August 2013 Letter from the Editor: Checking Out

My pre-sail checklist is pretty basic. Bilge sump empty? Phew. Mainsail cover off, halyard on? Yep. Battery switched on? Check. Engine intake seacock open? Check. Engine starts? Yippee.
Author:
Updated:
Original:

My pre-sail checklist is pretty basic. Bilge sump empty? Phew. Mainsail cover off, halyard on? Yep. Battery switched on? Check. Engine intake seacock open? Check. Engine starts? Yippee. Water comes out of the exhaust? Check. Instruments on? Check. Guests know where to find a lifejacket and how to work the VHF? Check and check. And that’s about it. I’m on the boat several evenings or days a week, so it’s always ready to go, and I don’t see a lot of point in ticking things off a list.

My view of the Summer Sailstice

My view of the Summer Sailstice

Some people will view this as laziness, no doubt, but the boat’s got enough tools, spares and gear on board to cope with just about any emergency, and I certainly don’t see the point in going over it all every time I leave the mooring.

One thing that’s never featured on any of my sketchy mental hit lists is distress flares. I know I have some; they lurk in an orange container in the lazarette that’s never been opened since—wait, can it really be that long ago?—2009, when I replaced all the flares in accordance with Coast Guard regulations. I cracked the canister open in June this year and found every single flare had expired in December 2012—except for the ones that had expired in November 2008. Ahem.

I’ve always reckoned the last thing I would reach for in a time of need would be a pyrotechnic flare. Then again, I had never fired one, in anger or otherwise, up until the time the SAIL team spent a happy couple of hours playing fireworks and setting off a selection of distress pyrotechnics (see story on page 50). It cured me of a couple of longstanding preconceptions. 

For instance, when sailing overnight I’ve always had a white handheld flare close by in case I needed to alert some ship that was about to run me down. Man, those things are dangerous. You’re more likely to burn a hole in your boat or yourself than alert any errant ship captain, and you’ll also destroy your night vision to the point where you’re unable to get out of the way. I wasn’t prepared for the near-invisibility of red handheld flares in daylight, much less for the molten magma dripping from them. I’d put out a Mayday call on the VHF, set off an EPIRB or a PLB, even make a phone call, before I reached for the flare container.

I’ve always loved the theory of Summer Sailstice, encouraging sailors around the world to get out on their boats on the longest day of the year. Up here in New England that day too often is more memorable for the frequency and duration of thunderstorms than for legions of boats out enjoying a fair breeze. This one just gone was perfect, though; a scorching hot day with a fine sea breeze, and sailors out in the hundreds.

I should know; I watched from my cockpit, up on the hard in a Marblehead, Massachusetts boatyard, where I was engaged in cleaning up fiberglass dust and putting the boat back together after a lengthy and messy repair. It was probably well over 100 degrees down in the saloon.

Maybe next year... 

Nielsen2011_0

Peter Nielsen aims to actually be sailing
on the summer Sailstice next year

Related

Beneyteau-Excess12

Boat Review: Excess 12

Groupe Beneteau, builder of Lagoon catamarans, has introduced a new multihull line called Excess. The first of the boats to reach U.S. shores at the Annapolis boat show was the Excess 12, a 38ft 6in design based on the popular Lagoon 40. The thought process behind this new boat ...read more

Spindriftracing

Extreme Sailing: No Piece of Cake

It can be easy to take for granted the incredible performance of today’s most cutting-edge grand prix racing boats. The latest crop of full-foiling 75ft America’s Cup monohulls, for example, were all up on their foils and even successfully tacking within hours of their first ...read more

Solar-Dinghy-pump-photo

Gear: Solar Powered Dinghy Pump

Tired of forever finding your dinghy or open daysailer filled with water when you arrive to go sailing? For years, sailors and engineers have sought a solution to this seemingly eternal problem, and now it appears the folks at Sea Joule Marine may have finally found it in their ...read more

BestBoatPromo-03

Best Boats 2020

How’s this for a thought experiment: imagine setting a diminutive Tiwal 2 inflatable dinghy alongside a Catalina 545 cruiser? It would be hard to imagine two more different watercraft, and yet they are both still very much sailboats. They are also both winners in this year’s ...read more

Hanse-675

Video Tour: Hanse 675

This past fall at the Annapolis Sailboat show, we had a chance to catch up with Hanse’s  Maxim Neumann, who kindly provided us a tour of the company’s new flagship, the Hanse 675. An impressive, well-built production yacht that boldly ventures into maxi-yacht territory, the ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com Be thrifty with propane  If you like to cook on board, the propane tanks supplied as standard with many modern yachts won’t get you far. Whether we bake bread or not, the one thing we all do is boil ...read more