Tradewinds Checkouts

We require our members to be “Checked Out” on every boat before they can reserve it. Some may view it as an extra chore or hurdle that is time consuming and annoying, but there are several reasons we do checkouts and several reasons that members benefit from us doing them the way we do. Here’s a list for you to ponder:

  1. Checkouts are FREE CLASSES! Only for members of course, but you get to spend 2 hours with an instructor, learning about boat systems and practicing some close quarters maneuvering and boat handling!
  2. Checkouts make you practice skills that you don’t always practice when you go sailing.
  3. Checkouts allow us to run the place with only two people on weekends! They make our members more self-sufficient and reduce the number of Saturday morning calls about boat systems as everyone is getting ready to leave. Reducing weekend staff keeps the cost down and is part of what allows us to continue to offer unlimited sailing plans to our members.
  4. Checkouts allow us to keep track of our members skill levels. By spending a couple of hours with each member each time they do a checkout, we get to evaluate ourselves and see how training is progressing.

Here are some tips for you, to make sure are getting the most out of checkouts (and that we are, too!):

  1. TAKE NOTES! We are constantly fielding phone calls asking whether a specific boat has a chart plotter, a bimini, a dodger, a BBQ, etc. If you have notes about each boat you’ve checked out on, you’ll have these answers on hand, even when we are closed and you have no one to ask!
  2. Print out the boat diagrams before you come to the checkout – or at least download them to your mobile device. They are all available on the members message board under “Technique/Boat Info”. If you print them, you can use them to take notes as well!
  3. Show up on time! There are other members in the checkout and you are taking up their time, not just your own, by being late or being in a hurry to leave.
  4. Check out on every boat you can – whether you think you want to sail it or whether it is in your fleet or not. Being checked out on more boats will make more last minute availability for you and give us more options when a boat is not working. It may mean the difference between getting out on the water or having to cancel.

Get checked out!

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Whales In The Bay

I don’t like whales. I mean … I love them, but I really don’t like them.  I am trying to remember the last time I took a class, or non sailing friends to the area around the Golden Gate Bridge where someone didn’t express a hope that they would see whales on the trip, and every time I hear it, I hear myself saying, “please, no whales.”  After one close encounter, and one “oh s***, what was that?” I much prefer whales at a distance rather than up close and personal.

The last few years have seen a dramatic increase in the number of whales seen east of the Golden Gate Bridge, which depending on how you look at it may be a blessing or a curse.  I love the fact that the health of the bay has improved to such a point that wildlife viewing events that were rare fifteen years ago are common place today.  Sadly, anytime you mix wildlife with human activities, problems are bound to happen.  Whales are an excellent example.  Here are a few rules designed to help keep you and these magnificent animals safe.

  1. Be alert and avoid disturbing whales.
  2. Never approach closer than 100 yards.
  3. If you don’t have a choice, and find a whale has surfaced closer than 100 yards, start looking for a way to exit the area. “Let’s get closer and take a look,” is not the right choice.
  4. Do not maintain a course that will take you across the path of a whale.  However, try to avoid erratic course changes and speed adjustments.
  5. DO NOT get between two whales, especially if one of them is little and the other is big!
  6. Do make some noise.  A boat under sail is very quiet.  Both close calls I had with whales happened while under sail.  I personally think a whale can hear a prop turning under power, and they tend to stay a bit further away.  If you see whales surfacing nearby, start the motor and get the prop turning.  You might also grab a winch handle and start tapping the deck.

Something else to consider doing is advising the Coast Guard (specifically Vessel Traffic Services) that there are whales actively feeding inside the bay.  Please do not notify the Coast Guard using VHF channel 16.  It works, however, it will also get every dingbat in a 2 mile radius headed that way.  My favorite example of this is the time someone made a whale report using channel 16.  This lead a “good Samaritan” in a power boat to come to where the whales were feeding, and then proceed to spend the next hour following them around, chasing away every boater that got “too close,” and chastising everyone listening on 16 about how everyone needed to leave the whales alone. The irony of course is that he was the only one acting in a inappropriate manner.  The Coast Guard eventually had to send a patrol boat to “escort” the good Samaritan away.  Instead, call the report in on Channel 14, the channel used by the Vessel Traffic Services group within the Coast Guard to control large vessel and passenger vessel service on the bay.  Be professional.  Wait for a break in radio traffic and make the hail by saying “Vessel Traffic Services this is the sailing vessel …”  When they respond, make the report, and provide as accurate a location as possible.  Simply saying that there are whales in the bay doesn’t work, tell them where.

