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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Navigation Lights

I had a question come up yesterday that got me thinking.  The Coast Guard Auxiliary was conducting safety inspections on the club’s boats, and were having difficulty locating the navigation lights required under the COLREGS Navigation Rules for one of the boats.  Specifically, they were not able to find the stern light.  I was able to do a bit of research, locate the offending light, and get the boat signed off.  However, as I said, it got me thinking that now might be a good time to refresh everyone on required lights and when them might be needed. To start the discussion off, RULE 20 states in part:

(a) Rules in this Part shall be complied with in all weathers.
(b) The Rules concerning lights shall be complied with from sunset to sunrise, and during such times no other lights shall be exhibited, except such lights as cannot be mistaken for the lights specified in these Rules or do not impair their visibility or distinctive character, or interfere with the keeping of a proper look-out.
(c) The lights prescribed by these Rules shall, if carried, also be exhibited from sunrise to sunset in restricted visibility and may be exhibited in all other circumstances when it is deemed necessary. (Emphasis added.)

The international definition of Sunset is the point in time the top edge, or limb, of the sun disappears below the horizon (or goes behind the land masses surrounding the bay.)  There is still a lot of light to see by for the next half hour or so, however, the sun has set, and navigation lights must be on.  For the purpose of this tip, we will call that time period “night”.  Sunrise would then be the point in time the top limb of the sun becomes visible on the horizon.  Basically, section (b) required navigation lights from sunset to sunrise, in all weather conditions.

Now that we have that clear, just what are the proper lights?  That depends on a number of factors, including vessel size, type of propulsion, job function, and maneuverability restrictions.  Covering every eventuality is outside the scope of this tip, however, I hope to cover the more common situations you may run into as a club member.  There is a great deal of additional information available in the ColRegs, which can be accessed using this hyperlink

Every vessel 7 meters in length (about 23′) or greater, during required hours and situations, must display a basic light pattern which we will discuss later.  Vessels less than 7 meters may display the same light pattern, or, may use a white light.  Either an all round white light, or a flashlight that that can be pointed in the appropriate direction may be used.

Wow, we are finally at a place we can start discussing actual navigation lights.  The basic light pattern required of nearly all vessels includes a red sidelight on the port side, a green sidelight on the starboard side, and a white light mounted as close as possible to the stern, and facing aft.  The definition of each type of light is found in Rule 21.  Each sidelight must be visible for 112.5 degrees, from straight ahead to 22.5 degrees abaft the beam.  The stern light must be visible for 135 degrees, starting at 22.5 degrees abaft the beam on one side, and continuing around the stern to 22.5 degrees abaft the beam on the other side.  The combination of these three lights makes a 360 degree circle of light around the vessel.  On any vessel 20 meters (39’+) or greater, all three lights must be separate from the others.  on a vessel less than 20 meters, the side lights may be combined as a single lantern, or all three lights may be joined together in a single lantern (known as a “tricolor” … there is an important note about use of a tricolor later in this tip)


Once this basic light pattern has been established, additional lights are added based upon vessel type, job function, maneuverability, and size.  A power driven vessel adds a white “masthead” light visible over a 225 degree arc from 22.5 degrees abaft the beam around the front to 22.5 degrees abaft the beam.  The masthead light (also known as a steaming light) must be higher than the sidelights, and when added to the stern light completes a 360 degree circle of white light around the vessel.  Any power driven vessel 50 meters or longer, must add a second masthead light aft of, and higher than the previous masthead light.


Some other light patterns you might see:

  • In most cases, a yellow stern light located above the white stern light indicates a vessel with a tow astern.
  • A vessel making way while engaged in trawling displays a green all round light over a white all round light in addition to the basic navigation light pattern (however, if the vessel is not making way through the water, the basic navigation light pattern is not present, just the green over white.
  • A vessel making way while engaged in fishing other than trawling displays a red all round light over a white all round light in addition to the basic navigation light pattern (however, if the vessel is not making way through the water, the basic navigation light pattern is not present, just the red over white.

A couple of misceleanous notes:

  • NEVER display a tricolor at the same time as the normal navigation lights (the red part of the tricolor light over the red navigation light indicates a vessel not under control … green over red means something else)
  • NEVER display a tricolor while motoring (red over white and green over white both indicate a fishing boat).

Now for the tip … ALWAYS check the proper operation of navigation lights prior to departure.  On San Francisco Bay, you never know when fog will settle in, requiring them!  Keep in mind that light setups may vary a lot on different vessels.  Know how the lights work on the vessel you are sailing.  The question that originally got me thinking was light locations on Final Fantasy.  There is no stern light anywhere to be found, and the sidelights are not on the bow as with most boats.  Instead, at the top of the mast is an all white round anchor light and a tricolor.  The sidelights are about half way up the mast, in the normal position of a steaming light and actually look like a steaming light until you turn it on and realize there are red and green LEDs instead of a white light  Switch position determines what lights display.  If the navigation light switch is in the sail position, the tricolor turns on and everything else is off.  In the motoring position, the tricolor turns off and the anchor light turns on (acting as stern light and masthead light) as well as the sidelights on the mast.

