Hold Me Close!

The typical “thing” to do with a boat as you ready dock lines and fenders is to continue motoring around while getting everything in place.  This has always made me a bit nervous, especially if I have inexperienced crew.  With inexperienced crew often times they are at the wheel while I am the one doing the work.  After all, I know how far down to hang a fender and how to tie the proper knot to hold it in place.  When I see another boat circling like this I tend to stay far away.  A moving boat has the potential of hitting things.  Interestingly, I have never seen a boat hit something while holding position.

Here is a nice easy solution.  While in safe, open water, point your stern directly into the wind.  The natural “weather-vane” effect now holds your bow in place.  Put the boat into reverse at a low RPM.  Just enough to keep the wind from blowing you forward.  In most cases, leaving the throttle at idle is enough.  The boat may drift slowly in the direction of the prop walk, however, it won’t be very noticeable.  Now, turn the wheel over to the inexperienced crew to monitor everything and let you know if a problem develops.

As a test, I practiced this maneuver the other day and moved less than 50 feet over a five minute span of time.  Plenty of time get everything ready without the dangers associated with working on a moving boat.

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Some Thoughts About Docking with a Current

Here are a few figures for you.  1.7 feet, 2.5 feet, and 5 feet.  What do they represent?  How many feet are traveled in a one second period of time at 1 knot, 1.5 knots, and 3 knots.

For a very long time, I avoided the docks in Ayala Cove.  All it took was one near catastrophe and I wanted nothing to do with that place.  My primary concern was the current.  A finger of land on the western side of the cove projects out into Raccoon Strait.  During an ebb, that finger grabs the current deflecting it in a counter clockwise circle around the cove, directly under the dock.  The current runs lengthwise down the dock, perpendicular to the direction of the slips, quite often at a substantial pace.  This morning, the ebb in Raccoon Strait peaked at nearly 3 knots!  I’m not sure how much of that 3 knots deflects under the docks, however, from past experience it’s a lot.  Enough to create visible current trails coming off docks and pilings.

When reading about and discussing docking you often hear of the importance of having steerageway, which is maintaining enough speed through the water to steer with.  But, how fast is the vessel really moving through the water to obtain steerageway?  Every boat is different, however, if steerage way is obtained at 1.5 knots the vessel is moving through the water 2.5 feet per second.  At 2.5 feet per second, it is going to take nearly 15 seconds for a 36 foot boat to travel one boat length.  If you have a one knot current coming across your beam, what will the boat do during that 15 seconds?  At one knot the current moves the vessel at 1.7 feet per second, for a total of 25 feet of sideways movement.  A three knot current will push you sideways 75 feet!

If you are entering a “single wide” slip in a 1 knot current and can get the boat half way in the slip, you probably are ok.  The current is going to push you into the dock finger the entire length as you motor forward.  As long as you are well protected with fenders you are good.  What happens if you are going into a “double wide” slip.  You just ended up in the slip next to the one you were aiming for.  Not a problem if there isn’t a boat already there or a piling in the middle.

The above scenario considers what happens from when the bow enters the slip.  That’s not very realistic because you must also consider the  approach to the slip.   If you start 10 feet out, you are going to slide to the side 8 feet in a 1 knot current, nearly 25 feet in 3 knots, before you get into the slip.  You are not going to end up where you want unless you plan for it.

What’s to be done?  Start by knowing your boat!  Know how much speed through water it takes to maintain steerageway.  Know how far it takes with no current and no wind to turn 90 degrees (e.g. from fairway to slip).  The only way to get that knowledge is practice.

As for the actual docking,  plan your Location … Orientation … Transition ahead of time.  Whenever possible, approach into the current.  At Ayala Cove, that means traveling parallel to the dock and making a 90 degree turn into the slip.  When you make the turn into the slip, make it “just a bit” later than if there were no current, allowing the current to push you “backwards and sideways” into the slip.  How far is “just a bit?”  It depends on how much current and how far off the dock you are.  In a one knot current turning 8 feet later than normal might be just right.  Get close enough to look for evidence of current.  Are there current trails coming off the end of the dock fingers and pilings?  What are the bubbles and debris in the water doing?  Try measuring the distance the bubbles and debris move over a five second period of time.  Your boat is going to do the same.  Check the tide tables ahead of time and know what to expect before you get there.  Try a practice approach or two or three.   These are “double wide” slips.  Is the current going to push you into the dock or away from it into the next slip?

In summery.  Know what to expect ahead of time.  Verify that conditions are what you expect and plan your L.O.T. accordingly.  Don’t fight the current, you will lose.  Allow the current to help you.  Work with it to accomplish the goal you are striving for.

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Is it “Fake” or “Flake”? – by Capt. Craig Walker

It’s funny how these two terms came up so much over the last two days.

Right on the heels of a lengthy instructor meeting discussion on encouraging our students and members on the proper method for “flaking” sails, the question came up in my Advanced Anchoring class:  “Which is correct, ‘faking’ or ‘flaking’ an anchor rode on deck” in preparation for anchoring. I’ve heard this question before and my answer has always been, “I believe the two words are interchangeable”. I promised to get more proof before the end of the class and stated: “my preference is to say that we ‘flake’ a sail and ‘fake’ a coil of line on deck.

Anyway, here is the definitive (sort of) word on the subject:

As a noun, one definition of fake is: a coil of rope ready for running. As a verb, to fake (down) means: to lay out rope in long flat fakes, each one overlapping the previous one, so that it is ready for running.[1]

Okay, now let’s look at the word flake: as a noun, one definition of flake is a single turn or several turns of rope in a coil, more properly called a fake. The term is controversial. In his standard work on knots, Clifford Ashely states that “the dictionary form of fake is unknown at sea… that a flake is a single turn in a coil, and that flaking is coiling in various ways.” On the other hand, reliable references declare that flake is a mispronunciation of fake. Rear Admiral Austin M. Knight, author of Knight’s Modern Seamanship, 1941, uses only fake, which seems to be the choice for most 20th century sailors. As a verb, flake is a variant of fake which usually means coiling by forming a series of loose figure eights.[2]

Figure 8 Flake

[1] Reference: The Sailor’s Illustrated Dictionary, Thompson Lenfestey, Pg. 159.[2]Reference: The Sailor’s Illustrated Dictionary, Thompson Lenfestey, Pg. 169.

Note from Matt: Flake it or Fake it, your choice – but please take the time to stow our sails properly and help us make them last longer!

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Thru the Eyes of a Five Year Old

We can all benefit from a lesson here.  The granddaughter of one of the boat owner’s provided him with a pre-cruise check list written from her perspective.

sailing check list. jpg

In case you are having problems reading it, here is the list.

  • Warm coats
  • Warm hats and gloves
  • Coloring stuff
  • Leap Pads (google it if you don’t know what it is)
  • Snacks
  • Sunscreen
  • Life Jacket
  • Camera

I love the original artwork for each item listed.  When you think about it, what more do you need for a fabulous day on the water?  It’s sailing season … get out there and enjoy it.

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Leeward Side Tie Docking with a Bow/Waist Loop

Here’s a docking maneuver that is simple to do and works great.  Use it when making a side tie docking on the leeward side of a dock that is to the same side as your prop walk.

Rig a line from the bow cleat to the waist cleat (the technical term for the cleat located approximately amidships).  The line should be on the same side as prop walk and have enough slack to easily go around a cleat on the dock.

Approach the dock at an angle (30 to 45 degrees works).  Stop the boat within a foot or two of the dock with the bow line handler right next to a dock cleat.  The line handler then uses the tip of a boat hook to loop the line around the dock cleat.  Relax and take your time.  If the boat starts to drift away while getting the line on, just put the transmission in forward (with the wheel turned to the dock) briefly.

Once the line is around the dock cleat go into reverse at a low RPM to remove slack from the line.  When all slack is gone prop walk will begin pulling the boat towards the dock.  Be patient and take your time.  It’s best if you can do this maneuver at idle speed.  As long as the stern is moving slowly to the dock you don’t need more throttle.

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Why Can’t I Bear Away From the Wind?

There are few “universals” in the sailing world, however, one thing that comes close is the tendency of new sailors to over trim sails.  There are a number of results to over trimmed sails.  For example, sail shape isn’t as effective, causing the boat to slow down and heal more, which by the way results in an even great loss of speed.  In other words, a boat with properly trimmed sails goes faster.  Today’s discussion focus’s on another aspect of over trimming, the creation and/or increase of weather helm.

Weather helm is the tendency of the boat to turn towards the wind, and is a good thing.  Boat builders design in a small amount of weather helm to give the helmsperson some “feel” of what is happening and for safety.  If you let go of the wheel the boat should turn to windward and come to a stop.  Too much weather helm is not good, making the boat difficult to steer.  To more fully understand why this is requires a discussion of Center of Effort and Center of Lateral Resistance.

Center of Lateral Resistance (CLR) is the “balance point” of the boat.  If you push forward of the CLR the bow moves away.  If you push aft of the CLR the stern moves away.  Visualize a teeter totter.  The pivot point in the center is the CLR.  More weight (effort) on one end results in that end going down.  The Center of Effort (CE) is like the weight pushing.  CLR is moved by shifting weight forward or aft, or by healing more or less.  CE is more easily controlled.   Each sail has it’s own CE, located at the geometric center of the sail.  The overall CE for the sail plan moves along a line drawn between the CE of the main and the CE of the jib.