In closing,  no, the whales are not watching out for you.  You need to watch out for them.  You are not even a speck on their “radar”.  They spend their entire life diving and surfacing, and never coming up under a boat, until 0300 hours a little north of Monterrey when the boat I was on was physically lifted into the air several feet, and rotated nearly 90 degrees, by what I suspect was a whale surfacing under me.  No, I have no proof, I never saw or heard anything, however, nothing else makes sense.  Give these magnificent and very large animals some space, and I promise, you will enjoy your encounters every bit as much as if you are right there.

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Skipper Tip, Lee Shores

“Lee Shore” is a term you learn in your very first ASA course, Basic Keel Boat. How often do we really think about our relationship to a lee shore when we are out sailing? Inexperienced sailors in particular should try to be very aware of lee shores and obstacles. More experienced sailors have probably already made a mistake or had a mishap in their past that will keep them well clear.

Always give yourself an out. Look ahead at where you will be and think, “What’s going to happen if I am in that spot and I lose engine power or miss a tack?” If you miss that critical tack and are now drifting downwind, how much room do you have before you encounter an obstacle or run aground? Sailing close to large lee obstacles such as tall buildings or moored Victory-Ships can also do strange things to your wind and actually assist in the missed tack!

Don’t learn the hard way, learn from those who have had the close calls before you! If you have a choice, take the upwind side of the channel, marina entrance, and especially sail upwind of this…


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Skipper’s Tip, Reefing Underway

Reefing Underway

With the summer winds starting to blow, we thought we’d touch upon this very important subject. Allowing the sails to flog for extended periods greatly shortens sail life and leads to torn batten pockets and lost or broken battens. The noise & perceived confusion during the evolution can also lead to the fraying of other things, such as tempers & patience! We recommend practicing at the dock or in an upwind slip before you head out so shorten the time that reefing underway will take and get your crew pre-trained before you need to reef out on the bay. Before you start, take a look at all of the lines that will be needed and prepare them so that they will run free and not tangle with each-other. A well-practiced crew should be able to reef down in less than a couple of minutes if all lines are prepared before starting. Follow these steps to keep things running smoothly:

  1. Prepare all lines & assign crew-member duties.
  2. Bring the jib in tight and put yourself on a close-haul – not head-to-wind (It’s amazing how often we ask people about reefing and the first thing they tell us is “Go head to wind”. Never give up control of your boat to the elements if you can avoid it). If your reefing lines are on the boom, pay attention to which side they are on. Sometimes it is easier to reef a boat on a particular tack so that you have access to all of the lines.
  3. Pay out the main-sheet until there is no pressure on the mainsail. Most boats will try to head down at this point, so make sure the helmsman is expecting it and holds a course as close to close-hauled as possible.
  4. Check the topping lift! Always inspect the topping lift before you release the halyard.
  5. Lower the main halyard while tightening the tack reef line – or if the boat has dog-bones and hooks, lower the halyard enough to hook the tack at the desired reef point. On boats with single-line reefing systems, it often helps to pay out the halyard as you pull in the reef line.
  6. Tighten your main halyard.
  7. Pull in the clew reef line. Don’t forget to make sure the boom vang & main sheet are loose enough to allow the boom to move up to the sail. Remember you are not lowering the sail at this point, but raising the boom!
  8. Haul on the main-sheet and you are back under-way with a reefed main.

If you have a skipper’s tip to share or have a particular subject that you’d like us to write one about, please forward it to!

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On Teaching Sailing

“True teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross; then, having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create their own.”
Nikos Kazantzakis

So, we all go to school as part of socializing into civilized life and maybe we learn something.  We continue to possibly go to university or trade school, and, often with tension, in hope of a future job in mind, and some of us like schooling and only a few truly find a love from the learning, at least from what I see, having been a university teacher for most of my life.  Besides teaching, I personally do have a maritime history behind me and have been sailing for some time now, so I thought I would transfer my skills to teaching sailing, of which I do now at Tradewinds, and these are some reflections on the teaching of sailing based on my first class which just recently happened.

I have had many wonderful times teaching English and Interdisciplinary Studies and I do have a love for the profession, but teaching sailing is much on a different level.  Yes, one has to get across information and technique but something more goes on beyond any traditional classroom.  Teacher and student are with each other for the duration of the class: in a classroom setting, on a boat moving and sailing away from the comforts of land (sometimes in heavy winds), taking lunch together, chatting about life while always keeping in mind lessons in sail trim, docking and undocking the boat, learning rules of the road, operating the engine, talking about aids to navigation, and it goes on.  In other words, much is happening and at every moment the teacher needs to be alert while imbuing this sense of alertness to the students.  The student is learning a new language, new bodily motor skills, and new awareness not found on land.  As for the first-time instructor, like myself, I am also learning the language of teaching sailing.  It is possible that I am learning more than my students are learning from me.

