Tag: Safety Postion

Heave to

Labor Day! Sunny, warm, with wind fresh and steady. WSW 10 kts gusting to 16, yellow flag when we got there around 11:30, but a couple of stronger gusts came through as we were getting ferried to a Sonar and the flag went red. Red these days at CBI pretty much means keelboats reef. Oh darn, I wasn’t going to have to work as hard. With the wind, the Sonar handles just fine without the jib so we cast off the mooring with main only and had no problems getting underway and out the cut. In fact I was a little tense at first, not having been on a Sonar under red flag in a while. After a couple of tacks though, and seeing that the “gusts” today were relatively gentle, I took a breath and relaxed.

We beat to windward. I coached Stacy on sheeting the jib hard before it fills on the new tack because without a winch handle it’s about impossible to sheet when it’s full. I practiced sheeting with the traveler and before we knew it we were at the Mass Ave bridge. I coached Stacy on the bear away. We went though it and were flying downwind. Broad reach, my favorite way to go downwind was fun, but in the stronger wind I wanted to practice DDW, Dead Down Wind. I bore off more and Stacy was able to fly the jib opposite the main in wing-and-wing or “milkmaid” configuration. We did some jibes, we slalomed through kayaks, and beat back to the bridge.

On this second run, I thought I’d try something new, “heave to.” I explained it Stacy, we tacked, I gave the boat a moment to lose its headway and was able to bungee the tiller to leeward with the bungee that holds it centered while the boat is moored. The boat was lying hove-to nicely, I scooted forward on the bench and kicked back. It was like having a blanket in the park except it was a boat on the water. Actually I liked watching how the boat responded to gusts and lulls. After a while Stacy and I traded sides of the boat and I got the other perspective on how the boat was maintaining a stable heading through gusts and lulls. Eventually, after drifting maybe half the length of the basin hove to, I had Stacy bring the jib across as I bore off to broad reach and trimmed the main. We were up to speed in seconds.

We sailed around at east end of the basin for a while, kind of stalling because we had decided to go in after two laps but it was so nice out there! Actually, as we had suspected, the flag was back at yellow. Really there had just been a couple of gusts that justified the red flag. I decided to try one more little technique before we went in, we’d shake out the reef. I headed up, pulled the reef ties as the boom came in, and tacked us over to heave to again. Cunningham off, vang off, reef line off, then hoist the main. Main halyard on the cleat, cunningham on, vang on, then out of heave to and we pulled the trigger! It was fast and easy. The boat was noticeably faster with the full main, but we were done. One more tack and through the cut.


WR Chaos

Lots of 420s on the line tonight! As if our usual mix of sailing and racing skills isn’t chaotic enough, tonight we had breakdowns, reaching starts after a 60 degree wind shift, general recalls, and way too many collisions.

First, the breakdown was a main halyard that came loose, dropping both the main and halyard and ending sailing for the unfortunate boat (not mine.) In the debrief after racing, there was frustrated discussion about the incident, but it’s hard to just talk about how to tie a knot. Knot tying is much better demonstrated. I had my camera with me tonight so I grabbed a rigging sail and snapped some pics. There are two sequences here, demonstrating two different ways to hitch a halyard to the head of 420 mainsail.

This first sequence demonstrates the hitch I see somewhat more often. As in the upper left frame, pass the free end of the halyard through the cringle in the head plate. Lower left: pass the free end through again, making a round turn. Upper center: tie a stopper knot in the free end. A barrel knot is shown here, with my favorite way of tying it. It’s just a double overhand knot. Lower center: when you snug the double overhand knot, you can shape it into this barrel shape. Right: snug the stopper knot against head plate, pulling all slack through the round turn into the standing part of the halyard.

This can be varied in a number of ways. You can substitute a different stopper knot for the barrel knot. I like a figure eight knot. Stay away from single overhand knots — they jam badly. If the halyard diameter is small compared to the head cringle, you might want an extra round turn. If it is large, you might not even be able to do one round turn.

The sequence below shows another variation, actually my favorite way.

UL: Rather than putting the free end through the cringle, start by just tying a stopper knot in the free end. LL: Make a bight (a loop that doesn’t cross over itself) and push the bight through the cringle. UR: pass the free end with the stopper knot over the top of the head plate and down through the bight. LR: snug everyting tight.

The advantage I like with this variation is that for the first step of tying the stopper knot, you only need to be working with the halyard; there is no need to also be holding the sail. This makes for less time that you have to be juggling the sail in one hand and the halyard in the other. A slight disadvantage can come if the halyard line is stiff or thick or both. It can be hard to squeeze the bight through the cringle. If so, you have to abandon this variation and fall back on the first one.

Finally it’s worth pointing out that an advantage of either of these hitches over almost any other is that the hitch takes no space between the head cringle and the halyard sheave. They allow the sail to be hoisted to the maximum possible height.

