Category Archives: General Content

Boat Tow or No?

Home | General Content | Boat Tow or No?

towmanship

BOAT TOW OR NO?

The obligation to render assistance is as old as the sea.  You see another vessel in danger, and you go to help.  Generally, there’s no excuse to not at least try, even if it’s a boat tow.

Reasons To Say NO

Even though boats seem to float and drift easily, they’re still heavy. That means some interesting loads on the towing boat.  A few thousand pounds of boat at the the end of a lightweight tow line can get “western” in a hurry, even in flat water and no wind.  Add some seas or a heavy chop and some real breeze  and the tow goes bad quickly.

Most boats have relatively lightweight cleats, and most boaters don’t carry heavy lines – snapping lines and ripped out cleats aren’t helping your boat, or the boat you’re trying to help.  It’s also likely that your power and props are just fine for fishing or skiing, and just aren’t suited for generating the torque necessary for towing a heavy load at lower speeds.  Think about pulling another car on a wet road, spinning your tires the whole way.  Probably not a good idea.

What About the Line?

A tow line should be eight or ten boat lengths (call it 250 to 300 feet) if you’re pulling a 30 foot boat.  Most pleasure boats don’t carry line long enough or strong enough for serious towing.  If you do have line, the worst to use is the standard three-strand nylon, since it has too much stretch, and tends to part explosively under load.  Double-braided nylon is a better choice, but like any line that sinks, you’ll run the risk of fouling your props, if you allow too much slack.  Your best bet is probably your anchor line, as it’s usually the longest and strongest line aboard.

Points and Cleats

Before you use that cleat or pad eye, first make sure it’s up to the task at hand.  A cheap cleat or poor installation can and will break, and can become a lethal missile if it snaps under load.  Then, when you’re setting up the tow rig, use a “bridle” set forward with the length of each leg at least twice the width of your boat, distributing the tow load to both side of the boat, allowing you to maintain control, since a single line attached to the transom will truly degrade your steering.  Then, adjust the tow line length so that your boat and the tow are in sync with the waves and troughs (remember that if you’re towing, the other boat probably doesn’t have brakes, so the tow tine may need to be slightly longer than you think).

A Knotty Issue

Knots used in towing are subject to heavy loads, so avoid knots that cinch tight.  Cleat hitches and bowlines are ideal, as they won’t come untied under load, but are easy to release when required.  And, no one stands in direct line with a loaded line (or should be dumb enough to straddle it), because if the line lets go, someone gets hurt.

Wait It Out

If there’s only one thing to take way here, it is to err on the side of caution.  If you aren’t very sure of your ability to tow the other boat safely and effectively, don’t do it.  The last thing the Coast Guard wants is two boats in trouble at the same place and time.  Get on the radio and stand by for help, preferable a vessel with the equipment, know-how and insurance.

And thanks to the U.S. Coast Guard for their guidance, and not least, being ready to help us when and where it’s needed.

 

 

Trafalgar Revisited

Home | General Content | Trafalgar Revisited

Transcript of conversation on the quarterdeck of HMS Victory  on October 21, 1805 off the coast of Spain near Cape Trafalgar, between Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson and his Flag Captain Sir Thomas Hardy.   Twenty-two English ships of the line faced a combined French and Spanish fleet of thirty-three ships of the line.  The English won a dramatic and history-changing victory.

We assume a more modern regulatory environment.