Other than all of what goes on, what makes teaching sailing very different is that students come not out of necessity but out of love (mostly)—for the sea, for the challenge, for an elixir from the tensions on land, for therapeutic purposes, or for the purpose to escape demanding purposes.  Rarely, if ever, does one come to achieve a better career or get a job; this is not what it is all about.  It is more often to escape the job.  There are statistics to say that most people do not like their jobs, so coming to sailing is like going to a different world, as a child visits Disneyland.  Of course, a thirty-knot wind is not very Disney-like, nor are fifteen-foot swells, but now we are getting existential and entering the sublime.  I mention this in that sailing is so much more than going with the winds; it is a way of life with much growth that continues for the duration of life, and the new student learns little by little, but the first steps are the basic classes, in particular Basic Keelboat.

From my observation, the BKB class is when the student discovers the dharma within, meaning duty to one’s inner self in relation to the sea and the sea is a magnet for us all, from where we all came.  Let me give you a parable to how this comes to mean:

A person is observing a sage sitting by the running water.  This person observes that a scorpion fell into the water from a hanging branch.  The sage picks up the scorpion and places it on the ground and then the scorpion stings the sage.  The same scorpion climbs the same branch and falls in the water again.  The same sage picks up the scorpion from the water and, again, the scorpion stings.  The observer asks the sage why pick up the scorpion again after it stings you.  The sage replies that it is the dharma of the scorpion to sting and it is the dharma of the human to save.

            Without a doubt, the students I taught all had that inner duty to sail and connect with the wind.  Something other than the cognitive mind lured them to sailing.  Though mistakes were made their journey with the sea began and I feel blessed that I was there to help them.  They were one-hundred percent there but sometimes they would drift off to an imagined future of advanced sailing and my job was to bring them back to present reality, meaning you need to tack, and now.

At the end of each of the three days I felt an elation from not so much being a good teacher but rather being able to take part of it all while learning myself.  After that class, I felt myself a better sailor as I believe they did.  We all learn from each other and when this happens we begin to play, which is a form of learning.  Children learn from their play.  As soon as they stop playing they cease to learn.  We should never give up the element of childlike play.  When that happens, we cease to progress in life.  More, each movement they made was a movement for learning better sailing and with each movement it was lesson for the teacher.  Though I am a new teacher I am sure that most other teachers out there continue to learn, no matter how advanced they may be.

As a teacher I consider myself lucky, and here I will give credit to Tradewinds, a true place of learning.  First let me make note that prior to teaching sailing, one must have a Coast Guard Captain’s License and then get certification as a teacher in the American Sailing Association.  Once Tradewinds hires you, the trainee must first shadow a class, and one is able to do this as many times as needed, but more, on my actual first class being taught a seasoned teacher went along as a mentor; this is for all new teachers and this is very important.  Such a sequence puts focus on the Student/Teacher relationship on a high level bringing forth understanding more than distance.  One’s mistakes will be seen and correction can be made, and is it not through mistakes that we learn?  Any good teacher will have to admit that teaching is a learning process and I would imagine for the mentor it is also a learning process.  To have an experienced instructor along is to allow the newer instructor to be more relaxed.  The mentor also takes note of the many nuances that need correction.  For me it was time management; there is much to cover and one has to move on and not linger on one or two maneuvers.

Of course, I noticed, as it was pointed out, that I was not always using proper ASA language.  When one gets used to sailing steady with a crew, one often uses a private language.  It is so important to use the correct terminology for the sake of proper and efficient communications.  Another flaw was that I was not always speaking loud enough with the wind and sometimes the student did not hear me.  This was an awakening in that I am used to carrying my voice in large spaces, but maybe I was speaking more into the wind rather than the student’s face.

So, what did I do well?  I did get intricate on how to properly tack and jibe and tried to instruct the best I could a COB, but time was running short.  We also sat around after the three days and discussed what could be improved in all ways, including the instruction.  The feeling was positive but corrections were put forth in a very constructive way.  Will they perform a perfect COB in the next class?  Maybe yes, because the students will work together prior to that next class.  When studying something new, one needs discourse along with instruction.  I prompted them to continue to sail together and after the class they all agreed.  As a team they have the same points-of-reference and will reflect off each other via Tradewinds which always has some kind of discourse for learning sailing.  The students are signing up as members and any teacher who gets them will have a good class.  I await my next class.

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Downwind Slip Skipper’s Tip!