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The Lure of Sailing: An Inner Look

This writing is a reflection more than a praxis on sailing.  Sailing is more than just know-how, though know-how is utterly important.  I would find it interesting to hear others’ inner thoughts about being on the water.  To love what you are doing is to find inner balance, which, in itself, is a corrective measure.

The San Francisco Bay and beyond to the Pacific off-shore is never quite still, but always moves in its own cadence, showing nature at its best, or at least most magnificent, while luring us to a fuller life.  The marine environment is obviously alive, in comparison to some of our own lives, which are often without any cadence.  The sea becomes a magnet; it is from where we all originate and leads us into a relaxing yet vigilant state of being.  Yes, even in a storm one relaxes in order to find the right path.  To sail is to be one with this energy, while never really finding yourself alone.

Sailing is a lure for a number of reasons, but one is often the attraction to what we are not about in this distractive world, that is a life force that vivifies.  There are so many distractions in our life styles that deaden us to the senses; the sea awakens the senses.  The splash of salt on the face awakens something within, which is beyond language itself yet is manifest of a grandiose spirit.

Those of us who are lured by sailing, here at Tradewinds, start with the Basic Keelboat, and as we sail within the initial assigned boundaries, we look out to the Bay and we are lured more, so we enter Basic Coastal Cruising, and then make our way to the boundaries of Raccoon Straits or the Bothers, but boundaries often disappear upon arrival; then new boundaries emerge.  We are often magnetically pulled towards the outer boundaries of the Bay and take Bareboat; upon finishing each boundary we kind of enter a sublime state of vastness, if only for a moment or maybe more.  We accomplish sailing the Slot and under the Golden Gate Bridge but the Farallones lure us on.  The lure continues, so we take Advanced Costal Cruising and sail on.  For some a boat eventually becomes home and the sea just a platform to sail anywhere on which you are in command but never quite in control.  It is all a kind of therapy, and when sailing in a club like Tradewinds we reflect off each other.

To maybe get this feeling about the magnetic sea, upon which I am trying to expound, let me quote from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, in which he comments on the many people in 19th century Manhattan, where:

“…commerce surrounds it with her surf.  Right and left, the streets take you waterward.  Its extreme down-town is the Battery, where that noble mole is washed by waves, and cooled by breezes, which a few hours previous were out of sight of land.  Look at the crowds of water-gazers.”

So even driving our vehicles to go sailing we experience traffic, smog, and often-ugly sights of commercial signs while maybe listening to repulsive radio, of which we turn on so time goes by.  Yes, “commerce” yet surrounds us, but as soon as we see the bluish Bay from the vehicle we drive, a placid smile comes to our face and we have to stop staring at the water so that an accident does not occur.  That placid smile is a sign of consciousness.

To sail that Capri is to feel the wind first hand, almost shaking hands with the breeze itself.  To eventually sail that thirty-footer is to feel and understand the currents, almost as a dance, and to sail that forty-two-footer is to take you to a different world altogether, almost as if on a cloud, but really you are now at home, being part of the sea.  You then relax and an emptiness comes yet a fullness takes over.  There is balance within, almost a kind of yoga, which, from the Sanskrit means union or connection.

Such insights, as stated above, are possible feelings of which we have but are not quite aware, or maybe we are well aware?  To be sailing is an elixir from civilization, but at the same time it is a mini civilization of its own kind.  Sailing is an order that brings about a freedom of soul while erasing the toxic self.  For that reason it is never lonely to sail.


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1.3 times the Square Root of the LWL

Arrgggg … now you know why pirates love that phrase.  None of them like math, and yet some math is actually important.  So what is 1.3 times the square root of the LWL?  It’s the theoretical hull speed of a boat with a displacement hull.  In simpler terms, it’s the fastest that particular boat can go.  As a boat starts to move thru the water, a bow wave develops.  The faster you go, the bigger the wave, and the further back along the hull it goes.  The boat has to climb that wave to move thru the water.  When the wave gets to a certain size and position along the hull, the boat can no longer climb the wave, and won’t go any faster.  That is the hull speed.

As an example, Final Fantasy is a Beneteau Oceanis 35.  The length of the waterline (LWL) is 31.8 feet.  The square root of 31.8 is 5.6.  1.3 X 5.6 = 7.3.  The hull speed of Final Fantasy is 7.3 knots, and that assumes a calm sea, no current, clean bottom, and a few other factors.  The boat won’t go any faster than that, no matter how hard you push the motor.

