What a difference 18 years can make. Entering the harbor at the picturesque town of Velas on the island of São Jorge in the Azores, I am remembering the last time I was here. “Disastrous” is a word that comes to mind.
During a recent conversation with retired Coast Guard rescue swimmer Mario Vittone, I asked for his take on safety equipment for sailing offshore, and he responded with an answer I’d never heard before.
The three boats in Tom Cunliffe’s scenario all found different ways of coping with difficult weather conditions, and all made it to port with little or no drama. But what if things had turned out differently? How would they have called for help?
Modern weather forecasting is so good that we aren’t often caught out, but we all take a chance once in a while, especially when we’re under pressure to be somewhere else. Coastal sailing in near-gale conditions isn’t the same as ocean storm survival. Instead, we have to think hard about possible shelter and local dangers. Different boats have varying abilities. So do crews. Here’s a hypothetical FULL STORY
There’s an old saying that some of the most dangerous moments in sailing occur when people are in their dinghies. Over the years we’ve had lots of opportunities to see dinghies being handled well and poorly, and we’ve seen a lot more good and bad examples since we have been cruising in the Caribbean aboard our 54- foot cutter New Morning. We carry an 11-foot Zodiac FULL STORY
Even in the most idyllic of anchorages, the wind can come up in the middle of the night and cause trouble. At times like this we always have an action plan to follow if our anchor begins to drag. Experience has convinced me that when something goes wrong while a boat is at anchor, trouble is caused not by the conditions, but by how the crew responds to those conditions. Having FULL STORY
Most halyard winches are not powerful enough to hoist a 200-pound sailor up a mast, so you need to find a way to let your primary winches take the strain if you need to hoist someone up the rig. Here’s what we do on our boat, where the main halyard runs via a rope clutch (not seen in the photo) to a small winch on the mast. First, we loop a spare length of half-inch line a few times around the FULL STORY