The rest of YM's bulging post-bag

 Midships cleat plea

As someone who has helped very many yachts into berths at marinas on the East Coast, I have one big plea to all skippers: have ready a line from your centre cleat for your crew to pass to people on the pontoon.
If you only have bow and stern lines rigged, they can not control your boat – any tension on one of these lines will pivot the boat about its centre. Given a line from your centre cleat, a shoreside helper can wrap it around a pontoon cleat to help you berth in a controlled manner. Once the boat is secured, your crew can step ashore safely with their bow and stern lines,
and then the springs.
On a similar theme, where have all the boathooks gone? The majority of yachts berthing do not have a boathook in sight. Yet, to use one is far safer than a crewmember jumping onto an unfamiliar pontoon.
In my 10 years of yachting so far, no crewmember has yet been asked to jump ashore, but with boathooks, looped lines and patent mooring devices all at the ready, plus good communications and a plan of action, we have berthed in
many ‘strange’ marinas in various conditions using the centre line first.

A crewman who has been asked to jump is taking a leap into the unknown. You wouldn’t ask a passenger to leap from a moving car to stop it, so why a boat? It’s the skipper’s responsibility to stop the boat, not the crew’s.
Kev Remmington (by email)

Cyprus Surcharge

We were would like to share with yours readers a situation that we encountered this eventful summer whilst cruising to Cyprus in our Hallberg-Rassy 36 Resolute.
If one enters during ‘out of office hours’, e.g. after 14.00 hrs or at the weekend, yachts are charged for Customs overtime at E60 per boat. We were on a rally with several other boats and one of the French skippers kicked up a fuss saying that this was unjust and contrary to EU law. The kindly officer then charged us E68 for all four boats. However, other boats that entered
through St.Rafael and Larnaca we charged E60 each.
We wrote to the Cypriot High Commission in London and reproduce here part of the reply we received by email on behalf of the Director, Cypriot Customs, on 27th May, 2008:
“I wish to inform you that the whole issue has been reconsidered and we are in the process of abolishing this kind of overtime charge by amending the
relevant Order of the Council of Ministers so as no overtime charge to be
occurred on any yacht arriving in Cyprus at any time and day.”
Let us hope that yachtsmen will soon see an end to this unjust surcharge
much as they did with the ‘cruising tax’ we used to pay in Greece several
years ago.
Kim and Elizabeth Matthews, S/Y Resolute (by email)

Crowhurst, Moitessier and the Golden Globe

The article on Donald Crowhurst (YM October issue), sent cold shivers down my back, for I have always been ‘involved’ in that story. Recently a man in serious financial difficulties shot his dogs and horses, his wife and daughter, set fire to his mansion, then shot himself. Donald Crowhurst was in a similar financial, emotional situation. Unfortunately he believed (like Nigel Tetley) in the widely inaccurate claims of the trimaran designer Arthur Piver, “30 knots possible” etc. etc. When he realised (right from the start) that with this boat he could not win fame and fortune, he just came apart.

Ruth Wharram wrote to Crowhurst’s wife after the event and his daughter, many years later, spent two weeks sailing with our Dolphin sailing group. The man of this first 1968 non-stop single-handed Round the World Race the English have never understood, is my friend Bernard Moitessier, who was in the winning position on rounding the Horn, then inexplicably just kept on sailing in the Southern Ocean and carried on half way round again to Tahiti, a far longer and harder voyage than sailing back to Europe and fame.

After my first Atlantic crossing in 1955-56 in Trinidad I built and lived on a bamboo house raft. After making his first Atlantic crossing on Marie Therese II, South Africa to Trinidad, Bernard and his friend Harry Wakelam (on his own boat ‘Wanda’) dropped anchor alongside my raft. Bernard, fresh from the Sea, looked at my piled high manuscript for ‘The Book’ and the drawing of my proposed new 40ft double canoe/catamaran Rongo. He said: “You must go back to sea before you rot in this sticky hot place, begin building your new catamaran at once. I will help you.” I did, and he helped me make a start.
Bernard and I had long discussions about ocean sailing. One discussion was that the way to survive sailing the ocean is to become part of the ocean, not to fight it. I used the phrase ‘sea drunk’, for both Bernard and I had found that landfall often seems like an interruption of reality. This is a philosophical base for the cruising sailor, though it is far more difficult to understand than the concept that one must race ‘to beat one’s competitors’, or afterwards ‘beat one’s chest’ proclaiming how tough a sailor you are.
Bernard, had he rounded the Horn and sailed back to Europe, would have won the race. He also knew he would have been kissed on both cheeks by de Gaulle and been presented with the ‘Légion d’Honneur’ and the £5000 prize. As the ‘odd ball’ in a family of French academics and as a sea philosopher, he was appalled at the thought, this was the reason that decided him to carry on to Tahiti.

