would have to an outside company to get tooling and components made. That cost a fortune and you are beholden to the outside companies in terms of timing and things like that.

'By having these machines in-house we can do all of that stuff ourselves. Of course over time we can amortise the cost of it, so if we have a long-term use it will actually be cheaper for us to be able to handle this capability in-house. '

As mentioned 'the Baby' can handle components measuring 6-meter by 3-meter by 1.5 meter.

And the big one?

'The big machine is going to be 26-meter long by 6-meter by 3.5 metres' says Jones, drooling ever so slightly.

Barclay explains that 'the Beast' is going to be hitting a roof in the boat shed. 'It will be 9-meter high. It is a massive machine that can basically machine a whole boat - the whole hull. It will take up most of this shed - with a sail-loft at the other end.'

BMW Oracle Racing purchased the facility about 18 months ago

'The ambition and reason why we did it was that the team has aspirations of being around for a long time . We spent so much money to finish products around the world so that is really the reason for doing it, it actually saves us money. And of course, we can guarantee the quality which for any big team is really important,' explains Barclay.

About 50-70 boat builders will be employed at Core Composites, the reason for the shift to New Zealand is that the labour costs are less and the skills and engineering expertise are high. 'We are looking at working with a lot of New Zealand’s resource to help us with the AC 45 project and we are actively talking to a number of contracting companies at the moment', says Barclay.

Another plus for the Warkworth facility is that it allows the storage of an enormous amount of kit. 'When you have been an America’s Cup Team in operation since 1990, you acquire a lot of gear', explains Barclay resignedly. 'It will be good to see what we really have in the one place.'

Construction is well advanced with the male moulds for the AC 45 class of which six are expected to be sailing by mid-2011. The first will be launched in January 2011. Each competing team in the 34th America's Cup will own at least one of the yachts, maybe two. The wingsails for the AC45's will also be built in Warkworth on the same floor.

Right now the focus of Core Composites is to get the AC45’s into production.

'It will be America’s Cup Race Management and the yet to be appointed Regatta Director’s responsibility to determine who gets their boats first, and overseeing the training program we are looking to put in place before Christmas,' says Barclay.

'The idea is that all the teams can come down and learn about these, and learn about sailing the boats and learn about the logistics of the wing – all that sort of stuff.

'It is the Regatta director’s job to make sure that all the teams are handled in a way that is fair and equitable.'

'We are certainly up and running.'

Article and images courtesy Richard Gladwell, Sail-World.

You can read more about sailing and cruising from my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship Tere Moana' downloadable from my website for sailors

Wednesday 13 October 2010

Sir Peter Blake Memorial Maritime Museum Auckland

The Sir Peter Blake Memorial extension at the Maritime Museum in Auckland was officially opened in December 2009 and on a recent trip to Auckland I took the time to visit this tribute to one of New Zealand's most famous heroes. Up there with luminaries such as Sir Edmund Hillary (conqueror of Mt. Everest) and lord Rutherford (first to split the atom), Sir Peter is best known for his sailing exploits, contributions to sailing and in his later years, work in the environmental arena. It was here, tragically, when working on an environmental expedition in his 'Seamaster' sailboat on the Amazon river he met his untimely end, defending his crew from pirates.

His exploits in the Whitbread Round the World races set his home nation of New Zealand alight, which culminated in the unprecedented clean sweep of all five legs in Steinlager 2 (Big Red) in the 1989-90 race.

He added to that with the record set around the world in the Jules Verne Trophy in the ENZA catamaran in 1995.

But he is probably best remembered for winning the Americas Cup for New Zealand in 1995 and defending it successfully in Auckland in 2000.

The memorial, designed by the well known Auckland architect Pete Bossley is a striking addition to the NZ Maritime Museum. Wandering through the Blake memorial, built as it is over the water, I was struck by the openness and lightness in the hall which so enshrines the character of Sir Peter. The massive suspended hull of NZL32 Black Magic totally dominates the hall and is obviously the centrepiece. The gradually rising walkway lifts you up to where you can look down into the workings of the boat and then leads on into the mini cinemas where videos of Sir Peter's adventures are constantly running. Had to watch them as they contain very powerful footage of high speed ocean racing culminating in the first Americas cup win in San Diego.

Altogether, a great tribute to a true New Zealand hero.

He now has the Sir Peter Blake Trust set up in his memory and the following is an extract from that site:

'From the outset, the sea exerted a powerful influence over Peter Blake. The family lived in a wooden bungalow in Bayswater on the northern flanks of Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour. His father, Brian, was a gunboat captain in the Royal Navy during World War Two; throughout their marriage, Brian and Joyce Blake owned boats and the Blake children grew up with the sea as their playground.

Peter was born in 1948, the second child of what would later grow to a family of four children: Janet, Peter, Tony and Elizabeth.
Peter loved messing about along the foreshore and boats very quickly became a passion. Family summer holidays were spent camping on a piece of land they owned at Mairangi Bay, north of Auckland, next to their grandparents’ house.

The two boys, in particular, spent all their time on the water. "We had banana box boats," recalls Tony. As the name implies, these comprised wooden banana boxes, with a rudder hung off the back, a mast and a square sail. Windward ability was somewhat lacking, but there was no shortage of fun and adventure.

Their holidays were further afield, camping at Martins Bay, where the children would trudge up the hill every morning to collect fresh milk, still warm, from the local farmer. The evenings would be occupied with family card or board games – perhaps planting the seeds of Peter’s later love of Scrabble, a game he engaged with steely and unrelenting competitiveness.

Back at home, schooldays were spent dreaming about boats. Traditional team sports – cricket, rugby, soccer – did not interest Peter. It was boats, boats, boats. Both he and Tony, three years his junior, would pore over English sailing magazines and follow design trends with keen interest.

