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April 2010 Cruising Tips

SAFETY: Deck SureHatches, like windows, are designed to allow light and air to enter the interior space. But there’s a price to pay if someone accidentally steps on top of a wet hatch. A slippery hatch can suddenly turn an orderly footstep into a chaotic crash on the deck. Or worse. The best solution—applying bands of anti-skid tape on the hatch—isn’t very pretty and lets
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SAFETY: Deck Sure

Hatches, like windows, are designed to allow light and air to enter the interior space. But there’s a price to pay if someone accidentally steps on top of a wet hatch. A slippery hatch can suddenly turn an orderly footstep into a chaotic crash on the deck. Or worse. The best solution—applying bands of anti-skid tape on the hatch—isn’t very pretty and lets in less light below. But it is much better than having nothing at all.

And there is always room for one more great idea, which is why C. Sherman Johnson’s new billet 316 stainless Jackline fairlead can take a bow. When a cruising sailor asked the company to consider fabricating a fairlead unit that would keep jacklines five or six feet above the deck—allowing a shorter tether on a safety harness and minimizing potential fall distance—they asked well-known rigger, Brion Toss, for his thoughts. Toss said that to date, his own solution had been simply to lash D rings to shrouds. Johnson’s solid stainless unit is CNC machined and its 1/2 in diameter lead is perfect for a 3/8 in diameter low–stretch jackline. Cap screws hold the unit to a shroud, and shims ensure that it can’t move and won’t overclamp or damage wire, rod or Dyform rigging from 5/16 in to 1/2 in. Nice idea (csjohnson.com). – Charles Mason

SAILS: Slip Sliding Away

In theory, plastic sail slides should always whizz up and down the mast track like the proverbial rat in a drainpipe. But after a winter layup, things may get sticky. The answer is definitely not a squirt of oil from an aerosol can, because that’s usually messy. And it doesn’t last long.

Instead think first about heading for the hardware or furniture store. Until recently, the best product was a “dry” silicone spray lubricant designed to make curtains slip sweetly on their rails. Now there are specially designed marine products that can do the same job, and perhaps even a bit better.

Applying either sort of product to the slides will make them slippery again and allow you to smoothly raise and lower your mainsail. Prices will vary, and of course the choice is yours to make. Whatever product you decide to use, be sure you do something—before you find yourself caught in a bind. – Tom Cunliffe

BOAT HANDLING: Wind Shadows

Sailing is always more fun when you can look ahead or astern and see puffs of wind coming across the water toward you. Learning how to react in these conditions isn’t hard, particularly when the puffs arrive, as they often do, in a repetitive pattern. Being able to spot puffs is the first step. When wavelets on the water’s surface are roiled by increased wind, they change shape which, in turn, changes the reflected light patterns on the surface. A puff is easy to spot because the surface of the water in the area of the puff is darker than the water around it.

If you are sailing to windward and a puff is coming directly downwind toward you, the wind direction inside the puff will be different from the ambient wind. In almost all cases the wind will shift ahead of you, and you will either have to fall off or tack. If you do decide to tack, there’s nothing wrong with doing so before the puff arrives. If you are sailing downwind and a puff is overtaking you from astern, the best thing to do is trim the sails properly, steer so your course is aligned with the direction of the puff, and then hold on and enjoy the ride! – Charles Mason

SEAMANSHIP: Hemming Canvas

For my winter canvas work projects, a 11/2 in hem gives me a perfect base for installing grommets, snaps or turn-button fasteners. A proper hem not only reinforces the edge of the item, it also makes it look nice. But getting a 11/2 in hem requires that you make a 2in hem allowance, because the raw inner edge is turned under 1/2 in.

Before making any hem, you need to crease the canvas at the fold and then feed the material into the sewing machine. The traditional way to crease a hem is to either drag the fold perpendicular to the edge of a table or use the back of a pair of scissors to crease the fabric at the desired fold location. I like to use a stiff putty knife because a relatively light amount of finger pressure can create a lot of pressure at the end of the blade. This allows me to press a crease into the canvas with a modest amount of effort.

There’s also the added benefit of a putty knife’s width. If you use a putty knife with a 2in-wide blade, you have a measuring and pressing tool all in one. All you have to do is make the width of the fold the same as the width of the blade, and then press in the crease with the blade edge.

Use the putty knife to work the crease in 10- to 12-inch sections. If you continue until you’ve creased the entire hem, you should get a straight and uniform hem every time.

You can crease the turned-under 1/2 in of canvas either before or after you crease the main hem. To do so, simply make the turnover section width a quarter of the blade width. If you aren’t sure of your ability to estimate, you can make a 1/2 in mark on the putty knife blade. If you really want to do it right, engraving the blade at the 1/2 , 1, and 11/2 in marks will give you a first-rate canvas tool. – Don Case

MAINTENANCE: Log Time

I have found it is very useful to carefully record all inspections, repairs and gear upgrades or replacements in a maintenance log. My log has so much information that I can look in it and see when the useful life of my batteries might be coming to an end. Reviewing log entries on a regular basis has minimized, and sometimes even eliminated, unnecessary effort and expense.

When setting up your maintenance log, be sure to include categories for all the gear on your boat. And when you write up an entry, always include the important “what-if I need replacements; who are the contacts,” in your narrative.

I have also established a routine maintenance log inside my general maintenance log which I use to track when it is time to maintain or inspect a particular piece of gear. If you believe nothing can happen to your equipment, then you probably won’t need a log. However, the truth is that all gear needs some maintenance, and performing work before a piece of gear fails, breaks or wears out is the best way to keep things working properly.

Always use the detailed maintenance schedules in the owner’s manuals for your onboard equipment. Put these schedules in your routine maintenance log (see right). This section includes generators, watermakers, A/C units and everything else that requires some sort of regular maintenance schedule.

I spend more time inspecting gear and equipment on my boat and recording what I’ve discovered in my log than I do actually replacing or repairing things. That’s fine with me, because I know that if I stay ahead of potential problems, I’ll have more time to go sailing. – Bob Tigar

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