Today's Open/Close Times based on tide predictions

DateClub TimelineSunsetLow Tide
Tue Jul 16 Noon to 8:01 PM8:31 PM3.1 @ 1:45 PM

red means the Club will be closed. Note that current low tides are around 0.1 feet higher than predictions.

Day Leader's WhiteBoard


Unless whiteboard shows today's date, there is no Day Leader or they haven't signed in yet.

Berkeley Marina Entrance and Tides

usace entrance annotated

There are three entrances to the Berkeley Marina: North, Middle, and South. Keelboaters know to avoid the North in low tides, and that the South is the only safe entrance in very low tides. But what are the numbers? That is, what's the tide level threshold for avoiding the North entrance? How about the Middle entrance? And is the South entrance absolutely safe in all tide levels?

Here's a shot of the marina entrance with this highlighted along with the lower depth area on the west side of the north-south channel (which is now marked by white hazard buoys).

Unfortunately, we don't have reliable data to answer most of the questions above except the one about the South channel entrance. The "channel" into the South entrance is a federal navigation channel, which is why mark 3 (or Olympic Circle D mark) exists. Because of this, the US Army Corps of Engineers conducts annual sounding surveys, and the last one was in February 2023

If you blow up the South entrance in the diagram for this survey, you see this

Continue reading

Teaching Upwind Sail Trim - Another Approach

Changing the Angle of Sail to the Wind
Changing the Angle of Sail to the Wind Using Sheets
Changing the Angle of Sail to the Wind Using Tiller

The most difficult maneuver to learn for Junior is the small circle, but the most difficult general skill to learn  is upwind sail trim. I have tried a number of ways to teach this, but until recently I haven't found a really good one. Like everything in teaching sailing (or anything else), different techniques work for different students, but there seems to be a really wide range here of what works for whom. For teaching sail trim, each of the methods I've tried have worked well for some, but not many students. After enough time on the helm, they'll  figure it out, but I've been looking for something to make it click faster.

I've even written a blog on it:

But not everyone learns by reading about it.

What I'm trying now looks promising, though, so I'll go over it here.

Continue reading

"Boat on a Rope" Demo of Rudderless Technique


Boat on a Rope

Land drills and demos are things we don't do enough, as we focus on instruction on the water. But they can be very powerful additions to our program.

Here's a great example, Boat on a Rope.

As you get more advanced, you're learning how to control the boat with multiple controls, not just the tiller. A very powerful technique is boat lean.  It's easy to describe - if the starboard side is down, the boat turns to port, and vice versa. I taught kayaking for 10 years, and in a closed deck kayak, if you want to turn left, you lift your left knee, and vice versa. But it's one thing to talk about it, and another thing to see it in action.

Here's the demo. You take a boat that's not rigged and put an extender on the bow line. In a light wind day, you might rig a long line to the stern. You want a pretty large person in the boat to do the demo. You can do this in a Quest, but it will be easier in a JY. Let the wind blow the boat from our dock toward the middle dock (or pull it there with a stern line in lighter wind), then pull really hard to move the boat toward our dock. Once it's moving fast, let go.

The first time, you want the person in the boat in the center (left-right), but the second time, you want them on one side or another, really leaning the boat. The first time students should see the boat go pretty straight, but the second time they should see it move decisively away from the side of the boat that is leaning down.

Continue reading

The Quick Stop COB Procedure

Maneuver wText

The Quick Stop COB Procedure

There are several COB procedures, each with its advantages and disadvantages. On keelboats, there are more options than on dinghies, as you can  incorporate a gybe into the procedure without too much worry.

As in many aspects of sailing, the best procedure can be hotly debated. As Seamus Venecko famously said, "Ask 10 skippers, and you'll get 11 opinions and a fist fight". Personally, I am not religious about this. I have my favorites, both for dinghy and for keelboat (different), and I can argue their merits. But as a dinghy Junior tester, I will pass someone who can get to a stop right next to the target consistently using a procedure I've never seen before. The results count more than the method.

