Tuesday 27 April 2010

Sailing ebooks for Sailboat Voyage Planners

For those of you who expected the second episode of my heavy weather sailing experience extract, I'm sorry but you will just have to wait a little longer!

I am posting this short blog now to give you a list of websites where you can dowload sailing ebooks. Books, many of them and especially boating books on board your sailboat can weigh an awful lot. One benefit to cruising sailors in this rapidly advancing technological age, is that so many of your necessary boating books and manuals can now be downloaded and stored on your computer. this is a huge benefit in the weight department. Compare the weight of your laptop to what could easily be up to 100kg of hardcover books! Unnecessary weight you do not need!

Only last year we had one of our own members set sail in his sailboat for some coastal cruising and he had so many books he developed quite a list and had to get rid of some and re-distribute the weight to get back on an even keel! So, having as many manuals, technical and seafaring books loaded into your computer is a definite benefit.

The other item which I would recommend to the modern passagemaking planner would be to consider purchasing an ebook reader. The leader in this field of course is the Kindle from Amazon. There are others on the market now and several more to come including one from Sony, the Barnes and Noble Nook and now Apple with their iPad.

The Kindle2 has been updated recently so the pages actually look like paper and turn as a page would in a book. Also, it can be read easily in direct light (on deck of your yacht), at which most of the others are not so good. With their competitive pricing now, the Kindle is a good unit. This means that in addition to your sailing books you would be able to download any title (up to 1500) from their bookstore (450,000 titles and growing) from any port or anchorage you happen to be in anywhere in the world. Apple plan to have 300,00 titles in their iBookstore and the rate Google are going, their library will be huge for when they introduce their ebook reader. Another important weight gain as opposed to lugging all those paperbacks around the world!

The only possible downside to this is that the time honoured seafaring custom of getting together socially with other crews and swapping paperbacks may disappear in the future. However, I am sure it won't stop us socialising and you will still be able to discuss the various books you have read.

Here is a list to get you started:

Number One of course is the Kindle bookstore at www.amazon.com/Kindle They have 200 plus sailing titles to choose from. You can purchase Joshua Slocums' classic 'Sailing Alone Around the World' for a mere $4.00

Then there is Starpath at http://www.starpath.com/ who have an interesting range of seafaring ebooks under the 'Elibra' category, including Bowditch. You need the Elibra book reader for this range of titles.

Another site is http://www.ebooks.com/ who have seventy something boating titles. Diesel ebooks at http://www.diesel-ebooks.com/ have fifty and more sailing titles on offer including 'The Blue Book of Sailing' and 'Sailing for Dummies'.

Some ebooks come on a CD, some downloaded as PDF's or similar readers and then there are the stores that also market an ebook reader.

Purchasing a reader has got to be the way to go in my book because you can store so many titles in them, but more importantly when you are going ashore an ebook reader can be slipped into your backpack, weighs virtually nothing and compared to a laptop which in all probability you would be be reluctant to take off the boat anyway, is so much more compact and portable.

Just visualise yourself lounging in a sunny cafe in some tropical paradise, sipping on a Maitai cocktail or rum punch and reading your current novel or catching up on some technical issue and you will understand what I am saying.

As we move forward and more of these ebook readers come on the market, prices will become more competitive and the range of titles wider still, so there will always be an ever growing selection for you to choose from - a very good investment indeed for your 'adventure of a lifetime' voyage planning.

You can always begin your ebook reading by downloading my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship Tere Moana' including '101 Dollar Saving Tips' from my website for sailors http://www.sailboat2adventure.com

Wednesday 21 April 2010

Heavy Weather Sailing for Sailboat Voyage Planners

Heavy weather sailing in your own sailboat is something all voyage planners think about - and so you should, because at some point in your 'adventure of a lifetime' passagemaking you will encounter some. It can range from a tropical storm to a full blown hurricane and can be exciting, challenging and sometimes downright scary. The full power of Mother Nature in these situations is a wonder to be seen and brings us to appreciate that no matter what heights we reach as humans, she will always have the last say and must be respected.

The following extract is from my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship Tere Moana' and is my experience of some severe weather on passage home from Tonga to New Zealand. As it is quite lengthy I have broken it into two parts and will post the second in my next blog:

‘Bang!’, the wind hits, the first mighty gust, and within seconds the initial roar rises to a shriek as it screams through her rigging. Our little ship heels alarmingly as the two scraps of canvas take the full brunt of impact of this first strike. With the wind spilling out from the top of her sails, she rights herself easily and, as predicted, the wind settles to a steady roar. From no wind at all a few moments before, it is now blasting in at thirty five to forty knots. Everything is flapping furiously, and hairstyles have definitely gone overboard for now!