Got the blues leaving the downwind slips?

With the onset of summer and the steady winds, we’ve seen a few close calls in the fairway. This looks like a great time to publish a docking skipper’s tip!

When backing out of a downwind slip (wind is blowing into the slip), our Tradewinds acronym L.O.T. is absolutely critical.

Location – should be the far side of the fairway from your slip – as far upwind from the slip as you can safely be.

Orientation – the boat should be as close to perpendicular to the slip (bow is pointed down the fairway) as possible before we make our…

Transition – transition to forward motion (motion, not gear – the gear change happens while we are still moving backward, and we need to remember to steer based on the direction of motion, not the gear we are in!) should be accomplished with enough forward throttle and rudder adjustment to keep the boat pointed in the right direction. Stronger wind will require more throttle and/or rudder to accomplish this, while in light winds we can use very little of either and do fine.

Here are some diagrams to help with the explanation (click them for a larger view):

In this image, our Location is great – the safer, upwind side of the fairway. Unfortunately, our Orientation is not good (our bow is pointed at the docks). Since our boat steers from the stern, we can’t get our bow around before the wind takes us back to the other side of the fairway and into the docks. If we find ourself in position 3 above, we should consider driving back into the slip and starting over rather than trying to make the difficult Transition and turn against the wind forcing our bow down. In this image, our Orientation is good (bow pointed in the right direction), but we’ve already made a large mistake in our Location (the downwind side of the fairway). Making the Transition from postion 3 is a bad idea and will result in being blown back into the docks. If we are in this position, the safest way to attempt recovery is to continue to back with enough speed to steer to the upwind side of the fairway in reverse before making our Transition to forward motion. In this example, we are Located on the safe, upwind side of the fairway, our Orientation is in the correct direction, perpendicular to the docks (bow pointed down the fairway), and we have plenty of room and time to make a smooth Transition to forward motion and exit the docks. Well done!
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Being Underway: Advancement to Basics

So here we look at the basics of being underway and what to do even prior to raising the sail but let us first look at what is meant by basics.  To revert to the basics is to not only reflect on the foundations of what you are doing but also become a little humble, and we all need to be humbler in this hyper-intense world.  If we do not practice the foundations of the sailing that we do, we then lose touch.  More, to ignore the basics is to possibly develop a belligerent attitude of “I know what I am doing and my way has always worked.”  Such an attitude is not conducive to learning, and the wise person is always open to learning.  A belligerent attitude can actually be dangerous for sailing a boat.  In a way, to be aware of the basics is to have continual correction in that it opens up new ways of improving skills, and this is not just for sailing but for any aspect of life.


Tradewinds always stresses the basics in whatever one does and even suggests taking courses, such as docking, more than once.  The special aspect of being a member of Tradewinds is that a person can pay one fee and sail every day of the month on any of the boats and only with practice do we get better, especially while keeping the basics in mind.  So here is a scenario:

A long-time member, who started with the smaller Capris, has been sailing larger boats for some time.  This same person will often say in conversation that s/he has not sailed the Capris for some time and that maybe has even forgotten how to start the engine.  Actually, this person might even brag of not going back to the basics.


From my point of view, anyone who wants to continually improve skills needs to take out these Capris every few months to make corrections in obvious flaws, and we all have flaws no matter how good we think we are.  More, by sailing these smaller boats it will make you better on the larger boats in that wind awareness, currents, tides, etc. are more pronounced in that you are closer to the water with not such a powerful engine.


So back to leaving the dock, one truly needs to know the force and direction of the wind well before raising the sail.  Always have wind awareness.  You might be leaving while being close to another vessel to the leeward, and that could mean a rub or even crash.  In leaving a berth with the larger boats that have much freeboard there is always a danger of being blown to the other side of the fairway or even to the same side that you left.  Such a basic is often forgotten by many, just as many of us forget to lock the house prior to leaving or forgetting to turn off the stove.  Also, with any kind of docking or departing one must relax, and this does not mean slouching.  To relax is to see one’s whole surroundings and it is what I call part of the moving meditative form of sailing, of which I would like to write about another time.


Along with the wind, one needs to know the direction and strength of the currents and when is low and high tide.  Do check the tide book or better, have someone come on board prepared with the various currents in different places throughout the bay at the different times.  If you are sailing with a steady crew, such could be one of the jobs giving purpose.  When sailing each crew member must have purpose; it makes a crew stronger and better at sailing as well as creates good discourse.  Having such a purpose as knowing the tides and currents leads to conversation and that person becomes a kind of quartermaster, always letting the crew know what direction and force the water is moving.  The new sailor gains much from talk of better sailing.  Of course, the skipper needs to be well aware of this but another mind at work can only enhance the sail, and the skipper might learn something as well.


