Wednesday 21 December 2011

Sailboat and Sailing Tips for Reefing Sails

Reefing the mainsail of your sailboat is always a tickly question and one that is forever discussed when a bunch of sailors get together over a few drinks. Of course, it is always better to be reefed down well ahead of any weather conditions that may be approaching. This is one reason why it is so important to keep a good 'weather eye' at all times when at sea.

As we all know the weather can change so quickly and now, with more and more intense weather incidents occurring around the globe, it is even more imperative to be constantly aware of what is happening weatherwise around you.

As the old salts always say, 'if in doubt - reef!', it's always a simple task to shake it out again if nothing arrives. 

I recall the first time I did the ARC Rally, the last boat to arrive in St.Lucia by several days was an elderly German couple who, through a moment of inattention, only three days out had been caught by a squall and had all three sails (she was a ketch) completely ripped to shreds. They never had a spare set, so had to jury rig a patch up sail and limp in the rest of the way. This was a major chore for a couple who were in their sixties. Needless to say almost the whole crews' from the other 150 odd boats in the rally were on the dock to cheer them in when they arrived which made them feel a whole lot better! 

However, they learnt a very valuable lesson from their experience - apparently, both of them had been below decks when the squall struck. In tropical seas when squalls are around you can see them coming for fifteen to twenty minutes before they arrive - so they must have not looked out for quite sometime.

Well reefed for storm conditions
The following extract is from an article written by Grant Headifen of NauticEd which looks closely at this subject, with good tips plus data on the 'righting moment' of yachts.     

'When do you reef a boat when bay, harbour or ocean sailing? Any why? Have you ever REALLY understood why a keel boat on a level sea simply cannot roll over? Here Grant Headifen of NauticEd gives a few tips for both skippers and crew for when sailing.

While all sailing boat designs are different and will sail optimally at different heel angles and reef points, there are a few generalities.

One piece of general preliminary reefing advice for skippers:

Don’t scare the pants off those on board by heeling the boat over too much. While you may be singing and enjoying yourself, others may be frozen solid. Here's an example:

One time sailing off beautiful Corsica we encountered a 40 knot Mistral breeze. We were sailing a Beneteau 50 and what a delight it was. The waves were about 8 feet and consistently washing over the deck. It was a beautiful day and we all had a blast – EXCEPT one person on board who had not been sailing much before. When we reached the marina in Bonifacio he jumped off the sailboat and lay flat on the dock kissing the dock boards. I learned that he had been so terrified that he could not speak and was looking between each wave where to jump clear of the boat it in case we went over.

After that incident I make sure that everyone new on the boat knows to look first into my face when and if they start to get scared. I tell them that if I’m smiling then it’s all ok and that they are only allowed to get scared if they see worry and fear on my face. This keeps the crew thinking straight and following instructions instead of worrying about jumping clear of the boat.

Heeling moment explained -  .. .  
Heel angle and reefing in non-spinnaker/gennnaker situations: (broaching or getting knocked down with those sails is a different topic)

In light winds some heel angle will ensure your sails have some airfoil shape to them so position your crew to leeward to create at least about 5 degrees of heel angle. As the winds pick up you can begin to move your self moving ballast (crew) to the windward side to balance the wind force aloft in the sails.

In general, for most cruising sailboats, once you reach about 25 degrees or so the sailboat hull design and sail rig design will begin to reduce the ability of the boat to increase in speed in an efficient manner. That’s a very general statement but it’s a statement that will allow you to watch, learn and experiment with your own boat.

A weighed keelboat typically is not in danger of capsizing for three main reasons:

1. As the boat heels over the distance aloft to the center of pressure of the wind is lowered and thus the heeling moment is reduced. As an example, lets say the boat leaned all the way over. This heeling moment then is reduced to zero. So theoretically the wind can’t heel you all the way over anyway.

2. As the boat heels over the vertical area of the sails presented to the wind is reduced which reduces the actual heeling force.

3. As the boat heels over the weighted keel is lifted to windward thus creating a righting moment. The more the keel is lifted to windward the more the righting moment.

Heeling Moment vs Righting Moment:
From above then, the more the boat heels over, the less the 'heeling' moment from the sails and the more the 'righting' moment from the keel.

Or put more simply: In a full laydown situation there is no more tipping over force left and only straightening up force remaining. It might not feel like that when your hanging onto the rails for dear life but it’s pretty much the reality of the nature of forces and moments.