Wave height building rapidly, and already maxing out at two metres, they will increase when the storm surge arrives. The companionway duck boards are in their slots, protecting below from any rogue wave swamping (pooping) them from behind, filling the cockpit and pouring down the companionway into the cabin. A wave like that can pour a tonne or more of grey water down the hatch in a moment, with disastrous results. The ‘watch keeper’ in the cockpit is cut off from the rest of the boat by these boards and, if feeling lonely, can perch under the spray hood and slide the hatch back far enough to communicate with those below.

Adrenalin is running high which injects its own level of excitement into our crew. Senses are sharpened and any task is approached with a heightened sense of clarity and purpose not normally present. Out here on the edges, there is not much rain, but a few squalls dotted around the horizon. The lowering clouds, pressing down on them, resemble giants of bulging mercury globs, shoving and heaving their heaviness, handing it to them in the dim murk.

A pair of beautiful great Albatross’ skim by at speeds approaching mach 2, or so it would appear. Hugely graceful normally, this is heightened in these boisterous conditions. Travelling downwind, wing feathers minutely altering the flight path, and their wing tips following every little contour in the wave, they are impressive. Just grazing the surface of the waves, up and over, and down the other side, they are moving at an incredible speed. Tracking right to left and back left to right, they disappear rapidly, weaving into the gloom – no backing up and circling the ship in these conditions!

Wave crests are breaking now and tumbling down the face. Even at this height, one of those rising up and breaking at precisely the right moment – wrong moment for our little ship! – could crash over her, stopping her in her tracks.

White spume flinging off the tops of the waves, is spattering against the spray hood, and darkly spotting the teak of the deck. The moaning roar of the wind, as all engulfing as it is, is a constant. Under this continual hacking of the senses, other normal sounds begin to penetrate the brain again. Whilst at the beginning, when the noise of the wind first hit, it completely dominated, now, it is pushed into the background, so that the brain can function and concentrate on other matters. No doubt this is our way of helping to keep calm in extreme situations.

White streamers with creamy froth sitting on top, and individual wavelets in between the
troughs are beginning to appear, and our captain calls down for the wind meter. Poking it over the top of the spray hood it gives a reading of forty five knots, gusting higher. The first waves begin crashing over the foredeck as our little ship dips deeply into the oncoming seas. Some plunges, she digs her bow, scoop like, into the face of a bigger sea, rising again with water streaming over her foredeck and racing all the way aft, to disappear in a bubbly stream over her stern – her captain opens the sliding hatch a notch or two, calling down for the forward hatch to be double checked that it is clamped down hard and not leaking – it is tight and dry.

Our little ship is revelling in these conditions and is quite excited, her trembling transferring from the sails, all the way down to the foot of her mast and into the very fibres of her glass hull. How she is handling them! With her miniscule amount of sail, she is still making five knots through the water. Her motion, whilst at first appearing waywardly alarming, has in fact a rhythmic repeating pattern. As a wave approaches, she steadies herself, her bow rising up the face, momentarily sitting on the crest, then as the full force of the wind tries to turn her beam on, she checks. The wind streaming between her sails powers her bow back into it again, the water mountain passes along her length, and she dips her nose, sliding safely down the long back of the passing wave. Over and over she does this, minute after minute, hour after hour, she will carry on in this manner, and she turns her head to the task with relish – this is what she was built for!

Understandably, it is quite uncomfortable below in the cabin and our crew are sitting with their feet braced against the opposite bunk. There is no break, no rest from this motion, on and on it goes, maybe even for the next twenty four hours, or longer, or whatever it takes until the storm blows through, drained, eviscerated. Her crew settle in for the long haul. Sibling crew keeps a constant stream of hot drinks and nibbles coming. All food is served in deep bowls, passed gingerly up through the sliding hatch to the ‘watch keeper’ cowering under the spray hood. She is running quite comfortably on auto pilot, and will probably continue to do so. Driving into heavy oncoming seas places far less strain on this gear than continually sailing downwind in fine weather.

The remote control unit comes into its own in these conditions. It is plugged into a socket in the wall of the companionway. Whoever is on watch can look forward and study the wave pattern. If the wind shifts some degrees either way, it can be compensated for by punching in the equivalent plus or minus pads on the remote. The cockpit by this time, with the amount of flying spray, is a very wet place, so the ‘keeper’ can make the adjustments from safety without venturing out from under the hood. All crew are hooked on at all times in the cockpit in these conditions!

It is late afternoon now; low scudding cloud along with the constant spray makes visibility very poor, so a sharp lookout is kept for other vessels. An unseen merchantman is not something they want looming out of the gloom, coming straight at them in these conditions! Suddenly there is a glimmer low in the west and several shafts of sunlight burst through the angry clouds. The whole scene is lit with a dirty, flat, brassy light. White tumbling crests approaching, retreating leaden backs of waves passed, and the darker troughs in between are all washed by this surreal light. Her captain is just beginning to appreciate all the differences when, like the flick of a switch, the beams are cut, and the near darkness glowers on them again. This night is going to be long.............

