Equal Angles, Equal Forces

Correct adjustment of your spreaders may save your rig

By Connie McBride

Next time you’re at the marina, look up. If there are enough sailboats around, you’ll likely find a variety of rigs, with masts sporting anywhere from zero to several sets of spreaders. And in that mix of masts, chances are there will be quite a few wonky spreaders.

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Winter Agitation

By Don Launer

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 4, Number 5, September/October 2001.

Solving the problem of icing up in winter

Boat is protected from ice by a water-agitation motor

Mid-winter photo of the author’s schooner, Delphinus, at the dock next to his home in New Jersey. His boat is protected from ice around the hull by a water-agitation motor.

For those of us who live in the higher latitudes, the approach of the fall season reminds
us of an upcoming conflict between our boating agendas and the impending
deep freeze. For a fortunate few, this means stowing those summer clothes
on board and sailing toward warmer climates. But most of us will make
arrangements at the local marina for a haulout and winter cover or possibly
for wet (in-the-water) storage. Those who have their homes on the banks
of navigable water and have their boats moored at their own docks or at
the community dock of a condominium have yet another option: wintering
their boat in the water at her normal location near home. This option
requires appropriate preparation and equipment, of course.

One of the problems with wet storage in latitudes where the surface of the water can freeze
solid during the winter is the potential problem of ice damage, unless
proper precautions are taken.

With wooden hulls, water getting between the planks can freeze, spreading them apart and
allowing more water to enter and re-freeze until a major leak (and possible
sinking) occurs.

An agitation motor can be canted at an angle

If needed, an agitation motor can be  canted at an angle

The problems are usually less threatening with fiberglass boats. However, when thick ice forms
around the hull of any boat, damage to the rudder and prop is possible.
Also, when a boat is surrounded by ice, wind and current will cause it
to rock and pitch. The resultant grinding action of ice against the hull
can cut away at the gelcoat along the waterline of a fiberglass boat.
This can result in water incursion into the laminate and, at the very
least, an additional gelcoat repair job in the spring. With wood boats,
ice can wear through the paint and gouge the hull. Depending on the waterline
hull shape, major structural damage is possible. For all of these reasons
it’s important to prevent ice from forming around a boat that spends
the winter in the water.

To make sure the boat is floating in above-freezing water, a water de-icing system in the
winter is the answer. These systems are just as practical for an individual
boat at a private dock as they are for a large marina. For those who live
where the waters freeze during the winter, the “bubbler”
and underwater agitation-motors are a familiar sight, but how do they
keep the water from freezing around our boats?

Properties of water

The designer of our world certainly gave us a great gift when the physical
properties of water were promulgated. Water, one of the most commonplace
and familiar of all natural substances, is one of the most remarkable.
Compared with nearly every other substance, water behaves, physically,
in a unique manner.

Ice Eater, by The Power House

Ice eater by The Power House

Nearly every other material expands when heated and contracts when cooled, but water follows
this pattern only in part. As it is cooled down to about 39° F it does
indeed contract; but with further cooling it begins to expand again, and
when it begins to freeze this expansion is dramatic.

Let’s imagine what would happen if water did not follow this aberrant behavior. If water
and ice continued to contract, as does nearly every other substance, ice
would be denser and heavier than water. As ice formed at the cold interface
of water and air, it would sink to the bottom.

Other layers of ice would also sink as they formed, until the entire body of water would be
frozen solid. Since sunlight and heat don’t penetrate very deeply
into a body of water or ice, none of our lakes, streams and bays in the
northern latitudes would ever thaw out in the summertime, except to a
slight depth at the surface. Fish and nearly all forms of aquatic and
bottom-life could not survive, and our northern bays, lakes, and streams
would be useless as a food source, for recreation, or navigation.

When a body of fresh water is cooled, it gradually contracts and becomes
denser and heavier until it reaches 39° F. Then it begins to expand as
it’s cooled to the freezing point and is transformed into ice at
32° F or less. Although the temperatures given in these explanations are
for fresh water, salt water follows a similar pattern. In the case of
salt water, the exact temperatures at which these events happen are determined
by the water’s salinity.

A solution of salt
and water freezes at a lower temperature than fresh water. In fact, the
freezing point of a saturated solution of salt water is about 6° C,
whereas the freezing point of unsaturated ocean water (depending on salinity)
is around 21° F.

Agitation motor suspended at an angle at the author's dock

Agitator motor suspended at an angle at the author’s dock.

Since surface water cooled to 39° F becomes denser, it sinks to the bottom. It is then replaced
by warmer bottom water, which then follows the same scenario. Thus no
ice can ever be formed on the surface of a body of fresh water until the
whole body of water is cooled to 39° F.

This means that the water at the bottom of a deep-frozen lake is near 39° F whatever the temperature
of the air above the ice. De-icing systems take advantage of this physical
fact of nature, using this huge reservoir of “warm” water
at the bottom for their supply of de-icing water.

Bringing water up

The two popular methods of raising this bottom layer of water to the surface are the air-bubbler system and the propeller-agitator.

With the air-bubbler, a weighted, perforated hose is laid along the bottom and connected to
an air compressor (controlled by an air thermostat). The rising air bubbles
coming out of the hose carry along with them the above-freezing water
from the bottom, creating an area of unfrozen water above the bubbler

The propeller-agitator accomplishes the same result by using a hermetically sealed electric motor
with a propeller attached. These agitator units are also controlled by
air thermostats. Naturally, the deeper the water at the slip, the larger
the reservoir of warmer water and the more practical the de-icing system.

Kasco's agitation unit

Kasco’s agitation unit.

A bubbler system can be used equally well for an individual boat or a huge marina with
the physical size of the compressor and its horsepower dependent on the
length of the bubbler hose and depth of the water. Originally these compressors
were quite noisy and could be annoying in a residential environment. In
recent years, however, internal as well as external sound-proofing and
state-of-the-art compressor design has nearly eliminated this problem.
During the winter, compressors usually live at dockside and must be in
a location well above any possible flooding.

The underwater agitation motor is completely quiet, except for the rippling noise of the water.
If depth is sufficient, the underwater motor can be hung directly beneath
the boat. Alternately, it can be hung at an angle off the side of the
boat where the water is deepest, or at the bow facing aft. These motors
can be suspended by their own ropes, mounted to a rigid arm, or suspended
from a flotation unit. Most manufacturers of agitator motors have optional
dock or piling mounts and flotation-mounting kits. When the underwater
motors are mounted in the vertical position, these units produce a circular
pattern of unfrozen water. When suspended at an angle, the pattern is

Adjusting the angle of a rope-suspended motor is done by simply looping one of the suspension
ropes back one or two ribs on the propeller cage or through one of the
off-center holes in the housing placed there for that purpose. These underwater
motors have plastic propellers and replaceable zinc anodes for electrolysis
reduction and are available in 1/2-, 3/4-, and 1-hp sizes, depending on
the size of the area to be de-iced and the severity of the winters. Originally,
the motor cases were filled with oil, but recently synthetic dielectric
lubricating fluids that are non-toxic, biodegradable, and non-bioaccumulating
have been introduced.

Bags and debris

Although it would be nice if our waters were pristine, unfortunately underwater
plastic bags and other debris are a fact of life. If a de-icing system
is used in an area where large amounts of such things are present, the
chance of their fouling the propeller of an underwater motor must be taken
into account when selecting a de-icing system. Naturally, underwater debris
presents no problem to a bubbler system.

If you’re using a propeller-agitation system, the following practices are recommended:

  • It is usually easier to de-ice a boat by installing the de-icer at the bow and pushing
    the water toward the stern, since boats are designed for easiest water-flow
    in that direction.
  • If a boat is berthed in a river, de-icing from the upstream side will allow the current to
    help, rather than hinder.
  • When a boat is wintering next to a bulkhead, the motor can be hung off the free side
    and canted toward the hull.

Obviously neither type of de-icing system can possibly prevent ice around a boat if the
ice is being moved by wind or current.

Other considerations

De-icing systems are also very effective in preventing damage to pilings
and docks in tidewater locations. In these locations, when ice freezes
solid around a piling, the piling is frequently lifted inch by inch at
each tide change. This results in expensive dock and piling repairs or
replacements, come spring. Unfrozen water around the pilings can prevent
this costly problem, and marinas often use bubbler systems in their slips
whether or not any boats are present. This lifting or “jacking”
damage is also common in the lakes, where weather, wind, and changes in
lake levels can cause the same thing to happen.

Although we only think of water agitation systems for boating use, they are also used as aeration
units in fish farms. A spectacular and bizarre use of a motor/agitator
made world news when, in October 1988, whales trapped by ice at Barrow,
Alaska, were kept in an ice-free area until Russian and U.S. icebreakers
could open a path for them to open water.

Even though de-icing systems eliminate most of the problems associated with wintering in the
water, some other things to consider are the possibility of freezing problems
inside the hull. The relatively warm bottom water surrounding the hull
typically will keep the bilge free of ice, but in harsh northern climates
there’s no guarantee. Where electricity is available, many boatowners
use electric light bulbs or small heating elements inside the engine compartment
to help keep the packing glands around the prop shaft and rudder shaft,
as well as the cockpit drains, from freezing. Small, inexpensive, plug-in
thermostats are also available so the heat is not on during warm spells.

Light-bulb problems

Bensaco's engine compartment heater

BoatSafe: Bensaco’s engine compartment heater

People who use a light bulb for heat can encounter several problems. A
normal light bulb has a life expectancy of about 750 hours. This means
that if left on continuously, it will last about a month – not
nearly long enough to last through the winter. A long-life bulb, which
puts out the same amount of heat, but less light, has a more rugged filament
and less chance of burning out over the winter. It’s also much
less vulnerable to vibrations. An outdoor bulb should be used if there
is any possibility of water dripping on it. The problem with light bulbs,
in general, is that the very limited amount of heat generated is only
effective within a very confined space and where winter temperatures are
relatively mild.

There have also been cases where an exposed bulb has come in contact with flammable material
or has shattered and caused a fire. Marine-grade engine-compartment heaters
are a far better and safer way to go. These come in several styles and
wattages. Some of these heaters have their own built-in thermostats and
circulating fans and are in stainless-steel or aluminum cases.

Other items to check before in-the-water winter storage, are the condition of your automatic
bilge pump and supply of power. Is the float-switch free of debris? Can
the pump be left in a standby mode without leaving the main 12-volt battery
switch on for the rest of the boat? Is there a possibility of the bilge
freezing, rendering the float-switch inoperable? Can the batteries remain
in a charged – but not overcharged – state by use of a “smart”
battery-charger or trickle-charger? Have you added non-toxic anti-freeze
to the bilge and pumped it through the bilge-pump and discharge hoses?
Other than the cockpit drains, are the through-hull seacocks closed? Ice
can lift off a hose. While you’re at it, now is a good time to
see if those hoses are double-clamped and the clamps and hoses are in
good condition.

Even though you have done all the winterization tasks properly, an occasional mid-winter visit
inside the cabin is always a good idea to make sure everything is OK –
if only to assure your boat and yourself that there are warm breezes and
sunny days to come. After your checkout, a half hour curled up on the
settee with your hands wrapped around a hot cup of coffee as you plan
those summer cruises can be great therapy in relieving the depression
of those cold gray days of winter as you wait for spring to creep north
to reclaim the shoreline.

Resources: Manufacturers of propeller-agitation units:

Kasco Marine, Inc.
800 Deere Road
Prescott, WI 54021

Follansbee Dock Systems
Follansbee, WV 26037

Manufacturer of bubbler de-icing systems:
World Wide Enterprises
19 Cedar St.
East Falmouth, MA 02536

Pyramid Technologies LLC
45 Gracey Ave.
Meriden, CT 06451

The Power House, Inc.
20 Gwynns Mills Court
Owings Mills, MD 21117

Manufacturer of engine compartment heaters:
Bensaco, Inc.
3301 Myrtle St.
Edisto Beach, SC 29438

Don lives on a
waterway off Barnegat Bay, on the New Jersey coast. He keeps his schooner,
Delphinus, at dockside next to his home. Although Barnegat Bay and the
adjacent waterways frequently freeze solid, his boat has wintered in unfrozen
water for the past 21 years, protected by a water-agitation system and
an electric engine-compartment heater.



By Jerry Powlas

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 1, Number 3, November/December 1998.

a fast, effective safety device

Vang preventer line diagram
Starboard vang released, port vang trimmed
How control lines lead to the helm station

Viewed from the bow, the photo above right shows the starboard vang released and the port vang trimmed. Photo at bottom shows the control lines led to the helm station. Notice the double-ended line.

I was guilty of contempt.
Never a good thing, in this case it turned out to be a serious error.
I had held a thunderstorm cell in contempt all morning. It was over there,
and we were over here. We had been sailing for hours in strong winds that
were probably feeding that cell, but it had been such a joyful ride I
couldn’t bring myself to quit. We had the 110 up with two reefs in the
main and were on a screaming reach. We had been flying like this for hours.
Occasionally we would have to tie a foot reef in the jib and put in or
shake out another reef in the main. But we were moving. Madeline Island
was to windward, and the seas hadn’t much fetch. But the wind was getting
over the island, and we had plenty of it.

At the bottom of
the island we headed up but kept our speed. Eventually we breasted the
red nun that marks the shoal, tacked, and fell off on another screaming

Karen is the smarter of the
two of us. I don’t deny that. She suggested that perhaps the storm cell
was moving toward us and we should probably shorten sail. I delayed.
Each gust seemed to offer a chance to explore new territory on the knotmeter.
It was intoxicating.

Finally Karen said we should
at least get our foul weather gear on. She went below first, perhaps
to set a good example. Then I went below to dress for the rain that
I had to admit was looking more likely. In the middle of my costume
change she said, “You’ve got about a minute.” That call was probably
accurate to within 10 seconds. I don’t know why I don’t listen to my
wife more carefully.

The squall hit. We were deeply
reefed but not deeply enough. The wind came from dead astern at maybe
60 knots. I looked out through the companionway and saw that Karen was
doing all she could do and doing it exactly right. She was steering
dead downwind, not letting Mystic jibe or broach. With that course and
speed Mystic would be a monument in downtown LaPointe on Madeline Island
in about five minutes, but I didn’t think we would make it that far.
Mystic’s beautiful spoon bow was being pushed down hard by the wind.
She was clearly outside the envelope. I popped out of the hatch without
bothering to replace the lifejacket I had removed in order to put on
my slicker. We always wear our lifejackets, but just when I needed mine
the most, there was no time to put it back on.

Control line and cleat
A flick of the wrist sets up the vang/preventer

Photo at top above shows the control line and cleat and the caribiner that eases the release and prevents premature recleating. Photo at bottom shows how a flick of the wrist sets up the vang/preventer.

I crawled to the mast and
cast off the main and jib halyards. Fortunately, they didn’t tangle
or catch; the beautifully simple jib hanks and mainsail lugs did what
they were supposed to do, and the press came off our spunky little Mystic
before she could pitchpole or broach. Bare poles were just right for
good speed and control. My arrogance would be forgiven – this time.

Lessons learned

As I look back on it, several
factors combined to limit that experience to a good scare and a lesson
survived. The person who designed our C&C 30 knew his business; my beautiful
wife used great skill in steering without broaching or jibing; the hanks
and lugs ran free and fast; and the vang/preventer did exactly what
we had intended it to do.

Vang/preventer? We knew of
no existing term for this rigging, and we had to call it something.
On Mystic, the vang/preventer is a pair of 4:1 tackles leading from
mid-boom to the port and starboard toerails just abaft the stays. A
single control line runs from both tackles aft through fairleads and
cam cleats port and starboard of the helm. Because there is only a single
line, as the boom swings off, line taken by one tackle is given up by
the other, so very little excess line clutters the cockpit. A flick
of the wrist controls the boom.

On Mystic the vang/preventer
is actually a better vang, a better preventer, and a better traveler
than anything else we could have devised. Mystic had a traveler when
we bought her, but it was a simple affair with no control lines. The
idea was to lift the detent pin and move the car stop to the new location.
The traveler was about two feet long and resided on a beam between the
cockpit seats just in front of the wheel. (Shown in photo.) It could
not be moved under load and was only useful when beating. It was too
short to help on a reach.

A message in this

The previous owner kept the
original vang in the starboard lazarette made up like a hangman’s noose.
After using it for awhile, I was convinced he had the right idea. The
people at C&C were not about to give up any sail area that could be
easily had, so Mystic’s boom sweeps very close to the deckhouse. This
leaves the (conventional) vang at a very poor angle when led between
mid-boom and the base of the mast. Fortunately, when the boom is close
in for beating, the vang is not necessary; the traveler controls the
sail twist. It took some getting used to – unloading the main to move
the traveler – but we managed and were glad for the lack of cordage
the simple thing offered. The real problem was the vang.

section of the mainsail

Adjust mainsheetto make trailing edge fly straight back

the mainsheet and vang(s) to make the trailing edge telltails
fly straight back.

Heavy air beat - Close reach, mainsheet controls angle
Light air beat - Trim windward vang to bring boom inboard
Broad reaching - Trim leeward vang to set up preventer, hold boom down

Heavy air beat – Mainsheet controls angle of mainsail
and twist. Close reach – Mainsheet controls angle. Trim
the leeward vang to remove twist; trim the windward vang to
add twist.
B: Light and medium air beat – Trim windward vang to bring boom
inboard; trim mainsheet to reduce twist.
C: Broad reaching and running – Trim leeward vang to set up
preventer, hold boom down, hold boom out in light air, and take
out twist.

We could lead
it to the toerail on reaches and runs, but doing so required the crew
to scamper about the deckhouse and side decks … sometimes in darkness
or heavy weather or both. A jibe demanded tedious choreography and a
minimum of two crew. We wanted better.

The night my good friend
stuck his head out of the hatch just as an eddy gust from the shore
jibed the main, was the last straw. We had been becalmed and so had
not set the vang as a preventer to the toerail. It was viewed as a bother
in any circumstance and certainly was not deemed necessary when there
was no wind. The blow of the boom could have killed him. He recovered
and finished the cruise, piloting us skillfully through the Apostle
Islands in a late October storm with near-zero visibility. We didn’t
have radar then or even GPS; we had Steve, the beginning sailor but
experienced aviator, and that jibe had nearly eliminated him.

Development of the rig

I wanted a way to set up
a preventer in a second – something that did not need to be removed
from the toerail in a jibe. Our vang/preventer was the answer. The first
version was 3:1 and used horn cleats. It was good, but not good enough.
At 4:1, we could get good downward force on the boom no matter what
position it was in. The bonus was that the preventer was now a good
sail trim control.

The purpose of a traveler
and vang is to allow good mainsail leech control. By moving a traveler
to windward on a beat in light air, the main can be given the twist
necessary for good performance. As the breeze picks up, the traveler
is let down in stages to leeward which, in combination with increasing
mainsheet trim, will give progressively less twist. In a blow just before
a reef is put in, the traveler is let down all the way to leeward, and
the main will luff a little near the mast and reduce heel. As the wind
goes aft, the vang takes over the job of pulling the boom down to control
twist. If the boom is mounted high enough, the vang can lead to the
base of the mast. But in the best of circumstances, the stresses are
high on the vang, boom, and mast because the angles do not favor the
task. With our vang/preventer we have a better traveler than if we had
an elaborate track, car, and tackles like a racer. In light air if we
want to add twist, we trim the windward vang. The boom lifts just as
it would with a fancy traveler. As the air picks up, we ease the windward
vang and add some mainsheet trim. When we are a little overpowered,
we trim the leeward vang, and the main untwists and luffs a little along
the mast. When we bear off, we ease the main and trim the leeward vang
a little more to keep the twist from getting excessive. A few telltales
on the main make it easy to see what must be done. As we steer farther
to leeward, the main is eased and the vang taken up. The preventer goes
on automatically in the course of getting good trim, so it is there
when we need it.

A jibe is a joy with this
rig. There is enough friction from the vang/preventer to keep a flying
jibe from being very fast, even if we just let it all go. We don’t do
that, of course. We ease the vang and trim the main until it pops over,
then we let out the main and set up the new vang – all very easy, fast,
and smooth. It is also very safe; no one leaves the cockpit.

On light wind days we used
to have trouble keeping the boom out on a run because the weight of
the mainsheet was enough to cause it to swing back in. With a vang/preventer
we just trim the boom out to where we want it, and it stays there.

The vang/preventer is a good
singlehanding rig also. I sailed Mystic alone for a couple of weeks
last summer in winds up to 35 knots as cold fronts pushed through the
Apostle Islands near our home port. The vang/preventer was handy for
this, since all the control lines, mainsheet, jib sheets, and both vangs
were within easy reach of the helmsperson.

Would we have jibed in that
thunderstorm without the vang/preventer? Other boats did. Would I have
had the courage to go to the base of the mast knowing that the boom
was free to jibe and wipe me off the deck? I think it made a difference.

Next time I’ll listen to Karen.

Up the mast

Article and photos by Steve Christensen

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 2, Number 5, September/October 1999.

Ease that fear of falling:
Techniques for making a trip up the stick safer

Looking down from atop the mast

The only sure things
in life are death, taxes, and that – sooner or later – you will have to
go up your mast. Many people dread going aloft and will do just about
anything to avoid it, even putting off needed repairs or rig inspections.
But the trip needn’t be a white-knuckle affair. With the proper equipment
and technique, you can actually enjoy going aloft. I’ve gone from being
afraid of heights to looking for opportunities to climb the mast (anyone’s
mast) just for the view. Really.

There are two parts
to the problem. The first is how to get up the mast. Unless you have
a couple of strong deck apes handy to grind away on a halyard winch,
this can be a real concern. But this isn’t your only consideration.
Just as important is the question of what to use for support once you’re
up there.

Bosun’s chairs

For most sailors
the answer to this second part is the trusty bosun’s chair. For
comfort aloft it’s hard to beat a well-padded board. But bosun’s
chairs are also part of the reason most people hate going aloft. It
just doesn’t feel secure sitting in one of those things. You
are tense and apprehensive the whole time, worried that you might fall
right out of it. And in fact, if you lean over too far in many of them
(like when stretching to reach a spreader tip), you can fall out. Fabric
chairs with back supports, waist belts, and crotch straps give more
of a feeling of security, but you still aren’t secure.

John Vigor notes
in The Practical Mariner’s Book of Knowledge that he prefers
to use an ordinary wooden plank as a bosun’s chair “to
remain insecure and terrified on the theory that if I don’t feel
complacent, I won’t relax my guard.” Avoiding complacency
is a good thing, but feeling terrified may keep many sailors from going
aloft, even when they need to.

Climber’s harness

Petzl Climber's harness

Wearing a climber’s harness, you could even hang upside down safely, not that you should do this on purpose. The Petzl ascender slides up and locks on a 1/2-inch line.

The solution to
this feeling of insecurity is not therapy, but a mountaineer-style climber’s
harness. It looks and feels a bit strange at first to be tightly strapped
into this contraption, but you get used to it. And the sense of security
that comes with knowing you can even hang upside down is fantastic.
It was a revelation to find just how relaxed I could feel aloft while
using one of these. An additional benefit to using a harness is that
the point of attachment is lower than with a chair. That makes it a
little easier to reach the top of the mast when working at the masthead.

The main drawback
to many harnesses is that they can be uncomfortable for long “hang
times,” since your weight is supported by two-inch webbing. Choose
a harness with thick padding on the waist belt and leg loops (as shown
in illustration). The best I have seen uses a modified rescue harness
available from Brion Toss Rigging.


There isn’t
much you can do on a sailboat that is inherently more dangerous than
climbing the mast. So safety should be uppermost in your mind at every
step of the process. Don’t try any of these techniques until
you are sure you know what you are doing. Always use a “belt
and suspenders” approach, with a backup for the primary hoist
method. That usually means being hooked to two halyards when aloft,
preferably halyards with internal masthead sheaves. If using a climber’s
harness, hook both halyards to the ring provided. If using a chair,
hook the second halyard to a separate chest safety harness. (Note: for
clarity the extra safety halyard was omitted from illustrations on Pages
7, 8, and 9, but this is not a good idea in practice!) Don’t
depend on snap shackles! Use only screw shackles, locking carabiners,
or good knots to attach the halyards: a bowline, or better yet, a buntline
hitch – never a square knot (see illustration).

Before you ascend,
talk through every step with those on deck who are helping you, to be
sure that all of your commands are clear and understood. (The last thing
you want is for someone to release the wrong halyard.) Don’t depend
on self-tailers alone to belay halyards – use cleats. Tie all of your
tools to your tool bucket, as it annoys members of the crew to have
things fall on them. Finally, don’t get complacent when coming down
– take your time.

What techniques
are available for climbing the mast, and which is right for you? Some
of the things to keep in mind in choosing a method include whether you
need crew on deck, how much equipment is involved, and whether the technique
would work at sea in an emergency.

Mast steps

The most obvious
approach for getting up your mast would be to turn your mast into a
giant ladder using mast steps. These fixed or folding metal steps are
most often seen aboard shorthanded cruising boats and can make getting
up the mast as simple as climbing a ladder. The benefits are that they
are always ready, give easy access to the very top of the mast, and
allow you to climb aloft without the aid of crew. The drawbacks include
windage, weight aloft, aesthetics, potential halyard fouling, and the
difficulty of hanging onto the steps in anything rougher than a dead
calm. If help is available, you should always climb mast steps with
a second halyard attached to a safety harness or a climber’s harness,
and you should have someone taking up the slack in the halyard to support
you in case you fall. Once up the mast, you may still want a bosun’s
chair or a climber’s harness for support while working, as you can’t
easily reach the spreader tips from the mast steps. Overall, if you
are willing to put up with having steps on your mast, it would be hard
to beat the convenience of this method.

If you plan on using
mast steps to go aloft alone, you should rig an ascender on a fixed
line as a backup. An ascender is a piece of mountain-climbing gear ($50).
Well-known examples include the Petzl and Jumar. It fits around a line
(of about 1/2 inch diameter) and has an internal cam that allows it
to slide easily up a line, but locks in place if you pull downward.
If you have an available halyard of the proper diameter, you secure
it near the deck, fasten a tether from the ascender to your harness,
and slide the ascender up the fixed line as you go. If your halyard
is not the proper diameter, you will need to hoist a 1/2-inch line aloft
instead. Once you get where you’re going, you can allow the ascender
to take the load. To descend, you momentarily disengage the cam and
slide the ascender down a few feet at a time as you climb down the steps.

An alternative to
using a halyard or an ascender for a backup would be to clip a safety
line from your safety (or climber’s) harness around the mast
as you work your way up. Use a carabiner on the end, so you can unclip
as you pass the shrouds and spreaders. (An alternative to this would
be a lineman’s belt, or Mast Mate’s Tool Bag Workbelt.
If you fall, this line will jam up against the next obstruction on the
mast. But that still means you could drop from the second to first spreaders
or from just under the first spreaders to the deck. To be extra safe
(especially if it is turbulent), use a halyard with an ascender and
a safety line around the mast.

Mast ladders

Block and tackle ascenders, padded climber's harness

Steve’s current preference is using a block and tackle, ascenders, and a padded climber’s harness.

What if you don’t
want to mount those metal triangles on your mast, but still want the
simplicity of climbing steps? Then your best bet would be a mast ladder.
There are currently two of these on the market, the Mast Mate and Capt.
Al’s. These are essentially web ladders that are hoisted up the
mast with a halyard, then made fast at the deck. To minimize the side-to-side
motion while climbing, each has provisions for mounting sail slides
(which you provide) to the vertical webbing. You can then run the slides
up the mainsail sailtrack to give lateral support. The Mast Mate uses
two-inch webbing for its single vertical support strap. It has alternating
steps every 17 inches (there is also a 12-inch step version). The Capt.
Al’s uses three one-inch vertical web straps, with PVC tubing
placed over webbing between the straps to form the steps every 12 inches.

A mast ladder has
most of the advantages of the fixed mast steps, without the drawbacks
of windage, aesthetics, and potential halyard fouling. The major downside
to mast ladders is that they can’t easily be used underway unless
you either drop the mainsail or do without the sailtrack support. And
even if the main is down, it may be necessary sometimes to remove much
of the main from the sailtrack to mount the mast ladder. The safety
procedures for regular mast steps (a second halyard, ascender, or safety
line) should be followed here too. The Mast Mate is about $250 (35-foot
length) to $350 (50-foot length) while Capt. Al’s is about $150
(36-foot length) to $250 (50-foot length).

My Ericson came
with a Mast Mate left in one of the lockers by the previous owner. I
loved the simplicity of the approach and was eager to try it. But I
found the sensation of climbing a flexible ladder to be a little unsteady
for my taste (not surprising, since I wasn’t using any safety
backup that day), and I only made it to the lower spreaders before turning
back. By the time I needed to go aloft again, I had installed a batten
car system that blocked off my sailtrack – I needed to find another
approach. But a friend with a 45-footer regularly uses a mast ladder
and swears by it.

Halyard winches

Another method for
going aloft uses the boat’s halyard winch to hoist someone in
a bosun’s chair attached to a halyard. There are a few problems
with this approach. In the case of most sailing couples, the man goes
aloft and the woman stays on deck. Given the small size of most halyard
winches, there usually isn’t enough mechanical advantage for
the woman (or many men, for that matter) to be able to handle the load.
Furthermore, if the winch isn’t self-tailing, you need a third
person to tail.

One way to make
things slightly easier is to use a snatch block to lead the halyard
to one of the primary winches aboard. But even with a larger winch,
this approach can still be too much work. Of course, this method doesn’t
allow you to get aloft by yourself. And that’s one of the drawbacks
– you have to really trust the people at the winch, as they do
have your life in their hands. (Couples: don’t try this right
after an argument.)

After the experiment
with the mast ladder, we next tried having my wife hoist me aloft in
a bosun’s chair. But even with the help of our primaries, it
was just too much work for her. The only way I made any progress was
by wrapping my arms and legs around the mast and shinnying a few inches
at a time to create slack in the halyard. But this can lead to overrides
on the winch. We had to find another way.

Powered winches

Depending on the
equipment aboard your boat, there are a couple of ways to lessen the
effort of this grinding. If you have electric primaries, getting someone
aloft is as easy as pressing a button. Lacking these, the next best
bet would be to run the tail of the halyard forward to a powered anchor
windlass. If you do decide to try either of these options, be especially
careful with the last few feet of hoist near the masthead. Without the
feedback of a manual winch, it may not be obvious when you have “two-blocked”
the rig, and you can jam the shackles in the masthead halyard sheave
or even rip out the attachment rings in the chair if you aren’t
careful. This is why some people argue against the practice of using
electric winches or powered windlasses in this application.


An alternative to
having your crew winch you aloft directly is to attach a heavy counterweight
to one end of an external halyard (internals won’t work here)
and hoist the weight to the masthead instead. You then attach yourself
to the other end of the halyard and let gravity do the work as the counterweight
drops. This is supposed to be an old trick of singlehanders, who had
no one around to help with the grinding. And I suppose someone could
use this technique to get aloft if the crew weren’t strong enough
to handle the winch. Of course you should at least take care that you
weigh more than the counterweight, or you could easily get stuck up

I offer the following
as an example of just how ingenious sailors can be when there is a problem
to be solved, not as a recommended technique for getting aloft. My favorite
version of this involved someone hoisting aloft a large, empty, plastic
container with one end of a garden hose tied to the inside rim. Once
it was in place, the skipper turned on the water to fill the container,
and rode up the mast on the other end of the halyard as the container
filled. If you do decide to try something like this, please alert your
dockmates so they can have their video cameras ready.


Mastlift chain hoist makes going up a one-person job

The Mastlift chain hoist makes going up a one-person job.

What if your partner
can’t grind you aloft, and there’s never a deck ape around to help when
you need one? In this case you might consider the Swisstech Mastlift.
This is a chain hoist with a 10:1 gear ratio, except that the load-bearing
line is made of Spectra, not chain. In practice, you shackle the Mastlift
to a halyard, attach the load-bearing line to a bosun’s chair or climbing
harness, unroll the load-bearing line as you hoist the 15-pound cylinder
to the masthead, then cleat the halyard. Using the endless control line
(with double internal safety brakes), you then hoist yourself aloft.
This is easily a one-person job, with very little effort. It would be
a good idea to lightly fasten a line around the control line at deck
level to prevent it from blowing away and fouling, especially if you
go up alone. For safety you would want to use one of the backup methods
mentioned above.

Downsides to the
Mastlift? The first is that the size of the drum makes it a little more
difficult to get close to the masthead, as you are probably a foot lower
than when using a halyard alone. But the big drawback of the Mastlift
is cost. When I contacted the importer a couple of years ago, the introductory
special prices were $1,100 for the 45-foot hoist model, and $1,300 for
the 82-foot model. At that price not too many skippers will be buying
them for their personal use. But it would be a great item for a club
to own, if you could just figure a way around the inevitable liability

By the way, a solution
to the problem of not quite being able to reach the masthead from a
chair or harness is to fashion a pair of rope steps, each at the end
of a four-foot tether. Once you get as close to the masthead as possible,
attach the tethers to the crane with a carabiner. Then place your feet
in the steps, and stand up at the masthead. Hold yourself upright with
a piece of line tied around your waist and the mast. Mast Mate sells
a Workbelt patterned after a lineman’s belt that is designed
for just this application (see illustration). An alternative to the
tethers is to mount a pair of mast steps on either side of the mast
about four feet down.

Block and tackle

If your crew can’t
hoist you aloft, and you can’t afford a Mastlift, you might consider
putting together a block and tackle arrangement to help do the work.
The simplest version of this is to get a length of 1/2-inch line twice
the length of your mast, position a single block at the mid-point, and
haul the block aloft on a halyard. Attach one end of the line to your
bosun’s chair or climber’s harness with a good knot, grab
the other end, and just haul yourself aloft.

How much work is
this? Well, normally you find the mechanical advantage of any block
and tackle by counting the number of parts coming out of the moving
block. With no moving block, it seems as if there should be no mechanical
advantage to this simple rig. But for reasons that still confuse me,
there is a 2:1 mechanical advantage in this case, so that you are only
lifting half your weight. (The best way I can explain it is to point
out that you have to haul in 100 feet of line to raise yourself 50 feet.)
So this is actually easier than it looks. To reduce the effort further,
you add extra parts to the tackle, but that can add up to a lot of line.

I learned about
this approach from rigger Brion Toss at one of his seminars, and thought
I’d give it a try. To reduce the effort a bit, I opted for a
3:1 mechanical advantage. This meant putting together an upper single
block with becket, a lower single block, and a 1/2-inch line three times
my mast’s length, or 150 feet (see Figure A on the next page).
Brion also suggests using a Harken “Hexaratchet” ratcheting
block in the upper position, as it greatly reduces the effort required
to grip the line.

This tackle approach
will work with either a bosun’s chair or a climber’s harness,
but I use a climber’s harness knowing I need the feeling of security
it provides. After getting the line reeved through the blocks, I haul
the upper block aloft with a halyard, and shackle the lower block to
my harness. For safety, I use a second halyard attached to the harness,
but any of the backup methods would work.

Buntline hitch knotCarabiner hitch knot

Buntline hitch, at far left, and carabiner hitch. When using the buntline hitch on a halyard, for added safety, pass the line through the thimble, rather than the shackle, if it will fit. If not, tape the shackle closed.

Before hauling away,
there are two more techniques to mention. The first is how to belay
the line once you’re up there. You can make do by passing a bight of
the line through the ring in your harness and making several half hitches
with the loop. But I like the technique Brion uses in which the standing
part of the line is led through a carabiner at the harness and then
tied off using a special mountaineering knot – the carabiner hitch (see
illustration on next page). This carabiner hitch is easy to tie and
untie under load – a real advantage.

I added a second
technique as a way to feel even more secure. It involves mounting an
ascender on the hauling part of the tackle and then rigging a three-foot
tether between the harness and the ascender. Each pull aloft is made
easier by having the comfortable handle of the ascender, rather than
just the line, to grip. At the bottom of each pull, I hold the line
fast at the carabiner with one hand and slide the ascender back up the
hauling part with the other. The added security comes from the short
tether, as I could let go with both hands and only slide back three
feet at most. This addition also makes it easy to stop and rest along
the way. To get as close to the masthead as possible, I remove the ascender
from the line, two-block the tackle, and rig a carabiner hitch. To descend,
I just keep a wrap or two around the carabiner and slowly lower myself
to the deck.

This combination
of tackle, climbing harness, and ascender is a real joy to use. With
it I feel secure enough that I’ve been known to go up the mast
while underway just to take pictures from the masthead. (It’s
amazing how small a 38-foot sailboat looks from 50 feet up!)

