Sailing Knots vs. Non-Sailing Knots!

Ever wonder why certain knots are part of the curriculum and certain knots are left out? Perhaps you know some rescue knots or construction knots that sailors don’t use? Maybe you are good at tying things up and just make up your own knots!

It’s actually important to stick to the knots that we teach and use them in the ways that they are intended. We had a great example of this last week when a member found a knot he couldn’t untie in one of our new dock lines. Since he couldn’t get the knot out (a loop in the end of the line), he used it to dock the boat at Pier 1-1/2, where there is generally a surge. When he returned tot he boat, he found the line broken at the knot and the stern no longer attached to the dock. Luckily, he had used two spring lines as well as the two breast lines to tie up, and no other damage resulted.

Here’s a photo of the line that broke:

And the method used to make this loop was an overhand knot like so:

What’s the problem with this knot and the resulting loop? There are two main problems here.

One – Once tension has been put in this knot, it is almost impossible to untie. This makes the line unusable for any other purpose that doesn’t require a loop in the end.

And Two – and this is the most important – tension on this knot causes it to constrict onto the line and weaken it. This is what caused the line to break when tied to a dock with movement.

A simple bowline makes a great loop, doesn’t weaken the line, and is easy to untie even after it has had a lot of force applied to it.

Know your knots, and use the knots that are taught in sailing classes for sailing purposes!

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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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I Love Classes That Make You Think! Part II

We left the previous installment of I Love Classes That Make You Think! wondering how long one needs to run the motor in order to recharge batteries that have been in use while at anchor.  That actually brings up a whole other topic.  Calculating electrical consumption, battery capacities, and battery charging.  Sadly, I’m not enough of an expert to turn this into a true technical discussion, so this tip includes a few assumptions and is more of a layperson’s guide to battery usage and charging while at anchor and on charter.

Personally, I believe the first things you need to know are how many batteries, what are their sizes, and how is the system set up.  The only way to get this information on a charter is to ask the charter company.  Then, double check what you have been told.  In Part I, we ended the tip while on a 42′ Catalina during a two week charter in the Sea of Cortez.  Let’s continue that discussion and see if we can approximate how long per day to run the motor in order to charge batteries back to a usable state.

A pretty common set up on this boat is three batteries.  Two set up as two separate house banks, and one as the starter and windlass bank.  Because the starter/windlass battery isn’t used much and should charge back up pretty quickly we won’t worry about it.  The house bank(s) on the other hand are well used while at anchor.  Every boat potentially has different batteries.  In this case lets assume there are two Group 8D AGM batteries rated at 225 amp hours, giving a total of 450 amps of capacity.  Unfortunately, you should never go below 50% of maximum charge, so you have about 225 amp available to you.  We have a starting point.  Now for consumption.

Here are some common devices and their consumption requirements while at anchor for 24 hours:

  • Anchor light … 0.8 Amps … 12 hours per day … 9.6 Daily amp-hours
  • Cabin Fan (two of them) … 0.2 Amps each … 6 hours each per day … 2.4 amp-hours
  • Cabin Light (three) … 2.1 Amps each … 4 hours each per day … 25.2 amp hours
  • Fresh water pump … 6 Amps … 5 min per day … .5 amp-hours
  • Refrigerator … 5 Amps … 12 hours per day … 60 amp-hours
  • Music player … 1 Amp … 6 hours per day … 6 amp-hours
  • Monitoring a SSB … 2.5 Amps … 1 hour per day … 2.5 amp-hours

This a pretty much a bare minimum while sitting at anchor, and so far we are at 106.2 amp-hours.  Let’s assume you do some sailing during the day.  You only run the motor for a few minutes to get out of the anchorage and back, sailing for 6 hours.

  • Depth sounder … 0.2 Amps … 6 hours per day … 1.2 Daily amp-hours
  • GPS … 0.5 Amps … 6 hours per day … 3 Daily amp-hours
  • Chart Plotter … 1 Amps … 6 hours per day … 6 Daily amp-hours
  • Radar … 4 Amps … 6 hours per day … 24 Daily amp-hours
  • Speed sensor … 0.1 Amps … 6 hours per day … 0.6 Daily amp-hours
  • Wind indicator … 0.8 Amps … 6 hours per day … 4.8 Daily amp-hours

This is another 39.6 amp-hours, making our total so far 145.8.

Now let’s add in a few luxury items.

