Forespar's Point of View

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.

Overboard at Night

Overboard at Night – Newport to Ensenada Race

A Farr 40 was doing about 15 knots downwind in a 20-knot breeze. It was Friday night about 8pm, after the noon start, and they were just off the Coronado Islands. Good breeze, good speed. and about halfway down the course. Great N2E race so far.

Foil N2ELarge wave slaps the stern, causing an ugly round down. One of the crew slip under the lifeline and into the sea. No harness, no leash, and no PFD or light on him or four of the other five crew. On top of that, he broke his arm badly on the way over the side.

The only crew wearing a PFD grabs the tiller, and she gets the boat back up.  About 500 yards later, they’ve got the boat back under control and the kite back in the boat. They get the engine started, and head back upwind in 20+ knots and fairly big waves looking for their lost guy.

They found him.

Why? They did some things right. While one sailor launched the Man Overboard gear, another kept pointing at the spot where he hit the water. The MOB pole was lighted, and a float was part of that gear.  And they launched it in a timely manner, enabling the swimmer to get to it under difficult (to say the least) conditions.  After wrestling with an injured sailor (a 200-pound man, with one usable arm, wearing wet foulies) and the Life Sling, they got him aboard.  And, yes, the Coast Guard helo did show, but it was easier to abandon the race and get him to San Diego than deal with an air rescue off a sailboat in the wind and sea conditions.

When was the last time we heard about someone going over the side under those circumstances, and being found, much less alive?  Kudos to the Foil crew for reacting well in a bad situation.

I’m serious about that kind of safety – jack lines, harnesses, etc. The crew on my boat get a little peeved when I insist on all that stuff after dark, especially when it’s bumpy out there.  Wear it, and rig it.  And make sure you’ve got good MOB gear and know how use it. You may never need it, and let’s hope that’s the case, but when you do, it saves a life!

Mike Dwight

 

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

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

 

 

 

What’s The Yellow Pole with the Orange Flag?

That head in the water is getting away from you at 10 feet per second, and you’re only going six knots. So, in the five seconds it takes you to react, she’s already 55 feet away. 10 seconds, she’s 110 feet astern.  If there’s any kind of sea running or a foot of chop, how long before you lose sight of that head, life jacket or not?

Just for training, wad up a paper bag or some wrapping paper, or blow up a balloon to about the size of your head. Toss it over side when you’re under way, and time yourself. It can be hard to find.

FS10

That’s why savvy sailors have that yellow pole with the orange cylinder at the base up along the rigging at the back of the boat. It’s a MOB (Man Over Board) pole.

The MOB pole is attached to the stern pulpit at the base, and to the backstay, enclosing the flag at the top. 50 or more feet of line (yellow) is tied to the float on the pole, and the other end to your horseshoe buoy. The picture below shows the basic pole in two parts for shipping, and how it might be mounted.

FS11

Deploying the pole is simple – a quick reach back from the helm, lift the pole from its seat, and drop it, reach over, and throw the horseshoe – not necessarily in that order – as long as it’s done quickly.

Now, there’s a high-visibility flag and pole six to ten feet high in the immediate vicinity of your overboard crew. The skipper and crew can track the person the water using the flag, making it much easier to take in sail and get the boat around and back to that flag. You will come up on the windward side of the flag, grab the pole, and reel in the horse shoe with the errant crew member.

A number of sailboats, particularly racers, have an installed horizontal tube, open at the transom. The pole in inserted flag end first, with the line coming out of the transom to the horseshoe. The horseshoe is thrown, and the resulting drag pulls the pole out toward the person in the water.

Many skippers attach a light to the pole. You may not see the pole/flag at night, but you will see the light. Obviously a good idea, and one we’ve used for years of cruising and offshore racing.

Get the pole and install it. You may never need to use it, but if you do, you will need it.

 

Mike Dwight

Great Reflexes

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5f9tvY7RP0
Every boat needs a helmsman and a main trimmer like Oracle.  You can see Artemis crossing and coming off the foils, and Oracle slamming on the brakes while coming up as the boom comes across.

Closing at more than 40 knots, and no time to trim, duck or do anything except the right thing obviously gets interesting fast.  We think this is scary at eight knots.  Who was that said “…watching a sailboat race is like watching paint dry.”?

 

 

Bloopers

Bloopers

 

Ocean racing is just about to become more colorful – again!

The new ORR rules are allowing bloopers on non-sprit boats (with some restrictions).  For sailors who don’t remember, look at the picture, and check out the big sail tacked to the port bow.