This approach is
good for singlehanders, as you don’t need help from anyone on
deck. And that means you don’t have to depend on anyone else
for your safety. But if you do try this approach alone, give some thought
to keeping the tail of the line from getting tangled in the rigging
on deck. If the line gets caught, you won’t be able to lower
yourself down. Brion’s instructional video, Going Aloft, features
this approach. I highly recommend it.

Line climbing

Two block line climbing drawingStairstep line climbing drawing

      A – Two blocks           B – Stairstep

Inchworm line climbing drawing

           C – Inchworm

Two final methods
for getting up your mast are based directly on mountaineering techniques
and are probably the least familiar to sailors. In these, you climb
up a fixed line with your feet in rope steps at the end of tethers rigged
to the fixed line with ascenders. You could use one of your halyards
as the fixed line (if it’s the proper diameter), but since the
cams of the ascenders are hard on the line, I recommend hoisting aloft
a separate length of 1/2-inch rope to reduce halyard wear.

I think of these
two methods as the “stair step” and the “inchworm,”
based on the action used to climb the rope. The “stair step”
method is perhaps a little easier to understand. In this approach, two
ascenders are mounted on the fixed line, each attached to a rope step
on the end of a three- to four-foot tether. At least one of the ascenders
is also attached with a tether to your climber’s harness (or
to a safety harness if a bosun’s chair is used). To begin, position
the steps above the deck, place your feet in the steps, and grab the
ascenders for support. Then raise one leg and its corresponding ascender
at the same time. After that, step up onto that upper step, and finish
by raising up the other leg and its corresponding ascender to just under
the first ascender.

By alternating one
side after the other, you can “stair step” your way up the
line. You will need to adjust the length of the tethers between the
ascenders and the steps to suit your reach and height, or you can purchase
two triers at $24 each from a mountaineering store. These are short
web ladders with four to six steps in a line, about 15 inches apart.
One of the steps should be at just about the height you need.

By comparison, the
“inchworm” method looks a little strange. This method
works best with a climber’s harness, but a bosun’s chair
will work in a pinch. After rigging your fixed line, attach a short
tether of about three feet between your harness and the first ascender.
The second ascender is then added to the line underneath the first and
attached to a pair of rope steps, each on a three- to four-foot tether
(or a pair of triers).

To begin climbing,
position the steps above the deck, place your feet in the steps, and
grab the fixed line for support. First, slide the upper ascender up
the fixed line as far as you can reach, then sit back to put your weight
on the harness. Next, slide the lower ascender up the line as far as
possible while bringing your knees up. Finally, extend your body and
step up onto the steps, holding onto the fixed line for balance. After
that you extend the upper ascender up the line again and sit back into
the harness. Repeating these steps allows you to “inchworm”
your way up the line. You will need to experiment a bit to find out
how long the upper and lower tethers need to be for the most efficient

The “inchworm”
method is probably slower, but the motion is a little easier to learn
and uses the strength of both legs at once to do the climbing. While
the “stair step” method can be faster, it can take some
time to get the hang of the technique (sort of like the diagonal stride
in cross-country skiing). A drawback to both line-climbing methods is
that getting down can be a little slow, since most ascenders are a little
difficult to slide down a line as you descend.

With either of these
methods, be sure to practice a bit before tackling a big job. Both are
well-suited for use by singlehanders. You will, of course, want to use
one of the safety backup methods with or without crew on deck.

Which is best
for you?

Which approach is
best for you depends on your boat, your age, and your bank account.
Just like everything else in sailing, each approach is a compromise,
and no single method is right for everyone. I like my current block-and-tackle
rig, but if I could afford it, I would have a Mastlift instead. I strongly
suggest that you consider trying a climber’s harness for support
aloft – unless you like feeling insecure and terrified.

Above all, please be safe up there.

Steve Christensen, a research chemist, moved from Utah to Michigan and took up sailing to replace skiing. Steve and Beth sail Rag Doll, an Ericson 38, on Lake Huron. They spend each August cruising the waters of The North Channel and dream of retirement as liveaboards someplace warm.

Is Your Boat Stable?

By Ted Brewer

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 3, Number 2, March/April 2000.

Top designer Ted Brewer explains stability
and how it affects safety and speed

The speed of a sailing
yacht in any given wind is determined, to a large extent, by the amount
of sail she can carry. In heavier weather, that sail area is governed
by the ability of the hull to remain on its feet; in other words, her
stability. In extreme weather conditions, of course, the vessel’s stability
also determines her ability to recover from a knockdown, and thus it can
be a major contributor to safety.

The stiffer boat wins races

the advantages of a “stiff” or “powerful” sailboat beating to windward
in a good breeze. The heel angle of the stiff hull will be less than
that of a tender sister, so the sails will present greater effective
area to the wind, and the boat will move faster as a result. Also, the
lateral plane under water will be more upright, so it will be working
to its maximum potential, and the boat will be making less leeway and
perhaps pointing a degree or two higher as well. The sailboat that is
making better speed, pointing higher, and making less leeway than the
competition is bound to be a winner (see Fig. 1).

Stability, in essence,
can be defined as the tendency of a vessel to return to an upright condition
after it is inclined by external forces: wind, seas, weight shifts,
and so on. The inclination can be athwartships or fore-and-aft, of course,
but we’ll concentrate on athwartship stability as it is the prime factor
in both the power to carry sail and the safety of the craft.

Stability terms

drawing (Fig. 2) shows the basics of athwartship stability: a boat heeled
from her normal upright waterline condition to a heeled waterline with
no change in her displacement. The upward thrust of buoyancy always
acts vertically to the waterline but now it is acting vertically to
the heeled waterline. The shape of the hull moves this buoyant upward
thrust from its original centerline position (B) to a point outboard
(B1), where it exerts an upward force vertical to the heeled waterline
and equal to the displacement of the boat.

The righting lever

The center of gravity
(G), barring unforeseen circumstances, does not change position as the
boat heels and remains on the centerline, acting downward through the
heeled waterline. The horizontal distance from G to a vertical line
drawn through B1 is termed the righting arm, or righting lever, (GZ).
So with the buoyancy of the hull acting upward through B1 and the weight
of the hull acting downward through G, we have a force, or couple, tending
to return the boat to its upright position. This force is known as the
righting moment and is equal to the vessel’s displacement times the
length of the righting arm (Disp. x GZ).

To illustrate, if
our boat weighed (displaced) 1,000 pounds and the GZ was 1.75 feet long,
the righting moment would be 1,000 x 1.75 = 1,750 foot-pounds. It would
take that much force of wind on the sails to heel the boat to that angle
or, if no sails were set, it would require the equivalent in weight
shift Ñ 500 pounds of crew or other weight moved 3.5 feet to one side.

To sum up, the stability
of the boat is directly related to two factors: her displacement, and
the length of the righting arm. The heavier the displacement and/or
the longer the righting arm, the greater the stability. In turn, the
length of the righting arm depends on the location of the center of
gravity (CG) and the location of the heeled center of buoyancy (CB).
The lower the CG, the longer the righting arm. The further outboard
the heeled CB, the longer the righting arm. It’s that simple.

Shift weight to windward lengthens righting arm

a very stable vessel may be uncomfortable in a seaway, as it can develop
a snap roll. Back in the “good old days,” when there were still coasting
schooners carrying lumber from Maine to Boston and New York, it was
not unusual for the skipper to hoist heavy weights to the mastheads
on windless days in order to raise the center of gravity and slow the
roll. This was particularly necessary if there was a leftover sea or
swell from a storm offshore, as the snap roll of the heavily laden schooner
could damage the rig. With modern sailboats, however, we usually want
to increase stability to reduce the heel angle or enable us to carry
more sail in a breeze. One way to do this is to increase the displacement,
but bear in mind that the added weight must be near the original center
of gravity, in order not to raise the CG and thus shorten the righting

We can also carry
more sail if we lengthen the righting arm, and we can do this by moving
the crew to the windward side (Fig. 3), or by shifting weights, to lower
the center of gravity. It’s obvious that adding ballast low in the hull
(Fig. 4) will increase stability in two ways: by increased displacement
as well as by the lowered center of gravity.

Form stability

The shift of the
center of buoyancy as the vessel heels is called “form stability,” as
it is derived from the actual shape of the craft. Given equal displacement
and beam, a flat-bottomed scow has the greatest form stability, so the
closer a vessel approaches that shape Ñ with hard bilges and flat floors
with little deadrise Ñ the greater her form stability will be (see Fig.
5). Carrying the beam aft to a wide, flat stern that will begin to immerse
as the boat heels will also add to form stability.

A simple way to
design a boat with greater form stability is to increase the beam, but
this can create problems of safety if carried to excess. The stable
hull always tries to remain parallel to the water’s surface, but if
that surface is the face of a great wave at an angle of 50 or 60 degrees
to the horizon, then the super-stable boat is definitely in trouble
(see Fig. 6).

Basic hull shapes

craft with overly generous beam may be almost as stable upside down
as they are right side up, like Huck Finn’s raft. If they are rolled
180 degrees in extreme conditions of wind and sea, they may not right
themselves, or they can right so slowly that the hull fills with water
through hatches, vents, and other openings. When the boat eventually
does right itself, it may well be in a dangerously swamped condition.

Bear in mind the
Capsize Screening Formula: the maximum beam divided by the cube root
of the displacement in pounds (Max. beam/Displ. pounds.333). If the
result is greater than 2.0, the boat fails the test and may be considered
unsafe for ocean voyaging. Multihulls, of course, do have tremendous
form stability due to their extreme beam and are typical of vessels
that are just as happy upside down as right side up. To offset this
problem some sailing catamarans have floats or even inflatable bags
at their mastheads so they cannot be knocked down much past a 90-degree

Heeling changes buoyancy

Heeling in a wave chanages buoyancy

Though form stability
increases with beam, yachts with the same beam can vary widely in form
stability (see Fig. 7). The craft, with her maximum beam high up at
deck level and narrowing gradually toward the waterline, will have less
form stability than her equally beamy but wall-sided sister if the latter
carries her full beam all the way down to the waterline. Similarly,
given two yachts of equal waterline beam, the one with a U-shaped hull,
having flat deadrise and hard bilges, will have greater form stability
than her wineglass-shaped sister with deep deadrise and slack bilges.
It all boils down to the fact that form stability depends on the shift
of the heeled center of buoyancy, and the closer the vessel resembles
a raft, the greater the shift of the CB as she heels.

Tender hull vs. Stiff hull

Factors that decrease
form stability are soft bilges, deep deadrise angle, large-radius garboards
joining the hull to the keel, a fine stern (double ender) and narrow
beam. If these factors are not carried to excess, they may indicate
a more comfortable vessel in a seaway . . . one with an easier motion.
Many designers and owners believe that excess form stability is not
desirable for serious offshore work; it can create a harsh, snappy motion
that is hard on the crew and hard on the gear and rig and, as is evident,
can be unsafe if carried to extremes.

Another point to
consider in comparing section shape is “reserve” stability. This is
the increasing stability picked up as the hull heels over to a decks-awash
condition. Reasonably high freeboard is important to stability at higher
heel angles because once the deck-edge is awash further heeling will
move the CB inboard and shorten the righting arm. In open daysailers
and powerboats, immersing the deck edge allows water to pour into the
hull, where it remains on the low side and moves the CG to the low side
or to leeward. This rapidly shortens the righting arm to the point where
a capsize results if sail pressure is not relieved instantly Ñ as some
readers may already have found to their dismay. I did! By getting the
crew weight to windward, the righting arm is lengthened and stability

Hardek bilges can also increase buoyancy

straps and trapezes are simply means of getting the weight even farther
to windward and lengthening the righting arm even more. Having the deck-edge
awash is not disastrous on a decked cruising yacht, of course. However,
sailing with the deck awash does create considerable added resistance,
and a few more inches of freeboard might well eliminate the problem.
Indeed, high freeboard, if not carried to excess, can provide substantial
added reserve stability (see Fig. 8). Flush-decked yachts usually benefit
from this extra safety as they are generally given the highest freeboard
of any normal type of vessel.

Moderation is good

In general, sailing
yachts with moderate beam, moderate displacement, and ample ballast
are safe vessels and, usually, good performers. Cruising sailboats have
been designed with all-inside ballast, but this is unusual today except
in replica types and shoal centerboarders such as the Cape Cod catboat.

Where maximum stability
is desired, in order to increase the power to carry sail, the majority
of the ballast should be in the keel, with only sufficient inside ballast

trimming purposes,
perhaps 5 to 10 percent of the total. This trim ballast should be strapped
down to prevent it from moving in case of a knockdown, of course. Ballast
can be lead or iron, but lead is preferred for performance yachts as
its greater density allows the weight to be concentrated lower. Bulb
keels and wing keels also lower the ballast but, since these are generally
associated with shoal-draft yachts, the stability is not necessarily
increased. The amount of ballast will vary widely depending on the type
and use of the yacht; the table (Fig. 9) is a very general guide.

Boat type
Cape Cod catboat
Keel/centerboard cruiser
Keel cruiser-racer
Heavy auxiliary cruiser
12 Meter yacht
5.5 Meter sloop
Contemporary light, beamy cruiser
ratio %


Obviously, the yachts
with great form stability can perform well with a lower ballast ratio,
at least until they get into extreme conditions. In any case, if you
feel that your boat’s stability needs to be enhanced there is only one
way to do it. You cannot change her hull shape (unless you are very
wealthy or very handy) so the solution is weight; add ballast as low
as possible, reduce weight aloft in the rig and on deck, get rid of
that library of ponderous yachting tomes, and move weights such as heavy
batteries, machinery, tanks, anchor chain, and so forth lower in the
hull. You’ll be rewarded with added performance all around.

Ted Brewer is
one of North America’s best-known yacht designers, having worked on
the America’s Cup boats, American Eagle and Weatherly, as well as boats
that won the Olympics, the Gold Cup, and dozens of celebrated ocean
races. He also is the man who designed scores of good old boats . .
. the ones still sailing after all these years.

Sail Brokers: New wings at Half Price

By BillSandifer

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 1, Number 2, September/October 1998.

Buying, selling, new and used:
Sail brokers can stretch your sailing dollars

Parts of a rigging diagram

Those of us who love good old boats do so out of aesthetic
preferences, sailing abilities, and – let’s face it – a certain
consideration of economic factors.

If cost were not a consideration, I know I would be sailing
a Hinckley, Alden, or whoknowswhat? as opposed to my little 1961
Pearson Ariel.

It isn’t all economics, since I do get a lot of satisfaction
from my own accomplishments in giving new life to an older boat. At
times I do tire of always having to fix something, though.

Is there something wrong with my attitude? I really don’t
think so. We all go to the boat shows and oooh and aaah over the
shiny new models, admire the clean new diesels, and talk to the
sailmaker about that new genoa we want for Christmas. They quote a
price, and we walk away. It isn’t that we don’t want or need the new
sail, but the price is, well, “out there.”

There is another way. A series of reputable companies
specialize in selling new and used sails obtained from lofts and
individuals who trade in or sell the sails they no longer want or

Sometimes available sails are the result of an overstock of
new sails ordered by a charter company that failed to pick them up.
Sometimes they come from a person like me who buys a boat with many
sails when only two or three are actually needed.

Many new boat buyers are sold a “compete set” of sails
including three genoas, a spinnaker, storm jib, trysail, and riding
sail in anticipation of a long cruise to the islands that never comes
to pass.

The boat is sold to someone else who just wants to sail on
the sound, and the excess sails are sent to a sail broker who buys
them on consignment or purchases them outright.

There are thousands of perfectly good sails available through
these sail brokers at a fraction of the cost of the new ones. These
sails are rated according to condition, useful life, and appearance.
A sail with a surface rust stain can be listed as “like new” but will
cost half as much as the same sail without the stain.

Sail brokers vary

Genoa sail nomenclature

I have bought and sold sails through a broker over the years, and
they have been good experiences. I’m sure the representative firms
listed in the appendix of this article would reflect similar
experiences. Some used sail brokers sell on consignment, giving the
owner a 65 to 70 percent return on the sale. They hold a sail for a
set number of months and progressively reduce its price until sold or
redeemed by the owner at the end of the specified time.

Some sail brokers purchase outright and resell the sails.
This affords the owner instant cash flow, as opposed to waiting on a
consignment sale. One might expect to receive less money for the
outright purchase, but it depends on the sail, market conditions, and
so forth.

Other used sail brokers will purchase or sell on consignment,
or arrange for a tax deductible donation of the sail. There are sail
brokers who deal mostly in new sails made overseas at a lower price
than those in U.S. lofts. The sails usually come with a two-year and
a limited (10- or 30-day) 100 percent satisfaction guarantee.

There can be compromises

It all depends on what you want or expect from the sails. Remember, a
sail purchased from a broker was not custom-built for you and your
boat. There may be compromises in the sail that you need to consider.
The weight of the cloth may not be exactly what you were thinking of,
or the exact luff length, foot length, batten length, etc.

The exact configuration of the sail is a compromise which you
have to evaluate, based on the asking price. Quality and fit are
direct functions of price.

Ordering a sail is easy, but does involve some work on your
part. Although your boat may be a Pearson 26, for example, there were
many Pearson 26s built over the life of the design, and the spars may
not be identical, or earlier owners may have made changes. It is
always best to measure your own rig and use those dimensions to
decide on the sail you wish to buy.

Measuring the sail

Main sail nomenclature

I is measured from the top of the jib halyard sheave to the
deck (actually the sheer line).

J is measured from the center of the stay at the stem to the
front of the mast horizontal to the waterline.

P is a measurement from the main halyard sheave box to the
main tack fitting.

E is measured from the main tack fitting to the “black band”
on the end of the boom.

Headsail luff is easily measured by attaching a tape measure
to your halyard, raising the halyard to full hoist and measuring to
the bearing point of your tack shackle horn. In the case of a furling
system, measurement is from the sail attachment points when the
system is fully raised. Main leech may need to be measured in special
circumstances (bimini clearance, etc.)

LP = luff perpendicular. This determines the percentage
(i.e., 150 percent genoa) your headsail overlaps the mast. The
formula: J x % = LP.

In order to fit well, a sail must be able to be tensioned on
the luff and foot and not be “too big” to allow for adjustment and
stretching of the sail over time.

If a sail requires re-cutting to fit your needs, you may lose
the price advantage, and your local loft may not want to work on a
used sail purchased elsewhere.

Changes in hardware from hanks to luff tape or sail slider to
bolt rope or slugs will increase the price of the sail to you.

There are literally thousands, if not tens of thousands, of
sails out there in the discount new/used marketplace. Your local
sailmaker may have used “trade-in” sails also. Check out his
inventory. If you need to alter a sail you propose to purchase, look
around some more. There may be another sail at a different broker
that is just what you want without having to make the changes.

Working with sail brokers

When looking for a new/used sail, use proper terminology and
know your sizes. Usually, you can ask for a list of sails by type and
size, and the broker will send you a list of all sails he has in that
range. As an example, assume the mainsail luff is 20.8, the leech is
22.8, the foot is 9.7, and the weight is 5 ounces.

The broker will send you a list of mainsails with a luff of
perhaps 20 to 24 feet, leech of 21 to 26 and a foot of 9 to 10 feet.
The weight of the sailcloth usually corresponds to the size of the
sail, so that does not need to be specified unless you are looking
for a storm sail or other specialized sail.

The same holds true for the genoa, spinnaker, drifter,
blooper, etc. Don’t be in a hurry. The sail broker’s inventory is
changing all the time, and brokers will usually send you two or three
updated lists on one request. If you don’t see what you want, go to
another broker or request the list in a month’s time.

When you decide to buy a sail from a broker, be sure you
understand the descriptions. “New,” “like new,” and “excellent” are
self-explanatory. “Very good” usually means 65 to 75 percent of life
is left in the sail. “Good” has 50 to 60 percent of its useful life
left. “Fair” means wear and stains with some life left. “Usable” is –
well, it isn’t ripped, but it is probably bagged out, in need of
repairs, and available at a bargain basement price. Some brokers use
definitions that are slightly different but similar to the above.

Check that the hardware will fit your spar and that the
dimensions are correct. Brokers usually allow the purchaser to hoist
the sail to assure proper fit, but they don’t allow you to take it
for a sail. Some brokers allow 10 days for evaluation, while others
allow 30 days. Some brokers pay the freight to have an unsatisfactory
sail returned, while others will expect the purchaser to pay the
return freight. Be sure you understand and are happy with the
“conditions of sale” before you buy.

For many of the firms advertising as sail brokers, sails are
only a part of their business. They may also handle furling systems,
used winches, winch handles, and rigging needs. If you have other
sail-related needs – from a boom vang to a rope clutch – ask the
broker. Winches, in particular, can be a good buy from a broker as
you may be able to obtain a self-tailing pair in very good condition
two sizes larger for the new price of a smaller non-self-tailing set.

As a common practice, major credit cards and checks are
perfectly acceptable methods of payment.

Headsail nomenclature

Other alternatives

Finally, if you have all the sails you need but they are just a
little tired, there is an economical way to breathe new life into
them. SailCare will take your old sails, inspect and measure them,
determine if any repairs are needed, and check the cloth for sun
damage and deterioration.

Your sails are cleaned and impregnated with new resin.
SailCare saturates the cloth with the resins and sets the resins with
controlled heat. A fungicidal agent is added to inhibit mold growth.
A water repellent as well as a UV protector is also added.

Remember that this process will not restore a bagged-out sail
to its original shape. It will just clean and resin the existing
shape. Sails must be setting with a satisfactory shape to be worth
sending them off for this treatment. The sail will be returned clean,
nearly wrinkle-free, and much stiffer.

The cost of treatment is between 11 and 12 percent of the cost of a
new sail from a U.S. loft (excluding any repair costs or
modifications made to the sail). SailCare is a full-service loft.

I am unaware of other firms that perform similar work, but
there may be some out there. Contact information for SailCare and a
representative list of sail brokers is listed below. There are more
brokers. Ask your local loft or yacht broker about sail brokers in
your area.

Most transactions are conducted over the telephone with
shipment via UPS. I live in Mississippi and brokered my sails in
Annapolis, Md. The sails were sent to whoknowswhere.

If you must have new sails with the latest technological
advantages, or if you race, visit your local loft. But if you need a
deal on new wings for your good old boat, contact a sail broker.

Bill Sandifer, a marine surveyor and small boat builder, has been
living, eating, and sleeping boats since the early ’50s when he
assisted at Pete Layton’s Boat Shop, building a variety of small
wooden boats. Since then Bill has worked for Charlie Morgan
(Heritage), Don Arnow (Cigarette), and owned a commercial fiberglass
boatbuilding company (Tugboats).

Back To Top


The Sail Warehouse
Phone: 408-686-5346
Fax: 408-646-5958

Masthead Enterprises
2202 1st Avenue South
St. Petersburg, Florida 33712
Phone: 800-783-6953
Phone: 813-327-4275
Fax: 813-327-5361
Email: Mastheadus@aol.com

Second Wind Used Sails
100 SW 15th Street
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33315
Phone: 800-273-8398

lantic Sail Traders
2062 Harvard Street
Sarasota, Florida 34237
Phone: 941-351-6023
Fax: 941-957-1391
Email: Traders@usedsails.com
Web: http://www.usedsails.com

Bacon & Associates, Inc.
116 Legion Avenue
P. O. Box 3150-CS
Annapolis, Maryland 21403
Phone: 410-263-4880

National Sail Supply
Fort Myers, Florida
Phone: 800-611-3823
Fax: 941-693-5504
Email: NewSails@aol.com

Sail Exchange
407 Fullerton Avenue
Newport Beach, California 92663
Phone: 800-628-8152

SailCare, Incorporated
410 9th Street
Ford City, Pennsylvania 16226
Phone: 800-433-7245
Fax: 412-763-2229
Web: www.sailcare.com

Phone: 800-268-9510
Fax: 914-268-9758
Email: Sailbroker@aol.com

Somerset Sails
8691 Main St.
Barker, NY 14012-0287
Phone: 800-323-9464

Rating rules shaped our boats

Rating rules shaped our boats

By Ted Brewer

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 3, Number 3, May/June 2000.

Universal Rule… International Offshore Rule…
Thames Measurement Rule… International Rule…
Yacht Racing Association Rule… Bermuda Rule…
Cruising Club of America Rule… Royal Ocean Racing Club Rule…

Seawanhaka Yacht Club Rule… Performance Handicap Racing Formula … International Measurement System…

Ted Brewer explains how racing rules affected seaworthiness –

but not always for the better

The purpose of any rating rule is to enable yachts of different sizes
to race together fairly. Without a rating rule there could be no
enjoyable racing as, barring unforeseen circumstances, the largest
yacht (and the richest owner) would always win. A good example of
this is the famous race between the schooner America and the British
yachts off the Isle of Wight back in 1851.
Due to several disqualifications, a grounding, and a collision, the
serious British contenders were eliminated one by one, leaving only
the smaller yachts and unwieldy topsail schooners to compete against
the trim Yankee upstart. In the end, the 170-ton America finished
first, but she was followed across the finish line only 8 minutes
later by the 47-ton cutter, Aurora. If there had been any fair type
of handicapping system in the race, by tonnage, length, or whatever,
present day yachtsmen would be competing for the Aurora’s Cup this
year, not the America’s Cup.

Jullanari, the first rule beater?

Early attempts at creating rating rules were based on the old British
tonnage measurement system, which was created in the Pleistocene era
to calculate the tonnage volume of large, commercial sailing ships.
It gave the vessel’s carrying capacity in tons (at 35 cubic feet per
ton) or, as some believe, in “tuns” (casks of wine). Sail area was
not included, of course, nor were any credits given for less
efficient rigs so, naturally, in the yacht-racing field the cutters
predominated. Eventually, this rule was modified in 1854 as the
Thames Measurement Rule: Tons = ((L-B) x B x .5B)/94. (L = length
stempost to sternpost and B = maximum beam.) But rigs were still
ignored, and the depth measurement was eliminated.

Moved rudder

An easy way to beat such a rule is to shorten the keel measurement, and
E. H. Bentall did this with the design of Jullanar in 1875 by moving the
rudder radically far forward. (Remember, this moves the sternpost -eds.)
Jullanar received a lower rating as a result, won more than her share of
races, and was the first of the rule beaters. Because beam was such a large
factor in the rule, another way to lower the rating was to make the yachts
narrower and narrower. Jullanar was certainly slim, but the rule finally
resulted in freaks like the Oona, with a beam 1/6 of her waterline length.
Attempts were made to encourage greater beam by the 1881 Yacht Racing Association
Rule, ((L + B)&sup2 x B)/1730, but the Shona, designed
in 1884 by the famous G. L. Watson, was 42 feet overall, 5 feet 9 inches
in beam, 6 feet 3 inches in draft, and carried 1,640 square feet of sail!

Small Yachts, by C. P. Kunhardt, published in 1891 and republished by
WoodenBoat Publications, Brooklin, Maine, in 1985, shows a number of
these narrow beamed, plank-on-edge cutters. One of my favorites is
the Spankadillo (what a grand name!), which was 36 feet overall, 30
feet on the waterline, 5 feet in beam, and 6 feet 2 inches in draft.
You may be wondering how these skinny cutters could stand up to their
tremendous press of sail in a breeze, but the answer is simple: heavy
displacement and lots of lead down deep. “Spanky” displaced 19,000
pounds and 12,300 pounds of that was lead – a 65-percent ballast

Another example, shown in great detail, is the Watson-designed Madge,
46 feet overall x 39 feet 9 inches LWL x 7 feet 9 inches beam x 7
feet 7 inches draft, displacing 39,000 pounds and carrying a lead
mine of 23,500 pounds (63.5 percent ratio) on her keel! Unlike many
modern yachts, Madge was much more stable right side up than upside
down, although her accommodations left a bit to be desired!

Carried to excess

Comparative sizes

The British measurement rules and the narrow British cutters never
caught on in the U.S., and yachts on this side of the pond developed
very differently, having somewhat greater beam and less draft. This
was carried to excess in a few cases, as such things always are, and
a very beamy 128-foot centerboarder, with sail set, capsized at
anchor in New York harbor with some loss of life when several guests
were trapped below. However, mainstream American yachts were more
conventional and Small Yachts shows plans of a number of craft that
are quite practical even by contemporary standards. The 24 foot 6
inch Columbine, and the 25 foot 10 inch Mignonette, are two of my
favorites and, even today, they’d be great fun to sail and cruise and
would definitely draw envious eyes wherever they sailed.

The racing yachts in the U.S. developed along different lines,
unfortunately. The Seawanhaka Yacht Club developed a rating rule in
1882 that placed the emphasis on length and sail area and ignored
beam altogether. The result was inevitable; racing yachts became
short on the waterline and gained stability by great beam. Perhaps
the epitome of this insanity was the Outlook, designed by Starling
Burgess, of 52 feet 7 inches LOA, 20 feet 10 inches LWL, 16 feet
beam, and 1,800 square feet of sail.

The fin keel was invented about the turn of the century partly in response
to this rule, and Captain N. G. Herreshoff designed and built Dilemma, the
first successful and well engineered example of the type. Naturally, others
designed extreme fin keelers following her success, so the type fell into
disrepute when a few poorly engineered boats succumbed to structural problems.
In 1902, the New York Yacht Club adopted a rating rule developed by Herreshoff.
Its first simple form was Rating = .18 x ((L x SA.5 ) / D.333 )
which became known as the Universal Rule and, by 1906, was quite popular.
However, such a simple rule can easily be beaten, so in order to plug the
loopholes the rule became more and more complex. Still, it was used well
into the 1930s in the J, M, P, and R classes, each with a maximum rating
under the rule. I was born too late to get involved with it, but R boats
are the smallest, in the 40-foot range, P boats were a little over 50 feet,
M boats even larger and J boats huge, 130 feet or so!

Meter yachts


Men were still working on the other side of the Atlantic to develop a
rating rule, and in 1907 they devised a variation of the YRA Rule,
called the International Rule. Under it the 6-, 8-, 10-, 12-, and
14-Meter yachts were developed, but readers must note that there is
no single measurement in any of these classes that gives them their
name. Rather, the rating of “X” meters is developed from a complex
formula of measurements taken off the yacht and, on top of that,
there are limitations on beam, draft, mast height, etc. within each

Too, the larger yachts such as the 8-, 10-, and 12-Meter boats, were
required to have minimal “cruising” accommodations, and all had to be
built to scantlings established by Lloyd’s Register of Shipping.
These ensure that the yacht is built to reasonable standards of
structural strength so that, to my knowledge, not one has ever broken
in two as did one of the contenders for the recent America’s Cup
nonsense. Indeed, the American Eagle, built by Luders in 1964, was
converted to an ocean racer in ’68 and, with Ted Turner as skipper,
took part in distance races all over the world from Australia to
Europe, with much silverware to her credit. Despite this hard usage,
she is still sailing and racing in Newport, R.I., some 36 years after
her launching, thanks to the quality ensured by being built to
Lloyd’s Rules by superb craftsmen.

I began my distance racing in the late ’50s aboard an 8-Meter, the
Vision, on Lake Ontario. You may find it hard to imagine a 48-foot
yacht that was steered with a tiller, but those 8s were beautifully
balanced craft and a dream to handle.

The old Vision was quite comfortable for a weekend or longer race,
with good berths, a workable galley, and an enclosed head. The
cruising accommodations on the last of the 12s did leave something to
be desired, as I know from experience. I designed the accommodation
plan of Eagle, and she had Dacron berth bottoms with 1/4-inch thick
mattresses, a sink that had to be taken up and emptied overboard, and
a head out in the open in the middle of nowhere. It met the intent of
the rule, if not the spirit, and other 12s were similar in an attempt
to keep unnecessary weight to a minimum.

Bermuda Rule

Still, the Universal Rule and International Rule yachts were,
basically, inshore racers rather than ocean racers so, in 1928, the
Bermuda Rule was created. It took in length, beam, sail area, and
depth, and had a rig allowance, with yawls rated at 93 percent, and
ketches and schooners at 90 percent, of their measured area. L, or
length, was measured at a height of 4 percent of the LWL above the
LWL, and so was an attempt to eliminate the real freaks with long,
overhanging ends. Again, over the years, the rule was changed and
became much more complex in order to eliminate the rule beaters.
Eventually the Cruising Club of America Rule was the final
development. It considered length as the basis for the rating and
then had adjustments for beam, draft, displacement, and sail area,
plus correction factors for stability and propeller.

At the same time, on the other side of the Atlantic, the Royal Ocean
Racing Club developed the RORC Rule for offshore yachts. It had many
similarities to the CCA Rule, and certainly a similar intent, but
whether it was the rule or tradition, the British ocean racers were
always less beamy than their American cousins and favored sloop and
cutter, rather than yawl, rigs.

In the ’50s and early ’60s, the CCA Rule used the displacement that
the designer calculated from the measurer’s flotation figures, and
the rule established the basic stability from the designer’s reported
ballast. A credit was given for heavy displacement, and another for a
low ballast/ displacement ratio, so, naturally, there were designers
who were so anxious to win that they might stretch the displacement a
pound or two when reporting it, and knock a bit off the ballast at
the same time. Too, measuring the flotation of a yacht on a breezy
day was less than exact and displacement figures could be off
hundreds of pounds as a result. As to stability, one designer of a
fiberglass 40-footer used a big, heavy steel pipe for the structural
“keel” and was able to reduce the actual ballast as a result, so that
particular boat received a nice ballast credit and was very

No mainsail

Typical 6 beam English cutter

There were many other innovative gambits. Ray Hunt sailed a sloop as
a catboat by not setting any headsails and did quite well. Bill
Luders sailed Storm without any mainsail and also won his share. I
designed a 33-foot schooner, Ingenue, which was rated with a small
Bermudian foresail, which she rarely set. Instead, she raced with a
huge “fisherman staysail” that set on the foremast sail track,
completely filled the space between the masts and overlapped the
mainsail like a genoa jib. She gained quite a bit of silver, too,
particularly in races where there was a fair amount of offwind work.

One true rule beater was the 1950s Olin Stephens-designed Finisterre.
This beamy keel/centerboard yawl took advantage of the rule without
really bending it. Her wide beam (moderate by today’s standards),
shoal centerboard draft, hefty displacement, modest ballast, and yawl
rig combined to give her a favorable rating. Combined with Olin
Stephen’s design genius and Carleton Mitchell’s expert handling, she
was the boat to beat in any race she entered, and won a room full of
trophies. Finisterre’s success inspired a host of keel/centerboard
yawls, ranging from Bill Shaw’s lovely little 24-foot MORC racer,
Trina, to Bill Tripp’s handsome Block Island 40 and Bermuda 40 and
big 50-plus footers such as the beautiful Innishfree, designed by
George Cuthbertson, founder of C&C Yachts.

To keep ahead of the tricksters, the CCA committee kept inserting new
paragraphs, outlawing most of the rule-beating stunts. By 1967 they had changed the rule so the boat had to be weighed to obtain her displ
acement, and stability was measured afloat by shifting weights
instead of relying on the designer’s often inaccurate ballast
figures. The 1967 CCA rule book took about 40 pages to detail the
measurements and calculations and to explain the rule.

Very competitive

Despite the rule changes, well designed yachts, such as the
keel/centerboarders, and keel yachts, like the Concordia yawls and
the Luders 33, remained very competitive in coastal and offshore
distance races. However, changes were on the horizon. Bill Lapworth
had reinvented the wheel in California with the fast,
fin-keel-and-spade-rudder Cal 40, the first largish fin keel yacht
since the type died out in the early 1900s.

At first, many East Coast sailors pooh-poohed her as a downwind
screamer, best suited to the TransPac and similar off-wind races, but
they changed their minds when the swift Cal 40s began to appear on
the East Coast in the mid ’60s and started to gobble up the silver.
Then, when a Cal 40 won the Bermuda Race in ’66, the rush to fin
keel/spade rudder designs was on and the popular keel/centerboard
yawl was left in their wake.

In those days, no one really knew which type of fin was the most
effective, so there were many weird and wonderful shapes tried for a
while, from extremely raked designs to fancily shaped shark fins.
Eventually, it turned out that Bill Lapworth had figured it right in
the first place, and most cruising boat fins even today (except for
the bulb or winged type) are fairly close in lateral profile to the
old Cal 40’s squarish fin.

All good things come to an end, though, and so did the CCA Rule. The
International Offshore Rule was adopted in 1970 to prevent yachts
from having to be remeasured under another rating rule every time
they sailed off to race in a foreign country. The early IOR had its
faults, of course, and the rule was modified many, many times over
the years. Basically, the IOR tried to estimate the displacement of a
yacht by measuring beam and depth amidships. The theory was that all
sailboats have prismatic coefficients in the .54 to .56 range so, by
estimating the midship area you can estimate the displacement. In a
very short time, designers were coming up with weird shapes with
chines and/or great tumblehome in order to fool the rule into
thinking that the midships was bigger and the boat was heavier than
its true displacement.

