Saturday, September 22, 2018

Using Your Chart's Compass Rose

Cruising in unfamiliar waters is fun and (sometimes) exciting.  Cruising in unfamiliar waters without a chart and the equipment to properly navigate might become way too exciting.
First of all, a map is not a chart.  Maps show a lot of detail regarding the land, streets and roads, cities, etc... but precious little information regarding bodies of water.  Most maps only show the general boarders of lakes, rivers and bays.  The assumption is that the edges of the map point toward the North Pole at the top of the map.  This assumption is often incorrect since the map maker has to fit the subject area onto a given size of paper.
Charts, on the other hand have a great deal of information regarding the water.  Soundings (the water's depth) are included in many places.  There is a latitude scale along the left and right edges of the chart and a longitude scale along the top and bottom edges.  Shallow water is shown in light blue.  Deep water is shown in white.  And, the geographic north pole is found by following one of the side edges.
And there are many other useful to navigation pieces of information shown on charts.
One of the most useful items of information is the compass rose.
The compass rose has several features that navigators will find useful and downright necessary to proper navigation.  Notice there are three rings that encircle the cross in the middle of the rose.  Each ring has specific information.  Around the middle is also information regarding the amount of compass variance and how much the variance changes each year.  This variance is an indication for how far off True North (the geographic North Pole) is from the position of the Magnetic North Pole.  In the Pacific Northwest, the variance is around 20 degrees to the east of true north because the magnetic north pole is actually on an island near the Canadian north coast.
So, let's think about that for a minute.  The north that your compass on your boat shows is magnetic north.  If you are using a map to find your route from one place to another and assume that north is found by extending either the left or right side of the map, you will be steering a route that is 20 degrees incorrect.  You might think you are heading north... but you will actually be heading 20 degrees east of north on the map.  On Lake Pend Oreille, True north from Cape Horn would take you to Garfield Bay on the west side of the lake.  Magnetic north would take you to Whiskey Rock on the east side of the lake.
Your chart's compass rose though shows both True and Magnetic north.  True North is indicated by the star (Polaris, the North Star) on the outer ring.  So, we call the information on the outer ring true readings.  Magnetic North is shown by the arrow on the next ring in.  The magnetic ring will give you course information that coincides with your compass (magnetic readings).  Traveling north using your compass will coincide with the north arrow on the second ring in. 
My feeling is that since I steer using compass courses, I am going to always use the magnetic ring on the compass rose to determine courses and do my navigation.
The third ring in shows "compass points" from the old seafaring days.
Take a close look at the magnetic circle on your chart.  Magnetic north is shown by the arrow at 0 degrees.  East is at 90 degrees.  South is at 180 degrees.  And West is shown at 270 degrees.  Between zero and 30 degrees you will see two longer lines with four shorter lines between longer lines.  The shorter lines indicate 2 degrees.  The longer lines indicate 10 degree increments.  So, a course of 14 degrees would be seen on the second short line following the first long line to the right of zero.
One of the interesting things that you can easily do with a compass rose is to determine reciprocal courses... courses in exactly the opposing direction from the one you are traveling.  The reciprocal of 90 is 270.  To find a reciprocal, find the course you are on and draw a line through the middle cross to the opposite side of the circle.  The reciprocal of 20 is 200 .... and so on.
Have fun with your navigating.

 Barnacle Bill Holcomb
509 9933214

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Single Handed (Or Short Handed) Anchoring

Anchoring your boat is one skill that all skippers need to have in their "quiver" of sailing skills.  It does not matter whether you are single-handing or if you have a crew, you need to be able to safely anchor your boat.  Here are a few step-by-step tips for anchoring if you are alone or with only one other person crewing with you.

First, you must plan ahead.  Have your anchor and it's rode ready to deploy.  Remember that you will want to have at least chain in the same amount as length of your boat shackled in between your anchor and the anchor line.  No knots, no kinks...... all set to deploy.

 Anchoring is one place where I certainly like to use my outboard motor.  And, I motor to approximately the  place where I want to set my anchor.

