Cruising

Cruising Tips - Safety

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Karate corner (March 2006)

Good communication between people on the bow and helm is very important when coming into a crowded anchorage or harbor. My wife and I used a system of hand signals for many years, and communications had been pretty successful other than the occasional confusing moment—for example, are your fingers pointing because that’s the direction to steer or because there is something in the water?

Then one day we watched a speedboat race on a TV sports channel. It wasn’t the standard dash around buoys, but a time trial in a narrow figure-eight channel that ran through a swamp. The boats were so fast that the driver could react quickly enough only if he followed hand signals given by the navigator next to him.

The navigator held his hand out ahead of him as though he were ready to make a karate chop on a board. When a course correction was needed, he would point his arm in the direction he wanted the driver to steer and then make a rapid chopping motion with his hand. We tried this on our next cruise to the North Channel of Lake Huron, and it worked very well. We use the chopping motion to indicate what direction to steer and simply point, without chopping, to indicate a hazard ahead. A clenched fist followed by a pointing finger indicates a rock or obstruction. When we’re pulling up the anchor, an arm pointed in a specific direction shows the general direction of the rode and anchor. A fore-and-aft chopping motion signals that the anchor is under the boat and it’s time to put the engine in reverse. Once your team knows the routine, you can start chopping and stop shouting. Bruce Kuhn

Carry a Kite (February 2006)

I’ve had great fun over the years flying kites from the transom of my boat in anchorages on both sides of the Atlantic, and I always carry one or two onboard. It’s a great way to keep playing with the wind, even when your boat is parked. The more acrobatic the maneuvers you attempt, the more likely your kite is to take a swim, but fortunately modern plastic kites can easily survive these dunkings. It’s best to use slightly heavier string so you don’t lose them when hauling them back aboard. Besides providing entertainment, my kites double as safety gear. Flying a kite from a dismasted vessel, or—heaven forfend—from a liferaft, is a great way to make yourself more visible from a distance. Which is why I like to stash an extra kite in my ditch bag whenever I go offshore. Charles J. Doane

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