Girth stations

Also, under the IOR the measured length (a major factor, of course)
was based on the distance between girth stations, measurements taken
at the hull ends. It took two pages in the rule book and a mess of
diagrams just to explain how to establish these girth stations, and
the whole rule took almost 60 pages to cover the calculations, with
some 60 diagrams to explain how and where to measure this and that.
Again, designers took advantage of the rule, using extremely pinched
ends in order to move the girth stations toward midships and shorten
the rated waterline.

It was about this time that I decided I didn’t want to design racing
yachts anymore. Actually, I did design one IOR yacht, a 37-footer,
which had trim tabs fitted at both the fore and aft ends of her fin
keel. Unfortunately for the owner, whose idea it was, the trim tabs
were outlawed before she was launched. Oh, well!

The early IOR yachts were rather strange looking to my eyes, as the
boats were fairly beamy but the ends, both bow and stern, were very
pinched and the deck plan wound up looking like the ace of diamonds.
If you see a yacht with a transom that resembles the letter V, then
she’s probably an early IOR boat!

The problem with the rule, in my opinion, is that it produced
unseaworthy yachts. The CCA boats received a credit for heavy
displacement and a credit for moderate ballast. This ensured yachts
that were strongly constructed, as weight in the structure was not
penalized. Indeed, this helped to lower the rating! The IOR, on the
other hand, did nothing to encourage husky construction and, due to
their light weight, the boatshad insufficient strength and stability.
The result was yachts that could not stand up to heavy weather, as
was shown in the Fastnet Race in 1979, when so many yachts capsized
or foundered, and sailors died.

Equal chances

Since then, the rating system has been changed and many coastal
cruisers now race under the Performance Handicap Rating Formula that
establishes a rating for a yacht, or a class of yachts, and allows
that rating to be altered if the yacht continually wins or loses. The
“rule” is an attempt to even out the handicaps, so that every yacht
has a chance at the silver if she has good gear, is well sailed, and
has her fair share of luck. The PHRF has proven deservedly popular on
both East and West Coasts for good reason, as good old boats can have
fun racing despite their age and despite how they would have rated
under the CCA or IOR formulae.

Unfortunately, serious long-distance ocean racing seems to have left
the mainstream of sailing now, and the boats that take part are built
regardless of cost, are owned by millionaires and, in many cases, are
sailed by well-paid skippers and large crews. The boats are rated
under the IMS rule, but I am so completely disinterested in it that I
don’t even know what the letters IMS stand for or how the rule works
and, Scarlett, I don’t give a damn. (We looked it up: International
Measurement System -eds.)

I will not even grace them with the name “yachts” anymore because a
yacht is a boat built for pleasure and there is not much pleasure in
sailing aboard a modern ocean racer. I’ve been on ocean races where
we sang sea chanteys on watch, had a happy hour in the late
afternoon, roasts and pies at dinner, and a bottle of good wine to
wash it down. We sailed for fun, and we won our share. That’s
pleasure, but I doubt if the today’s owners and sailors get any true
pleasure out of their sailing, unless they win!

Ted Brewer

Ted Brewer is one of North America’s best-known yacht designers,
having worked on the America’s Cup boats,
American Eagle and
Weatherly, as well as boats that won the Olympics, the Gold Cup, and
dozens of celebrated ocean races. He also is the man who designed
scores of good old boats . . . the ones still sailing after all these

Cooking Under Pressure

By Theresa Fort

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 2, Number 6, November/December 1999.
This and other cooking aboard articles are also available in the Good Old Boat Galley Book CD.

It bakes bread, makes hearty soups, distills water, and holds the kids’
“critters.” Who could ask for more?

Pressure cooker, cooking tools

Long, long ago in another lifetime far, far away – well, 17 years ago
in Montana when sailing hadn’t infected our lives – we received a 6-quart
pressure cooker as a wedding present. I remember staring at it and wondering
if it would become an enemy or a friend. Memories of steaming pork chops,
potatoes, and sauerkraut fresh from my mother’s pressure cooker gave me

My mother had a friendly pressure cooker. She used it weekly to speed-cook
dinners for our large family. In fact, when microwaves first came onto
the market, she didn’t see any reason to get one. “Why microwave when
I can pressure cook?” she’d say.

Now that I had my own, everything seemed different. I listened to my friends’
stories of boiling hot soup splattered on the ceiling and steam burns.
Were some pressure cookers enemies to humankind? I went to my mother for
help and learned that pressure cookers are safe and easy to use as long
as you follow a few basic rules.

Mom’s safety rules

  • Always check the
    vent for debris before using and while cleaning after use. Hold the
    lid up to the light and look through the vent tube to be sure there
    are no clogs.
  • Always check your
    gasket to assure that it is pliable and free of any cuts or degradation.
    If it takes a long time to reach pressure or if steam escapes during
    pressure cooking, you need to replace your gasket.
  • Never interrupt
    the pressure cooker while it cools and releases pressure on its own.
    It is cheating and dangerous to jiggle the jiggle-top to speed up release.
    (But, if no one sees you jiggle it a tiny bit, does that count?)
  • Always open the
    top away from your face. No matter how badly you want to see your creation,
    you have to wait for the remaining steam to escape.
  • Never overfill
    your pressure cooker. When cooking rice and dried vegetables, fill only
    to the half-full mark. With stews, soups, and other dishes, fill only
    2/3-full. Overfilling a pressure cooker can cause food to clog the vent
    tube when the food expands or boils, especially with beans.
  • Do not pressure
    cook cranberries, lima beans, applesauce, cereals, or noodles in jiggle-top
    pressure cookers. These foods tend to foam, and sputter which could
    clog the vent pipe.

Her guidelines were
straightforward and simple. But my pressure cooker and I didn’t develop
a very strong relationship. In fact, for years I hesitated to use it.
I only grudgingly brought it from the cupboard when my husband, Chuck,
requested a favorite pressure-cooked dinner. “Why pressure cook when I
can microwave?” I said.

Then sailing came into our lives. The microwave wouldn’t work aboard our
new (to us) 30-foot sailboat. We spent weekends sailing, fishing, and
crabbing in the Puget Sound area. Now with two kids who were starving
after a full day of fresh air and boating, we needed hearty meals fast.
My pressure cooker got dusted off and brought aboard to live. That’s when
the friendship began. Slowly I began to understand my pressure cooker’s

When we set off to cruise, this new friend became a necessity. Its locking
lid prevented any boiling hot food from splattering when we were cooking
under way in a rolly sea. In the tropics, it baked bread with less energy
than our oven would have used. In Alaska, it made quick hearty soups in
less than a half hour that tasted as though they had cooked all day.

It cleans up easily after being used as a bucket for holding critters
the kids have caught. Set up as a distiller, it has the potential to save
our lives if we need it to make drinkable water at sea. Top that with
the fact that it requires only a little maintenance, and that makes it
a great addition to our crew list.

Maintenance tips

Pressure cooker diagram

When bringing your pressure cooker up to pressure, instead of using
high heat, turn the burner to between high and medium high. This prevents
warping the bottom. It may take a little longer for it to reach the proper
pressure, but it will extend the life of your pressure cooker.

Store your pressure
cooker with the lid nestled upside dow n and over the top of the pot.
Keep the gasket out of the lid to prolong its life by letting air get
to all edges. Storing it this way will prevent warping of the gasket,
release odors that may linger, and allow air to get to all parts. To save
room, you may be able to nest spare bowls or bottles inside along with
your rack and pressure regulator.

While gaskets don’t
need to be replaced very often, it is a good idea to carry a replacement
gasket and pressure-release plug on extended trips. We have experimented
with different gasket materials from auto supply stores but have been
unable to find any satisfactory materials. (Note: not all gasket materials
are safe for foods.)
If you decide to experiment with other types
of gasket material, test your experimental gasket with a few cups of water
inside your pressure cooker. Bring your cooker up to pressure and maintain
it for 15 minutes before you try cooking a dinner. Needless to say, you’d
have a big mess if the gasket didn’t work with dinner inside.

Check the vent pipe to be sure it's clear

Hold the lid to the light to see if you can see through the vent pipe. If not, use a pipe cleaner, twist tie, toothpick, or other thin object to clear it.

Don’t forget to check
your pressure release plug whenever you check your gasket for wear. This
is the plug that will release steam and built-up pressure if your vent
pipe becomes clogged. It is usually made of the same rubber as your gasket
and may need to be replaced at the same time. Ours is located on the inside
of the lid near the handle.

A little vegetable
oil occasionally on your gasket will keep it pliable and soft longer.
But be careful: too much oil will actually reduce the gasket’s ability
to form a good seal. (Note: check the owner’s manual for your cooker,
some discourage the use of oil on gaskets.)

Check your
pressure cooker for screws that will rust in a marine environment and
replace them with stainless screws before bringing it aboard. Our pressure
cooker had two screws in the main handle and one on the helper handle
that needed replacing with stainless screws. If your pressure cooker is
aluminum, consider putting a barrier of silicone or other material between
the stainless screws and the aluminum of the pot to reduce the corrosion
that can occur when these two metals join in marine conditions.

How it works

A stainless steel bowl as a heatproof dish

Theresa uses a medium-sized stainless steel bowl as a heatproof dish which fits inside the pressure cooker and is called for by some recipes. A ceramic soufflé dish also works for recipes of this nature.

The concept behind pressure cookers is simple. When liquids come to
a boil, they give off steam. Because a pressure cooker has a locking lid,
that steam builds up and creates a higher pressure inside the pot. With
the pressure regulator jiggling atop your cooker, it releases small amounts
of steam to maintain the proper amount of pressure for the system. That
amount is usually 15 pounds of pressure for most brands and models – others
have adjustable pressure regulators, and some use lower pressure. With
that higher pressure, a higher temperature can be realized.

Under normal sealevel
conditions, the water in food can only reach boiling point temperature
to cook – that’s 212F. At 15 pounds of pressure, that same water can reach
and maintain temperatures of 250F. Thus, food cooks faster.

Inside the pressure
cooker, there is also an almost airless environment. The quickness in
cooking combined with that environment allows food to maintain its nutrition
value without water-soluble vitamins and minerals boiling away. It also
allows for stronger flavors to develop, allowing cooks to use smaller
amounts of salt and spices.

The rack

Most pressure cookers come with a rack that can be very helpful when
cooking rice, vegetables, meats, breads, puddings, or even cheesecakes.
Its job is to keep food off the bottom of the pan and away from the intensity
of the flame. This is especially helpful during steaming and baking. Vegetables
and rice can be quickly steamed in a separate heatproof dish that will
fit inside your pressure cooker set atop the rack. The rack is also helpful
when baking breads or puddings in a separate dish. And it helps prevent
scorching when cooking roasts and other larger pieces of meats that can
sit directly on the rack.

Considerations when buying

Amie bathe the dog in the pressure cooker

Daughter, Amie, gives the family dog a bath in the pressure cooker.

Deep-pressure pans can be used both for water-bath and pressure canning.
It’s good to have a large pot aboard for cooking large amounts of food
wi thout pressure as well. Heavier models with thick bottoms will scorch
food less easily and serve better as ovens. Two handles are a necessity
when it comes to carrying a full pot of steaming hot food.

Aluminum is lighter
in weight and conducts heat better than stainless steel, but some people
may want to limit their exposure to aluminum due to possible links to
Alzheimer’s disease. If this concerns you, you may want to do your own
research on the subject.

A new generation of
pressure cookers has come on the market in the last few years that may
be safer for boaters though more expensive (some brands are in the $150-$200
range). Instead of the weighted jiggle-top regulator, they use a spring
valve that allows for more precise timing and pressurization. The new
non-jiggle-top cookers also have a way to release pressure without any
need to carry them to a sink or bucket of cold water to reduce pressure
(though this feature cannot be used with any foods that foam). Also, since
they have a spring valve that is self-cleaning and nearly impossible to
get clogged, it is safe to cook the forbidden foods like cranberries,
applesauce, lima beans, and cereals.

Great emergency rescues

As any good friend would, your pressure cooker is able to help out
in any number of “emergencies.”

    • Saving your
      food when the fridge dies
      – A pressure cooker can become a water-bath
      canner or pressure canner if food is in danger of spoiling. We like
      to bring along pint canning jars with lids whenever we leave on an extended
      trip. Our 6-quart cooker can hold three regular-sized pint jars for
      water bath canning and pressure canning. Even though we have no fridge,
      we have the ability to can extra fish and produce, and to make jams
      or pickles if we arrive in an area rich in produce. To turn your cooker
      into a canner, experiment with different sizes of canning jars. For
      water-bath canning, the water level needs to be an inch above the jars
      while boiling to insure proper immersion.Water-bath canning is used for most fruits and all types of pickles.
      Pressure is not used for this type of canning. There are many books
      available that have excellent canning recipes. One I would recommend
      is Putting Food By by Janet Groene.Pressure canning is used for all non-acidic foods. It can be done easily
      with your pressure cooker, but you are limited to only one pressure
      setting. For this reason you will need to refer to your owner’s manual
      for recipes, times, and proper procedures. Other recipe books may not
      have the proper times for the amount of pressure that you would be using.
    • Storing leftovers – You have just finished a wonderful dinner of soup or stew, but
      there are leftovers. What do you do with those leftovers if you have
      no fridge? Well, when we have leftovers from our pressure cooking, I
      bring the food back up to pressure in my cooker and heat at full pressure
      for two minutes. Then I set the cooker aside with its regulator undisturbed
      and lid locked. I leave it for tomorrow’s lunch or dinner. Many times
      we have kept leftovers for up to 24 hours this way.I use my pressure cooker for any leftover meat as well. That same evening,
      I simply bring out my pressure cooker and make a quick soup of the meat
      with any vegetables I have around. After the soup cooks under pressure,
      I set it aside on my stovetop and leave it for tomorrow’s lunch or dinner.

      In both cases, I let the pressure cooker cool on its own. I do not break
      the seal by opening the lid or removing the regulator. And, it is always
      served within 24 hours. The only drawback to this method is that you
      cannot use it for dishes that have tomatoes as one of the ingredients.
      These rules are very important to the safety and healthfulness of the
      leftover food.

    • Turning your
      pressure cooker into a distiller for emergency drinking water
      See below for more information on distillation
      using a pressure cooker.
    • When running
      low on stove fuel
      – With a pressure cooker’s locking lid, it can
      become an ideal fire-less cooking pot. Fire-less cooking is a method
      of slow cooking that has been around long before slow-cookers were invented.
      All sorts of one-pot dishes like stews, chili, soups, even rice and
      noodle dishes can be made with only a little amount of heating and some
      blankets and pillows. Here are some basic instructions:In the morning, bring your dinner up to pressure and heat for five minutes
      at full pressure. Take from heat and wrap your pot, upright, in a blanket
      or sleeping bag, being careful not to burn yourself or disrupt the jiggle-top
      or pressure safety valve. I place my hand on the regulator as I put
      the first wrap on the cooker to make sure I do not disrupt it. Pile
      pillows all around the pot (including underneath), and then wrap any
      other blankets or sleeping bags you may have aboard around your cooker.
      Try to insulate your cooker so that minimal heat is released. Wedge
      this huge bundle somewhere safe while you are sailing. In 8-10 hours
      you’ll have a steaming dinner all ready for eating. Aboard Lindsay Christine
      we use two sleeping bags and all four of our family pillows. One of
      the kids’ berths, depending on the tack, is the ideal wedging place
      for our fire-less cooking bundle.

      By the way, using this method with dried vegetables such as beans still
      requires a pre-soak before preparation, which would have to be done
      the night before.

The pressure cooker as an aquarium

Son, Alex, uses the pressure cooker as an occasional aquarium.

Storing bait

  • A weapon
    As a safe weapon aboard a boat, pressure cookers are second only to
    a large cast iron frying pan. It will never be confiscated when entering a new country, you don’t have to reload, and even a child can use it.
  • An extra bucket – Buckets are usually stored outside near the cockpit of most boats.
    But, when stored inside the galley of your boat, a pressure cooker may
    be closer at hand if water enters your cabin while you are below. A
    pressure cooker is a perfect bailer with two handles for carrying heavy
    loads of water.
  • During a medical
    – While pressure cookers are nowhere near as effective
    as an autoclave in a hospital or lab, they do work to sterilize items
    in the same general way providing a higher temperature with an increase
    in pressure. And they could be your only solution for sterilizing supplies
    when a medical emergency at sea occurs.Pressure cookers attain 15 pounds of pressure and 250F, the very minimum
    requirement to sterilize medical equipment, water, and bandages or cloths.
    If a medical emergency were to occur, you could sterilize your supplies
    by putting them into a heatproof dish fitted inside the pressure cooker
    with 2 cups of water in the bottom and the rack in place. Water could
    be sterilized inside canning jars filled with 1 inch of air space remaining
    and sealed with lid and ring. The minimum amount of time at full pressure
    (I would have the jiggle-top regulator rocking at a consistent speed
    because I wouldn’t be worried about overcooking anything) would be 20
    minutes. But this is not a guaranteed procedure. There is no way to
    assure that everything received enough steam and heat under pressure
    to say that all supplies are sterile. However, as an alternative to
    boiling supplies in water, it is a superior method because everything
    reaches a higher temperature. This is in no way condoning the use of
    a pressure cooker as a substitute autoclave on a regular basis. But
    it is a possible alternative in an emergency situation when someone
    is far away from medical services.

Aboard Lindsay
, we try to make most of our items aboard have a dual purpose.
Our pressure cooker has more than satisfied that requirement. Here’s a
list of the ways we have used ours: pressure cooker, non-pressurized cooking
pot, distiller, slow cooker, steamer, oven, canner, bucket, weapon, temporary
leftover storage unit, temporary critter home, weight training equipment,

Could a microwave do that? I doubt it. These days I agree with my mom
more and more. I say, “Why microwave when I can pressure cook?”

Theresa Fort

another life long, long ago and far away, Theresa was a home economist
with a specialization in consumer education. After receiving her BA in
home economics at the University of Montana, she went on to become a master
food preserver with the co-operative extension office in Montana. Still,
it took life aboard a sailboat to convince her to use her own pressure
cooker. Theresa and family have lived and cruised aboard
Lindsay Christine, a Mercator Offshore 30, since 1995.

Back To Top

Making a distiller

some experimentation, our pressure cooker has become a successful
distiller with the addition of these items:

  • 10-feet of 1/4-inch outside diameter copper tubing
  • two 3-foot lengths of 3/8-inch outside diameter (1/4-inch inside diameter)
    food-grade vinyl tubing
  • two hose clamps
  • a bucket
  • a water container

How we put the distiller together and run it:

First, we fill
the bucket with cool seawater and bring it below to our galley. Then
we fill our pressure cooker 2/3 full with seawater or any other water
that may or may not be contaminated. Our copper tubing is wound into
a coil around something cylindrical so it will fit completely into
the bucket of cool seawater with one end pointed up toward the pressure
cooker on the stove.

Our pressure cooker has a vent pipe with an outside diameter of 1/4-inch.
We slide one of the 3-foot lengths of food-grade vinyl all the way
onto the vent pipe in the lid. Then with a hose clamp over the vinyl
tubing, we slide the copper tubing into the remaining loose end and
tighten the clamp. The remaining piece of food-grade vinyl tubing
attaches to the copper tubing end at the bottom of the bucket with
a hose clamp as well. Then the remaining end of vinyl tubing is placed
inside the water container, which sits next to the bucket. It helps
if your container is shorter than your bucket.

Now we are ready to assemble the pressure cooker and heat the seawater.
As steam builds up inside the cooker, it begins to make its way through
the tubing. When it reaches the copper coils, it condenses into pure
water and flows into the water container. The key to making this distiller
run efficiently is to replace the seawater in the bucket once it warms
up. Be careful not to burn yourself when you lift the coil out of
the bucket to change the water. As the flow develops, we turn the
burner to medium low because less heat is required. Once the steam
begins going through the tubing, we usually get about 1 cup of water
after about 25 minutes on medium heat.

Keeping the copper tubing in a coil with the vinyl tubing already
attached helps with storing and quick assembly. Before using the tubing
for the first time, rinse it with clean water. Be sure to use only
food-grade tubing, as not all vinyl tubing is safe for drinking water
use. We have never found the vinyl tubing to pop off the vent pipe
or melt with the heat. The pressure that builds up is not the same
because of the lack of the weighted regulator on the vent pipe, so
the temperature is not as high either.

While this process is slow and uses quite a bit of energy, it could
save your life in an emergency. In many situations you could use this
process to create pure water. Water tanks can run dry or become contaminated.
Or you may be somewhere which only has contaminated water available.
You may also need distilled water for your boat’s batteries.

Back To Top


Chicken and Mushrooms

This one-pot dish requires few ingredients.

  • 2 chicken breasts, skinned, boned, and cut into large chunks
  • 1 cup thickly sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 1 bell pepper, cut into chunks
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 cup rice (I use a mixture of 1/2 long-grain white and 1/2 brown
  • 1 1/2 cups water (pressure cookers use less water than would be normal
    with conventional cooking)

Place first eight ingredients in cooker. Place rice and water in a
heatproof dish that fits loosely inside your pressure cooker. Place
dish in pressure cooker with chicken mixture surrounding it. The dish
should stick up a few inches above the level of the chicken mixture.
No food or containers should be over 2/3 full. Close securely. Place
pressure regulator on vent pipe and cook 10 minutes with pressure
regulator rocking slowly. Let pressure drop. Lift out rice bowl, and
let sit 5 minutes. Thicken chicken dish, if desired, with cornstarch
mixed with a little water. Serve over cooked rice. Serves 4.

Rice can be cooked separately in the pressure cooker by combining
1 cup rice and 1 1/2 cups water in a heatproof dish. Place dish inside
the pressure cooker with 1 cup water in the bottom. Pressure cook
10 minutes if using 1/2 white and 1/2 brown rice, 5 minutes if using
white rice only. Let pressure drop. Open lid and let rice sit 5 minutes.
Fluff with fork.

Sun-dried Tomato/Herb Bread

This bread is an example of steam-baking in the pressure cooker.
It is done under pressure. The amount of time for steam-baking is
a bit shorter than when using an oven, and you save fuel by heating
only the pressure cooker.

Pre-heat the pressure cooker on medium heat five minutes before putting
in your food to be baked, covered with aluminum foil to retain heat.
Turn your burner down very low. A consistent low flame will produce
a moderate oven temperature. Cakes and other sweets seem to take a
little longer than breads this way.

We love this bread sliced and toasted under the broiler with cheese
melted on top. The crust is chewy and not browned on top. You can
make plain bread this way by leaving out the seasonings. I like to
use 1/2 whole wheat to hide the fact that the bread is not browned
on top.

  • 1 cup warm water (110-115 F)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • About 3 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 1 cup fresh basil, chopped finely
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 reconstituted dry-packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Dissolve yeast and sugar in small bowl with 1/4 cup of the warm water.
Add remaining water to large mixing bowl. Add salt and oil and allow
to cool while yeast is dissolving. Add yeast mixture and 3 cups of
flour along with basil, garlic, dried tomatoes, and cheese. Turn out
on floured counter and knead for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic,
adding flour as needed. Place dough in a greased 2-quart oven-safe
casserole dish or bowl that will fit in your pressure cooker. Let
rise until doubled in volume in a warm draft-free place 40 minutes
to 1 hour. When doubled, punch down, turn out onto counter, and knead
a few times. Place dough back in dish and let rise a second time for
1/2 hour.

Pour 2 cups fresh or salt water into pressure cooker with rack. Place
container of dough in the pressure cooker and seal with lid. Bring
up to 15 pounds pressure. Turn heat down to maintain pressure, and
cook 40 minutes. Cool cooker immediately by placing in a pan of cold
water or letting cold water run over cooker. Open lid carefully and
remove bread. Cool in baking container for 10 minutes, then invert
and take out of dish. Cool 15 minutes before slicing. Makes 1 loaf.

Mercator Brownies

This is an example of baking with a pressure cooker. To bake in
the pressure cooker, remove the gasket, leave the pressure regulator
off the top, and use the cooking rack and a separate heatproof dish
that fits inside the cooker for the food.
Doubling the recipe
and baking it in an oven will produce a 13×9 pan of brownies. It is
a scaled-down recipe tailored to using my medium stainless steel bowl
(that holds 6 cups) as a baking pan. A soufflé dish would work well
as a heatproof dish.

  • 2 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup unbleached flour
  • 1/2 cup nuts (optional)

Pre-heat pressure cooker over a medium flame with rack inside and
top locked on but without a gasket or the pressure regulator. Do not
put liquid inside. Lightly grease the heatproof dish that will fit
inside your pressure cooker for the batter.

In a pot over very low heat, melt chocolate and butter, stirring constantly.
As soon as it’s melted and smooth, remove from heat and add sugar.
Stir until well blended. Add egg and vanilla; mix well. Add flour
and nuts, if desired. Stir mixture well. Pour into heatproof bowl.
Cover with aluminum foil. Open your pressure cooker and place dish
inside on rack. Turn heat down to low and bake 45 minutes or until
a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove
from pressure cooker and cool. Enjoy!

Cooking Dried Vegetables

The pressure cooker is ideal for cooked dried beans, peas, and lentils. Remember to fill the cooker only halfway.

Pre-soaking dried vegetables

  • 2 cups dried vegetables
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup cooking oil
  • Water to cover vegetables

Place dried vegetables in cooker. Add remaining ingredients and soak
8 hours. I start soaking beans in the morning in our cooker, keeping
it secured with fiddles on the stovetop.

Cooking pre-soaked vegetables
Pour off and discard water from soaking. (This water could cause indigestion.)
Place vegetables in cooker, adding enough water to cover well. Add
seasonings and any other additions you desire. Adding 1 tablespoon
cooking oil will decrease the foaming action of the vegetables.

Do not fill the cooker over half-full.
Close cover securely.
Place pressure regulator on vent pipe and cook under pressure according
to the following timetable. Let pressure drop.

Dried vegetable
Pinto beans
Black beans
Great northern beans
Kidney beans
Navy beans
Pink beans
Black-eyed peas
Cooking time
25 minutes
35 minutes
20 minutes
25 minutes
30 minutes
30 minutes
20 minutes


Painless Anchoring

Painless anchoring

By Norman Ralph

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 3, Number 4, July/August 2000.

When your
good old back’s not up to it anymore,
let a windlass do the donkey work

strange how much difficulty we owners of older boats have in finding
$500 to $1,000 to replace an old kitchen appliance or to provide new
furniture for the den … and how little difficulty we have spending
it on new stuff for the boat … especially when priorities change.

Anchor windlass on a Valiant 32

Thus it was with
our Bluebonnet, a 20-year-old Valiant 32. An anchor windlass was something
we had mentioned in passing several times, but it wasn’t even considered
when we upgraded her. We had never owned a boat with a windlass and
had always raised our anchor by hand (or rather, by back) on previous
boats. Once our 30-something-year-old son remarked after breaking loose
and raising our 35-pound Delta: “Boy, that was set well, I really had
to grunt to get it up.” But such comments sailed over my head until
last fall.

We were involved
in a household painting project. When I bent over to pick up a gallon
of paint, it felt as if someone hit me with a baseball bat across my
kidneys. A trip to the doctor revealed that I had a sprain. I was told
that my back showed my age, and I should take care of it with exercise
and common sense.

Suddenly the windlass
went to the top of Bluebonnet‘s list … above the autopilot that
was previously on top. My wife, Jeanette, and I are planning several
cruises. As our plans call for living on the hook much of the time,
our anchoring equipment was re-evaluated. After all, if I couldn’t get
the anchor up, it would have to stay down. In most sailing skills, Jeanette
is my equal except where significant upper-body strength is required.

Many questions

The research started.
What kind? Electric or manual? Horizontal or vertical? How big? The
results were as expected: there is no “right” windlass. As with everything
on a boat, it’s a compromise.

The first choice
was between manual and electric. The cost of a manual windlass was comparable
to an electric windlass of the same capacity. A “Waldenese” approach
to sailing had always appealed to me, thus the simplicity of a manual
windlass had much to offer. Installation is much simpler: no heavy expensive
wiring to run nor solenoids and foot switches to buy and install. The
cost of these items can add hundreds of dollars to the cost of the windlass
itself. Battery capacity has to be re-assessed and possibly increased,

Cruising classics
(by Hiscock, Pardey, Roth, and others) extolled the advantages of the
manual windlass. Against these arguments was the obvious ease of operation
of an electric windlass. Many electric windlasses can be operated manually
in an emergency. In most cases, the engine will be running when you’re
raising or lowering the anchor, and the battery drain is compensated
for by the alternator output. The added safety factor of an electric
windlass is that it’s much quicker to re-anchor if winds shift. What
confirmed my decision to go with an electric windlass was a statement
in a book by a well-known and respected cruising writer who said that
on his boat, comparable in size to ours, he had used his manual windlass
only twice in eight years. He found the manual windlass to be so slow
he just pulled it up by hand. I thought: “So why have it?”

Easier answer

The question of
horizontal or vertical gypsy windlass was easier. As the stem of a Valiant
32 is about 8 inches higher than the foredeck where the windlass would
be installed, a vertical windlass would need be mounted on a fairly
high pedestal to get the proper angle of lead to the bow roller. With
a horizontal windlass, this problem is not as critical and can be solved
much more easily. The top of the gypsy, where the rode leads off a horizontal
windlass, is already several inches higher than on a vertical windlass.

In many applications,
a vertical windlass has several advantages. It takes up less space on
the foredeck, although the below-decks motor does intrude into the anchor
locker. Some horizontal windlasses also have their motors mounted beneath
the deck. These are usually of a “worm and gear” construction, which
has considerably more internal friction and a much higher current drain.
After considering all factors, a horizontal windlass was the choice.

Size was a difficult
decision. As a do-it-yourselfer, I tend to overbuild things, so my choices
are frequently overkill. Offshore cruisers advocate heavy ground tackle.
As the first line of protection for their home and possessions, this
is a logical and proper approach. The manufacturer of the Maxwell windlass
recommends that the windlass have the reserve capacity to handle three
times the weight of the anchor and rode. If I were preparing for an
extended cruise to the Caribbean, I would have heavier ground tackle
than I presently have, which is a 35-pound Delta and a 25-pound CQR
as primary bow anchors. I might also go to all-chain rode instead of
a mixed rode of chain and three-strand nylon.

What size?

50-amp circuit breaker for starting and stopping the engine

For easy access from the cockpit, the 50-amp circuit breaker and up/down toggle switch is mounted inside the companionway, adjacent to the controls for starting and stopping the engine.

So should I buy
a windlass to fit the ground tackle we have now and our present cruising
plans? Or should I get one that would be adequate for any future far-flung
dreams? Three times the weight of an anchor and rode for offshore cruising
would be in the 1,000-pound range. Some 300 feet of 1/4-inch high-test
chain at 0.74 pounds per foot weighs 222 pounds. Add 45 pounds for a
bigger anchor, and the result is 267 pounds. Three times that is 801
pounds. (We’ve seen windlasses in catalogs with a maximum load rating
of 3,500 pounds. Make sure your deck is strong enough to handle the
load of your windlass, or reinforce it. -Ed.)

While I was trying
to reach a sensible decision, a flyer came from a discount marine store.
It featured a new Simpson-Lawrence horizontal windlass, the Horizon
600. It’s a larger version of their popular Horizon 500. It features
a much larger permanent magnet motor of 550 watts compared with 150
watts, and an increased pull of 625 pounds vs. 500 pounds. It came with
a 50-amp breaker and an up-and-down toggle switch. All this at a price
that was $120 cheaper than the Horizon 500. This caused me to re-evaluate
my windlass needs.

The lifting capacity
of the Horizon 600 is only 625 pounds. Using my existing anchors (which
are more than adequate for our boat even in storm conditions) and if
I went to 250 feet of 1/4-inch high-test chain, I would have a total
weight of 220 pounds. Three times that is 660 pounds – close to the
capacity of the Horizon 600. As I intended to use a mixed rode, the
total load would actually be much less. These factors, along with the
reality of the checkbook, made the Horizon 600 the final choice. Not
the perfect choice but the best one for us, all things considered.

Small footprint

When the windlass
arrived I was impressed with its small footprint on the foredeck. I
decided to mount it on a 1 1/2-inch pedestal. This would give a better
angle of lead for the rode to the bow roller. And it would prevent water
on deck from going down into the anchor locker through the chain-pipe
hole. I made this pedestal from two thickness of 3/4-inch exterior-grade
plywood. I cut two pieces of plywood in the desired rectangular shape
and epoxied them together, smooth sides out. I then cut the holes in
the pedestal for the chain-pipe hole and for the wire and mounting studs,
using the template provided with the windlass. Then I gave the pedestal
several coats of epoxy to seal it from moisture. I painted it white
to match the paint on the topsides and made a Sunbrella cover for it
which was attached to the pedestal with snaps.

Using the template
furnished with the windlass, I marked the deck for the holes for the
mounting studs, wires, and the chain pipe. I drilled the holes and then
cut the chain-pipe hole with a hole saw and saber saw. I covered the
holes from below with duct tape. I mixed a small amount of epoxy resin
and filled the holes with it. I liberally painted the edges of the chain-pipe
hole with this mixture. After allowing the mixture time to thoroughly
saturate the edges of the holes, I removed the duct tape and caught
the excess mixture in a disposable cup. This is to ensure that moisture
won’t get into the core of the deck, saturate it, and cause delamination.
I positioned the pedestal and windlass over the holes to make sure everything
lined up correctly with the studs and wires through the holes. I placed
strips of masking tape on the deck around the pedestal.

Final mounting

Then I removed
the pedestal and windlass and applied a bead of non-adhesive caulking
around the perimeter and holes in the areas under them. I mounted the
windlass and pedestal on the deck. Using large backing plates, I attached
locknuts to the studs from below in the anchor locker. Back on deck,
I cleaned the area around the pedestal of excess caulking and removed
the masking tape. The windlass was ready to be wired.

A 50-amp circuit
breaker and an up/down toggle switch was included with the windlass.
The toggle switch would be fine for installation at the helm of a powerboat
where clear observation of the foredeck and windlass is possible. However,
on a sailboat you need to be on the foredeck during anchoring and to
have some means to operate the windlass from there. The most common
method is to have foot switches on the foredeck and a reversing relay
mounted in a dry accessible place aft. After surveying all possibilities,
I mounted the circuit breaker just inside the companionway, adjacent
to the controls for starting and stopping the engine. This would offer
easy access from the cockpit. This location has access from the rear
in a locker that is high and dry and also has room for mounting the
reversing relay. I mounted the foot switches on the foredeck on opposite
sides of, but adjacent to, the windlass. Once again, I coated the holes
with epoxy when mounting the switches.

According to the
instructions, the size of the wire needed depended on the current draw
and the distance from the windlass to the battery. After measuring several
times, I decided that the most direct route for the wiring wound up
being between 40 and 45 feet. As the current flow is from the battery
to the windlass and return, this length must be doubled. For lengths
of 90 feet, the recommend size wire is #4 AWG.

Range of prices

In checking several catalogs for tinned battery cable of this size,
I found a wide variance in prices. West Marine listed the wire at $2.39
per foot. Jamestown Distributors in Jamestown, R.I., (800-423-0030 http://www.jamestowndistributors.com)
had the same wire at $1.03 per foot. They also had the wire in 50-foot
rolls for $43.09. Because I needed 90 feet, and at $1.03 it would cost
$92.70 for 90 feet, I purchased two 50-foot rolls, one of black and
one of red, for a total cost of $86.18. This would give me a margin
of error in my calculations and a savings in price as well. (The Jamestown
wire quoted is SAE wire, while the West Marine wire is AWG. The SAE
wire has less copper and a lower theoretical ampacity for a given length.
This must be considered in any calculations but may be quite acceptable
depending upon actual requrements. -Ed.)

I also purchased some #4 copper terminals to be swaged
on the cable for connecting to the battery and other terminals. I swaged
these with my Nicopress tool and heated them with a propane torch until
rosin-core solder flowed into each terminal. Then I covered each terminal
with a piece of heat-shrink tubing.

I ran and connected the shorter lengths of cable: a
red cable from the positive battery post to the circuit breaker and
then to the reversing relay, and the black negative cable to the engine
block and to the reversing relay. It could have been connected to the
negative post of the engine-starting battery, but that would have required
an additional 6 feet of cable. The run of wire for the foot switches
required a three-conductor cable of 16- to 18-gauge wire, as they only
carry the current of the reversing-relay coils. I then routed the wiring
from the reversing relay to the anchor locker, taking care that the
wires were not damaged and stayed clear of the bilge as they were routed
forward. I was able to bring the wiring from the windlass and foot switches
back from the anchor locker into the V-berth area behind a panel in
the overhead. This enabled the final connections to be made in a relatively
dry area.