What is 'moment'? Moment is the ability to use a screw driver to open a paint can. Imagine a very stubborn paint can and a very short screw driver. Now use a longer screw driver you can imagine the force needed becomes much less. That’s moment. It’s not the force that opens the can but the moment. Moment is mathematically force x distance. In the same manner it’s not the force that heels the sailboat over it’s the height of the wind times the force of the wind.

Sail forces explained -  .. .  
Wind force on sails:
Mathematically, when you apply wind pressure to a triangle (sail) the center of force can be equated to be at the position of 1/3rd of the way up the triangle/sail.

Here’s a few more equations. Lets assume a right angle triangle.

Force = pressure x sail area presented vertically to the wind = pressure x foot length x sail height x (cosine (heel angle))/2
Pressure = ½ (density of air) x (wind velocity)Squared
Height of force above the sail foot = 1/3 rig height * cosine (heel angle)
Moment = force x height

Or to wrap it up, moment is proportional to the following:

wind velocity squared
the cosine of the heel angle squared
the rig height
the foot length.

In practical terms if the heel angle is 30 degrees the heeling moment is reduced to 75% or if the heel angle is 90 degrees (laying down flat) the heeling moment is zero.

Also note that in the above, if you go from 5 knots to 20 knots the heeling moment goes up 16 times. In most sailboats you should be looking at reefing anywhere from 12-15 knots. The other thought process to use is when you are starting to think about reefing, you probably should have reefed ½ an hour ago.

What effectively is reefing the sails doing?

Well, it’s just reducing the sail area and the height of the position that the wind force acts upon the sails. As an example if the sail was reefed down 15% of its height the area is reduced by 0.85 squared = to 72% of it’s original but the heeling moment is reduced even further because the center of pressure on the sail is lowered. So reefing has a cubic effect on reducing the heeling moment.

Another consideration regarding reefing and heeling is that the more you heel over the less effective is the rudder because you’ve reduced the vertical presentation of the rudder to the horizontally flowing water. So at a 45 degree heel, you’ve lost 30% of your rudder area which gives you less ability to handle the weather helm from a gust.

This can put you into a dangerous rounding up position. And believe me rounding up can be VERY dangerous. One time when sailing along I saw two things about to happen – a gust was on its way across the water towards us and a boat was heading towards us to pass to windward. A rounding up in this gust would drive us right into the oncoming boat. I reached over and let out the mainsheet. This twisted out the top of the sail and effectively lowered the heeling moment but keeping the bottom of the sail powered. The gust passed with out a round up and without that potential collision.

A seasoned saiing lboat skipper friend of mine put reefing philosophy into a nutshell: If you’re thinking about reefing, you should have yesterday. If you’re thinking about shaking out the reef, wait until tomorrow.

So, summing up, when should you reef?

So as you’re not scaring the crew
At about 25 degrees of heel angle
At about 12-15 knots of breeze'

Extract and illustrations courtesy Grant Headifen of NauticEd at

You can read much more about sailing in all weather conditions in my ebook 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise' downloadable from my website   

Monday 14 November 2011

Whale Incidents and Collisions on the Increase with Sailboats and Yachts

Sailboats and yachts are featuring more regularly around the globe in incidents with whales. A collision with a whale in your vessel is no minor incident and in the worst case scenario could bring to an end your 'adventure of a lifetime' cruise. 

Fortunately, to date, the majority of collisions have caused only minor damage and after backing off, both parties have been able to carry on to their destinations with only scratches and headaches.

Whale breaching

However, there are three reasons why collisions are going to become more frequent in the future. The first is that every year there are more of us out there cruising. The second is that as boat design constantly improves and also boats get bigger, boatspeed is ever increasing, so the likelihood of collisions goes up accordingly. The third reason of course is that since the moratorium on hunting whales has been practiced by the majority of countries, the global whale population has been gradually increasing. At what point this will reach critical mass, no one can tell, but obviously there are many more whales out there now than say twenty years ago.

A recent scientific report by Fabian Ritter highlights some of the possible dangers and outcomes and has been summarised on the 'Attainable Adventure Cruising' website by Colin Speedie which I include here for you:

Collisions with whales and dolphins are becoming an increasing concern for offshore cruisers, as I outlined in a previous post. But up until recently there has been no serious attempt made to quantify the level of actual collision events, or to plot their geographical distribution. Obviously, having some idea of where and when collisions might take place would be really useful information for any crew intending to sail through areas where whales are prevalent, especially as the consequences of a collision with a whale can have dire consequences for both yacht and whale.

