Author Archives: Tony Johnson

Nautical Terminator – Sun’s Over the Yardarm (Part 2)

                A “yardarm” is not the entire yard, but just its tip outboard of the leeches of the sails. Some authorities commenting on our phrase suggest instead that we use the “upper yards,” while others recommend the “foreyard,” which is … Continue reading

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Nautical Terminator – Sun’s Over the Yardarm (Part 1)

              It is well understood that sailing while inebriated is a very bad idea. It’s contrary to Tradewinds policy, and it’s against the law. But even on one’s own boat, offshore beyond the reach of society’s sanctions, the notion that … Continue reading

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Nautical Terminator – Fathom

In your intro to navigation you’ll be shown charts that display soundings in feet, fathoms, and meters. These units are entirely arbitrary, generated not by science but by history, the details of which are often murky. Ancient units were often, … Continue reading

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Nautical Terminator – Doubling

Capes, points, and headlands are difficult challenges for mariners. If you have been certified at the BKB level, perhaps you have already encountered a problem returning to Potrero Reach from Keller Cove, the open area between Point Richmond (the old … Continue reading

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Nautical Terminator – Tonnage (Part 2)

            Last time we distinguished three sorts of tonnage applicable to boats: displacement, deadweight tonnage, and gross and net register tonnage. The displacement of your sailboat will be given in the owner’s manual. The deadweight tonnage is not normally a … Continue reading

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Nautical Terminator – Tonnage (Part 1)

          If you like getting frustrated, and who doesn’t, you could do no better than trying to understand the nautical terms associated with tonnage. We have long tons, short tons, avoirdupois tons, imperial tons, gross register tons, gross tons, net … Continue reading

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Nautical Terminator – Hull Down (Part 2)

We promised last time to apply our understanding of the old phrase “hull down” to modern circumstances. The issue arises when making offshore passages. Clearly, single-handers are in violation of Rule 5 of the Colregs because they cannot maintain a … Continue reading

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Nautical Terminator – Hull Down (Part 1)

In a recent column we mentioned the phrase, “hull down.” In the great days of sail, this was the lookout’s way of communicating the distance to a ship he’s sighted, just coming over the horizon. So how far away is … Continue reading

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Nautical Terminator – Points

            Our contemporary way of reading a compass is called the “three-figure” method, referring to the three numerals called out to the helmsperson by the navigator, as in “steer three-two-zero.” Early compass cards, however, were divided not into 360 degrees … Continue reading

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Nautical Terminator – Curse Like a Sailor

The other day at a Tradewinds instructors meeting, the estimable Craig Walker, a true gentleman and our most accomplished teacher, opined that we should not be cursing during class. Now, on the one hand, I completely agree that our instructors … Continue reading

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