Now is the time to let the anchor down until the chain-to-rope shackle is at about the water line.  Yes, you may be drifting around  bit.  If you are worried about this, do this step and the next step before you get to the spot where you want to set the anchor.

Lay out your anchor line on deck from side to side.  On Snickerdoodle it is about 20 feet from the anchor locker to the primary winch on each side.  My anchor chain is 25 feet long.  So, if I want to have 100 feet of anchor rode out, I can lay out a loop of anchor line from the anchor locker to the primary winch on the starboard side and back - - then to the winch on the port side and back.  Make sure that you are able to clear the anchor line from the winch when you are ready to lower the anchor.  If you are single-handing, you will want to bring another loop to the winch where you have secured the anchor line so that the anchor and chain are held in the step above.

Uncleat the anchor line and let the anchor down until you feel it hit the bottom.  Immediately engage reverse (yes, the engine should already be idling in neutral).  Let the loops feed out over the bow until the desired length of line and chain are out.  Secure the line to a cleat (maybe even take a couple turns around a winch first) and let the anchor dig into the bottom and set.

 Put the engine in neutral and turn it off.  The boat will coast forward as the anchor line assumes a parabolic curve.  After the anchor is set, I generally cleat the anchor line to one of my bow cleats and coil the line that is on deck into the anchor locker.  Neat and tidy...

 That's all there is too it.
509 993 3214

Friday, April 27, 2018

Inspect Your Topping Lift

How do you keep your boom's aft end from dropping into the cockpit when you are hoisting or lowering your mainsail?  How about when you are reefing or shaking out a reef.  I hope you have some sort of topping lift rigged.  You know, a line from the top of the mast to the end of the boom???

 The boom topping lift might be made of 1/8" wire rope and have a block and tackle to adjust the boom's height.  Or, the topping lift might be a 1/4" or 5/16" line that is secured to the top of the mast and then led through a block at the end of the boom and then to a cleat for adjusting the boom's height.  These two ways sure work and there are a lot of sailboats out there with just this sort of set-up.
The problem with these two set-ups is that if the boom is swung out (as in reaching or running) the adjustment possibility becomes dangerous due to someone having to lean far out of the cockpit to reach the boom end.  If that person looses his/her balance, they will probably end up a crew-overboard victim.
A better set-up is to secure the topping lift to the end of the boom and run it up to a cheek block near the top of the mast; then back down the mast to a swivel block that is located near the mast base. (Of course, you could also lead the topping lift through a turning block and organizer back to a cleat at the aft edge of the cabin.)  This set-up allows for adjustment of boom height without leaning out from the cockpit.  The topping lift is always handy to someone safely in the cockpit.
A few days ago, I went sailing.  It was a beautiful sunny day with nice breezes.  When I was about to hoist the mainsail, I engaged the topping lift to hold the boom up while I hoisted the sail.  I noticed that the topping lift did not adjust easily.  It was almost like there was something keeping the line from passing through a block smoothly.  I immediately started to check the topping lift.  Everything was okay at the swivel block located near the mast base.  But, looking aloft, I could see that the outer braid was severely chafed for about a foot or so - - and just below the cheek block at the mast head.  The topping lift line simply would not easily pass through the block.
Fortunately, I had not begun setting the mainsail.  So, I found a long length of 4mm parachute cord and (using my needle and waxed line) I sewed the parachute cord to the end of the topping lift that normally was secured to the boom's end.  I gently pulled the topping lift line through the pulleys and back into the cockpit.  When the parachute line was completely in place of the topping lift, I tied it off... And, inspected the topping lift.  And yes, I found that the topping lift outer braid was completely chafed away for about a foot.  And that chafe was just below where the cheek block at the mast head would be located.  Only the core strands were left.  The old line was not strong enough anymore. 