Thankfully, a recently published scientific paper by Fabian Ritter has made a good start in correcting that deficiency. Through an intensive internet search, and subsequently via a co-operative link involving an online questionnaire with destination voyaging website Noonsite, he has been able to piece together a picture of the current situation with regards to whale collisions with yachts worldwide. The paper is well argued and accessible, and makes for interesting reading for anyone with an interest in whales and dolphins, or planning to sail through waters they are known to frequent.

What Is The Scale Of The Problem?

The numbers are sobering, with a total of 111 collisions and 57 near misses recorded between 1996 – 2010, with 75% of all incidents between 2002 – 2010 suggesting an increasing trend. The North Atlantic topped the regional list for incidents with 41.8%, followed by the South Pacific with 16.4%. There were several reports of crew members being hurt in collisions as well as damage to the yacht involved. In 42.9% of the cases where damage was reported, sailing could only be continued with some restriction, whilst seven strikes (11.1%) resulted in a total loss of the vessel – ouch!

Not that it was all one sided – in 18.3% of the cases blood was seen in the water after the collision, and in a couple of cases the whale was either definitely dead or considered certain to die. And previously published research suggests that this is likely to be an underestimate, due to the difficulty in ascertaining the severity of injury to the animal in the aftermath of a collision.

Injured whale following collision
Is It All Our Fault?

It is not the case that all of the incidents involved a vessel simply ramming a snoozing whale – in some cases surfacing animals hit the underside of vessels, which might support the generally held idea that running an engine or generator in the presence of whales may help avoid such incidents. And there were several reports of animals displaying inquisitive or aggressive behaviour, including physical contact with vessels of varying degrees of severity, perhaps the most extreme of which can be seen in this video clip from South Africa.

The study identifies a number of factors that may play a part in causing a collision, and unsurprisingly speed is top of the list. As many of the reports came from the racing and regatta world, maybe it’s the case that with fast moving boats the likelihood of the boat or the whale avoiding a collision due to higher speed may be a factor, slower cruising boats may allow whales more time to get out of the way, or have more time to alter course around animals in their path.

What Can Be Done To Minimise The Risks?
Keeping a good look out must help, and should certainly be considered in areas known to be hotspots for whales, as in 48.6% of collisions the animals were not seen beforehand. Many whale species gather in loose aggregations, so seeing one whale may be a sign that there are others around. Obviously, this is a lot easier with a large crew, and it’s also the case that many collisions (17.1%) took place during the hours of darkness where a careful watch might not make much difference. And understanding ways that might help you avoid a collision when in the company of whales, as I outlined in my previous post, should be required knowledge for any offshore sailing crew, especially those about to cross the North Atlantic in the annual migration – like us.

Russell Leaper, a whale researcher with the International Fund for Animal Welfare, and himself a keen sailor has been co-ordinating data collection on collision incidents for the IWC. He commented that ‘ we have received no reports of apparently pre-meditated aggressive attacks from whales and most reports of aggressive behaviour towards yachts are likely to be whales that were startled and then thrash around’. He also added that ‘we still don’t really know if making noise like switching on the engine reduces risk but if you know that whales are around the safest thing is to slow down and keep a good lookout. If you do see a whale in the distance remember there may be others much closer.’

It’s unlikely that the full picture emerged during this study, though, and given that the statistics indicate an increasing level of near-misses and collisions, the International Whaling Commission have initiated an online Ship Strike Database with specific reference to yachts. So if you missed out on the original survey and have been involved in a near miss or collision with a whale or dolphin, a report submitted through the IWC Database will help to build a more complete picture of this worrying trend, and help researchers come up with more informed ways to help us, and the whales, sleep more easily.

Extract article courtesy Attainable Adventure Cruising and Colin Speedie. Video and images courtesy YouTube

You can read more about sightings and incidents with whales and dolphins in my ebook 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise' including '101 Dollar Saving Tips for Cruisers' downloadable from my website


Tuesday 1 November 2011

Antifouling Environmental Advances for Sailboats and Yachts

Antifouling of sailboats and yachts in these southern climes has been, or about to be actioned along with the usual scraping, hosing, sanding down and rolling on the obligatory odorous very expensive and get everywhere antifoul. Most of us still go through this onerous task with gritted teeth, making it as much fun as we can and espousing to the roped in volunteers that the subsequent summer fun on the water will far outweigh the current misery.

Ultrasonic anti fouling system
 Some brave and adventurous owners have escewed tradition and tried out various alternative options that have presented themselves - some working and some not working with many falling in between - it's all a matter of degrees.
However, as in all things, including marine, progress and advances do occur and in the case of antifouling these advances are mainly prompted by environmental concerns.