Reversed switches

Reversing relay in a locker

The reversing relay is mounted high and dry in a locker near the companionway.

I connected
the heavy battery cables to the windlass wires with copper split-nut
connectors. Then I covered these with electrical tape and then with
friction tape for abrasion protection and a final wrapping with plastic
electrical tape. The foot-switch wires were connected with crimped connectors
and covered with heat-shrink tubing.

When it came time to turn the circuit breaker on and
try the foot switches, I discovered that the switches were reversed.
It was a 50-50 proposition, so I wasn’t surprised. I swapped the switch wires at the reversing-relay coil connections.

I needed to splice my 1/2-inch, three-strand nylon
rode to the 20 feet of 1/4-inch high-test chain I had bought to replace
the 5/16-inch proof chain I had been using. Although the 1/4-inch high-test
chain is smaller and lighter than the proof 5/16-inch, it is much stronger:
it has a working strength of 2,600 pounds, compared with 1,900 pounds.

This splice was not as hard as I had imagined it. Anyone
who has made “eye splices” on docklines or around thimbles will have
no problem completing this splice. About a foot of the three-strand
is unlaid and two strands are fed through the last link of the chain
while the third strand is fed through the same link in the opposite
direction. The strands are back spliced with five tucks and then tapered
for several more tucks. At the end the splice is whipped for a finished
look. The splice runs through the gypsy smoothly and without hesitation.
A customer service representative from Simpson-Lawrence told me that
tests have shown that a splice of this type is as strong as either the
chain or the three strand. However, I intend to check it frequently
for signs of chafe and wear.

How does the windlass work? So far, I have been well
pleased with the project and ease of operation. The anchor goes down
and back up much faster than I had anticipated. I feel that it has been
a very worthwhile addition to the boat. I know my back will appreciate

Ralph and his wife, Jeanette, were late bloomers when it came to sailing.
A 1988 trip to the Gulf Coast exposed them to the concept of year-round
sailing and sowed seeds that initiated early retirement and a move to
Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana.

Renaming a boat? How bad could that be?

By John vigor

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 2, Number 4, July/August 1999.

Superstition got you down? John Vigor
offers tips for renaming your boat and keeping it lucky

I once knew a man in Florida who told me he’d owned 24 different yachts and renamed every
single one of them.

“Did it bring you bad luck?” I asked.

“Not that I’m aware of,” he said. “You don’t believe in those old superstitions,
do you?”

Well, yes. Matter of fact, I do. And I’m not alone. Actually, it’s not so much
being superstitious as being v-e-r-y careful. It’s an essential part of good seamanship.

Some years ago, when I wanted to change the name of my newly purchased 31-foot
sloop from Our Way to Freelance, I searched for a formal “denaming ceremony” to
wipe the slate clean in preparation for the renaming. I read all the books, but
I couldn’t find one. What I did learn, though, was that such a ceremony should
consist of five parts: an invocation, an expression of gratitude, a supplication,
a re-dedication and a libation. So I wrote my own short ceremony: Vigor’s inter-denominational denaming ceremony. It worked perfectly.

Freelance carried me and my family many thousands of deep-sea miles
both north and south of the equator, and we enjoyed good luck all the way. I used
the same ceremony after that to change the name of my Santana 22 from Zephyr to
Tagati, a Zulu word that means “magic” or “bewitched.”

I’ll give you the exact wording of Vigor’s denaming ceremony,
but first you must remove all physical traces of the boat’s old name. Take the
old log book ashore, along with any other papers that bear the old name. Check
for offending books and charts with the name inscribed. Be ruthless. Sand away
the old name from the lifebuoys, transom, topsides, dinghy, and oars. Yes, sand
it away. Painting over is not good enough. You’re dealing with gods here, you
understand, not mere dumb mortals. If the old name is carved or etched, try to
remove it or, at the very minimum, fill it with putty and then paint it over.
And don’t place the new name anywhere on the boat before the denaming ceremony
is carried out. That’s just tempting fate.

How you conduct the ceremony depends entirely on you. If you’re the theatrical
type, and enjoy appearing in public in your yachtclub blazer and skipper’s cap,
you can read it with flair on the foredeck before a gathering of distinguished
guests. But if you find this whole business faintly silly and embarrassing, and
only go along with it because you’re scared to death of what might happen if you
don’t, you can skulk down below and mumble it on your own. That’s perfectly OK.
The main thing is that you carry it out. The words must be spoken.

I compromised by sitting in Tagati’s cockpit with the written-out ceremony folded
into a newspaper, so that any passerby would think I was just reading the news
to my wife, sitting opposite. Enough people think I’m nuts already. Even my wife
has doubts. The last part of the ceremony, the libation, must be performed at
the bow, just as it is in a naming ceremony. There are two things to watch out
for here. Don’t use cheap-cheap champagne, and don’t try to keep any for yourself.
Buy a second bottle if you want some. Use a brew that’s reasonably expensive,
based on your ability to pay, and pour the whole lot on the boat. One of the things
the gods of the sea despise most is meanness, so don’t try to do this bit on the

What sort of time period should elapse between this denaming ceremony and a new
naming ceremony? There’s no fixed time. You can do the renaming right after the
denaming, if you want, but I personally would prefer to wait at least 24 hours
to give any lingering demons a chance to clear out.


Now you can pop the cork, shake the bottle and spray the whole of the contents
on the bow. When that’s done, you can quietly go below and enjoy the other bottle
yourself. Incidentally, I had word from a friend that the Florida yachtsman I
mentioned earlier had lost his latest boat, a 22-foot trailer-sailer. Sailed her
into an overhead power line. Fried her. She burned to the waterline. Bad luck?
Not exactly.

He and his crew escaped unhurt. He was just very careless. He renamed her, as
usual, without bothering to perform Vigor’s famous interdenominational denaming
ceremony. And this time, at long last, he got what he deserved.


Vigor’s denaming ceremony

“In the name of all who have sailed aboard this ship in the past, and in
the name of all who may sail aboard her in the future, we invoke the ancient
gods of the wind and the sea to favor us with their blessing today.

“Mighty Neptune, king of all that moves in or on the waves; and mighty Aeolus
(pronounced EE-oh-lus), guardian of the winds and all that blows before

“We offer you our thanks for the protection you have afforded this vessel
in the past. We voice our gratitude that she has always found shelter from
tempest and storm and enjoyed safe passage to port.

“Now, wherefore, we submit this supplication, that the name whereby this
vessel has hitherto been known _____, be struck and removed from your records.

“Further, we ask that when she is again presented for blessing with another
name, she shall be recognized and shall be accorded once again the selfsame
privileges she previously enjoyed.

“In return for which, we rededicate this vessel to your domain in full knowledge
that she shall be subject as always to the immutable laws of the gods of
the wind and the sea.

“In consequence whereof, and in good faith, we seal this pact with a libation
offered according to the hallowed ritual of the sea.”

Christening ceremony

After a boat is denamed, you simply need to rename it using the traditional christening ceremony, preferably with Queen Elizabeth breaking a bottle of champagne on the bow, and saying the words:

“I name this ship ___________, and may she bring fair winds and good fortune to all who sail on her.”

Quit Horsing Around

By Steve Christensen

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 3, Number 1, January/February 2000.

Use a riding sail to steady your boat at anchor

Rag Doll at anchor

Rag Doll at anchor

You’re all settled
in for the night in that well-protected cove, when the wind picks up.
What had been a nice quiet anchorage is now alive with motion as the wind
causes the boats to weave back and forth on their anchor rodes. Your boat
rolls and jerks from one “tack” to another, and you begin to
worry about what all this motion is doing to the set of your anchor. Your
nice quiet evening is now anything but restful.

people call this weaving back and forth “sailing at anchor.”
But my favorite nickname for the activity is “horsing around”
because the image it creates is so descriptive of the motion. And while
the name may sound like fun, the motion it describes can lead to real

causes this phenomenon? For most boats, the center of effort (or windage)
of the topsides and rigging is well forward of the underwater center of
lateral resistance. This means the boat is out of balance while on the
hook, and doesn’t really want to weathercock. Whenever the boat drifts
backward during a gust (or there is a slight change in the wind
direction) the bow will fall off faster than the stern, putting the boat
broadside to the wind. Once that happens, the bow continues to fall off,
and the boat will “sail” away in the new direction, up to as
much as 30 to 40 degrees off the wind, until brought up short by the rode.

Detail of riding sail 1
Detail of riding sail 2

Detail of riding sail above.

seems as if the boat should eventually settle down, given a steady wind.
But in reality, the wind is never steady in either direction or strength
for very long. During the lulls, the boat is drawn forward by the weight
of the rode (creating slack), only to fall back and turn broadside during
the gusts.

Why all the concern?
Well, at the very least, all this weaving back and forth can make things
uncomfortable down below. More importantly, it is quite possible for two
boats anchored side by side to get “out of phase” while sailing
at anchor and actually collide. We witnessed this a few seasons ago while
anchored in Bear Drop Harbor in the North Channel on a day with gusty
25-to-30-knot winds. Two nearby anchored boats began to sheer, on opposite
tacks, and exactly out of phase. The boats kept getting closer and closer
with each tack as the skippers looked on helplessly. A collision was avoided
only when one skipper broke the cycle by letting out more rode.

By far the biggest
concern of “horsing around” is the effect it has on the set
of your anchor. The shock loads on the rode from coming up short on opposite
tacks are practically at right angles to each other, and all this stress
can eventually break the anchor free. Even if the anchor holds, the sideways
motion at the bow can chafe right through a nylon rode in a few hours.

So, if you want to
sleep better at anchor, you need to do all you can to reduce this sailing
at anchor.

But what can you do?
While we’ve never tried it, a couple of skippers we have met swear
by anchoring stern-to. This places the center of effort behind the center
of resistance, and keeps the boat steady. (It also looks really weird.)
The downside is that some boats are not very seaworthy stern-to, and most
companionways are not designed to be very weatherproof from the stern.
So I would worry about being caught in a storm anchored backward, but
in fair weather it seems to work quite well.

Riding, or anchor, sail at stern

best thing you can do to reduce “horsing around” while at anchor
is to use a riding (or anchor) sail. We first learned about riding sails
by reading Steve and Linda Dashew’s The Bluewater Handbook. It seemed
like a good idea, so we had a local sail loft make one for us, and have
used it every night at anchor since. The ability of a riding sail to reduce
horsing around is just amazing and has to be seen to be appreciated. On
that day in Bear Drop Harbor when many of the other boats were sailing
up to 40 degrees off the wind, our riding sail kept the bow of our Ericson
38 to within five degrees of the wind direction. Considering how well
they work, it is surprising that you don’t see more of them being used.
(We’ve only seen one other riding sail in 10 seasons of cruising the Great

Just what is a riding
sail? It’s essentially a small and heavily built mizzen, rigged on the
backstay, and sheeted forward. The added windage of the sail brings the
overall center of effort well aft of the center of lateral resistance.
Now when the boat drifts backward during a gust and the bow begins to
fall off to one side, the effort of the wind on the riding sail quickly
pushes the stern in and brings the boat back head to wind.

A riding sail should
be constructed board-flat, of heavy (4- to 8-ounce) cloth, with a hollow
foot and leech to reduce flutter, and a straight luff with hanks for attaching
to the backstay. Adding full-length battens to the sail is also a good
idea to reduce slatting in high winds. As for size, a good rule of thumb
is to have the sail made about the same size as a storm jib, or from 5
percent to 10 percent of the total sail area. In fact, you can use a storm
jib on the backstay as your riding sail. And for that matter, ketches
and yawls can achieve the same effect by just leaving their mizzen up
(perhaps with a reef or two). But since whatever you use will be left
up constantly while at anchor and exposed to a lot of ultraviolet radiation,
it’s a good idea to have a dedicated riding sail, and not subject your
storm jib or mizzen sail to all that abuse.

How to rig a riding sail diagram

do you rig a riding sail? First, attach a pendant between the stern of
the boat (the top stern rail works well) and the tack of the sail, long
enough to keep the sail well clear over the cockpit. Then attach a halyard
to the head and hoist the sail aloft. Finally, rig a sheet from the clew
to a place on deck amidships, or – better, but more work – run a sheet
to each side of the deck or cabin house. You can leave the sail flying
free like this, but it will tend to slat a bit in high winds. So it’s
best to attach the luff of the sail to the backstay with a number of hanks.

Riding sails may not
be common, but any sail loft can make one up for you. Or you can contact
Sailrite, which markets a basic anchor riding sail kit with a 75-inch
leech, a 58-inch luff, and a 72-inch foot (15 square feet) designed for
boats over 20 feet. It costs between $68 and $73, depending upon the size
of the snaps needed to fit your backstay. This kit was just upgraded to
use Top Gun sailcloth, rather than Dacron. This makes the sail hold up
much longer.

Our riding sail came
from Kent Sails, in Mount Clemens, Mich., and is 150 inches on the luff,
124 inches on the leech, and 62 inches on the foot (26 square feet) with
seven hanks along the luff.

Kent Sails designed
our current riding sail with a fiberglass rod running between the backstay
at the luff and the grommet at the clew. This rod does a nice job of stiffening
the sail, and keeps it quiet in high winds. But more than that, this unusual
design has the interesting feature of holding the clew out away from the
backstay, in much the same way a wishbone boom on a sailboard holds the
clew of the sail out from the mast. With the clew held out taut, you can
swing the sail around on the backstay to point aft, which not only gets
it out of the way of the cockpit, but has the advantage of putting the
sail’s center of effort even farther from the bow, making it even
more effective at keeping the boat steady.

Riding sail pointing to deck diagram

you already have a riding sail with hanks on the luff and would like to
try this arrangement, it’s a simple matter to modify the sail to be able
to point aft. All it takes is a few feet of hollow aluminum rod, a short
piece of webbing, and a couple of sheet metal screws.

First lay out a line
between the luff and the clew, perpendicular to the luff, and mark where
the line meets the luff. Then buy a length of hollow aluminum rod that
is at least 6 inches longer than this line, and slightly smaller in outside
diameter than the clew grommet (so the rod will slide through the grommet).
Using your sail repair kit (you do have one aboard, don’t you?)
sew about 4 inches of 1-inch webbing to the side of the luff at the position
you marked, with enough slack to hold the rod. (The purpose of the webbing
is to keep the rod in position on the backstay.) Then cut about a half-inch-deep
slot into one end of the rod so the end fits over the backstay.

The final step needs
to be done with the sail hanked onto the backstay and hoisted taut. Slide
the slotted end of the rod through the clew grommet, through the luff
web loop, and over the backstay. Then pull the clew out taut, and mark
the point on the rod where it enters the clew grommet. Remove the rod
and mount a couple of sheet metal screws at that point on the rod, which
will keep the clew from sliding down the rod toward the backstay. Next,
cut the excess rod off about 4 inches beyond the screws.

you now place the slotted end of the rod through the web strap, then the
other end through the grommet up to the screws, and finally slide
the slot over the backstay, the clew should be held out nice and taut.
Finally, just rotate the whole sail aft, and add a sheet from the end
of the    rod to each corner of the stern rail. Using rolling
hitches for each sheet makes it easy to adjust the centering of the sail.
And that’s it – you’re done.

Riding sail pointing aft diagram

nice side effect of any riding sail is that it makes your boat easier
to find in a crowded anchorage, as there aren’t too many boats out there
with big white triangles at their sterns. (This has come in very handy
when returning by dinghy from a late evening ashore and trying to find
our boat by flashlight.) Our unusual aft-pointing rig is also very sociable,
in that we usually have at least one sailor in each anchorage stop by
to ask about it. Last summer we even had the skipper of a nearby Alberg
30 so intrigued that he spent an hour trying to construct a similar rig
using his storm jib and a telescoping awning pole. At one point when things
weren’t going too well and the pole fell to deck for the second or third
time (there was no webbing at the luff to hold the pole in place) he good-naturedly
called over, “Look what you started!”

Whether you choose
the traditional forward-sheeted arrangement, or the unusual aft-pointing
rig, I highly recommend you consider using a riding sail to steady your
boat at anchor. Leave the “horsing around” for on shore.


Kents Sails Co.
35942 Jefferson
Mount Clemens, MI 48045

305 W. Van Buren St
P.O. Box 987
Columbia City, IN 46725

Steve Christensen
and his wife, Beth, sail their Ericson 38,
Rag Doll, out of Saginaw Bay
on Lake Huron and spend each August cruising the North Channel . . . with
their riding sail.

The rest of the ratios: On helm balance

By Ted Brewer

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 2, Number 6, November/December 1999.

Hull resistance diagram

As you are
aware, proper helm balance is a very desirable factor on a sailing yacht
and can make the difference between a craft that is enjoyable to sail
and one that has a helm that would rupture a gorilla, exhausting and exasperating
her crew. The ideal vessel will have about 3 to 4 degrees of weather helm
and will still retain a light and easy feel to the tiller or wheel under
all conditions of weather. Excess weather helm, besides being extremely
tiring for the helmsman, adds unnecessary resistance and can make it difficult,
or even impossible, to jibe.

helm is a term that describes a yacht that sails with her tiller, or quadrant
if she is wheel steered, slightly angled to the windward side of the vessel.
This is a vital safety factor, as such a yacht will turn to windward,
head up into the wind, and simply luff if the helm is released. With the
opposite, lee helm, the yacht would turn to leeward and risk a knockdown
or a dangerous accidental jibe.

having 3 to 4 degrees of weather helm improves performance. The rudder
steers the yacht, of course, but it can also provide lift and reduce leeway
if there is a slight weather helm, acting like the flaps on the aft end
of an airplane’s wing, in effect. Conversely, a bad lee helm gives negative
lift, adds resistance to slow the yacht, and can make it difficult or
impossible to tack.

Correct lead offsets side force diagram

weather helm in all conditions of wind is eminently desirable but not
always possible. It is not uncommon to find a yacht with a neutral or
even a slight lee helm in light air changing to a moderate weather helm
as it breezes up. Such a helm is acceptable since leeway in light air
is not a serious problem, nor is an accidental jibe. In any case, such
a helm is preferable to having moderate weather helm in light air that
increases to a bear of a weather helm as the breeze stiffens. Of course,
the helm balance will change as sails are reefed or changed down, but
the experienced skipper will determine which reefed sail combinations
provide the best balance as the yacht is snugged down for a blow.

It must
be noted that a heavy, tiring helm can be mistaken for a strong weather
helm, yet the two can be worlds apart. If the tiller or quadrant is only
2 to 4 degrees off the centerline and the helm is still too heavy for
comfort, then the cause is probably not helm balance but, rather, a too-short
tiller or, with a wheel steering system, a quadrant that is too small
or a wheel of inadequate diameter. These problems are readily corrected.

helm balance is governed by the lead (pronounced leed) of the rig. The
lead is the amount that the center of effort (CE) of the sail plan is
forward of the center of lateral plane (CLP) of the hull, and the figure
is usually expressed as a percentage of the LWL. If the CE is too far
aft, the lead will be small, and a heavy weather helm will result. If
the CE is too far forward, the result is excess lead and a dangerous lee

At first
glance it might seem that the boat will balance well if the CE is directly
above the CLP, in effect no lead. However, the locations of the centers
are calculated from a flat sheet of paper and it is obvious that these
are not the true centers of pressure of a yacht that is heeled and moving
through the water. When the boat is underway, the CE moves forward and
to leeward due to the shape of the sails, the eased sheets, and the angle
of heel. Also, the true hydrodynamic center of lateral plane of the boat
moves well forward of the geometric CLP when the boat is close-hauled,
but moves aft as she bears off. So the true centers are not easy to pin
down except by testing in tanks and wind tunnels. As a result, the designer
will usually work with the geometric centers, some general rules for lead,
plus his own experience and intuition when drawing up the sail plan.

Finding CLP

The longitudinal position of the CLP is simple to locate if you
have a profile drawing of the hull. Copy the drawing up to the LWL on
a piece of tracing paper, cut it out, crease it to stiffen it and balance
it on a pin or sharp pencil. Ensure that the ends do not hang down by
folding it parallel to the LWL a few times as required to prevent this.
Note that it is only necessary to locate the longitudinal position of
the CLP. The vertical position is of no importance in the lead calculation,
although it is necessary for stability work and masting calculations.
In working out the CLP, some designers omit the rudder area, most use
the forward half or third of the rudder area (me), and a few use all the
rudder area. The individual designer will interpret the results based
on his experience.

Calculating sail area

The mainsail area is calculated by multiplying the luff
(P) by 1/2 the foot (E). The foretriangle area is the hoist (I) multiplied
by 1/2 the base (J). See sketch on Page 63 for calculating the areas of
individual jibs and gaff mains and mizzens.

Calculating CE

Locating the center of effort diagram

To find the center of a triangular mainsail (Cm), draw a line
on the sail plan from the mid-length of the boom to the head of the sail
and another from the clew to halfway up the luff of the sail. The roach
is usually ignored, and the center is considered to be where these two
lines cross. For a gaff mainsail, divide the sail into two triangles,
find the center and area of each using the above technique and obtain
the center of the sail by using the formula below or, more simply, use
the geometrical system shown in the diagram.

To find
the center of the foretriangle (Cf), draw a line from the tack point of
the headsail to a point halfway up the mast and another from the masthead
to a point on deck halfway between the mast and the tack. Again, the point
of intersection is the center of the area. With these centers found, and
the areas worked out, the location of the overall CE of the sail plan
is readily calculated. Connect the two centers, Cm and Cf, with a line
and measure its length, L. Then the distance that the CE is from Cf =
(Main area x L)/Total area main and foretriangle (see example at left).

The foretriangle
area and center are used if genoa jibs are to be set but if only a working
jib is carried, its center and area may be used instead. In the case of
yachts with bowsprits and multiple headsails but no genoas (i.e., a Friendship
sloop), it is a matter of choice whether to use the foretriangle area
and center or work out the overall center and total areas of the individual

In any
case, the areas of light sails – such as fisherman staysails, mizzen staysails,
main topsails, etc. – are ignored when working out the overall sail area
and CE. Some designers use half the mizzen area in the calculation of
the overall CE of yawls and ketches. However, I feel this may be an error
which could result in insufficient lead since it tends to result in a
CE further forward than if the actual mizzen area is used.

you have the CE and the CLP, it is simple to mark them out on a sail plan
of the boat, measure the distance between them, and calculate the lead
as a percentage of the load waterline (see illustsration above). However,
even leading authorities do not always agree on the proper amount of lead
to give different types of yachts. I suggest the reader take with a grain
of salt anything they read about lead in the otherwise excellent books
written by Chapelle, Kinney, Baader, or Henry and Miller. The problem
is that hulls and rigs have changed greatly over the years, and the definitive
leads given in these books do not take into account the variables of hull
form, beam, rig height, etc. in contemporary yachts. These have changed
drastically, and they all affect the amount of lead required to obtain
a balanced helm.

Calculating areas of Jibs and Gaff mainsails diagram

example, Kinney states that a schooner requires a 5 to 7 percent lead;
Baader recommends 3 to 5 percent. Yet our 1960s Ingenue schooner design
started life with 10.5 percent lead and still had to have her bowsprit
lengthened to correct excess weather helm. Baader suggests 4 to 6 percent
for a “beamy, long, keel yawl and ketch,” and our beamy, long,
keel ketch Traveller III balanced beautifullywith 22.5 percent lead. The
second edition of Kinney’s work did come close with a 20 percent recommendation
for a ketch but with Baader’s 4 to 6 percent lead, the Traveller III would
have had an impossible weather helm. Kinney also comes close in suggesting
a 14 to 19 percent lead for sloops, but I’ve had a yacht with 17.5 percent
lead develop such a heavy weather helm that we had to move the mast a
foot forward.

a number of factors affect the amount of lead required for a balanced
helm, and these factors simply cannot be taken into account by any table
that simply says “a ketch requires x-percent lead.” Consider
two yachts, otherwise identical except that one is heavily built and has
a 35 percent ballast ratio, the other is lightly built and has a 50 percent
ballast ratio. In a stiff breeze, the more lightly ballasted boat will
heel to a greater degree, her CE will move farther to leeward, and the
luffing moment will be higher than that of her heavily ballasted sister.
The more tender hull will require greater lead in order to maintain a
reasonable weather helm.

consider two identical hulls with exactly the same sail area but one has
a low, broad rig, and the second has a tall, high aspect ratio rig. The
yacht with the tall rig will heel more in a breeze and her CE will move
even farther to leeward due to the height of the rig. Thus she will need
more lead in order to eliminate excess weather helm. There are many other
factors that affect lead and some of these are noted in the chart on Page

Locating the center of a Gaff sail diagram

of these factors will seem to contradict each other. Wide beam creates
a stable hull, but it also tends to result in full waterlines forward.
A narrow beam may mean a tender hull but also fine forward waterlines
as a rule. Obviously a certain amount of interpretation and experience
is required when designing a hull/rig combination so each new design has
to be analyzed, and the sail plan must be designed to suit. A rough estimate
of the percent of lead necessary can be obtained by starting with a figure
of 14-15 percent and adding 1 percent for each characteristic of the boat
that falls into the Lengthening column and subtracting 1 percent for each
characteristic in the Shortening column in the table above. This is not
a very scientific rule to live by, but the whole issue of helm balance
and proper lead really comes down to intelligent guesswork based on previous
experience. There is no sure way to pin it down any closer than that.

examples: A narrow (-1%), heavily ballasted (-1%), long keel (+1%), shoal
draft (+1%), yawl (-1%) with fine forward waterlines (-1%) and a high-aspect-ratio
rig (+1%) works out to a required lead of 13-14%. A beamy (+1%), lightly
ballasted (+1%), short keel (-1%), deep draft (-1%), sloop (+1%) with
full forward waterlines (+1%) and a tall rig (+1%) works out to 17-18%
lead. In either case, these leads may be too small and our tendency today
would be to use a slightly longer lead than derived as above, but never
a shorter one.

In that
regard, Bill Luders taught me that it was very unusual to find lee helm
on a modern hull and that most yachts could stand even more lead than
they had. I quite agree. A modern beamy hull can stand quite a long lead
but a too-short lead will result in a severe weather helm every time.
Bill also felt strongly that the mast location in regard to the keel leading
edge was as important as any consideration of lead. Bob Perry and I have
discussed this and are in general agreement that locating the mast in
the area where the fin of a modern fin-keel sloop or cutter meets the
hull will usually result in a good helm. I must say that in my 40 years
in this business, only one of my designs developed a lee helm and that
was a boat with less than 11 percent lead. We had to shorten the bowsprit
and cut some area off the aft end of the centerboard to correct it; very
unusual indeed.

Using the helm to offset wind direction diagram

Correcting an uncorrected helm

The designer is fortunate. If he finds in the
design stage that a boat has insufficient lead, he can simply pick up
his eraser and move the mast, lengthen or shorten a boom, even add a bowsprit
if necessary. The owner of a boat with a bad helm is not so lucky, for
the cure is going to require more than an eraser or a fresh sheet of paper
on the drawing board. It can mean a costly stay in a boatyard!

If your
boat does have a problem, first calculate the actual lead and compare
it to the designs of other yachts of similar type to ascertain if you
truly have a lead problem. I suggest this because poor balance can be
caused by warped rudders, skegs, and centerboards, and even by baggy sails.
I even came across one production boat that had good balance on one tack
and poor balance on another because her fin was not fitted perfectly down
the centerline of the hull and, as well, was not vertical when the hull
was at rest! These problems are usually hard to discover and even harder
to correct, but examine the yacht carefully in any case. If the helm problem
is not a result of one of the above aberrations, then you can try to alter
the lead by making one or more of the following modifications.

Factors affecting lead

Shortening lead
keel (fore- and aft-dimensions)
Deep draft
Narrow beam
Fine forward waterlines
Stable vessel (heavily ballasted)
Low-aspect-ratio rig Two-masted rig
Lengthening lead
Long keel (fore- and aft-dimensions)
Shallow draft
Wide beam
Full forward waterlines
Tender vessel
High-aspect-ratio rig Single-masted rig

To correct weather helm (lengthen lead)

  • Reduce rake of mast or even plumb it up
  • Move mast forward
  • Move headstay tack forward, adding or lengthening a bowsprit if necessary
  • Shorten foot and/or hoist of main
  • Recut mainsail flatter, or buy a new main if the old one is blown out
  • Decrease mizzen area by shorter boom and/or mast
  • Move centerboard aft if feasible
  • Increase rudder area slightly, but be careful as you can overload the

To correct lee helm (shorten lead)

  • Increase mast rake by lengthening headstay, shortening backstay
  • Move headstay aft, or shorten bowsprit
  • Move mast aft
  • Lengthen boom and fit larger mainsail; ditto with mizzen
  • Adjust main to greater fullness
  • Move centerboard forward, if possible.

that cannot be corrected by the above changes will probably require a
major rig change or an alteration to keel shape, rudder, skeg, etc. In
such cases, the advice of a competent yacht designer should be sought.

The result
of your changes and experimenting should be a weather helm of 2 to 4 degrees,
and that, in turn, will result in your boat taking on a new life as regards
handling ease and even performance. It is well worth some tinkering, especially
if you have developed arm muscles like Popeye from fighting a runaway
weather helm.

Brewer is, simply put, one of our favorite people and a terrific naval
architect. Seems like this should be enough.

The Comfortable Cruiser

By Bob Wood

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 3, Number 1, January/February 2000.

Controlling your environment makes you a better, safer sailor

Dressed for foul weather, dreams of easy sailing

As a person to whom quality time and time aboard are synonymous, I often
daydream of idyllic passages through tropical seas with steady trade winds,
puffy white clouds, and sun-sparkled wave tips at my back. Moments later,
reality returns to find me clutching a warm coffee mug and watching my
steaming breath join the rest of the condensation coating a frigid cabin.
Or it finds me pondering, with burning eyes, the flies gathered on the
mainsail during a windless, steamy August afternoon.

We need to cope with an amazing range of temperatures and conditions over
the course of a typical boating season. Moreover, we do it in a comparatively
Spartan way, without a basement full of extra equipment. We do our best
to cope with this temperature range for two basic reasons: comfort and
safety. A sailor preoccupied with discomfort is going to be at a disadvantage
when decision-making time suddenly arrives.

Basically, we must address two environmental issues while boating; how
to stay warm when it’s cold, and how to cool off when it’s hot. Let’s
look at the mechanics involved and then take them in turn.

Heating and cooling are two sides of the same coin: the physics of heat
transfer. When heat is transferred from place A to place B, A will get
cooler while B gets warmer. There are three ways that heat is moved around:

  • By conduction, when your hand touches a hot stove, directly transferring
    the stove’s heat.
  • By convection, when fan-blown air delivers heat from the stove.
  • By radiation, when the hot stove’s surface or its flames emit infrared
    waves that warm the objects that absorb them.

Those are warming situations; but keep in mind that if you were the stove,
they would be cooling situations . . . different sides of the same process.
To stay comfortable, our human efforts are directed at either enhancing
or reducing the transfer of heat.

Staying warm

Types of heaters

There are several ways to combat cold. Each of the following five basic
types of marine heat generation has advantages and disadvantages.

Electric heat is quick, inexpensive to install, very easy to start
and adjust, requires no exhaust venting, and doesn’t add moisture to a
boat’s already moisture-laden atmosphere. It is also impossible to use
away from the dock without running a generator. Electric heat must be
carefully designed to prevent shocks and fires. And, finally, not all
marinas provide sufficient power to run these heaters. There are electric
furnaces with blowers and air ducting to efficiently heat the long skinny
interiors of boats, but many medium-sized boats can do quite well with
a portable, fan-assisted electric heater. If your home port is north of
the Mason-Dixon Line, dockside electric heat represents a good investment
for chilly mornings and evenings, often extending a season by two or three
months. When buying a portable heater, make sure that it has:

  • a three-pronged safety plug;
  • a thermostat that shuts it off at the desired temperature;
  • a tip-over sensor (if it’s portable) that shuts it off should a wake or other sudden motion knock it over; and
  • a ground-fault interrupter (GFI) or receptacle. In fact, all alternating current-powered appliances aboard should have, or be plugged into, a GFI.

Those precautions, along with sensible and prudent operation, will make
electric heat an enjoyable convenience.

Solid-fuel heaters have the advantage of burning a wide variety
of readily available fuels such as charcoal and wood. They produce a quiet,
dry heat and sometimes a nice ambiance if the fire is visible. The price
is also moderate, and they can be used under way or while you’re swinging
on the hook. On the downside, they do require venting, and their smoke
can foul sails or topsides. They take the longest of all heaters to begin
producing heat, and a bag of charcoal is not the cleanest item to be rattling
around in a locker. Finally, burning ocean driftwood can create mildly
corrosive smoke that hastens your heater’s demise. Still, solid-fuel heaters,
with their warmly glowing flames, rank second of all heating types with

Propane, butane, and compressed natural gas (CNG) are gas fuels
with some commonalities. They are quick to produce heat and difficult
to fine-tune; they will work at the dock or under way; and they are clean-burning.

Most require venting, and I would advise against those that don’t on two

First, some of the catalytic types that don’t require venting are designed
for a semi-open space with plenty of fresh air moving through . . . and
moving the waste products out as well.

Second, the combustion process for gas fuels produces a lot of water vapor
that will be deposited in the dark cold corners of your boat unless it
is vented outside with the other fumes.

There can also be a definite fire hazard when you use a portable catalytic
heater in your boat, especially while under way. I would caution against
doing it. Period.

CNG is lighter than air and will, therefore, not settle in the bilges
like propane could. CNG is also much harder to find than propane wherever
you sail. Propane is quite safe when it’s installed with properly isolated
storage bottles, a correct solenoid shut-off valve, systematic maintenance
of the lines, and a good gas-detection alarm. If you already have propane
for your galley, it may make sense to use it for heating, also. Permanent
marine propane heaters are more expensive than solid-fuel ones, but less
expensive than liquid-fuel heaters.

Liquid-fuel heaters are primarily kerosene- and diesel-fuel heaters.
They are the benchmark by which traditionalists rate all others. They
provide a steady source of low-cost heat while under way, on the hard,
and all points between. If you already have a diesel-fuel galley stove,
you probably don’t need a heater, since the stoves I’ve been around warm
a cabin very well.

The heaters require venting, and the smoke can stain sails over a period
of time. They are also among the most expensive of the different types
of heaters. Since they require gravity-fed or pressurized fuel, a special
tank is sometimes the easiest way to install the system.

Lastly, your cabin can get smoky if fluky winds swirl fumes from the stack
back around the mandatory open hatch or port. A diesel-fuel heater is
for hard-core sailors who rejoice in the glitter of frozen halyards. Serious

Alcohol heaters are portable and inexpensive, but not in the same league
as kerosene/diesel types. Their flame is difficult to see, increasing
the possibility of burns, and they pump lots of undesirable water vapor
into the cabin air. It’s hard to recommend them for boating purposes.

Hot-water radiators. This last heat source is probably the least
used. Radiators produce heat from the water used to cool your inboard
engine. These are not often seen on sailboats, despite the fact that many
a voyage transforms our wind yacht to a displacement-powerboat-with-mast.

Radiators work only when the engine is running, which allows powerboats
to make good use of the free, quiet heat. They produce a dry heat with
no venting required, no fire danger, or smell. They begin providing heat
within minutes of the engine’s being started, and are easy to adjust.
Most installations are custom-made and, therefore, can be expensive. The
radiator preferably uses the heat-exchanger fluid since it’s hotter, but
raw cooling water can be used – although a broken hose or fitting could
flood the cabin.

Humidity’s effect

Humidity, or water moisture in the air that you’re heating, makes a difference.
The more water moisture, the more heat that air can hold. Dry air requires
a higher temperature to be comfortable. Since most heat sources do not
add water vapor, the air becomes drier as it gets warmer. Unless you have
the perfect boat with bone-dry bilges, chain stowage, lockers, and bedding,
you probably won’t have to worry about over-dry air while bobbing on the
waves. The exception would be heating while hauled out during sub-freezing
winter weather; then a pan of water boiling on the stove might help.

Circulation – air layering

The numbers game

are formulas for converting watts to Btu (British thermal units),
determining resistance to heat loss (insulation factor), and number
of tons of air conditioning needed. But forget the numbers; boating’s
wide array of types and conditions make them impractical. Your electric
heat will be limited to what your marina can provide: typically
enough to run a 1,600-watt heater at 110 volts.