"I can remember sailing on evenings after school, the sun going down on the water. I’d sail through flotillas of water birds. Really peaceful: I had as good a time then as sailing around the world years later." — Sir Peter Blake

Extract courtesy Sir Peter Blake Trust, images courtesy

You too can read about his life adventures on the trust site

This is a must visit when in Auckland for anyone with a remote interest in the sea and sailing, but also to look at one of New Zealand's most famous sons and a true leader.

You can read more about planning your own 'adventure of a lifetime' sailing voyage on my website

Saturday 18 September 2010

Man Overboard Recovery/Retrieval Strategy for Sailboats

'Man Overboard' yelled out at the top of a crew's lungs is a sailboat skippers' worst nightmare! Even with preparation and practice, when and if the event occurs, under severe pressure and weather conditions prevailing at the time, is everything that has been practiced going to go smoothly? Most of us thankfully, have never been put in this situation, so it is impossible to predict what will happen in the event of this stressful incident occuring - hopefully, it won't ever come to pass for you.

However, it is best practice to be as best prepared as can possibly be. I recently came across this article by Marco Coda (he uses the term COB rather than MOB) and felt it is well worth repeating. Marco is a cruising instructor with many years experience and describes his preferred method here:

'The day has dawned crisp and clear, the radio is forecasting a light to moderate Nor’wester, everything promises a wonderful weekend of sailing. Two hours out of Vancouver on the way to the Gulf Islands the wind pipes up, the boat is well heeled over and everybody is having a great time. Suddenly you catch a movement out of the corner of your eye and one of your crew is in the water! How would many of us react? Sure we’ve taken courses, maybe even practised in light air. How many of us fully realise the seriousness of a COB? Or worse feel like "it’s never going to happen to me, I only sail in fair weather, I’m always careful," and so on...

My intent with this article is not to teach procedures but to take sailors who already understand the basics of crew overboard recovery one step further. We all need to keep in mind the possibility, no matter how remote, that this can happen to any one of us and that when prevention fails readiness is our best defence. By this I refer specifically to practice and contingency planning. Thinking about what we’ve learned and how well we understand the procedures we were taught and also coming up with some "what if’s" that are rarely given thought. For example: " Would that heaving line hanging from the pushpit fly or would it end up as a polypropylene bird’s nest at our feet?" or "What if the auto pilot is engaged when someone falls over?"

As a cruising instructor I have taught COB procedures many times and it has come to my attention that there are a few general points that should be further discussed. First, if we practice at all after our course, it is almost always in fair conditions. While I believe that these conditions are required to effectively teach and begin to practice the manoeuvre, chances are that a COB will occur in less than ideal conditions. It is human nature to want to avoid difficult or uncomfortable situations and ironically they remain that way through lack of practice. In the case of the COB manoeuvre we are almost never forced to practice, with potentially dire consequences should we ever need to use it. Reviewing the procedure in a book then trying it is not easy. One way to bridge this gap is to use models and practice the procedure with a bird's eye view. Plasticine, available at the local toystore is ideal for this purpose. Working through the steps in a controlled environment helps the student put them together more easily. For the skipper and crew who have not practiced in a while this is a good way to get back into it. Then go out and practice, in moderate conditions at first but not ignoring the obvious benefits of practice in heavier weather.

Under sail I feel that the triangle method is the most effective because it will work best in all conditions. There are a few points however that may not be fully understood and are crucial to the success of the manoeuvre. There are two common problems experienced by students when learning and practicing this procedure. The first is not going to a beam reach as soon as the alarm is sounded. This happens because the skipper is under sudden pressure and may be confused by so many things to think of at once. The purpose of immediately getting the boat on to a beam reach is for the skipper to "get organized" and go through the steps of spotter, ring, pole,...etc. Four to six boat lengths used to be the rule before the skipper would head up and tack. This is no longer the case. Take only the time needed to get organized. This "organization" phase helps to ensure success on one pass and reduces the chance of a series of panicked and missed attempts. The second problem stems from an instinctive desire for the skipper to head straight back to the COB as soon as the boat has come about. The aim is to arrive at the COB in control, stopped alongside to leeward. If the boat returns directly to the COB it is generally on a beam reach and making good speed. It is impossible to stop by heading up at the last minute and the boat will usually overshoot the MOB. By bearing away to a broad reach and then heading up to a close reach when the MOB is abeam of the bow the boat is brought back to the MOB under control using mainsail only to control speed.

Does the use of power have its place when returning to a COB? What do we do when motoring in heavy weather in a power boat or a sailboat with no sail up? The method for returning to a COB while under power is called the Williamson Turn. As soon as the alarm is raised the boat is turned 60 degrees to the side over which the crew member has fallen. The boat is then brought back around in the opposite direction and on to the reciprocal course, the engines are stopped(put into neutral) and the vessel should drift to the COB’s position. There may be no choice but to return under power to the person who has fallen over while motoring, but extreme care must be taken as the propeller increases the risk of injury to the COB. Some skippers while under sail may be tempted to return under power. Trying to lower sails and motor back, especially in heavy weather, further endangers the COB and remaining crew members, it also presents the risk of fouling the propellor with lines.

Finally, I want to touch on the difficulties of recovering a COB. How many skippers and crew have tried to bring an unconscious or injured victim back on deck? There are many accepted methods, all having their own advantages and disadvantages. Think simple to complex, get the COB to help themselves as much as possible. Keep in mind that rescuers often join victims as double statistics. It may be a simple matter of throwing them a heaving line then recovering them through an open transom. If the COB is injured or unconscious the degree of difficulty and danger to rescuers grows significantly. The point I want to make is that we need to think seriously about how we would get that crew member back on the boat and then consider experimenting with different methods under safe and controlled circumstances.

