Archive for October, 2008

Monohull 24-hour record broken

Friday, October 31st, 2008

What an amazing achievement! Ericsson 4 has broken ABN-Amro Two’s record of 562.96 nm set in the 2006-07 Volvo Ocean Race. Not just broken it but also cracked the 600 nm in a day mark. It sailed 602.66 nautical miles at an average speed of 25.11 knots! However, the record is yet to be ratified by the World Sailing Speed Record Council.

This achievement is all the more remarkable as Ericsson 4 is sailing one crewman down. Earlier in the race they had been forced to drop off trimmer/helmsman Tony Mutter in the Cape Verde Islands when his inflamed knee failed to respond to treatment.

The skipper and crew certainly knew how to take advantage of a strong cold front which brought winds of up to 40 knots. Here’s a video just after the record was broken.

Weather forecasts and wind warnings

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Before heading to sea you should always get the latest weather forecast. But a forecast won’t help you if you don’t know that a Storm warning means that conditions will be more severe than a Gale.

Some people think of thunderstorms when they see or hear the word ‘Storm’. They are unaware that a storm means sustained winds averaging 48 knots or more with violent sea conditions. A gale, on the other hand, is a wind averaging 34-47 knots. When warnings are issued they usually state that gusts can be 40% stronger, i.e. 67 knots and more during a storm.

In some parts of the world people use the Beaufort Scale to estimate the wind strength and sea state. The only way to be sure of the wind strength is to have an accurate instrument to measure it. Any other method is subjective and therefore untrustworthy. In any case if you are at sea, you will have to find a way to cope, whatever conditions you are in.

If you get a forecast that includes warnings before you set out, you can decide whether you want to take yourself, your crew and yacht to sea in the conditions predicted.

The above is adapted from one of our Newsletters – What if the wind strengthens to storm force?

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The Spirit of Mystery – Pete Goss and his team

Friday, October 24th, 2008

Pete Goss, well known UK yachtsman and adventurer, set out on 20 October with one of his sons, his brother and brother-in-law, to sail Spirit of Mystery from Newlyn to Melbourne. They left at 1800 hrs and had to row out of the harbour! They are following in the footsteps of seven Cornishmen who made the voyage in a similar boat in 1854.

The crew is not using any electronic navigation equipment and finding conditions difficult when trying to get midday suns. There is, however, a tracking mechanism on the boat so that we can all follow her voyage from the comfort of our own homes. It shows both the current progress and log entries from the 1854-55 voyage.

Pete’s blog is definitely worth reading.

Spirit of Mystery, a 37 ft lugger, was built by Pete and his team. You can see photos of its development and read more about the boat, the history and the voyage and about its links to the charity, Cornwall Playing for Success at

Why you should only ever step up into your liferaft

Monday, October 20th, 2008

A skipper and his two crew were lucky to survive when their yacht struck a reef in rough weather and sank near Fiji last week. They were rescued by an American family who heard their mayday, sailed for two hours to their location, found the three clinging together in the water, effected their rescue, applied first aid and took them to safety.

Quite correctly the survivors had transferred to their liferaft only when the yacht’s deck was sinking below the water. Unfortunately, as it was only a two-person liferaft, the skipper was forced to cling to the outside while his two female crew mates huddled in the raft. Their next misfortune was that the mast of the yacht struck and holed the liferaft, causing it to deflate and sink. The survival rations, fresh water and first aid kit from the raft had already been lost in the heavy swells – a not uncommon experience.

Although all were wearing lifejackets, one of the group felt that she would not have survived much longer – an hour at most. Despite being in the tropics, they were all suffering from hypothermia after spending six or so hours in the water.

Sadly for the skipper, the yacht had been his home for nine years and was uninsured.

Read more about sea safety

Crossing a bar – a cautionary tale

Saturday, October 18th, 2008

Two fishermen who were lucky to escape alive today after being swept out to sea show just how dangerous bars are at the entrance to a port.

Their boat overturned during the night on the notorious Tweed River bar on the New South Wales/Queensland border.

First the engine failed on their five-metre boat, then the anchor line snapped and the boat was swept out through the bar on an ebb tide.

The two were thrown into the water when the boat flipped in the bar. They survived because they were wearing lifejackets.

Other fishermen rescued them from the sea three miles from the bar and they were flown to shore by a helicopter.

Read my article on Crossing a Bar – Nine Rules to Keep You, Your Crew and Your Boat Safe. In a yacht it can be just as dangerous.

Want to be a good skipper? Be frightened.

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

It’s not just the scouts who should “Be prepared!” Everyone who wants to be known for their seamanship should take this motto to heart.

One of the prime requirements of a good skipper is to know what seamanship is – a combination of knowledge and experience.

The way to do this is to constantly ask yourself “What if…?” and work out the answers. What do I mean by this?

Read more in our Newsletter Archive.

When lightning strikes, does your yacht need protection?

Monday, October 6th, 2008

During a land-based thunderstorm the other morning I was reminded of a bizarre conversation I was once part of during a thunderstorm in an ocean race. We were sailing towards a cold front, which was creating the storm. There was no way to avoid it.

As the lightning flashed and the hail bombarded us, a layer of iceblocks built up around our feet. There came a particularly bright flash which lit up the whole scene and the sea around.

One of the crew asked: “What happens if lightning strikes us?” Nobody could give a good scientific answer, but we were all aware that only a few weeks earlier, a very well-crewed racing yacht had disappeared on a voyage from Australia to New Zealand. No distress call, no sighting. Nothing.

There was discussion on whether the VHF aerial at the masthead could give any protection. I wondered whether doing a good job of rigging the mast – linking the rigging screws to the chainplates and the chainplates to the keel – might create a dangerous path for the lightning, even blow a hole in the side of the boat.

Does anybody have experience of a lightning strike at sea? I’d love to hear from them. In the meantime I’ll have to do some research myself.

Read more about emergencies you may face.

Murderous idiocy

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

What is it with people? Despite the obvious lunacy of not displaying navigation lights at night, people all over the world still don’t do it – sometimes resulting in the death of innocents on other boats.

What brought this to mind was an incident on Sydney Harbour in March last year in which a collision between two boats – one allegedly inadequately lit – resulted in the deaths of four people and the serious injury of three.

Two deckhands on a Sydney ferry who dived into the harbour and saved several people were receiving awards for bravery.

One said: “I don’t feel brave for what I did. I just feel sorry for the families.” He warned that it was going to happen again “because people are still out there doing the same”.

This is despite a stricter regulatory stance from the government.

What is it about people?


An interactive quiz on navigation lights is in Safety and Emergencies, part of The Boating Bible Manual of Seamanship. You can study and learn the lights before testing your recognition of them in different degrees of darkness.