Bernard was no Hair Shirt fanatic, though like myself he did do Yoga on voyaging to keep his muscles supple. When he got to Tahiti he took on board two French air hostesses and sailed to then relatively unknown Vanuatu. I think cruising sailors may agree he made the right choice.

Since 1968 the French have won many Ocean races, yet still appreciate Moitessier as a great Sea philosopher. The English have increasingly seen the sea/ocean as a place for ‘competition’, not as a place for ‘contemplation’.
Your article in YM brings memories back, I still feel a mixture of sadness and anger on behalf of Donald Crowhurst; at a time of life crisis, he was preyed upon directly and indirectly by others.

James Wharram, James Wharram Designs

Floating loo
The floating loo at Dartmouth in Howard Willicombe’s photo (YM October) may become no laughing matter here if the Finnish experience is extended throughout the EU. The Finns forbid disposal of waste into their inshore waters, so holding tanks must be used in vessels until a pumping-out station is reached. These are provided not only fixed on the quay in many harbours but also floating in some popular anchorages, as in this example in Gullkrona – all very well on a calm day but could be messy in a blow!
Os Jarrett

Avoiding Pot Markers
Tony Turner’s ‘lessons learned’ in “36 Minutes to Freedom” (YM November) about a fouling propeller at night off Guernsey missed a crucial lesson. Whenever possible avoid motoring in the dark where pots are likely to be encountered close to a lee shore.
Chris Mardon

‘Still Life’
I have owned some Canon I.S. Binoculars for three years and can’t fault them. But on a trip earlier this year they fell a few feet and received a slight knock. From that moment they failed to work. £96 and two attempts by Canon and they are working again, so it seems the manufacturers could do with somehow toughening them up for the sailing environment.


Mast climbing
I have read with some interest and a little concern, in yours and other yachting publications, articles on the adaptation of climbing/caving equipment for ascending masts. Whilst I acknowledge their superiority for this use over the bosuns chair (I have and use the same equipment on my own yacht)and I would be more than happy to use the equipment as set up by the riggers in your article. I am a little concerned however that little or no mention is given in these articles to the unseen or unacknowledged dangers, that using this equipment poses to the inexperienced (particularly when used solo without other assistance). I feel you should bring them to the attention of your readers.

These hazards are as follows:
1. Unconsciousness
The UIAA (Union International Association Alpinists), BMC (British Mountaineering Council) and other bodies have conducted extensive research, into the effects of hanging suspended in a leg loop harness whilst unconscious. A situation that could quite easily arise, whilst swinging around a mast at sea or even in a marina on a windy/ rough day, or as a result of the onset of an unforeseen medical condition. The general conclusion of this research was, “that once unconscious, the leg loops cut off blood circulation, by pressing on the femoral artery and DEATH can result in as little as fifteen minutes.

2. The use of “Dynamic” or “static” ropes and rope or ascender breakage.
If the rope to be used for ascending, as a safety backup or as the strop to link the ascender to the harness is of the “static” variety (That is less than 4% stretch or thereabouts,) which most halyards are.
Great care must be taken to avoid the possibility of a shock load. “Drop tests have consistently shown that new dry “static” ropes rarely survive more than one fall factor two (FF2) fall, if that, with out snapping. Most will survive several FF1 falls but after each fall the rope looses elasticity and becomes progressively less able to absorb future shock loads i.e. The first drop may generate a shock force of 50% of the ropes breaking strength. The second 80%, the third 100% – so it breaks depositing the oblivious Yachtsman onto the deck. This is exacerbated by the fact that UV damage to the halyard could have considerably reduced its breaking strain in the first place.