Here is a real life example of how CLR and CE interact with each other.  You are sailing along nicely in 10 knots.  The CLR is a bit forward of the CE (by design) allowing you to feel the rudder, but not feeling like the boat wants to turn into the wind.  As the wind builds the boat heals more, moving the CLR forward.  The result is more “push” from the wind, further aft of that CLR pivot point.  The boat now wants to force itself into the wind.  If you have ever wondered what a traveler does … “dropping” it down moves the CE forward, closer to the CLR allowing you to regain control.  If that’s not enough, putting in a reef moves the CE forward even more.

Now comes the fun part!  The trim relationship between the main and the jib can actually move the CE whichever direction you want, forward or aft.  Properly trimmed, the boat goes pretty much in a straight line.  Trim the main and ease the jib and the CE moves aft, causing the boat to head up.  Ease the main and trim the jib to move the CE forward.  Move the CE far enough forward and the boat will bear away.  Give it a try.  It is amazing how much steering control you have using just the trim of the sails.

It seems like we’ve totally skipped the question in the title of this tip.  Why can’t I bear away from the wind?  That was a question asked of me recently by a club member.  By now you may have figured out the answer.  The CE is too far back, creating so much weather helm that you can not overcome it with the rudder.  The fastest and easiest solution … ease the main.  The boat will turn downwind easily, and the sails will be better trimmed for the new point of sail.

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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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Pre-departure Training for Non-Sailors

Quite often I am asked what skills should be taught to a non-sailor before leaving the dock for their first sail.  I am sure each skipper has a different list, however, here are a few of the things I personally consider essential.  Its seems like quite a list, however it only takes about 15 or 20 minutes to run through it.

  • Marine Heads 101 … not the most glamorous topic, however, messing up the head can ruin a sail.  I teach how to use fresh water to fill and flush the bowl.  I also instruct that “If it didn’t go thru you first, it doesn’t belong in the head.”  That includes toilet paper, which gets deposited in the waste basket next to the head.  While on the topic of heads, I am a guy, however, I hate cleaning up after guys!  Here’s a little jingle for you.  While at sea, all good sailors sit to pee!
  • Line handling … Some basic line handling makes for a safer sail.  Make sure everyone knows how to double up a line so it runs from the boat, around a cleat on the dock, and back to the boat.  Demonstrate how to use a boat hook to capture a dock cleat, and how to “cast” a coiled line around a dock cleat.  Finally, demonstrate how to use friction by going around both horns of the boat’s deck cleat to control motion of the boat.  How about one more line handling tip.  Making figure 8’s around a cleat.  I think teaching a cleat hitch is asking too much of someone’s first sailing experience, and in most cases, several figure 8’s around the cleat does just as well as a temporary solution.
  • One hand for yourself and one for the boat … Always hold on to something sturdy while moving around.  Don’t stand up while reaching for lines or while the boat is maneuvering in close quarters (e.g. slips and fairways).  Kneel down instead, it’s much safer.
  • How to use a winch.
  • DO NOT jump in the water after someone (even your child)!!!  If you do, now we have two rescues to make.
  • Basic motoring … Part of this will be completed after we leave the dock and reach safe water.  I want my guests to be able to get the boat back to me if I go overboard.  I also want them to be able to drive if I am otherwise occupied (such as handling sails, reefing, or using the head).  They need to know how to start and stop the motor.  How to shift the transmission and handle the throttle, and how to steer.
  • And last, but certainly not least … “The boat will NOT tip over.”  It is normal and safe to be healed over.
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The Give Way Vessel

A friend of mine came to me this morning with a complaint!  This gentleman is a long time member of Tradewinds.  An experienced sailor, who is well aware of the Rules of the Road, whom I have never know to intentionally abuse or violate those rules.  The complaint?  Three times in recent weeks he has had Tradewinds boats violate the rules of the road in the same way!  In each case, he was under sail and the other boat was power-driven.  The rules state the vessel under sail is to stand on her course and speed while the power-driven vessel gives way by using a maneuver that is made early and is substantial.  In all three cases, the power-driven vessel sped up in a mad dash attempt to cross in front of the sailboat.  In each case, the sailboat had to alter course to avoid a problem.  The Colregs state that the give way vessel must make a maneuver to avoid early and substantial.  Speeding up to cross the other vessels bow is neither early or substantial and is not only a bad idea, it is unlawful.

Knowing the rules of the road and following them is critical for safe boating on San Francisco Bay.  If you are the stand on vessel … stand on.  If you are the give way vessel then make a safe maneuver early and substantial enough that there is absolutely no doubt on the part of the other vessel that you are giving way!

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Captain & Crew: A Nautical Relation(ship)! – By Tradewinds member Katie S.

