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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Why Winter Sailing can be a Great Learning Experience

We are blessed in the Bay Area with incredible summer sailing conditions - 15 to 25 kts every single day from the West to South-West and waves to match. What could be finer?

Fall-Winter-early Spring is problematic. The system that creates the big daily summer winds in gone, so the winds are typically very light, except in storm systems, where they can be over-whelming (35-40 kts, typically from the South). So many just don't sail in the winter. I think this is a mistake, for at least two reasons.

One is that you learn an awful lot about sail trim and boat balance sailing in lighter winds (5 kts or less).

Everything changes, from the way the winds are produced atmospherically to how you set the sails. For example, in lighter winds the wind at the sea surface is practically zero, and difference between the wind there and the wind at the top of the mast is (relatively) large. So you're getting most of your power from the top third of the sail, which you want to keep happy. In higher winds, there isn't that much difference between surface wind and wind at the top of the mast.

In very light winds, the wind may not be strong enough to hold the mainsail and boom to leeward. So you need weight to leeward to tilt the boat enough so that gravity pulls the sail to leeward and forms the sail shape. With the sail shape formed, the wind will power it. And the battens bay not flip on a tack or gybe, so you might have to shake the sail to get that to happen.

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Ryan Alder
We had some really good 15-20knot Southerly winds this weekend, which makes for exciting docking. We get spoiled being in the win... Read More
Monday, 20 February 2017 11:40
John Bongiovanni
Great technique, Ryan. I'll add that you can practice the maneuver before you get to the dock to see how the boat will handle whe... Read More
Wednesday, 22 February 2017 19:54
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Rigging a Bahia's Reefing Line





I've had to correct mis-rigged Bahia reefing lines recently, so I thought I'd explain how to rig the line properly. You'll have to do this if the main sail is crunched at the leech when you raise it fullly or if you can't fully reef the sail.

It's a little confusing, as it's two lines in a "jiffy reef" system, so that you only have to pull on one line to pull down both the luff and the leach of the sail. But once you get the picture, it isn't that hard to deal with. Here's what it looks like:

The line through the leech of the sail attaches to a block in the boom. The line through the luff of the sail runs through the block and back out the forward end of the boom through the cleat.

So what happens when you reef is this. You pull on the line at the forward end of the boom. This pulls the block attached to the leach line forward through the boom, pulling the aft reefing line down and raising the boom to the reefing gromet. You get here:

At this point, the block is as far forward as it can be in the boom, so pulling more on the reefing line pulls the luff reefing line down to the boom (you ease the halyard as you do this). So you get to here:

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Ryan Alder
Nice description on how to get the right length of the two lines attached to the block! Not knowing the technique, it takes a lot... Read More
Tuesday, 06 September 2016 14:22
John Bongiovanni
The diagrams are based on the Bahia manual, so they're the manufacturers recommendations, for whatever that's worth. However, I b... Read More
Tuesday, 06 September 2016 15:52
John Shearer
Hi John! Excellent guide on the reefing process! I have to agree with Ryan on the routing issue. If the manufacturer recommende... Read More
Sunday, 13 November 2016 15:41
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Slow Sailing

b2ap3_thumbnail_Slow-Sail-to-Buoy.jpg

Slow sailing is a Junior skill and an important one. The objective of slow sailing is to get to a fixed point in space (a dock, a man-overboard,
a buoy) with zero speed. The idea is to come in on a close reach course, where you have an accelerator and a brake.
With the mainsheet all the way out, the sail is depowered, and the brake is the wind and sea against the boat. Pulling in the mainsheet on the falls is the accelerator. You line yourself up on a close reach
course and sail to the target.

There are two skills involved:

1) lining yourself up on a close reach course to the target, and

2) slow sailing on that course to it.

Let's talk about hitting a buoy at zero speed, as it's the hardest of the maneuvers. When you dock, you usually have some room for error, as you don't have to get to a precise point on the dock. But wait, what about a busy Saturday where you have to thread the needle between the only two boats where there's any space between them to dock? If you can lightly touch a buoy on a slow-sail, you can do precision docking.

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Ryan Alder
I think 'maintain forward momentum' is the big one (once you get the concept of finding the right angle to the wind). I know I ha... Read More
Thursday, 23 June 2016 11:16
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Sailing Small Circles

Sailing Small Circles
b2ap3_thumbnail_Small-Circles-Ideal-Circle.jpg

Small Circles

This is one of the most difficult Junior skills, and it's quite important. But why is it important? In real life, how many  small circles are you going to do? Probably none, after you pass the Junior Test. But you probably will need to do fast turns upwind or downwind, and do fast tacks and gybes, possibly to avoid disaster (like hitting something). And maybe with newbie crew. Think about approaching the dock on a big south wind and getting turned in the wrong direction (like into the sea wall). That's what this maneuver is about. You may never do another full circle in your life, but you may need one or more of the maneuver's components.

The maneuver is also a stress test of your sailing skills. You have to do a bunch of things quickly and competently without time to think - they have to be instinctive. It's also a stress test of your crew communications skills for the same reason.