Recently, we received a call in the office reporting there was something wrong with Final Fantasy.  Seems that the engine was turning at 3500 RPM (throttle pushed as far as it would go) and the boat was only going a little over 7 knots.  Sorry, boat won’t go any faster, no matter how big a hurry the captain might be in.

Oh well, no harm, no foul … right?  Not so much.  Yanmar (the manufacturer of the motor) indicates the maximum RPM is 3500, and only for very short periods of time.  More than that will harm the motor.  Maximum cruising RPM is listed as 3000 RPM, and even that shouldn’t be used for extended periods of time.  It is better to assume 2500 to 2700 as a maximum cruising RPM.  Anything over that creates problems.  Fuel consumption increases dramatically.  Engine temperature starts to rise.  Oil thins down (because of the increased temperatures) resulting in reduced lubrication and greater oil consumption.  And, you probably hit hull speed by 2500, so the increased RPM is doing you no good at all.

In closing, please don’t think every boat can safely be pushed along at 2700 RPM.  It just isn’t true.  Every boat, motor, transmission, propeller combination has its own optimal cruising RPM.  My boat for example has a max of 2200 RPM, with an 1800 RPM cruising speed.  At 1800 RPM I consume .6 gallons of fuel per hour at close to hull speed with the motor temp sitting steady at 175 degrees.  At 1900 RPM the temp starts to drift up, hitting 180 very quickly and slowly continuing up from there the longer I keep that RPM.  At 2000 RPM my fuel consumption increases to 1 gal per hour, and the engine temp will quickly hit 200 degrees.  The extra half knot of speed I might get just isn’t worth it.

If you have any questions or doubts about the best cruising RPM for whatever club boat you happen to be on, please call the office.  We would be happy to help.

Note from Matt: One of the things we often note with less experienced sailors is that they simply forget to throttle down once they are done maneuvering. In other words, they back out of the slip, transition to forward using enough throttle to get the boat moving the other direction, and then forget about the throttle while they steer the boat. By the time they make it to the end of the fairway, they have picked up too much speed and are going faster that anyone is comfortable with. Don’t forget to throttle back down once you have steerage-way and keep that speed under control. Look at the docks and boats you are passing to be aware of your speed. The same is true when crossing the bay in open water. Look at the bubbles, debris, or other objects in the water. If you are fighting a strong current the GPS may say you are only going 4 knots, but you could be doing 2 or 3 more over the water. As Don said, pushing the throttle won’t speed you up, it’ll only stress the engine. Proper planning will avoid hurry and avoiding hurry will help us keep our boats in top shape for the generous boat owners who allow us to use them! Remember, we can only keep awesome boats in the fleet and attract new ones if boat owners are potential boat owners are happy when they visit and see them!

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Reefing Under Sail

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to watch one of the Tradewinds boats from a distance “struggling” in 25 knot plus winds at the eastern entrance to Raccoon Straight.  My initial thought was that the boat was in trouble, so we started in that direction to lend assistance.  As we got closer, we realized the motor was running, the boat was head to wind, and the crew as struggling to get a reef in.  It wasn’t fun to watch.  Both sails were being trashed by the wind (we needed to restitch the jib UV cover the next day) and the resulting reef was very poorly set.  Watching it reminded me of one of my mentors as I was learning to sail who had a favorite saying … “If you can’t reef under sail, San Francisco Bay will eat your lunch, and you have no business sailing there!”

As an instructor teaching Bareboat and Advanced Coastal Cruising classes, I have come to realize the truth and wisdom in this statement, and sadly, how may sailors out there can’t do it when it is actually safer, easier, and much less noisy than turning on the motor and pulling up head to wind.

To put a reef in under sail, come close hauled, trim the jib, and release the main. While the main is released, the boat will heal less allowing you to comfortably ease the halyard and put in the reef.  Typically the reef tack is set first, followed by the reef outhaul, and then the halyard is adjusted.  It is truly as simple as that. The only challenge is understanding the exact process as it applies to different boats.  Some boats have two lines (tack and outhaul) for each reef.  Some have a single line that sets both tack and outhaul.  Some have a hook and ring at the tack.  Some boats are so simple as to have a roller furling main that just needs to be rolled up a bit.  Regardless of the set up, sail close hauled with the main released and reefing will be a snap.

What happens if you are sailing short handed and your crew is scared and not able to help.  It’s not quite as quick and efficient, however, try reefing while hove to.  Generally that can be accomplished without the help of an untrained crew member.

One final thought.  Remember the rules of the road.  Reef while on a starboard tack and you will generally be the stand on vessel.

Posted in General, Skipper's Tip | 9 Comments

California Boater Card

Before I get started, a few “legal disclaimers.”  I am not an attorney.  Do not rely on this article as legal advice.  The article is simply my thoughts regarding a new law that has not yet been tested in the courts.