Thankfully the incidents involving crew members falling overboard are rare but they do happen and we cannot hide from that fact and simply hope that it won’t happen to us. This article has touched on only a few "what if’s". The prudent skipper and crew will be able to come up with more. Many things can be done to prevent such an event but if we fail in this regard and are suddenly faced with this situation we need to be ready. Looking at the big picture, contingency planning and practice will all go a long way to ensure that we are better prepared for that unwelcome, chilling cry.'

The short video above shows a practice run with buoy and there is another sixteen minute production you can view with a real live MOB at 'Open Film'.

Marco's article gives sound advice and worth practicing in a varied range of weather conditions. For retrieval of a MOB I rigged up a simple device which worked effectively in practice. It consisted of a double block at the upper end with snap shackle to hook into the saddle under the boom. At the lower and business end I used a single block with fiddle (for ease of use in the hand), also with a snap shackle. The boom was about eight feet above the water so I ran fifty feet of line through the assembly.

Swinging the boom out over the water it was easy to drop the fiddle block end to a MOB in the water to clip on to their harness. This combination of blocks can easily lift a 100kg wet MOB. If they were unable to help themselves then a crewmember could reach through the guidelines and clip it on as the boat rolled. If the MOB was wearing no harness, then out came the LifeSling to get under the MOB arms and hook on to the snap shackle of the block and tackle unit. It is easy to hoist the MOB up and then swing the boom inboard. I fashioned a sturdy plastic container and fastened it above the clutter to the outside wall of a cockpit side pocket. All crew knew where it was for instant accessibility. Fortunately, it was only used in drills.

Article courtesy Marco Coda and Lands End Sailing School.

You can read more about safety at sea methods whilst on passage in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship Tere Moana' downloadable from my website for sailors

And finally, I would like to welcome you to our new look and updated blog. I thought it was time to freshen it up a little and I trust that you approve. Feel free to make a comment and post it in the 'make a comment' box.

Sunday 12 September 2010

Broadband Radar for Sailboats

Broadband radar for sailboats has come a long way in a very short time. It has so many advantages with so little downside that it has to be the radar of choice for all cruisers whether it be a new installation or a replacement for your old tired unit. Apart from the clarity, sharpness and integrity of the image, the marked drop in power useage and instant 'power up' are two other major features of interest to cruisers. Take a look at the image here for a comparison with the earlier pulse systems and Broadband and also the video to see the difference for yourself.

The following article is from 'FishingGear Guru' a website devoted to better fishing:

'Forget about bang suppression, the necessary radar programming that causes that ring up to 100’ around the boat, which shows up as solid on-screen. New Broadband technology fromNavico (parent company to Lowrance, Simrad, Northstar, and others) eliminates the big bang, offering visibility and awesome target discrimination mere feet from the radome. Plus, small boats that couldn’t support the weight and power consumption a radome requires can now see through the fog and the darkness. This system is a game-changer, making it possible to install a dome on virtually any boat large enough to support a T-top or arch.

The dome is a mere 11” tall, 19” around, and weighs just 16-pounds. How can this unit be so light, small, energy efficient, and yet still see up to 24 miles into the distance? Traditional radars send out a microwave pulse, then measure the amount of time it takes for that pulse to be reflected by a target. In doing so, they pull enough juice to drain a single marine battery in a matter of hours. On top of that, they radiate a significant amount of energy and when installed in an improper location, may zap you or your passengers with microwave radiation. But Navico’s new Broadband radar sends out a continuous transmission wave with a 5.2-degree horizontal beam width, which increases in frequency as it moves away from the dome. The difference between frequency in the transmitted and returned wave is how the unit determines target distance. That means this system uses less energy to make radiation-free transmissions, eliminating the power concerns you’d have on a radar-equipped boat with a single battery and close proximity to the dome. Though I had no way to check it for myself, Navico claims the power transmission is a mere 1/2000th as much as traditional radar, which is about a tenth of the power a cell phone uses.

What I could check out for myself was the result of using frequency instead of time reflection, when I jumped aboard Navico’s broadband-equipped test boat at the Miami boat show. Target definition in the shorter ranges is phenomenal, good enough to see the difference between piers and the boats moored at them. In fact – I am NOT making this up – we could see two gulls sitting on the water about 30’ from the boat, on-screen. And that “dead zone” of blank space around the boat is completely eliminated with this system, so you can get returns on boats, land, and other structures just feet away from your own boat. We approached a pole and when the bow of the boat was so close someone had to fend off, the pole still showed on the radar. A sailboat just 50’ away—in the bang zone of regular radar—showed up on-screen clear as day; one of these pictures shows the screen shot at the moment, and the other, of the sailboat providing the return in the lower right corner. Even on longer ranges up to 10 miles or so, you can expect target resolution in the two to three meter range. Plus, the antenna uses all solid-state parts, which means there’s no warm-up time—just flip a switch, and the unit’s up and running.

Put all of these factors together, and you have a unit that can be easily mounted and run on a platform far smaller than any that could accommodate a radar prior to Broadband. Big boats will want it too, for close-use when the fog’s thick…and the blind zone created by bang suppression could cause you to bang into something in your way.'

Article courtesy Lenny Rudow of FishingGearGuru

You can read more about incidents with radar and shipping whilst on passage in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship Tere Moana' downloadable from my website

Friday 27 August 2010

Beneteau Dock & Go System for Sailboats

Announcing their new 'Dock & Go' system for sailboats, Beneteau will probably go down as changing the face of sailing as Volvo did for powerboating with their IPS system a year or two back.

