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Tips for skippering with crew on the wire

Tips for skippering with crew on the wire

Almost all of Cal Sailing's dinghies are equipped with a trapeze kit, and with good reason: our typical stiff summer breezes make it all but a necessity to send someone out on the wire. Having crew out on the wire  can be tons of fun for both you and your crew, but can also be quite a challenge. Here are some tips which can help.

Let's assume that you as skipper have two goals:

  1. Move the boat upwind as quickly as possible.
  2. Make your crew feel comfortable on the wire.

Now, your crew will probably be most comfortable if the boat is kept relatively flat, sudden changes to heel angle are avoided, and the crew is not required to shift her weight. In other words, she can calmly stand on the rail doing nothing but admiring the view (and calling out gusts and lulls).

On the other hand, in order to make your boat move upwind as quickly as possible, you want to keep the boat flat, and to keep  your close-hauled jib at the proper angle of attack to the wind, so that it neither stalls nor luffs.

You, the skipper, have three controls at your disposal: tiller, main sheet, and your body weight. So how do you keep both your crew and the boat happy? Firstly, steer with the tiller to keep the jib at the proper angle to the wind. Secondly, use a combination of body weight and main sheet trim to keep the boat flat. In practice, it is a good idea to hike out moderately and then trim the main accordingly. Indeed, the more you power up the main (while keeping the boat flat), the faster you go. Furthermore, if the wind comes up or down, you still have two controls at your disposal: in a gust, dump the main and hike out hard, and in a lull, sheet in and shift your weight leeward.

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Michael Sherrell
So this technique requires you to distinguish between a wind puff and a wind shift when you suddenly get an increase of heel, does... Read More
Friday, 05 September 2014 14:08
Michael Sherrell
Gives me something to work on, for sure.
Friday, 05 September 2014 14:13
Stefano Maffulli
Waves also play a role in changing the apparent wind: when the bow nose dives into a wave the boat may slow down changing the appa... Read More
Friday, 05 September 2014 14:38
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Single-Handing in High Wind

Single-Handing in High Wind

Most senior dinghy tests involve assessing the skipper's ability to single hand a dinghy in high winds. And indeed, this is an essential skill. Imagine that you're out in the South Sailing Basin on a beautiful summer afternoon. It's blowing 15 knots, and you and your crew are hiked out all the way when suddenly the hiking strap breaks, and your crew ends up in the drink. (See e.g.  http://youtu.be/ZZTwH8C5bjo for an excellent demonstration by our current Commodore). If you can't pull off a single-handed crew overboard maneuver, your crew will end up on the rocks by Emeryville while you wait for the rescue skiff to arrive.

Here are a couple of pointers which will help you single-hand like a pro.

Depowering the sails. Unless you have the stature of an NFL linebacker, chances are that you will have difficulty keeping the boat flat unless you take some steps to depower the sails. Reefing the main and furling the jib are good starting points. Tightening up the luff of the sail with the Cunningham and/or reefing line will help to flatten the sail, reducing its heeling force. Loosening up the vang or gnav will allow the head of the mainsail to twist and luff, all the while keeping the bottom of the sail powered up.

Balancing the boat. Balance is always key in sailing. Since you no longer have crew in the boat, you'll have to use your own weight much more effectively. Moving forward is essential; otherwise, the bow of the boat gets battered around by waves. Aggressively hiking out will help keep the boat flat. If you're lucky enough to be wearing a harness and your tiller extension is long enough, you can even go out on the trapeze! 

Tacking and jibing. Tacking a dinghy while single-handed in high wind can be quite challenging; large swells crashing against the bow of the boat tend to slow the boat before it passes through irons, causing the tack to fail. Furling the jib and loosening the vang as suggested above compound the problem, as the boat no longer points as high. In some situations, jibing the boat is the only viable option for switching tacks. For this, loosen up the vang (if this wasn't already done), and start the jibe with a maximal amount of boat speed. You'll have to aggressively use your weight and the tiller to keep the dinghy from rounding up and broaching.