So, racing. I had Andrea crewing for me, which was a delight because she was eager to roll with whatever crazy things I wanted to try. When the wind veered right strongly, It was clear we had a reaching start on starboard and that we were likely to lay the first mark from the start. It was almost like an America’s Cup start! Also watching many of these in the Extreme Sailing Series, I knew that the windward (boat) end of the line wasn’t necessarily best. You would think so, because it’s so heavily favored to windward, but if you can still lay the first mark from anywhere on the line, it’s not that much of an advantage. Sometimes the leeward end is best for securing inside rights at the mark, but then sometimes the middle of the line offers a winning compromise of speed and position. I expected the boat end to be crowded and targeted the middle of the line just hoping for clear air. It was fun to see how it worked out! I did get my clear start but turned out I had to sail close hauled to fetch the mark and the boats that started to windward of me were able to reach with better speed.

Also with Andrea I was trying to experiment with down-speed maneuvering in the prestart. I failed miserably at this a couple of times, calling my starts terrible, which Andrea thought was a little harsh. I was doing better in a latter race, killing almost all of the prestart while drifting slowly behind the line. I was pointing out to Andrea that I had the boat basically in safety position, with the tiller all the way down and the sails luffing, and that to accelerate we would just trim the sails and straighten the tiller. It sort of worked, but not quite. In safety position the boat still makes leeway. That means it’s moving, if slowly. I think there are better techniques. I was hypothesizing with Andrea that they would involve more active crew work, backing and trimming the jib slightly by hand to keep the boat closer to head to wind, and working with the skipper to either make slight headway or allow the boat to back in irons.

So, um safety position got us in trouble another time. I wanted to demonstrate something at the mast and so put the boat in safety position so I could leave the tiller and go forward. This was done, on starboard, for what it’s worth; we were both looking down in the bottom of the boat when there was a loud thunk. We looked up startled to see that we had just T-boned a Mercury on port. It was slow, of course, but still: proper lookout total fail.

I had more collisions! I tried to shut out some barging boats at a start and one barged in anyway. I cried protest. Carol just cried as our brand new 420s bumped against the committee boat. Later I hit a mark. I did my circle, but you know, it’s wear and tear.

And it wasn’t just me. There were a number of other stories of collisions today. Carol was dismayed to say the least.

Gusts over 20

W 10 kts gusting over 20. It sure seemed like the wind spent most of its time closer to 20 and I would have guessed the gusts were higher, but the CBI wind log shows it really wasn’t gusting much over 20. It was brisk and fun anyway. Stacy and I sailed an Ideal 18 a couple of laps down to the Mass Ave bridge and back.

We rigged reefed in the mooring field. It took a little creativity though as the reefing line was missing from the boom. I put the outhaul shackle on the reef clew and just tied the full clew to the end of the boom to keep the sail tidy. For this cast off from the mooring, I made sure it was as controlled as possible. We were starting from the corner by the kayak/windsurf/laser dock (the beach, I call it) with little room to maneuver and with the wind a little bit wild. I got the boat pointing away from the dock and had Stacy unfurl the jib right a way after she cast us off. The wind grabbed the jib and we were off.

As usual, Stacy wanted to sit on the low side to drag her fingers in the water. No, not today. When I told her she had to sit on the high side I got a look of disbelief and hurt. As we sailed through the cut and into the wind on the basin though, I think she understood. Seriously, it was a blast for both of us. She had some new lessons, about jib sheets under load, and about moving her weight from one side to the other in a tack or jibe. I think the wind might have been a little eye-opening.

For me, I really liked this red flag time in the Ideal 18. I don’t have much red flag experience in the boat so it was good to log an hour or so. With just the two of us, were were a little bit light for the wind strength. I liked playing the gusts to try to keep the sails as full as possible and keep the boat speed up as much as possible. A mantra for gusts is “ease, hike, trim.” Ease when the gust first hits, not only to limit heel, but because the apparent wind direction comes back. Then hike. As the boat accelerates, the apparent wind streams back again and the sails can be trimmed back in. Today in the Ideal, the hiking part was a little different. Stacy’s not much into hiking, I’m still trying to take things a little easy myself, and we’re in a keel boat where hiking counts less than it does on a dinghy. Interestingly though, ease-hike-trim works even with limited hiking. As a gust would hit, I tried to ease the main some but still allow the heel to come up somewhat — not so much that there would be excessive weather helm but enough that the keel would give some more righting moment. Then it worked to almost immediately sheet back in. The boat would accelerate as I sheeted and luffing would be minimal.

I encouraged Stacy to wear a headband to keep her hair out of her eyes, but I didn’t take my own advice at first. In the middle of our sail though the wind was coming up even more and I wanted to minimize distractions. It was time for a few minutes in safety position while I tied up my hair as well.

Hmm, a couple of other small lessons. One was that windsurfers can move through the water with some significant speed even with their sails in the water. I tend to think of them as being stationary when they hit the water but that’s not a safe assumption. One capsized a bit in front of us when we were on a run. There was other boat traffic I was avoiding and I planned on sailing by this capsized windsurfer, well, not terribly close but a little close. As we got closer though, the person was pulling his sail around in the water and the whole windsurfer rig moved significantly through the water to come against us as we passed.