Sir_Thomas_Hardy_ Admiral H Nelson

Nelson: “Order the signal, Hardy.”
Hardy: “Aye, aye sir.”
Nelson: “Hold on, that’s not what I dictated to Flags. What’s the meaning of this?”
Hardy: “Sorry sir?”
Nelson (reading aloud): “‘ England expects every person to do his or her duty, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religious persuasion or disability.’ – What gobbledegook is this?”
Hardy: “Admiralty policy from the Human Capital Management team, I’m afraid, sir. We’re an equal opportunities employer now. We had the devil’s own job getting ‘England ‘ past the censors, lest it be considered racist.”
Nelson: “Gadzooks, Hardy. Hand me my pipe and tobacco.”
Hardy: “Sorry sir. All naval vessels have now been designated smoke-free working environments.”
Nelson: “In that case, break open the rum ration. Let us splice the mainbrace to steel the men before battle.”
Hardy: “The rum ration has been abolished by the HHS Department, Admiral. It’s part of the Government’s policy on binge drinking.”
Nelson: “Good heavens, Hardy. I suppose we’d better get on with it ………. full speed ahead.”
Hardy: “I think you’ll find that according to EPA there’s a 4 knot speed limit in this stretch of water.”
Nelson: “Damn it man! We are on the eve of the greatest sea battle in history. We must advance with all dispatch.  Report from lookouts in the crow’s nest please.”
Hardy: “That won’t be possible, sir.”
Nelson: “What?”
Hardy: “Health and Safety have closed the crow’s nest, sir. No harness; and they said that rope ladders don’t meet regulations. They won’t let anyone up there until proper scaffolding can be erected.”
Nelson: “Then get me the ship’s carpenter without delay, Hardy.”
Hardy: “He’s busy knocking up a wheelchair access to the foredeck Admiral.”
Nelson: “Wheelchair access? I’ve never heard anything so absurd.”
Hardy: “Health and Safety again, sir. We have to provide a barrier-free environment for the differently abled.”
Nelson: “Differently abled? I’ve only one arm and one eye and I refuse even to hear mention of the word. I didn’t rise to the rank of admiral by playing the disability card.”
Hardy: “Actually, sir, you did. The Royal Navy is underrepresented in the areas of visual impairment and limb deficiency.”
Nelson: “Whatever next? Oh well – Order full sail. The salt spray beckons.”
Hardy: “A couple of problems there too, sir. Health and Safety won’t let the crew up the rigging without hard hats. And they don’t want anyone breathing in too much salt – haven’t you seen the memos?”
Nelson: “I’ve never heard such infamy. Break out the cannon and tell the men to stand by to engage the enemy.”
Hardy: “The men are a bit worried about shooting at anyone, Admiral.”
Nelson: “What? This is mutiny!”
Hardy: “It’s not that, sir. It’s just that they’re afraid of being charged with murder if they actually kill anyone. There are a couple of legal-aid lawyers on board, watching everyone like hawks.”
Nelson: “Then how are we to sink the Frenchies and the Spanish?”
Hardy: “Actually, sir, we’re not.”
Nelson: “We’re not?”
Hardy: “No, sir. The French and the Spanish are our European partners now. According to the Common Fisheries Policy, we shouldn’t even be in this stretch of water. We could get hit with a claim for compensation.  And, sinking ships puts us into environmental trouble again.”
Nelson: “But you must hate a Frenchman as you hate the devil.”
Hardy: “I wouldn’t let the ship’s diversity co-ordinator hear you saying that sir. You’ll be up on a disciplinary report.”
Nelson: “You must consider every man an enemy, who speaks ill of your King.”
Hardy: “Not any more, sir. We must be inclusive in this multicultural age. Now put on your Kevlar vest; it’s the rules. It could save your life”
Nelson: “Don’t tell me – Health and Safety. Whatever happened to rum and the lash?”
Hardy: As I explained, sir, rum is off the menu! And there’s a ban on corporal punishment.”

A few minutes later, Nelson was struck down by a musket ball.  His last words were:  “Kiss me, Hardy”, which opens another channel of regulatory inquiry.

 

Thanks to and cribbed and edited from a post on Cruisers Forum….

Forespar® Gives Back

Home | General Content | Forespar® Gives Back

 

  • How important is a friendly smile?
  • Does it matter if we extend a helping hand to those who are less fortunate than ourselves?
  • Is supporting legitimate charities important?

 

Scott Foresman, the owner of Forespar® Products –  considers “Giving Back” a basic, very  important and essential core value philosophy.

From humble beginnings 50 years ago, today Forespar® manufactures 95% of its products in Rancho Santa Margarita, California. Forespar is a trusted supplier of proprietary inventions and accessory products designed for sail and power boats, non-toxic  and natural performance care products for recreational vehicles, automotive and home use.

Forespar’s “Giving Back” candidates are diverse. Through careful evaluation, Forespar® exclusively supports and contributes to organizations that lend a helping hand – whether a medical problem,  honoring wounded warriors, children who suffer from debilitating diseases or those in the community who benefit from support, hope and healing programs.

