Some Points about Launching Dinghies on a Crowded Dock

Cover
Launching   Toward Sea Wall
Launching   Away from Sea Wall
Lean Steering

We're talking Saturdays, especially in the summer, where the dock is full and you're right next to boats on either side. Pretty normal, and we teach it. Back out, using a backed main or not, tiller centered until you clear the other boats, then steer the stern toward the sea wall (want to go to Emeryville? tiller to Emeryville). Power up the main and go.

I did a "Between the Docks" workshop recently, where we covered all of the bad things that can happen on launching or docking, how to prevent them, and how to handle them when they happen (and they will, to the best of us).

What you want to avoid is heading out in the wrong direction, toward the sea wall instead of Emeryville. It happens at times, but how does this happen? Clearly, you get turned the wrong way backing out of the dock. But other than complete misuse of the tiller, what contributes to this?

As always, I learn a lot when I teach, and I picked up some critical points in this workshop, watching the students go through their launching/docking/heading for the sea wall drills. The points all fall into the "obvious when you think about them or have them pointed out, but not obvious earlier". So I hope these fall into that category for you.

Here are some things to consider.

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Ryan Alder
Good tips! I like the one about weight, that's not something I've thought of or paid attention to others doing. Another I would ... Read More
Monday, 14 October 2019 14:40
John Bongiovanni
Great tip, Ryan. Especially in crowded conditions, having the jib ready to back when you need to is essential. Your whole discussi... Read More
Monday, 14 October 2019 16:50
Ryan Maples
Interesting post John, I have never considered weight when moving backwards. I'll have to try it out. I think you may have this ... Read More
Monday, 14 October 2019 18:11
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The "Mystery Ring" on a Venture, or how to avoid a dismasting

The "Mystery Ring" on a Venture, or how to avoid a dismasting
Ring
Ring Hidden

I described a rig failure due to a missing or failed cotter ring on a Venture a year and a quarter ago:

https://cal-sailing.org/blogfrontpage/recent-blog-posts/entry/rig-failure-on-a-cruise-to-treasure-island

Cotter rings and some other trivial pieces of hardware are what hold the boat together. When you have two parts of the boat coming together, like a shroud and the deck fitting, there's usually a pin doing the job and something like a cotter ring preventing the pin from coming out. It could be a shackle or a lock-tight nut, but it's usually a cotter ring or Cotter pin.

It's hard to over-emphasize inspecting these pins before you take the boat out, as failure on the water can ruin your day (see above). I don't think many of our Junior skippers or even, dare I say it, all of our Senior skippers would have been able to get control of the dismasting situation and sail the boat home.

When I teach boat inspection, I talk about this and tell the students to find all of the cotter rings or other things and determine whether they're sound, and I explain how they fail and what to look for.But on the RS Venture, there's what I now call the Mystery Ring, which is what failed in the cruise I referenced above. If you don't know it's there, you'd never check it. That's how it happened on my cruise.

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Pan Pan

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“PAN PAN, PAN PAN, PAN PAN pan. There is a dismasted sailing dinghy in the vicinity of the St. Francis Yacht Club. Three sailors aboard all wearing PFDs.”

The sound of Ryan’s voice issuing the mariners warning, one level below a MAYDAY, was a comfort. I was being watched over.   As I struggled to get the sails back in the boat, I could see the other boats nearby.

We had left Berkeley the day before, 4 Ventures, two club keel boats and a couple of private boats tagging along. All bound for the kayak beach at Angel Island. We had a lovely and uneventful upwind sail to the beach. We anchored the keelboats and ferried the sailors, gear and supplies to the beach. After humping everything up the hill to the campsite we had a feast, sausage, peppers & onions, salad, cheeses, charcuterie, beer, wine and on and on. Some of us went to bed early, while others hiked to the top of the island. Ah, youth.

We woke the next morning to heavy fog both in the air and some heads. Tiburon, which we could see the night before, had disappeared. We made radio contact with Carolyn on one of the keelboats, and started making a leisurely breakfast while we waited for the fog to lift. By 11 AM we had broken camp, gotten everything loaded up and got off the beach. As we sailed out of Racoon Strait, the Golden Gate Bridge came into view and with it the fog. Carolyn had found a tear in Daisy’s main sail and made the decision to head for home. The rest of us continued on towards the gate. We got a little far apart, so the lead boats tucked into Horseshoe Cove and waited for the rest of us to catch up. There was a short discussion over the radio, and the decision was made to go under the bridge and then head for home. Because of the remaining fog we would maintain a close formation, do a radio check for vessel traffic and stay close to the North tower where there is less large ship traffic.

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Planning a cruise around Alameda, and an old navigation technique

Planning a cruise around Alameda, and an old navigation technique
Alameda Circumnavigation Cruise San Leandro Channel
Danger Bearing
Tacking up the Estuary
Alameda Circumnavigation Cruise JLS Docks

This is about how to plan a particular cruse, circumnavigating Alameda Island. I'm doing it for two reasons. One is to document the specifics for other cruising skippers who might want to do it. The other is to give members an idea of what's involved in planning a cruise.

Circumnavigating Alameda Island is a wonderful experience. I've done it in a kayak and later in a sailboat on a CSC cruise. Part of the wonder is the diversity of it. You have Jack London Square, the Port of Oakland, the closed Naval Air Station, the aircraft carrier Hornet, an incredible beach facing San Francisco, a marsh with a lot of birds at the south end, and some post-industrial stuff along the estuary. The estuary is much improved since the time I kayaked it. The run-down houseboats are gone, and some of the bleck on land has been replaced with parks.

There is also the Coast Guard Island in the middle of the estuary, and if you're lucky the 418 foot ocean patrolling cutters are in. They go out for 90 days in the Pacific.

And then the drawbridges, 5 or 6 depending on how you count. The website is here. 5 of them are very active, and one is a bicycle/pedestrian bridge, right next to a car bridge that goes from Alameda to Bay Farm Island, and it's is the longest drawbridge in Alameda County. It's an incredible experience seeing them open just for you, a little sailboat.

The question in planning this is which direction, clockwise or counter-clockwise. There are a couple of factors to consider. One is that all of the drawbridges are staffed into the evening except for the Bay Farm Island bridge, which has limited hours (usually until 5:30 PM). Also, the bridges will not open during peak commuter hours.

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BILLIE BAUCOM
Thank you John for sharing your knowledge & wisdom. This article seems, to this novice, to be an enticing resource. Blessings, Bi... Read More
Saturday, 17 August 2019 22:17
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Advanced (and basic) Hoist Usage

Advanced (and basic) Hoist Usage
boathoist2
boathoist1

There often isn't enough communication around how to use the hoist properly.  In this post we're going to talk about safety, efficiency, and some tips on dropping and pulling a boat single-handed.

Personal and Boat Safety

The two big rules of using the hoist are:

  • Never ever EVER be under the boat while it's in the air.
  • Don't hit the shrouds or spreaders on the hoist arm.

The first issue most comonly happens when the centerboard falls down and someone reaches under the boat to push it back up.  Or if there's a long line of boats waiting to come out of the water and as soon as one boat starts to go up into the air the next person walks their boat down towards the sea wall.  Then when the boat in the air swings out, it's over the other boat.

Both of these are huge no-no's.  The sling/hoist does break.  This happened recently with a Venture in the air that ended up falling 5 feet back into the water.  The boat and everyone around was ok, but If there had been another boat underneath, waiting their turn, it'd be two broken boats instead of zero.  If there had been someone on that boat waiting to attach the sling, as there often is, it would have been way, way worse.  Always beware of where the boat is, and never get underneath it, and please say something if you see someone about to.

For the shrouds and spreaders, this is the most likely way to damage the boat while on the hoist.  Always keep an eye on the mast and shrouds to make sure the boat isn't going to spin into the hoist arm.  This is why someone should have control of the boat at all times.  The person on the sea wall doesn't let go of the stern until the person on the dock is pulling on the bow line so the boat can't spin.  Same with coming out of the water.  The person on the dock doesn't let go of the line until the person on land has their hand on the stern.

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More on Low Tide Docking

More on Low Tide Docking
Low Tide Docking Course

I wrote a blog a while back on low tide dinghy dockings, and this was focused on the really low tide screnario - absolutely no centerboard and minimal rudder, and how to get the boat to the dock in those conditions. You can't slow sail without a centerboard, so you need to do something different.

But that's the extreme case. Often, it's not quite that low, and so you have a few more options.

But let's take a quick detour (a parenthesis in Italian) and talk about tides. We use tide tables and graphs all of the time, including predicting when the Club will be closed because the water is too low for the rescue skiff to run.

