by Tom Cunliffe
Originally published in February 2009 issueWinter is biting deep now, and there isn’t a lot of sailing to be had in my local creek. It’s a grim scene in business too, so all I can say is thank goodness for the swinging oil lamp and the yarns that stand in for that stiff, cleansing beat to windward those of us in the north are missing so badly.Last weekend I was a guest at

Life After 30 Knots

by Tom Cunliffe, Posted May 24, 2010
How do we define “heavy weather?” For example, a small family cruiser sailing upwind in open water might have a tough time of it in a 25-knot wind even though the same blow is perfect for a boat twice her size. And what about a vessel crewed by a retired couple who don’t spend much time in the gym, compared to the same craft manned by the local firefighters’ tug-of-war team? With the obvious

Letting go a sheet

by Tom Cunliffe, Posted August 18, 2009
When the boat is tacking taking the loaded jibsheet off a winch can be a just cause for nervousness. On boats up to 40 feet or so, the safest way to do this is to first ease the sheet off a few inches; keep the flattened palm of one hand pressed against the turns on the drum as they begin to surge around it. This slight easing removes the worst of the load. Depending on the

Weather Tactics

by Tom Cunliffe, Posted August 18, 2009
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
My initial reaction when I first saw a bow thruster on a 40-foot sailboat was to laugh my docksiders off. I’d spent a lifetime threading awkward boats with single props into tricky berths and could imagine no sensible reason for compromising sailing performance by drilling a hole the size of a baby’s head through the bow of a perfectly good boat. As thrusters became more common and I watched

Pier head jumper

by Tom Cunliffe, Posted April 6, 2009
I don’t know about you, but although I much prefer to go to sea with tried and tested buddies, there are times when I end up shipping out with total strangers. You’ve met the type. They might be those credible people you run into in a waterfront bar with a tale to tell. “There I was, and the waves were 40 feet high…” And so on. Then there’s the friend of a friend, which often turns out to be the

Genoa Gybe

by Tom Cunliffe, Posted August 21, 2008
A sailor quickly learns the right way to gybe a mainsail: Trim the mainsheet carefully, and always keep the boom and sail under full control. But in all the moving around, the headsail, often a genoa, tends to be forgotten. Unless you have a crew of eager sailors in search of a permanent job, that's usually a good course of action. Do nothing with the headsail until the mainsail has been

Coil with the Sun

by Tom Cunliffe, Posted August 21, 2008
In general, a line is happier and therefore behaves better if you coil it in a clockwise direction. Any three-strand line will try to kink up if you force it the other way. A multibraid line may be able to go in either direction, but the habit of right-handed coiling should be so ingrained that you couldn't do it counterclockwise if you wanted to. Old-time sailors called it "coiling against the
Going sideways (January 2006)It's no secret that bow thrusters are a big help when you're maneuvering in close quarters, which is why they are becoming common on boats in the 40-foot range. One reason for this popularity is that the units themselves have gotten better. But it's also true that freeboards are getting higher and many of us either are getting older or are sailing with
This month: attaching lifelines, poling the headsail, calculating tides, and oil anchor lampsSafetyUV damageInstead of attaching lifelines to pushpits with clevis pins, it’s good practice to use lashings of prestretched line. They provide enough tension to take the slack out of the lines but can be cut in an instant if need be—for instance, to clear the
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