Aligning with the firm’s strong core family values, Forespar ® chose charity and non-profit organizations that observe balance of social relevancy and adhere to charters focusing on highly efficient  funding that support  the “cause” rather than “administration”.

Forespar® is Honored to Work With the Following Champions in its “Giving Back” Program:

  • Shriners Hospitals – Treats cancer and children injuries; Parents never have to pay to their children’s care.
  • Navy Seal Foundation – Immediate and ongoing support tailored to Navy SEALs and their families.
  • Special Operations Warrior Foundation – Helps families of those who died or were severely wounded in service to the country.
  • Coast Guard Foundation – Education, support, and relief for USCG members and their families.

Foresman comments that the company plans to continue and expand its philanthropic activities.

SpecialOpsWarriorFoundation-logoPrint Coast Guard Foundation-logo

10 Commandments of Beercan Racing

Home | General Content | 10 Commandments of Beercan Racing

Forespar ProductsSailors and clubs across the world hold casual races on weekday evenings.  In the US, we often refer to them as “Beercan Races”, supposedly because back in the day you could track the race course by the trail of beer cans floating in the bay.  We’re a lot greener today, but the concept holds true:  Race to win, but if you’re not having fun, go home. There are basic commandments that govern the sub-sport:

I.  Thou shalt not take anything other than safety too seriously.  Relax, have fun and keep it light. Late to the start?  So what.  Over early? No big thing. Too windy?  Quit. No breeze?  Break out the beer.  The point is to have fun, but stay safe.  To overquote, “Safe boating is no accident”.

II.  Thou shalt honor the rules if thou knowest them.  US Sailing amends and publishes the Racing Rules of Sailing on a regular basis, and unless your Sailing Instructions say otherwise, this is the racing Bible.  Few sailors other than PRO’s, Judges and rabid racers have studied it cover to cover, since it’s about as interesting and exciting as the Tax Code.  For beer can racing, you can get by if you remember the biggies (port tack boats avoid starboard tackers, windward boards avoid leeward ones, and outside boats give room at the marks). Another major is the Law of Tonnage: Stay out of the way of the bigger boats, because even if you’re right, getting run over by a big kid still hurts.  So, pay your insurance premiums, and keep a low profile unless you’re sure you know what you’re doing.  In other words – Common Sense.

III.  Thou shalt not run out of beer.  Self explanatory. There’s a reason these are not called milk bottle, coke can, or hot chocolate races.  However, our club does have a tequila sponsor for our Taco Tuesday series.

IV.  Thou shalt not covet thy competitor’s boat, sails, equipment, crew or PHRF rating.  No whining; If you’re lucky enough to have a sailboat, go out and use it!  You don’t need that latest in zircon bearing diamond encrusted widgetry or unobtanium sailcloth to have a great time on the water with your friends (unless it’s a Forespar pole).  Even if your boat is a heaving pig, set modest goals and work toward them.  Or don’t – it’s only beer can racing.

V.  Thou shalt not amp out.  Save that stuff for the freeway or, if you must, Saturday’s “real” race.  Remember what happened to Captain Bligh, and realize that if you lose it on Wednesday night, you’re going to run out of crew – and friends – in a hurry.  Chill out.  Nobody’s going to read about this race in Sailing World. 

VI.  Thou shalt not protest thy neighbor.   This is extremely tacky (pun intended) at this level of competition. It’s justifiable if there’s damage, and blame needs to be established, but on the whole, tossing a red flag is the height of bad taste in something as relatively inconsequential as a beer can race.  Besides proving that you’re clueless about the concept, it screws up everybody’s evening.  Don’t do it – its bad karma.

VII.  Thou shalt not screw up thy boat.  We all know a hardcore warrior who blew out his main on Thursday and had to sit out a big race on Saturday.  It’s just not worth risking your boat and gear in such casual competition.  Avoid other boats at all costs, and stay away from hard objects – buoys, docks, pilings and paddleboards.  If you have two sets of sails, use the old ones.

VIII.  Thou shalt always go to the yacht club afterward.  Part of the gestalt of beer can races is bellying up to the yacht club bar post race.  Corinthian etiquette demands that you congratulates the winners, and buy a round for your crew.  And, the bar is the logical place to meet old friends and make new ones.