Fall Factors
“Severity of falls are described in terms of fall factors with a standard 80Kg weight. “The Fall factor is the ratio between the length of fall and length of rope”.
i.e. if the climber is attached by 1mtr of rope to an attachment at the top of the mast and falls from level with the attachment point the full 1mtr ,that is a FF1 fall.
If the climber climbs 1 metre above the attachment point, and then falls 2 metres until the 1mtr of rope stops him that would be a FF2 fall. e.g. if the sheave box is not at the top of the mast and he falls while climbing above it to reach the navlights or VHF Arial.
In this respect the knot used to tie the rope to the harness is also important as an unsuitable knot will severely weaken the breaking strength of the rope, when subjected to a shock load. Climbers generally use a double figure of eight knot.
Another danger is, should the shock load come on to the ascender, the ascender will either distort and break, or as most makes will, cut the rope.

3. The use of a single ascenders as the sole attachment device.
The ascender is not locked around the rope and slack in the rope above can ride over the cam and release the ascender from the rope. This could occur whilst climbing onto the spreader bases for a rest or unnoticed after securing yourself to work at the masthead.

4. Harnesses
It is vitally important that users follow the manufacturers instructions for fitting and adjusting the harness. particularly with regard to threading the buckles correctly as if this is done incorrectly they can easily become undone.
The previous points are not a criticism of the articles themselves, as I enjoy Tom Cunliffes articles and have several of his books. Just a need to highlight hidden dangers that I feel have been overlooked.

Keep up the good work
Alex Gee

Knives in public
I feel that some clarificaton of the comment made by Tom Cunliffe in his article (YM November 2008, page 35) regarding the carrying of a knife in public is required.
It is illegal to carry a sharp or bladed instument in a public place without “good reason” or lawful authority. A good reason is where the knife is being carried in direct connection with one’s occupation (say, as a chef or a farmer) or by anyone else who has reasonable grounds for expecting to use a knife, such as a sailor going to, whilst on, or returning from a sailing trip. Note here that leaving such a knife in the car or in your pocket after the trip is over does not consititue a “good reason”.
There is, however, a legal exemption in respect of folding pocket knives, where these restrictions do not apply. To qualify for this exemption, such that the “good reason” stipulation does not apply, the knife must be capable of being folded, have a cutting edge of less than 3 inches and must not be capable of being locked. To carry the Swiss Army knife featured in the article without good reason would be illegal.

Martyn Gulliver, Harpenden

What yachtsmen really want

Surely the glittering prize still waiting to be won is for the inventor of the automatic, gas-fired pop up toaster. This could only be surpassed by the invention of a gas-fired kettle which would turn off the gas when boiled, instead of putting it out with boiling water. Maybe you might offer a years free subscription to the wonderful person who succeeds!

Peter Williams (by email)

Fouled prop

As a former employee of the charter industry, reading Tom Cunliffe’s article on freeing props at sea bought back memories of having to deal with many situations similar to those described. Having tried several of the knives described, I would like to suggest the inclusion of the Stanley Knife. This would be my weapon of choice for a number of reasons. The longish handle and short blade allow you to exert plenty of power into the cutting enabling you to get the job done quickly. The shortness of the knife and blade allows you to cut along the length of the shaft (as apposed to diagonally across it) minimising the amount of material needing to be cut. The shape of the blade allows you to cut right into the corner between the shaft and bearing. They are also relatively cheap and the blades are replaceable.
Although perhaps obvious, it is probably also worth mentioning that before restarting the engine it should be checked to ensure that, the P bracket is still secure, the prop is still connected to the engine and that the flexible mounts and mounting brackets have not been damaged.

Peter Scaife (by email)

A very interesting article in the November issue on fouled props thank you.

Having cleared a few props “in extremis” I would add some detail if only to stress the considerable danger involved in taking the plunge.

* Select neutral and keys out of the ignition first – just in case someone does something utterly stupid with the diver down.
* Lock off helm to prevent rudder swinging.
* If in harbour – call up harbour master (for advice on traffic movements) and hoist Flag A. Put out a “securitee” message if traffic likely.
* Pour a cup of cold water down diver’s back (inside wetsuit) while he sits in the cockpit. Immersion shock – hyperventilation, gasping for breath – is a laugh if still in the cockpit- if in the water a very bad way to start things off.
* First dive down should always be a quickie to assess the scale of the problem and report back immediately to crew on deck. They will be very anxious if your first dive is a lengthy one and you eventually surface so out of breath that you can hardly speak.
* Long sleeves/ trousers are worth wearing to protect arms from barnacles etc on the prop/hull.
* Head protection is vital – a padded wet suit hood is ideal but an oilskin hood over a balaclava could prevent a possible concussion. Safest angle of approach is to go down head first so that body is against hull, flippers up. That way if sea swell or a wake/wash causes the boat to drop on diver the impact will not be on his or her head.
* Never dive in a marina – shore power lines pose a risk of electrocution.
* A large ragged edge breadknife is the ideal tool – it can easily cut through an enormous tangle.The non cutting arm should take hold of something well away from the cutting zone for support – not the rope bundle itself in case you follow through, get entangled or line has fish hooks in it. In addition to the cutting tool, the diver should carry a second knife – best if strapped to the lower leg – life insurance in case you do get tangled up.
* Once diver is recovered and is thawed out in the cabin I have found a gargle of a good malt to be an ideal way to wash out any swallowed sea water or harbour pollution – I would leave it to the individual diver’s risk assessment to decide on whether to spit it out