Tides are extremely complex as they depend on a huge number of factors. The major factors are the gravitational effects of the sun and the moon, and so tide tables are based on observations over a period of time (maybe as much as 19 years) to see these effects in all of their combinations. Tide predictions are based primarily on these large scale astronomical forces, and they do not include significant yearly, monthly, and daily factors such as rainfall, runoff from rivers, even barometric pressure on a given day.

Tide tables give you an approximation only,but we do have information about how predictions are matching reality. The closest station which reports both predictions and reality is the Richmond Inner Harbor, and our website monitors it and reports the current difference between predicted and actual both in when the Club will be closed and in the Club Status (which you can click on in the Cal Sailing home page).

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Keelboat Docking - Part 3 - Planning a Bail-Out

Keelboat Docking - Part 3 - Planning a Bail-Out
Berkeley Marina
Berkeley Marina CSC Slips
Berkeley Marina CSC Slips Bail Out

Docking our keelboats under sail is one of the most difficult skills required for the Senior Rating.  This series of blogs is intended to give you a conceptual framework for doing it. With that framework and a lot of practice, you'll acquire this important skill.

For simplicity, we're talking about a "normal" upwind docking into a CSC slip, where the true wind is out of the West or South-West, but not too far South.

Here is a map of the Marina with the standard docking approach:

And here's the blow-up of the turning basin and our docks, assuming a normal West or South-West wind:

Important Note: I will be showing some sample course lines in the blog to illustrate the main points. These particular course lines are for a very specific wind condition, which is indicated in the diagrams. It is a big mistake to think of your docking course lines in terms of geography (e.g., turn up as you pass the stern of the Red Boat). These course lines will change with the wind, and you should always be thinking in terms of the wind.

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Launching and docking in an East wind

Launching and docking in an East wind
dropping boat
docking boat

Winter is a time of interesting and fun winds.  We're pretty spoiled most of the year with wind pretty consistently out of the West/South-West.  In the Winter an East wind is fairly common.  When the wind is out of the East you cannot dock on the normal side of the dock with your main up, as it is now a downwind docking and you'll just run into it full speed (yes, skippers do this surprisingly often). 

For your first Winter sailing, this will be a new and unique experience.  Here are some tips for when the wind is blowing from the East:
 
For departure, after putting the boat in the water like normal, walk it all the way down the dock and push it around to the other side (by the pilings).
 
 
 
You'll have to use your foot a lot to keep it from banging/scraping as the wind wants to push it into the dock.  Once it's around the other side you'll need to take the bow painter in your left hand and hug each piling so you can hand it off to your right hand so you can get the boat around them.  Tie the boat off and from there everything is normal, including the push-off/backwards sailing away from the dock.
 
For returning, if you're coming towards the dock and you're on a starboard tack, you won't be able to depower if you try to dock on the normal side, but you should be able to slow sail up to the pilings side.
 
 
Check your slow sailing course and take a couple passes if you need to.  It's a new docking experience so nothing wrong with circling around a couple times until you feel like you've got it.  Bailing out of a docking when something doesn't feel right is a good show of seamanship, and if anyone on the bench makes fun of you for taking 3 tries to successfully dock feel free to throw them over the sea wall.
 
The other option for docking is to sail upwind, which would be past the Cal Adventures dock, towards the 3rd dock, drop the main, and sail jib alone back downwind.  Furl or blow the jib early to give the boat time to slow down (it will take longer to slow than you think when going downwind, even with no sails out) and you should easily and gently reach the dock.
 
Another option, if you get between the docks and realize the wind is wrong, is to dock on the West side of the Cal Adventures dock, drop your sails, and bare poles or go jib-alone over to our dock.  When single handing this may be easier than trying to drop the main while sailing.
 
As a general rule, regardless of the way the wind is blowing: If your main isn't luffing, abort the docking attempt and reevaluate the conditions.  Do not dock!
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Keelboat Docking - Part 2 - Space is Time


Berkeley Marina CSC Slips
Berkeley Marina Close Reach
Berkeley Marina CSC Slips Close Reach
Berkeley Marina Stay High
Berkeley Marina CSC Slips Stay High
Berkeley Marina Space is Time
Berkeley Marina CSC Slips Space is Time

Docking our keelboats under sail is one of the most difficult skills required for the Senior Rating. This series of blogs is intended to give you a conceptual framework for doing it. With that framework and a lot of practice, you'll acquire this important skill.

For simplicity, we're talking about a "normal" upwind docking into a CSC slip, where the true wind is out of the West or South-West, but not too far South.

