Yachting Monthly experts and seasoned skippers share their advice on a whole range of issues for the cruising sailor. Do you have a tip to share? Email us at email@example.com
Sailing by instinct in a digital age
During the past decades electronics have changed our lives. It also changed the way we are sailing our yachts.
We are using digital depth sounders which provide details including up to one or two decimal places.
The question is: (a) Do we really need that level of detail and (b) could it be incorrect or even misleading?
If the depth sounder is showing for 1.9 metres and your vessel draws 1.8 metres… are you then happy to proceed?
Or might it be that there is more; possibly a breaking sea or strong currents which will affect the water under the keel?
Another example: if your chartplotter tells you it is 1.9 metres at LW Springs, do you then still take into account that a recent storm in the Thames Estuary or at the Dutch Waddenzee might have changed the profile floor bed or do you just proceed when drawing 1.8 metres?
The trigger to write this short tip is that recently I watched a YouTube video where wind speeds were translated into knots instead of using the Beaufort scale: ‘It is blowing 21-22 knots with gusts of 23 to 24 knots.’
If you ask me that is way too detailed.
What happened with the time and knowledge that we looked outside to the waves and translated these to the Beaufort scale? Let us please enjoy the ‘outside world’; is that not where it is all about?
Lasso your mooring buoy
I take about three feet of old garden hose to aid that tricky mooring pickup in windy conditions.
By adding it into a big bowline it makes it easy to lasso the main mooring buoy and tame the boat.
Once things have settled you can then use the boat hook for the pickup buoy and making off the boat properly without dangerous loads.
Once secure the hose opens up the bowline with a bit of flicking for retrieval.
If it doesn’t it can always be tackled with the dinghy when conditions have eased.
I have sat and watched so many fingers injured, boat hooks bent or lost as the mooring line loads up before a turn can be taken.
This seems a safe option for when things get a bit hairy on the foredeck.
Buying a boat? Look overseas
After having owned a Danish Junior (5.60m in mahogany) my first proper ‘yacht’ was a Pionier 10, a 32ft Van de Stadt Design from 1974.
I sold her to a Swedish buyer who I met years later while sailing a Navy Mine Hunter in the Baltic.
Her lines were still beautiful.
The second yacht was a one-off steel long-keeled design from the drawing board of Mr Koopmans Senior from 1989.
I bought her from a Belgian seller in the beautiful city of Brugge. In 2018 I sold the Koopmans to a German buyer.
After little more than a year the need to go sailing again became too great and I bought the third and current yacht, a Nicholson 35 from 1976 from (again) a Belgian seller.
Only recently I was able to buy a copy of the C&N drawings from an Italian seller and a book of about 200 years of C&N designs from a USA-based seller.
The reason I am telling you about my experiences is to show how international the industry is.
If you are in the market to buy or sell a yacht and especially when it is not a yacht being built in large series but a more specific design, then have a look abroad.
The internet will facilitate your needs and is making the market very transparent for, in principle, all designs ever made.
Good luck and good hunting!
I remember a recent charter circumnavigating Shetland aboard a yacht which, we later discovered, had enjoyed the ‘benefit’ of a replacement depth display before we came aboard.
Like most charterers, I check the offset with the owner; does the instrument show depth at the waterline or under the bottom of the keel?
And, if the latter, is there the usual charter 0.5m ‘grace’?
On this occasion, the answer was ‘the bottom of the keel, with an extra 0.5m’.
We were sailing in company, and my fellow skipper duly told me he was bemused that I always seemed to be able to anchor further inshore than him.
On one occasion we rafted up beside the pier at Fair Isle’s North Haven; I assured him the depth was fine.
He came alongside with his echosounder indicating no clearance whereas mine suggested a metre or so.
Out came the plumb line; he was right, and I had been blissfully anchoring with a low water clearance of centimetres!
I went into the display menu only to find that the installer had omitted to recalibrate the instrument – the offset was neither set for waterline nor keel bottom, but halfway between!
I now carry a length of line with waterproof markings at every metre as a plumb line to check the calibration.
Over the side
I regularly sail in the Scottish Western Isles; lobster fishing is a good business here, though not all pot markers are as visible as best practice might hope for.
Over the years it has been my ‘pleasure’ to take a dip in order to free a rope from the propeller on a number of occasions.
I have no doubt that this role is usually allocated to me due to my natural insulation layer; even so, my personal blubber is woefully inadequate to deal with an Easter immersion in the Hebrides.
A significant proportion of body heat is lost through the head; after one prolonged attempt I had a headache for three days and proposed to my wife.
She says the cold brought me to my senses.
I now always travel with a wetsuit, a neoprene hat and neoprene gloves.
I prefer a hacksaw (secured on a line) to a bread knife, and like a mooring rope secured under the hull to hang on to.
Goggles aid visibility significantly.