Seasoned skippers and Yachting Monthly experts give their advice on a whole range of issues for the cruising sailor
Steamed up windows
A problem I soon discovered when spending time aboard a deck saloon I sailed a few years back was how the cooker misted up the windows.
It was obviously worse when several pots were boiling away but even making a cuppa caused a haze.
I tried several mist-repellent products bought at my local auto-accessories shop but none did what was needed. What about double glazing I wondered ?
I made templates of the worst affected windows and asked a company specialising in plastic signs to cut two panels for me in light perspex, which I planned to attach to the windows as a form of elementary DIY double glazing.
Even mounting them in the driest possible conditions I reckoned they would trap whatever moisture was in the air and in due course mist up from the inside.
That meant they would have to be removed from time to time, cleaned, then re-attached. For that purpose I used double-sided tape which, although airtight, would allow me to get a blade in between the panel and the window frame and gently separate them.
As an additional measure, I spread some moisture-absorbing gel along the bottom of the window frame.
None of this was rocket science but it worked surprisingly well. Buoyed up by this DIY success, my next experiment in double glazing will be something to do with the opening hatches in the forecabin.
The cabin itself is well insulated but when warm air meets a cold spot there is bound to be condensation and a drip onto my bunk is one drip too many – something needs to be done.
There was a time when we navigated by relying on the mystical concepts of dead reckoning and distance run by counting the miles clocked up on the Walker Log.
But the lessons learnt from that alchemy of archaic skills hold as good today as they did then.
We had been picking our way up the Outer Hebrides in a small boat, a Sadler 25 – me as skipper – but only when my wife said so – two children and a Dalmatian called Fletch.
After a spell storm bound in Wizard Pool, during which Fletch devoured the last of our food – a bucket of fresh mackerel left unguarded in the cockpit – we headed for Rodel where there was the prospect of a bus and maybe a shop somewhere on its route.
The pilot book advised us not to make the turn through the narrow entrance to the bay until we saw a conspicuous building with a red roof.
Eager eyes scanned the coastline and sure enough, there it was – a red roof. In we went, confident at our distance run and the confirmation of the ‘conspicuous’ landmark, using rule-of-thumb dead reckoning to keep tabs on our approach.
Truth dawned slowly. Our red roof was in fact an abandoned croft and only red because of the rust.
We retreated and retraced our route. Back out at sea we did some thinking – maybe our calculations were wrong Just up the coast we saw another red roof, this time on a functional building.
In we went, found the pool and dropped the hook.
A certain amount of comment followed to the effect that the skipper shouldn’t be so damned stupid and take a bit more care.
And the lesson here: never allow wishful thinking to replace the facts.
Everyone has heard about Murphy’s law: ‘If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong’ and I always add ‘…at the worst moment.’
Many years ago I was sailing my Pioneer 10 towards its winter storage location.
It was the end of November, it was dark and the temperature was just above 0ºC.
However, it was dry and the wind was blowing from a favourable direction so I had nothing to complain about and enjoyed the quietness.
On approach to the last bridge before the harbour I lowered the main and wanted to start the engine before also taking down the headsail.
The engine, however, did not give a kick.
I furled the headsail to a minimum to give me some time to try to start the engine, but it remained quiet.
One of the electrical connections had been in a bad state for most of the season and I’d already repaired it by squeezing it together with pliers. Yes, I know, I should have known better.
This time it was only my ego but Murphy could have led to a more serious situation.
This experience taught me three things: Firstly take good care of your yacht. Secondly, always carry a box of spares such as bolts, nuts, shackles, fuses, lines, tie raps, tape, and electrical connectors, and of course, the necessary equipment. Last but not least I realised that my knowledge, even of basic diesel engines, was below the required level.
During the winter I enlisted on a diesel engine maintenance course which appeared to be very useful and also fun – and allowed me to tinker when my Pioneer 10 was laid up.
For marine electronics, the saltwater environment is one of the harshest on earth.
It’s a fact that over time, your VHF and other marine electronic equipment will suffer from salt corrosion.
It’s a good and simple practice to get into, to clean your electronics – assuming they are waterproof – with fresh water.
Otherwise, keys, switches and controllers may become inoperable due to salt crystalisation.