IX.  Thou shalt bring thy spouse, kids, friends and whoever else wants to go.  Beer cans are great for introducing folks to sailing – neighbors, house guests, co-workers, the dog, and there’s usually someone hanging on the dock that would like to go.  When has there ever been an overabundance of crew?  Of course, there’s one our regulars who sails with as many 18 souls on a 45-foot boat for the inside the harbor races.  And, remember the “No Passengers” adage.  Give everyone a job on the boat.  it’s more fun that way.

X.  Thou shalt not worry; thou shalt be happy.  Leave the phones in the car, bring some tunes.  Relax, it’s not the America’s Cup.

See you out there.

 

Mike Dwight

Thanks to Latitude 38 for the original and illuminated texts

Single Engine Parking

Home | General Content | Single Engine Parking

It’s a narrow channel, and and a tight dock space.  Worse yet, you’ve got a single engine, along with its single prop.  Conventional wisdom tells you that you’re going have a tough time docking the boat inboardbecause of that single screw, without a lot of practice.  Conventional wisdom is wrong.

Yes, it’s easier with twins.  You can back one, forward the other, spin the boat to line it up, both forward (or astern) and ease your way alongside the dock without touching the wheel.  With a single many of us angle the bow toward the dock and add power while swinging the helm at the last second and hoping that we don’t bash the dock or stick the bow into boat ahead, which usually involves a quick pop of reverse power. Or come up a little too far away having to go around and try again

Don’t say you’ve never done any of the above.  However, there are some simple rules that when applied will work:

Most important – the stern moves First!  We think and feel the bow turning just like the car does, when in fact the boat turns by pushing the stern to one side or the other with pressure on the rudder, and forward motion pushes the bow around.  If you keep this in mind (to the point that you don’t have to think about it), life with a single is easier.

Second – forget the throttle.  Just put the boat into gear, preferably at idle.  She will move, and you shouldn’t be in that much of a hurry.

Third – easy into the dock space.  Pull up parallel to the dock space and a few feet away.  Yes, parallel.  Then, crank the helm all the way away from the dock, and slip the gear into forward for about two seconds.  The immediately go to reverse for the same time interval.  Repeat as necessary, and you’ll find your boat moving sideways into the dock.

Last, wind and current can help or hinder.  And, you’ll want to compensate accordingly.  Obviously, an onshore breeze is really nifty when it helps push you to the dock, An offshore breeze is going make you work harder to get there.  Often, taking down canvas and covers reduces the windage, making things more manageable.  Opening the windows reduces wind surface, sometimes to surprising extent. Current can be as, if not more, interesting, but usually solvable if you just make your starting point a bit up the current, and let it push you  down into your space while you’re working the boat.

You don’t have be brave or too proud.  If you’re having tough time, look over on the dock.  When there are people there, many if not most will be happy to help if you just ask.  And, most of the time, you can just pull away, go around and start over.  You’ll get it in there.

And as in most things nautical, practice helps.

Mike Dwight

 

Keep Your Nose Up

Home | General Content | Keep Your Nose Up

One of the first times I ran outside the harbor on my own, the waves were small and relatively smooth. But when I returned a couple of hours later, the tide had changed against the wind, the chop had turned into waves, and the breeze had gone from eight to about fifteen knots.  And, of course I was coming downwind with following sea.  In a 14-foot centerboard boat.  With all the vast experience and skill of a 12-year old.

Eased the centerboard up, surfed down the face of the wave, stuffed the bow and broached the boat.  After what seemed like a dozen times almost righting the boat, a real sailor came up (in a power boat) and instructed me on getting the main in the boat, the boat upright and into the harbor, wet cold and alive.  I’ve tried to repeat the experience in larger boats, but was unable to replicate the conditions, probably because there’s usually crew aboard who don’t want to get that wet, and I have many more years of experience driving boats.  I’ve even tried to do the same thing with a power boat, almost succeeding due largely to inattention.