I purchased enough 5/16" three-strand line the next day and the day after that returned to the boat.  I again used my needle and waxed line to sew the parachute cord to my new three-strand line and pulled the parachute cord gently until the three-strand was in place for a new topping lift.
Finally, I spliced a loop in the end of the three-strand and secured a small snap hook to the loop.  Finally snapping the hook to the shackle on the boom end fitting.  Everything works great now... no muss, no fuss.
If you don't have a topping lift, you might seriously think of installing one.
If you have a topping lift, it might be time for a close inspection......  also inspect halyards, sheets, mooring lines, etc.

Barnacle Bill Holcomb
509 993 3214



Sunday, April 22, 2018

Man Overboard Line

I pretty much sail from March in the late winter and on into November in the fall.  The above photo was taken in mid-April.  Notice the snow is still on the mountains.  The day after I took this photo, it snowed at the marina - wet snow, yes; melted quickly, yes; but snow.  The water is cold.
I also sail single-handed frequently.  So, safety is a concern that I take seriously.  
In March, I posted a new blog post regarding the pull-down line that I've installed for my swim ladder.  It will let me deploy the ladder easily if I am unfortunate enough to have fallen in the water.
Another safety line that I have used for many years is a man-overboard line that I drag behind the boat.  In the past, this line has been about six feet long and tied to the stern rail.  I started thinking last winter about how difficult it might be to catch that line if I fell into the lake and the boat kept on sailing without me (ie: the auto-helm is steering the boat).  So, I got a longer piece of polypropylene line and with the aid of a fid, made a loop in one end.  I then made additional loops every four or five feet.  The rope ends with another loop and a float like you might see on a water ski rope.
The first loop is rove through the portside mooring cleat and the line dragged behind the boat.  This new rope is about five times longer than the old line and (because it is polypropylene) it floats.  This makes the line easier to catch...... AND, it won't tangle in the propeller.
The new man overboard line does not seem to slow the boat down at all and is there if I need it.

If in doubt - err on the side of safety....
(BTW - the line at the top of the last photo is the stern rail.)
Barnacle Bill Holcomb

Monday, April 2, 2018

Sailing With Only One Sail Up

Balancing Your Sail Plan
Most sailboats are designed to sail pretty well in 5 to 15 knots of breeze.  The boat heels a bit and the sails push the boat along at a nice pace.  It’s when the breeze gets stronger and the boat begins to heel more than 20 degrees that things don’t seem to work out as well.
To understand why, we need to think about the way the mainsail and the head sail (jib) work together.  To do this we need some basic understanding of a couple of terms.  The first term is Center of Lateral Plane (CLP).  CLP is the balance point of the underwater shape of your hull – including the keel and rudder.  This can easily be determined by taking a side view picture of your boat and then cutting out the part of the boat that is below the waterline.  If you use construction paper or another stiff paper, you can easily find the fore/aft balance point.  CLP is usually between one-third and one-half of the way aft on your keel.
The other term is Center of Effort (CE) of the sails.  Each sail has its own CE and to figure the CE of the sail plan connect the two CE’s and divide the line roughly in half.  Of course, if you have a really small headsail, or a really large mainsail, you will need to proportionately place the “center”.
Most sailors like to have just a bit of weather helm tugging on the tiller so that it is easier to feel the boat sailing through the water.  And, if something goes “wrong” you can let go of the tiller and the boat will turn up toward the eye of the wind and coast to a stop.  To have this slight weather helm, sailboats are designed so that the CE for the sail plan is slightly aft of the CLP.  And, as long as the boat is sailed in moderate breezes, the boat will sail easily and (better yet) predictably.

However, when the wind pipes up and the boat is heeled 20 degrees over (or even farther) which is uncomfortable for guests and crew… additional factors come into play.  And, the boat often becomes unstable and rounds up into the eye of the wind quickly and (often) violently.  Sometimes the jib gets back-winded and pushes the bow over and into an inadvertent tack… often followed by the boat continuing to turn quickly and an uncontrolled jibe.  If you have not experienced this yet – trust me, it is scary and dangerous.
  It is obvious that there is too much sail area up and that we need to reduce that sail area.  Some skippers opt for dousing the jib sail either by dropping the sail if the jib is hanked on or furling the jib if there is a roller furler.  But, this action probably won’t have the desired effect.