  • TV … 3.5 Amps … 2 hours per day … 7 Daily amp-hours
  • Electric Head … 40 Amps … .3 hours per day … 12 Daily amp-hours
  • Microwave … 100 Amps … 6 minutes per day … 10 Daily amp-hours
  • Cell Phone … 2 Amps … 4 hours per day … 8 Daily amp-hours

Another 37 amp-hours, for a total of 182.8 amp-hours consumed over a 24 hour period.  This is well within our usable 225 Amp battery capacity!

Now all we have to do is charge the battery back up.  Based on our scenario, you are at about a little over 50% charge.  If you have an alternator rated at 120 Amp, that is the most output you are going to get.  With an alternator the maximum output is only achieved when the alternator is turning about 4,000 to 6,000 PPM.  If you are idling the motor at 700 RPM, the alternator is probably turning about 1,400 RPM, so you aren’t getting the full 120 amps.  At idle you might only be getting 40 to 80 Amps output from the alternator.  Let’s assume 60 amps.  You will get that output until the battery is about 75% charged.  After using 182.0 Amps of 450 total, it you will need to “add” back about 70 Amps to get to 75%.  Charging at 60 Amps, 70 minutes will get you there.  Now for the challenge.  At 75% capacity, the regulator is going to choke back the flow to the battery to the point it will take about 3 more hours to reach a full charge.  I think we have an answer.  To replace the 182 Amps used over 24 hours is going to require about 4 hours of charging.

Looking back to Part I.  Remember to add 4 hours of engine time to your fuel calculations.  At .55 GPH, that’s 2.2 gallons of fuel per day.

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I Love Classes That Make You Think! Part I

Today is Thursday and I have a bareboat class going as I write this. Class started Sunday and will continue next Saturday and Sunday. Last night I received an email from one of the students with a list of questions she had come to mind over the past few days. Each and every question was really good. Some were easy and are already in the lesson plan for the next two class days.  Others made me think.  The two questions that made me think the most are “What is the fuel burn rate to operation for the boat we will be taking?” and “How do you figure the estimated amps used vs. battery capacity and charging.”  My answers in the email; as to the first question, 3/4 to 1 gallon per hour; with the second question I tried a delaying action by saying “This answer is too long for an email.  We can talk about it in class.”  For 9 out of 10 people, these answers would have been good enough.  Not this time.  I was quite impressed when I got the next email asking for more in-depth information.  That’s how “a captain” approaches things.  So, for you captains out there, here is a more complete explanation.

Fuel Burn Rate:  Unless you happen to be in Death Valley, running out a gas in a car isn’t much more than inconvenient.  Running out of fuel in a boat puts the boat and everyone on board at risk.  Unfortunately, without an accurate fuel flow meter (not something most boats have) how much fuel you are using is a question that is always going to be a best guess.

In looking at the engine manual for a 50 horsepower motor found in many Catalina 42’s, fuel consumption rates are listed as varying from .55 to 1.3 gallons per hour.  A number of variables enter into the calculation.  Propeller pitch, revolutions per minute, wind, current, and waves are all factors.  Even the condition of the bottom is a major factor, meaning the same boat in the same relative conditions may consume more fuel per hour if the bottom hasn’t been cleaned in three months.  Over time, experience with a specific boat is going to give you a good idea of the normal fuel consumption for that boat.  For example, I crewed on a trip from Cabo San Lucas to San Francisco on a Catalina 42.  We found that we averaged .75 gallons per hour (GPH).  In that case, we were motor sailing close hauled at approximately 2700 RPM.  This was moving us nicely along at about 7 knots.  2700 PRM is a good cruising speed for that particular motor, so I would keep that part of the equation.  If you are not motor sailing, then add some consumption … how much I am not sure, however I would think .25 GPH might be a reasonable overestimation.  On that trip, we had some great conditions.  If things were a little “bumpier” maybe add another .25 GPH.  At this point, we are up to about 1.25 GPH, and I would be comfortable using that figure for most conditions on that specific boat.  Now, lets use that figure in something practical.  That same Catalina had a 48 gallon tank.  Always leave a reserve … in this case lets say 1/4 tank, or 12 gallons, giving us 36 gallons of usable fuel.  At 1.25 GPH, that allows motoring for 28.8 hours, at 7 knots a range of about 200 miles.

