Tethers, fouled props, and more
This month: tethers, fouled props, halyard retrieval, and chicken gybes
In the 2002 ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers), one of two brothers sailing a 50-foot boat fell overboard while working on the foredeck. He was clipped on to a jackline, but his brother could not get him back on board and he drowned. I thought about this incident, and now I follow a safety procedure when I’m working on the foredeck.
I use the spinnaker halyard (a spare jib halyard can also be used) and a second harness tether. First I check the halyard length by going forward with my harness on. I clip the halyard to the harness and adjust the length so I can move around the foredeck but am prevented from falling over the lifelines by the halyard. I adjust the length of both harness tethers so I can move from side to side.
When it’s necessary to go forward of the mast, I attach the halyard to my harness and clip the harness tethers to the port and starboard jacklines. Your crew can adjust the halyard length as needed as you move around the deck. With the two harness lines attached, there are three attachment points keeping you on the boat in rough seas. The halyard alone will keep you from going overboard and should allow you to move around easily. R.M.
If a rope is sucked into your propeller running ahead or astern, there is sometimes a chance of freeing it without a dive. First, activate the fuel cut-off by pulling the stop cable. If you have an electric cut-off activated by the start switch, you may have to attend to its wiring manually. Once you are confident the engine will not fire, engage the opposite gear to the one the engine stopped on, grab a bight of the rope, take the strain, and crank the starter motor. The engine may well turn the propeller. So long as you keep pulling, and keep the rope winding on cleanly without hitching itself, you might get lucky—and the rope will unreel as easily as it went on. T.C.
The best route
When you plan to sail offshore, review carefully the relevant Pilot Charts and other sailing guides for the routes to be traveled. Many of these recommended routes are not the shortest distance in miles to a destination, but they may turn out to be the quickest. Less-experienced sailors often become preoccupied with total distance and conclude that it is easier to make short hops between ports even though this forces them to sail against prevailing wind and current. This choice doesn’t take into account the wear and tear on boat, gear, and crew.
A classic example of bad route planning takes place every fall as cruisers sail south from the East Coast of the United States to the Eastern Caribbean. The traditional path, leaving from Florida, is based on a popular author’s declaration that the route is made easy by waiting for weather windows. This route may work as long as time is not a factor. But if the passage is made solo or shorthanded, it can be quite dangerous because of the navigational demands: shoal areas, commercial shipping, and inconsistent weather. It makes more sense to go outside, passing east of the Bahamas. B.S.
Losing a halyard up the mast is always a big pain in the rear, but if the mast in question has a spare halyard on it, there’s a good chance you can bring the lost halyard back to the deck without leaving the deck yourself. Take a spare line, preferably an older one that is slightly stiff from a little too much exposure to salt and sun, and make a noose with a slip knot at the end of it. Then take your spare halyard’s snapshackle and clasp the shackle around the standing part of your retrieval line just below the noose you made (the slip knot must be big enough that it does not slide through the snapshackle). The noose should be opened as wide as possible without going limp.
Next, use the spare halyard to hoist the noose aloft into close proximity with the end of the lost halyard. By twitching your end of the spare halyard and the retrieval line with a bit of creative body English, you should eventually be able to get the noose around the end of the lost halyard. Then all you need do is yank on the retrieval line to close the noose. Pull the retrieval line back down to the deck and both the spare halyard and the lost halyard will come down with it. C.D.
Tack for a gybe
In the June issue, one of the tips suggested pulling the boom in tight before gybing in anything more than a gentle breeze. Using that technique on a small centerboarder can land you in the drink if the wind is strong and your reactions are slow. One technique that works in any kind of wind—and on any size of boat—is to tack onto your new heading instead of gybing. Visualize it like this: Imagine you’re on a heading of zero degrees on starboard tack, with the wind coming from 170 degrees, and you need to come onto a heading of 270 degrees. Instead of turning to port and gybing, turn hard to starboard. As you come through the wind, tack the headsail across—the boom will take care of itself. Then you can come onto the new course and trim the sails to suit. I’ve used this technique many times, with much less noise and concern than a normal gybe. F R.K.
Words from the Wise
“The double sail track on the mast made handling the storm trysail a simple matter. A single track requires the use of a track switch, and the sail slides are subject to binding at the switch. Of necessity, the switch must be located above the head of the mainsail in its furled position. On most sailboats this would be an awkward height at which to feed the heavy sail onto the main track if binding occurs, even in fair weather, and potentially dangerous in storm conditions. Swan’s separate trysail track extended downward to a comfortable waist height for hanking onto the sail. The slides could be fed onto the track with one hand from a kneeling or crouching position.”
—Jim Moore, Swan—the Second Voyage, 1998
This Month’s contributors: Roger Marshutz,
Tom Cunliffe, Bob Silverman, Charles J. Doane, Robert Keller