Initially the 'Dock & Go' will be available in the new Beneteau 50 'Sense' yacht, but shortly after in most of their sailboat range with engines with a rating of 75hp+. No mention as yet if it will be available on the open market. I sense the race will be on now for other manufacturers to come out with a similar system.

Here is a short article from the current Sail Magazine:

'Pretty soon our friends in the powerboating and superyacht community won’t be the only ones with access to joystick boat control.

In a recent press release, Beneteau announced that it has created what it calls its “Dock & Go” system, which employs a joystick to coordinate a pivoting propeller and bowthruster to facilitate easier docking.

According to Beneteau, the “revolutionary” system makes maneuvering even the company’s largest boats so simple that “a child could do it.”

According to Beneteau, “The system makes docking the boat in a restricted space easy and gives a precision of movement that is incomparable.”

The Dock & Go will be available for Spring 2011 deliveries as an option on all Beneteau models equipped with Yanmar 75HP SD engines, including the 50ft Sense, the Oceanis 46 and the Oceanis 50.

Beneteau will officially unveil the new system aboard a 50-footer at the United States Sailboat show in Annapolis, Maryland, October 7-11.

Take a look at this amusing video - it is in French, but I am sure you will get the gist of it!

Here is another article extract, this time from TradeOnlyToday:

'Beneteau is offering docking system for sailboats - Posted on August 18, 2010 Share this: Following the lead of the powerboat industry, which has been offering low-speed maneuvering and docking systems for some time (pod drives and thrusters in various combinations), sailboat builder Beneteau has introduced Dock & Go, a "revolutionary innovation to dock your boat with complete confidence."

The system uses a joystick to synchronize a propeller-driven base unit with a bow thruster to maneuver a sailboat into a berth or mooring.

Here is how it works: A controller synchronizes a 180-degree pivoting Saildrive base and a bow thruster. Maneuvers are carried out using a cross-shaped joystick at the helm, moving the boat 90 degrees to port or starboard, forward, astern and turning on the spot. To go astern, the operator can pivot the Saildrive with no loss of power because rotation is achieved in half a second by an electric motor.

Beneteau calls Dock & Go "fun and very intuitive" and says the system will make "docking the boat in a restricted space easy" with "precision of movement that is incomparable."

The Beneteau system is similar to the ComfoDrive, a German system that was developed for sailboats two years ago.'

Extracts courtesy SailMagazine and TradeOnlyToday. Images courtesy Beneteau photo library.

You can read more about docking and amusing episodes on passage in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship Tere Moana' downloadable from my website

Thursday 26 August 2010

Sailboat Anna Catamaran Capsize and Rescue near Niue South Pacific

The sailing Catamaran “Anna” Capsized While Cruising Near Niue on Augus 2, 2010.

Fortunately the crew, owner/skipper Kelly Wright and his crewman were rescued by the 'Forum Pacific' which was diverted from approximately 80 nautical miles away.

The news of Anna, an Atlantic 57 sailing catamaran, capsized in the South Pacific, was reported yesterday on the Pacific Puddle Jump Cruisers Forum by Scott & Cindy Stolnitz (S/V BeachHouse). Here is the media release from Maritime NZ, pasted from their website:

'Two men have been rescued by a cargo ship after their yacht capsized in stormy seas near Niue yesterday, the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) says. RCCNZ detected an emergency locator beacon signal from the American-flagged 57-foot (around 17 metres) catamaran Anna yesterday about 4pm. The signal was coming from a location around 126 nautical miles (around 233 kilometres) west of Niue. Local weather reports indicated heavy seas and storm conditions.

Repeated efforts to contact the yacht were unsuccessful, despite Anna having a range of communications equipment on board.

RCCNZ dispatched an Air Force P3 Orion from New Zealand and the cargo ship Forum Pacific, 80 nautical miles away from Anna, was asked to divert to the signal’s location. The P3 Orion arrived on scene about 11pm yesterday and found Anna capsized and inverted. However, the American skipper and his New Zealand crewman were safe, one still on board Anna, and one in an inflatable dinghy attached to the catamaran. The P3 Orion maintained a vigil over the men overnight while Forum Pacific made its way to the scene.

RCCNZ Search and Rescue mission controller Mike Roberts said the cargo ship arrived about 6am and the two men were now safe on board and en route to Niue. RCCNZ had broadcast a navigation warning to other vessels advising of the location of the capsized catamaran.

Mr Roberts said the fact the beacon was GPS-enabled had greatly assisted the men’s rescue.
“With GPS positioning, we were able to accurately pinpoint the location of the vessel and send the Orion directly to the scene. Given the stormy conditions, the speed that we were able to reach the men made a huge difference to their safety.

“Furthermore, the fact the beacon was registered meant we were able to contact the skipper’s wife and obtain information as to who was on board and what kind of equipment they had with them.”

The catamaran was designed by Chris White, one of the preeminent multihull designers in the world. Anna was built by Alwoplast, located in Valdivia, Chile. Owner/skipper Kelly Wright has about 30,000 miles at sea on yachts and is planning to circumnavigate the world with Anna. Shortly after setting off, Kelly wrote this on his Blog – S/Y Anna:

“In retrospect we really should have undertaken an extra few days of training before we set off from Valdivia. The launching of the boat had been delayed, though, so the sailing season was getting ever shorter as winter set in, and so we eagerly grasped at the first opportunity to leave, due somewhat to the natural impatience of our skipper.