That works great if you are motoring straight through.  How about when you motor for a day, then sit at an anchorage for 3 or 4 days.  During the time in the anchorage you run the motor to charge batteries.  Maybe that’s where the .55 GPH comes in.  If so, don’t forget to count that time when figuring range.  So let’s say you anchor 8 days over a two week bareboat charter, running the motor 3 hours a day to charge your batteries (whether or not that’s enough is the topic of “Part II.”)  You just lost about 13 gallons of your 36 available gallons, meaning you only have about 23 gallons available to use.  A range of approximately 130 miles.

How does all this work in real life?  I love Mexico.  Chartering out of La Paz is outstanding.  A great plan is to go as far north as Agua Verde, about 100 miles away.  I hope you have good wind, because if not, given the above numbers you are going to be pretty much out of fuel about 70 miles short coming home.  I know, I know, that extra 12 gallons of reserve will get you 67 of those miles.  Close but no cigar.  You are still out of fuel.  And you are taking a chance on sucking all sorts of nasty stuff (like algae and water) off the bottom of the tank, clogging the fuel filters and possibly the injectors, meaning a sizable repair bill.

Even on a day sail all of this is good stuff to know.  Always check your fuel level.  I would recommend not trusting the gauge.  Always check the tank itself.  Know how much fuel you are starting with and an estimate of your hourly consumption.  I like to use 3/4 GPH for the Bronze diesel powered boats, 1 GPH for the Silver Fleet boats, and 1.25 GPH for Gold Fleet boats.

Be safe out there.  As a friend of mine likes to say, there are three types of sailors.  Beginning sailors … paranoid sailors … and retired sailors.  A little paranoia regarding fuel consumption is not a bad thing.

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Brandy’s Chartering Tips – We forgot the bucket!!!

Sure, we never forget the big things, like food, snorkel gear, charcoal, sunscreen…. but what about the little things can be impossible to find once you leave port?

If you are like Brandy, you prefer a clean boat. After partying into the night at anchor, you will have a messy boat in the morning. We like to start our day by getting up and scrubbing the cockpit & deck areas. This isn’t an easy task if you forgot some of the small things, like a bucket (with attached line!) and a scrub-brush-on-a-stick! Learn from our mistakes; here’s a short list of items you may want to check on before you leave port on your next charter:

  • Bucket (with line)
  • Scrub brush (on a stick)
  • Oars for your dinghy….. (don’t ask)
  • Extra fuel for your outboard
  • Jugs that can be used to move water from one tank to another or retrieve water from shore if there is no easy fill-up hose
  • A good, sharp knife
  • Extra line – for tying stuff, hanging stuff, you name it! Find some small diameter line and take it with you, it will come in handy
  • An ice chest (most charter companies will loan or rent you one) as full of extra ice as you can pack it
  • Make sure some of your water supply is in large jugs, not just small water bottles. These can be filled with water from the tanks and put in the freezer to make more ice! (There never seems to be enough of an ice supply on a charter)
  • A small, sealed first aid kit can come in handy for the entire trip – one will most likely be provided on the boat
  • Small, waterproof containers that can be worn around your neck come in very handy for stowing cash and cards when swimming or dinghy-ing to shore. A slightly larger waterproof container to carry cameras, phones, etc. in while using the dinghy can save your electronics
  • Speaking of electronics – extra batteries… and don’t forget the car chargers – we’ve never been on a charter boat without DC outlets
  • Clothespins for hanging and drying stuff

There are a host of other things that you may end up wishing you remembered, but those small items listed above almost always turn out to be invaluable!

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How Fast is TOO FAST! In a Fairway?

I wish this was an easy answer. It would be nice to be able to say; “Just set your speed at X knots and everything will work out great.” Sadly, it doesn’t work that way. Sometimes I think fairway speed, as the old cliche goes, “is more art than science.”

I do know this, if you are pushing a bow wave, you are way too fast. From the office, I see it all the time, and cringe. One small hiccup and … ouch.

Your wake starts as a small ripple coming off the transom. As you move faster, the wake moves forward along the hull. As it moves forward, it gets bigger. As you are motoring down the fairway, check your wake. If it has moved as far as amidships, slow down! Look at the boats in slips beside you. If they are moving past quickly, slow down.

Which brings up the other side of the question. How fast is too slow. You have to be going fast enough to have good rudder authority. You have to have enough speed to hold your location in the fairway? You have to have enough speed to make a safe turn into your slip. The only way to figure out if you have the right speed is to try it out ahead of time in a similar but safe area.

