Yachting Monthly experts and seasoned skippers give their advice on a whole range of issues for the cruising sailor

The right pilot?

Raymarine Autopilot on a Sunbeam

Getting the right pilot can prevent accidental gybes in big waves

People often report no issues if they have an autopilot that is rated for a lighter boat than theirs. This might be the case in most situations, but the drive can stall when you need it most, when it is trying to prevent a gybe in a following sea for example.

Keeping the sails well balanced helps keep the pilot’s load down much of the time, but makes little or no difference when it’s a sea that’s pushing the stern round and the pilot is trying to force the rudder back the other way.

You might not feel all that load at the helm but you have a large mechanical advantage there compared to the drive: for example, the standard linear drives have a stroke of 300mm whereas your wheel’s movement might be 
3 turns of 3.5m circumference to achieve the same rudder movement.

Over four decades of experience of building pilots has taught us that vessel displacement is the best guide to the maximum loads that the pilot’s likely to have 
to cope with in such circumstances.

This is especially important when you are sailing offshore in waves.

If you do intend on doing this then you should take care to ensure 
your vessel displacement rating is correct for your pilot.

Greg Wells

Take care of your deck gear

A traveller on a Malo 37

Travellers and blocks should be cleaned regularly

A poorly maintained block, traveller or genoa car can result in a build up of dirt, grime and salt.

The result is increased friction on the ball bearings, making it harder to use, but more seriously, causing them to develop flat spots.

Once there is a flat spot the ball will not turn correctly, causing the ball bearings to be weakened, making the block unusable.

Salt, dirt and grime are not friendly to your boat’s hardware.

Clean your blocks and travellers regularly with warm, soapy water to avoid them being worn down.

Alun Hughes

Sailing with an injury

Two weeks prior to a recent departure 
for a sailing holiday, I managed to rupture 
my achilles tendon. The flight to our destination was tricky but once onboard, 
life became slightly easier.

A skipper on deck

Henry Chandler is an orthopaedic surgeon who cruises the UK and the Ionian in his Najad 361

Sailing with an injury is possible, but, my experience left me with a few tips for those without full mobility.

Essentially, be unambitious. We did 
not plan to go anywhere we hadn’t been before. We avoided anchoring with a line ashore where possible.

I was confined to 
the cockpit whilst on the move.

My habit of putting all the sails out singlehandedly at 
the slightest suggestion of a breeze was banned and I had to concede that the electric windlass is not for wimps.

Henry Chandler


Keep warm in winter

A skipper with a hot drink while sailing in the winter

There’s much enjoyment to be had sailing in the winter, but keeping warm is a priority

Those planning on sailing over the winter will be looking ahead to some fine months out on the water, but keeping warm and dry is key to that enjoyment.

Brian Black

Brian Black has survived nine Arctic seasons since the mid-1990s

In terms of clothing, my preference is to start with a baselayer of Merino wool, then quality fleeces and a robust wind and waterproof outer.

In colder climes, or on very cold days, extremities are important to consider. Pay particular attention to headgear – a balaclava and a nice big woolly buff because if major arteries at the neck are left exposed the blood will cool rapidly causing the body to chill. I also have a pair of oversize boots so I can wear several pairs of socks.

It may be difficult to do some jobs wearing gloves but fingers can get painfully cold without.

Fleece-lined fishermen’s gloves may not look good but they will keep your hands toasty.

Brian Black