Robin Anderson, “Pleiades of Birdham” (by email)

I’ve just read the article 36 Minutes To Freedom in your November issue. If the boat wasn’t in too much depth of water, setting the anchor would have been an option to slow down, or ideally stop, the drift and buy some more time to sort things out.
We’ve been caught on fishing gear ourselves. We avoided the well-marked buoy but failed to see the long length of floating line running upwind to the riser. The floating line jammed in the gap between our half-skeg and rudder. Fortunately, conditions were benign and we managed to cut ourselves free (leaving the fisherman with a shorter length of line to his buoy), but we were left with some line jammed between the rudder and skeg. I was only able to clear this later in the day by diving under the boat after we’d sailed into an anchorage while suffering from rather stiff steering (with an unknown amount of line under the boat we decided it was safest not to run the engine). The line we snagged had a series of small floats along its length which acted as very effective stopper knots, which is why we couldn’t clear it by pulling the free end. In hindsight we should have tried pulling the line forwards, that might have worked.
The feeling of lying anchored stern on to the weather out at sea is not pleasant and I have always thought that it would be dangerous in bad weather. However I recently read an article by Don Jordan (designer of the Jordan series drogue) that makes a case for mooring or anchoring from the stern as a hurricane survival tactic ( So getting accidentally moored by the stern may not be as dangerous as I have always through (allowing for the possibility of damage to the stern gear of course).
I’ve not yet tried the stern anchoring technique. I imagine that in normal conditions in a tidal anchorage it would be more trouble than it’s worth but on a windy day in a non-tidal situation it could be worth trying. It’s not unusual to see anchored boats sheering about in these conditions. The concept of a fin keeled boat with the sails stowed naturally wanting to lie stern to wind is something that I demonstrate to students whenever I’m teaching power handling so it does seem to have some possible merit as an anchoring technique.

Andy Lauder (by email)

In November’s issue, you discuss clearing fouled props. In the ‘Kitted Up’ section you advise on carrying a diving mask. Very good advice. However, you go on to advise smearing washing up liquid on the lenses to prevent mask fogging. As a diving instructor of over twenty years I can tell you that you have fallen victim to an old ‘joke’ played on novice divers. Masks always leak a certain amount of water and when this reacts with the washing up liquid, it gives off fumes that can cause severe irritation to the eyes. Some old school divers used to think this was all just a bit of harmless fun, however, I can tell you it could be quite dangerous, especially when diving to free a prop with ‘no clear surface’!

Nigel Brechany (by email)

I can add one important ingredient to Tom Cunliffe’s article re clearing fouled props in the November issue. Some years ago when on passage from the Orwell towards Texel in Holland, in a Westerly Longbow with 4 up, we fouled our prop at about the mid way point.
The wind died during the night and we were motoring in the morning when the engine suddenly stopped. Over the stern we could see a long tail of a large heavy looking black tarpaulin. All attempts to unwind it via its tail failed. One of the crew was a North Sea professional diver, and although we had no equipment on the boat, not even goggles, he volunteered to go over and see what he could do with a knife. The sea state was relatively calm, but with a slop. After just two attempts he gave up because the hull was bouncing above him, and although it was late July, the water was too cold to work in for any length of time without a wetsuit. At least we knew our problem, a tight ball of solid tarpaulin about a foot in diameter totally enclosing the prop.
We got the dinghy over the side and using a kitchen knife strapped to the boat hook, as Tom’s, we tried to cut away the mess. Progress was very very slow, just little thin chunks coming away at a time. It was going to take all day at this rate, assuming the weather held. The problem was the same as Tom identified when working from the dinghy, it was not a stable working platform, always moving independently of the boat movement. This did not make for getting a good cutting purchase, the target was constantly moving out of reach. I them had an idea to try and steady the dinghy. I tied off the two painters forward and aft at 45 degrees to the boat, leaving enough slack to make a gap between dinghy and boat of about a foot. I lay across the bottom of the dinghy with my head and shoulders on the seaward float and my feet wide apart on the side of the boat. As soon as I pushed with my legs to tension the painters, the dinghy suddenly became a fixed platform moving in harmony with the boat. Unless you try it, it’s difficult to believe how firm a platform it makes. The cutter, now kneeling at sea level, and that’s important, was able to work with both hands onto a now near stationery target, soon had the prop cleared, well half an hour. Everything was recovered on deck for disposal ashore, and we were on our way again, much relieved. That is not a part of the North Sea to sit without power for any length of time.
I suggest the next time you have the dinghy in the water, try it, you will be surprised.