As of January 1, 2018 all persons 20 years of age and younger who operate any motorized vessel on state waterways, including powered sailboats and paddlecraft, are required to carry a boater card issued by the State of California, Division of Boating and Waterways.

On January 1 of each subsequent year, the age where a boater card is required increases by 5 years, as shown in the schedule below.

  • January 1, 2018 – Persons 20 years of age or younger
  • January 1, 2019 – Persons 25 years of age or younger
  • January 1, 2020 – Persons 35 years of age or younger
  • January 1, 2021 – Persons 40 years of age or younger
  • January 1, 2022 – Persons 45 years of age or younger
  • January 1, 2023 – Persons 50 years of age or younger
  • January 1, 2024 – Persons 60 years of age or younger
  • January 1, 2025 – All persons regardless of age

I am already over 60, so based on this phasing schedule I am not going to need to worry about it until 2025 … right?  Maybe, maybe not.  What happens when I turn the wheel over to an 18-year-old, just long enough for me to drop below to use the head?

One of the exceptions to the boating card requirements reads; “A person operating a vessel while under the direct supervision of a person 18 years of age or older who is in possession of a California Boater Card.”  So, it shouldn’t be a problem, right … wrong … I think … the exception doesn’t say in possession of a card if they are of an age to require one.  It says “who is in possession of a California Boater Card.”  I don’t currently have a boater card, because I don’t need one, however, if I am reading the exception correctly, I need one if I am to supervise someone who doesn’t have one, but would need one if I wasn’t supervising them.  Getting a headache yet?  Here is another exception.  I don’t need a boater card because I am in possession of a valid marine operator license, except that I might need one because of the supervision clause.

So, enough of that stuff.  How do you get a boater card?

First, take a class.  There are a number of options available, including home study with mail in testing, online classes, and in person classroom sessions.  Some of the classes are free, while others have a fee associated (generally about $30.00 as of December 2017.)  Information about currently approved courses can be found at:
Note:  The California Division of Boating and Waterways, California Course for Safe Boating is a home study course available through Tradewinds.

Second, get proof of education.  Depending upon the class option selected, you may receive the proof immediately, or you may have to wait for one to be mailed to you.

Third, once you have proof of education, apply for the card online at .  There is a $10.00 fee for the card, which can be mailed in or paid online using Visa, MasterCard, or Discover.

In closing, here is one more exception to needing a boater card.  Rental boats.  When renting a boat, you don’t need a valid California Boater Card.  Which may cover boats chartered through Tradewinds, however, I can’t find the definition of “rental boat”, so I’m not sure.  As an instructor here at Tradewinds, I have made the decision to get a card right away.  I don’t need to get one until 2025 based on my age and my “captains license”, however, as an instructor, students that would need a card, but don’t have one, will be under my direct supervision, so I believe that I need one anyway.  I highly recommend you get one also, just in case.

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No, I’m not cursing at you, although it is one of my personal pet-peeves!

Here it is from Merriam-Webster:

verb \ˈfrap\

frapped frap·ping

Definition of FRAP

transitive verb

:  to draw tight (as with ropes or cables) <frap a sail>

I’m not sure why they say “<frap a sail>” – I’ve never heard it used in that way. A common use around here is, “Frap your halyards!”

This morning as I was headed down to the docks to make a couple of pre-Saturday repairs, I was met by a friend, who is also a live-aboard (lives on his boat). His complaint to me was that it was very hard to sleep the night before because of all of the banging halyards! This prompted a walk-around of the Tradewinds Fleet and 3 emails to members about frapping halyards this morning!

This one should have been an easy one – there is only one half of the halyard outside the mast, the other half is internal. It is simply a matter of loosening it, flipping it around the spreaders, and tightening it up.

Here’s an example of a little tougher one to remember (excuse my crayon drawings!):

Not Frapped!

This Halyard is Not Frapped!

In this case, the SIQ (sailor in question) remembered to clip the end of the halyard that connects to the head of the sail away from the mast, but forgot the other half! This is an external halyard. Both halves of the halyard are on the outside of the mast. This must be loosened, the shackle end clipped away from the mast, the other end flipped around the spreaders, and then tightened and secured.

Here’s another one of my wonderful crayon drawings illustrating the difference between internal and external halyards:

Frap it!

Internal vs. External Halyards

Here’s another great crayon-ed on drawing of the previous one, properly frapped this time!

Properly Frapped External Halyard!

Properly Frapped External Halyard!

Now the simple version:

Before you leave, look up the mast! If there are any lines on it, something isn’t stowed properly! If you are unsure how to properly frap a halyard on a specific boat, please ask! Help us respect our neighbors by letting them get a good night’s sleep! There will probably always be halyards banging in the marina, but let’s not let them be ours!

Happy Frapping!

-Matt K

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