Here is a map of the south-east part of the Berkeley Marina, where J-Dock is, assuming a normal West or South-West wind:

And here's the blow-up of the turning basin and our docks:

 

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Timothy Quick
Love this. Great work, very informative. Thanks!
Thursday, 29 November 2018 11:39
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Keelboat Docking - Part 1 - Planning and Preparation

Keelboat Docking - Part 1 - Planning and Preparation

Introduction to the Blog Series

Docking our keelboats under sail is one of the most difficult skills required for the Senior Rating. You have to be able to do it in all wind directions and in several boat types that handle very differently. It takes a huge time investment and a lot of commitment and practice to make the grade.

Everything you've learned on dinghies applies to keelboats, and on dinghies you establish a solid basis of sailing skills. This is why we require a Junior rating to take keelboat lessons, and why it's important to get your Senior Dinghy test passed before getting serious on keelboats.

But the transition from a dinghy to a Pearson Commander is not easy, as the latter has a large mass and a full keel, so it handles very differently from a dinghy. It does everything slowly, including stopping, but also powering up. If you get below the critical speed for steering it, it can take 8 or 9 seconds for the keel to power up, and in that period you're being pushed sideways. You could end up pressed against a downwind piling or boat.

Our keelboat slips are faced approximately west, so normally into the wind, just like our dinghy dock in the South Sailing Basin. So in a "normal" west or south-west wind, you dock pretty much the same way. Slow sail on a close reach into the dock/slip. But the boats are very different, so the procedure becomes more challenging on a keelboat, not to mention the damage you can do if you screw up.

This is the first in a series of blogs on keelboat docking to help you understand the differences between dinghy and keelboat and the additional factors that become important with the latter. I will assume a "normal" west or south-west wind, as this is what you'll be dealing with 80% of the time, at least. And initially, I'll be assuming relatively constant wind, although later in the series I'll talk about wind shifts and how to deal with them. I'm also assuming that you're planning to go into one of CSC's docks with a reasonable amount of time to prepare and plan. As you get more advanced, you will be required to do very quick impromptu dockings, but that comes much later.

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Ryan Alder
Great post! Looking forward to the series. I wanted to reiterate this part: "Finally, you can swing the boat in the turning bas... Read More
Thursday, 20 September 2018 15:53
John Bongiovanni
Excellent point, Ryan. I think that why this isn't so much a problem in dinghies is that they're usually going slower when they do... Read More
Friday, 21 September 2018 01:49
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Docking Like a Pro

Docking
angle of approach

There are a couple ways to come into the dock. The method new skippers gravitate towards at first, because it's easier, is to come in with plenty of speed and do a final turn up into the wind at the end to avoid banging into the dock. Or they don't even do the turn and just bang into the dock... I guess this would be a 3rd way, but highly undesirable.

The preferred method more properly utilizes slow sailing. Docking and COB are the main reasons we teach slow sailing. When you have a firm grasp on slow sailing, you will be able to come to a stop 1" from the dock as your crew casually steps off the bow.

Here are the steps for docking like a pro:
(Credit where credit is due, I've had this best explained to me by Robert O. Come work the keelboat dock during open house sometime and watch Robert dock a keelboat singlehanded to get an idea of the ideal you're shooting for.)

- When you're coming in to the docks watch the wind socks to get an idea of the wind direction at the dock, which may be different than it was when you were out sailing.  

- Pick an exact spot on the dock. This is where you're going to try to end up. You don't have to tell anyone else the exact spot. If you don't hit it exactly, and are a foot off, no one else will be the wiser, it will still just look like a really good docking to them.

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Recent Comments
Greg Sweriduk
I would just add that if you have a choice, and assuming the usual SW wind shown, go in and tack near the sea wall and approach th... Read More
Wednesday, 15 August 2018 15:06
Gary Prost
How do you "backwind the main," and can you do it when the jib is furled? If you do it by pushing the sail away, won't it turn the... Read More
Thursday, 16 August 2018 10:13
Ryan Alder
Gary, good questions. You do back the main by pushing the boom all the way out/forward. The jib being furled or not doesn't real... Read More
Friday, 17 August 2018 12:40
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Small Circles - the Gybe

Small Circles - the Gybe

I did a blog a while ago on Small Circles and how to teach it.

I think doing Small Circles is an important skill and rightly a required Junior maneuver, not so much for the circles, but for other things. However, as Nathan has pointed out in the blog comments, doing circles quickly is important in racing, if you're bad.

