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June 2010 Cruising Tips

SEAMANSHIP: Snatch and Release If you anchor out a lot, as I do, eventually you will be in a situation where the flukes get snagged on something: a rock ledge or an abandoned cable are typical culprits. You’ll know you are hooked when you shorten up on the anchor rode and it will not break out, even when you power ahead over it. To retrieve the anchor you need to reverse
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SEAMANSHIP: Snatch and Release

If you anchor out a lot, as I do, eventually you will be in a situation where the flukes get snagged on something: a rock ledge or an abandoned cable are typical culprits. You’ll know you are hooked when you shorten up on the anchor rode and it will not break out, even when you power ahead over it. To retrieve the anchor you need to reverse the digging-in process and back the hook out the same way it went in. To do this, I use a 1/2 in nylon retrieval line and a length of chain 18in to 24in long, with links between 3/16 n and 1/4 in, formed into a loop at the end. The length of the line can vary, but a good rule of thumb is to have one at least twice the water depth.

First, slide the chain and retrieval line down to the crown of the fouled anchor and then take a gentle strain. If the rode is all-chain, make it as vertical as possible before sliding the retrieval loop down to the anchor crown. This will help keep it from getting hung up.

Always pull from the direction the wind was blowing from when you anchored. If the wind was northeast, for example, take the strain when you are heading in a northeasterly direction. For maximum maneuverability, detach the anchor rode from the boat, tie its bitter end to a good-sized docking fender and put it in the water. Never run the engine at more than half speed. Finesse rather than brute strength seems to work best. Start with the engine in gear at idle speed. If nothing happens go to quarter speed and, if necessary, half speed.

Some crews like to attach a trip line to the anchor before they set it. My view is that the freestanding retrieval line does the same thing, and avoids having multiple lines and buoys. However, if you use a fisherman’s anchor, a preset trip line might be a good idea because its stock will prevent a retrieval chain loop from moving up the shank to the crown. – Ken Textor

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COASTAL CRUISING: All in the Head

When freshwater sailors move to a saltwater environment, they quickly learn that a marine toilet, like a bowl of salad, will benefit from the application of vinegar and vegetable oil. Human waste lying in a sea toilet is basically fine in fresh water. But in saltwater, the chemistry changes, with the sodium chloride combining with urine, for example, to form a hard and brittle material inside your hoses and valves. If nothing is done, at some point these hoses will become clogged.

I learned this the hard way when I was working under the sink in the head and accidentally moved the toilet discharge hose slightly. This movement was enough to break up some of this brittle material, which then snagged some toilet paper, stopping up the works until I replaced the hose. Fortunately there’s a simple solution.

First, if you use salt water for flushing, never let human waste sit in the discharge hose. Either make sure you pump it enough to clear the hose or use fresh water for the flush. To know how many strokes you need to clear the hose, test the flow with colored vegetable dye.

Second, pump 1/3 gal of inexpensive vinegar into the bowl and discharge hose every 10 days. Let it sit in each hose section for about an hour before pumping it out again. It’s true that stronger chemicals, such as muriatic acid, will also clean the hose, but there’s always a chance they might damage parts of the toilet.

Finally, lubricate the toilet pump periodically with vegetable oil. Petroleum-based oils are no good, both for environmental reasons and because they can also damage the rubber parts in the head. Any vegetable oil is fine. No need to use an upscale olive oil!

Because the absence of toilet paper eliminates what is one of the major causes of a plugged line, some diehard cruisers do not allow any paper to be put into the toilet. Instead, it goes into a small wastebasket with a plastic grocery bag liner.

However, after that first plugging and hose replacement, by faithfully maintaining the system with oil and vinegar, I kept my toilet working flawlessly for the next 14 years, and it was still in great shape when I sold the boat to get a new one. – Rod Glover

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NAVIGATION: The Other Skipper's Shoes

If you are at sea and a larger vessel is approaching on a steady bearing and you are the give-way vessel, making a modest course change might be enough to satisfy you that there is no longer a risk of collision. If the other skipper behaves like an automaton, that usually will do nicely. Unfortunately, it’s far more likely the other skipper is sitting up there on the bridge or in the wheelhouse wondering if you’ve altered course or not.

The best way to avoid confusion is to always put yourself in the shoes of the other skipper. Once you do this you will immediately recognize that making a bigger course change than necessary will remove all questions about your intentions. In daylight, a course change of 20 or 30 degrees, followed by a steady course, should be enough to make it clear to the other skipper what you are doing. If it’s dark and you have room to do so safely, consider making a course change that is large enough to show your other sidelight. – Tom Cunliffe

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SAFETY: Smooth Pulls

Are you looking for an easy and economical alternative to the ready-made flush pulls that are used for lifting a cabin sole or a floor hatch? Go to a hardware store or chandlery and get some stainless steel (or brass) carriage bolts a couple of inches longer than the thickness of the floor panels or hatches that you want to lift. Get the same number of locking-style nuts and flat washers. A 3/8 in–diameter bolt is a good general size, and if that’s what you get, drill a 3/8 in hole where you want your lifting point to be.

Before you start to drill, make sure you have a couple of inches of clearance under the hatch or panel. Then use a countersink, or a slightly larger drill bit, to enlarge the top of the hole so it can accommodate the square boss under the head of the bolt. Put the carriage bolt through the hole and attach the washer and nut on the backside. Tighten the nut just enough to lock it on the end of the bolt, and that’s it. – Andy Deering

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