Now speaking of purpose, at all times there needs to be a lookout.  Even when all seems smooth, the bay always has surprises, such as flotsam and jetsam.  Basically, flotsam is debris in the water that was not deliberately thrown overboard, often as a result from a shipwreck or accident. Jetsam describes debris that was deliberately thrown overboard by crew of another boat.  Either/or, it is all debris that can cause damage to the boat.  The purpose of a lookout is most important as there is so much movement on the water at all times.  A good lookout sees the boat being set towards an oncoming buoy or sees that tanker, though far away, which is travelling at fifteen knots.  What looks like safe distance can be an illusion.  Also, the lookout starts as soon as the boat leaves the dock maybe letting the helmsperson know when the bow is clear.


Another basic is awareness of lines, to see if any lines are hanging off the boat or are about to fall.  Quite often the jib furling line is loosely wrapped around the stern pulpit; it can fall off and catch on the prop, thus danger.  A good idea is to get all lines that will be used for raising the sail ready prior to leaving the dock.  One never knows when these lines will need to be used in an emergency.  It is for this reason that we attach the halyard to the head of the sail prior to leaving the dock, while putting it under one of the closer sail ties, so that the sail can be released at a moment’s notice.  An awareness that is most important is to not leave lines tangled on deck.  One can trip, or worse, get a foot caught in a tangle.  A good habit is to secure the lines to be ready but off the deck, and this includes the jib sheet.


There are many things to be aware on board, one being to keep fingers away from lines wrapped around a winch.  When raising sails keep the bottom part of the hand above the winch when wrapping it around and stir the line clockwise around as if you are stirring soup or stew.  Fingers can be lost, especially when the sails are full; there is much pressure.  Another good idea is to take off rings and jewelry when working with lines, and that even goes for a watch.  You will be surprised what gets caught on what.


So, what I have for the basics prior to putting up sail are:

  • to know the force and direction of the wind.
  • there needs to be a lookout.
  • awareness of lines.
  • to keep fingers away from lines wrapped around a winch.


That the number four is not the best, especially if you understand the significance of the number in Chinese, I am going to give a fifth one and that is do not rush when setting up the boat and the same for when putting it away.  Get to the boat early and just look at it all and do your check with ease rather than might so that the obvious does not escape you.  This is also the same when putting the boat away.  Sometimes it is good, if you are the skipper, to let your crew leave, after helping you secure the boat, and just stay with the boat on your own sans any distractions.  In other words, be most reflective and you might find a balance, which is what sailing is all about.  Again, I welcome any comments on something that I missed or a correction on anything I have written.  Life is but a learning process, and this is especially true with sailing.

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Get a Knife! Keep it Ready!

I’ve only been sailing for about 20 percent of my life.  Not much when you think about it.  I was actually a late comer into the sport.  However, one thing I have learned is the importance of having a knife available within easy reach.  I think the most important lesson I’ve learned is that when you need a knife, you need it now, not a “let me get a knife from below” amount of time, but now … and lives may depend on it.  In one case that comes immediately to mind, somehow a line got wrapped around someones upper leg.  No one really knows how.  Unfortunately that line was under a lot of pressure, and the leg was at risk.  Some quick work cutting the line with an available knife relieved the pressure, but not before enough damage was done to a blood vessel in the leg that surgery was required.  I can only imagine what might have happened after a minute or two of pressure.  Enough of the scare tactics.  Its time to move on to what I believe makes a good knife.

Much of this tip is my own personal opinion, however, based on the research into the topic I have conducted, it’s supported by most of the experts in the sailing community.

I never step on a boat without at least one knife on my person.  Generally, two or three of them.  Why? Because there is no such thing as the perfect all round knife good for everything.  The knife that is perfect for safety cutting a line on a pitching deck is going to be less than perfect at removing that same line from around a propeller shaft, and will fail dismally at cleaning that fish you just caught for dinner or for buttering your bread for dinner (I know, not an emergency, and you have time to look for a better option.)

There are two basic types of knives.  Folding knives and fixed blade knives.  Everyone has there own opinion of which is best.  For a variety of reasons, folding knives are the more popular.  Not necessarily better, but more popular.  For example, 4 inch blade on a folding knife fits in a 4 1/2 inch package.  4 inches on a fixed blade comes with a 4 inch handle, nearly doubling it size. On the other hand, a 4 inch fixed blade worn on the hip can be deployed in a matter of a second or two using either hand, whereas a folding blade knife generally needs to be fished from a pocket and then opened, often requiring two hands.  Once you have decided on folding vs. fixed, the following features can be found in both varieties.

