Cruising Tips - August 2006

This month: Steering toward a buoy, trip lines, a Cutter that cuts it, and how to change an impellerMaintenance A “Burned” ImpellerImpellers for the engine’s raw-water pump don’t last forever. Even if they aren’t destroyed by having been run dry following a blockage in the raw-water line, they still deteriorate over the years. If you’ve never had to change one,
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This month: Steering toward a buoy, trip lines, a Cutter that cuts it, and how to change an impeller

Maintenance

A “Burned” Impeller

Impellers for the engine’s raw-water pump don’t last forever. Even if they aren’t destroyed by having been run dry following a blockage in the raw-water line, they still deteriorate over the years. If you’ve never had to change one, try installing a new one when the boat is safe on its mooring, and then go out and buy a new spare. You might be surprised by what you discover:

  • Some raw-water pumps require a fresh gasket each time the impeller is changed. Do you have a gasket on hand?
  • Does your screwdriver fit the machine screws that attach the cover plate?
  • Might you lose a screw in the bilge? It’s so easy to do. If so, can you reach it, or should you carry a couple of spares?

All this is vital knowledge when you have to do the job heeled over in rough seas on a dark night. T.C.

Pilotage

Beware of the Buoys

“Just head for the buoy up ahead, and make sure you leave it to starboard.” An instruction like this is asking for trouble, especially if a novice is steering. All it takes is a bit of cross current and the boat will be gradually set off course, all the while pointing faithfully at the buoy; it may even be set onto the very hazard the buoy is marking. When you steer toward a buoy, always note the compass heading and be ready to compensate for a cross current if the compass heading changes. J.C.

Anchoring

Tripped by the Trip Line

If you ever have your anchor catch under a rock or other obstruction, you’ll be glad you rigged a trip line. But if you ever have someone else’s anchor buoy and trip line wound around your propeller, you’ll curse trip lines and all who use them. In crowded anchorages, trip lines often cause more problems than they solve. It is not unheard of for a boat to swing over its own or someone else’s anchor buoy, getting the line caught around the rudder or propeller and tripping the anchor unintentionally. If you absolutely must use a trip line, make it a long one; secure it to the anchor rode at intervals with a light, easy-to-snap string, and make it fast to one of the bow cleats. That way, the worst that can happen is that the trip line may get twisted around the anchor rode as the boat swings to a reversing current or wind shift. You may have a bit of fun sorting out the tangle when it’s time to leave, but that’s nothing compared to the joy of having your trip line wound around your own prop. P.N.

Sailhandling

A Cutter that Cuts It

For many cruisers, a cutter rig is the one that works best—so long as the staysail is cut for windward work, fairly flat with its draft well forward. A staysail also needs a good sheet lead. Sheet tracks and leads for many staysails seem to be placed more for convenience than effectiveness and often fail to take into account the staysail’s dual role.

On most cutters, the staysail is used with a larger headsail primarily when close reaching. When sheeted inside another headsail, the staysail must be trimmed more tightly than its companion, requiring a track fairly well inboard. However, when used by itself as a heavy-weather windward sail, a staysail may require a more open sheet lead, especially as few cruising boats are capable of pointing really high. At these times it is better for the track to be farther outboard.

The problem with staysails is that most are so small they are close to storm-jib size. If the inner forestay is attached to the mast at the upper spreaders, the sail may also have a short luff, and it is the luff of the sail that powers a boat to weather. For this reason, many cruisers have adopted what some call a Solent stay, which is attached to the mast and deck only a couple of feet behind the headstay. This allows for a staysail of sufficient size to power the boat upwind and in most cases does not require the running backstays used with most other cutter rigs. The downside is that you do have to change sails if you actually need a storm jib. T.J.

Words from the Wise

“When planning a cruising boat, don’t let your thinking become too colored by the giant waves and perpetual gales. For ninety-nine days out of a hundred you will be either in port or at anchor where a comfortable home is the most important factor, or at sea in light to moderate weather where a comfortable home is certainly no burden. For that one day in a hundred when the weather turns inclement and thoughts turn to chicken farms, you may curse one or two of the fittings chosen with strict regard to living comfort, but as long as your hatches are sound and you have done nothing to weaken the vessel structurally, she will do well and be quite safe.” -- Alan Lucas, Just Cruising, 1969

Contributors this month: John Coutts, Tom Cunliffe, Tom Jackson, Peter Nielsen

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