The following in depth article is from Roger Reeder who has studied this problem, has some good information and I thought worthwhile reproducing for you here:

'Fouling by marine life is a problem for all yacht owners and has been with us for centuries. My yacht currently requires dry-docking every 12 to 15 months to remove the marine growth from the hull, and new coats of antifoul paint applied.

The new copper-based products are not as effective as the previous tributyltin (TBT) based antifouling paint and must be used more often, has anyone considered the increased effect on marine life of the ‘lesser toxic’ copper-based products applied more frequently?

Tributyltin (TBT) and organic biocides:

TBT – the old antifoul paint was effective but its toxity could devastate marine life and accumulated in the top layer of the open sea in far greater concentrations than expected. The pollutants include toxic metals, carcinogenic organic compounds and highly-poisonous tin compounds.

While the performance of copper biocides cannot approach that of TBT, they remain the most effective of the alternatives for the foreseeable future. To achieve as high a performance as possible from current antifouling products, a ‘booster’ biocide is normally used as copper is not fully effective against all fouling species.

There is currently a great deal of research into alternative forms of biocides, particularly those of organic origin.

These, however, tend to be less universally effective than other biocides and, in particular, may deter only specific types of fouling organism. As a result of these ‘species-specific’ characteristics, such biocides will almost always be used with other biocides, including copper.

The organic biocides are also very expensive to develop and register. They are therefore usually developed and registered in other industries first, such as the agrochemicals industry, for use in other applications. Furthermore, although they are from organic sources there is no assumption that they are inherently less environmentally harmful than any other biocides.

Coral Spawning:

Every November/December, corals spawn all over the reefs of Australia, releasing larvae into the water. These swim free for about two weeks before attaching to an existing reef and developing into juvenile coral polyps – a process that is crucial for the renewal of the reef.

While sailing across the Indian Ocean from Fremantle to Christmas Island my wife and I witnessed the evidence of this mass spawning for days as we sailed north-west in December 2009, the ocean was covered in a layer of orange coloured larvae as far as we could see as per above photograph.

Current antifouling paint (AFP) and its impact:

Copper is the new toxin within AFP (usually cuprous oxide or copper thiocyanate).

An unpublished 2003 study showed that even low levels of copper contamination – below that recorded around inshore reefs off Queensland – reduced the number of larvae that survive to the juvenile polyp stage by at least one third.

The study collected samples of two species of hard coral from part of the Great Barrier Reef near Magnetic Island, off Townsville. Coral samples were placed into “clean” seawater containing two to three parts per billion (ppb) of copper, some in seawater containing 5ppb, and others in seawater containing 30 ppb. The coral was noted to spawn within each sample.

The level of copper had no impact on the total number of larvae produced. But at 5ppb, 30 per cent fewer larvae developed into juveniles, compared with larvae in the clean seawater. At 30ppb, the number was reduced by 70 per cent.

Furthermore, larvae that did successfully mature took much longer to do so in the copper-laced waters than in clean water. The study will continue to test coral samples for any long-term effects. Unfortunately I could find no further information on the web and I invite readers to tell me if further studies have been conducted since 2005.

One of the reasons that studies are not available is that copper is a common seawater contaminant. While it is increasingly used in antifouling paints and is often present in urban and industrial run-off, it does occur naturally in our seas.

Copper is a naturally occurring element and is essential as a trace element for metabolic processes in living organisms. However, it can also prove extremely toxic in high concentrations. Therefore if copper accumulates to a significant degree in the aquatic environment it can have a detrimental effect on marine life.

Copper is present in all human and animal wastes, and non-human activity, such as natural weathering, also leads to copper input into the environment.

Traditional pre-season antifoul
 However, the major sources of copper contamination in inland and coastal waters are industrial wastewater discharges and atmospheric deposition, particularly from foundries and metal plating and cleaning operations. Fungicides, wood preservatives and boat antifouling paints can also contribute to high levels of copper in the aquatic ecosystem.

Due to its complex nature and the uncertainty over its level of interaction with other substances, it is difficult to establish the precise effect of elevated levels of copper in the marine environment. Furthermore, although it may be possible to detect the presence of copper concentrations in sediments by sampling, it is rather more difficult to identify the source of such concentrations.

Depending on the location, sediments can be highly mobile and resuspension of copper in the water column can result in the transportation of the metal to areas away from the main sources.

Therefore, before assumptions can be made concerning the impact of copper-based antifoulant on the marine environment, it is vital that further research is carried out. This should be focused on identifying the sources of elevated levels of copper found in the marine environment and establishing the exact nature of any subsequent environmental impact.

