Archive for the ‘Boat Handling’ Category

Look out for ferries

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

On Saturday we met a man who is one of Sydney’s ferry captains. But he’s also a yachtsman, so he understands the sort of people who sail – from the very experienced to the first-timers, from the serious racers to the party boaters. And he also knows that all of these can make poor decisions and put their yachts at risk of being run down by a ferry.

Interestingly, he has offered to take several sailing instructors on one of his ferry runs to show them his view of the traffic, from the height of the bridge. Those instructors will then be well placed to explain how to avoid the dangers faced by yachts that stray too close:

  • Being run down
  • Losing wind and losing way
  • Being swamped by the bow wave

It’s timely to remember that ferries carrying an orange diamond on Sydney Harbour have right of way, as does commercial shipping.

Ferry showing orange diamond signifying right of way
Ferry showing orange diamond signifying right of way. (Image from Boating Handbook 2011-2012, NSW Transport Maritime)

So when you’re out on the water, don’t just look out for other yachts, make sure you keep an eye out for ferries – not all captains have the yachting experience of our new friend.

Getting out of irons

Monday, November 21st, 2011

In our last newsletter we mentioned that if you tack too slowly and lose momentum you may end up in irons (stalled).

The rudder can only work when the boat is moving so the boat needs to be travelling at a reasonable speed before you begin to tack.

When sailing in a light breeze you may need to ease the sails, including the main’s outhaul, slightly to deepen the curve and gain the necessary speed.

Sometimes waves will cause a boat to become stuck in irons, particularly when there is not enough wind to carry the boat through.

Another thing to avoid is centering the tiller too early. Unless the boat has passed head to wind, there’s a risk of stalling.

Remember: Don’t release the headsail until the boat is past head to wind. That should ensure the boat is safe on the new tack.

So there are a few ideas to help you avoid getting stuck, but how do you get unstuck?

If you can’t get on to the new tack or back on the previous one and the rudder doesn’t seem to be working, it’s likely that you are sailing backwards, in which case the rudder will be working in reverse.

Immediately you decide the rudder is taking you backwards in the ‘wrong’ direction, you should reverse the wheel, or tiller, so that it makes the bow fall in the direction you want to tack.

If this still doesn’t work, act as you would if completely becalmed. Get your crew to hold the boom on the new tack and get their weight on the leeward side of the boat.

Let the sails out as if you were on a very broad reach. When you get the slightest hint of a breeze, tighten the sails ever so slightly and sail in whatever direction that takes you until you get enough way up to go on the course you want.

Next time you tack, don’t be afraid to broaden the attack so that you have good speed, then be constantly aware of where the rudder is until safely on the new course.

Good luck!

Tacking – 8 steps to perfect your tack

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Yachts sailing to windwardThe way to develop the proper timing when tacking your boat is to practise. At first, start each phase slowly. You will be surprised how soon it becomes a slick operation. 

Here’s what you need to do:

1. While sailing upwind, the boat should always be ready to tack.

Why? Because at any time you may need to avoid other boats, ferries or shipping.

What does this mean? For the headsail, being ready to tack means that:

  • the lazy sheet has at least one turn around the winch
  • the working sheet is securely held with three or more turns around the winch and ready to be uncleated, its tail ready to run freely
  • any crew on the rail are ready to move across the boat, out of the way of the tacking headsail

For the main, being ready to tack means that:

  • the mainsheet is cleated and the traveller can be quickly pinned
  • the mainsheet trimmer is ready to move the traveller into position for the new tack

2. Helmsman should keep sailing close-hauled right up to the point of tacking

What I mean here is that while deciding when to tack – e.g. looking around for good, clean air, avoiding close encounters with other boats – don’t allow the boat to drop off the breeze on to a close reach. And don’t let yourself be distracted by crew preparations.

3. Helmsman decides to tack and calls ‘ready about’

Crew prepare for the tack:

The headsail trimmer takes sheet out of the cleat or self-tailer but ensures that trim is maintained without any easing. As already mentioned, the leeward sheet must be free to run when required.

Mainsheet hand ensures the traveller is locked and stands by ready to adjust the traveller for the new tack.

Crew call ‘ready’.

4. Helmsman calls ‘helm to lee’ or ‘tacking’ and turns the boat slowly, keeping as much speed as possible through the tack. If you turn too fast you will lose boat speed, if too slow you will lose momentum. If you lose too much momentum you may end up in irons (stalled).

