Cruising Tips – May 2006
This month: rope ladders; marking chain; pet seasickness; sailing with a bad back; and ideas for singlehanders.
There are a number of ways to mark your anchor chain, including using paint or plastic-wire ties. I prefer to use strips of colored nylon spinnaker cloth.
First lay out the entire chain on the dock and flake it in even lengths. Choose a length that is appropriate to the depth of the waters you will be cruising in. I use 25-foot lengths. Then tie one of those easy-to-see pieces of cloth through the links that start each end of the designated length. I wrap the nylon strip through the link twice and tie it with an overhand knot.
We bought spinnaker-cloth tapes from our sailmaker in 2-inch-wide rolls, in red, green, and white. We cut the tapes into 30-inch lengths and marked each with a felt-tip marker to indicate the number of feet of chain that have been put out.
The colors let the foredeck crew know how much chain is going out even if they cant see the actual numbers. Ive tied green tapes on all the 25-foot marks (25, 75, 125, 175), red tapes on the 50-foot marks (50, 150, 250), and white tapes on the 100-foot marks (100, 200).
The colors are easy to see, the nylon cloth goes through the windlass easily, and the cloth lasts longer than paint. F.R.
Think Like a Singlehander
Ive taught sailing for many years and am always amazed that many crews leaving a dockoften its a couplehave one crewmember go forward to retrieve and secure the bow line and fender after the boat has cleared the dock. When they return to the dock, they reverse the procedure; someone goes forward, sets the fender, and gets the bow line ready.
This is hard to avoid on bigger boats, but on a smaller boatunder 28 feet or soits safer to set up as if you were sailing alone. This means attaching the bow line or lines to the bow cleats, then leading the lines outside the lifelines back to the cockpit. With this setup its easy for the helmsman to tend the lines. You can position the fenders on the lifelines so that after the boat has cleared the dock, one person can use a boathook to grab the fender hanging over the side and pull it up on deck, while remaining in the cockpit. When the loose end of the bow line is secured to a stanchiona clove hitch will work in most situations the boat can proceed without having anyone go forward to secure the bow.
The procedure should be reversed when returning to the dock. Hang the fender on the lifeline and use the boathook to push it forward to the right location for protecting the hull. Once youve untied the clove hitch that secures the bow line to the stanchion, the rest of the docking maneuver can be handled easily from the cockpit; theres no reason for anyone to go forward. R.C.
Bad Backs and Boats
Several months ago I wrote that I had to be very careful of my back when I was on board a boat. Since then Ive received a number of letters from sailors asking whether I do anything specific to protect my back when Im sailing. The answer is that Ive tried many things over the years to reduce my back pain, including limited surgery, visits to chiropractors, and acupuncture. But Im still susceptible to discomfort, and if Im not careful the pain can become severe. Im constantly aware of how hard Im working my back.
Its not just a matter of putting a limit on, say, how much weight to lift. I need to assess how much bending my back can safely absorb; stuffing a sail into a sailbag for example, is almost sure to give me a backache. Im fortunate that my wife, Terrie, is fit and energeticand, yes, she does much of the hard work when we are sailing. Weve also done what we can to minimize heavy loads. A powered anchor windlass came first, followed by roller furling and reefing; our newest boat, a 45-footer, has electric primary winches as well as an electrically powered mainsail-halyard winch.
We use a crane to lift the outboard motor from the dinghy, and we hoist the dinghy itself with the electric halyard winch. Although these devices take care of most of the heavy routine work on board, I still get backaches. I only rarely sleep through the night on the boat, but its no different at home, so Im not about to give up sailing. Unfortunately, I have no magic bullet to offer. The best advice I can give is to make sure you know your bodys limits on weight and flex, then do everything possible to stay within them.
Soothing the Seasick
My wife, Ursula, is prone to seasickness, as is our cat. My wife tried many of the standard remedies, but aside from getting thirsty and becoming drowsy, she didnt feel any better. Then a fellow cruiser mentioned having had good luck with Triptone. Happily, my wife found that it worked for her, even after the onset of seasickness, which has not been the case with the other brand-name medications.
Weve since discovered that this product is well known in the diving community and is carried by many dive shops. Its also available through local pharmacies. Of course, you should consult your doctor before using any medication.
Weve also found it helpful to spend several days at anchor before heading offshore. My wife says this helps her get used to the boats motion and start to get her sea legs. Certain foodscitrus-, ginger-, or lime-flavored drinks and ginger aleseem to work well for us, and weve found that eating smaller amounts of food more often helps too. We avoid sweets in favor of salty crackers or pretzels. If your sweet tooth needs attention, try ginger cookies.
Giving human crew a seasickness medication is one thing; giving such a medication to a cat or dog without clear instructions from a knowledgeable veterinarian is another. We medicate our cat, in a dose appropriate for her weight. She often becomes drowsy. We keep her comfortable and place a container with water nearby. Hugging, holding, or petting a seasick animal also seems to reduce its stress level. H.P.M.
Tie One On
Ive heard stories about sailors who were alone aboard their boats, doing some in-port maintenance, and were never heard from again. Presumably they fell overboard and had no way to pull themselves out of the water. The potential for trouble is greater if the boat is located where the water never gets very warm.
In Maine, where I live, were lucky if the water temperature gets above 60F in the middle of the summer. In the spring, when boats are being prepared, 40F is more typical. Because I work on my boat frequently, those temperatures got me thinking about how to eliminate this danger.
Now when Im working on board, I rig my self-protection gear. This consists of a rope ladder with wooden slats. I attach its head to a strong point like a cleat or winch. The folded ladder sits on one of the boats quarters, and a strong, light line runs from its base over the side and down to the water. A gentle pull on the line is all it takes to make the steps fall over the side (the lower steps rest in the water). The line hanging over the side is long enough to be easily reached by a swimmer. Fortunately, Ive never had to use this gear, but Ive tried it out thoroughly and rig it when Im on the boat by myself. T.T.
Words from the Wise
There is no substitute for getting to know your own boat although it takes time and patience, a steady crew and testing and tuning. If you race it will also require detailed recordings of the sailhandling adjustments that work for your boat.
Perhaps even more important is to have an experienced crew. Look at the leading sailors and you will find most have put a lot of time and practice into their boat and have also sailed a lot on other boats. Each crewmember, having done his particular job many times before, knows his objectives. And ideally the skipper, who is the leader, should have as much knowledge in all areas as each individual crewmember. The more experienced the crew the quieter and more efficient the boat will be. Practice gives you the ability to act fast and seize any opportunity to move the boat ahead.
—Wallace Ross, Sail Power
Contributors this month: Nigel Calder, Ray Copin, Hans-Peter Mueller, Fred Roswold, Toby Tobin
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