The reason that the desired effect doesn’t happen is that the mainsail is still fully hoisted.  So, the wind still has a lot of leverage to tip (heel) the boat.  The boat still heels farther than you really want.  But, even worse, with only the mainsail up the CE is much farther aft of the CLP.  The sail plan acts like a giant wind vane and the mainsail tries to spin the boat so that the bow points at the wind.  It is often very difficult to steer, the passengers are becoming nervous, and no one is having any fun.  And, you may find yourself in one of those uncontrolled tack/jibe situations again.  Solution, take the mainsail down and start the motor.
Of course, dousing the mainsail means that the boat is at the mercy of the waves and the boat’s motion through the water is rough.  The boat pounds and cork-screws around.  Everyone is hanging on for dear life.  The chances of you crew coming back for another sail becomes increasingly less as the time back to the marina goes on.
So, another option is to douse the mainsail and just use the jib sail.

Not only is this often worse, it is often a lot worse.  The chances are that the CE is not much lower than before.  So, the boat is still healing over.  And with only the jib up, the CE has moved a lot forward from the CLP.  The wind vane effect now tries to turn the bow away from the wind – making it impossible to steer a course to windward.  Plus, there is the real danger of unexpected jibes as the boat hurtles downwind.
The problem is that taking down only one sail destroys the designed balance of the sail plan and moves the CE unexpectedly too far away from the CLP.
A better solution than dousing either sail is to tuck in a reef in the mainsail.

When you reef the mainsail, the CE is lowered significantly.  So, heeling over is reduced to much more comfortable angle.  And, the overall CE of the sail plan does not change much – so, the boat stays in balance and steering improves because the boat is sailing flatter.  Many sailors say that tucking in a reef gives the boat a feel almost like having power steering.  Many racers say that “flat is fast”.  The sail plan balances; the boat heels less, so the sails are working closer to 100% effort.  The boat becomes much easier to steer on any course.  And, the boat probably even picks up some speed.

You still might decide that you need to reduce the size of the jib sail…  but, even with a smaller jib sail, the boat will be nominally in balanced with the reefed main up.
Snickerdoodle is a tall-rig Catalina 25.  All of her sails are significantly larger than a “standard-rig”.  So, I have set up the boat with three different reefing points (each taking more or less area away from the mainsail; and at the same time lowering the CE).  I also have multiple jib sails – from very large ones, down to a storm jib.  By using various combinations of reefs and jibs, I can keep Snickerdoodle in balance, relatively flat, and fun to sail.
Here is an idea as to wind vs. sails that I use:
Wind Speed           Sail Choice
2 – 7 knots            Full main sail and 150% drifter jib
8 – 11 knots           Full main sail and 150% Genoa jib
11 – 16 knots          Flattening reef in main and/or 135% Genoa jib
16 to 20 knots       First full reef and 135% Genoa jib
21 – 24 knots         First full reef and either 110% working jib or 95% blade jib
25 – 30 knots        Second full reef and 110% working jib (Gale force wind starts)
31 – 35 knots         Second full reef and storm jib
Above 35 knots, I get off the water and into the closest marina or sheltered bay as quickly as I can.  It is just not much fun to be sailing in gale force winds… let alone higher winds.
A word to the wise - -
If (right now) your boat doesn’t have reef points on the mainsail, seek out a sailmaker and have at least one full set of reef points sewn into the sail.
When that is accomplished and before you bend on the mainsail - -  Install all of the necessary gear (jiffy reefing hardware and lines) that will help you quickly and easily reef the mainsail… and have this gear permanently rigged so that it will be ready for use any time you are out sailing.
Determine what your plan is for handling situations when the boat develops extreme heel or strong weather helm.  Practice your plan on days when you have moderate breezes so that you will be ready when the wind pipes up or the storm breaks on you.  Yes, you can just douse one or the other of the sails.  But, your boat will then be out of balance and you will be fighting the weather vane created by only one sail.

Barnacle Bill Holcomb      
509 993 3214