Cruising Tips – April 2006

This month: rafting safety; making a chain collar; waxing your dinghy; and the Flemish coil.


Avoid Damage Aloft

One potential danger when sailboats lie alongside one another for a convivial night is that if they roll to a wash or begin to move in an unexpected sea, the spreaders can clash together and suffer catastrophic damage. Always look aloft when rafting up and make sure the masts are well out of line. Rafting bow to stern is a good way to prevent spars from clashing. T.C.


Wax your bottom

We sail in the Pacific Northwest and use our inflatable dinghy year round. We had a real problem with marine growth on the dinghy’s bottom until we tried waxing it. We’ve found that waxing the bottom lets us keep the dinghy in the water for up to four weeks without problems. Then all we need to do is lift it out, wash it clean, and, after it dries, rewax the bottom. I prefer to wax the bottom of my inflatable, in case I need to patch it, rather than paint it with antifouling. For longer-term wet storage, though, you might have to consider painting the bottom. J.K.


Cut the cheese

A line end that’s neatly done up into a Flemish coil, or “cheese,” looks very salty, especially on the gleaming cabintop of a classic boat, but it’s not a good way to treat a line that might have to run free in a hurry. Cheesed lines are prone to kinking and need to be thoroughly shaken out before you get under way, or there’s a good chance they’ll snarl up just when you least want them to. Cheesed lines are also great dirt traps, as you’ll find out if you’ve left one on your cabintop for a few days. P.N.


Chain collar

If your anchor is hooked on an underwater cable or snagged under a rock, you may be able to free it with a chain collar. Loop a piece of chain about 12 inches long around the anchor rode and join the ends with a shackle. Harden up on the anchor cable until it’s vertical and then slide the chain collar down it on a length of line. The aim is to get it over the shank of the anchor and down near the crown. If you ease off the anchor cable and heave up and down on the collar line, you may be able to pull the anchor clear of the obstruction. If it proves stubborn, try pulling on the retrieval line from the dinghy as the boat settles back on the rode; the change in angle may be all that’s needed to coax the anchor free. P.N.

Words from the Wise

On the matter of keeping dry I remain, perforce, a skeptic. My brother-in-law Firpo, who believes in tackling problems head-on, designed his own foul-weather gear for our first race to Bermuda. It was the grandest and most elaborate piece of gear I ever saw, not less imposing for its responsibility to keep dry 250 pounds of human flesh. It had rubber gloves with shock-cord belts, all-directional zippers, seamless balaclavas—everything except perhaps a catheter tube. The first hard wave that tore into The Panic’s cockpit left Firpo totally drenched, and, on top of that, facing twenty minutes of disassembly before he could dry his bare skin. Van, who had observed with awe the design and engineering of the ultimate foul-weather suit, comforted Firpo with a practical suggestion for the next trip. “You must go to a garage, strip, and have yourself vulcanized.”—William F. Buckley Jr., Airborne—A Sentimental Journey (1976)

Contributors this month: Tom Cunliffe, Capt. Jim Karch, Peter Nielsen

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