Look at the wake, and the waves, and realize just how deep and fast they’re sailing.  Pole back a bit, ease the main a bit, and trim on the the blooper and that boat is still launched – even dead down wind.  In light and moderate air, you’ve got a big downwind sail you trim with the halyard.  You’ll want a racing crew with someone who either has or can develop a different set of trimming skill, but you’ll make up for it with VMG and boat speed.  That blooper helps narrow the gap between an older boat and the sprit boats.

We’ll see them this year on the ocean races such as Bermuda, Transpac and Mackinac.

The ORR rule limits blooper use by treating the blooper as headsail (no pole), and within the number of sails the boat is allowed to carry.  It has to be attached to the bow, and there are restraints on the boats allowed to fly them, as in basic design from before 1986.  And couple of cautions:  Think oscillations.  Think about a little too much breeze and an interesting round up or crash jibe.

On the other hand, think speed.

 

Mike Dwight

 

 

By Sailors and For Sailors

Some time there’s a good idea that goes quietly unnoticed except for the insiders.  Here’s case in point:

A steering control arm.  You want sit comfortably alongside the wheel, where you can see better, and steer with your fingertips.  Or you want to get on the rail because its blowing a bit, you want the weight change as well as a better look the the sails.

A quick push button connector lets you attached the arm to your wheel, and when it’s time for real wheel steering, with a couple of seconds it’s off.  Better yet, it extends with a twist lock

For that long reach or tack, especially on an lazy day, the steering control arm is just the ticket for a easy sail.

Mike Dwight

Rights of Others on the Water

Not everyone shares your taste in music. Or sports. Or boats. Or recreation. Or wakes. Or engine noise. Or even beverages. Even if they do, they probably don’t want to share right now.

It’s easy to get totally focused on what you’re doing, even in a shared environment. Let’s face it: when you’re cranking along at 25 knots, your attention is on making sure you don’t hit anything solid, and the exhilaration of speed on the water. You’re not looking back at your wake, and seeing how much the swimmers, paddle boarders and kayakers appreciate it. Or how much the waterfront folks enjoy watching their watercraft bang on the dock. And the people out for a quiet day fishing really want to compliment you on your speakers and how loud your motors are.

Rights of Others on WaterThey’re just as happy as you are when you’ve just nestled in to bed after a long day on the water, and someone drops anchor next to you, invites friends, fires up the generator, plugs in the blender and the music, and parties down until the crack of dawn.

The long and the short of it is that you ARE in a SHARED environment.

Even the gray whales in Bahia Todos Santos shy away from noisy boaters, and bass in the lakes don’t really flock to rock and roll.

Respect the rights of others. Show some consideration for the people around you.When you’re at the launch ramp or the dock, be quick and make room for the next boat.  Respect the private property along the shore. Make sure you have permission to go ashore, use the dock, or cross their land.  And so on….

 

Remember, the other folks in or on the water have the same rights you do. And, just like you, all they want is a good day on the ocean, lake or river.

~ Mike Dwight

 

 

Check for the Wreck

We’re continually surprised at what boaters don’t see when they’re charting a course or looking for an anchorage on the GPS or on a paper chart.  You’d be surprised at the number of recreational skippers who think that fish bone symbol means it’s a fishing spot (often it is, but that’s a separate conversation).

What that really means is a shipwreck on the bottom.  And, the form of the symbol is an indication of navigability – is it relatively safe to sail near or even over the wreck?  Since boating safety is a paramount concern, this is something we all need know about sailing, and keeping the StaPlug, the raft and PDF dry.

 

Wreck Symbol Tips – Look for the Fish Bone Symbols and the hull at Ajax Reef

On the left-hand chart, you’ll see two wreck symbols, and both are safe to sail across.  The remains of the wreck are minimal, and they are in relatively deep water.  However, you’ll want to be careful anchoring, as you could foul your and anchor or rode.

In the center, you’ll see the symbols with a dotted outline.  That means STAY AWAY.  Those wrecks are shallow enough to be a danger to your vessel.  You’ll note that the lower wreck even has a notation “Mast”, meaning that the mast is above the surface at low water.

On the right is the symbol showing a semi-submerged hull on a reef.  That one is self-explanatory – the wreck is at the surface, and is visible.  Without knowing tide and current, the simple solution is to stay out around the 90-foot line.  Since it’s not lighted, basic navigation applies (A cross bearing on the nearest lighted marks and a close check on the depth sounder).

Check the chart before you go in there, and plan/plot a course clear of the hazards.  A little care will help you not be another symbol on the chart.

Mike Dwight