With care, this will keep a saloon and one stateroom comfortable
down to around freezing . . . remembering that comfort is a relative
term. Any requirement greater than that in size or temperature is
going to require a fuel heater. Heaters made for permanent marine
installation will advertise figures in Btu output, but basically
they’ll be good for boats up to about 45 feet and temperatures down
to 300F. Dealers in marine air conditioners will help you figure
your cooling requirements based on climate, boat insulation, and
installation location.

A boat has a lot of nooks and crannies, is poorly insulated (compared
to a house), and usually has a single point of heat. If a fan isn’t used
to push the air around, the nooks and crannies and outer surfaces stay
clammy while the air immediately above the heat source becomes uncomfortably

Unless those on board can levitate to the 720F air layer, everyone is
going to be miserable – cold and clammy from the knees down, and feverish
from the shoulders up. A fan is essential for heating comfort. Small,
low-wattage fans can be mounted in passageways forward and aft to immensely
improve the main fan’s function. Layering is good for clothes, bad for
cabin air.


An airtight heated cabin is an invitation to disaster. At the very least,
you’re inviting headaches, as the oxygen content is depleted by fuel-burning
heaters. Carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide levels increase, aggravating
the stale conditions. Moisture from respiration and perspiration has no
place to go to, except onto exposed surfaces. It will cake your sugar
and salt into unusable blocks. You need to have a hatch, porthole, or
Dorade vent partly open, even if it’s below freezing and snowing sideways.


The opposite of an airtight cabin are drafts so bad that a candle or lantern
can’t stay lit. This is unworkable, because all the air that you’re heating
is leaving. It’s going to take a lot of fuel to raise the temperature
if you’re heating the entire Western Hemisphere. You don’t need all downwind
hatches open . . . maybe just one, or a half of one.


Don’t overlook the value of dressing for temperature rather than changing
the temperature for your dress. It’s quite possible to be comfortable
at 550F or cooler temperatures with warm boots, hats, and gloves. You
lose the most heat from not wearing headgear . . . a warm hat and scarf
are probably worth 50F of cabin temperature by themselves. You’ve heard
it before, but dress in layers: a layer closest to the skin that will
wick moisture away, then a bulky insulating layer or layers to hold body
heat in, finally an outer layer that’s wind-resistant, to reduce loss
of heat by convection or drafts. If you typically sail in colder weather,
have boots large enough for two pairs of socks and make the outer layer
a pair of good-quality wool . . . wool retains heat even when it’s wet.

Keeping cool(er)

For many sailors, comfort means any way to stay cool on hot days. For
some, staying cool is synonymous with air conditioning, but there are
other approaches.

Air conditioning

Marine air conditioning is much like marine electric heat; it works well
with shore power, with gen-set power, or with an extremely long extension
cord. For powerboaters, there are air conditioners that work from a power
take-off on the engine. Like radiator heating systems, the engine has
to be running for power take-off systems to operate. Air conditioning
accomplishes at least four things: it cools the air, creates air movement,
removes excess moisture, and filters some airborne particles.

It also requires a well-sealed cabin to be effective, and a compressor
location with plenty of fresh-air circulation to take away the heat. Systems
can be on the pricey side, but if you’re lying alongside the dock at West
Palm Beach for an extended stay in July, life as we know it suffers without


Air circulation helps in reducing the effects of uncomfortable heat. It
promotes the evaporation of perspiration, which lowers our body temperature
and makes us smile. If your boat is swinging on the hook, or otherwise
moored on a windless day, circulation is spelled f-a-n-s.

For a very few dollars (less than $10) mail-order suppliers such as Northern
Hydraulics or Harbor Freight often sell small, surplus, 12-volt box fans
that draw less current than a light bulb. You may even find some that
have hinges, so they fold against a bulkhead when not in use. Having two
of them in the main saloon and one in each stateroom is not overkill,
andyour batteries won’t go dead in a day, either.

For best results, aim them directly where people will sit (or lie) at
about chest level. They make a big difference and also help during the
frosty season for distributing your heater’s munificence. If you run your
engine about an hour a day, your batteries will never suffer any undue

Under way or on any windy day, circulation is spelled h-a-t-c-h-e-s. The
more, the merrier. The bigger, the better. Opening ports are nice but
usually too small, and their insect screening further reduces the airflow.

Ideally, on a good old boat of about 35 feet, there should be two hatches
in the cabin overhead, one above the galley and one above the seating
area. There should also be an overhead hatch in each stateroom. All of
this is in addition to opening ports.

Incidentally, I don’t like forward-opening hatches in the V-berth area
or anywhere else. Boarding seas will quite likely carry them away if they
catch them undogged. Trawlers, whose foredecks are much higher, fare much
better with forward-opening hatches.


Hand-in-hand with circulation goes ventilation. On hot sultry days, you
need fresh air below, unless you’re running the air conditioner. Seasickness
is not eliminated by fresh air but it sometimes helps. And fresh air always
helps those who are aboard with the seasick victim. Fresh air also means
keeping engine room air separate from cabin air. Even in a spotless engine
room without exhaust leaks, engines get hot and fill the air with lubricating-oil
fumes and bilge fumes. They need lots of fresh air and ventilation, but
not via the cabin.

There is one particular no-win situation: running downwind under power.
It’s much better to bear off a few degrees than to suffer the exhaust
fumes in the cockpit and cabin, no matter how good your ventilation is.


Our natural cooling systems depend on the evaporation of perspiration
(sweat) to reduce body temperature. The moisture for sweat is carried
by the vascular system. If you don’t drink sufficient water, your blood
doesn’t have as much to give the skin, and you’re going to feel warmer.

Drinking lots of liquids on hot days helps our cooling systems. Taking
salt tablets helps the body increase the vascular volume, thus more liquid
is available for the skin. For those of us on the far side of 39, perspiration
is generally reduced. We therefore really appreciate any additional cooling


Increased humidity slows our rate of perspiration evaporation, and thus
our cooling off. You will feel more uncomfortable at 900F and 90 percent
relative humidity (RH) than at 900F and 50 percent RH. Aside from cranking
up the air conditioning or heading for the clubhouse, combating high humidity
requires shade, air movement, and loose-fitting clothing.


The value of shade is often underestimated when you’re trying to cool
your boat. A Bimini top is wonderful for the cockpit if the sun is directly
overhead. Short side-panels dropping down from the Bimini about a foot
will increase its shade area by at least 50 percent and won’t noticeably
reduce the ventilation, especially if the panels are made from weighted
screening. Lastly, consider a Bimini extension over the cabin roof. Shading
this area will definitely make the cabin cooler and help the air conditioner.

Bob Wood

Bob Wood learned to sail on small O’Days more than 30 years ago. He has owned an odd assortment of sailboats and sailed them in waters from the Florida Keys to British Columbia’s Gulf Islands and from New York’s Finger Lakes to Colorado’s and Idaho’s impoundments and reservoirs.

Diamond-in-the-rough, perhaps, but how rough?

By Bill Sandifer

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 1, Number 2, August/September 1998.

What to look for when buying your Dream Boat

Sailboats side by side

In the nautical lexicon, it seems these three words – good old boats – always go together. Some of the most aesthetically pleasing designs from the boards of
America’s greatest naval architects – Alden, Alberg, Gillmer, Herreshoff, Rhodes, Sparkman & Stephens and many others are now well along in age and, like old debutantes, in need of a face and structural lift.

When, in our wanderings, we find an older boat, a fiberglass boat which appeals
to our hearts, our spirits soar, and a smile lights our faces and then fades.
It fades when we consider the work and cost associated with the required plastic
surgery. But need it fade?

Let’s assess our new love and evaluate the potential under the layers of grime.

The earliest fiberglass sailboats were built from designs originally intended
for wood construction. The beam was narrow and the overhang long the waterline
short and the interior small but the beauty is there.

A Herreshoff H-28 is still a Herreshoff, in wood or glass. A Hinckley Pilot
is still a Stephens’ design, Seawind a Gillmer, Cape Dory an Alberg, Bounty
a Rhodes, and a Pearson Countess an Alden.

Start with the basics

To evaluate our find, let’s start with the basics.

The earliest fiberglass hulls were thick and sturdy, approaching the originally
designed wood thickness. The resins, until 1972, were of a formulation that
resisted blistering. So the hull, barring physical damage, should be sound.

This is not necessarily so with the decks and cabinhouse. Take off your shoes
and walk on every horizontal surface; dig your toes in as you walk. If there
is a soft spot or delamination, you’ll feel or hear it. A crackling sound or
a soft feeling will tell you of a problem. Don’t panic. Make a note of the location
and keep looking.

If the boat is out of the water, next check the underwater gear. The older hulls
– Triton, Ariel, Reliant – all had wood rudders with bronze shafts and strapping.
Age, electrolysis, and marine life may have eaten holes in the wood or bronze.
It can be fixed. Keep going.

Check mast, rigging, sails

The mast and rigging are next. The spars were usually wood or heavy-walled aluminum.
Unless rotted, the wood can be reglued and the aluminum painted. The problem
with the rig will be the standing rigging.

Most standing rigging will be stranded stainless steel wire with swaged fittings.
There is no reliable way to evaluate the condition of rigging wire until it
starts to break. To check for breaks, put on leather gloves and wipe all wire
rigging with a paper towel. The paper will catch on the broken strands (called
“fish hooks” for a good reason) and flag the break. This sure beats using your
ungloved hand and marking the break in blood.

If you can’t be sure the wire is in good condition and has been replaced within
the last 10 years, plan on replacing all standing rigging. Check each swage
fitting by cleaning with metal polish and using a magnifying glass. Check for
cracks or corrosion.

Just one fitting failure can bring your rig down. The cheapest way to replace
standing rigging is with new wire and swages. The more expensive alternative
is to use new wire and reusable fittings. Consult your budget and make notes.

Running rigging, sails, and all canvaswork can be evaluated visually. Raise
all sails and check their shape. Are they baggy or stretched, do they set poorly
under wind pressure? Try the poke test. Ask the owner for permission to hold
a small section of the sailcloth in one hand and see if you can push your finger
through it. If it gives, or if you make a hole, the cloth is deteriorated. This
is probably due to ultra-violet rays from long exposure in use or just from
being uncovered on the boom.

Sails will last a long time if properly cared for. They can be re-cut for better
shape a whole lot cheaper than they can be replaced. Used sails can be bought
from any number of sail brokers or lofts. Sometimes new sails are available
at 50 percent of the original cost, if they were ordered and not picked up.
Check your budget and your intended use. I’m not a racing sailor, so my old
sails are fine for cruising use. The added speed from new sails is not worth
the cost for me.

What about woodwork?

With one exception, the ondeck woodwork can be replaced or sanded down and refinished.
The 37-year-old teak on my Ariel is still serviceable. The former owners never
cleaned it, so they did not wear away the soft wood between the grain as happens
when harsh chemicals and hard scrubbing are used to clean the wood.

The exception on deck wood is teak decks. The usual method of fastening teak
to a fiberglass deck is to screw the teak directly to the fiberglass below.
The teak is 3/8 to 1/2 inch thick and more of a veneer for looks than for a
structural deck. The soft wood between the grain is worn away by the elements,
people’s feet, washing, gear dropping on the deck, and other impacts. Over time,
the deck gets so thin that the bungs covering the fasteners fall out, and the
fasteners begin to work loose.

If the decks are very worn, and the bungs covering the screws are popping off,
you will most likely find delamination underneath and a very large job ahead.
Think about whether you’re willing to tear it all up and fill all those holes
or just take a chance. Either way, it will be expensive in the long run.

Let’s go below

Open up all the hatches, cupboards, and drawers. Use a flashlight and a fine
ice pick. Poke any discolored areas for rot. Check the area where bulkheads
are bonded to the hull. Has the fiberglass tape pulled away from the wood? Has
the mast step sunk into the keel? How about the keelbolts? Most, but not all
of the earlier fiberglass boats, had encapsulated ballast. Some had lead or
iron exterior keels. Check the bolts for corrosion. They will all look rusty,
but determine if they have lost material. Are the nuts octagonal or rounded
off? Hit the nuts gently with a small metal hammer. If you get a clear “ring,”
they are salvageable. A dull sound means deterioration. Check the “floors” or
supporting beam around the keelbolts. Are they discolored or soft? That fix
is expensive.

Operate all the seacocks. They should open and close and be a nice bronze color.
Yellow is brass. Pink/purple is bronze from which electrolysis has leached the
zinc. In either case – yellow or pink – replace them.

Shine a light at as much of the hull-to-deck joint as you can to check the seam.
See if there are any signs of leaks. Did water get in around the bolted fittings?
Look for water stains. Investigate all deck hardware from underneath. Is it
adequately bolted with a backing plate? A wood or fiberglass plate is nice,
an aluminum plate is better, and a large stainless steel plate is tops. Carbon
steel is OK, but it must be coated to resist rust. Carbon steel was seldom used
in fiberglass yachts.

Check ports and hatches for operation and leaks. The aluminum port light on
my Ariel fell apart in my hand when I tried to fix a leak.

Evaluate the systems

Finally, check the electrical, mechanical, and piping systems. The electrical
system may need breakers to replace old fuses or new wire and/or fixtures. Are
the running lights legal? The rules have changed over time.

The engine is a whole subject unto itself. If it runs, it is a plus. If it does
not, a replacement may cost more than the boat is worth. Price replacement engines
before making a decision.

Check the shaft and Cutless bearing for wear. If it moves up and down, replace
the bearing. This is a big job, but not an expensive one, with the boat out
of water.

An old Atomic 4 can be rebuilt and serve for years. These engines are simple
and can be made reliable with upgrading. You are safe if care was taken to keep
the fuel system in tight shape and you use your nose to check the bilge before
each start. Blowers are required, but the nose is infallible. Diesel engines
are really nice, but they’re expensive as a new or replacement system.

Check all tanks. Fuel tanks can leak and be almost unremovable. Water tanks,
if fiberglass, can encourage the growth of various things and cause the water
to taste terrible. Tanks can be cleaned out and repaired, but it is a labor-intensive
job. As an example, you may have to remove the engine to replace the fuel tank
or remove the cabin sole or V-berth to replace the water tank. Unless you are
independently wealthy, you really don’t want to ask a boatyard to do the work.

Take a final look all around. I hope you’ve been taking lots of notes. Find
a quiet place to review your findings and decide if the boat of your dreams can become your Dream Boat.

Back To Top

Common-sense boat buying

by Bill Sandifer

As a young adult with a wife and one child, I wanted a sailboat in
the worst way. As with everyone at that stage of life, money was a
problem. But I took my last $1,500 and made an offer on a used wood
catboat “subject to survey.”

I’d owned boats all my life and had actually built several.
Still, I was not trusting in my own abilities and felt I was doing
“the prudent thing” in engaging a professional marine surveyor to
protect my investment.

The surveyor inspected the boat, noted nothing wrong except,
“the cockpit flooring will probably leak, ought to cover it with
plywood,” and picked up his fee. Blinded by the “professional
report,” I bought the boat.

It was only on a hard beat in the middle of Long Beach Sound
that the knots began to fall out of the “knotty pine” wood planking.
Using the anchor rope to plug up the holes, I was able to reach shore
with my wife and young daughter.

I never could find the surveyor to ask him about the problem.
It was probably just as well, as I had visions of sending him to sea
in the very same vessel he had pronounced “seaworthy.”

The moral of the story? I ignored my own capabilities and
common-sense judgments in favor of a “professional opinion.” If I
would have taken the trouble to carefully inspect the hull myself, I
would have seen the knotty planking, rejected the boat and been saved
from a potentially life-threatening situation.

Any person who wants to buy a boat must like the water, have
seen other boats, and have a good idea what type of boat is best for
him. If a person takes his abilities to think, talk, observe, and
reason and couples those abilities with common sense, that person can
assess a boat’s condition on his own.

Basic common-sense questions should be considered: Is the
boat clean? Does it look good? Does it do what it should do? For
example, does the engine start easily and run well? Do the sails look
good without wear? Do they raise and lower smoothly? Finally, is the
owner/broker being honest? We all can sense when we are being conned
or “sold a bill of goods.”

Three old cliches come to mind. “Handsome is as handsome
does.” “If it looks right, it probably is right.” And, finally,
“Buyer beware.” All three can be applied to any boat and will go a
long way to assure the prospective buyer a successful purchase.

Having said all of the above, does this mean that a person
should not hire a marine surveyor? Certainly not! Once a prospective
buyer has applied his own common sense to inspect the vessel in
question and decided in favor of the boat, then a surveyor should be
called in to apply his detailed knowledge of marine design and
construction to assess specific details about the boat.

As a person employs an accountant to do his taxes, a doctor
to tend to his ills, and a mechanic to repair his car; a surveyor
should be hired to assess and value the potential purchase. But only
after the buyer’s common sense tells him or her, “It’s just what I
want and in the condition I want it.”

A surveyor provides verification of the judgment already
arrived at by the purchaser and simply points out the more technical
points that need attention and are beyond the purchaser’s own

In selecting a surveyor, use common sense, ask for
references, ask to see reports on previous surveys, and, finally,
don’t abdicate your responsibility in favor of the surveyor. Use
common sense.

End The Dinghy Dilemma

By Susan Peterson Gateley

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 3, Number 2, March/April 2000.

It’s quick and inexpensive to stitch together
the one that suits you best

Homebuilt dinghy
Dinghy fitted on boomkin

Susan’s first homebuilt dinghy fit on the afterdeck and boomkin of her 23-foot sloop, Ariel. She says, “I carried it back on the boomkin (well lashed) in some fairly rough water. Once in a while, when we heeled, the ends would dip in, and the dink would try to launch itself. The roughest crossing we ever made with it on deck we had a few honest seven-footers. We were on a beam reach to a close reach, and the dink behaved fine. The biggest problem was on a run with following seas and heavy rolling.”

Dinghies are a mixed
blessing. They are a “must” for cruising, allowing you the option of anchoring
out in a quiet cove or in a busy harbor when all the docks are full, and
they are wonderful for entertaining the kids in a quiet anchorage. A dinghy
also makes cruising safer, since you can use it to carry out a second
anchor on a windy night, or to kedge your cruiser off, if she is not too
inexorably grounded.

However, finding
a good dinghy that meets your needs and desires is no simple task. An
ideal dinghy in our view was one we could sail, row, or tow, while being
stable but still fairly lightweight. It also had to be narrow enough
to fit on our 32-footer’s foredeck. (As a good old boat, she’s not too
beamy.) We soon concluded that the only way to get the dinghy we wanted
was to build it ourselves.

Where and how to
transport the dinghy while you’re under way is a common cruisers’ dilemma.
Small motherships all too often lack space to carry a dink on board.
Towing it leads to frayed painters and nerves and the occasional embarrassment.
More than one cruiser has managed to wrap a prop shaft up in a lovely
bundle of dinghy painter while working into a strange harbor.

Limited deck space,
especially on good old boats of 30 feet and less, prompts many sailors
to opt for inflatables. These skippers reason that their blow-up boats
can be easily deflated and stowed compactly. The only thing is, they
usually aren’t. It’s too much of a pain to disassemble and re-assemble
the darned things every day. So they end up dragging astern just like
hard dinks.

Inflatables have
a couple of drawbacks, too, when compared to rigid dinghies. In my opinion,
the worst is their utter dependence on outboards. In anything more than
a light breeze, your standard inflatable rows like a wet noodle. The
stubby little oars are so short you can’t manage more than a dainty
little snatch at the water with the oar tip at best. And the bulky blow-up
boat presents ample sail area to the wind, making manual propulsion
in anything more than a light breeze problematic at best.

Build your own

One solution is
to customize your own dinghy to fit the available deck space aboard
your cruiser. With new materials and techniques, even amateur carpenters
with five thumbs can manage a fairly serviceable and completely watertight
dinghy. Thanks to epoxy and fiberglass cloth, it should prove fairly
durable, too, given normal usage. And those assorted sticky-goos and
cloth coverings allow you to slide by with something far short of the
perfect bevel. Three or four winter weekends in the basement with a
minimal tool kit (that should include a circular saw and an electric
drill for speed’s sake) will produce a very serviceable custom-made
plywood dinghy.

Second dinghy, bow
Second dinghy port side

Susan’s next dinghy was one she and husband, Chris, built using the stitch-and-glue method. Plans for this one, a D4, are offered by Jacques Mertens.

My first custom-fitted
dinghy was an Itty Bitty pram (shown at left), designed many years ago
by master naval architect William Atkin. He wrote that, inch for inch,
you get maximum carrying capacity in minimum space with the basic boxy
pram. By flaring the sides outward sharply, you gain additional carrying
capacity and stability in a very small dink. Putting as much rocker
as the quarter-inch plywood will tolerate greatly improves rowing performance
and seaworthiness of prams.

I built my tender
several inches narrower than the usual beam of most production dinghies.
This allowed me to jam the 7-foot 7-inch pram onto my 23 footer’s afterdeck
and boomkin, between her rudderpost and backstay. If a small tender
is still too big for available deck space, another alternative is to
build a two-piece dinghy. Each piece is a discrete watertight entity,
and each will float independently. By joining the two halves with a
latch or hinge arrangement, you end up with a more-or-less regular-sized
dinghy. (Phil Bolger carried this folding boat idea to an extreme a
few years back with his folding 30-foot schooner.)

Downloaded plans

Thanks to the rise
of the stitch-and-glue technique so well promoted by Harold (“Dynamite”)
Payson and others, almost anybody can craft a watertight dinghy. This
was the method we used recently to build the dinghy pictured above.
We used plans downloaded off the Internet for a tender called the D4
Dinghy, whose creator supplied dimensions for the bottom and side panels
of plywood. This eliminated any tricky lofting steps. The D4 tender
plans were developed by Jacques Mertens, who operates a website called
Boat Plans Online. Mertens has been selling marine supplies and books
online since 1986, when he operated from a bulletin board via Fidonet.
Today, he offers plans for several small tenders, including the D4,
whose plans were downloaded by more than 80,000 people last year.

After cutting out
the sides and bottom of plywood and the stiffening athwartships bulkheads,
the stitch-and-glue method of building requires that you drill approximately
two million holes, spaced about three inches apart, near the edges of
adjoining plywood pieces. Then you stitch your boat together, using
bits of copper or steel wire three or four inches long. We twisted the
wires together on the outside, giving the developing dinghy a distinctly
prickly aspect. The next step was to build up a fillet of epoxy putty
along the inside joints between the bottom and the sides and the bulkheads.
A light bulb worked well for shaping and smoothing the fillet of putty.

Dinghy diagram

For more on the stitch-and-glue method of boatbuilding, email: Jacques Mertens at jmg2@aol.com or visit his website at http://www.bateau.com/.
The postal address is Mertens-Goosens Inc., 2032 Old Dixie, Ste.
3, Vero Beach, FL 32962. The book Building New Instant Boats, by
Harold Payson, also contains information on stitch-and-glue building. It’s available through Jacques’ website.

After this had set
up, the developing hull was quite rigid. We then clipped the excess
wires off the outside and faired out the joints externally with more
putty before applying 3-inch biaxial cloth tape on the seams for strength.
The seams were glassed on both sides and now, even with just two bulkheads
in place, the developing dinghy hull was stiff and strong.

Prone to checking

Ultimately, we also
covered the entire plywood exterior with a fine-weave, 3-ounce cloth
to increase the dinghy’s
durability. We also tried to seal all exposed edge grain with epoxy
resin. Fir plywood is very prone to checking and

and we thought that covering the dinghy’s bottom and sides might extend
its life as it sat upside down through
the summer. My previous pram of painted plywood had to have a new bottom
installed after only four years of daily use to and from a mooring and
being left upside down on the dinghy float between trips. The epoxied
and painted stitch-and-glue hull has weathered well to date after a
full year of upside-down exterior storage.

Dinghy assembly

The finished D4
pram proved highly satisfactory as a tender and sailing dinghy. I found
it more stable to step down into than a friend’s Dyer dinghy, and it
seems to tow well in a Lake Ontario chop of up to, perhaps, four feet.
Best of all,
when it gets really rough, we don’t have to tow it because it will fit
on our foredeck.

Susan Peterson
Gateley (featured in the January 2000 issue of
Good Old Boat) has written
two books about boats she has known. Ariel’s World and Sweet Water both
feature her good old 23-foot 1930s vintage homebuilt sloop. She now
sails Lake Ontario with her husband, Chris, on
Titania, a 32-foot Chris-Craft,
and gives sailing lessons with a Lippincot Lightning. Both are circa
1968. Visit Susan’s website at http://www.silverwaters.com.

Honey, I tossed out the cooler

Honey, I tossed out the cooler

By Karen Larson
Illustrated by Dave Chase

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 2, Number 1, January/February 1999.
This and other cooking aboard articles are also available in the Good Old Boat Galley Book.

Digging through the cooler

Sailor and writer Webb Chiles is credited with saying something to
the effect that when the engine in his boat died he was set free – no
maintenance chores, no need to get fuel, no more worries associated
with whether it would run or not.

I am married to a refrigeration engineer who was prepared to
design the onboard refrigerator to beat all refrigerators, but the
choice to live without an icebox during a recent vacation set us free
in ways we hadn’t expected. There was no need to run to civilization
in a quest for ice. We had no worries about the quality of the food
left on little ice or concerns about what must be eaten soon because
it surely must have been thawed too long. And we didn’t have to run
the engine to keep a refrigerator alive.

Above all, our icebox was no longer a bottomless cubicle, the
purpose of which seemed to be storing ice and little else. It became,
instead, a marvelous vast storehouse for flour, spices, and canned
goods. It offered stowage space the likes of which I’d never had on
our bilgeless racer/cruiser.

The biggest freedom was in the escape from civilization. We
generally take our vacation cruises to the north shore of Lake
Superior and Isle Royale National Park. In that part of the world,
marinas and facilities are not handy. Civilization is usually at
least a day’s sail away. With ice melting in about six days, our
stays in the wilderness were limited to about four days at a time or
longer if we went without once the ice was gone, but planning for the
transition is a bit challenging.

To avoid the awkward stage, we had proposed two
possibilities: build a refrigerator or learn to live without ice. We
chose to try the sans ice approach first. We may never again consider
the alternative. Our diesel engine thanks us for making this choice,
since it won’t have the wear and tear associated with running a
couple of hours a day for the sake of cold food. And we’ll avoid the
need to return to civilization in search of fuel to power the engine
that keeps things cold so we don’t need to return to civilization to
buy ice. (If that isn’t a Catch-22, what is?)

My first major adjustment, as provisioning officer onboard
Mystic, was in cooking to avoid leftovers. At home I thrive on making
large batches – pots of spaghetti for example – so I can freeze the
excess for later use. Frozen blocks of spaghetti sauce and other
mass-produced meals also helped when we were living with a cooler.
They served as “ice units” until thawed. Then we ate them. On board,
with an ice chest for food storage, I couldn’t cook by the potful,
but saving leftovers to eat another day was not much of a problem.

With our changed lifestyle, however, I began buying the
smallest cans and jars and thinking critically about how much rice or
pasta to cook. It’s a science. You don’t want to go hungry, but on
the flip side, you don’t want to encourage overeating. And you
certainly don’t want to throw food away. We found, fortunately, that
leftovers easily last one day, so when I miscalculated, we polished
off the rest the following lunch or dinner. Some leftovers worked out
nicely as omelet filling for the next day’s breakfast.

Eggs don’t need ice

Omelets require eggs, of course, and we typically think of eggs as
something requiring refrigeration. In her book, Cooking on the Go,
(from 1971 and unfortunately out of print) Janet Groene argues that
many foods do not need refrigeration:

“Because we have roomy refrigerators at home, we get in the
habit of chilling many items that can be kept safely without
refrigeration. Cheeses and sausages traveled the world long before
the days of refrigerators or ice lockers.

“Of course you keep fresh meats chilled for safety, but we
have kept cooked meats for second and even third appearances on our
table. Packaged bacon doesn’t last more than three days in warm
temperatures, but well-salted pork and slab bacon, as well as cured
hams, date back hundreds of years before the discovery of electricity
— it really isn’t necessary to go without many of the items you keep
refrigerated at home.”

Groene notes that not too long ago people packed fresh farm
eggs in salt, where they kept for a year. In three and a half weeks,
we never had an egg go bad onboard Mystic, although I was skeptical
at first. There are a number of actions you can take to help eggs
last. One set of routines deals with sealing the shells. These
involve smearing them with shortening, Vaseline, or salad oil. Other
people swear by dipping them exactly two seconds in boiling water.
Another set of routines involves keeping the inner membrane moist by
turning the eggs regularly. Mother hens do this on the nest. Just to
be safe, I decided to grease the shells with Vaseline AND turn them
every day. It’s possible that either method would have been enough.

We are not big egg eaters at home, typically, but we left for
vacation with nearly four dozen eggs, since I planned to use them in
baking, hard boiled in salads, and in omelet making.

In the beginning I was cautious and tested each egg before
using it. People who have lived without refrigerators suggest that
you crack each egg into a separate container and not directly into
your frying pan or bowl full of ingredients, so if it is bad, you can
toss just the egg and not the rest of your meal. Even before breaking
an egg, you can test it in a glass of water. If the egg has developed
gas and floats, it’s bad. If it sinks to the bottom of the glass,
it’s good. It’s a bit like testing for witches in Salem. If she
floats, she’s a witch and has to be burned at the stake. If she
sinks, what a pity. We’ll let the record show that she wasn’t a
witch. This time-honored test works better for eggs than people.

Cheese tricks

Refrigerators and coolers are also nice for keeping cheese. How do
you go three weeks without cheese, we wondered. As it turns out,
grated parmesan can last, as can cheese that comes in wax. In her
book, The Care and Feeding of Sailing Crew, Lin Pardey talks of
long-life processed cheese that can last up to two years without
refrigeration in sealed containers, and of other wonders, such as
canned cheese.

Lin probably led the way for all of us who have tried the
non-refrigerated lifestyle. Not that she did so on purpose. She
appears to enjoy cooking, and she and Larry both prefer fresh foods.
So Lin prizes her well-insulated cooler on Talesin. Unfortunately the
Pardeys’ icebox runs out of ice on long passages and at anchor, just
as ours does. As a result, Lin wrote The Care and Feeding in 1980 and
republished it with new information in 1995. It’s a terrific
reference for anyone provisioning for a long trip or planning to do
without ice.

Lin reports that waxed cheeses keep perfectly for up to two
months at temperatures below 55 degrees F. Unwaxed cheese, she says,
“should be wiped lightly with vinegar and then wrapped in plastic
wrap and stored where it will not be bumped around too much.” She
also discusses storage of feta and hard cheeses in oil.

I read Lin’s book after we returned from our trip, however I
had heard that cheese stored in olive oil will keep, so I tried that.
I kept chunks of cheddar and havarti for three weeks in containers
full of oil. The Tupperware container leaked and was a mess to store,
but a jar with a tight lid worked very well. This process offers a
nice way to store oil for cooking, too. The cheddar lasted well,
while the softer havarti turned very mushy before we returned to
civilization. Hard cheese is the key for this storage technique. Lin
mentions in her book that cheese becomes “creamier” as it ages with
this technique. I’d second that opinion. Lin’s directions for storing
cheese are more elaborate than mine and sound like a process worth
trying. She also mentions the concept of waxing your own cheeses and
of the “drunken Stilton.” All of this is in the chapter she titles
“Day 37” and should be in either version of her book. The Pardeys’
books were available from the Good Old Boat Bookshelf.

Baking aboard

Baking bread aboard

The next obvious problem with life without an icebox is what to do
when the bread turns blue. Over the past year or two we’d
experimented with onboard bread baking. We’d cooked bread in our
pressure cooker, pan-fried Indian fry bread, and baked a couple of
yeast loaves. We make muffins regularly, but creating good bread was
a bigger challenge. I wasn’t crazy about the taste of the
pressure-cooked bread, and baking yeast loaves seemed messy and
time-consuming. This year, however, I came armed with 40 pounds of
white and wheat flour (twice as much as we needed, it turns out) and
a number of new yeast recipes. The second recipe we tried turned out
to be such a winner that we never tried another one. It simplified
the risings and didn’t seem so messy somehow. It was a mock French
bread from the James Beard Cookbook, and we liked it so much we’ll be
cooking our own bread with all that extra flour this winter even
though Minneapolis abounds with wonderful bread shops. (Recipe is below.)

With each baking I made two small loaves. The first we
consumed almost in its entirety straight from the oven. There may not
be anything better than warm bread, and we reveled in the luxury of
having it. The other loaf lasted a couple of days. Now that we’ve
discovered this easy bread, we may leave the dock with fewer loaves
of the store variety. We prefer those we can cook ourselves, and the
vacation lifestyle seems to encourage the breadbaking routine.
Marilyn Palley (wife of Reese Palley) recommends a book called, Fast
Breads! by Howard Early and Glenda Morris.

Bread recipe

(from The James Beard Cookbook, 1959*)

  • 1 package yeast
  • 2 cups lukewarm water
  • 2 Tbs. sugar
  • 1 Tbs. salt
  • 5-7 cups flour
  • (one egg white, if desired)
  • Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm
    water in a large bowl. Add sugar and salt and dissolve them.
    Gradually add flour.
  • Turn out on a table and knead. Cover with the bowl and let it rest for 10 minutes. Knead.
  • Let it rise in the bowl for another 1-2 hours until it’s double in bulk. Knead.
  • Form into two loaves (French-style long ones, round ones in an oven-proof bowl, regular pan loaves, etc.). Sprinkle the bottom of each container with cornmeal and place the bread on it. You don’t need to grease these pans. Slash the tops of the bread and spread with an egg white, if desired. Let the bread rise another five minutes.
  • Place in a cold oven and turn it on to 400. It should cook in 35 minutes. (In reality, with our boat oven, we turn the temperature on about halfway, whatever that setting might be. Then when we think about it, we turn the temperature up all the way. We remove the bread when it looks done, but it probably takes longer than 35 minutes.)

*My copy was purchased in the 1970s, but I guess it is a bit of a relic.

Meat or meatless meals

Meat is another issue for the sans-cooler cook. While we don’t eat as
much meat as we used to, we weren’t ready to go without. Canned
chicken and ham are available on the grocery store shelves in small
tuna-sized containers. I also found small containers of corned beef
and tiny little hams, canned shrimp and crab meat, salmon, and fish

There are a number of spreads along the lines of deviled ham
and chicken. And of course there are small canned hot dogs
(masquerading as sausages), Spam and other “delicacies.” I also
planned to supplement our supplies of meat with completely acceptable
no-meat pasta meals. Jerry wasn’t so sure he’d find even the
occasional vegetarian meal to be all that acceptable. There’s nothing
quite like being held captive a day or two from a grocery store and
learning there’s nothing on board you like to eat. He may have feared
this new “adventure” to be a ruse of mine to take a few pounds off
him when he would be unable to defend himself. (See article below for
his thoughts.)

I had just finished reading Don Casey’s book, Dragged Aboard,
in which he makes it seem like anyone is capable of canning meat. I
was inspired by this and shared the book with Jerry, who went on a
dedicated hunt for a larger pressure cooker – one capable of doing
canning. The small one on our boat was not up to the task. In the
days of microwaves, instant meals, and grazing, pressure cookers are
becoming a thing of the past. Small ones, such as our boat pressure
cooker, were available, but large ones may be disappearing from the
North American scene along with buggy whips.

Jerry’s search began with Target and K-Mart, where the small
ones can be found, and moved to an upscale home cooking specialty
store, where a sweet young clerk asked in all innocence, “Pressure
cooker? Is it an electric appliance?” and led him to the toasters and
coffee makers. Once he found the pressure cooker section, there were
only small ones and another clerk who asked, “What do you do with one
of these anyway?”

The obvious answer, for anyone who grew up with a mother who
used one frequently, is you blow up your kitchen with these devices.
It seems we all have fear-of-pressure-cookers tales to tell. Perhaps
that’s why they’re falling from favor these days. Jerry finally
landed a full-sized canning pressure cooker at the Fleet Farm store,
a chain in our part of the country that caters to farmers, truckers,
and other independent types.

By now, however, we were only a couple of weeks away from the
start of our vacation, and wewere in the usual pre-trip blitzkrieg of
vacation preparations and work project wrap-ups. I was no longer
interested in canning additional meat for our trip. One evening we
invited Jerry’s younger daughter over for dinner, and I prepared a
pork roast and simultaneously baked a couple of turkey thighs for use
in the next night’s meal. Jessie is a marvelous pitch-in gung-ho
daughter, and before the evening was over, the three of us had canned
the remaining pork roast and turkey as a great group activity. We
left for the trip with 11 half-pint jars of the best canned meat we’d
ever tasted. Next year we’ll do more of this and include cubed beef
and hamburger.