Final of this episode will be posted in my next blog. Meanwhile start thinking about how to convert your dream yacht into the best 'well found' vessel you can.

You can read more about heavy weather sailing in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship Tere Moana' which you can download from my website http://www.sailboat2adventure.com

Tuesday 6 April 2010

Watchkeeping at Sea and Psychology of Sailing for Sailboat Voyage Planners

There is a little book (only 120 pages) titled 'The Psychology of Sailing' by Michael Stadler which should be read by all sailors planning their adventure of a lifetime sailing voyage. This compact book looks at what being at sea on a sailboat/yacht for lengthy passages can have on the human body and mind.

It also examines the dynamics and interactions between skipper and crew, the crew members themselves and vice versa, their reactions and attitudes to the captain/owner of the boat they are on. Everyone has an ego (even sailors!) and depending on the size of that ego and what their agenda may be, unexpected situations can develop that were not foreseen with quite dramatic and sometimes unwanted results.

It certainly pays when selecting crew for passagemaking to make several overnighters with potential starters to see how they fit in with other crew and with how you as captain want to run your ship.

I believe the book is out of print now but you can purchase it still from Amazon Books for around $10.00 for a used copy. Well worth getting hold of a copy and reading well in advance of your leaving port.

Moving on to watchkeeping - in these days of evermore super electronics it is easy to be drawn into a cocoon and finding yourself being lulled into a false sense of security and relying more and more on your electronics to keep you out of trouble. If ever there was a false sense, this would be it. There is absolutely no substitute for keeping a good visual lookout and an appropriate watch system.

The following is an extect from my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship Tere Moana':

'..........And so, on watch at 0200 hrs. her captain is going through his routine – several leg pumps, squats, press ups and weighted leg lifts. The ambient temperature is around twenty two degrees Celsius, so he is able to carry out all this just wearing a pair of shorts.
Twenty minutes later, having worked up a sweat, even in the cooling breeze, and puffing from his exertion, he looks around his three hundred and sixty degree circle and slips below to check her instruments.

The GPS is of particular interest as this will show him their exact position on the ocean. It is time for a plot and he scribes this onto the chart, noting how many miles they have come, and how many miles there are left to run.

The nav centre is a cosy corner at night. Various pips, chirrups, hums and scrapes from the instruments, fill the air, and the dim light from the chart lamp emits a warm friendly glow.
Lingering over the chart our captain, in the deep recesses of his mind, slowly becomes aware of a more persistent bleep thrusting its way up into his consciousness. Alarmed suddenly, he hits the radar button off standby and the phosphorescent green glow coming up reveals a large white shape approaching rapidly almost dead ahead, but just off her starboard bow. No time to call up or hit the 2182 alarm key. Flying up the four steps of the companionway, over the bridge deck and into the cockpit, he cracks his shin mightily en route, but doesn’t even feel it in his panic. Staring upward to starboard in the pitch darkness he sees a freighter, hugely black on black, slipping by, not more than one hundred metres distant.

Her top light at this close range seems to tower menacingly over them, and the superstructure, right over. No other sign of life is visible and the vessel ploughs onward, into the night, course unchanged. Heart pounding in his relief, he brings our little ship off the wind enough to turn into the freighters wake and ride out the oncoming waves.

A freighter travelling at eighteen knots can, from being just out of sight over the horizon from eye height in a yachts’ cockpit, travel the distance and arrive in around fifteen minutes. This particular vessel was probably travelling at fourteen knots only, but being on an almost collision course with our little ship, she making six knots, they had a combined approach speed of twenty knots – easily reaching an impact point in fifteen minutes. Her captain looks at his watch and realises he had overstayed below by a few minutes. He had broken one of his own rules and almost paid the price.

Watching the rapidly retreating white light, and left to ponder what might have been, her captain thankfully tips his cap heavenward, acknowledging that someone must be looking over them.' end of extract.

That was my experience on an overnighter in French Polynesia en route to Bora Bora.

The watch system I used and which we found to be quite effective was as follows:

With a crew of three (including skipper) the night was broken into three watches of four hours each from 2000hrs to 0800hrs. During the twelve hours of daylight all three crew were on watch all of the time. Any task or relaxation could be pursued e.g. eating, sleeping, reading, maintenance, sail trimming, navigation etc. etc., but if a crewmember went below they were to ensure that there was always another crew on deck.

This was a rock solid rule, was respected, strictly observed and worked very well. The big advantage of this system was that everyone knew that on completion of the 0800hrs. watch, all crew had at least twelve hours straight before going back on watch again. Another rule whilst on night watch was that the watchkeeper had to take the boat off auto pilot and helm for at least one hour during their watch. During the day any crew member could helm as they chose.

I recommend that you study the many watch systems available to you and select the one which matches your requirements the closest - you can of course experiment first before settling on your final choice.

You can read more about close calls and watchkeeping in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship Tere Moana' downloadable from my website http://www.sailboat2adventure.com