Also I was a little sloppy with my jury rig tie on the main clew and at one point a loose end started to tangle in one of the mainsheet blocks. In the strong wind it was a little hectic to go head to wind and try to organize it a little better. Safety position doesn’t help if you need to do something at the end of the boom!

That was the day. I was a little sad I couldn’t do more. There was that Laser red test I would have liked to take, and calls from the dockhouse for crew for red tests in addition to the usual informal instruction. But one nice sail in the red flag wind was enough for the day.

Sloop conditions

Double Red Flag

The day ended under double red flag, but much of the day was simple and beautiful red flag.  Today was the first CBI Open House of 2017, a day promoted to encourage people to visit Community Boating, try sailing, and (hopefully) join!  Me, slug that I am, I had not committed to be an official volunteer, and so had a lazy morning at home and got to the dock maybe around 3:30.  I hadn’t even finished applying sunscreen when there was the call on the loudspeaker for informal instruction.

Soon I was on a Rhodes 19 with three new sailors, Ken, with a yellow rating, but two new members, Jon and Luic, who had just joined and gone through orientation, rigging class, and shore school that day.  We got a Rhodes because the Sonars were all out, but I explained to my crew that the Rhodes would be good for them because it is much like a big Mercury, both in the way it is rigged and the way it handles on the water.  I said that, but then I rigged it reefed to start with, which added a complexity they probably won’t otherwise have to deal with for a while on the Mercs.

The weather really was nice, just a little overcast, 84F, and initially anyway, wind 10kts gusting to 20 from the W.  So with four people on a Rhodes 19 with a keel, reefing might seem a little over-precautious, but I wanted things to be easy for my first timers.  Also I rigged the jib, but left it furled on the foredeck.  The sail configuration was just fine for them all to take turns sailing.  I pointed out a Sonar that was sailing reefed as well, just to show that we weren’t the only cautious ones.

We practiced all the usual stuff for new sailors, steering the boat, sheeting the main, tacking, jibing, and also “safety position.”  One question was on the difference between “in irons” and safety position.  Aren’t both with the boat stopped with sails luffing?  Yes, but, in-irons is with the boat head to wind and safety position is with it on close reach.  More importantly, in-irons is unstable—the boat will begin to drift backwards and will fall off on one tack or the other.  Safety position though is stable.  You can let go of the tiller even and the boat will maintain a close reach heading with the sail luffing and will make very little headway.  Safety position is also not in irons because you can make the boat go again as easily as pulling in the sheet.

After an hour or so and a couple of laps up and down the basin, we thought it was time to make things more interesting with the jib.  The extra power was impressive, and made the sailing much more interesting and challenging.  I commented that the wind might be coming up slightly, but most of the extra power was coming from the jib.  Before long though, some much stronger gusts started to come in.  I was laughing at this point still, saying that all this power was not just from the jib.  I scratched my plans to shake out the reef.  In fact, as the wind was continuing to come up, I decided to take the jib back down.  The earlier lesson on safety position was valuable now as I demonstrated putting the boat in safety position so I could go up on the bow and take down the jib.  I gave the helm back to new sailors then, but not for long.  The wind was still coming up and they were struggling.

I had stopped laughing and suggested I take the helm for a bit.  As we sailed we started to marvel at the whitecaps.  The basin was now filling in solid with whitecaps and we were watching multiple capsizes.  Conditions were no longer optimal for learning, we’d had a good long sail, so I added “you know, maybe we’ll just head in.”  There was one last technique to demonstrate for the day, the “chicken jibe” which is of course not a jibe but a 270 with a tack.  As we surfed the growing waves and chicken jibed our way back to the cut we saw carnage all around us.  Not only the capsizes but run-agrounds as well.  I got us quickly moored and as the sail was coming down I saw more.  A downwind mooring pickup under bare poles, a collision with a moored boat, then Isaac motoring around announcing “these are sloop conditions!”  The wind that had generated the solid whitecaps was steady 20kts gusting over 35, and the flag had gone to double red, sloop rating required.

Sloop rating at Community Boating is almost mythical.  The idea is that it’s a rating past red.  To get any rating you have to test for it, which typically means you need a little practice at it, but of course if the wind is so strong that red-rated sailors aren’t allowed out, then the US flag often comes down and the program is closed.  It’s safe to guess that not many of these ratings have been awarded.  The test requirements have always been a bit vague as well.  Basically it’s demonstrating that you can deal with a boat that is severely overpowered.

I had to refresh my skill on the chicken jibes a little.  If you can make the turn quickly and smoothly enough, you might pull it off with little sheeting, but it’s not best.  The extra luffing can be enough to stop the boat in irons.  It happened on one of my jibes.  I just did the quick three-point turn and was on my way, but you know it would be best to avoid that.  Also the bear away is a little smoother if you are easing a filled main rather than bearing off to the point where an already-eased main fills.  So, my recommended chicken jibe is to sheet in as you round up to minimize luffing and keep the sail more full and keep the boat speed up.  Go through a pretty normal tack then, but when the sail fills on the new tack, ease it as you continue bear away to your new downwind course.  And hold on, because the boat will really take off.

Anyway, wow, what a fun and exciting way to end the day.