In Small Circles, there's a lot going on in a short amount of time, so it's a stress test of your sailing skills, your boat control, your weight balance, and your crew communication. Sailing a circle flawlessly (of whatever radius, but constant) is a challenge. One very good Club racer told me that one of the best racing exercise is doing lots of circles in a row, maybe 100.

But really tight circles is a different beast. It has all of the challenges above, but it requires some rudderless techniques to make the turns really fast and tight. My blog of a couple of years ago missed an important thing.

In the blog, I talked about how you do fast upwind and downwind turns, which to me is the real value of learning this. You might have to do either near the dock, combined with a tack or a gybe. But I glossed over the gybe itself, which is an important part of it.

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Rig Failure on a Cruise to Treasure Island

Rig Failure on a Cruise to Treasure Island

When we're going for Senior, in both dinghy and keelboat, we're quizzed on how we would deal with rig failure, a shroud or even worse a forestay. We know the answers, and we carry line and maybe shackles to jerry-rig something, and we think about the extra lines we can use, especially on the keelboats where there are multiple halyards, topping lifts, and the rest.

But it's one thing to "know" how to deal with it, and completely another to deal with it when it happens.

I was doing a dinghy qualifying cruise to Treasure Island under Mark Playsted's supervision. Not a difficult cruise, beat out, run back. It was blowing pretty hard, gusts into the twenties, forecast for higher. We had two Ventures with 3 people in each, which worked out well with one person on the wire a lot of the time going out. 

We were almost to Treasure Island when it happened. I saw Mark on the wire in the other boat go into the water, then I saw the mast at maybe 20 degrees off the vertical. It was clear that they had lost their forestay, and I thought the mast was next. But it wasn't. They were holding the mast up by hand and getting the mainsail down. Within about 15 minutes, Mark had rigged the auxiliary stay to the bow and the boat could sail. They made it back under main and gennaker, and BTW the gennaker took a lot of the load that the missing forestay would have.

It could have been my boat, and I don't think it would have come out so well if it had been. I'm thinking dismasted here. It was great to see how this could be handled, if you do all of the right things quickly.

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Recent Comments
Joel Gussman
Great blog post, John. What material are you using for your 6' and 12' lines that you are carrying in your life jacket?
Sunday, 13 May 2018 09:28
John Bongiovanni
5/16" double-braid. BTW I checked out all of the other Ventures today, and 2 of them were missing rings on the same pin holding t... Read More
Sunday, 13 May 2018 11:33
Timothy Quick
Great post, John. Super helpful.
Thursday, 05 September 2019 09:42
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Dry Capsize on a Quest

Dry Capsize on a Quest

Dry capsize is a very useful skill. It means not going into the water on a capsize and getting into the boat as it comes up. The first part is relatively easy, but the second can be difficult, especially in a Quest.

I went out in some seriously high wind the other day, and I wasn't happy with my dry capsize skills. I hadn't capsized in quite a while, so I was a bit rusty on it. I could get the boat up, but not me in it as it came up. So it was time to practice, which I did.

If you're single-handing or with one crew in high winds, it's important to get someone into the boat when it comes up to get it under control, prevent a re-capsize and prevent it sailing away from you. That said, if you're out with a group of students or inexperienced crew, you shouldn't do it. You want everyone in the water after the capsize, especially if the crew is new to the situation. If they see you climbing up over the hull, they'll all want to do it, which will make your job righting the boat that much harder. Better to get everyone in the water and comfortable and go from there.

So let's assume you're single-handing and you capsize. Getting up on the hull as the boat goes over is no problem, as it happens pretty slowly. You can climb up using the mast as a step or even the hiking straps. When I practice, I find that it's pretty hard to capsize the boat without going into the water. I just have to keep pushing weight to leeward and then climb up when it's past the point of no return.

So you're on the hull and drop down to the centerboard. You should have thought how you're going to lever the boat up. There are several options, depending on how large you are. As yet, there are no righting lines on the Quest (coming, maybe). If you're large, you can just pull on the gunwhale to bring the boat up (I can't do that). The next option is to pull on the jib sheet against the fairlead, NOT against the sail (this works for me, 147 lb. male). That doesn't work for smaller people, so bringing the bow painter around the mast and using it allows you to get far out on the centerboard to bring the boat up.