All would have still been fine had we not been supplied with defective turnbuckles that attach the stays and shrouds – stainless steel cable and rod – to the hulls. We would have made the same teething mistakes anyway, getting used to the gear and the layout, but we would not have been put in the situation we are in now, which is pre-crisis, preparing for the worst case of losing the boat, which is a remote possibility.”

The boat and crew endured more than their typical share of storms and breakdowns. This past June, they had to return to New Zealand after having just set off, to make repairs. Here’s an excerpt from Kelly’s Blog:

“The next day passed comfortably enough for us, lying around in the pilothouse, napping, reading, but the winds shifted back to the Northwest and built to over 40 knots – the high was 48 knots – and the seas kept getting larger and larger. It was quite interesting watching them and observing how well Anna responded, riding gently over the breaking crests and down into the valleys, with the wind blowing the tops off the waves, spume shooting almost horizontally. We congratulated ourselves on how well our boat was handling the conditions, and how comfortable we were. Every now and then, however, a big wave would break right on top of us and crash into Anna beam on, knocking us around, spilling all the books from the bookshelves, knocking the dinghy off its chocks on the aft deck, and making a huge roar. It is always difficult to estimate the height of waves from inside a bobbing boat, but our mast rises about 75 feet (23 meters) from the waterline, and it appeared from my vantage point in the pilothouse that the highest waves were approaching half the height of the mast. They were the biggest seas I have ever been in, I think, and quite irregular, coming from several directions.

I suppose it must have been one of those big crashing waves that jerked the rudders in such a way that the steering cables came off, and we were left without steering. It was getting dark, around 1700 (5 p.m.) and I had just gotten off watch and was down in my berth when John informed me that we had no steering, and the rudders were thrashing around madly in the rudder compartments. The starboard rudder had broken its safety line and was totally out of control, even dangerous to try to tame. We stuck the emergency tiller into the head of the rudder post, but the force of the seas slapped it against the bulkhead and broke the tiller in two. Moreover, working in the confined space of the rudder compartments in the thrashing seas was making everyone seasick."

The blog finishes at that point, so look out for more updates from this blog later.

This rescue and the loss of ones own boat highlights the potential dangers that can be encountered at sea. In reading his blog, Kelly admits himself that they left too late in the winter season and that area of the Pacific is notorious for winter storms. Once a catamaran has capsized it will not right itself, so they were stuck and had to rely on being rescued.

They were well prepared for that and had onboard, and were able to activate their distress beacon. This also highlights the effectiveness in the saving of lives of these brilliant pieces of safety equipment.

The video is worth watching to see the rescue technique of the 'Pacific Forum' and the interesting safety line projector used. The seas had obviously abated considerably by the time she arrived on the scene and I would conjecture that 'Anna' would have received much greater damage if the storm was still up at the time.

What the outcome will be regarding the salvage of 'Anna' is still unknown, but in the meantime I think all parties invloved would be very happy that the saga ended with no loss of life.

News extract courtesy from 'Pacific Puddle Jump Cruisers', images courtesy Kelly Wright, video from YouTube.

For further updates on this incident please check out this blog on

Tuesday 17 August 2010

Sailboat2adventure Noonsite Book Review

I was fortunate enough to have my ebook 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise' reviewed by Noonsite recently. Noonsite is the 'Bible' of websites for cruising sailors and has a massive membership. They receive almost two thousand visits (not hits) per day! The following review is by Doina at Noonsite and here is what she has to say:

'Vincent Bossley has had the interesting idea of compiling a practical list of 101 tips with an account 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise' of his four year voyage from the United Kingdom to New Zealand on his yacht.

His account of his voyage is written in a vivid style that sets it apart from a standard cruising ebook, and evokes the many places he and his crew visited, from the crossing of the Atlantic, “that cold, leaden, restlessly heaving and intimidating body” to the delights of the South Pacific Ocean.

Tere Moana under sail
This reviewer rather liked the fact most of the narrative is from the little ship’s point of view, always raring to sail on towards the horizon and yet stoically putting up with her human crew’s foibles, for example as they complete their transit of the Panama Canal:
"Finally, into Miraflores Lock and ... the huge, massively steel strapped and dripping gates crack open to reveal a sliver of ever widening blue which is her first view of the mighty Pacific Ocean. She feels a jet of excitement pass through her and realises that at last, this is the beginning of a great voyage – the crew also seem to be somewhat stimulated and prattle on about how smart they are to get thus far unscathed! Indignantly, she would like to remind them, if it wasn’t for her, they wouldn’t be here at all!”

Finally after two years visiting the Galapagos, French Polynesia and Tonga, they make it to the Bay of Islands but not before riding through a tropical depression en route from Tonga, and a nailbiting account of a near miss from a rogue wave.

The sailing narrative is followed by “101 tips” intended to prepare you for blue-water sailing as well as save money where possible, without compromising on the safety of the boat and its crew. There are tips on what equipment to buy, how best to prepare for or minimise the need for repairs, as well as tips for life on board (watch systems and provisioning), how to make life at sea more pleasant as well as life on shore – Noonsite especially approves of the tip 91, “A Little Politeness Goes a Long Way”:

Robinson Bay, French Polynesia
 “in my early days of planning, a very experienced sailor once told me that when you set sail in your own yacht, you are sailing around the world in a mini consulate of your own country...'.
This places certain responsibilities upon you as a captain, and, that as a representative of your country, you would wish to uphold the good name of that country wherever you go. In addition, it also means that you would observe the protocol and customs of all nations you visit, no matter how tiny or seemingly insignificant they may be. They have their own culture and dignity, and this must be observed. Remembering this course of action, and practicing it, along with a good dose of politeness will serve you well. I will now quote you two occasions, one working, and the other, when not observed, not. The two examples which follow demonstrate that the right or wrong attitude to local officials can have concrete results in the amount of time you may be allowed to stay somewhere or even the amount of fees you have to pay!
Tere Moana at anchor
A useful feature of the book is that the "Tips" are hyperlinked throughout the sailing narrative so the reader can see how that particular tip was used during the voyage.

The package also includes a free six page "10 Point Plan" from an International Marine Surveyor on what to look for when purchasing your dream yacht.

Vincent writes: ”My main thrust is to encourage people to jump that first hurdle in getting started with the planning of their cruising adventure. So many of us say ........"yes, well when I have done this next thing I will begin"........... and then something else comes along, comes along, comes along and then one day we wake up to discover that it is too late. What a terrible shame that is. If I can encourage folks to begin, even in a small way, so that the idea takes seed, grows and grows until it takes on such massive size and passion in their minds, that in the end nothing will stop them, then I will have done my job."

Definitely recommended'.

Review courtesy Doina at Noonsite

You too can read my ebook 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise' by downloading it from my website

Saturday 31 July 2010

Sailboat Landfall in 'Bora Bora - The Beautiful'

For all of you Sailboat 'Adventure of a Lifetime Planners' out there that have still to make the plunge and begin your planning for your sailing oddyssy - still vacillating even - take a look at one of the most beautiful landfalls in the world you could ever hope to make in your voyage. This will spur you on!

Having spent two weeks in Tahiti, then sailing on to Moorea, Huahine, Raiatea, all of which are fabulous destinations to sail into and spend time, Bora Bora is in a class of its own. From the moment you raise the two famous peaks, spy the reef and hear the boom of the surf, the lush greenness and finally the translucence turquoise of the water in behind the reef, you are spellbound.

The following is an extract from my ebook 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise':

Poking his head out of the hatch, the salty blast of breeze slaps her captain in the face. Laden with moisture it fingers his face, threatening rain. Lead like, the southern sky is an endless flat grey expanse from the horizon up. Either she is sailing into a weather system, or it is another local anomaly. Running a printout from the weather fax shows no major system in their slice of the ocean. Remembering a similar situation on the run down to the Tuamotus' when she lost her starboard shroud, her crew take a reef into her mainsail just to be sure. Mid afternoon sees the cloud shredding into blue, and, with the sun streaming through, the breeze frees again to the 'Trades'. Her crew shake out the reef and in no time at all she is barrelling along again in fine style, at her customary seven to eight knots. Her waterline, scrubbed before leaving Raiatea, has the water bubbling gaily along her sleek, fulsome waist and sides - she feels great.

Making their goodbyes earlier in Raiatea, the arrangement is to meet up again in Tonga, if not before. Both ships are taking the same course, visiting Niue on the way, but with vhf having a range of twenty five or so miles only in the other boat, it will be difficult to keep in contact with their friends. Passing out of Raiatea, she had headed around the top end of Taaha Island, and looking in one of the 'Passes' our crew beheld one of the most wicked surfing breaks imaginable. Curling in at the point of the Passe, rising up onto the reef, the glassy black rollers boom onto the jagged coral, snow white spray leaping high. A few surfers are actually riding them, taking their life in hand every time they catch one of these monsters. Our crew could hear the whoop of the occasional surfer brave enough to try and ride it out, surviving.

Twin peaks of Bora Bora 
Her captain, gazing at the sea, is once again struck by the multitude of different moods she parades herself - revealing all, but revealing nothing. Every day is different, from blazing blue through to stone grey, sometimes even almost black - from calm to rough and sometimes tempestuous, and back to calm again - sometimes sparkling and sometimes threatening - constantly changing, so that even a half hour can make a difference. The one constant is constant change. No wonder that artists always struggle in their daubs to capture the true image of the sea. She is so elusive, even in a fractured moment, too much for the artists eye. Capture it on film ok, but transfer that with medium to canvas or paper and something is always missing. The restlessness on a human face can be conveyed in a portrait, but the heaving, ongoing, never stopping restlessness of the ocean is beyond our capabilities. The best the artist can hope for is a fairish representation of this element that covers seventy percent of the planets' surface. That statistic, plus the fact that our bodies are seventy two percent water, gets him wondering if there is any connection between the two, and in the end, we are all mixed in together, as in a giant washing machine, and part of this huge juggernautical whirlpool called life. Whatever it may or may not be, water, in all its forms, fresh or salt, sea or lake, river or pond, has a colossal effect on our lives as joint occupants of this Earth.

Wafting up the companionway, a redolent whiff of fresh baking rouses him from his musing, and his thoughts turn to a more basic requirement - food.

'Insufferable glutton!' she taunts her captain. 'That's all you think about - filling your belly!'

There are few things more pleasurable than demolishing several hot buttered scones in the cockpit of a yacht on a fine breezy tropical afternoon, and washing them down with pure drinking water with a touch of lime, from the watermaker.

On to Bora Bora, our little ship cruising quietly now as the breeze moderates, notices an increasing number of glutinous floating objects gliding by. These are the jellyfish of the round, mushroom shaped, transparent type with four darker rings placed precisely in their centre. By the time our crew notice them they have multiplied to legion proportions and her bow is slicing through them, shoving them aside in their hundreds. They travel like this for some thirty minutes and during this time the animals are so thick that they have a deadening effect on the surface of the water, smoothing it down from a regular light to moderate breeze wavelet surface, to a gently undulating mass of these strange creatures.

How far they stretched away from our little ship on either side, they cannot tell, but taking into account the time it takes for her to sail through them, the shoal must number in the multi millions. Our crew wonder idly if these animals have any natural predator - maybe they are whale fodder, and because there are less whales now, the jellyfish has prospered. With this gummy carpet of living jelly heaving all around them, even though the breeze is still there, a kind of eerie stillness pervades the scene. She is ploughing through them at around five knots, but leaving no trail. Her cutwater shovels them aside and they slither along her sides, the full length of her hull, to immediately close up again as they pass under her stern.