Three basic lessons learned for following seas:

  1.  Trim the bow up.  That’s why sailboats seem to keep the weight in the stern when running down the sea.  If you’re in a power boat, pay attention to the trim tabs.
  2. Learn to surf the boat.  Do not drive directly down the wave, because the bow will slow the boat when it hits the back of the wave ahead, and the following sea is likely to push your stern to the side, inducing that “I wanna broach ” motion.
  3. Unless you’re racing, try to find a spot on the back of the wave – a lot easier to do with a power boat – so you don’t get pushed around as much or as suddenly.  In other words, slow down to the speed of the wave if you can.  It’s safer and a whole lot more comfortable.

The oft used cliche “Slower is smoother, and smoother is fast” sounds odd, but it applies.  You’ll reach your destination both drier, and happier.

Mack Sails & Forespar – A Solid Combo

Home | Forespar Products in Use | Mack Sails & Forespar – A Solid Combo

Mack Sails logo

Something Big This Way Commeth …

when in 1967 Swedish Sailmakers, a Fort Lauderdale fledgling  sailmaking firm, partnered with lifelong sailor Brad Mack and Bradford Mack & Co was launched.  For the next 20 years, the company continued to expand and in 1988 moved to Stuart, FL and was renamed Mack Sails.   Over the years  the company has expanded to include a full service rigging shop and a complete  marine electronics service . Every Mack Sail is made in Stuart, FL and “…we insist that each one is made from the very best cloth and hardware.”

Brad Mack’s two sons, Travis Blain and Colin Mack , grew up in sail boats racing,  cruising, or in the sail loft “learning the ropes.” After college Travis and Colin officially joined the firm and in 2002, took the helm, sharing the management and striving to deliver an extraordinarily designed and crafted product.

Colin and Travis remember  the old days when they were ‘sponges’  learning everything possible at a rapid fire pace.  “The lessons have all paid off because without the encouragement and guidance of our dad, the company could never have become what it has today.”

For close to 50 years the family tradition of pride and commitment to quality service sets Mack Sails apart  based on these standards:

  1. Pride in every sail we manufacture – all designed for speed and durability
  2. Only the highest quality U.S. woven and finished  cloth and tapes are used in our sails
  3. Hands on customer service begins with the initial contact and continues all the way through sail and rigging delivery and installation

Strong relationships have  played a significant role in Mack Sails’ growth.  In 1967, a key affiliation with Forespar began when Brad reached out across the U.S. for like-minded entrepreneurs who held similar strong business and family values.  For the next 40 plus years, the Mack Sails and Forespar® relationship thrived and remains an industry symbol of ‘partnering for progress’ for both entities.

What  the collaboration with Forespar stands for is simple, according to Travis.  Mack Sails has worked with them on many  projects (one of the first  hydraulic Leisure Furl™ booms  – aluminum or carbon fiber booms offer safety and convenience of In-Boom mainsail reefing and furling systems from the safety of the cockpit .)

“Collectively, we pooled resources and were the first ever  to  design and install a large roached full batten main for  a Leisure Furl™  boom furling system on a Lagoon 440,” said Travis.

Colin  says, “Throughout  this journey, we’ve blended excellent products and service that satisfies the most demanding and rigorous standards that sailors demand.  Forespar  makes the boom furlers, and we make the sails and install them (riggers and sailmakers).  This collaboration extends beyond the U.S., with LeisureFurl installations most recently as far away as Italy and Trinidad.”

“Forespar has developed a very good LeisureFurl™ design that allows Mack Sails no restrictions on multi-hulls; because  of that we sell more of their booms and we install the boom systems and sails in sync, ” Colin concluded.

Forespar Vice President Bill Hanna sees the strong bond between both companies as a significant advantage to Forespar’s success over the years.  “Though they are located in Florida, the Mack Sails team is always a phone call away…it’s as if they were in the office right next door.   Our collaborations have become almost seamless because we’ve shared building and delivering quality boom systems, sails and rigging for nearly 50 years!”

Mike Dwight

Get the Kids on the Water!

Home | General Content | Get the Kids on the Water!

It’s about time.

US Sailing and others are pushing to get kids and young people out on the water sailing.  Not necessarily racing, but sailing.