Copper sampling surveys on the reefs off Townsville are few and far between. But the most recent in 2000 found levels of 8ppb in open water – note this is before the majority of the recreational boating industry started using copper-based AFP in lieu of TBT-based AFP. Wet season storms can increase this markedly by stirring up copper-laden sediments.

My local marina is located within Port Stephens and antidote evidence indicates the majority of local yacht owners are still using ablative type AFP like Micron Extra. Yes we have all read about the miracle solutions, and after checking them out realise that very little is available to ordinary yacht owners with limited budgets.

Some local research indicates that the copper-based AFPs may not be destroying the marine life immediately adjacent to hardstand areas where boat cleaning takes place – usually via high pressure hose with the waste product being captured in special purpose tanks.

Jump forward to 2011 and the future:

A search of the web for more current evidence or published research on the impact of copper on marine life was very disappointing. I suspect that eventually the current copper-based products will be banned and yacht owners may be left with few options that actually do what AFP is meant to do – that is stop micro organisms from establishing a foothold on the hull as these little marine organisms are soon followed by their bigger cousins – barnacles, oysters etc.

Current research has suggested that slime, electric charges, laminar air flow, ultra-sonics, nanoShell Metal coating, teflon and even seaweed may help control marine growth on our hulls in the future. In the mean time it remains an expensive and frequent exercise to apply multiple coats of copper-based antifouling paint – there has to be a better solution for yacht owners and the marine environment.'

Roger Reeder is an Electronics Engineer in the aviation industry. He has been sailing dinghies, skiffs and yachts for 56 years.

Extract and coral spawning image courtesy Roger Reeder and Afloat Magazine

You can read more about antifouling, especially in the tropics, in my downloadable ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship Tere Moana' by clicking on my website 

Friday 21 October 2011

Sailboat and Yacht Decking Alternative to Teak

Teak decking on your sailboat or yacht is something to be admired and traditionally has been the first choice of boat builders to achieve that voluptuous, hard wearing finish to your decks. 

With environmental concerns and cost of teak for new decks and replacements, a number of products have emerged in recent years as a replacement. None of the them have measured up to the standard and quality of the finished job that teak can offer.

Now however, we may have a product from Norway in Kebony that just might be a suitable alternative to the time honoured beauty and functionability of teak. Kebony is produced from sustainable forests of European Maple and treated by the infusion of bio waste to give it texture and toughness. The finished product retains the look and lustre of teak (see images), wears better and after a few months settles to that lovely silver grey patina of teak - a true 'Norwegian Wood'.

The following is an article from The Green Blue Marine site dedicated to the greening of our oceans and all vessels sailing upon them:     

'Traditionally, high quality yacht decking has been made from teak, but supplies are increasingly difficult to source and harvesting is causing major environmental damage. Alternatives to date have not delivered the aesthetic and performance qualities of this endangered tropical hardwood. Kebony is now being heralded as the first viable alternative, not only to tropical wood but toxic treated softwoods.

Kebony wood is an award winning product that is not only environmentally friendly but harder than teak and as durable and stable. It weathers in the same way, producing a silver-grey patina finish and non-slip surface. It has taken years of research to develop a sustainable technology of ‘Kebonization’ that permanently transforms sustainable wood species like Maple, being used for Calypso. Recent environmental studies also demonstrate that Kebony maple has a substantially lower carbon footprint than unsustainable Burmese teak.*

Kebony decking has undergone rigorous testing and recently opened a full scale production plant which opens up opportunities in the international boat market. ‘Kebony has the right solution for the future,’ comments Sandøy Båtdekk, the leading supplier of decking to Norwegian boat builders. ‘Kebony has launched a revolutionary new product. It meets all our quality requirements, and it is just as beautiful as teak. Our experience so far has shown that Kebony is more resistant to wear and easier to keep clean than teak.”

Kebony’s environmental credentials have been endorsed with the Nordic region’s eco-label, the Swan and ‘Blue Ocean’ product award. They have also received Norway’s national environmental prize, the “Glass Bear” for sustainable consumption and production and were asked to present their revolutionary concept at the CC8 Climate Conference 2008.

A recent study by Norwegian environmental consulting firm Bergfald & Co demonstrated Kebony maple to be a suitable substitute for unsustainable Burmese teak in maritime and other applications, with a substantially lower carbon footprint.'

Article courtesy 'The Green Blue' and images courtesy Kebony and 'The Green Blue'

Kebony offer a full description in a PDF file you can access by clicking on the following: once in scroll down to yacht decking and click on pdf button at foot.

