Archive for November, 2008

Life Jackets: Can you get at them?

Saturday, November 29th, 2008

It’s not enough to know where the life jackets are on board, you need to know you’ll be able to get to them in an emergency.

I read this morning that one man is missing, believed drowned, after jumping off a boat that had caught fire. A portable propane heater caused the fire. Two other men were rescued, only one of whom was in a life jacket. The life jackets that were stowed in the bow could not be reached through the fire.


I remember the case of a yacht being sunk by a careless hydrofoil. No one on board had time to get to the life jackets. The result was that that skipper, from then on, kept his life jackets in a cockpit locker, where they were easiest to get at.


I do not advocate that we should wear life jackets at all times, but there are occasions, such as crossing a bar in or out of port, when it is advisable for all crew to have them on. In some places this is a legal requirement.


It’s a matter for you, as skipper, to assess the risks involved in what you are doing and then instruct your crew.


Learn more about Safety and Emergencies in The Boating Bible Manual of Seamanship.

Beauty Bottler!

Friday, November 28th, 2008

Perhaps not much use for the average sailor but something to aspire to would be … a yacht where the Bottler would be at home.


The pick of the bunch!


What is it? A gimballed champagne holder of distinguished proportions.


The Bottler was designed by a Dutch interior yacht designer inspired by Gerolamo Cardano. Cardano, an Italian physician, philosopher and mathematician, in 1537 developed ‘cardanic suspension’ in order to keep the compass stable against a ship’s movements. Basically a gimbal, it uses three concentric rings, in which the compass rotates freely and always hangs perpendicularly. As well as this, Cardano also invented the combination lock and Cardan shaft – a drive shaft still used in motor vehicles today! What’s more, his mathematical abilities gave him the advantage of being a very successful gambler and card player.

The Bottler - Gimballed Champagne Holder



But back to the Bottler. It’s hand-crafted as you can see and designed using watch-making precision, truly a thing of beauty. And yours from only 5,000 euros – less than AU$10,000. The example pictured (top) is double that! Where can you get one?
Bottler B.V.


No need to worry about spilling the champagne any more!

Will you be wearing your harness when you REALLY need it?

Friday, November 21st, 2008

The best way to ensure that you and your crew members are wearing harnesses (and clipped on) is to set some basic rules and allow NO exceptions.

The Storm Trysail Club, an American association of experienced sailors who have survived storm conditions and are capable of skippering a vessel in those conditions, sets down the following guidelines:

A harness (with tether) and lifejacket with whistle and reflective material shall be worn:
a) between the hours of sunset and sunrise
b) when alone on deck
c) when reefed
d) when true wind speed is 25 knots or above
e) when visibility is less than one nautical mile

Additionally, each crew member shall carry a personal strobe between the hours of sunset and sunrise.

Don’t feel obliged to adopt the above guidelines but, as skipper, please do develop your own and enforce them.

Wearing a harness gives crew members confidence when moving around the boat. I’ve seen sailors who were reluctant to don a harness, reluctant to venture on to the foredeck when they are harnessed on, because they hadn’t learnt to trust the equipment.

Safety at sea is often a matter of common sense and avoiding taking unnecessary risks. It’s surprising how many times people quickly pop up on deck without a harness and find themselves overboard. Make sure you’re not one of them.

For detailed information on safety at sea, please visit Safety and Emergencies.

Passage planning – the great circle route

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

When navigating over long distances it’s better to sail a great circle. Technically, these are circles on a sphere (Earth) whose planes pass through its centre. So, the equator is a great circle, and so is a circle through both poles. It follows therefore that any circle between those two is also a great circle. It is shorter to follow a great circle than to follow a straight line plotted on a chart.

Because it would be difficult to steer the constantly changing course that a great circle would demand, it is usually made up of a series of rhumb line courses between waypoints.

An alternative to this would be sailing a circle at, for example, latitude 30º north. This does not pass through the centre of the sphere (Earth) and is known as a small circle, as are any others like it.

Learn much more about Navigation and Passage Planning by investing in The Boating Bible Manual of Jeem the seamanSeamanship.

Putting to sea – how to navigate safely

Monday, November 17th, 2008

It’s easy to leave port. Lots of people do it. They take off on ludicrous voyages – cross oceans – but not all of them make it.

If you want to go in the ocean you really have to know how to navigate.

And that means KNOWING what you are doing and where you are.

I once travelled with a ‘navigator’ who said, when he arrived where he expected to be, “There we are. We are home.”

Except that we weren’t. He was 20 miles short. But he ‘thought’ he was there. If you want to navigate safely – make observations, check it out – don’t ever believe that because it is where you want to be, it is where you are.

There’s a lot more to learn about Navigation.

Passage planning – sailing the rhumb line

Monday, November 10th, 2008

Each year we see graphics of the Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race with the rhumb line shown. And it seems that the competitors should be trying to sail that course to optimise their chances. Tactics – covering your opposition or taking a flyer – and awareness of weather predictions can make skippers position their boats a significant distance from the rhumb line.

So how is rhumb line defined? A rhumb line is a course which intersects each meridian at the same angle. In practice this would mean sailing a steady course or following a constant compass bearing.

The Boating Bible Manual of Seamanship includes a disk on Navigation and Passage Planning.

Boat maintenance – keep a defect book

Friday, November 7th, 2008

As well as developing a habit of going through a ‘before sailing’ checklist, just as pilots do before take-off, it’s worth keeping a notebook on board to jot down anything that is damaged during your voyage or that you observe could do with some maintenance. Even if it’s just a day sail, when you get back a quick scan of your notes from the day will enable you to take off the boat any items that need repair or replacement. It is then easy to ensure they are ready before you next set out.

Modern day sailors use their blackberries or mobile phones to send themselves messages as reminders and this may well work for you.

When the Volvo competitors arrived in Cape Town they had lists of repairs and maintenance jobs that will keep them fully employed for the full two weeks of their stay. Ericsson 3 has already replaced her non-compliant keel. Their lists would have been relayed by satellite to their shore bases.

Really, it’s not much different from writing a shopping list to ensure that you don’t overlook buying the lemon to go with your gin and tonic.

In Skipper and Crew, Knots and The Language of the Sea we have detailed checklists.

Too much oil!

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008

When archiving last week’s Newsletter it seemed to me that this situation needed to be emphasised. Our Newsletters have been looking at a series of What ifs… and the scenario was: What if the engine stops or can’t be started?

There’s one circumstance where you will not want the motor to start, as there will be a strong chance that it could explode. This is when the oil level is increasing.

It is essential to dip the oil every day so that you can monitor the situation. If the level of oil is increasing, and you have not put in extra yourself, it may well be because the fuel pump is faulty and has allowed diesel to get into the sump. If this happens, you should instruct your crew not to start the engine under any circumstances. As well as destroying the engine, an explosion would most likely hole the hull and probably sink the boat.

This may never happen to you but if you don’t monitor the oil level, you will never know that you are in danger.