  • Get a 3 or 4 inch bladed knife.
  • Except in the case of cleaning a fish, a sailors knife should never have a sharp point.  Blunt, rounded or even squared off points are best.  Even the thought of a pointy knife on a boat scares me.  If you have ever lost your balance on a pitching boat and fallen into the person next to you, you can understand why.
  • A knife used to cut today’s modern lines pretty much needs to have a serrated blade.  A smooth blade, no matter how sharp, tends to slide back and forth on the line instead of cutting through it.  Many knives try to get the benefits of a serrated edged and a smooth edged blade by making it half of each.  Its a compromise and never really works as well for either set of circumstances as it might.
  • It should be heavy duty.  A light knife has it’s place, but a sailors knife needs to do heavy work during times that breakage is not an option.
  • There should be a hole in the end, or a built in shackle, to attach a lanyard.  If you drop it, you don’t want it to go far.
  • A handle that won’t slip and is hefty enough not twist in your hand in use.
  • Stainless steel.  For two reasons.  It doesn’t rust as readily, and, it isn’t magnetic.  Rust is pretty self explanatory, but why non-magnetic?  I still laugh when I think of the class I was teaching how to take a bearing with a “hockey puck” style compass.  I could not get the same reading as anybody else, by about 10 degrees.  Turns out the new knife in my PFD pocket was not as stainless as I thought and was deflecting the compass needle.  Last time I used that knife.
  • A blade that locks securely in place.  I still have the scar I got in the 7th grade when a knife folded up on me while I was using it.
  • This final item is not really a feature, more of a fact.  It must be maintained well, and kept sharp.  I believe a dull knife is more dangerous than a sharp one.  One of the other instructors needed to cut a line one day and I was handy with my knife.  He was braced for a hard pull to get the knife through the line and was shocked when it cut as easily as it did.  His response “Wow … you could have warned me it was that sharp”.  Here is your warning.  My knife is sharp.

My own personal choices in sailing knives.  I always have two on me.  Even though I personally feel a fixed blade knife is better, both knives I carry are folding.  The one in my outside pants pocket is shown below, both open and closed.  As you can see it includes a blade and a fid, as well as a tool to help open shackles.   If you look closely, the blade is only serrated about half its length, which makes it less than optimal for cutting line,

which is why the second knife I always carry, secured to my PFD by a lanyard, is a light weight, folding, knife with a 4 inch blade that is serrated it’s entire length, and only used to cut line.   I couldn’t show a picture of the actually knife because it never leaves the pocket of my PFD, which is currently on my boat and  I’m not, however this is a photo of the same type taken from the West Marine website.

So why don’t I carry that fixed blade knife I was saying I prefer?  Legalities.  I’ve said it before, and will probably say it again.  I’m not an attorney, just a sailor, so please do not construe this as legal advice.  If you want legal advice, talk to an expert.  With that said, there are exceptions, however, generally it is lawful in the State of California to have a folding blade knife in your pocket.  A fixed blade knife, regardless of the size, is NOT legal in the State of California if it is concealed in any way.  It then meets the definition of a concealed dirk or dagger and is considered by law enforcement to be a felony.  An acquaintance of mine had a knife custom made for herself.  A fixed blade knife designed to be worn in a sheath hanging around the neck.  I’ve seen it.  It is beautiful.  In my opinion, the perfect sailors knife.  All of the good features I listed aboved, except that it hangs around the neck, and anything hanging around a sailors neck is one jib sheet away from becoming a noose.  To use the knife safety, she wears it under her PFD, thereby controlling it, and unfortunately, concealing it.  In her case, it’s not a problem.  She lives and sails in a different state that doesn’t have the same laws.  For her, it’s the perfect knife.  For me, I don’t want to take a chance on accidentally covering it up with my PFD or my foul weather gear and running into a problem.  So, as a compromise, I stick with folding blades and carry two of them.  Always ready in the event of an emergency.

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Before Leaving the Dock: Advancement to Basics

Let me start off by speaking of a different kind of discipline than sailing, the martial arts.  In many schools the way one advances is by demonstrating the basics, and it does not matter how high up one is.  In karate it could be the basic movements and katas or in tai chi it is the first movement that encompasses all movements.  More than just martial arts, the basics are the foundation of whatever one does.  If you are in finance, you cannot get away without knowing basic math and if you are a writer, then grammar is your basis.  To take this even further, to be social in a positive way is to have basic manners, which gives one substance; such is called being civilized.  Sailing is no different and, as a new teacher to sailing myself, I am writing about this so it is more engrained in my own mind.  Though much of this might sound trite, it all carries over to the more advanced, and sadly, many of the advanced sailors seem to forget the basics.  The smallest is often the largest.  In sailing there is nothing functional that is trite and Tradewinds well keep us all vigilant to this.