You can read more about teak decking, their beauty and upkeep in my downloadable ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship Tere Moana' by clicking on my website

Friday 30 September 2011

Sailboat and Yacht Cockpit/Deck Shower Head and Installation

When passagemaking in the tropics a shower head in the cockpit of your sailboat is a wonderful thing. Following on from a canvas bucket salt water shower and soap scrub, the freshwater rinse down, standing in the cockpit and basking in the warmth of the late afternoon sun is sublime.

Shower head fitting
 Here is an extract from my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship Tere Moana' describing the system we used whilst on passage in the Pacific:   

'Her crews’ ablutionary needs are somewhat more complex however, although the execution is quite simple. Every other day, or whenever the need takes them, the crew in turn, grab a canvas bucket, head for the amid ship deck area and strip off. Dousing themselves thoroughly with several buckets of sparkling sea water, they then set about themselves with a bar of salt water soap.

With vigorous application, this stuff lathers into a semblance of foam, sufficient enough anyway for the recipient to at least feel their skin has been attacked by some cleaning emollient.

Shower ready
 Several refreshing buckets later they make their way back to the cockpit and hose down with a final rinse of fresh water from the port shower hose fitting. This fresh water, sitting in the pipes, is always warm and therefore would be thought not to be refreshing. Actually, it is the most delicious way to finish off a salt water shower – the oohs and aahs of pure pleasure coming from her crew, as this welcome warmth cascades from head to toe, corroborates this for her. It is also economical in that only a litre or two of precious fresh water is used.

When finished, the crewmember feeling completely refreshed, launches themselves back into their rigorous duties with renewed vigour. Mid afternoon on a fine downwind tropical day.....'

It is also useful for sluicing down the cockpit area following the landing, gutting and cleaning of fish. This can be quite a messy procedure on board and in the tropical sun, all blood, scales and the like need to be washed away immediately. Blood especially can leave permanent stains on teak decking if not removed quickly.
There are many systems available on the market of course, the following animation video showing the installation of a Whale product being but one. You can check out their other products on their website

You can read much more about water conservation, the cruising life and daily maintenance chores in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship Tere Moana' downloadable from my website

Thursday 22 September 2011

Sailboat/Yacht Chainplate Checks and Maintenance

The chainplates of your sailboat are critical integral parts of your  vessel and need to be checked regularly that they are in good sound condition. Whilst on passage, if a chainplate is fractured or broken you are likely going to lose your rig - and if this happens it won't be on a nice calm day - it will be when a squall hits you or during boisterous conditions, which will make your job that much more difficult to secure your boat, minimise damage and then commence with your jury rig.

I had over spec'd very strong chainplates on my boat and it was always very comforting to open up the locker doors and have these clean, dry, mirror finish steel plates bolted on with clean bright nuts reflecting back at me.
The following article describes what can happen when cruising in remote areas and the hurdles that have to be overcome to effect a repair.
It also illustrates the benefits of regular checking so that the job can be done, if needs be, whilst at anchor. In this case, there are virtually no facilities in the Marquesas and whilst it doesn't say, I suspect the they had to sail on to Papeete in Tahiti, which is a further 800 nautical miles - a long way with a jury rig if it has come down at sea!
Here is what Ann Hoffman writes:
After completing our longest passage ever—3,300 miles of downwind sailing—my husband, Tom Bailey, and I anchored 'Oddly Enough', our Peterson 44, in a quiet cove in the Marquesas. As part of our maintenance routine, I checked the deck-level rigging before we sailed farther into the Pacific. I wasn’t expecting to find any problems—regular checks on the long passage hadn’t turned up anything—but when I got to the backstay, I found a pronounced crack in the top of the chainplate running through to the clevis pin.
Our options for replacing the chainplate were limited. A friend suggested we might use leaf springs from a big truck, which should be available even on an out island. We could then replace the mild steel with stainless steel when we returned to civilization. Luckily, there was a less-dramatic option. The chainplate extended far enough above the deck to cut off the top and drill a new hole for the clevis pin, which we could do using our boat tools and a drill press carried on board by the friendly owners of a powerboat.