5. As the headsail starts to back, the headsail trimmer releases the leeward sheet quickly so that the wind carries the sail across the foredeck in a single smooth motion.

6. Pull in new sheet hand over hand and then trim on using the winch handle, with a second crew member tailing to make it more efficient and prevent over-rides. (Make sure the new lazy sheet is free enough to allow this to be done without hindrance.)

7. Crew change sides of the boat.

8. Prepare the lazy headsail sheet for the next tack by reloading the winch with two turns – spinning the winch to ensure the turns are the right way around. Make sure there is no pressure on the sheet that could affect the shape of the headsail.

When you’re safely on the new tack, give the crew feedback and talk about how to improve the next tack. This instant replaying of the manoeuvre is a good way of developing your team. It’s a far better way of learning than having a chat back on the mooring at the end of the sail, when everyone is keen to get ashore.

“Never let up on your vigilance”

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011



OK, it’s far from perfect, but you get the message.

It’s winter now here in Sydney and that means that most sailors and boaters are spending time ashore. So it’s surprising how many drownings there have been recently in New South Wales. David Lockwood, boating columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald, noted last Saturday that at least seven boaters, aged 14 to 80 have drowned in the last month.

Henry Adam, aka 'Arry Driftwood

Henry Adam, aka 'Arry Driftwood (photo by Don Hartley, c/- AFLOAT Publications)

Among the number was ‘Arry Driftwood, who wrote a monthly column for Afloat magazine. His real name was Henry Adam, aged two days short of his 81st birthday. It was his practice to stand up while steering his outboard-driven dinghy – not one that I would ever recommend. While travelling between the marina and his yacht, Driftwood, he fell into the water and drowned.

Robin Copeland’s July 2011 column gives a warm picture of ‘Arry’s colourful life.

‘Arry’s final column, reflecting on the death of a fellow waterman, includes this pertinent quote that you “need to never let up on your vigilance or you will swiftly become LATE”.

Sudden and unexpected immersion in cold water is, literally, breath-taking. An article, The Truth About Cold Water, on the gCaptain website tells how the body shuts down very quickly as hypothermia sets in.

So, please take care on the water.

Anchoring in Strong Winds – Tip of the Week #3

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Sometimes our tips are about situations we hope you will be able to avoid. This week’s is one of them.

The very best anchorage, of course, is a swing mooring but it’s pretty difficult to take a swing mooring with you. So, it’s worth knowing how to set two anchors in case you are unlucky enough to be caught away from home, needing to anchor.
There are two options.

Firstly, if you know the prevailing wind in the area where you are going to anchor then you need to allow for what is the most usual change in that wind – in Bass Strait commonly a change from north (of some direction) to south (of some direction). This means that you would want to put out the port anchor first.

If the starboard anchor goes out first and the boat therefore swings to port on a wind change you might have got your first overlap.

If the tide then took you further in the same direction you would definitely have an overlap.

Of course, if the wind swung back to the north that overlap would unwrap but such a wind change would be unlikely. 

Generally speaking this will reverse if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere.

The second option is to have two anchors in line, but not on separate cables. In other words, attach a second anchor to the bower with a short length of chain between the two and then drop them in one line.

Remember that the whole purpose of an extra anchor is to prevent the main anchor from dragging. Either of these systems will achieve it.
When considering setting two anchors you must know what changes in weather and tidal conditions are predicted. If your greatest fear is the wind strength then you certainly want two anchors.
Have any further thoughts or questions on this? Please leave a comment, below.


 1. Jessica’s latest challenge

What a shame that Jessica Watson didn’t take advantage of International Women’s Day to announce her latest challenge.

At the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia this afternoon Jessica said that she will skipper a team of Australian and British sailors aged 18-21 in this year’s Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race. They will be sailing on Another Challenge, a highly competitive Sydney 38 owned by Chris Lewin.

2. Another warning to share

If you’re heading offshore, you’ll need to buy an EPIRB. And spend the extra to get one that’s GPS-enabled. But it’s not as simple as purchasing one and installing it.

First you need to register it and then you’ve got to know how to operate it.

Reading the instructions before you set out will ensure you know what to do should the need arise.

3. Video corner

While Brad Van Liew won stage 3 of the Velux 5 Oceans, the race for second place in the so-called sprint was decided by a mere 40 seconds after 6,000 miles.

