Here are some important tips for bareboaters, snowbirds and casual cruisers alike. Lessons everyone can learn from.
Have you ever pulled into an anchorage and noticed a bareboat tied to a mooring ball with a large triangle of jib sticking out? The reason is twofold: the operator has come into the wind to furl the jib and it has wound up too tightly not leaving enough furling line to complete the job properly. Secondly, there was not enough furling line wrapped around the drum initially. To fix this problem undo the keeper knot on the drum and wrap another half dozen turns around it. Then, make sure to always bear off the wind to a broad reach or run to furl the head sail.
Bareboaters and weekend warriors would be wise to check certain items before leaving the dock. A main halyard that detaches itself from the mains’l head and flies to the top of the mast can be very frustrating, to say the least. Make sure the shackle pin is tight and seized on to avoid this problem. In an emergency the topping lift can be used as a substitute halyard.
Reefing lines are another cause for worry if they are not attached properly. Nowadays single line reefing is common on bareboats. First check that the first and second reef at the cockpit match the way they are tied at the boom. The first reef is the one closest to the boom’s outboard end. Also check that the knot tying the reefing line to the boom is secure. The tail of the bowline should be stitched to the standing part to avoid it shaking loose.
Reefing the mains’l seems to be a challenge for many bareboaters; full main and partially furled jib/Genoa is a common sight. This is the least efficient way of reducing sail, although it may seem to be easier. Always reef the mains’l first since the jib gives you power and speed. To reef the main is easy if you bring the boat to a close reach, ease the main until it’s luffing, while maintaining course with the jib still pulling. Lower the sail to the required reef point; tie in the reef and then hoist the halyard tight. Adjust the reef line if necessary, return to your course and sheet the main accordingly. Remember the old adage: if you think it may be time to reef, it is… so do it! If you do have to reef the jib don’t forget to move the jib sheet block forward so the sheet pulls down sufficiently on the leech maintaining a good sail shape.
One of the most disastrous events while motoring or motor sailing, and perhaps the most common, is to get a line wrapped around the propeller. These days most yachts are equipped with lines that end at the cockpit. They include main halyard, jib halyard, main sheet, topping lift, vang, traveler lines, reefing lines and outhaul. To avoid a catastrophic line wrap throw all above mentioned lines down the companionway and below. Jib sheets should be led inside the cockpit and jib furling line, excess dinghy painter and MOB lines can be attached to the rail with a cow hitch; secure and easy to use when needed. Don’t forget stopper knots on all lines. The dinghy painter should be shortened when maneuvering in close quarters and davit lines on cats should also be well secured.
Avoiding fish traps is essential and a good lookout is wise. Most fish traps are tied to a float at the surface with polypropylene line (floating line). Often there is excess line on these traps so there may be as much as 100ft of line on the surface. To be safe always give fish traps plenty of sea room and leave the float to windward.
Proper anchoring is one of the most important features of cruising. With all chain rode and a good anchor (Delta is a good brand and commonly used on charter boats) a ratio of five to one (depth) should be sufficient in areas of little or no tide. Most charter boats will provide 150ft of chain allowing you to anchor in up to 30ft of water. A nylon snubbing line is advisable and many provided on bareboats are too short. After you have anchored, and paid out sufficient rode, use a dock line and tie it to the chain with a rolling hitch; then pay out about 15ft and tie it off allowing the chain to become slack and hang down in a bight; this takes the load off the windlass. The stretch of nylon avoids any jerky motion and eliminates the noise of chain squeaking and creaking over the roller all night. Remember to anchor in sand or mud and never in coral.
Julian Putley is the author of ‘The Drinking Man’s Guide to the BVI’, ‘Sunfun Calypso’, and ‘Sunfun Gospel’.