Failed chainplate
 Chainplates eventually fail due to the same factors that affect standing rigging: corrosion and metal fatigue. Corrosion can occur in the open air or in places—such as where the chainplate runs through the deck—from which oxygen is locked out; the latter is called anaerobic corrosion. Metal fatigue happens at the points where plates are subject to working—the side-to-side movement that leads to fracturing of the crystalline structure of the metal. Dyes are available that can be used to check for cracks, but it seems that chainplates are rarely tested and aren’t often removed for inspection.
When we bought 'Oddly Enough', we removed our chainplates and took them to a welder for inspection. They were in good enough shape to be used after he spot-welded a few areas of minor corrosion. Washers had been welded to our plates to increase the thickness of the top and so distribute the load on the pin. The welds probably weakened the metal and contributed to corrosion.
When we were finally berthed in a port with good marine facilities, it was time to replace all of the chainplates. To do this, first remove the shrouds and/or stays. Be sure you know what removing the stay will do to the rig. If you’re in a marina or a calm anchorage, it’s likely that a keel-stepped mast will continue to stand by itself if any of the shrouds are removed. But if you have any doubts, run a halyard to take up the strain. Before removing forestays and backstays, you must arrange backups. For the backstay, we rig a bridle to hawse holes at the stern, and we attach the main halyard to the bridle. For the forestay, you could use an inner forestay, if your boat has one, or better yet, rig a halyard and tension it to take the forestay’s place. Half a dozen turns off a turnbuckle will loosen the wire enough so that the clevis pin can be pulled out.
Remove all deck plates, and scrape away any sealant. The chainplates can then be unbolted and pulled up through the deck. Often, access to the bolts holding the plates to knees or to bulkheads is hidden behind interior furniture that must be dismantled. On 'Oddly Enough', we’d removed the locker linings to have ready access to the knees; this arrangement looks shippy rather than elegant, but it allows us to pull bolts to check for problems.
Chainplates mounted on the outside of the hull should also be inspected, as they, too, are subject to fatigue and corrosion, especially on the side facing the hull. Such chainplates are generally easier to remove and replace than the ones for inboard shrouds.
When you have new chainplates made, specify exactly what’s needed, especially if you’re sailing in remote areas. Rigging and fasteners may be specified in either metric or U.S. measurements, and it’s best to give sample pins and bolts to the machine shop. In our case, stainless-steel stock in a thickness appropriate for our lower shrouds was available in town, but not for our uppers or backstay; we had to pay for a sheet of stainless steel out of which the new chainplates were cut. The new plates came out beefier than the old, which was fine with me—chainplates should always be oversized—and it was easy enough to enlarge the holes in the deck. Finally, if your plates are bent, be sure to specify the angle you want or give the machinist the original to match.
Factors that lead to early chainplate failure can often be prevented. Clevis pins must be matched to hole size. A pin that’s too small causes point loading; instead of the upward pull of the rigging being distributed around the circumference of the hole, it’s concentrated on just the metal surface that touches the plate. Use either a larger pin or a bushing that narrows the hole to the proper size. The pin should fit snugly, but not so tightly that it must be hammered in.
                                                                  Check out this chainplate punch
One contributing factor to anaerobic corrosion is moisture trapped between the deck and the chainplate. Cover plates are bedded with sealant and screwed to the deck to help form a protective sealing rim around the straps. The cover plates can be pulled up, the straps inspected at deck level, and the covers resealed without removing the chainplates. Adding covers on Oddly Enough prevented the kind of minor corrosion that we’d had spot-welded.
It’s easy to ignore your chainplates and just hope they’re in good shape. Pulling chainplates as part of regular maintenance isn’t practical, but if you can get to your belowdecks fasteners, you should remove a few to check for moisture, which usually means there’s a leak at the deck level. Any corroded bolts should be replaced with new ones. It’s a good idea to mark which ones are prone to corrosion and check them occasionally. Pulling the clevis pin, a good maintenance practice, allows you to assess the condition of the top of your chainplates. A bent chainplate may crack at the bend, especially if the bend isn’t exactly in line with the pull of the stay. Any pumping of the rig will cause the chainplate to work back and forth. As the bend is usually at deck level, this makes pulling chainplate covers and digging out the sealant a critical check.
Regular maintenance of your chainplates, as with any piece of sailing gear, builds up a picture of what that equipment looks like when it’s in good shape and will aid you in recognizing when it’s time to make appropriate repairs.
Article courtesy Ann Hoffner and Cruising World, images courtesy Ann Hoffner, Cruising World, video courtesy YouTube

You can read more about maintenance and repair whilst cruising, in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship Tere Moana' downloadable from my website 

Saturday 27 August 2011

Cruising Sailboat Asymmetrical Spinnaker Roller Furling

With the ever increasing popularity of these systems for cruising sailors, it is timely  to look at the following video to see exactly how it may be advantageous to install such a system on your own yacht. 
The particular system shown in the video is a Bamar Rollgen Furler from Ocean Sailing Enterprises in Canada. Installation is very simple and can be brought out when required. It rolls out cleanly, fills very nicely and rolls away again easily. 