Passe Teavanui
There is no trace of where they have been a few moments before. The phenomenon begs the question, why such a concentration of these animals right here? What are they doing here? Are they going anywhere? Or are they just drifting on the ocean currents of the globe? Are they here in preparation for mating? If so, there is no shortage of choice! Nature takes care of her own, keeping a balance, and she no doubt has them here as part of her master plan. Breaking out the other side, the diminishing numbers are shaken off and she surges forward, and away from the mass concentration. Some several minutes later, she has cleared most of them and they have reduced to the occasional laggard slipping by and into her wake.

The twin peaks of Bora Bora are climbing out of the forward horizon and the island is taking shape exactly as described in the pilot. Part of her captains' mind is always surprised at how the geographical features of a new destination, viewed for the first time, are a faithful replica of a printed or photographic description, as if there is the possibility of there being some change or difference, or that the cartographer got it wrong! And so there is this mild feeling of surprised satisfaction that the real thing matches the representation and it has been chronicled correctly. The leisurely approach of a sailing yacht enhances this feeling and gives our crew the opportunity to study this island jewel closely as they draw nearer. Bora Bora is known as 'The most beautiful', and from this distance it is shaping up to its reputation. James A Michener immortalised it in his 'Return to Paradise' with the following : 'I first saw it from an airplane. On the horizon there was a speck that became a tall, blunt mountain with cliffs dropping sheer into the sea. About the base of the mountain, narrow fingers of land shot out, forming magnificent bays, while about the whole was thrown a coral ring of absolute perfection, dotted with small motus on which palms grew. The lagoon was a crystal blue, the beaches were dazzling white, and ever on the outer reef the spray leapt mountainously into the air.'

Bora Bora lagoon
On this perfect South Seas day, the sun casting its flawless, radiant light into the mountain tops of the island, it is indeed the embodiment of paradise. Blazing white of sand under, the delicate pale aqua of the lagoon is reflected upward onto the underneath of the fluffy white clouds around the twin peaks, creating a unique and dazzling display, floating and turquoise in the skies. The coral reef surrounds Bora Bora like a necklace in that it is almost perfect in its symmetry and equidistant from the main island. Fortunately there is a Passe, the only one, on the western side of the reef. It is named Passe Teavanui and leads into a magnificent deepwater bay right under the splendid, towering twin peaks for which Bora Bora is renowned. Our little ship sails easily through this wide Passe, across the bay and right up to the Bora Bora Yacht Club, nestled in a cove about one and a half kilometres north of the main town, Vaitape. The water off the clubhouse is a dark, still, fifteen fathoms, dotted with vessels of various description and vintage. In addition, there are a number of orange mooring buoys in the bay and, to one of these she heads rather than dropping anchor in this deep water.

'Take the least line of resistance when offered'. She thinks, her captain concurring directly.

She judges it perfectly - no wind here - they hook on, her captain shuts down the engine and she settles to rest in this, another corner of paradise.

If you enjoyed reading this passage, you can read many more similar escapades in my ebook 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise'' downloadable from my website 

Thursday 22 July 2010

Driving a Sailboat Astern/Reversing Technique for Sailors

Sailboats and yachts are built to go forward on the wind. However, from time to time we need to go astern, so every sailor needs to learn the technique of driving his vessel in reverse and become proficient at it, particularly when crossing stretches of water with a current and also winds. This is one of the most difficult things to achieve in the early days of sailing when there is so much of eveything else to learn. not only do you have to contend with current and wind, but a phenomenon known as prop walk.

When looking forward at the stern of your boat and say the prop spins clockwise (right hand prop), then the action of it through the water will tend to kick the stern to starboard.

When in reverse your prop is rotating anti clockwise, so then its energy will try to kick the stern to port. When you are in forward gear it is never a problem as a minute adjustment on the helm controls it. If the propeller is a left hand prop, then the action is the opposite.

However, in reverse going astern this whole process can be very difficult to manage at the best of times and even more difficult when you are contending with the wind and possibly current as well. Some sailboats are much worse than others! When you are buying yours have the owner or broker drive the boat astern to see how they manage it.

The video below gives you some idea of the problem and how to overcome it. It has been produced by Tom Cunliffe, a well known sailor and instructor of all things sailing.

In my experience, the most simple solution and best way to overcome this problem is to fit a good quality feathering propeller -not to be confused with a folding prop.

A feathering propeller has several major advantages and they are:

The blades follow the flow of water so drag is far less and boat speed increases.

Because the drag is less, improved fuel economy is the result when motoring.

And the real killer is that any good quality feathering prop will give 85% or better driving power when going astern and therefore eliminate prop walk.

This enables you to steer the boat in reverse quite easily even in a strong breeze.

I fitted one to my yacht prior to crossing the Pacific and it was a dream to use when going astern and in addition gave on average 1.5 knots greater boatspeed when under sail. This is a major increase in boatspeed and means an extra thirty to forty nautical miles per twenty four hour period. This is huge when you consider that that extrapolates to four hundred or so nautical miles on a ten day passage, possibly shortening the passage by two to three days.

Video courtesy Tom Cunliffe and Yachting Monthly and images courtesy Google images.

You can read more about fitting and the performance of feathering propellers in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship Tere Moana' downloadable from my website

Thursday 17 June 2010

Sailing Tips: Rounding up and How to Prevent for Sailors

Rounding up is one of the more annoying things to happen when you are sailing into the wind on a gusty day. It slows your boat down and if uncorrected can put your nose right in to the wind and stall the boat. Then you have to bear away and regain boat speed. Not a good look, especially if there are other boats in the vicinity watching!