As a member of Tradewinds Sailing Club for 4 years I have “grown up” in this club. I have served as crew and skipper. From day one being a skipper was my goal. Sailing out the Golden Gate Bridge and safety would be the ultimate goal while having a day of fun in the sun. Along the way, however, the roles had their difficulties. As a skipper, one needs the cooperation of the crew. As a crew listening and being ready for the commands were exciting and physical. Furthermore, there have been trying times as there are people who do not crew well. This was a harsh reality. Why? Is it due to the lack of skipper experience? Are they unable to understand the role of the skipper?  The skipper role is a very serious one but done with the intent of relaxing your visitors for a day of fun. Safety is the most important role of the skipper.

What is expected of a skipper? What is expected of a crew? (Crew, by the way, is not the visitors on the boat. Crew is the designated and chosen people by the skipper to work the boat).

Crew expectations of a skipper:

  1. Clear and direct instructions.
  2. Good ground rules.
  3. Clear expectations.
  4. No yelling.
  5. Say “thank you” for all alerts and suggestions by the crew.
  6. Compliment good decision making as well as speedy replies to commands.

Skipper expectations of a crew member:

  1. Feel free to make suggestions.
  2. Ask before making helm changes.
  3. (most important skill)
  4. Alert helmsman to approaching boats, safety issues, or equipment problems and failures.
  5. State readiness when point of sail changes are going to be made.
  6. Good and loud communication. Hand signals if needed.
  7. Slow movements and think things through with safety as the top priority.
  8. All decisions go through the skipper after suggestions, alerts, and safety are considered by the crew and verbalized to the skipper.
  9. Avoid giving commands to other crew as this causes confusion. Very important!! If the skipper wants a crew member to give commands then the skipper will say so.

Arrive at the boat ready to be a crew. Your job is to work the boat and follow instructions. Listening and observing are key in the role. There is ONE skipper. Prior to accepting to crew decide if you trust this skipper and can accept commands easily. If the skipper has less experience than you then that is a consideration. This skipper will need you more than ever. Make suggestions but knowing the decision is the skipper’s. Disagreeing on a sail is the most miserable way to spend time sailing. Stay alert and be ready for commands.

This short guide hopefully will lead new sailors to a more enjoyable day on the bay. Knowing your role leads to respect and a safe sail.

I wish I had time and space to tell you about the examples I have experienced where roles were confusing and the sail was unpleasant. They didn’t listen well or follow commands of instructions. As a skipper my goal is to teach, enjoy, and allow my crew to make decisions but they will be given the command to make that decision/decisions. Not because the skipper is a control freak. (There are times when allowing the crew to be “pushed to the edge” to make a decision is exciting and appropriate). But safety is my ultimate goal.

I have experiences to share with couples who are learning to sail. I learned quickly that when getting on a sailboat with my husband (where I am the skipper and he is my crew) that we are no longer a couple. Giving him respect with “thank you” and encouragement is the norm as with all my sailing trips as well as sincere compliments and high- five every chance I get. My husband is a fabulous crew and I listen to him at all times. I take his suggestions seriously and implement with glee.

In the beginning, as a crew-member, I have had what I considered “controlling” skippers at various times. I felt they didn’t trust me or didn’t understand my experience. Some skippers tell you how to sail the trim at all times. Others allowed me to trim the sails without being commanded. Why was there such a variance in leadership? I finally accepted that this was the way it sometimes goes. Sailing with someone repeatedly allows this phase to pass as you get to know each other’s skills but in the beginning the skipper doesn’t know you. If this is a first sail as a crew for a skipper then be ready for lots of commands. The skipper doesn’t know you. It is okay. You will show him or her through listening and quick replies to commands. There will be times when you will need to make a decision that sailing with a person just isn’t fun. So be it. This is in all of life. Move on and learn from the experience. Learning in sailing is ongoing. Matt taught me this and he has been a spectacular mentor.

My background is in emergency nursing as an ER nurse and flight nurse. Giving care while being safe is the goal. I find sailing and my job very closely related in the safety aspect.

Arrive at the boat giving your skipper the high five and allegiance to be the best crew ever. Be proud of this role. It is important. A skipper smiles widely when a crew listens and trust is formulated. A beer or a glass of wine might even be necessary at the END of the sail!

As a skipper praise your team and allow them to make decisions as you understand their experience in sailing. Encourage them and push them to the edge. It is fun as long as safety guidelines are the boundaries in which you lead others.

In conclusion, readiness is key on a sail by understanding the two roles. Implement each role with pride and respect. They are both very important. Safe Sails.

Katie S.

Katie has been a Tradewinds member since 2011 and has taken ASA courses up to 106 (Advanced Coastal Cruising), plus Docking & Radar endorsements. She has also taken Tradewinds Advanced Anchoring, Sail Trim, and Racing courses. Katie has chartered over 130 days on Tradewinds boats as the Skipper as well as her many trips as crew. Her most recent sailing adventure was as the Skipper in the British Virgin Islands. She is undoubtedly one of our most experienced female skippers!

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