A good sailor of course, will always be keeping a keen eye on the weather to make sure it is taken down in plenty of time preceding any weather changes.

The following is an extract from their website:
Bamar’s roller furlers turn asymmetric spinnaker handling into a simple job and give the short handed sailor the confidence to furl and unfurl from the safety of the cockpit in seconds.

Doyle Sails Australia is the Australian distributor for Bamar’s range of reefing and furling gear. Bamar is a world leader in the field of sail management and furling systems for the yachting industry having designed and supplied equipment to yachts of all sizes.

They also make available a clearcut pdf file which you can download from here:

Spinnakers can be a problem at the best of times and as a cruising sailor it is great to see more manufacturers producing these systems that work so that they don't have to be watched every second they are up.

Extract courtesy Doyle Sails, video and image courtesy Bamar

You can read more about passagemaking with spinnakers and many more cruising adventures in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship Tere Moana'  and '101 Dollar Saving Tips for Cruisers' downloadable from my website 

Thursday 25 August 2011

Sailboat Insurance for the Cruising Voyage Planning Sailor

Insurance for your sailboat prior to setting sail on you 'adventure of a lifetime' can prove to be a minefield  - but one that needs to be negotiated and finalised well before your departure date. With the plethora of insurance companies out there it can become a confusing exercise. Once you have narrowed it down to a chosen few, then you need to start asking them some hard questions.  

Here is a list of five of those questions, the answers to which will give you a good guide as to the efficacy of the insurers' you are talking to:

1. Does my insurance company expect me to pay salvage costs that should be paid by them? Most people say the main the reason they buy insurance is to cover the 'big things.' The most common types of catastrophic insurance claims are sinkings - which can happen to anyone - or storm claims, which destroy your boat and can leave it in pieces or in someone's back yard.

In both of these cases, it is the policy's 'salvage' coverage that will pay to remove your boat from the bottom of the lake or the rocks on the shore. A good policy has separate and full salvage coverage (up to your policy's limits) for the costs to remove the boat that is not less than or limited to a percentage of the 'hull' value (which is the part of the policy that reimburses you for actual the loss of the boat). A bad policy reimburses you for the loss of the boat, but could make you pay some salvage fees out of your own pocket - and isn't that's what insurance is for in the first place?
2. When I have a claim, how much help will I get? When insurance companies handle a claim, there are two schools of thought: those that are 'hands-off' and those that are 'hands-on.' A hands-off insurance company believes you should do all of the work.

With a big claim, that could include finding a salvor, crane company, barge and trucking service on your own, and then reimbursing you. A hands-on insurance company - usually a specialty marine insurer - has access to these unique services 24/7 and wisely negotiates pricing, hires and pays these contractors for you, and can arrange for and even guarantee repairs.
3. Does the policy have 'consequential damage' coverage? In the world of boat insurance, catastrophic losses that include fire, explosion, sinking, demasting, collision or stranding are considered a 'consequence.' For example, when your boat sinks due to rusted, through-hull fitting breaking off, the sinking is a consequence of the broken thru-hull.

Good boat insurance policies include 'consequential damage' coverage for these specific catastrophes. In plain English: if consequential damage is not covered in your policy, almost every sinking or fire could be excluded as a result of 'wear and tear.'
4. Do you want me out of harm's way? A better insurance policy will offer 24/7 emergency claims response that can immediately step in with the necessary resources to prevent further damage. And if you live in a cyclone zone, it will also share the cost of a haul-out to move your boat to high ground or pay a captain to move it to a cyclone hole.

5. What are you doing to reward me? A good insurance policy will give you credit for not having claims and reward you with things like diminishing deductibles that reduce the amount of your deductible for each year you remain claims-free.

If you're not satisfied with your insurance agent's answers to these questions, it's time start shopping around for a better policy.

From my own experience I found Pantaenius Yacht Insurance to be an excellent company to deal with. They send out the forms to you (or online), you fill out all the details and bingo! job done. No awkward questions about crew qualifications and distances off shore etc. as so many insureres insist upon - just a straight forward deal. Fortunately, I never had to call upon their services in anger so I was more than happy.

Everybody has different requirements, so the main thing is to select the company who meets your criteria the best and go with them - good hunting.

Questions courtesy Sail-World. Image Sail-World.Video courtesy YuoTube 

You can read more about insurance matters and long range passagemaking in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship Tere Moana' downloadable from my website