I want to talk about a procedure that works on  keelboats but not on dinghies, the Quick Stop. It was developed by the US Naval Academy some decades ago when they looked at the various procedures and didn't like any of them, so they invented a new one. What they didn't like was that in the all of the others, you tended to get too far from the COB, and so you might lose them in certain conditions (at night, in heavy seas, or both, exactly the kind conditions where it might happen). So they developed a procedure where you stay very close to the COB throughout the maneuver. This is the Quick Stop, and you'll see a number of descriptions online. I've experiemented with this on our boats (Commander and Merit) in various conditions with various sail plans, and this is what I think will work.

Basically, you tack around and leave the jib backed. Then you do a rough circle around the COB with the main sheeted in all the way, trying to get about 2 boat lengths away when you are going downwind abeam of the target. You gybe when you are clearly downwind of the target and round up hard (main is still sheeted in at this point). Then you blow the mainsheet and slow sail to the COB, which should be a boat length or so away.

Here is a diagram.

Continue reading

The Very Useful Highwayman's Hitch and Departing Single-Handed


The Highwayman's Hitch is a wonderful, special-purpose knot. It is useful when you need the boat tied up for a short time, and you need to undo it quickly from a distance.

I use it all the time putting a boat into the water by myself with the hoist, but it is also useful when you are doing this with a helper in low tide. In that case, you generally lower the boat with the bow line either secured to the ramp or held by someone on the ramp. Then you have to get the line down to the dock to secure it there.

How do you do that? The wrong answer is drop the line and run around a get it, as the boat should be under control at all times. If the tide isn't too low, you could tie it to the ramp low enough to reach up and untie it from the dock, but that't not always possible. The Highwayman's Hitch is a more elegant solution.

I won't explain how to tie it, except to point to the Animated Knots animation.

You tie the knot around something on the ramp and drop the working end down. You tie it "on the bight" which means you don't need the end of the line to tie it. I just drop the end of the line (the working end) down and tie the knot. When it's tied correctly, it will hold the line to the boat securely, but it will come undone if you pull hard on the working end. So it doesn't matter where you tie it, as long as you can reach the working end from the dock.

Continue reading

Can You Slow Sail?

Saturday Docking
J Dock PP
J Dock Daisy

Slow sailing is a technique we teach for getting to a fixed point in space at a stop. The fixed point could be a dock, a buoy, a MOB, etc. The idea is to come in on a close reach approach course, where you have an accelerator and a brake. The accelerator is the main, pulling in on the fall, and the brake is the wind against the hull when you depower the main. The technique works for dinghies and for keelboats, although of course each boat responds differently, and each time you do it the dynamics of the wind and sea against the boat are different.

So my question is "Can you slow sail?" I'm not asking whether you can perform the basic technique – let's assume that. When you get on your final approach course for your target, can the boat slow sail to the target? Are you on a close reach? The reason I ask this question is that it is the most common problem I see teaching MOB and docking. I'll go through the cases below, but the take-away is that you should ask yourself this question when you start on your final approach and again if the wind shifts. If the answer is Yes, Bob's your uncle, so just slow sail to your target. If the answer is No, you have to do something, like adjust your course or abort the maneuver.

How to ask yourself the question

It's very simple, just see whether you have an accelerator and a brake when the boat is pointing toward the target. Pull in on the fall and see if the boat powers up without any luff in the sail. Let the sail out all the way and look for a big luff in the sail. If both of these happen, you can slow sail. If one of them does not, you can't. I can't emphasize enough that the boat must be pointed in the direction you want to slow sail when you do this.

The cases

I'll discuss MOB, dinghy docking in the South Basin, and West wind keelboat dockings at J-Dock. I will present only a cursory description of each procedure. The intent is to show you when you should ask yourself the question or a variant of it.


A basic technique we teach is broad reach away from the MOB and tack around to close reach back. This is not the only possible technique, and in keelboats you have more choices than in dinghies. The technique is described in more detail here and is illustrated below:

Continue reading

Some Points about Launching Dinghies on a Crowded Dock

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.

Continue reading

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 Hidden

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

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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).

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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:


Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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:

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading