I know sailors who can sleep through 40-knot winds even though the halyards are throbbing like a string quartet. But the truth is if something on the boat is making noise, chances are that it’s either hitting or rubbing something else and that means lots of chafe and wear. A quiet boat is a chafe-free and therefore a safer boat. At night that can often mean the difference between a good night’s sleep and something else. Here are ways to minimize onboard noises.
Thumping rudder. If a boat at anchor gets kicked by a swell or wake from astern the force may be strong enough to move the rudder all the way to its stop if the wheel isn’t locked securely. Be sure the wheel lock is tight, preferably with the rudder amidships, and tie it off with a secondary line. Do the same thing if you have a tiller.
Gurgling Drain. Sink drain through-hulls often are located close to the waterline. If a boat rolls slightly, or wavelets or a wake passes along the hull, the rising water often creates a gurgle that echoes in the drain. To make sure the sound isn’t heard, put a well-fitted plug in the sink drain. At night consider closing the drain’s through-hull.
Drumming Jacklines. Remove jacklines in port to keep them from slapping on the deck in a breeze and protect them from unnecessary UV degradation.
Halyards. Whenever they are slapping they are chafing themselves, the mast and the halyard sheaves. To secure them consider adding D rings to the toggles of your shrouds (Photo 1).
Fluttering Flags. If the wind is blowing hard, lower or furl your burgees and courtesy flags. This can really reduce the noise—and keep the flags from shredding to bits.
Creaking Wood. Changes in humidity and a boat’s motion can cause wooden floor panels and other joinery to squeak. One way to stop the noise is to spray or drip a small amount of cedar oil into suspected noisy areas. The oil smells good, keeps insects away and of course stops the squeaking.
Roller furling. An external jib halyard can be a problem because often it’s not easy to keep it from slapping on the mast. One way to keep a halyard like this quiet is to tie a line to it and then run the line behind the mast to a lower shroud on the opposite side of the mast. In most cases this will pull the halyard away from the mast, get it in the lee of the mast and keep it clear of the mainsail cover (Photo 2).
Fender crush. If you are pinned to a dock by a strong crosswind, gusts and waves can cause your fenders to squeak a lot as they rub against the hull. To prevent this you can buy or make fender covers. Covering your fenders goes a long way toward solving the squeak problem. Use a soft fabric whenever possible.
Flailing Main. If the mainsail cover is not tight it can start fluttering in a good breeze. A tight fit will keep the bottom edges of the cover from flapping and keep reflected UV rays from the deck away from the sailcloth (Photo 3).
Grinding ground tackle. To minimize this noise, use a strong flexible bridle or a snubber. A snubber not only absorbs shock loads from an anchor rode; it also helps dampen the rattle, or grating, of the anchor chain as it moves over a rocky seabed. Wrap soft fabric around all lines that pass through a chock or go over the deck edge. Not only will the fabric help protect the paint, it will also help eliminate squeaks.
Banging Boom. To keep the boom from swinging back and forth in port, tie or hook one end of a line to the end of the boom and then take the other end to the end of the traveler, a cleat, a winch or the toerail, and take up on the line. This harbor sheet will quiet things down and prevent undue stresses on mainsheet blocks (Photo 4).
Clinking Bottles. A collection of old socks is great for keeping wine bottles quiet and well protected. Cut off the toes, then slide the sock down the outside of the bottle until it covers the widest part.
Once you think you’ve found all the noises aboard, go into the guest cabin and spend some time there. Don’t be surprised if you hear some new sounds. Once you have taken care of those, your guests will benefit from a good night’s sleep. And your deck gear will last longer too.