Docking into an upwind slip generally requires a bit more speed than a downwind slip because you must have enough rudder authority to get the bow up into the wind. Try this before going into the fairway. Find a nice safe place to test conditions. For example, if you plan to dock in a slip in the “Silver Fleet” upwind row, try turning into the wind in the open area of the marina well to windward of any slips and/or boats. Using the buoys in the marina as reference points will help you gauge your speed. How much speed does it take to have good control of your turn? Any slower is too slow … any faster is probably too fast.

Remember.  No two dockings are the same.  Review your L.O.T. every time you bring a boat in.  Fairway speed is one element of Transition.

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Planning for Currents

Are you ever curious about what is happening, current wise, at any given time and location on the bay?  There is a great tool on pages 48 through 60 of the Tide & Current Tables.  To use it, you need four pieces of information:

  1. The current velocity in knots of the maximum flood or ebb
  2. The time before or after the maximum flood or ebb
  3. The Factor for Correcting Speeds found in the table on page 48
  4. Speed in Knots taken from the appropriate chart found on pages 49 through 60

Here is an example:

You plan to leave Marina Bay at about 11:00 on Thursday December 18, and sail to Angel Island.  What currents can you expect as you are crossing from the Potrero Reach to Angel Island?

A maximum ebb of 4.3 knots is predicted to occur at 13:07 at the Golden Gate on Thursday December 18, 2014.  Which means your crossing will take place approximately 2 hours before max ebb.

The Factor for Correcting Speeds table on page 48 indicates if the predicted current is between 4.3 and 4.7, you have a Factor of 1.0 to use as a multiplier in the next step.

Turning to the chart titled Two Hours Before Maximum Ebb at Golden Gate, you find a “Speed in Knots” of 1.6  The current you can expect during your crossing is 1.6 x 1.0, or approximately 1.6 knots, moving from right to left as you cross.  Put in other terms, during the 20 plus minutes it will take you to cross, expect to move over a half mile off of your course to the left of your destination.

Here is another thought.  About the time you can expect to arrive in Ayala Cove (One hour before max ebb) expect a 2.5 knot (look it up using the charts) current through Raccoon Straight.  A good piece of that ebb is going to get “caught” on the point of land on the West side of Ayala Cove, and swirl back under the docks from right to left as you approach the slips.  It’s going to be an interesting docking … be prepared for it.

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Ballena Bay Yacht Club – By Marianne Wheeler

One of my New Year’s resolutions this year was to appreciate more and participate more in the many benefits and opportunities that our Tradewinds Sailing Club offers. In particular, I had the Ballena Bay Yacht Club Associate Membership in mind. Ever since Tradewinds connected us with BBYC, I have been receiving many invitations to events and activities, but never made time to actually go there.
Not wanting to miss out any longer, and having a free Saturday, I grabbed a friend and headed to the “Rules of the Nautical Road Seminar” scheduled for that day. It was held in the sunny and bright BBYC club house right on the water in Ballena Isle Marina, Alameda. A group of interested boaters with note pads, digital and old fashioned paper, had gathered around the coffee machine and sweet treats on a table. Soon, we were introduced to the presenter of the seminar, BBYC Vice Commodore Lu Abel, looking dapper wearing his Marine Signal Flags suspenders. He had the U.S. Power Squadron presentation set up on a lap top and led us through the first 38 Rules of Navigation as we watched colorful and accurate graphics on a screen. It was easy to listen to his explanations of the sometimes dry and convoluted official rules and he held our attention for almost 2 hours. Afterwards, a lively question and answer session followed. Lu was happy to share his knowledge and pointed out that there are many other Power Squadron topics for mariners available for us to learn from.
I was very happy to have participated in this important seminar to help everyone be safer on the water and know what the rules are. My friend and I received a very warm welcome from all at BBYC, especially from Commodore Rees, who said that BBYC loves the Tradewinds members that have visited so far, and enjoys working with Brandy and Matt to make it possible for us to be part of the club. She fondly remembered a whole bunch of our members with an instructor who recently came to Ballena Isle and had a wonderful time sailing over, relaxing at the dock, and sharing sea stories at the bar.
BBYC certainly offers a lot. Every month of the year, several invitations arrive in my mail box. In January alone, there was a fresh Crab Feed, an Evening in Paris get- together, and the R of the R seminar. Then, it’s watching the Super Bowl with cold beer and popcorn, a Chili Cook Off, a culinary treat with a Taste of Greece, and just in time for Valentine’s Day, a Sweethearts Dinner. The club is open daily for Happy Hour, where we can enjoy a beverage and chat with old (and young) salts. We are invited to Cruise-outs to explore new places in the Bay, or Cruise-ins from other yacht clubs for merriment and camaraderie, or to the Race Program to test our sailing skills. And not to forget, BBYC belongs to the Pacific-Club Yachting Association (PICYA) which allows members to receive reciprocal privileges in many Northern California yacht clubs.
So much fun, so much to do! This will be one New Year’s resolution I can stick to all year long.
Thanks, TWSC and BBYC,
Marianne Wheeler
Tradewinds Instructor since 2002

