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  • Dale

I Learned About Sailing from That...

Spend enough years sailing, or around sailors, and you'll come across all kinds of lessons: some painfully earned yourself, and some learned through others' mistakes. Here are a few examples.

Lesson #1: Secure the Anchor

When chartering several years ago we docked alongside a catamaran with the front supporting cross-beam entirely caved in and parts of the fiberglass top-deck ripped out. I wish I'd taken a picture, but imagine the beam labeled "A" in the photo below bent downward by 3 feet. It turns out they accidentally dropped their anchor when underway at high speed in shallow water. The anchor grabbed hold on the ocean bottom and the force of rapidly stopping a 20-ton boat ripped things apart. The charter company told me the repairs would be around $150,000.

To avoid the same happening to us, we always secure the anchor chain to a forward cleat (arrow "B") when underway.


Lesson #2: Secure the Life Raft

We have come across several boats that lost their life rafts in heavy seas. The rafts must be mounted on a boat in a way that is easy to deploy, which also tends to make them easy to accidentally deploy.

Unfortunately we lost our raft 2 years ago during a rough Atlantic passage from Gibraltar to the Canary Islands. I blame it on a bad design by Lagoon since our raft is mounted underneath the stern of the boat where it is constantly pounded by waves. While our lives were spared, the raft replacement cost was $2,500. I've now reinforced the mounting. It looks messy, but it has an improved metal shelf and better tethers. Line (A) is the quick release. Line (B) is a backup tether. Line (C) is the primary tether.

Lesson #3: Wear Gloves

Lines for running-rigging on a big sailboat can be under thousands of pounds of load and can be really dangerous. Bad things happen fast. Losing skin from rope burn is common. The photo below doesn't adequately reflect the pain one of our guests experienced from rope burn. And some of us have come close to losing a finger or two.

Wearing sailing gloves helps. And always being aware of which lines are under load before opening a clutch or working a winch is wise.

Lesson #4: Don't Cross Lines

We've learned that details matter in how to work the sails. One rookie mistake I made was crossing a line to an incorrect winch. Line "C" in the photo below is intended to flow through the clutch (stopper) straight to winch "A". In haste one day when winch "A" was already in use for a different line, I quickly line "C" to winch "B" instead. The clutch quickly exploded from the lateral force winch "B" placed on it at a right angle. That repair cost $250. Last time I'll do that.

Lesson #5: Don't Bump Things

Helios has two engine rooms - one in each hull. They are full of mechanical equipment with hoses, valves, switches and wires everywhere. Climbing down the ladder and working in there while underway in rough seas can be tricky. As written about in an earlier blog post, one of us apparently bumped an important bypass valve (arrow in the photo below) for the hydraulic steering on the starboard rudder. That threw one rudder into a hard-right-turn position which we didn't notice until the racing-start of leg #2 of our trans-Atlantic rally. Just as we and 70 other boats crossed the starting line, with our mainsail up and engines off, Helios veered sharply to the right, wholly out of control. After a 30-minute mad scramble to diagnose the problem we finally traced it to this simple valve that was inadvertently bumped.

So many more lessons - some too embarrassing to write about.


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1 Comment

Bengt-Åke Sörstedt
Bengt-Åke Sörstedt
Jul 02, 2023

Thanks fort letting us share your expirences. I can recognise the owner of the hand. We wish you happy sailing.😍 Bengt-Ake

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