There’s a video of that finish, including summings up by both Gutek and Chris Stanmore Major (CSM).

In it, CSM recognised that he should have spent moretime navigating and less on deck making the boat go fast. Makes sense, really. There’s no point going fast if you’re not going fast in the right direction!

Brad Van Liew’s video, courtesy of the American Sailing Association, of rounding Cape Horn is worth a look, too.

While on the subject of rounding the Horn, check out the excerpt from Robin Knox-Johnston’s BBC documentary, A Tour of Cape Horn. His crew were polar explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes and BBC World Affairs Editor, John Simpson, who is currently reporting from Libya.


Waves are not measured in feet or inches,
they are measured in increments of fear.

Buzzy Trent (13 May 1929 – 26 September 2006) was a pioneer of big wave surfing. After body surfing as a child he climbed on a surfboard at 12. Moving from mainland USA to Hawaii in the 1950s, he enjoyed surfing all year round.

That’s all for now, but please feel free to leave a comment.

© 2011 Bevanda Pty Ltd

How to Survive at Sea – feedback from a reader

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Andre and Suzanne Wildeman live in the Netherlands and own a Victoire 933 – a sleek and comfortable 30 ft yacht. Below is an extract from an email Andre sent us after reading our eBook, How to Survive at Sea: Six emergencies and how to handle them.

I had a great read and found myself looking at our ship in just another way. Also I had a close look at the crew – my wife and me. We talked through your subjects and went over the tips and measures.

Now in the Netherlands the season has come to an end and our Victoire 933 will go ashore next week. It is the time for cleaning and further maintenance, working through the list composed during the sailing season.

Also time to read and study, prepare for trips next spring and summer.

I assure you I will pay extra attention to the ship’s condition (and of course the crew’s condition as well).

We had a great sailing season this year and we did not run into any trouble. I must admit, the 40 knot wind in August was the worst condition we met, but for our ship as well as for us, not really a problem – we anticipated the weather forecast and had our sail plan ready.

Thank you very much for the valuable eBook.

Andre’s comment about how they handled the 40 knot wind by shortening sail in readiness is just one example of his good seamanship.

And he concluded with:

We are looking forward to reading your newsletters!

If you’d like to get the eBook and become a newsletter subscriber, all you have to do is go to the page, How to Survive at Sea, and submit your name and email address. To ensure security of your email address, you will receive a message requesting confirmation that you want the eBook. When you click on the link in that email, you will arrive on a page from which you can download the complimentary eBook.

How to survive at sea – six emergencies and how to handle them

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

Sounds like a good name for an eBook! Well, you’re right. We have developed a series of What if … sailing scenarios that skippers and their crews need to know how to handle and created a 26-page downloadable eBook, including a 35-word Glossary of sailing terms.

How to Survive at Sea eBook

How to Survive at Sea eBook

What’s more, we are giving it away to celebrate a milestone – our 100th newsletter.

To get your free copy, all you have to do is go to the page, How to Survive at Sea, and submit your name and email address. To ensure security of your email address, you will receive a message requesting confirmation that you want the eBook. When you click on the link in that email, you will arrive on a page from which you can download the complimentary eBook.

In addition, you will also be subscribed to receive our newsletter which means you will get our sailing news in your in-box each week. And there’s no cost involved.

Your safety depends on more than knowing how to navigate at sea. Our How to Survive at Sea eBook will help keep you safe.

Sailboat handling in strengthening winds – NOT the right way

Friday, October 15th, 2010

You’re out for an afternoon race. The wind is increasing, little by little. As the breeze was lighter when you set out, you’ve put up your No. 1 genoa and the full mainsail.

As the wind has built, you’ve moved to the windward side of the boat, both to help keep the boat flat with your body weight and, more importantly, to be able to steer effectively. Each gust makes you drag the tiller towards you to try to keep a steady course.

The mainsheet trimmer has already been playing the main traveller but now has to release some of the sheet as well. This is inefficient as, when the gust has passed, it’s taking too long to get the main trimmed back on.

Now you realise you will be forced to reef before the windward mark unless you want to be tailing the field. The other competitors have already reefed and are heading straight for the mark.

Only now do you discover that you have not led your reefing lines!

In Boat Handling I and II, I discuss how to reef a mainsail in detail.