A real circle?

First of all, it's not really a circle. We think of it as looking like this, here counter-clockwise around a buoy:

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Michael Sherrell
John, do the instructions vary by wind speed? What wind speed are these instructions optimal for?
Thursday, 07 April 2016 06:50
John Bongiovanni
I think in any wind speeds where small circles make sense (that is, approaching 10 knots and more). In talking to people, the one... Read More
Thursday, 07 April 2016 17:35
Michael Sherrell
No, I think this is great. Actually made me rethink my own technique, such as it is, for which, thanks!
Thursday, 07 April 2016 20:23
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Demystifying Apparent Wind - Part 3

b2ap3_thumbnail_Apparent-Wind-Downwind.gif

The last in the series - Apparent Wind downwind.

It's hard to steer downwind. The waves toss the boat around more, and if you get tossed too much, you'll gybe when you don't want to. You can capsize on a broad reach in heavy winds and seas.

The biggest thing you have to deal with is apparent wind. On a downwind course, small changes in course, wind speed, and wind direction produce large changes in apparent wind.

We'll use the same 5 kt. true wind we've used before and the same Bahia-like boat. You're almost dead downwind - just 5 degrees short of it. Here's what it looks like:

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Demystifying Apparent Wind - Part 2

b2ap3_thumbnail_Apparent-Wind-Puff---Close-Hauled.jpg

Last time, we looked at apparent wind and how it changes as you change point of sail. In that discussion, the speed and direction of the true wind was the same and the boat direction changed. Here we look at what happens when you're keeping the boat course the same, the wind direction doesn't change, but the wind speed does. It increases (a puff) or it decreases (a lull). You get both of these as you're traversing the Novice Area on a normal day (westerly winds), as the trees and gaps between them on the breakwater to the restaurant cause this uneven wind.

Again, we're using our Bahia-like dinghy and a 5 kt. wind. You're sailing close-hauled, so it looks like this:

The boat is 45 degrees to the true wind, but only 30 degrees to the apparent wind. Normal. Then you get a puff, say a pretty big one (10 knots, double the speed but out of the same direction). In that instant, your boat speed doesn't change (it needs time to do that), but your apparent wind does. It looks like this:

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Michael Sherrell
The point being that when you get a puff you can head up and sail closer to the true wind, i.e., get upwind faster, rather than si... Read More
Monday, 22 February 2016 10:35
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Demystifying Apparent Wind - Part 1

Demystifying Apparent Wind - Part 1
b2ap3_thumbnail_Apparent-Wind---Close-Hauled.jpg

A very common problem my students have voiced is that they have trouble figuring out where the wind's coming from. On the one hand, it shouldn't be so hard - turn your head and feel the wind on your ears. When it's the same on both ears, you're either looking straight into the wind or straight away from it. Or (less accurate) look at the yarn on the side stay.

Yet it's not so simple. You think of the wind as coming from the same direction, but when you sail, it doesn't seem to do that. It seems to shift a lot. And "you told me we couldn't sail higher than about 45 degrees into the wind, but that yarn on the stay has a much smaller angle than that". And (yet more observent) "We're sideways to the waves, so we should be on a beam reach, but the yarn says we're still somewhat upwind".

Welcome to the world of apparent wind. This is a simple concept to explain and  understand at a high level, but very hard to get at a detailed level. Everyone gets the simple explanation - you're peddling a bike at 10 knots on a calm day, what do you feel? A 10 knot headwind. The speed you're generating adds to the wind speed to create the wind you feel, the apparent wind. The apparent wind is what you and the bike feel. Peddaling 10 knots in a 10 knot headwind, and you're pumping against a 20 knot apparent wind. Doing the same in a 10 knot tail wind, and Bob's very much your uncle.

Those with a math background easily grasp that this is a vector algebra problem - the boat wind speed adds up with the true wind speed as vectors, where both the speeds and the directions interact. But even if you get that, it's truly hard to see how it all plays out on the water. And I'm speaking as someone with a graduate education in mathematics. In editing this blog, I realized that I had messed up a calculation in my first draft. If you sit down to do the calculations, you have to determine what your boat speed will be at a given true wind speed and point of sail (angle of the boat to the wind). Polar performance diagrams will show this, but good luck finding these for any of our dinghy's.

So my point is that it's quite difficult to build a mental model of this. Instead, you can get a feel of how it happens on the water without trying to understand why, exactly. I did the math from a guess of a polar diagram for a boat similar to a Laser Bahia at 5 knots wind. If you're not racing, it doesn't matter how accurate this is. But it should be pretty typical.

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Michael Sherrell
The yarn on the shrouds will also tell you the precise apparent wind direction, in anything over a few knots.
Tuesday, 01 December 2015 13:07
Nathan Ilten
It would be a great senior project for someone to make some polars for our dinghies! There are enough people in the club with GPS ... Read More
Tuesday, 01 December 2015 23:06
Michael Sherrell
What is a "polar"?
Wednesday, 02 December 2015 07:36
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