Mayo’s not untouchable

We hear so many stories about mayonnaise and are likely to be
confused by them. I’m no expert on the subject, but my current level
of understanding is that if the stuff is kept pure, it can last.
Mayonnaise mixed with other foods must be kept cool, it would seem.
And you shouldn’t “contaminate” a jar of mayonnaise by sticking a
utensil back in there after it has been in contact with other food.

We have heard of some people getting small packages of
mayonnaise from fast food places for their boats. That works, too. We
bought small squeeze bottles of mayo, and one lasted two weeks. It
was emptied before it began to smell or cause any concerns. Unopened
jars of mayonnaise sit on grocery store shelves for months. As it
turns out, they can do the same once they’re opened, as long as other
food doesn’t come into contact with the mayonnaise. I’d love to
understand why this is so and will welcome further dialogue on this
subject for our Mail Buoy column.

Milk is a problem

Cold milk only lasts a week or so. If it isn’t kept cold, the number
of days diminish dramatically, of course. I like milk. As an aging
woman, I need to drink it or get my calcium in some other form. So I
missed this on our vacation. I bought powdered milk, which we used in
cooking, but I used it on cereal twice and never again. I never drank
it straight. Jerry can happily drink that stuff, and I really wanted
to be able to do so also. But life’s too short. I ate cheese and took
my vitamins. I’m told that UHT (ultra heat-treated) milk is a
passable substitute, but I don’t have any experience with it (and it
doesn’t appear to be available in the U.S.).

The following information is from Michael Greenwald’s The
Cruising Chef Cookbook, an excellent cooking resource I’ve just
discovered (Paradise Cay Publications, 1996.):

“Pasteurized milk takes up precious space in the refrigerator
and spoils within a few weeks. Long life, ultra heat-treated milk is
an unrefrigerated product which comes in a paper box. It tastes as
fresh as pasteurized milk, contains more vitamins, and lasts six
months without refrigeration. It comes in half-quart and quart
(liter) boxes which are slightly more expensive than refrigerated
milk. This product is hard to find in the USA but is the most common
way of buying milk in many parts of the world.”

Margarine lasts well

Butter and margarine are also part of the non-cooler cooking
equation. I had read somewhere that stick margarine, softened and
repackaged in plastic tub containers, keeps well without cooling.
This is true. I had feared that it would turn into liquid gold
without the help of an icebox, but it did not melt. Toward the end of
our vacation, when we did a touch-and-go in civilization for diesel
fuel and a pumpout, I was able to buy a few groceries at a camping
store. We were running short on margarine, so I bought a couple of
sticks of butter. I repackaged these sticks in the margarine tubs,
and the butter lasted as well as the margarine did.

Fruits, vegetables suffer

By the end of three weeks, we were left with apples, oranges,
grapefruit, potatoes, onions, garlic, and cabbage. We also had a
large assortment of canned fruits and vegetables. The other fresh
fruits and vegetables had long since vanished, and even the apples
and oranges had seen better days. I had read about a West Marine
product called Evert-Fresh bags, which keep certain fruits and
vegetables fresh longer. These bags were particularly recommended for
lettuce. The lettuce must be absolutely dry when placed in the bag,
however. Unfortunately I shop at one of those stores which tries to
impress shoppers with a fine-mist spray on the leaf lettuce and
spinach. Even when I’m not provisioning for a trip, I hate that
“blamed” mist.

I waited until the last day possible to purchase the fresh
foods for our trip and wound up at home trying to dry out the leaf
lettuce and fresh spinach. Something halfway, but not completely, dry
went into the Evert-Fresh bags. The result was that these foods
didn’t last as long as they might have in a fresh-air environment.
Wiser now, I will try this again with improved drying on our next

Ice for drinks? Come on!

Cold drinks aren’t terribly important to us. We didn’t miss ice for
our drinks, since we don’t tend to put ice in them anyway. However,
Lake Superior stays cold all summer long. The 50-degree water is an
excellent cooler for cans and bottles, if we choose to use it that
way. We found that storing cans next to the hull below the waterline
was enough for us.

We did meet one cruising couple traveling with a freezer, who
offered to give us some ice, since they felt so sorry for us. But I
had to turn down the offer. What could we do with a small supply of
ice, when our cooler was already filled with bags of flour? Another
pair of friends who anticipated seeing us on that vacation had just
gotten their cantankerous refrigerator to work after several years of
frustration. They were so self-assured now with their working freezer
that they threatened to sail by pummeling us with frozen Brussels
sprouts. This wasn’t pity. This was revenge Š perhaps because we had
chosen the easy way out.

No big deal, really

Living without the cooler was not the challenge I had thought it
would be, but I wasn’t alone in believing that we were facing a
tremendous lifestyle change and challenge. When buying supplies at
the grocery store one day, my collection of purchases looked a bit
unusual, so I mentioned to the clerk there that my husband and I were
going off into the wilderness for three and a half weeks without
refrigeration or a cooler. The clerk was so impressed you’d have
thought we were heading off to scale Mt. Everest without gear.

But in fact Jerry and I were just going back in time to
great-grandmother’s day Š to a time even before the ice man came
around from door to door Š back to a time when people canned and
prepared food for the seasons when they wouldn’t have any. Most of
these people never had the luxury of sailing off to remote places in
sailing yachts and living from the stores they had aboard. (Even the
menus of the sailors of the same time period were far from grand.)
Their lives seemed hard and uncompromising, while we experienced the
best vacation we have ever had. There were no hardships. We were
better off without the trappings of civilization because we didn’t
experience the tyranny of ice or endure the rattlings of the engine
in order to keep a refrigerator going. Great-grandmother never had it
so good.

Back To Top

No cooler? What did you EAT?

by Karen Larson

Perhaps I can share a few menus – not recipes – I’m all for simple,
uncomplicated onboard meals. I don’t go along on sailing trips as the
galley slave. I want to be on deck sailing and sightseeing, not below
creating gourmet delights. My ideas were culled from those who’ve
been there and done that: sailors Cathy and Dan Haupert, sailors Ken
and Pat O’Driscoll (who introduced us to cold pasta salad even though
they were using a refrigerator), sailing writers Reese and Marilyn
Palley, author Janet Groene, and world cruising women who communicate
on a listserver I subscribed to. Next year I’ll incorporate meal
ideas from Lin Pardey also.

Typical breakfasts included omelets, cereal with blueberries
or bananas (early in the trip while we still had the fruit and before
I decided that powdered milk is not a beverage fit to ruin good
cereal and fruit), pancakes, eggs, French toast, oatmeal, and coffee

Typical lunches included ham, tuna, or chicken salad
sandwiches; pasta salad; grilled cheese sandwiches and soup; peanut
buttersandwiches; and leftovers. Canned spreads worked as picnic food
when we wanted to leave the boat and spend the day exploring. Wary of
taking a pre-made chicken salad or similar mayonnaise-based lunch
along for a day in the sun, we ate strange spreads from small cans.
These are adequate, but not exciting. The best is the deviled spread,
but variety in all things mundane is best. They all got dull and
downright boring after several similar lunches. But they fueled our
bodies, and the sights we were able to take in while unattached to
the mother ship fueled our souls. It’s a tradeoff.

Dinner presented more variety. We had salad in the beginning,
fresh broccoli for a while, and an endless variety of ways to cook
potatoes. Canned vegetables picked up where the fresh food left off.
Dinners included mashed potatoes with the meat we canned; pasta with
beef and broccoli; chicken with rice and spinach; stuffed cabbage
using canned corned beef; pasta with sauce (small jars of marinara,
alfredo, clam and other sauces are available in the stores); and
corned beef and cabbage.

I got creative with cold pasta dinners. Some of our favorites
included pennette rigate pasta with canned corn, olives, canned
shrimp, chicken, or no meat at all. After one such meal, Jerry vetoed
the use of canned crab for this, but others might like it. I did. All
this went well with whatever else I had to throw in. Carrot slices,
hard-boiled egg slices, and artichoke hearts work, too. We mixed
these ingredients with oil and vinegar dressing. I bought several
small jars of prepared salad dressings for variety, but preferred the
oil and vinegar styles best. Mayonnaise would work, too.

We made a scalloped potatoes and ham recipe in the pressure
cooker that has been a real winner for two years now. We tried some
prepared rice packages: curry, saffron, stir fry rice, lentils and
rice, black beans and rice, red beans and rice, and so on with our
canned meat or with canned sausages (a.k.a. hot dogs). Salmon fish
cakes mixed from canned salmon and mashed potatoes were a big winner.
The possibilities were endless.

Jerry (ever the engineer) suggested several years ago for our
standard two-week vacations that I create full menus on a spreadsheet
and then sort this by item to determine how much of each item to buy.
It’s far more organized than I would have been, but it worked very
well. However, when asked to share our provisioning lists with fellow
sailors, I realized how hyperdetailed our food preparations appeared
to be.

This year’s longer trip helped me understand for the first
time what planning must be like for a much longer voyage without
reprovisioning stops. Although I did create daily menus, I didn’t
live by them. I had so much variety aboard in our food lockers that I
cooked serendipitously Š more like I do at home. It starts with,
“Let’s see, it’s somehow gotten to be dinnertime. What needs to be
eaten? What is fast to prepare?” And finally, “What would we like to
have tonight?” I often referred to my onboard menu lists for
inspiration, but I was able to manage the use of fruits and
vegetables, eggs and potatoes, leftovers and partially used cans of
things more effectively without the constraint of a previously
prepared menu.

This is how we’ll go in the future. Menus will guide my
shopping and help inspire my cooking, but daily meals will be planned
at the time of the meal. That might be called “just-in-time menus.”
I’ll keep the food lockers supplied as I would at home, and meals
will happen when they happen. From now on, we will not bother with
the hassle of ice for our weekend trips. We won’t take a cooler full
of ice and a few perishables back and forth to the boat. Even for
weekend trips, we have been set free.

Back To Top

You what? Tossed out the cooler?

by Jerry Powlas

The first time Karen suggested that we spend a whole vacation without
ice, I talked her out of it. I had visions of a very unpleasant
couple of weeks eating some of my least favorite foods — all from

I’d been a refrigeration engineer for about 29 years, and I
had some strong ideas about what kind of refrigeration system should
be installed in our C&C 30. I’d been designing the system in my head
and on paper for about five years. I wanted something with less than
half the run time of currently available systems, because I knew that
once there was a refrigeration system on board, it would dramatically
increase the energy budget. I’d heard horror stories of boats that
have to run their engines one, and in some cases, two hours a day to
keep that little tiny box cold. I didn’t want the noise, wear, and
fuel consumption. The design that I came up with was complicated and
unproven, and it would add 70 to 100 pounds to the weight of the
boat. Even doing all the work myself, the parts would not be cheap.
Although I targeted much higher efficiency, the boat’s upgraded
electrical system would be taxed to about the reasonable limits of
its capacity. I had put off building this monster for five years. Ice
is really simple, and 70 pounds of it holds our icebox for six to
seven days. We’d have to live on the boat forever to pay off the
refrigeration system with the savings in ice.

The problem was that we really wanted more range on our
vacations. We wanted to go out and stay out for more like a month
without having to resupply anything. We’d solved most of the problems
in doing that by the time Karen suggested going iceless the second
time. She was more insistent this time. She wanted to do the research
for an article, she said. That did it; I caved in. Well, almost caved
in. I rushed out and bought a pressure canner and quickly canned some
pork and turkey before we left. These meats proved tasty, and I will
can more for next season, but frankly we didn’t need them.

We ate very well for more than three weeks without any ice or
refrigeration. The food was good. I enjoyed all the meals except one,
which is probably better on average than I do ashore. From a systems
standpoint, Karen solved the problem with the lowest-cost,
lightest-weight option. The design five years abrewing in my head
didn’t compare with zero weight, zero cost, and good meals anyway.
Karen truly had set us free.

I was so impressed with what she had accomplished that I
suggested that we get rid of the refrigerator at home. It is a noisy,
poorly designed thing that just might last forever out of sheer
nastiness. She thought that might be going too far.

Moderation in all things, I guess.

Cooking Fuels

A clean look at the “dirty” half dozen

By Theresa Fort

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 3, Number 2, March/April 2000.
This and other cooking aboard articles are also available in the Good Old Boat Galley Book.

Pros and cons of the six main fuels for galley stoves

When it comes to choosing a marine stove fuel there is rarely anyone completely
happy with the choice. All fuels have a “dirty” side to them, and some
sides are deadly as well. Alcohol is heating-impaired. Kerosene is maintenance-dependent,
and a mess if spills occur. Diesel is hot and has sooting problems. Electricity
is power-hungry and generator-dependent. Compressed natural gas (CNG)
is explosive and expensive, as well as hard to find. And what about liquefied
petroleum gas (LPG)? The potential for a massive explosion aboard your
good old boat gives LPG both a deadly and a “dirty” side.

After talking to more than 30 marine stove owners about their fuel and
stove choices, I learned that, like me, almost every one of them had learned
to cook and live with whatever stove and fuel came with the boat when
they bought it. But, even though it was chance that decided it, most owners
were happy with their stoves and fuels.

As the years go by, however, good old boats need refitting. We may need
to replace our stoves. Then when it comes to fuels, choosing one of the
dirty half dozen is unavoidable, and this time it won’t be chance that
decides. We are wrestling with this decision aboard Lindsay Christine,
our Mercator Offshore 30. Our propane stove is more than 20 years old.
And it looks it, at least what you can see of it, because most of it has
rusted away. In the hopes of making the “right” decision, I did extensive
research and asked many boaters about the marine stoves and fuels they

What follows are some pros and cons of marine stove fuels from my own
research and some advice from the experts – other stove owners – to help
you decide which is the best choice for you.

Heat vs. cost

Heat Content of Marine Stove Fuels
significant unit
5,000 Btu

The heat output of fuels is determined by test. The table on the next
page shows approximate heating values – approximate because, with the
exception of electricity, all of these fuels are mixtures, and their exact
content varies from source to source.

One Btu, or British thermal unit, is the amount of heat energy needed
to raise the temperature of 1 pound of water 1°F, starting at 60°F. One
Btu is also equivalent to 252 calories, and 1 calorie is the amount of
energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water 1°C.

The Btu/lb. column in the table offers a way to compare all fuels (except
electricity) with each other. Btu/lb. would only be a significant figure
of merit, however, in cases where the major consideration was the weight
of the fuel load. If you are doing a serious weight comparison, you will
want to include the weight of all parts of the cooking system, including
the tanks, plumbing, and stove.

Most sailors will care more about the cost and availability than about
the weight difference. The column showing Btu per significant unit is
provided to show the heat content of the unit of measure in which the
fuel is normally purchased.

The cost per 500,000 Btu shows how significant the difference is between
various fuel costs. For purposes of comparison, 500,000 Btu may be taken
to be (very roughly) the heat required to cook for four people for 90
days. If you live aboard your boat, multiply that figure by four for an
estimate of annual cost. If you sail in a northern climate on weekends
and get in a two-week vacation, your annual fuel requirement will likely
be only about half of the 500,000 Btu shown.

Generally speaking, the cost difference between these fuels for weekend
sailors is not significant enough to be the reason for changing fuel types,
because the cost of new equipment is high relative to the cost differences
between fuels. Liveaboards and long-ra nge cruisers may find the cost
differences more interesting.

Fuel availability

of Fuels
the U.S.
the U.S.

Here is a table showing the availability of fuels – excluding electricity,
since electricity is generated by using another fuel. I used the word
random to describe the availability of CNG in the U.S. because, even with
a long list of available stations, I had great difficulty finding a place
that really did refill CNG cylinders in Florida, where I live. But I’ve
been told it’s much easier to find in other parts of the country where
EPA standards have forced the use of CNG as a motor fuel and where natural
gas is a common fuel for heating.

Auto-ignition temperature

The table on the next page shows the characteristics of fuels, also excluding
electricity. It gives the auto-ignition temperature of each fuel. This
is the temperature at which a fuel will automatically ignite without a
spark or flame. The flash point, on the other hand, is the temperature
at which the fuel will ignite when there is oxygen and a spark for ignition.

Stove fuels one by one


Denatured alcohol can

Alcohol fuels for stoves are generally composed of ethanol, methanol (added
as a denaturing agent), methyl ethyl ketone, acetone, and water. The exact
percentage of these components varies rather widely from one supplier
to another. Nigel Calder, in his book, Boat Owner’s Mechanical and Electrical
Manual, states that the best fuel for stoves is ethanol. For practical
purposes, this would be a fuel like Tru Heat, which is 92 percent ethanol,
5 percent water, and 3 percent methanol. It has only trace amounts of
other compounds, such as methyl isobutyl ketone, ethyl acetate, and rubber
cement. In contrast to this fuel, Soot-Free, the fuel endorsed by Origo
for use in their stoves, is not a high-ethanol-content fuel. Soot-Free
contains roughly 71 percent ethanol and 20 percent methanol, as well as
methyl ethyl ketone, acetone, and water.

You can also buy suitable fuel in paint and hardware stores labeled as
“denatured alcohol.” Kleen Strip is one brand that notes on the container
that it is suitable as a shellac thinner and as marine stove fuel.

One test Nigel suggests is to pour a sample of the fuel into a clean (oven-proof)
dish and burn it. If there is any residue after the fuel is completely
burned, it’s unsuited for use as a stove fuel. In addition, stove-fuel
vendors will send you a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for their products
listing the chemicals in the fuel by percentage.

Alcohol has been advertised to be the perfect environmentally correct
fuel because it is mostly produced from renewable resources (plant matter).
It is a relatively safe fuel because of its low volatility. This makes
it safer than other fuels in the closed environment of a boat. Alcohol-stove
owners like the fact that there is no hauling of heavy and cumbersome
storage tanks, that fires can be extinguished just by adding water to
the fire or fuel, and that it is a clean-burning fuel.

But it’s not the perfect fuel. Some people say the sweet smell of burning
alcohol makes them nauseous. It’s more expensive per Btu than all the
other alternatives except CNG, averaging $9 a gallon across the U.S.,
and its availability is irregular outside of the U.S. and Canada. The
price of alcohol outside the U.S. is also quite high.

There are two basic types of marine stoves that use alcohol as a fuel,
pressurized stoves and non-pressurized stoves. Each has advantages and

Pressurized alcohol

I chuckled as I read LaDonna Bubak’s description of lighting her
pressurized alcohol stove. She sails her boat out of Portland, Ore., and

“(First you) have to fill a small tank, pump it up to pressurize it .
. . preheat the burner by allowing a puddle of fuel to develop, light
it, jump back so flames don’t singe eyebrows, extinguish (any) flaming
curtains, etc., then, when the puddle-flame almost dies, you turn on the
burner and hope it catches.” A lost memory flashed into my mind. It was
my first and only attempt to light the pressurized alcohol stove aboard
our Catalina 22. As flames shot up above my head and within reach of the
cabintop, I heard the kids approaching. They were arguing about whose
idea it was to have lunch aboard Gypsy Rose. Trembling, I made sure the
burner was off, then nervously searched for something with which I could
extinguish the flame. There was no water. Gypsy Rose was in our driveway.
I found a pot lid that had fallen on the cabin sole in the confusion of
the flare-up. The fire went out as I covered it. I took a deep breath.
Amie arrived first with Alex close behind, full of spit and vinegar.

“Mommy, tell Amie that I thought of it first! Here’s the soup . . . ”
Then there was silence as they both watched me pack up everything and
start to close up the boat. “Mommy, are you OK?” I vowed never to light
that stove again as I replaced the tarp and walked back to the house.
I had no idea that this experience was almost normal for lighting a pressurized
alcohol stove until I talked to other boaters about their stoves.

A few of the boatowners I questioned were happy with their pressurized
alcohol stoves, but the majority were looking to replace them. Many were
not comfortable using the oven because of concerns with priming and flare-ups.
A few owners commented on being bothered by the sickeningly sweet smell
of the alcohol and the paleness of the flame, which makes it almost impossible
to see in bright light.

The real danger of flare-ups seems to come from failing to light the burner
on the first try. After the first try, the burner may not be hot enough
to sufficiently vaporize the fuel by the time all the fuel in the priming
cup has been burned. So the chef opens the control knob to allow more
fuel into the priming cup, and the fuel ignites sending flames sky high.
While the burner was not hot enough to vaporize the fuel the first time,
it was hot enough to ignite the liquid alcohol added again. If the stove
is gimbaled at the time of lighting, flames can splash onto other parts
of the boat and the cook. According to Optimus International, the best
advice is to let the burner cool off before filling the priming cup with
fuel again.

Pressurized alcohol stoves are not maintenance-free. The customer service
department of Kenyon Stoves explains that severe pulsing of a burner or
a glowing red cap during operation are caused by dirt and scale buildup
in the filter and burner body. The burner should be stripped of all removable
parts, cleaned, and rebuilt.

With Kenyon alcohol stoves, a wick in the center of the burner is lit.
Pressure builds up in the burner as the available fuel heats up, causing
alcohol vapors to be released into the burner to be used. Regardless,
most alcohol burners work in the same way and require the same maintenance.

One stove owner, known as “Captain Key West,” from Key West, Florida,
commented that he thought the bad press about pressurized alcohol stoves
comes from the fact that they need to be maintained to work well, especially
after many years of use. He writes, “I think many people disenchanted
with alcohol stoves may have based their opinions on only having used
poorly maintained stoves. I used to be surprised how alcohol stoves got
a bad “rap” since mine worked great for many years before it started getting
“fussy.” Now, I realize many users are not aware that these stove are
not maintenance-free. They buy a used boat, never can get the stove to
work right, then complain about how poor alcohol stoves are. They’re not
listening to their stoves which are begging for maintenance!”

I know I never gave my pressurized alcohol stove a chance after that first

Non-pressurized alcohol.

of the five liquid or gaseous marine stove fuels
Toxic to skin
Toxic to lungs
Specific gravity
lighter than air
Flash Point
Luminous flame
gas &
other hydrocarbons
gas, petroleum
coal, shale

Non-pressurized alcohol stoves are quite popular. The Origo brand stoves
have helped to keep alcohol in fuel-option lists for boaters. All non-pressurized
alcohol stove owners I questioned are happy with their stoves. Some even
commented that they cook faster than pressurized alcohol stoves and claimed
speed close to propane. But the fuel is expensive.

These non-pressurized stoves use a wicking action to deliver fuel to the
flame, instead of pressure, making them very safe, with no flare-ups.
The fuel is stored in canisters under the cooktop. The canisters contain
nonflammable wadding with a shield-type cover that closes over the canister
to extinguish the flame, somewhat like cooking with Sterno.

These stove users/experts seem to agree that non-pressurized alcohol stoves
are the way to go if you are interested in using alcohol as a marine stove
fuel. In fact, two of the pressurized kerosene stove owners are switching
to non-pressurized alcohol with their next refit.

Safety considerations (alcohol)

While it is true that alcohol fires can be put out with water, sometimes
the water displaces the alcohol, and the fire continues to burn.

  • Fill the fuel tank no more than three-quarters full to allow space for
    increased air pressure.
  • Before lighting and throughout the burner’s use, pressure in the storage
    tank needs to be around 7 pounds per square inch (psi).
  • Once you have successfully lit the burner, run it on a low setting until
    the burner gets really hot; then it can be adjusted for your cooking.
    Turning the valve all the way open will put out the flame, because there
    is a cleaning needle that comes out when you turn the knob all the way
  • Never refill the priming cup or stove while the burner is on or even
    hot. The alcohol in the container may ignite.
  • Clear the area above and around your stove of any flammable objects,
    including your eyebrows, before priming your stove.

Special hints (alcohol)

Tru Heat stove alcohol bottle

  • Experienced users of alcohol stoves recommend that you use heavy cookware
    to reduce the scorching that can occur if the burner has a hot spot.
  • On pressurized stoves, cook and bake using a strong flame to reduce
    chances of the flame’s dwindling and being blown out.
  • Most owners agree that it helps to use the stove manufacturer’s fuel
    because it burns more cleanly.
  • One owner uses a contact-solution bottle to hold alcohol for the priming
    process. It give you better aim and more control over the amount released.
  • Pressurized alcohol stoves can be converted to kerosene by replacing
    the burners. As a caution though, one stove owner commented that he was
    witness to one such conversion exploding aboard a friend’s boat. Make
    sure the conversion is done correctly.
  • Several owners use small bicycle pumps with pressure gauges to pressurize
    the fuel tank to the proper pressure. Ferenc Maté’s book, Shipshape: The
    Art of Sailboat Maintenance, explains the use of a bicycle pump for pressurized
    alcohol and pressurized kerosene stoves. He suggests getting rid of the
    pump that came with the stove and finding a valve from a bicycle tube.
    Solder this valve into a washer and use the nut that came with the tank
    to thread it into place with a small rubber gasket between.
  • Dan Spurr, in his book, Upgrading the Cruising Sailboat, recommends
    putting a pot on the burner when priming. It will partially contain the
    flames and provide a darkened area which enables you to see the flames

Compressed Natural Gas

There’s a lot of technical merit to compressed natural gas, but its popularity
has never developed. Natural gas is a mixture of hydrocarbons – mainly
methane (CH4) – and is produced from gas wells or in conjunction with
crude-oil production. It’s a very clean-burning fuel and burns hotter
than alcohol. It also has an advantage over LPG in that it is lighter
than air. So it is a much safer gas. Any leaks tend to rise to the cabintop
and escape through any point that has an opening to the outside. But vapors
could still build up in areas of the cabin that have poor ventilation,
so care should be taken to have good airflow aboard. I know of one boatowner
who has had trouble-free use of his CNG stove for the last 16 years.

CNG’s disadvantages are much the same as LPG’s. It’s a highly volatile
gas stored under pressure, much higher than LPG. CNG is stored at 2,250
psi, compared to LPG’s 150 to 180 psi. The cylinders are heavier and more
cumbersome because CNG requires a thicker-walled tank. The tanks also
require recertification periodically. CNG also costs more per Btu than
LPG. I found the price of a refill in Florida to be between $10 and $16
for 84 cubic feet.

But the biggest drawback seems to be the lack of availability outside
the U.S., as well as in some areas within the U.S. A special quick-release
fitting can be bought through Corp Brothers, Inc., to allow you to fill
your tanks from a utility-company or automobile-station pump, when found.

Safety considerations (CNG)

A good-quality, spark-proofed alarm and sniffer should be installed aboard any boat with a compressed natural gas stove.

  • CNG cylinders should be stored away from the cabin in self-contained
    storage lockers that are vented overboard above the waterline, with venting
    at the compartment’s highest level. Or they may be stored outside on deck.
  • Cylinders should never be painted a dark color. In direct sunlight a
    cylinder could absorb enough heat to cause it to rupture.
  • CNG and LPG cannot be interchanged without modification to the stove.
  • CNG burned in LPG stoves will produce only about half of the designed


Stove fuel container

Diesel is a high-energy fuel that is not volatile. It does not give off
flammable fumes, and it is inexpensive and available worldwide, especially
in areas of commercial fishing. There are pressurized and non-pressurized
diesel stoves. Pressurized diesel stoves are operated much like kerosene
and alcohol stoves. Non-pressurized “drip pot” diesel stoves use a metering
valve to deliver fuel to a drip-pot-style combustion chamber. The burner
can be fed by gravity or by a pump. The drip-pot-type stoves are quite
popular on commercial fishing boats and aboard yachts in northern regions.

They are known for producing a dry heat because they draw in moist air
from the cabin for combustion and expel it through the chimney as flue
gas. For boaters living in cool climates most of the year, this means
a warmer and drier boat. Drip-pot diesel stoves can also be used to produce
hot water when a water coil is added to the stove. Another advantage is
the fact that you will only be using one type of fuel if your auxiliary
engine is diesel.

A downside for drip-pot diesel stoves is that they tend to heat the cabin
as well as the food. They are slow to warm up and cool down because they
are made of heavy cast iron. With a constant oven temperature of 350°F,
a cabin can get quite warm in the tropics. Sooting and down drafting can
also be problems when a drip-pot diesel stove is not properly adjusted
or if poor-quality fuel is burned. Installation of the drip-pot variety
can be quite difficult just because of the weight of the stove itself.
And, because of their weight and the chimney required, drip-pot diesel
stoves cannot be gimbaled. It would be best to install one athwartship.
Since the flue removes combustion products from the cabin, the build-up
of carbon monoxide gases is not a concern as long as the stove is working
properly and outside make-up air is brought into the cabin.

Special tips (diesel)

The key to being happy with your diesel stove is to learn how to operate
and adjust it. Understanding how your stove works, and adjusting it properly,
will save your sails (as well as the rest of your boat) from soot. Jeannie
and Jack, aboard their Columbia 50, Terri Knot, had terrible sooting problems
with their diesel stove on their trip to Alaska. After several phone calls
to the manufacturer, they were finally able to adjust it properly. They
are pleased with the heat it generated while cruising in the cool north.
But Jeannie commented that it would have made the trip more enjoyable
if they could have worked out the stove’s idiosyncrasies before their

  • Filtering your diesel fuel with a “Baja” filter will increase the efficiency
    of your stove and reduce sooting. If you don’t have a very fine filter
    of this type, you can also filter fuel to some extent using panty hose.
  • If you are planning on cruising in tropical climates with a diesel stove,
    consider bringing along a small cook-top that uses an alternate fuel –
    such as propane, butane, or alcohol – to reduce heat in the cabin.
  • Diesel stoves will burn cleanly with sufficient draft. Make sure your
    flue is the proper length and diameter. It is important that the flue
    be installed without any bends to restrict the air flow. Make-up air must
    be allowed into the cabin for the stove to have proper draft.


For those boaters who have an alternating current (A/C) generator, or
who find themselves close to shorepower quite often, electricity may be
the answer. It is highly efficient, there are no problems about storage
and fumes, and the fact that you may already have shorepower aboard your
boat makes it easy to install. If your electrical cooking appliances include
a microwave, it will speed up cooking times, helping you to use less energy.
It will also conserve vitamins during cooking, and it will not heat up
the cabin. Because electricity is a dry heat, it will also mean a drier
cabin, something that helps with all boats.

But, if you will be relying on a generator to power your stove, there
will be an increased need for diesel or gas, depending on your energy
source. Increased use of your generator also means increased wear and
maintenance, increasing the total expense of this type of fuel. The noise
of having to run the generator or engine each time you use your electric
appliance can also be a disadvantage.

Special tips (electricity)

  • Make sure all wiring is accessible so you can check for corrosion periodically.
    If some of the wires are hidden or difficult to get to, it will be a tedious
    job to find the cause of a malfunction.
  • Proper maintenance of your generator is a necessity when relying on
    electricity for your cooking. Consider having a small back-up stove aboard.
  • If you will be running your generator in quiet anchorages, consider
    anchoring farther away from other boaters. It will go a long way toward
    improving relationships with those who are living without generators.
  • Try to combine stove needs with battery charging to enable you to run
    the generator less frequently.


Kerosene can

Kerosene, also called paraffin outside the United States, is a colorless,
thin oil. It’s less dense than water, and it’s made of a mixture of hydrocarbons
commonly obtained from the fractional distillation of petroleum. As with
alcohol, there are pressurized kerosene stoves and non-pressurized kerosene
stoves. Pressurized ones function much like pressurized alcohol stoves.
Kerosene burns hot – much hotter than alcohol. It is inexpensive and widely
available in the U.S. as well as overseas.

Eric Freeman, who sails Blackguard, an old Seawolf ketch, in northern
Washington state, commented that kerosene is easy to find, being available
anywhere jets fly. Kerosene is not as volatile as alcohol and can be easily
stored. Because kerosene – like alcohol and diesel – doesn’t have to be
under pressure, it is easy to be aware of how much fuel you have left.
A well-maintained and properly running stove is odorless and soot-free
without any flammable fumes to worry about.

But kerosene stoves can be hard to light. These stoves require priming
with alcohol, a tricky business. They can also have a sooting problem
if the burners are not adjusted properly. They can smoke liberally when
firing up and smell terrible. Spills take a long time to evaporate and
can be a problem because they will soak into cushions and be a fire hazard
for a long time.

Non-pressurized kerosene stoves are often discussed with diesel drip-pot
stoves since they are so similar. Kerosene can be burned in a diesel stove
and is the cleaner of the two in that application. The advantages and
disadvantages of non-pressurized kerosene stoves are the same as those
for diesel stoves. Like diesel stoves, kerosene drip-pot stoves cannot
be gimbaled and are usually made of heavy cast iron with a flue.

Special tips (kerosene)

  • It’s important to buy the best-quality kerosene possible to reduce the
    chances of clogged burners. Good-quality kerosene is colorless and as
    clear as good drinking water.
  • You can check the quality by burning a small puddle in an ovenproof
    dish. Any gooey remainders mean a poor-quality fuel for your stove.
  • Filter your kerosene through a “Baja” filter to eliminate particulates.
  • Keep a small spray or squirt bottle of alcohol (like a contact solution
    bottle) close by to use when priming the burner.

Liquefied Petroleum Gas

LPG is a gaseous paraffin hydrocarbon, extracted from crude petroleum
or natural gas, containing propane and butane. Most LPG produced and sold
in the U.S. is primarily propane. It seems to be the fuel choice for a
large number of marine-stove owners, especially international cruisers.
They seem drawn to it because it is cheap, burns hot and clean, and has
world-wide availability. I found the average price to fill a 20-pound
cylinder was $10, which lasts our family of four an average of three months
while traveling. But, it has some major drawbacks that can make it a very
dangerous fuel to have aboard.

LPG is highly explosive and heavier than air. Any leaks in the system
can go undetected, sinking into bilges and creating a very dangerous situation.
And, on stoves without thermocouples, it is too easy to leave a burner
on accidentally after the flame goes out, leaving an explosion waiting
to happen when the cook goes to re-light a burner.

Thermocouple-controlled solenoid valves control the flow of gas on some
stoves. When heated, the dissimilar metals in the thermocouple generate
electrical current that causes the solenoid valve to open. When the thermocouple
cools, it does not generate the electrical current and thus the valve
closes, cutting the supply to the burner. This is why, upon lighting your
burner, you need to hold the valve open for at least 30 seconds to allow
the metals to become warm enough to generate the electrical current which
will hold the solenoid valve open.

LPG (as well as CNG) requires constant vigilance in its use and storage
on board. All crewmembers should check and re-check to make sure all switches
and shut-off valves are in the proper position. LPG’s high volatility
also creates a transportation problem. Transporting cylinders to be re-filled
can be difficult. The thick-walled cylinders are heavy and cumbersome.
These cylinders, like CNG cylinders, have to be re-certified after several
years. The date of the next re-certification should be stamped on the
cylinder. Due to safety concerns, many buses and taxis will not allow
usually outside of town in order to reduce loss of life and property should
there be an explosion. This makes them difficult for cruisers to reach
without transport.

Though propane and butane are usually lumped together and called LPG for
simplicity, they have a few differences.


This gas liquefies at higher temperatures than propane
does. At extremely low temperatures, butane’s evaporation rate will be
so low that the stove will not operate. But butane can be stored in a
propane container.


In extremely cold conditions, propane can be used
when butane would fail to evaporate. Propane can be used interchangeably
with butane. But propane cannot be stored in butane cylinders because
it has a higher cylinder pressure.

Safety considerations (LPG)

Stove Fuel Survey Results
Fuel Happy Safe Feel limited
in use
High fuel
No: 3
No: 3
No: 2
No: 1
No: 0
No: 0
No: 5
No: 3
No: 0
No: 0
No: 1
No: 0
No: 0
No: 0
No: 1
No: 0
No: 0
No: 0
No: 2
No: 0
No: 0
No: 14
No: 15
No: 0
(pressurized only)
No: 1
No: 0
No: 3
No: 0

For excellent instructions on the proper installation of an LPG system,
read Chapter 14 of Nigel Calder’s Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical

  • It is a good idea to install a good quality sniffer that will sound
    an alarm when vapors are detected. But be sure it is spark-proofed so
    that turning it on will not ignite any vapors already present.
  • LPG cylinders should be stored away from the cabin in self-contained
    storage lockers that are vented overboard above the waterline, with venting
    at the compartment’s lowest level. Or, they may be stored outside on deck.
  • Cylinders should never be painted a dark color. In direct sunlight,
    a cylinder could absorb enough heat to cause it to rupture.
  • Install a lighted manual switch at the stove with a solenoid valve to
    shut off the gas at the tank when the stove isn’t in use.
  • LPG cannot be interchanged with CNG (compressed natural gas) without
    modifications to the stove. Propaneburned in a CNG stove will produce
    extremely high flames and dangerous overheating of the appliance.
  • When re-filling cylinders outside the U.S., make sure the LPG has a
    smell to it. It is not safe to have LPG (or CNG) aboard if it is odorless.
  • Be careful not to have your cylinders filled beyond 80 percent capacity.
    There should be two weights stamped into your cylinder, the empty weight,
    called tare weight, and its net fill weight, the safe weight of LPG that
    can be added. Upon weighing your filled tank, it should not weigh more
    than your tare weight plus your net fill weight. If it has been overfilled,
    some of the gas will need to be vented carefully away from flames and
    sparks. An overfilled cylinder is a terrible danger aboard your boat.
    Increases in the ambient temperature could cause a rupture of the cylinder
    or could cause liquid LPG to be pushed into the low-pressure lines, a
    very dangerous situation that would ruin, at the least, an oven’s thermostat.

