Archive for April, 2011

“You’re the skipper. You’re responsible.” – Tip of the Week #7

Monday, April 11th, 2011

What happened in San Diego recently really shocked us. Ten people boarded a yacht for a charity outing – a treat for a child with special needs. Seven were from one non-English-speaking family. In what followed, two from that family died.

Not long after setting off under motor, a couple ashore took a photo of the boat because it looked so unusual – badly weighed down in the stern.

With all the passengers crowded around him in the cockpit, the skipper unfurled the headsail. It then appears a gust or two of wind (and the wind wasn’t strong that day) was enough to flatten the boat, which immediately turned upside down.

Surrounding craft rushed to pull everyone out of the water. Sadly, though, two people could not be revived.

When asked, the skipper insisted that the water ballast had been filled and the swing keel fixed before setting out. He also claimed that the boat was not overloaded.

If we tell you that it was a MacGregor 26 and you look at the photo, there seem to be many reasons to doubt his word.

The skipper took responsibility for all 10 lives.

When we climb aboard our boat to go for a sail at the weekend, we don’t think of it as a matter of life and death. But, to quote the slogan of a recent NSW Maritime safety campaign:
“You’re the skipper. You’re responsible.”


1. An-Tiki has arrived!

After 66 days at sea the raft An-Tiki made land on 6 April. But not in the Bahamas as was originally planned.

Due to time constraints, the adventurers, led by 85 year old Anthony Smith, reached St Maarten, 2,500km south west of the Bahamas.

When we wrote about the voyage in January we had no idea whether the raft would cope with the wind and weather expected in an Atlantic crossing. In fact, 30 knots was the strongest wind recorded.

The UK Daily Telegraph has collected an interesting batch of statistics from the adventurers – e.g. seeing only eight ships during the voyage of 2,763 miles.

2. A weighty matter

It was interesting to read that the US Coast Guard has amended the Assumed Average Weight per Person (AAWPP) from 160lbs to 185lbs (72.5kg to 84kg). Accordingly, from 1 December 2011 passenger vessels must comply with new stability criteria based on the higher weight.

We can’t say whether this change in regulations would have made a difference to the sailboat accident in this week’s tip.

In Australia in recent months we’ve seen thin airline passengers complaining that they have to pay for ‘excess’ baggage. They want heavy people to pay more for their seats!

We haven’t been able to find what the AAWPP or equivalent is in Australia, but hope that it has been adjusted in line with the increasing waistlines of Australians.

In their own words: TRISTAN JONES

A small craft in an ocean is, or should be,
a benevolent dictatorship.

How true! But a great deal of what Tristan Jones wrote was actually created by his imagination!

For instance, Tristan Jones said he was born on 8 May 1924 on his father’s tramp steamer off Tristan da Cunha. In fact, he was born Arthur Jones in 1929 in Liverpool, England. But by blood he was a Welshman.

Having taught himself to sail in middle age, Tristan became a circumnavigator and a great storyteller. He sailed many miles single-handed, but not as many as claimed in his stories!

As well as reinventing his past, he embellished his adventures as his imagination dictated. Between 1977 and his death he wrote 16 books including The Incredible Journey and Saga of a Wayward Sailor.

Tristan died on 21 June 1995 in Thailand.

Some fans have set up a website in his memory.

Keeping a weather eye – Tip of the week #6

Friday, April 1st, 2011

The ancient Polynesian navigators of the Pacific were
probably equal to the most close-to-nature sailors the
world has seen. The average modern sailor isn’t likely
to develop or need to develop such skills of observation
as they had.

But one observational skill every skipper or navigator
should develop, even if they don’t go into the ocean,
is the clouds in the sky and the weather they foretell.

It doesn’t matter where in the world one sails, the same
sky formations herald the arrival of new weather systems,
as a front of cold air moves in high above currently
pleasant weather. As the system gets nearer the cloud gets
lower until the front arrives with a severe change in wind
direction and most often strength.

The first indication is the most important to the observer
as it is highest in the sky and, as the photograph below
shows, nearly always indicates the direction from
which the wind will come, which will in any case follow
whatever is the local pattern.

Fingers in the sky showing where the wind will come from

If you think of the high cloud as ‘fingers’ on a hand, the
wind direction is from the palm of the hand.

In our Weathercraft CD we have both a series of photos and
a video showing the approach and arrival of a cold front.


1. Thank your lucky stars

During the recent Cape Town to Rio race the watermaker
aboard Spirit of Izivunguvungu broke down, with the yacht
1,400 nm from its destination. Another competitor,
Extra-Link, diverted to her side and transferred 20 cans of
sports’ drinks and 140 litres of water – enough to safely
finish the race.

On Spirit’s return voyage to Cape Town the problems faced
by the crew of four were far more serious.

Firstly their satellite telephone stopped working. Then
their satellite tracker system failed.

Meanwhile race officials were monitoring yachts on their
return voyage from Rio. They put a call out for ships in
the vicinity of Spirit’s last known position to keep a look
out. How many ships would you expect in the South Atlantic?

Then the satellite tracker restarted, showing about half
a knot boat speed and giving its location – about 140 nm
north of Tristan da Cunha.

Lucky for them a Liberian-registered ship found Spirit of
Izivunguvungu, a yacht sponsored by the City of Cape Town
and skippered by an instructor and crewed by graduates of
the Izivunguvungu Sailing Development School.
The yacht had been dismasted, which had damaged her rudder,
her engine had failed and the hull was holed and she was
taking on water.

We’re glad we weren’t on board.

2. Video corner: How to sail ‘quicklier’

Watch this four-part interview to learn important tips
from Buddy Melges, designer of the Melges range of

In the first video, he talks about the importance
of physical fitness and mental concentration. And of
the need to present the boat to the wind, “not wait for
her (Mother Nature) to get on the boat and then make a

He also explains his use of the word ‘quicklier’.

In their own words: OLD NORWEGIAN ADAGE

There is no such thing as bad weather,
only bad clothes.

These days there’s a massive range of clothing – from
thermals through all the layers out to foul weather
gear – available to suit all kinds of sailors – from
the occasional inshore cruiser to the racing

My advice has always been to get the very best that
you can afford. But also seek the opinions of
experienced sailors, not just the sales staff at
the chandlery.