My suggestions may be facile, but:  (a) Start them early, and (b) Keep them involved in the process when they’re out there – no passengers.

cfj-spinnakers

Our primary YC offers one of the finer Juniors’ programs on the West Coast.  While we have some superb racers in the Junior ranks, many race in the Harbor for the competitive fun of it, many sail just for the fun.  We start Juniors in the “Starfish” program at about age five, when we can.  They’re more at summer camp than on the water, but they are exposed to fun part of boating, with a dose of responsibility. that can then graduate to on the water, first sailing with coaches, then Sabots (racing if they want to), then Optis, then Lidos for fun, or 420’s to race, etc.

And, while we’re at it, there are a number of racing skippers who make sure that competent (meaning safe)  juniors, mostly adolescents, crew on their boats for local PHRF races, and even on some of the distances races – again, no passengers.  One skipper sailed the Newport-Ensenada race with eight kids and four adults, finishing fifth in a class of 15. All the juniors on that crew are sailing.  Five are still racing , three on a national level, and three sail for fun.

The end result has been sailors who started in the Club at five, with about half of a twenty-year program philosophy still sailing (and that doesn’t count the power boaters).  That means BCYC Junior sailing program has produced about 200 sailors still on the water, and more than that overall in recreational boaters.

That also means a pretty good crew pool for those of us who race a lot.

Make it fun, and they will come.

Drone Ships on the Way?

Home | General Content | Drone Ships on the Way?

Unmanned freighters appear to be on the horizon, and headed our way.  We’ve got unmanned spacecraft and drone aircraft and driverless cars, so why not unmanned ships?

freighter-861x478

Plans for operating unmanned ships were unveiled last month, when Rolls Royce presented a prototype control center, from which crews of seven to 14 people can control fleets across the globe. The mechanics of remote control are already in hand – many of us have some form of auto-pilot on our boats, so it’s not that much of a leap, despite the instant questions:  What if something breaks?  What about that satellite glitch – as in recent GPS issues?

Those of us who sail, fish, cruise or all of the above in waters off major ports such as LA, New York, Miami, Tampa, Seattle, etc., take some comfort in knowing that those windows on the bridge have a human or two who are actually looking though them for large and small obstacles.

I’ve even seen a ship coming into Long Beach slow to allow a race fleet to pass in front, because some skippers thought they could make it under his bow – I can tell you that if he hadn’t, there would have a been a couple fewer sailboats on the ocean, and the gene pool would have been a bit smarter. That’s the exception to the rule.  As we should know, ships don’t have brakes, and that’s a lot of mass moving, usually faster that we are.

So, let’s pay attention to developments on the concept.  Colregs and sanity aside, whether there’s a human at the helm or a drone operator in Finland driving that ship, the “law of tonnage” applies (something that we at Forespar understand). Risking your boat and crew on someone else’s satellite link might not be the best plan for longevity.

Mike Dwight

 

Fog – MRASS Means Safer Navigation for ALL Boats

Home | General Content | Fog – MRASS Means Safer Navigation for ALL Boats

So here you are, searching for the point in the fog.  No radar, and GPS these days can be a little iffy.  You would rather not hit the reef off the point, or, the breakwater/jetty where the harbor is hidden behind that point.  You’re blowing the your horn and/or ringing the bell as required.  And going just fast enough to be able to dodge the usual idiot doing 20 knots when five is borderline.

And the foghorn on the point isn’t blowing.  Because it’s fog-activated, and the sensors may be above the fog, and the system has never been particularly reliable.  Hence, you and others who rely on that sound to determine the direction of a critical navigation point may wind up in a difficult situation.

We now have the Mariner Radio Activated  Sound System (MRASS).  Many of the horns in foggy areas, such as New England, Great Lakes and the California Coast, have been updated with the new system, which allows boaters to activate the foghorns themselves using their VHF radios.  You can read the Local Notices to Mariners online to see which local horns have been equipped.

The chart details shown below are examples of newer chart/GPS/Plotter updates, calling out the MRASS-equipped horns.

Go on your VHF radio (it is either channel 81A or 83A) and click the transmit key five times in a row.  The horn will activate for 30 minutes.  It works, and it can be real life saver.  I’ve tried it outside Marina Del Rey, and it works.

Just another reason to love the Coasties.

 

Marina del rey Entrance
Chart Detail with MRASS shown – Marina del Rey entrance
Note the MRASS callout on the breakwater horn
Note the MRASS callout on the breakwater horn

 

 

 

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