Special tips (LPG)

Debbie Lyons shuts off propane

Debbie Lyons, reaches through the portlight to shut the propane off at the tank aboard Rhiannon.

Having an easy shutoff valve close to the storage cylinder helps reduce
dangers. Aboard Rhiannon, Debbie Lyons, of Seattle, stores her propane
cylinder on deck near an opening portlight over her sink. She only has
to open the portlight to shut off the propane right at the tank. She shuts
off the propane at the cylinder as her cooking is completed and when the
flame dies, signaling that all the propane has been used in the lines,
she turns off the burner. Before lighting, as a double check, she makes
sure that all burners are turned off first. (Make sure the portlight will
not allow LPG to drain into the cabin if there is a leak at the cylinder.)

Hunting for leaks is required maintenance for propane stove owners. It
is a good idea to periodically apply soapy water to all tubing connections
in your installation. Bubbling signals a leak that should be immediately
fixed. Also use your nose for finding leaks. As with CNG, an odor has
been added to LPG. Never use a flame to test for leaks.

To check the level of your propane tank, boil a cup or so of water and
pour it on the outside of your propane tank. Right afterward, feel for
the level of much cooler propane in the cylinder.

Propane and CNG are serious materials to have aboard a boat. The ABYC
(a voluntary boat construction standards organization) recommends that
the following label be placed near LPG fuel tanks:


  1. This system is designed for use with liquefied petroleum gas (LPG)
    only. Do not connect compressed natural gas (CNG) to this system.
  2. Keep cylinder valves and solenoid valves closed when boat is unattended.
    Close them immediately in any emergency. When on board, cylinder valves
    or solenoid valves shall be closed when appliances are not in use. Keep
    empty cylinder valves tightly closed.
  3. Close appliance valves before opening cylinder valves.
  4. Test for system leakage each time the cylinder supply valve is opened
    for appliance use. Close all appliance valves. Open, then close, cylinder
    supply valve. Observe pressure gauge at the regulating valve and see that
    it remains constant for not less than three minutes before any appliance
    is used. If any leakage is evidenced by a pressure drop, check system
    with a leak detection fluid or detergent solution which does not contain
    ammonia and repair before operating the system.
  5. Never use flame to check for leaks.

At the end of the ABYC standard on LPG systems is the following note:

  1. Never use flame to check for leaks!
  2. Never use solutions containing ammonia. Ammonia, which is present
    in soaps and detergent, attacks brass fittings. Undetectable at first, in a matter months these fittings may develop cracks and leaks.

Ammonia which is present in some soaps also attacks copper tubing in the
same way. In fact, it is the copper in the brass that is attacked by the

Watch out for CO

With electricity as the exception, it’s important to make sure that the
galley has sufficient oxygen to keep the stove working properly. A deficiency
of oxygen causes any fuel to burn improperly, resulting in an output of
carbon monoxide, rather than carbon dioxide.

For this reason, a carbon-monoxide detector is a worthwhile investment.
We have one aboard our boat that saved our lives in Alaska. One night
after having hot cocoa before bed, we accidentally left the pilot light
in our oven on. Even with a cracked hatch, there was not enough oxygen
inside the cabin. We were slowly awakened when our CO detector went off,
releasing a mind-boggling blare of noise that just barely woke my husband,
Chuck, and me. The kids were sound asleep with the detector right above
their heads. We were able to get the kids and ourselves out of our cabin
in time, with only headaches to complain about. The fresh air never felt
better. Now we make sure the CO detector always has a good battery.

Decisions, decisions

In Jimmy Cornell’s book, World Cruising Survey, the most popular cooking
fuel was LPG. In fact, 138 boaters chose LPG with the other fuels barely
showing up: 17 others chose kerosene; two chose diesel; one chose alcohol;
and two chose electricity. LPG was the most popular choice among the people
I talked to, as well. But I found many more owners who chose alcohol than
Jimmy did. This is probably because I talked to coastal cruisers and weekend
boaters. I also talked to only 32 stove owners. For what it’s worth, refer
to the chart of my findings on Page 53.

Which to choose?

After weighing all of the pros and cons of the dirty half-dozen, I still
haven’t made up my mind about which to choose. But our plans for cruising
outside the U.S. have ruled out CNG and alcohol. And electricity won’t
work aboard our boat without a generator. LPG is at the top of our list,
but I hesitate because of memories of singed arms, flames in my face lighting
our oven, and waking up to our carbon monoxide detector blaring. All these
are memories from forgotten pilot lights and burners not turned off completely.
It makes me gun-shy. I know the safety mechanisms on the new LPG stoves,
as well as a proper installation, will take care of those problems. But
should I choose to have our family depend on that?

Then there’s kerosene and diesel to consider. Decisions, decisions. Maybe
we could buy a new good old boat with a stove already installed so I could
leave this decision to chance. Maybe I’ll make Chuck decide.

Theresa Fort

Theresa Fort
and her family of four have lived and cruised aboard
Lindsay Christine, a Mercator Offshore 30, since 1995. In another life long, long ago and far away, Theresa was a home economist with a specialization in consumer education. After receiving her BA in home economics at the University of Montana, she went on to become a master food preserver with the co-operative extension office in Montana.

Capsize – how it happens

Planning for an unplanned inversion

By John Vigor

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 3, Number 6, November/December 2000.

Capsize: how it happens, and what you can do to survive it

When Isabelle Autissier’s 60-foot racer capsized in the Southern
Ocean, it sent a chill of fear through the sailing community. Sailors
don’t like to think of capsize. But here was a big, well-found boat,
a Finot-designed Open 60 Class flier, wallowing upside down in huge
frigid swells, with her long thin keel jutting toward heaven. It was
a bizarre and frightening sight.

Autissier was lucky. She was taking part in the Around Alone race, so
her million-dollar boat was equipped with emergency satellite
transmitters, position recorders, and lots of other equipment that no
normal cruiser is likely to be able to afford or fit on board. She
was eventually rescued in a wonderful feat of seamanship by Giovanni
Soldini, a fellow competitor.

So what went wrong? And could it happen to you? It depends where you
sail, but if you sail out of sight of land, whether at sea or on a
lake, the answer is yes, it could. And you should always be prepared
for it to happen. The good news is that most yachts of classic
proportions will survive a capsize. Unlike Autissier’s extreme
design, they will right themselves, although some might take longer
than others.

You can form a crude idea of what went wrong with Autissier’s boat by
imagining a long plank floating in the water. It doesn’t care which
side is up. It’s happy floating either way up. That’s Autissier’s
boat. Now imagine a plank with a heavy weight attached along one
side, so the plank floats on edge. If you turn it upside down, the
ballast quickly pulls it back again. That’s your normal yacht design.
Autissier’s racer was shaped too much like a wide plank – too beamy
and too light to recover from an inverted position, despite the long
heavy keel. It’s one of the paradoxes of naval architecture that an
excessively beamy boat, while hard to capsize in the first place, is
unseaworthy if she is inverted.

Furthermore, a light, shallow, beamy boat capsizes more easily than a
narrow, deep, heavy boat because she offers the seas more leverage to
do their work, and because she is quicker to respond to the upward
surge of a large swell.

Planing hulls

Designers create racing boats like Autissier’s because that shape
gives them the ability to plane at high speeds. In other words, they
deliberately sacrifice seaworthiness on the altar of speed, and the
boats rely on the skill of their crews to keep them upright.
Unfortunately, singlehanders have to sleep now and then, so they
can’t be on watch all the time.

While it’s true that a good big boat is less likely to capsize than a
good small boat, there is no guarantee that even the largest yachts
are immune from capsize. It’s not the wind that’s the problem. It’s
the waves.

Tests carried out at Southampton University in England have shown
that almost any boat can be turned turtle by a breaking wave with a
height equal to 55 percent of the boat’s overall length.
Even if you don’t like to think about it, you know in your heart that
it’s a reasonable finding. It means your 35-footer could be capsized
through 180 degrees by a 20-foot wave. Even a 12-foot breaking wave
would roll her 130 degrees from upright – from which position she may
turn turtle anyhow.

And if you imagine you’re never going to encounter a 20-foot wave,
think again. Waves of that size can be generated in open water by a
40-knot wind blowing for 40 hours. And a 12-foot wave is the result
of a 24-knot wind blowing for 24 hours. Plenty of those around.

Large waves are formed in other ways, too. A current flowing against
the wind will create seas that are much larger and steeper than
normal. And the old stories about every seventh wave being bigger
than the rest have a basis of truth, although it’s not necessarily
the seventh wave. It could be the fifth or the ninth. The point is
that wave trains occasionally fall in step with each other at random
intervals, literally riding on one another’s backs, to form an
exceptionally high wave. We call that a freak wave, but it’s actually
more normal than we care to admit.

Bigger waves

Scientists calculate that one wave in every 23 is more than twice as
high as the average. One in 1,175 is three times bigger. And one in
300,000 is four times the average height. They may be far apart, but
they’re out there, and many big ships have been lost to them.

John Lacey, a British naval architect, put forward an interesting
proposition after the 1979 Fastnet Race, in which 63 yachts
experienced at least one knock-down that went farther than 90 degrees
and remained upside down for significant periods.

He explained that the old International Offshore Rule for racers had
radically changed the shape of yacht hulls by greatly increasing the
proportion of beam to length, which gave them more power to carry
sail without the need for additional ballast. It also gave them more
room below, of course.

But the flatiron shape of the hull made it very stable when it was
inverted. To bring the boat upright again would require about half
the energy needed to capsize the yacht in the first place, Lacey

“Since the initial capsize may have been caused by a
once-in-a-lifetime freak wave, one could be waiting a long time for a
wave big enough to overcome this inverted stability,” he commented.
Autissier’s experience bore out that prophetic statement. Her boat
was still upside down when she abandoned it.

Lacey did some more sums and figured that a narrower cruising hull
with a lower center of gravity than a typical IOR boat would require
only one-tenth of the capsize energy to recover from a 180-degree

“It therefore seems, in my opinion, that we should tackle the problem
from the other end, and design yachts for minimum stability when
upside down,” he concluded.

Deep-vee cabin

His recommendation is not likely to be taken too seriously, but he
certainly does have a point. You could make an inverted yacht
unstable with narrow beam, a very deep keel with a lot of weight at
the very end of it for righting leverage, and a deep-vee cabintop, or
at least one that was narrow on top and broad at deck level. For the
same reason, flush-decked yachts should be avoided, because they’re
likely to be much more stable upside down.

But as in everything to do with sailboats, there are compromises to
be made. Deep narrow hulls might recover quickly from inversion, but
as sailors discovered a century ago when they were all the rage,
they’re lacking in buoyancy. They’re also wet, and they have very
little accommodation.

Two basic design features probably govern the probability of capsize
more than any others. The first is inertia and the second is the
shape of the keel.

Inertia is not generally well understood, but it’s the first line of
defense against a wave impact. In simple terms, inertia is resistance
to change. The inertia of a moving boat works to keep her moving on
course, even though other forces are trying to halt or divert her.
The inertia of a boat at rest resists any sudden attempt to start her

Obviously, because inertia varies with mass, a heavy boat has more
inertia than a light boat, so a wave hitting her from the side is
going to get a slower response. Light-displacement boats are more
likely than heavy boats to be picked up and hurled over by a plunging

Narrow beam is a help, too, because the force of a breaking wave is
concentrated nearer the centerline of the yacht, where it has less
overturning leverage.

Spreading weight

The way weight is distributed on a boat also affects its inertia. A
wide boat with a light mast and a shallow keel will respond very
quickly to every wave with a lively, jerky motion. A boat with a
heavier mast and a deeper keel has its weight spread out over a
greater span, and it’s more difficult to change its speed or
direction, so the force of a breaking wave may be dissipated before
it has a chance to overturn the boat. Inertia, incidentally, is what
keeps a tightrope walker aloft. It’s contained in that long stick. If
you push down on one side of it suddenly to regain your balance, it
almost bounces back at you. It will subsequently move slowly away,
but you can recover it with a long gentle pull as you lean the other

A long, old-fashioned keel resists sudden rolling simply because it’s
difficult to move anything that big sideways through the water. A fin
keel, with its meager surface area, is much more easily moved when
it’s stalled; thus, the boat to which it’s attached is more easily
overturned. But a fin keel that’s moving through the water acquires
much more stability, which is why fin keelers should be kept moving
in heavy weather.

Capsize screening formula

The maximum beam divided by the cube root of the displacement in cubic feet, or
Maximum beam (feet) = less than 2 3÷Displ/64
The displacement in cubic feet can be found by dividing the displacement in pounds by 64. The boat is suitable for offshore passages if the result of the calculation is 2.0 or less, but the lower the better.

Although there are design factors that improve seaworthiness (usually
at the expense of speed and accommodation), and although there are
tactics you can use in a storm to minimize the chances of
overturning, no boat is totally capsize-proof. That is not to say
that every boat is going to capsize, of course, even the ones most
likely to. After all, hundreds of yachts cross oceans every year
without mishap. But prudent sailors keep the possibility in mind and
do what they can to forestall any problems and to lessen any damage
resulting from an inversion.

Large forces

If you have never given any thought to inversion, the results of a
capsize can be devastating, not only on deck but down below as well.
Not many people realize what large forces are involved in a capsize,
especially the head-over-heels capsize called a pitchpole. It’s not
just a gentle rolling motion. The contents of lockers and drawers can
be flung long distances in the saloon, and you could easily find
yourself standing in a state of disorientation on the overhead in a
seething mess of battery acid, salt water, clothing, ketchup,
mayonnaise, diesel fuel, paint thinner, knives, forks, and shards of
broken glass. There will be no fresh air entering the cabin to
dissipate the fumes. And it will be dark because your ports will be
under water.

So, first things first: presuming you haven’t been injured by flying
objects, can you lay hands on flashlights? Were they stored safely in
a special place that you can reach without having to shift a wodge of
soaked bunk mattresses? Is there one for every member of the crew?
Are the batteries fresh? You may not stay upside down for long. But
if you’re unlucky, like Isabelle Autissier, you will find you need a
flashlight more than anything else on earth.

There are some other things you should think about before you ever
set sail. And there are some precautions you can take.

Avoiding capsize

  1. Avoid heavy weather. “The most dangerous thing on a boat is
    an inflexible schedule.” Thanks to Tony Ouwehand for this observation.
  2. Avoid taking large waves abeam, particularly breaking waves.
  3. When caught in heavy weather:
    1. Heave to.
    2. Run (down wave) using a drogue to keep speed down to 3 to 5 knots.
    3. Use a sea anchor from the bow or a series drogue from the
      stern. (Practice rigging and deploying these in moderate conditions.)

The rig

  • Is your rig as strong as possible? Will it withstand the tremendous
    forces of a capsize?
  • Do you have a plan to free a toppled mast from alongside, where it
    can batter holes in your hull? Have you ever thought how difficult it would be to cut the rigging, even with a decent pair of bolt cutters,
    on a slippery deck that’s suddenly rolling viciously?
  • Do you have material on board for a jury rig? Have you thought about
    how you would use it?
  • Will your radio transmitter’s antenna come down with the rig? Do you
    have a spare?
  • Will your EPIRB start working automatically because it’s been under
    water – whether you want it to or not?

The cockpit

  • Are your cockpit lockers waterproof? Can you imagine how quickly
    you’d sink if one of them was open at the time of capsize?
  • Do your companionway hatchboards lock in position? Have you ever
    thought how much water would get below if one or more fell out as you
    turned over?
  • What have you done about waterproofing the cowl vents for the engine?
    Those are huge holes in what would become the bottom of the boat.
    (The same goes for Dorade boxes, incidentally. Each one is a
    potential three- or four-inch hole in the bottom. Fit them with deck
    plates for sea work, on deck and down below.)
  • If you’re in the cockpit when the boat capsizes, will you be attached
    by a harness? Will you be able to free yourself if you’re trapped
    under water and the boat stays inverted for some time?

The anchor locker

  • If the anchors and chain are not fastened down securely they could
    bash their way through the locker lid and cause all kinds of havoc.
  • Is your self-draining deck anchor locker waterproof? Many aren’t completely sealed at the top, where wires for pulpit-mounted running lights come though, and would let in water.

The engine room

  • Is your engine mounted securely enough to withstand a capsize? I know
    of one boat in which the engine was hurled from its mounts during a
    pitchpole, causing great destruction.
  • What if the engine’s running during a capsize? Could you switch it
    off quickly, with everything upside down? Would the oil run out?
    Would the fuel drip out of the tanks? Are your breathers inside or
  • Are the batteries fastened down firmly enough? Can you imagine what
    damage they could do if they got loose? And will they drip acid if
    they’re upside down? (Newer batteries – gel cells and AGMs will not
    spill acid when inverted. -Ed.)

The galley

  • Can you turn the stove off? If there’s a smell of gas, can you deal
    with it? Have you made sure the galley cupboards can’t fly open
    during a capsize and turn the saloon into a sea of broken glass and
    chip dip?
  • Can you lay hands on a fire extinguisher quickly? It could save your life.

The saloon

  • Have you figured out a way to keep all those loose tops in place in
    the saloon – the boards that cover access to storage under bunks, the
    bilge boards, and so on? Some boats have inside ballast, and many
    have heavy objects, such as storm anchors, stowed in the bilges. Make
    sure they stay there, because if they get loose they can come
    crashing through the overhead (your new “floor”) and sink the boat
    very quickly.
  • Make sure your bunk mattresses will stay in place, too, otherwise
    they will greatly hamper your attempts to get around.
  • Have you figured out a way to pump bilge water out of an inverted
    boat? Think about it. It’s not easy.

Book racks

  • Most books could escape from their racks during a capsize and become
    potentially harmful flying objects. Have you solved that problem?

Important documents

  • The ship’s papers and your own personal documents should be in a
    watertight container in a secure locker, one that is not too high up
    in the boat because that’s where the water will be when you capsize.

There are many other systems and pieces of gear on a boat that could
be affected by a capsize. When you use them, think inverted. Imagine
what would happen if they got loose. Invent ways to keep things in
their places during an unplanned inversion. Don’t ever imagine it’s
wasted work. It’s one of the unspoken rules of the sea that if you’re
prepared, the worst is not likely to happen. If you’re not, you’re
bound to attract trouble.

More on the subject

Tami Ashcraft wrote a compelling story of the realities of inversion
and its aftermath in her book, Red Sky in Mourning: The True Story of
a Woman’s Courage and Survival at Sea
, reviewed in our May 2000 issue. John Vigor goes into more depth about preparation for
capsize in his book, The Seaworthy Offshore Sailboat.

John Vigor

John Vigor is a professional journalist. The author of The Practical
Mariner’s Book of Knowledge, The Boatowner’s Handbook, Twenty Small
Boats to Take You Anywhere, and The Seaworthy Offshore Sailboat, he
has worked for major newspapers around the world and is a frequent
contributor to leading sailing magazines. He has sailed for more than
40 years in boats 11 to 40 feet in length and logged some 15,000
miles of ocean voyaging. In 1987 he and his wife, June, and their
17-year-old son sailed their 31-foot sloop from South Africa to the
U.S. John’s books are available from the
Good Old Boat Bookshelf.


Brewer by the numbers

By Ted Brewer
Illustrations by Ted Brewer and Mike Dickey

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 2, Number 4, July/August 1999.

What’s the meaning of all those numbers used by yacht designers?

The terms and ratios that follow are used by all yacht designers, so it’s
a good idea to have an understanding of them if you are considering buying
a boat or having a custom design created. You may need to work out some
of the ratios for the boats you are considering for purchase from the
available information, but the formulas are simple and can be handled
by an inexpensive scientific calculator. The one I use in my design business
is a Sharp EL-520, almost old enough to vote, and it cost less than $25
new many, too many, years ago.

Basic weights and measures

Beam diagram

Length: Designers and builders have different ways of expressing
length. Length On Deck (LOD) is the true length, omitting rail
overhangs, and is the honest way to describe the length of a boat. More
usually, you will see it as Length Over All (LOA), which may be
the LOD if the builder is honest but often includes rail overhangs, anchor
sprit, bowsprits, and even boomkins if the builder is trying to sell a
“larger” boat. Length on the Waterline (LWL) is an important figure
to know, as it more closely represents the usable size of the yacht than
LOD or LOA, and it is a necessary figure in some of the other calculations.
LWL is the length of the vessel as measured from the bow ending of the
waterline to the stern ending. It should not include any rudder tip that
may stick out past the aft end of the hull proper. Over the years, the
LWL will increase as the yacht sinks into the water with the added weight
of stores and equipment.

Beam: This is the greatest width of the hull and is often expressed
as Beam (Max). Beam WL is the width at the LWL and is very useful
to know but is not readily available, as a rule.

Draft: This is the depth of the hull from the waterline to the
bottom of the keel or fin. Like the LWL, it will vary with the weights
of fuel, water, stores, and the equipment added over the years and is
usually somewhat more than the original designed or advertised draft.
When you run onto a 4-foot-deep rock in a boat with 3-foot 9-inch draft,
it is always nice to know that it may not be your fault.

Displacement diagram

Displacement: If you weigh the boat on a scale, that is her actual (not advertised) displacement and the weight of sea water she will displace when afloat.
Most designers figure displacement when half loaded (the boat, that is,
not the designer) with stores, liquids, and crew.

Displacement can be expressed in pounds, long tons, or cubic feet; one
ton = 2,240 pounds = 35 cubic feet of sea water, at 64 pounds per cubic
foot. Fresh water weighs only 62.4 pounds per cubic foot, so a boat taken
from sea water to fresh water will sink into the water and increase her
draft slightly. For example, a boat weighing 7,500 pounds will displace
117.19 cu. ft. of sea water or 120.19 cubic feet of fresh water. The difference
is 3 cubic feet, so if her waterline area is 150 square feet, she will
sink 3/150 of a foot (about 1/4 inch) when she is moved from salt to fresh
water. This is truly insignificant for most sailors, unless you are skippering
a 90,000-ton tanker.

J, I, P, E: These are letters you see on the sail plans of many
modern cruiser/ racers and denote the rig dimensions. As you’ll see on
the illustration on the next page, “J” is the length of the foretriangle
on deck, from the mast to the headstay. “I” is the height of the foretriangle
from the sheer to where the headstay intersects the mast. “P” is the main
luff and “E” is the main foot. Yawls and ketches will also have Pmiz and
Emiz to show mizzen dimensions.

Centers and areas

Center of buoyancy diagram

Center of Buoyancy (CB): Often called Lateral Center of Buoyancy
, this is the center of the underwater volume of the vessel and
can be expressed as a distance abaft the forward end of the LWL, abaft
midships, or as a percentage of the LWL from the bow end. If the boat
is to float on her LWL, the Center of Gravity (CG) must be in line
vertically with the CB, both fore and aft and athwartship. If the two
centers are not in line, the boat will change trim and so change her underwater
shape, until the new CB lines up with the CG.

If your boat is floating perfectly in trim and you add 100 pounds of davits
and dinghy aft, for example, you will move the center of gravity of the
boat aft. The vessel will sink by the stern and the bow will come up until
the underwater shape changes enough to move the CB over the new CG.

The same applies athwartship. With luck, the CB and the CG are both on
the centerline of your boat, so she floats level without any heel angle.
When you move to the starboard rail, you move the CG off centerline to
starboard, so the boat will heel until the change in underwater shape
moves the CB vertically above the new CG.

Center of Flotation (CF): The CF is the center of the waterline
area and is the pivot point about which the boat changes trim, much like
the pivot in the center of a teeter-totter. On normal sailing hulls, the
CF is somewhat abaft the CB and, like the CB, is expressed as a percentage
of the LWL, or a distance from either the bow end of the LWL, or from
amidships. Of course, as the boat changes trim, due to added weight at
one end or the other, the LWL shape changes, so the CF will move slightly.

Center of Lateral Plane (CLP): Also called Center of Lateral
Resistance (CLR)
. These indicate the center of the hull’s underwater
area as viewed from the side. The CLP is readily found by tracing the
outline of the underwater hull on paper, cutting it out, and balancing
it on a pencil, as illustrated below. Some designers omit the rudder area
when finding the CLP; others use half the rudder area.

Center of Effort (CE): This is the center of the area of the sails.
The CE is usually determined using 100 percent of the foretriangle area,
omitting the overlap of genoa jibs. On some boats that do not carry genoas
the CE may be calculated as the center of the working sails. Both the
CE and the CLP may be shown on sail plans and the CE will be forward of
the CLP by a distance known as lead. The lead (pronounced “leed”) is essential
to provide a balanced helm and the amount of lead is based on certain
characteristics of the vessel. I’ll discuss helm balance in detail in
a future article and explain the need for lead.

Waterline Area: This is the area of the LWL, usually expressed
in square feet. It is not always easily obtained but can be calculated
roughly for a sailboat by the formula: .67 x LWL x Beam. It is more accurate
if you have the Beam WL rather than the Beam (Max), of course. Knowing
the LWL area is essential in working out some of the following calculations.

Seven Calculations

Fineness Coefficient diagram

Fineness Coefficient (Cf): Also called the Waterplane Coefficient,
or Cwp.
The Cf is a figure derived from: LWL Area/(LWL x Beam WL).
As shown in the illustration on page 70, the lower the Cf, the finer the
hull at the waterline. Typical sailboats have a Cf of .65 to.68

Pounds Per Inch Immersion (PPI): The weight required to sink the
yacht one inch. It is calculated by multiplying the LWL area by 5.333
for sea water or 5.2 for fresh water. The PPI usually increases as the
hull sinks into the water as the LWL area is also increasing due to the
shape of the hull above water.

Moment to Trim One Inch (MTI): The MTI is the moment, expressed
in footpounds, that will change the fore-and-aft trim of the yacht one
inch. For a displacement hull, the MTI is, roughly (but close enough for
all practical purposes), .35 x WL Area2/Beam WL. For example, your
boat has an LWL Area of 165 square feet and a Beam WL of 8 feet. Your
MTI is .35 x 1652/8 = 1,191 ft-lbs, say 1,200 for rough figuring.
Now you hang that 100-pound dink 18 feet abaft the CB. You have added
1,800 ft-lbs of aft moment, so your boat will trim 1800/1200 = 1.5 inches
down by the stern. However, the boat does trim about its Cf and, as that
is usually abaft amidships, the stern will move less than the bow. You
might find that she trims 5/8 inch down by the stern, and 7/8 inch up
by the bow, making a total trim change of 1.5 inches.

Wetted surface diagram

Surface (WS):
This is the area in square feet of the underbody of
the yacht, including the fin, rudder, and skeg. A boat with a large WS
will have more surface friction than a boat with lesser WS and be slightly
slower, given the same sail area, due to the greater resistance. This
is most important in light air as, at slower speeds surface friction is
the primary cause of resistance.

Speed/Length Ratio (V÷square root symbolL): This is the speed
in knots divided by the square root of the LWL. For example, a 25-foot-waterline
sailboat moving at 5.5 knots would be at a square root symbolL of
1.1. while a 400-foot-LWL destroyer traveling at 22 knots also has a square root symbolL of 1.1. Both vessels would develop about the same resistance per ton of
displacement as they are both running at the same V divided by the square root of LL.

The limiting speed for a pure displacement hull is a square root symbolL of 1.34. Above this speed, the stern wave moves aft so that the stern
loses buoyancy, the hull squats, and great additional power is necessary
for a small gain in speed. In truth, the typical cruising sailboat probably
averages a square root symbolL of about .9 to 1.0 and only gets
close to 1.3 when reaching in a stiff breeze. Tender boats may never get
above 1.2 since crewmembers ease sheets when the rail buries!

The modern beamy, super-light ocean racer can have a stern wide enough
to resist squatting and the stability to stand up to a breeze, so it often
achieves speeds well above 1.4, but that is semi-planing, and the boat
is getting lift aft due to its speed. My BOC 60 design exceeded 20 knots
at times, a square root symbolL ratio of over 2.6, but those are
very specialized yachts, definitely not good old boats!

Prismatic coefficient diagram

Coefficient (Cp):
This is a figure that relates the fullness of the
ends of the underwater hull to the area of the midship or largest station.
The sketch below will explain it better than words can. The Cp is the
percentage of the original shape that remains after the hull is carved
out. The more that is cut away to “carve” the hull, the finer the ends
and the lower the Cp, and vice versa.

The proper Cp for a hull depends on the intended speed and is related
to the speed/length ratio square root symbolL . The correct Cp for
various square root symbolL are as follows:

square root symbolL Cp
1.0 and below .525
1.1 .54
1.2 .58
1.3 .62
1.4 .64


Selecting the correct Cp for a sailing yacht depends on her speed which,
of course, varies with the winds. For an inshore racer primarily in light-air
conditions it might be wise to go to a .525 Cp, while an allround cruising
yacht would benefit from a higher Cp, say .54 to.55, and an ocean racer
from a yet higher Cp, perhaps .56 to.57. In any case, it is best if the
Cp is a bit on the high side, since the penalty for having too high a
Cp at low speeds is less serious in performance than having too low a
Cp at high speeds. The high Cp should be achieved by fullness aft, not
forward, as full bows have an adverse affect on performance.

Half Angle of Entrance: This is the angle, measured at the LWL,
between the hull centerline and the actual waterline shape. Fine angles
are desirable for good performance but can be overdone, creating a wet
boat in a seaway. Angles below 19 to 20 degrees would be considered fine,
20 to 24 degrees is fairly usual for a cruising yacht, and angles of 25
degrees and above are considered bluff bows today but were fairly common
in the ’60s.

Ratios for evaluating speed, comfort, and safety

Sail Area/Wetted Surface Area Ratio (SA/WS): The sail area/wetted
surface area ratio is simply the sail area divided by the area of the
hull that is below the LWL. It should include the keel and rudder areas.
This frequently neglected ratio is the major determiner of boat speed
in light and medium air. In these conditions, wave-making resistance is
minimal and surface friction is the primary drag component. ratios below
2.0 indicate poor performance in light air. Ratios of 2.2 to 2.4 predict
good light-air performance, while a ratio of 2.6 would indicate a boat
designed specifically to sail in very light wind. Wetted surface is a
difficult number to obtain, but the concept is important.

Sail Area/Displacement Ratio (SA/D): The SA/D ratio is the sail
area in square feet divided by the displacement in cubic feet to the 2/3
power, or SA/D cf.666 Ratios below 14 are suited for motor
sailers, from 14 to 17 for ocean cruisers and from 16 to 18 for typical
coastal cruisers. Ratios over 18-20 are seen on racing dinghies, inshore
racers, and ocean racing yachts. The more extreme screamers can have very
high SA/D ratios indeed. My 60-foot design, Wild Thing, had a SA/D ratio,
based on 100 percent foretriangle, of well over 30, depending on her displacement
at the moment. Her displacement could vary widely as she could carry 8,000
pounds of water ballast in tanks on the windward side.

Displacement/Length Ratio (D/L): The D/L ratio is a non-dimensional
figure derived from the displacement in tons (of 2,240 lbs) divided by
.01 LWL cubed, or, Dt/(.01 LWL)3. It allows us to compare the displacement
of boats of widely different LWLs. Some examples of various D/L ratios
follow, but are generalities only, as there is often a wide range within
each type.

Boat type D/L ratio
Light racing multihull 40-50
Ultra-light ocean racer 60-100
Very light ocean racer 100-150
Light cruiser/racer 150-200
Light cruising auxiliary 200-250
Average cruising auxiliary 250-300
Heavy cruising auxiliary 300-350
Very heavy cruising auxiliary 350-400


Storm, a wonderful 27-foot LWL sloop on which I raced with Bill Luders
many years ago, had a D/L ratio of 386, very heavy by today’s standards.
However, Storm was 39 feet LOA, and when she heeled to a breeze her long
ends would increase her sailing LWL, thus reducing her D/L ratio to a
more reasonable figure when we were beating to windward. If she picked
up 3 feet of WL, her D/L ratio dropped to about 281 – a significant change
and one that made her a very competitive racer in the 1960s.

Capsize Screening Ratio (CSF): Some years ago, the technical committee
of the Cruising Club of America came up with a simple formula to determine
if a boat had bluewater capability. The formula compares beam with displacement,
since excess beam contributes to capsize and heavy displacement reduces
capsize vulnerability. The formula is the maximum beam divided by the
cube root of the displacement in cubic feet, or B/3square root symbolDISPL
cf. The displacement in cubic feet can be found by dividing the displacement
in pounds by 64, of course.

The boat is acceptable if the result of the calculation is 2.0 or less
but the lower the better. For example, a 12-meter yacht of 60,000-pound
displacement and 12-foot beam will have a CSF number of 1.23, so would
be considered very safe from capsize. A contemporary light displacement
yacht, such as a Beneteau 311 (7,716 lb, 10-foot 7-inch beam) has a CSF
number of 2.14, and a Dufour 38 (14,300 lb, 12-foot 7-inch beam) comes
in at 2.07. Based on the formula, while they are fine coastal cruisers,
the latter two yachts may not be the best choice for ocean passages.

Comfort Ratio (CR): This is a ratio I dreamed up, tongue-in-cheek,
as a measure of motion comfort but it has been widely accepted and, indeed,
does provide a reasonable comparison between yachts of similar type. It
is based on the fact that the faster the motion, the more upsetting it
is to the average person. Given a wave of X height, the speed of the upward
motion depends on the displacement of the yacht and the amount of waterline
area that is acted upon. Greater displacement, or lesser WL area, gives
a slower motion and more comfort for any given sea state.

Beam does enter into it as a wider beam increases stability, increases
WL area, and generates a faster reaction. The formula takes into account
the displacement and the WL area, and adds a beam factor. The intention
is to provide a means to compare the motion comfort of vessels of similar
type and size, not to compare that of a Lightning-class sloop with that
of a husky 50-foot ketch.

The CR is: Displacement in pounds/(.65 x (.7 LWL + .3 LOA) x B1.333 ). Ratios will vary from 5.0 for a light daysailer to the high 60s for
a super-heavy vessel, such as a Colin Archer ketch. Moderate and successful
ocean cruisers, such as the Valiant 40 and Whitby 42, will fall into the
low-to-middle 30s range.

Do consider, though, that a sailing yacht heeled by a good breeze will
have a much steadier motion than one bobbing up and down in light air
on leftover swells from yesterday’s blow. And remember that the typical
summertime coastal cruiser will rarely encounter the wind and seas that
an ocean-going yacht will meet. Nor will one human stomach keep down what
another stomach will handle with relish, or with mustard and pickles for
that matter! It is all relative.

We’ll tackle lead and helm balance in a future article.

Bowsprits, Bumpkins, and Belaying Pins


Bowsprits, bumpkins, and belaying pins

By Donald Launer

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 4, Number 6, November/December 2001.

Tried and trusted old fittings give character to modern yachts

Dolphin figurehead

you remember when all sailboats had wooden spars, manila lines, galvanized
fittings, and cotton sails, chances are you have problems with your waistline,
your hairline, and the number of teeth you can call your own. Those of
us who fit this category have a special feeling for those sailboats of
our youth, but those fond memories don’t include the maintenance
involved in boats of that period.

When people see our
schooner sail by, they see a boat from the turn of the century: a schooner
rig with bowsprit, figurehead, bumpkin, belaying pins, wooden blocks,
bronze portholes, lazy-jacks, and a graceful sheer. Yet she’s only
21 years old, with fiberglass hull, aluminum spars, and modern conveniences
throughout – a modern version of a small Down East schooner of
the last century. She’s one of the breed sailors call “character
boats,” befitting her skipper. Boats such as this are the “rediscovery”
in fiberglass of traditional cruising boats, such as schooners, catboats,
Friendship sloops, and other designs from the past.

Bumpkin, short boom in the stern

the conscious mind is thinking, “She looks dated . . . slow,”
sneaking into the subconscious are thoughts of coastal trading, Tahiti,
and the whole mystique of other times, faraway places, and nostalgia.
But traditional beauty doesn’t necessarily mean being impractical.


Take the bowsprit,
for example. On our schooner it provides a sailplan longer than the boat’s
hull. With a lower center of effort there is less heeling, and more sail
can be carried. This translates into drive power.