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Ryan Alder
Good post, the goal of every new dinghy sailor: not getting wet during capsizes anymore! Couple things to add: 1) I think the m... Read More
Thursday, 14 December 2017 16:06
John Bongiovanni
Thanks for the comments, Ryan. They make great sense. I had been puzzling for some time about how to demonstrate capsize recovery... Read More
Thursday, 14 December 2017 22:35
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A quick and dirty guide to asymmetrical spinnakers

A quick and dirty guide to asymmetrical spinnakers
rigging
halyard
bowsprit

Introduction


Many dinghies, including the RS 500, RS Venture, and Laser Bahia, can be equipped with a gennaker, also known as a kite or asymmetrical spinnaker. This large sail can be used effectively on points of sail between a run and a beam reach, and may greatly increase boat speed. It can add a lot of excitement and get you up and planing when the wind might otherwise be insufficient.

The purpose of this short guide is to touch on the finer points of flying the gennaker on a dingy similar to those mentioned above. I assume that the reader is familiar with the basics of dinghy sailing.

Rigging

To rig the gennaker, you should:

  1. Attach the tack of the gennaker to the bowsprit;
  2. Attach the gennaker halyard to the head of the sail;
  3. Run the dowsing line through the retrieval points on the sail;
  4. Attach the gennaker sheets to the clew of the sail;
  5. Run the sheets through the gennaker blocks and tie them off.

 

The trick is to do this all without anything getting tangled up. It can be helpful before starting to first make sure the gennaker is untwisted. You can do this by making sure two of its edges are untwisted; this will automatically untwist the third.

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How to survive 30 knots, or, what to do if you've bitten off more than you can chew

How to Survive 30 knots: class outline (this class was given in CSC Advanced Dinghy several times). The student executes the following nine steps, which are those recommended under the conditions in the title. Under mild conditions, please try to imagine waves over three feet and rain in the face like shotgun pellets.

 

  1. Sail to upwind Junior line.
  2. Capsize
  3. Deploy anchor
  4. Lower mainsail
  5. Right boat
  6. Furl mainsail
  7. Raise anchor
  8. Jibe jib only at least twice (for practice)
  9. Sail back to dock

Notes:

  1. Before launching in exciting conditions, it is wise to carry a radio and to notify the Day Leader they may be needed.
  2. When deploying the anchor, the rode must go out the front of the boat (to keep the bow pointed into the wind) or this maneuver will not work.
  3. Before the drill capsize, please get at least 90% of the way from the rocks to the upwind line. If you capsize too much before you get there, try sailing main only.
  4. It is hard to point very high sailing jib only, and nearly impossible to tack, so to go upwind you need to jibe quickly so as not to lose much ground during the turn. Use this opportunity to practice pointing as high as possible and making quick jibes. Make sure centerboard is fully down, and do not oversheet as this would make it hard to point very high.
  5. If you have an unconscious sailor, particularly one with a head injury, contact the Coast Guard immediately on channel 16.
  6. The Coast Guard will only pick up sailors, not boats. (If you have to go, leave it anchored and maybe the Club can get it back.)
  7. If you need help but can’t reach the Dayleader on 69 (might happen if you’re north of the Berkeley Pier), you might try contacting the Berkeley Marina harbormaster on 68 and asking her to pass a message to the DL.

Supplement: How to survive 40 knots

In an incident in the first half of 2017, on a Thursday race night most of the club’s best sailors were confronted with 40-knot winds. All boats capsized. Most were unable to right their boats even with mainsails down. Only two crews were able to survive with any grace.

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Your Anchor is your Friend

Your Anchor is your Friend

I admire David Fraser's willingness to share his "less than optimal" sailing experiences in these blogs so that others can learn from his mistakes. They say there are those who don't make mistakes (I don't believe that), those who learn from others' mistakes, those who learn from their own mistakes, and those who never learn. Aiming at the second category, I want to imitate David's example by offering a recent experience of my own.

The other day I got to the Club a little early, and thought I'd play with jib-only sailing on a Quest before lessons started.

I left the (Cal Adventures) dock under jib only, having done nothing with the mainsail. I was planning to go out and dock under jib alone a few times before students showed up. That was the plan, at least.

The wind was pretty much westerly, so I was leaving on a beam reach. I knew that jib trim was really important, and that I shouldn't start out pointing too high. But for whatever reason, I couldn't point high at all. No matter what I tried, I was going slowly downwind, toward the rocks. Maybe I wasn't handling it correctly, maybe the Quest can't point high on jib alone, who knows? Sometimes it's you, sometimes it's the boat, sometimes... who knows what it is? What mattered then was that I couldn't do it.