Ron Barrett, New Parks Cruising Association, Leicester (by email).

The account of Wavedancer’s prop-wrap after dark (YM, November) is a wake-up call for all of us. The proliferation of fishermen’s floats particularly around headlands and estuary/harbour channels is an unwelcome fact of life. I call them ‘fffs’!! They are mostly poorly marked by day and a constant forward lookout is necessary if motoring. At night you either need a bow lookout armed with a powerful searchlight and whistle or it is unwise and perhaps unseamanlike to run the engine in gear, particularly if close to a dangerous lea shore. There are additional lessons to be learned from Wavedancer’s’ dangerous predicament south of Les Hanois: if it is necessary to motor or motor-sail from harbour entrance to clear channels, headlands etc, setting off in daylight with planned ability to stop the engine before nightfall is best.
With a SW force 4, Westerly swell and a tidal set to the north, the safer and more seamanlike course from St Peter Port is north up the Little Russell to then have all dangers to windward, albeit losing a few degrees on the wind for Plymouth.
What we all need is some sort of streamlined propeller protection ‘cage’ perhaps a YM prize for the best design affording 100% protection!!

D Brian Reeve-Fowkes (by email)

Freeing propellers.
This is to reinforce a couple of the tips mentioned in Tom’s article.
Always carry a wetsuit. Also a weight belt and a couple of weights. It takes a great deal of effort to dive under against the buoyancy on a suit.. Run a rope right round underneath to hold on to and pull under. Carry a couple of hacksaws and tie a rope to them so you dont drop them.Wear gloves.
I picked up a piece of net in the middle of the atlantic. It destroyed the bearings on the rope cutter, so dont rely on one.It took me two very unpleasant hours to free the prop. the only thing which cut was the hacksaw. If you can carry a small dive bottle.

Peter Tabori (by email)

Med mooring?

I really must take Tom Cunliffe to task. I now cruise the eastern Med so reading Yachting Monthly is sometimes a bit delayed. In September issue he talks about mooring stern/bows to – Med style. I backed onto a quay some 60 odd times last summer (occasionally bows to), so I do have a little experience. Quaysides are rarely empty and the key point Tom failed to tell us was that when backing up on anchor the most important thing is to lay you anchor carefully between the anchors of the yachts either side of the gap to avoid crossed anchors, and put out lots of chain – 40m is typical. The route is quite clear from the lie of their chains, but with a good cross-wind is sometime difficult to achieve! When departing again steer to stay in the groove to not winch in across your neighbour’s chains.
And on pick-up lines, contrary to what Tom said, the golden rule is to never have the engine in gear when there is a floating pick-up line anywhere around. A formula for disaster, and it happens so often. Back in, get a line ashore, engine in neutral, then run the pick-up line run forward as quickly as possible. The yacht won’t blow away because there is always another one to leeward. If it’s windy pick your spot with care so this is true! When departing let the leeward stern line go, then the pick-up line, wait until it had dropped right out of harms way, and only then let the windward stern line go. If you are a bit doubtful give a short burst of power to get the yacht moving, then back to neutral so the nasty propeller is in danger for as little time as possible. If it’s a strong cross-wind put a temporary line to the yacht to windward (that’s where Miles Kendle went wrong earlier this year), point up to windward and ‘give it the gun’ to get good steerage asap. Be bold!

David Toynbee, Ionian Sea, Greece (by email)