When tied up at a
mooring buoy in an area with wind, current, and tide changes, a “bull
rope” from the tip of the bowsprit can prevent the hull from striking
the mooring buoy. This bull rope consists of an extra line from the ring
of the buoy to the tip of the bowsprit, with just enough tension to keep
the mooring buoy away from the bow.

Bowsprits traditionally
found homes on cruising boats, but then for several decades they were
abandoned. In the last few years, a resurgence in the use of bowsprits
has occurred in reproductions of old designs as well as in the racing
classes that allow them. With a bowsprit, more of the headsail is free
from interference by the main, and in fresh winds the center of effort,
which is farther forward, reduces weather helm and pressure on the rudder.

Belaying pins

many racing boats, the bowsprit is made retractable, either into the hull
or along the deck, and unguyed carbon-fiber bowsprits are now emerging
on the scene.

Our solid teak bowsprit
provides a perfect platform on which to sit and watch the bow wave or
the dolphins. Besides, without a bowsprit where would we put the figurehead?


A millennium before Christ, the Egyptians carved the heads of deities
on the bows of their ships, and the Romans, Greeks, and Phoenicians carried
on this tradition, dedicating their ships to their gods and goddesses
in the hope of ensuring safe voyages. The “dragon ships”
of the Vikings were adorned with menacing snarling dragon heads carved
from oak which were intended to terrify the raiders’ victims and
to guard against evil spirits at sea. The power of figureheads was thought
to be so great that at one time Iceland insisted that foreign ships remove
them before entering her waters.

Captain Bligh reported
that the Tahitians were fascinated with the figurehead on the HMS Bounty
(see photo on Page 48). He described it as “a pretty figure of
a woman in a riding habit,” who was lifting her skirts over the
seas with her right hand as she looked ahead of the ship. This painted
likeness was the first representation of an Englishwoman the Tahitians
had ever seen. Bligh wrote: ” … and they kept gazing at it for

Bounty figurehead replica

Above, the replica of the HMS Bounty figurehead stands as a proud lookout on a reproduction of Captain Bligh’s Bounty, built in 1960 in Nova Scotia.
Below, while admiring the figurehead on Delphinus, the author’s granddaughter, Jenny, becomes a figurehead in her own right.

Young girl with Dolphin figurehead

Although a century
or two ago figureheads became merely ornamental, many American commercial,
and even Naval, ships were still sent to sea with elaborate carvings at
their bows. The frigate Constitution was launched in 1797 adorned with
a bust of Hercules. But Hercules was not up to the foray with the Barbary
Coast pirates at Tripoli, where the figurehead was destroyed.

Our schooner, Delphinus,
is named for the constellation of the dolphin and, therefore, sports a
carved teak figurehead of a leaping dolphin beneath her bowsprit (pictured
at left above). It serves not only as a decorative appendage, but also
as a bowsprit brace. It’s a great hit both on the water and at
dockside. It seems to have a special attraction for children.

As enlightened sailors,
we know our figurehead is purely decorative, yet sometimes there’s
the feeling of a “presence” at our bow, guiding us through
foggy and unfamiliar waters.

Belaying pins

Another rare item on sailing vessels nowadays is the belaying pin. The
closest most sailors come to them is during visits to the tall ships or
when watching a deck fight in an old pirate movie. Who would think of
using them on today’s craft? They’re out of fashion, impractical
and archaic . . . and I love them.

In the olden days,
belaying pins were made of hardwood, usually locust, and sometimes bronze,
iron, or brass. They were used to secure and store lines, particularly
the running rigging. Securing a line to a belaying pin is the same as
to a cleat. The added advantage is the speed and ease with which a line
that is belayed, or made fast, can be released. When the pin is pulled,
the line falls to the deck in an untangled flaked-out pattern, ready to
run freely.

Belaying pins are
used to provide increased friction to control a line by taking a single
round-turn and one or more “S” turns around the pin. This
is to “belay” the line. When a single hitch or slip-hitch
is added to the belayed turns, the line is “made fast” (see

The large sailing
ships of yesteryear frequently set their belaying pins in holes in the
“pin-rail,” which was fixed inside the bulwarks or incorporated
as part of the bulwark or main rail as in the photo below. Short pin-rails,
fastened to the standing rigging are called “pin-racks,”
and around the mast on deck, rectangular or U-shaped racks, called “fife-rails,”
are used to make fast and store halyards. A variation of the fife-rail
is used on modern sailboats, where the mast pulpit is combined with a
small pin-rack. A “spider band” was sometimes fitted around
the mast a little above deck level, with holes for the belaying pins.
This was sometimes called a “spider hoop” or “spider
iron.” Stanchion-mounted pin-racks are used for storing coils of
line and are both decorative and utilitarian.

For the do-it-yourselfer,
belaying pins can be turned out on the most basic of lathes from brass,
bronze, or scrap hardwood. But remember, those metal ones don’t
float! With today’s teak prices, it’s nice to know that
those teak scraps can be turned into beautiful belaying pins for onboard
use or home decoration.

Our schooner is rigged
in the old Grand Banks manner with no sheet winches. To attain mechanical
advantage, multiple-part block and tackle is used for each of the sheets.
This presents the problem of long coils of line ending up in the cockpit
due to the 4:1 block ratio. This would be a colossal spaghetti pot if
it weren’t for the pin-racks we’ve installed, not for belaying
as such, but rather as an attractive and practical way of keeping our
sheets out from underfoot.

When I built our
schooner, I added belaying pins because they “belonged”
on a schooner with traditional lines, not because I had ever used them
before. Now, I couldn’t imagine sailing without them. As well as
being useful, they add that needed touch of character. And they’re
good for dispatching that fish you caught on the lure trailing astern
or for fighting off pirates.

The bumpkin

Bumpkin knots

And, oh yes,
the bumpkin (sometimes called boomkin or bumkin). This is a short boom,
frequently V-shaped, extending from the stern, to which the backstay or
mizzen sheet block is attached. When used for the backstay, along with
an associated bumpkin stay, it allows for a longer mainsail boom and frequently
eliminates the need for running backstays. It provides a more practical
lead angle for the mizzen sheet for a ketch or yawl. On our schooner,
the mainsail extends all the way to the stern of the boat, with the bumpkin
keeping the permanent backstay well out of the way (see photo).

For years we looked
for a retirement boat that would fill our specs until we happened to stumble
across our little schooner design from the board of Ted Brewer. It meets
our needs completely, and seems appropriate for our vintage years. When
we sail by with everything up, people turn to watch or take pictures.
With that gray-haired and bearded character at the wheel, they probably
think it’s an apparition from the past. After all, how often do
you see a small schooner with bowsprit, wood blocks, figurehead, belaying
pins, and bumpkin?

Don is a Good
Old Boat contributing editor. He holds a USCG captain’s license
and is a frequent contributor to boating magazines. He built his traditionally
rigged schooner from a bare hull and keeps it next to his home on a waterway
off Barnegat Bay on the New Jersey coast.

Preparing For The Big Blow


Preparing for the Big Blow

By Don Launer

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 5, Number 3, May/June 2002.

Don’t wait until it happens; get your boat ready now

Hurricane Gloria (color)

Photos above and below taken during Hurricane Gloria in 1985.

Hurricane Gloria (B & W)

My first memory, as
a small child, was being in the middle of a hurricane in the North Atlantic.
It was the 1930s. Our family was returning by ship from a European vacation
in the days before radar and weather satellites. One day before arriving
in New York, we blundered into a hurricane that was moving up the East
Coast. Portholes were knocked out of the side of the ship, and our deck
was awash with about two feet of water in which our suitcases sloshed
about in our cabin. The ship almost didn’t make it. At the New
York pier, dozens of ambulances were waiting for passengers who had broken
arms and legs or skull fractures.

June of each year marks the
official beginning of the hurricane season. Even though most hurricanes
spawned in the tropics don’t find their way to our shores, strong
cold fronts and their associated thunderstorms can also have devastating
winds – frequently of hurricane strength. No matter where you live,
storms are a fact of life. While our property on land is vulnerable to
the winds and storm surge, our floating property is even more vulnerable.

If you heard a radio announcement
that a major storm would hit your area within 24 hours, would you have
a plan of action for taking care of your boat? The majority of boatowners
don’t. The time to plan for the onslaught is not when you hear
the announcement; the time is now.

Sunny-day preparations

Many precautions can be taken when the weather is clear and calm. Begin
by checking that your deck-cleats are adequately through-bolted, with
substantial back-up plates. Are the cleats large enough to take large-diameter
storm lines, with more than one line on the same cleat? Will the chocks
handle these storm lines when they’re encased in chafing gear?
Do you have large-size mooring lines made up to the proper length with
eye-splices that will fit your cleats? Do you have fenderboards if you
will be tied to a dock or canal wall? All these chores take time, and
when a storm is approaching, time is one thing that’s in short

When that storm is expected

On sailboats, one of the most important things is to reduce windage by
removing all the sails, especially roller-furling headsails, and certainly
the dodger. Even seemingly innocuous halyards create wind resistance.
A 1/2-inch halyard going to the top of a 50-foot mast presents
4 square feet of resistance to the wind. Booms that can be easily removed
can be stowed in the cabin. On small sailboats, unstepping the mast is
a good idea. Anything on deck that can’t be removed should be lashed
down firmly. Vulnerable antennas should be taken off, and plastic compass
and instrument gauge covers should be removed or secured with duct tape.

Remove boom to reduce windage

Removing the boom to reduce windage and checking the mooring.

Checking the mooring

If it is at all possible,
boats should be removed from the water and stored on land. An MIT study
after Hurricane Gloria found that boats stored ashore were far more likely
to survive than boats in the water. If a boat is stored on land it should
be well above any possible storm surge and not stored in high-rise storage

You have to prepare for more
than the wind. In tidal areas, the storm surge – that sudden rise
of water level due to the combination of low pressure and onshore winds
– is usually responsible for most of the damage. In addition, open
boats must take into account the huge amounts of rainfall that accompany
hurricanes, nor’easters, and thunderstorms. Is your open cockpit
self-draining with nothing loose that can clog the drain? On boats without
self-draining cockpits, is the battery charged so that the automatic electric
bilge pump can handle the job?

Hurricane holes

Rivers and man-made canals usually provide good “hurricane holes”
if the boat must remain in the water. In natural hurricane holes, the
shallower the water where the boat is anchored, the better, since this
provides a better scope ratio for your anchor line. The bottom composition
is of great importance, with a sandy bottom giving the best anchor set.
Survey the shoreline around a hurricane hole. If your boat should drag,
will it end up on a sandy beach or on the rocks?

If there is no time to find
a snug harbor and your boat has to weather a storm at anchor, the best
anchoring bottoms, in descending order of holding, are: sand, clay, hard
mud, shells, and soft mud. Needless to say, the larger the anchors and
the more anchors deployed, the better. A BoatU.S. test found that embedment
type anchors – those that are screwed into the bottom –
are the most likely to hold.

Boats in canals usually survive
better than boats at a marina, provided they’re tied properly and
protected from pounding canal bulkheads. A boat kept in the middle of
a canal has the best chance – however this requires cooperation
from property owners on both sides of the waterway. During Hurricane Andrew,
one boatowner tied his 26-foot powerboat in the center of a canal using
eight 3/4-inch lines, creating a spider web, with his boat as the
spider in the center. The boat survived without a scratch. Boats fastened
to the bulkheads of canals didn’t fare as well, due to pounding
from wind and waves. If you plan to moor your boat in the middle of a
canal, remember that this can block access to others who have yet to arrive,
so the final tieup probably cannot be done until the last minute.

More fendering

Boats secured to a canal bulkhead should employ additional fendering.
Usually inflatable fenders just don’t do the job, since it’s
impossible to keep them at the right location, and they frequently collapse
from pressure or abrasion. It’s a better idea to make up fenderboards
well in advance, so they can be hung on the sides of the boat to help
protect it from pounding. In addition, one or more anchors deployed out
into the waterway will help take some of the strain off the fenders.

One of the biggest
problems when a boat is kept at a bulkhead or in a marina is the boat’s
hull rising above short bulkhead pilings due to the unusually high water
level during the storm surge, from the wave action, or from both. When
this happens, the boat is frequently impaled on the piling. Properly installed
floating docks make fendering and mooring easier. Pilings high enough
to be well above the rubrail of boats during the height of the storm surge
are a necessity. Wide slips, with pilings at their outer ends, are also
a big advantage in securing a boat that must weather the storm in a marina.

Aftermath of Hurricane Edouard, 1996

Aftermath of Hurricane Edouard in 1996

In a slip or at a
dock, the bow of the boat should face in the most unprotected or open-water
direction since this offers the least wind and wave resistance and reduces
the chance of waves flooding the cockpit. Boats that have bow-eyes to
winch them onto a trailer should make use of them as a strong fastening
point. Dockline lengths must be long enough to allow the boat to rise
to the maximum-expected storm surge (or beyond) and to make it possible
to run mooring lines to the farthest point possible. Unfortunately, long
line lengths usually mean that a boat in a confined slip has a good chance
of rubbing the pilings due to line stretch. Fenderboards are a big help
in this situation.

All cautionary material written
about storm survival stresses that you should not try to ride it out on
your boat if going ashore is an option. I certainly would not suggest
that staying with your boat at a marina – even if allowed –
is a good idea. Having said that, I must say that twice I have done just
that. When Hurricane Belle moved up the East Coast in 1976, I tended the
docks at a New Jersey yacht club where my boat was berthed. I adjusted
and moved lines on my boat as well as those on other boats I could get
to until the storm surge and waves began washing over the docks. Six boats
at the yacht club went to the bottom, but my boat survived without a scratch.

In September of 1985, my son,
Tom, and I tended lines and weathered Hurricane Gloria aboard our schooner
in a slip in a marina off Barnegat Bay on the New Jersey coast. On both
of these occasions, line tending and adjusting prevented our boat from
sustaining any damage.

Nylon mooring lines

Using chafe protection 1
Using chafe protection 2

Using chafe protection

When a big blow is moving your way, large diameter lines should be installed
in place of, or in addition to, the normal mooring lines.

Nylon mooring lines
are the material of choice, since they provide both strength and a shock-absorbing
effect against sudden strains. The downside of this shock-absorbing protection
is that these nylon lines s-t-r-e-t-c-h. At a mere 200 pounds of force,
a 1/4-inch line, 20 feet long, can stretch four feet or more. Under the
same force, a 1/2-inch line of 20 feet will stretch only about one foot.
The rule of thumb is that a good-quality nylon line will stretch 25 percent
of its length at 50 percent of its breaking strength. This stretch factor
must be taken into account when you are setting up storm lines so that the
stretch caused by wind and wave pressure won’t allow the boat to
pound the dock, the pilings, or an adjoining boat. Remember, larger diameter
equals less stretch. Double the diameter and you cut the stretch to one-quarter
(the stretch is inversely proportional to the square of the diameter). Also,
larger-diameter lines are less likely to fail from chafing.

An unexpected finding by MIT
after Hurricane Gloria showed that many nylon lines that were angled across
a chock failed internally when the core melted from the friction created
by repeated stretch cycles. Most high-quality nylon lines are treated
with a lubricant to reduce this type of failure, but this lubricant dissipates
with the aging of the line. Another little-known quality of nylon line
is that when wet it loses about 15 percent of its strength (which returns
when the line has dried out). Since we are most concerned with strength
during storm conditions – when the line is wet – this is
another item to factor into the equation of storm-line size. It’s
also important to know that for lines of equal diameter, a braided line
has more strength than a 3-ply line, and colored line has slightly less
strength than fibers that have been left natural.

Mooring precautions

Helicopter after Hurricane Bob, 1991

After Hurricane Bob in 1991

For those boats that weather a storm on a mooring, there are special considerations.
Most yacht clubs and marinas prescribe the equipment used on a permanent
mooring, so the underwater portion of a mooring is usually beyond the
control of the boatowner. However the pendant, or pendants (there should
be at least two) – from mooring to boat – should be checked
carefully. Since they go through the bow chocks at a sharp angle, they
are especially subjected to stress and abrasion, and extra chafing protection
is necessary.

When Keith and Gloria Lyman
had their boat on a mooring in the Hudson River during a nor’easter,
it broke away and went on the rocks. “Although the mooring and
pendants were in good condition, there were sharp corners on the bow chocks
that eventually sawed through the chafing gear and pendants,” Keith
recalls. As a chafe-preventer, heavy canvas is good insurance. Plastic
or rubber hose is not as good because it can cause the mooring line to

This brings us to the question
of nylon line quality. There is a wide range of nylon lines, with the
cheaper nylon stretching more and having considerably less abrasion-resistance
and internal lubrication – so don’t skimp here. It’s
much cheaper buying high-quality line than buying a new boat. Insurance
companies estimate that up to half of the boat damage due to Hurricane
Andrew, which hit Florida in August 1992, could have been prevented with
adequate docklines.
Unfortunately, no matter how well you protect your own boat, frequently
it’s the careless boatowner near you whose boat is poorly tied
or breaks loose who can be the cause of your damage. When one boat damages
another under these Act-of-God catastrophes, insurance companies seldom
hold one owner liable for damage to another’s boat. The damage
to your boat from the negligence of another owner is the same as if it
were your own fault.



Rubrail just 2 feet from top of the dock pilings

Don Launer reports that during one nor’easter the rubrail of his schooner was just two feet from the top of his dock pilings

To help prevent the
problem of inadequately tied boats, many marinas and yacht clubs specify
minimum line diameters for docklines. It’s a rule designed to counter
stupidity. It wouldn’t hurt to encourage this policy in all marinas
and yacht clubs, and boatowners should see to it that it is enforced for
their own protection. A corollary to this rule should be the requirement
of larger-sized and additional lines when a storm is predicted.

For sailboat owners, there
is another consideration. When sailboats are in adjacent slips there is
the possibility that the boats will roll “out of sync” and
as they do that their masts and rigging will foul each other. These impacts
can eventually break shrouds and drop a mast on deck, in the water, or
on another boat. It would be nice if there were always a powerboat in
slips between sailboats to prevent this from happening, but it’s
not a perfect world.

Roller-furling jibs

The worst knockdown we’ve ever had – a 90-degree one –
occurred several decades ago in the relatively benign waters of the Intracoastal
Waterway. With a thunderstorm approaching, we anchored our 26-foot sloop
off-channel and battened down the hatches. I took special care to furl
our roller-furling jib as tightly as possible – so tight, in fact,
that there were not enough turns on the furling drum to roll it up completely.
This left a handkerchief-sized section of jib out. When the squall-line
of the thunderstorm hit, the winds, as measured on shore, clocked over
75 mph – hurricane force. We were safely inside the cabin when
suddenly we heard a loud “snap,” and our world turned sideways.
The wind had grabbed the small section of jib, and the plastic clam-cleat
that held the furling line was unable to hold. The furling line ran through
the cleat, melting all the teeth, and the genoa came out fully.

What had we done wrong? First,
there should have been enough turns on the furling drum to allow the jib
to be tightly and completely furled, with two or three turns of jib sheets
to complete the job. Second, although clam cleats are frequently convenient
while sailing, they should not be relied on in storm situations.
A few years later we observed the same thing happen to another boat in
the yacht club where we were weathering Hurricane Belle. Although we survived
the hurricane with no problems, the boat whose genoa unfurled at the height
of the storm sustained severe damage.

We may have a very
calm season, but if The Big Blow comes, will you be ready?

Hooking … for a good night’s sleep

By Jerry Powlas

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 2, Number 2, March/April 1999.

The wind had shifted overnight. A sea was starting to run into the
anchorage from the exposed direction, so we decided to leave. We
finished the breakfast dishes and pulled in the “off-duty hook.”
Karen motored up to the windward hook. I snubbed the rode as she went
over it. It broke out; I pulled it in and stowed both anchors and rodes. I was still humming cheerfully to myself when I closed the
starboard cockpit locker over the storm anchor and sat down to finish
my tea.

A lot had changed since we started hooking with “little”
Mystic. In the beginning I didn’t hum much, and my tea would have
gotten cold before I got the anchors stowed.

It took me a while to get interested in anchoring. The first
serious anchors in my life weighed 22 tons. A single link of the
all-chain rode was more than a strapping young sailor could lift. I
honestly never doubted that such gear would “take the ground” and
hold a 22,000-ton cruiser securely.

I still was not worrying much about anchors years later when
I raced my Flying Scot. Class rules said we had to carry an anchor,
so I did – the smallest one I could get away with. There was no
mention of chain in the rules, so I didn’t carry chain. It would have
added weight, and I never once considered the possibility that I
would actually anchor that little daysailer anyway. She was drysailed
from her lift and only on race days.

Then we bought Mystic, maybe 10,000 pounds in cruising trim.
Suddenly I had a serious interest in anchoring. We had enough
anchoring adventures during the first season to learn the questions.
It took several more seasons of experimenting to learn some of the

Things change

Anchoring by equilateral triangle

In among islands and against the shore where most anchoring is done,
the wind direction may vary during the course of an evening. By
sundown, when we most often anchor, the breeze is frequently off the
land – not necessarily the prevailing wind direction of a few hours
earlier nor the direction of the predicted shift. Anchors are
normally set to the existing wind at the moment of anchoring. It’s
the easiest thing to do. At least the boat will tend properly to her
anchor for a while, but often the wind will be from another direction
by morning.

If there is a tidal current involved, the odds are it will
have changed direction by morning. Some sailors rely on their anchor
to reset itself when it is pulled out of the bottom and dragged in a
new direction. Most of the time an anchor will do that, but not
always. Slash, debris, rocks, weeds, and even heavy clay and mud can
prevent an anchor from resetting. We figure our odds of a reset are
about as good as our odds of getting a set in the first place: good,
but not good enough.

Laying anchors on the bottom

In those early days, we were never blown ashore nor out to
sea because of an anchor that failed to reset. We learned that cold
fronts and thunderstorms always have a wind shift associated with
them. We had our anchor drag because of these shifts, but we were
always awake and able to respond quickly. We reasoned that Neptune
was trying to tell us something, and if we didn’t heed the message
delivered in daylight, we were sure to get one in the wee small
hours. We started experimenting with alternatives, looking for a
better way.

Use two anchors, mon

The anchoring method that follows is a variation of Bahamian mooring,
which may be defined simply as using two anchors off the bow. The
beauty of this method is that as the boat swings with wind and tide,
she hangs from one anchor, then both, and then finally the other
anchor in tending through a 180-degree swing. Any wind direction can
be accommodated. As with so many aspects of sailing, it is the
details that determine the success or failure of this method.

The simple case

Most of the time it is this simple: Drop the first anchor, fall back
downwind about seven times the depth, and set it. Drop the second
anchor off the stern. Pull in about half of the first rode and set
the second anchor by hand pulling from the bow. Put equal lengths of
rode out for both anchors. Use a rode length roughly equal to the
distance between the two anchors in the bottom.

We normally anchor in 14 to 16 feet, and let out 100 feet of
rode for each anchor. That gives us roughly a 7:1 scope, which works
well for the kind of anchors we use. We want our anchors about 100
feet apart on the bottom. By dropping off the stern and setting from
the bow, we give the second anchor some distance to set and some
added scope. After the first anchor sets and the engine stops pulling
astern, the boat will spring forward on the elasticity of the rode.
To get it to the bottom before the boat moves forward, drop the
second anchor just as the prop stops. Then, to keep the rodes out of
the prop, it is better to pull the boat forward without the engine.
If the engine must be used to move forward, control both lines to
keep them out of the prop. Note: both anchors are deployed without
using the dinghy. Nothing in this method requires rowing an anchor
out to deploy it.

When simple’s not enough

Anchoring patterns

In more challenging situations, it is good to understand how your
boat can move when Bahamian moored; it is also important to
understand the direction and magnitude of the loads on the anchor

You can see in the illustration that in a single anchor
mooring the boat is free to move within a circle with a radius
roughly equal to the length of rode that is out (ignoring scope and
three-dimensional considerations for simplicity).

With a single anchor, it is necessary to make sure that, if
your boat swings toward shore, you will have enough depth. This
requires anchoring farther off to allow for the swing. Even so, there
is always some guesswork in making this allowance, and sometimes it
would be nice to go closer to shore.

Closer to the shore

Note in the illustration that with a Bahamian moor, the boat is only
free to move within the common zone of the intersection of the two
circles. With this arrangement, when you drop the first anchor up
against the windward shore, you are as close to shore as you are
going to get. The anchor to leeward will not allow you to get any
closer. Knowing this allows you the option of going in closer to
shore when there is an advantage to doing so. Considering the example
above of anchoring in 14 to 16 feet of water and letting out 100 feet
of rode, if you choose, you could anchor in 7 feet of water and let
out 50 feet of rode (vessel draft and tide permitting).

Anchoring in closer quarters

Because she is constrained within the common zone of the intersection
of the two circles, your boat will not swing over as much area, so
you can anchor in closer quarters. Using the example above, instead
of the area within a 200-foot diameter circle, your boat will be
restricted to a bloated diamond shape that is 100 feet across the
short dimension and 173 feet across the long dimension. This is
substantially less than half the area of the alternative circle. By
knowing that the longest dimension of the diamond is perpendicular to
the two anchors, you can lay them to best advantage in close quarters.

Restrict your swing more

Boat swings when anchored

There are two more ways you can reduce the area of your swing.
Remember you have the option of going in closer with a Bahamian moor.
If you were to anchor in 7 feet and let out 50 feet of rode, you
would swing inside of a diamond only 50 by 87 feet. Have a care for
the tide and the regularity of the bottom, if you cut it that close.

You can also anchor, as in the first example, initially
letting out 100 feet of rode so the anchors are about 100 feet apart
in the bottom, and then you can shorten both rodes to something less
than 100 feet. (See illustration.) This works well enough but has
drawbacks. If you shorten both rodes to 75 feet, you will only have
5:1 scope. If you shorten the rodes to 58 feet you will be at 4:1.
Depending on the kind of anchors you have, this may or may not be
beyond their limit. In our experience with our Fortress and Viking
(both aluminum fluke-style) anchors, 7:1 is conservative, 5:1 is
workable, and 4:1 might not be such a good idea. Always go with “conservative” when you can. There are some obvious variations of this
method that are not recommended. One obvious way to restrict the
swing of your boat is to put in two anchors widely spaced and then
pull in all the slack so the boat is fastened to a straight line made
up of the two rodes. Don’t do that. There will be no problem as long
as the boat is pulling along the line between the two anchors,
directly on one anchor or the other. However, if the boat were to
pull in a direction perpendicular to the line between the two
anchors, it would have infinite mechanical advantage until the lines
stretched, the anchors dragged, or something broke.

To give you a sense of how this works, look at the
illustration. With the anchors 100 feet apart, 100 feet of rode let
out to each anchor, and the boat pulling perpendicular to the axis
through the anchors, there is an equilateral triangle formed. Each
leg is 100 feet. With the boat pulling 1,000 pounds force on the
combined system, the pull on each anchor rode is 577 pounds, or
slightly more than half. If you haul in enough of each rode to make
the angle between the two rodes go from 60 degrees – as in the first
case – to 120 degrees, the pull on each rode will be 1,000 pounds
when the boat is pulling 1,000 pounds on the combined system. This
may seem like cheating, but it gets worse. If you could make the
angle between rodes 150 degrees, the pull on each rode will be 1,932
pounds. And as we said, if you could pull all the rode in to make the
angle between the rodes 180 degrees, the pull on each rode would be
infinite. That won’t last long in reality, because something will
give, and the angle will increase. We recommend that you use the
equilateral triangle layout where possible and always limit the angle
between rodes to less than 120 degrees. Within these limits, the pull
on any rode is never larger than the total pull from the boat.

Anchors set 100 feet apart

Another variation we do not recommend is to let out more rode
than the distance between the anchors, for example, letting out 200
feet of rode when the anchors are set 100 feet apart. This will
increase your scope, but it will also allow the rode from the
“loaded” anchor to lay over, and possibly foul, the unloaded anchor.
By limiting the individual rode lengths to the distance between the
anchors, the rodes never quite lay over and foul the anchors. Even
with the equilateral triangle arrangement we prefer, a strong bottom
current might be able to wash an anchor’s own rode over it and so
foul it. In areas with very strong currents, pulling in some rode
might be helpful to prevent this.

A few small details

We usually anchor in the lee of the land. We put in our smaller
anchor first. The larger anchor is set to seaward. It has more chain
with it, and is more likely to set when pulled by hand. A blow from
the direction of shore puts less of a load on the anchors because the
shore blunts the effect of the wind, and there are no waves. Our
smaller anchor handles that direction. A blow from seaward puts more
load on the system, having more wind and waves, so our larger (storm)
anchor is set in that direction. Set the bigger anchor against the
bigger load.

If the bottom has a very steep slope, you may be confronted
with setting the second anchor in fairly deep water, perhaps 25 feet.
If that happens, don’t worry so much about the anchor scope, which
would theoretically be 4:1. The sloping bottom will work in favor of
the situation, making the effective pull on the anchor quite parallel
to the bottom, which is all that a long scope accomplishes.

Ways to rig the anchors

Ways to rig the anchor, version 1

We have not tried this technique with a wide range of anchor types
and rodes. We use a Viking and a Fortress, both aluminum fluke
anchors similar to a Danforth in shape. The smaller Viking is on six
feet of chain, and the Fortress FX 16 (sized to be a storm anchor) is
on 15 feet of chain. We have not tried to do any of this with an
all-chain rode, but we can’t think of why it would not work.

We first tried using a 200-foot line with thimbles at both
ends, tying it off in the middle at the boat. That works fairly well,
but translates into a lot of line to move, pile, and stow. We have
found a much handier alternative. Omega Pacific makes a hardened
steel carabiner that has the proper working strength for our
anchoring system. We use 1/2-inch nylon double braid and 5/16-inch
proof coil chain. We use carabiners to connect the anchors to the
chains and the chains to the rodes. We use two 100-foot rodes with
thimbles at each end and a third line (which need not be very long
for anchoring) to connect the two rodes to each other and to cleat
off on deck.

Ways to rig an anchor, version 2

This rigging allows the boat to swing on the anchors without
the rodes twisting up. (See photo.) What little twist there is, we
can untwist when we bring the junction of the three lines aboard. We
originally got these carabiners to use with our sea anchor. We didn’t
want to spend too much time on the foredeck with shackles,
marlinespikes, safety wire, and wire cutters while the boat was
pitching in a large sea. We thought it better to have rigging that
could be worked with one hand. We rig our sea anchor to the anchor
rodes and can let out 600 feet of line because the “short line”
described earlier is really a tied-off 400-footer, with the remaining
380 feet of it packed in a cotton laundry bag stored below. The
carabiners are the key to making up this rig in a hurry in heavy
weather conditions. They also allow the two anchors to be rigged and
put over or retrieved and stowed more easily. All parts of the system
can be broken down quickly without tools because of the carabiners.

The corrosion resistance of the carabiners is an issue. They
are certainly fine for use in fresh water. We have used them on Lake
Superior without a problem for several years. Salt water is another
matter. We have learned that these fittings are used for towing
underwater research equipment in saltwater service but are not used,
to our knowledge, for ocean anchoring.

We contacted the manufacturer, Omega Pacific, and asked them
if they had any plans to make a more corrosion-resistant carabiner
for marine saltwater service. Bill Griggers, marketing manager,
explained that the existing carabiners are made from hardened steel
with a high-quality zinc chromate/gold plating. They have stainless
steel rivets and springs and are considered adequate for freshwater
service. He noted that Omega Pacific is developing a line of
all-stainless steel carabiners for marine use. We asked Bill to tell
us when this product is on the market. There are galvanized anchor
shackles available that are strong enough, and less costly, but they
are not as handy.

There you have it. Two hooks put in properly will contribute
more to a good night’s sleep than a hot cocoa, a roomy bunk, and a
thick mattress. Happy hooking.

Photos by the Singlehander

By Drew Frye

Singlehanded sailing and photography don’t always go together. Throw in some brisk wind, maybe a tender boat, perhaps no autopilot, and capturing the moments and scenes on camera can be a real challenge.

As a freelance writer for magazines, I’m often in need of good photos of specific subjects, and sometimes these photos can be captured only while under sail. Sometimes I’m sailing alone. Sometimes my hands or I need to be in the shot. I’m always thinking of solutions.

The conventional tripod is out of the question while under way. The ubiquitous “selfie stick” limits POV options. And many of the hundreds of clamp-on brackets are either a bit too fussy or won’t grab where I happen to need them to be.

Some years ago, it occurred to me that a winch socket could provide an additional camera mounting point, and so I began watching for a broken winch handle to use as a base, but none came my way. Then I got an idea.

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Testing the Waters in PHRF Part 2

Justin Taylor and Tony Berends tend to sail trim aboard a Beneteau First 345 racing alongside a sister ship helmed by its owner, Kenny Byth.


If at first you don’t have speed, trim, trim, and trim again

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By Rudy and Jill Sechez

In warm weather, full-length foul-weather pants are rather uncomfortable to wear for too long. A more comfortable option we’ve found is to take a pair of full-length pants and cut them so that the legs fall about 2 inches below the bottom edge of the shorts we usually wear (plan to cut a little longer to allow length to fold and hem). These improved foulie bottoms are cooler to wear while still keeping our shorts, and everything in our pockets, dry. Most anyone should be able to make the necessary alterations with needle and thread, no machine sewing is necessary.

Jill and Rudy Sechez have cruised for 20 years and still enjoy using paper charts, lead line, compass, and oil lighting. They have built seven of the nine boats they’ve owned, including their current boat, a 34-foot sail-assisted trawler, Briney Bug, and its 8-foot rowing dinghy, one of five they’ve designed. They have written numerous articles for boating magazines and their book, Anchoring, a Ground Tackler’s Apprentice, was published by Waterway Guide Media. The couple are available for speaking engagements: rudyandjill@yahoo.com.

Sketch It First

By Gregg Bruff

Editor’s note: Has this happened to you? You’re out for a sail and realize the cockpit-led reefing line or mainsheet that has sailed many years with you is showing signs of wear or UV damage. Back at the dock you remove it, buy a replacement line from a chandler, and then, ready to run the new line, realize you don’t remember whether to run the new line inside or outside the lazy jacks, or how to thread it through the multi-sheave blocks to gain the necessary purchase… contributor Gregg Bruff has the answer:

In a plastic notebook binder, I keep a sketch I made of how the mainsheet runs through the blocks correctly. In the same notebook I keep also a cheat-sheet on the Mayday procedure, a layout of my switch control panel (upside down, as I access it from the cockpit), and any notes I make while sailing.


Six Lessons from a Simple Job

By Keith Davie

Before we sailed Sionna, our 1963 Triangle 32 ketch, south from Maine in August 2016, my wife, Nicki, and I spent many, many hours on repairs, preventive maintenance, and upgrades to ensure we had a reliable, comfortable home for our planned 8-month sojourn to the sunny south. But one of the tasks on our to-do list we didn’t complete was to re-bed her stanchion bases. Predictably, we discovered leaks shortly after we left. When I finally tackled the project, we were in Florida, at Marathon’s Boot Key Harbor. The job was straightforward, but it did require I draw on the following tips and tricks.

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Polishing Hack

By David Salter

Editor’s note: We have a hard time relating to David’s story. We’ve a 40-year-old boat and it’s difficult to imagine ever polishing her hull and losing track of where we finished off. Perhaps our incredulity is simply jealousy.

As our boat is 40 years old, she’s not free of blemishes but so far there is no indication of chalking on the gelcoat. Accordingly, every year when my wife, Eileen, and I polish the hull of our good old Mariner 28, Day by Day, we have the same problem: locating the area we just covered so that we don’t laboriously re-do parts of the hull twice over. We have made sporadic attempts to indicate the polished sections but nothing systematic. This year was going to be different!

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Shoreside Cooking Hack

A prepped can, ready to go.
A prepped can, ready to go.

By Jim Shell

We occasionally go to potluck events in our marina where four or five couples are trying to cook their food on a single gas/charcoal grill. There is usually too much food to cook on the grill at one time and we struggle to jockey the food so we all can eat at the same time. Side dishes in pots are usually cooked aboard and brought up the dock to shore to sit and get cold.

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The Cost of Sailing

By Don Davies

2017 was a disastrous sailing season for the boaters of the lower Great Lakes. At launch time in late April, the water was several feet higher than normal. Owners donned rubber boots to wade through several inches of water covering the docks just to get to their boats. Because they were under water, the docks were soon slick with algae, making the stroll to a boat perilous. Shore power was cut off because the electrics were under water. After a few of us experienced tingling while wading on the submerged service dock to step our masts, the crane was shut down and we worked to re-route the wiring to higher ground. Soon, every club on the lake was closed to visitors for safety considerations. Even for those who were determined to sail, there was no place to go. What is normally a six-month sailing season turned into two and a half months.

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