I decided to heave to and get the main up, admitting failure (better than landing on the rocks). The mainsail doesn't always go up easily on the Quests (especially on this one), and it looked like getting the boltrope into the mast track might take some doing. When you're properly hove to, you have some sideways way on--that is, you're slideslipping--and I was going slowly, slowly toward the rocks. I had no idea how long it might take to get the main up.

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Rama Hoetzlein
Thanks for the interesting story. Based on these experiences, I wonder if you have any tips on what to do differently to sail upw... Read More
Tuesday, 11 July 2017 23:11
John Bongiovanni
What I didn't say in the blog was that I went out a few days later and did much better, as the purpose of the blog was the importa... Read More
Friday, 14 July 2017 17:28
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The two-handed drill for puffs and lulls

The two-handed drill for puffs and lulls

A while ago, James Clarkson recommended one of Frank Bethwaite's books on sailing to me. I forget which one, as I now have three of them. They're incredible but incredibly dense, so I'd only recommend them to the "quants" of the sailing community. And even then, you'll read a lot more about  weather systems than you ever wanted to learn, and more detail on everything than you can comprehend. That's how Frank was. He was a pilot (of commercial flying boats, think about that), a meteorologist (the official metereologist of the Austrailian Olympic team in several Olympics in the 1970s), and a sailing fanatic as coach and designer. Three of his kids (sons and daughter) won Olympic medals, and one of them may have invented the gennaker (as always with inventions, there are priority disputes). Frank died in his 90s in 2012.

For the patient reader, there's really wonderful stuff in his books. One is an explanation of why sail twist needs to be very different in light winds than in higher winds (another post?). And there are many others.

One very practical thing I got out of his books was a technique and a teaching technique of how to respond to puffs and lulls. We all know how to do this, we do it, and we teach it to some extent. You have three controls: weight placement (out in a puff, in in a lull), tiller (pinch in a puff if the boat can do it, fall off in a lull), and sheet (easy in a puff, trim in a lull, not just mainsheet, but also jibsheet if you're really concerned about speed). I tell basic students that they have these three controls, and to use one or more  of them when they get a puff (at this point in their development, they're not so worried about lulls).

Frank was obsessed with keeping the boat flat and as fast as it can go (these are correlated). Assuming a decent wind, you're hiked out. We're assunming you have the tiller extension in one hand and the mainsheet in the other. A puff will heel the boat to leeward, and a lull will heel it to windward if you don't move your weight in either case. His technique is this: when the boat heels, don't move your weight, but move both hands to the down side, the sheet hand more than the tiller. Never luff.

So in a puff, you're easing the main as you're pointing slightly upwind. In a lull (or in the recovery after a puff), you're doing the opposite - sheeting in the main and pointing slightly downwind.

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gene Golfus
"Both hands away" is the most Wonderful thing i have heard as a beginning student. It is worth it's weight in gold. I would hat... Read More
Sunday, 12 November 2017 21:49
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Wear Your Lifejacket To Work Day 2017

SZX2KOF

Friday May 19, 2017 help get the word out about life jackets!

Join your colleagues, peers, and friends around the world in demonstrating how easy it is to wear a life jacket - even at work!

Just prior to National Safe Boating Week and the day before the eigth-annual "Ready, Set, Wear It!" event, we are asking you to take a photo of yourself wearing your life jacket at work on May 19!

Don't forget to post your photo to Facebook.com/ReadySetWearlt or tweet @ReadySetWearlt and @CalSailing using #readysetwearit to show off your style.

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An important fine point on Docking in Low Tide





One of the things I love about sailing is that I learn something every time I go out, I'm constantly expanding my knowledge and skills.Talking with several of the very best sailors in the Club recently, I heard the same sentiment.

We're in the season of low tides and early closings, and I learned something about low-tide docking.

I did a blog post a while ago on docking in low tide. I recommend looking at this post, as you need to dock in a completely different way than you normally do. You come in way upwind instead of downwind, and you don't (can't) slow sail (you'll just get pushed sideways into the seawall).

In the present post, I want to amplify a small but important detail, which I discovered recently docking in low tide (wind from the east in this case, but that doesn't matter). I was following more or less the course I recommended in the earlier blog: go upwind, downwind past the dock, and then shoot up:

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