The following article from explains clearly what to do when it happens and how to avoid by watching your telltales and competent sail trimming:

'Rounding up is caused by many factors. One is too much wind and force aloft which tends to heel the boat over. This reduces the amount of rudder in the water and thus the rudder’s effectiveness. Another factor in rounding up is that the centre of pressure of wind on the sails is too far aft. This then pushes the aft of the boat downwind and thus the front of the boat upwind.

Our SailTrim clinic discussed this topic and so what we wanted to do was test it out for sure. So last weekend we took out a friend’s Beneteau 373 to test out an anti-round up theory. Read on to find out the results of our experiment:

1. First though, we must first understand wind shear.

The phenomenon of wind shear is pretty easy. Wind moves faster at the top of the mast than it does at water level because the stationary water by friction, slows down the wind the closer it gets to the water. So, if you could see wind you can visualise in your minds eye the water at sea level dragging the wind a little at the surface.

2. Secondly, consider the concept of true wind vs apparent wind:

This is best understood by imagining driving your car in a cross wind with your hand out the window of the car. At stand still you would feel the wind coming from the side of the car. The faster you go, the more you feel the wind coming from the front of the car. But when a gust of wind comes (which is just an increase in true wind speed) then you would feel the wind shift back more to the side.

When relating this to a sailboat, if your boat was standing still, the wind at the top of the mast would be the same apparent direction as at the cockpit level albeit, faster (from the wind shear phenomenon). However as your boat picks up in speed the apparent wind moves forward BUT because of wind shear it shifts forward less at the top of the mast, ie., at the top of the mast the wind tends more to the direction of true wind direction because the true wind speed is higher.

Thus at the top of the mast the true wind is more aft than the apparent wind.

So – the fact is: at the top of the mast the wind is higher in speed and more aft than at cockpit level.

Figure A and B show the boat speed, true wind and apparent wind vectors for cockpit level and top of the mast. Obviously in both cases, the boat speed vector must be the same. The true wind vector is obviously the same direction but due to wind shear it is longer (faster) at the top of the mast. This results then in the apparent wind direction being more aft, in this case from 135 deg to 125 deg.

3. Third, there's wind shear and apparent wind phenomenon:

You should understand that if a sail is sheeted in too tight it creates more heel. This then is exactly what is happening at the top of the mast. Even though at the bottom of the sail you may have perfectly trimmed the sail, the top of the sail is sheeted in too tight against higher wind speed. No wonder you’re getting excessive heeling. And excessive heeling creates roundups.

This is now quite a revelation! It means that the top of the main needs to be “out” further than the bottom of the sail for it to operate efficiently. This is usually indicated by the top telltale. Often the leeward telltale will be stalling at the top of the sail. Especially in high wind because of the phenomena above.

So, the top of the mainsail needs to go further out so that the starboard telltale can fly smoothly. Hence the top of the mainsail needs to be let out further so that the leeward telltale can fly smoothly.

This is commonly referred to as twisting the sail out at the top. Except people believe you are just spilling out (wasting) the wind at the top. Not quite so now, as you’ve just learned. Twisting out the top of the sail is letting the top of the sail fly according to the direction of wind it is feeling.

In the illustration, you can see the top telltale on the downwind side is fluttering. If you let out the main at the top, the wind can reattach to the sail on the leeward side and the telltale will fly smoothly reducing the force aloft.

Understanding all the above. How do we stop rounding up?

Option one: Obviously the first and safe option in higher winds is to reef the sail.

Option two: Let out the traveler which is what most people do when hit by a gust. Just so long as you realize what you’ve done is not twisted the top of the sail out – all you’ve done is let out the mainsail from top to bottom and thus depower the mainsail. This reduces the force aloft and thus the heel. It also moves the centre of effort of wind on the sails forward which reduces tendency to round up. The trouble is that you spend all day fighting gusts with still quite a few involuntary round-ups.

Option three: Let out on the mainsheet. Here again you’ve depowered the entire mainsail to handle the gust. Still, it works.

Option four: Permanently reduce the force aloft by letting out further on the mainsail and tightening up on the traveler. The trick here is to bring the mainsail bottom back in again using the traveler. Yes, bring the traveler to windward up past the center point. Most sailors are reluctant to do this because they’ve been taught that it detaches the wind on the leeward side. But not when you’ve let out the mainsheet. In effect, by letting out on the mainsheet, you’ve allowed the boom to rise up and the leech of the sail to slacken. This creates the desired twist at the top and allows the top of the sail to fly according to its apparent direction. At the same time, the bottom of the sail can fly according to its apparent direction.

By trimming the traveler and mainsheet together you can manage the twist at the top of the sail as desired yet still keep power on the bottom of the mainsail. Keeping power on the bottom of the mainsail keeps your speed up which also increases the effectiveness of the rudder. Increasing the effectiveness of the rudder means it can hold more against any turning effect created by the shifting of center of pressure backwards. Wow – see how it is all connected?

What happened on our 15 knot gusty sailing day? Well, not one round up.

So to summarize, the sailing lesson here is when in higher winds bring the traveler up and sheet out the main. You’ll also need to release the boom vang a little. Letting the boom vang out allows the boom to rise which loosens the leech (trailing edge) of the sail and allows the top part to “twist out”. '

Article courtesy Sail-World and Grant Headifen, images courtesy Sail-World

You can read much more about sail trimming and techniques in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship Tere Moana' downloadable to your PC, iphone or ebook reader, from my website