Without a doubt, stepping on and off a boat properly is basic to all who are to be on that boat, just as there is a proper way to enter someone’s house; one does not just walk in without ringing the bell or knocking.  If one is to board any boat, permission needs to be asked.  Of course, the skipper with whom you are sailing will say come on board, (hopefully) but maybe a hatch is open or something is slippery on deck; thus, the skipper might say just wait a little.  The real reason for announcing yourself each time you get on or off the vessel by saying “stepping aboard” or “stepping off” is that the boat may rock and someone on board might be caught off-guard and get hurt.


If permission is given or when one is announcing to come aboard, one then holds the shroud, say on a Capri, puts one foot on the deck before the lifeline then the other foot, followed by then putting one foot at a time over the lifeline onto the deck, all while holding on.  Very advanced sailors, forgetting the basics, stumble over lifelines often by doing it wrongly, and if there is a slip, one’s head could crack against a winch.  We can never forget the basics.  It is analogous to the statistic that most people receive great injuries not so much at work but at home.  In this context the boat is home, but we can never get too comfortable, even before departing from the dock.  Also, if there is luggage of any sort, pass it to someone on board rather than doing a balancing act at the edge of a boat.


Once on the boat, then watch for any lines and do not step on them.  Of course, this is a very good habit to have, especially when underway, but even in port, one may be attaching the halyard to the main sheet and the strained line under foot could make it difficult, if not trip someone.  When underway this is utterly important and it is mandatory that all lines be coiled or secured that they are not on the deck.  This may sound simple but such carelessness could cause great injury, if not flipping someone overboard.  Also, lines can fall over and get tangled in a propeller, so do practice being vigilant.


Once on the boat, it is always necessary to have one hand securing yourself to the boat, and this is so even at the dock.  Moving around a boat can be hazardous and maybe someone got on the boat without warning.  Accidents do occur and most accidents are called accidents because they could have been prevented.  In this life we always have to have one hand on earth, metaphorically speaking.  I know many of us can see those who have lost their grip. On life.


We are so used to engines that we do not pay attention to the machine that transports us.  For example, how many of us actually put on the auto seat belt prior to starting the car, which is the way it should go?  So, when starting an outboard engine on a boat, we all need to be aware of anyone standing to our back and maybe in the way, by which we could hit them with our snapping arm.  In any aspect of life, take note to those around us.   Also make sure the engine works prior to departing.  A good idea is to start the engine well before getting the boat ready in that if the engine does not work, then you did not waste time getting the boat ready.  Also, when starting an inboard engine, make sure you are in neutral and see if there might be any lines near the prop.


When it comes to departure, prior to leaving the dock, all crew need to be on the boat and not jumping on after the lines have been released.  A person rarely lets the child just jump out of the house but rather eases them out with a connecting line. Of course, this is also the case when it comes to docking as well, but docking is a separate subject that needs to be addressed by itself.  Basically, wrap the line from the boat’s cleat to the dock cleat and back again and release as the boat departs.  I will say that Tradewinds, maybe more than most, has a strong focus on docking and will much give anyone who shows interest, methods to always dock well.  I highly suggest taking one or more of the docking classes offered; they are invaluable.  I believe most accidents happen during docking.  As a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary who works as crew, I often see bad docking as far as jumping on the boat when coming in or departing.  I believe Tradewinds has trained me well, allowing me to notice many flaws.


If any have read this far, you are probably good at docking in that you have patience, something needed for not just good docking but life itself.  For me the basics for pre-departure are:


  • stepping on and off a boat properly
  • watching for any lines and not stepping on them
  • always have one hand securing yourself to the boat
  • when starting an outboard engine on a boat, we all need to be aware of anyone standing to our back
  • all crew need to be on the boat and not jumping on after the lines have been released.


Again, for me this writing is a learning experience and I would look forward to any suggestions as to what are the basics for you before leaving the dock.  Also, I would look forward to any who can give me correction in my own thinking.  The more discourse we all have the more we learn and come to better understand the complexity of sailing.

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Today is One of the Best Days of the Year!