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Michael Sherrell
If things look too hairy, consider capsizing immediately and hoping the COB can make his/her way to you. Although usually when som... Read More
Monday, 22 February 2016 11:02
Nathan Ilten
Great suggestion, Mike. Even better: anchor. If it really is that hairy, chances are that your capsized boat will still be moving ... Read More
Tuesday, 23 February 2016 11:10
Michael Sherrell
If you're trying to tack and nearly make it but not quite, chances are at the highest point you reach you will start being blown b... Read More
Monday, 25 July 2016 10:38
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Use The Force

Use The Force

When we sail we use all our senses, but the one we rely most heavily on is our sight.  This was brought home to me when I took my first Wednesday night keelboat lesson several years ago.  I had grown accustomed to using the telltales on the shrouds to get a general sense of the wind when sailing the dinghies.  I even carried some bits of yarn in case the boat I was on didn’t have any.  I took the helm on the keelboat on a dark night and--oh crap--I couldn’t  see the tell tales.  I struggled that night, but realized that what had started as an aid had become a crutch.

The last Monday night advanced dinghy class, we worked on sailing without any sight at all.   But you don’t need a class to try it.  First make sure you have decent crew who is not blindfolded, and that you’re in an area with a lot of space (few boats and no obstructions).  Pick a day with moderate wind.   Put a blindfold on and try to hold a course.  Your crew can give you feedback.  Try to feel the puffs of wind before they hit the boat.  Pay attention to the balance of the boat.  Listen to the sound of the boat moving through the water.  Play with the main sheet.  Can you tell when the boat accelerates and decelerates?  Smell your gear, yeah, you should probably wash it.   Try sailing different points of sail.  If you’re feeling confident try a tack.

It’s as easy as bagging womp rats back home in Beggar’s Canyon.

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John DuMoulin
Thats a great idea! I used to do that when I was learning to windsurf. If I was having some inexplicable problem with sailing diff... Read More
Tuesday, 08 July 2014 16:34
John Bongiovanni
This was a great exercise in the advanced dinghy class. I figured out that the tension on the mainsheet was the clue. Head up unti... Read More
Friday, 11 July 2014 21:25
Michael Sherrell
Very useful comment, John. I was there but I didn't figure that out. By the way, Seamus, what the f*** is a "womp rat"?... Read More
Sunday, 13 July 2014 11:23
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Friday the 13th Cruise to Clipper Cove

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It was Friday the 13th, and a full moon. What better time to go on a cruise; what could possibly go wrong?

Eleven sailors in five dinghies left the dock at about 4:30pm. A little later than the announced departure time, but about when I figured we would actually shove off. The wind was very light in the junior area but picked up to a lovely 10 knots or so once we got a bit past the restaurant. We had a pleasant and uneventful sail to Treasure Island, and pulled our boats up on the little beach at Clipper Cove. Of course we had the traditional capsizing of the last boat to arrive.

 

[Left: Josh Leihe and Auric Horneman taking down the last Bahia; Right: CSC boats beached at Clipper Cove]

With the boats pulled well above the water line, we made the short walk to the Treasure Island Bar and Grill. I don’t know about everybody else, but while I enjoyed my food I kept thinking: I hope the wind doesn’t die, I hope the wind doesn’t die, I hope the wind doesn’t die. After eating, kibitzing and telling lies about how fast we had sailed there, we walked back to the boats. I looked out over the water and, you guessed it, the wind had died. Now, this wasn’t the end of the world. We had the sketch motor mounted on the Venture, but it was going to be a slow slog back with a 2 horsepower motor and 5 boats. As we looked despairingly eastward at the glassy water, what did we see? Could it be? Yes, it was Michael “The St. Bernard of the Sea” Moore coming towards us on the rescue skiff! He brought the skiff up to the beach and casually asked “Do you guys want a tow?” We got the boats off the beach, and Michael maneuvered around so we could each attach our bow painters to the tow line.

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Rudderless But Not Adrift: Sailing Without Your Rudder

We covered rudderless sailing at our Monday afternoon advanced dinghy lessons last week. Knowing how to rudderlessly sail is crucial not only in the (sort of rare at CSC) event that your rudder falls off (!), but also deepens your understanding of sail trim, boat handling, and makes you look pretty epic out there on the Bay. And let's face it: if you look good, you're probably sailing gooder.

It's also a skill you need to know to pass your senior dinghy & keelboat practical tests at CSC.