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Skipper’s Tip – Corrosion & Equipment Failure

It has been said around Tradewinds that there are many things on a boat that can be fixed with liberal application of fresh water. Here are a few of our favorite examples of why that is true – please consider them next time you put a boat away:

1. Windlasses – we are often called upon to repair a non-functioning windlass. The solution 90% of the time is to dis-assemble, clean, grease, and reassemble it. What we find is salt – lots and lots of salt crusting the base and the making the moving parts not want to move so well. Our research (speaking to members) shows that the windlasses are rarely used – people anchor on our boats occasionally, but not often. Almost every time you sail, salt water is coming over the bow, washing the fore-deck, and sloshing over and around the windlass. Don’t forget to open the locker (whether you anchored during your trip or not) and rinse with fresh water – that way next time you do want (or need) to anchor, that windlass will do it’s job for you.

2. High hardware – OK, it’s not the highest hardware on a boat, but there are plenty  of blocks, bails, lines, and miscellaneous parts that are attached to the bottom of the boom or near the boom on the mast. These get covered in a nice layer of salty air and spray when you sail. Imagine how well they get rinsed if the mainsail cover is already on when you spray down the boat – not so much! Don’t forget to look a little higher and get these spots rinsed before putting on covers. This goes for binnacles as well.

3. Zippers – The mainsail cover and binnacle covers are typically inside when you sail and don’t receive spray, but the same cannot be said for the dodger and bimini hardware. We find that in particular, the inside of the dodger zippers is not getting rinsed and corrodes faster that the outside. Be sure to get that hose in the cockpit and up under the dodger panels, soaking the zippers well. Don’t forget clutches, fair-leads, and other hardware that is under the dodger.

Sure, it’s great to wash down the boat for the sake of cleanliness, but don’t forget it’s also an important part of boat maintenance. Getting the salt out of all of the parts is critical to their long life. Any hardware, stanchions, lifelines, running rigging, standing rigging, anything that gets exposed to the salty spray of the bay, needs the liberal application of fresh water after every single sail to keep it in good operating condition.

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Tradewinds instructor Dan Seifers asked me the other day why we say “Roger” on the radio to confirm we’ve received a message. Why Roger, and not Reginald, or for that matter, Hermione?
If you go cruising you’ll probably want to learn the phonetic alphabet so you can spell your boat name and perhaps your HAM call sign in a way that can be understood in foreign ports. I can still quickly rattle off “kilo-golf-six-echo-uniform-delta,” sometimes involuntarily at inappropriate moments. However, even if you memorize this way of spelling things, you won’t find any “Roger” among the Mikes, Juliets, and Charlies. But this wasn’t always the case.
“Roger” is a holdover from the phonetic alphabet used by the Royal Air Force and the US Air Force prior to 1956, at which time he was replaced by “Romeo” to represent the letter “R.” In addition to changing “Roger” to “Romeo,” “Able” was replaced by “Alpha,” “Baker” was replaced by “Bravo,” and “Easy” was replaced by “Echo.” There were some additional changes due to fuzzy comprehension by speakers of Texan, Bostonian, Bronxish, Liverpudlian, and other languages, until the alphabet was adopted internationally. The current phonetic alphabet with “Romeo” was adopted by the International Commission for Air Navigation in 1956, by the International Telecommunication Union in 1959, and then by the International Maritime Organization in 1965.
During WWII, the phonetic “Roger” was used to indicate R for “Received” in radio usage. Apparently no one wished to change it to “Romeo” after combat ended and the alphabet changed, with the result that what we have today is a small tribute to the Second World War. So when you say “Roger,” remember those heroes of Normandy and Okinawa, the Po Valley, and the Ardennes Forest.

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