Why?  Today, March 22. is the first day of Spring 2018.  Right now, it is 7:00 AM pacific time.  As I write, the sun is rapidly approaching the equator, and will cross into the northern hemisphere at 9:15 AM, less than two hours away.  Which means for the next six months we will have more sun than dark, more warmth than cold, and on San Francisco Bay those glorious 25 knots winds we are famous for!  To celebrate spring, one month from today is “Opening Day on the Bay.”  If you are not ready now,  it is time to get ready.  Here are a few tips.

First, get out your gear bag.  If you are like me, items tend to migrate to other places during the winter.  Even though I sail all winter, I use different gear, and my “normal” sailing gear gets displaced.  Gather all those miscellaneous sailing items up and get them back to their proper occasions.  While you are at it, check your gear over.

Is it time to replace the gloves?  While a pair of gloves in tatters may be a sign of a full season last year, they are pretty much useless.  Protect your hands.

Check your PFD(s)!  All PFDs need to be checked regularly … the inflatables types even more so.  Check and/or replace the CO2 cartridge.  A few years back, I experienced the plastic collar on the CO2 cartridge breaking off.  It would no longer mount properly in the mechanism, meaning it would not fire off if I needed it.  Last year, while I was doing my annual PFD check, I discovered one PFD was totally missing the CO2 cartridge.  Took a few seconds to remember that TSA in Cabo had confiscated it while I was boarding a plane returning from the BaJa HaHa.  Check the auto inflate trigger.  Is it working properly?  Does it have a “pill” that dissolves.  If so, replace it, even if it still looks good.  Check for wear and tear (like the seam stitching).  Even the old fashioned “foamy” type of PFDs wear out.

Are your electronic devices working properly.  I had a remote microphone on my handheld VHF radio for a long time.  During my annual equipment check this year (I did mine in January, because that was when I taught my first class of the year), I realized that over the winter the microphone pickup was no longer working.  I personally use a smart phone for back up navigation.  I have an app on the phone that uses the phones GPS to function as a small chart plotter.  The app I use allows me to upload actual NOAA charts.  Because of the classes I teach, I know that I will be using four different charts over the course of the year (Entrance to San Francisco Bay, Gulf of the Farallones, Half Moon Bay, and Drakes Bay).  Every year, I remove the old version from my phone, and install the most recent version.  Stuff changes, and I want my charts to be as current as possible.

While on the topic of charts, it is a really good idea to have your primary sailing area chart in paper form.  For most of us, that would be 18649, Entrance to San Francisco Bay.  I don’t recommend just going into a marine store and picking one up, it could be years out of date.  Get a “print on demand” version.  Unfortunately, they are pricey, but, worth the cost in my opinion.  On the other hand, Tradewinds picked up a large supply of print on demand charts, and because of volume discounts is offering them to members at less than the price of non print on demand one.  The supply is limited, so if you want one do it now.

Is it time to acquire a new piece of gear (please don’t tell your significant other I told you that.)  It may be as simple as some knee pads because your knees are another year older, or as extravagant as Personal Locator Device because you are planning some time outside the Golden Gate.

Getting off the topic of gear, is it time to take your sailing to the next level?  If you are a Basic Keelboat graduate, is it time to step up to inboard motors and larger sailing area?  Are you feeling “confined in the shadow of Angel Island?”  Bareboat Cruising might be the ticket.  Docking skills rusty?  I highly recommend taking or retaking Advanced Docking.  That’s a class you could repeat every year and still get good stuff out of it, especially if you get different instructors each time.  Maybe its time to step up from crew to Captain by taking Basic Keelboat.  Here is a list of options being offered between now and Opening Day.

  • Basic Keelboat … there are ten different classes graduating between now and April 22.
  • Basic Coastal Cruising … four classes.  One in March, three in April.
  • Bareboat Cruising … you are a bit more limited.  Not that we aren’t offering just as many class, its that they are filling rapidly.  There is one class, with only one opening between now and then.  But … there is a lot of availability during the summer.
  • Advanced Docking … two options before opening day.
  • Advanced Anchoring … yes, we even have an advanced anchoring class available.  Take the class, then book a boat for Saturday April 21 and Sunday April 22.  Sail all day on Saturday, anchor out in Richardson Bay (or any of a number of other great locations) Saturday night, then participate in the Opening Day activities on Sunday.
  • Boat checkouts … Maybe you are qualified to anchor out overnight, but not certified in that one certain boat that would be “best” for your needs to anchor out.  We have 26 boat checkouts scheduled over the upcoming 31 days.
  • To get the exact dates of these, and everything else scheduled for 2018, use this link:  Tradewinds Course Schedule

So, what is the tip in all of this?

Plan some days on the water, prepare your equipment, improve your skills, and most important start getting out there and enjoying what is, in my opinion, the number 1 sailing venue in the world!


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