One simple resource that can be useful to get your started is this rudderless e-book (click the link to download), written by CSC member Joel Brand. 

Some pointers from our rudderless practice session and discussion last week:

If in a dinghy, try and get your rudder completely out of the water. It can still affect your course if it's in the water. As with all these tips provided below, however, try all sorts of different ways to maneuver and see what happens. Try it with the ruddder up, then down and swinging freely. Wind strength, waves, sail plan, and weight in the boat will all affect how your actions impact your course corrections...much like on any given day. Experiment!

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Nathan Ilten
Great tips! Here is another: Loosening your gnav will help with jibing.
Wednesday, 04 June 2014 10:34
Peter /"Margaret"/ Kuhn
Sit down sailors--especially those of modest proportions--often don't appreciate that rudderless sailing in CSC dinghies requires ... Read More
Tuesday, 10 June 2014 08:17
Michael Sherrell
Antony's rudder fell off last week. S*** happens.
Friday, 11 July 2014 09:44
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Memorial Day Cruise to Angel Island

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What gets a bunch of sailors out of bed before 8am on a weekend?  The annual cruise to angel Island of course! 30 CSC members and guests poured into Commanders and Merits for a gorgeous sail to the aptly named Island, for a sizable feast that would make your grandmother proud. 

Creaking at the seams, some of us chose to hike off the calories, others napped, and many took the short hike/quick nap combo that capitalized on the best of both worlds. 

The sail back was mostly uneventful, with half of of us sailing down Raccoon straits, around the Island and into Berkeley, and the other half taking a straight shot back to Berkeley. It was scorching in the wind shadow of Angel Island, but cooled off nicely with a 5knt breeze as we cruised into the Berkeley Marina. 

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State of the Fleet

State of the Fleet

Sailing in the Bay is rough on equipment, including our club's fleet of dinghies. These boats are kept operational through volunteer work spearheaded by our co-first vice commodores, Dan Rolinek and Seamus Vanecko. They were kind enough to take a break between the never-ceasing boat repairs to fill us in on the state of our fleet. 


What is the current state of our dinghy fleet? How much life do our dinghies have left in them? 

The Ventures and 500s are new and holding up well.  The Bahias are starting to show their age.  The biggest issue is that they develop cracks in the cockpit floor.  We’ve developed a fix for this (you may have notices a few with big platic pieces glued and screwed to the floor), but we don’t know how long that will hold up.  Not much will stick to polyethylene, you need a special epoxy.  It’s a somewhat complicated process that involves flame treating the plastic so that the epoxy will adhere.  We just found a new product that may be simpler, but we haven’t had a chance to test it yet. The JYs are showing their age too, but they seem to keep going.

We've just got a number of new exciting RS boats, but what about our older workhorses? Is it possible to purchase replacement JY15s and Bahias? 

Unfortunately the Bahia manufacturer is not doing well, and it’s not possible to buy new Bahias currently.  It’s also difficult to get things like spars and foils. We probably won’t purchase more JYs as they are fairly expensive for an older design that doesn’t have a kite.  They don’t get sailed a whole lot except for racing.  Seniors want to fly the kite, and juniors for the most part are more comfortable on the boats they first learned on.  That’s too bad though.  I think the JY is a better boat if you’re a junior and can’t fly the kite. 

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How to (Not) Break a Mast

How to (Not) Break a Mast

 

 

 

Thursday, November 21st, 2013. After days of poor wind, the forecast finally calls for winds of above ten knots, with things getting pretty crazy later in the evening. I decide that it is time to skip out early on work and head down to the club. I ask my sailing buddy (and co-2nd vice) Chris Lalau Keraly if he’s up for a sail, to which he replies “Screw science, I'll be there at 3:30!” Chris is good to his word, and right as he arrives at 3:30, a Bahia pulls up to the dock, with gennaker rigged and ready to go. I take over the boat, and after putting our foulies on and picking up an aspiring junior as our third crew member, we’re ready to go!

The wind is coming from the north, so as soon as we get away from the dock, we hoist the gennaker and take off towards the toilet basin on a broad reach. Before getting too close, we jibe and start making a beeline for the southwest corner of the senior dinghy area. The windspeed seems to be varying between 10 and 15 knots, pretty patchy at times,  but we get in a good enough run with me at the tiller.

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