High Wind Sailing
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Animations embedded below – for best experience use Google Chrome Browser.
This week I did a practical Skipper Verification check out on one of our students. His initial comments to me was that he already knew how to sail but needed the rust blown out since he had not sailed for a few years and he also wanted to go through our Maneuvering Under Power practical training.
A cold front had come through that morning and thus the winds were cranking at 20 to 40 knots. This set up a perfect scenario for the above requirements.
My first comment on sailing in high winds is that mathematically, force on a sail is proportional to the square of the velocity. That is the difference between 5 knots and 10 knots is 4 times the force. But also look at this – the difference between 5 knots and 20 knots is 16 times. And the force between 5 knots to 40 knots is 64 times or hurricane strength is 256 times.
This means any imbalance on the helm to hold the boat in a straight line goes through the roof. The speed of water over the rudder accounts for some of the makeup required to counteract increased weather helm. If you double the water speed over the rudder , the rudder is 4 times more effective. But rarely do you get to quadruple the sailing speed of the boat so you get a diminishing return of rudder force combating the wind force on the sails.
All this means is that you’ve got to understand balancing the forces and what are the effects of each available sail control. One way is obvious and that is to reef the sails to reduce the area of the sails presented to the wind. But this is only linear. i.e. half the sail size = half the force. Quarter the sail size = quarter the force. Thus if if went from 5 knots wind speed to 20 knots and reefed the sails down to ½ then you still have 8 times the force on the sails. Still a lot!
The other balance thing to think about is the balance of the head sail and mainsail. In a nicely balanced boat you have a little bit of weather helm. This means a tiller is pulled slightly to weather (windward) to keep the boat sailing in a straight line. If you center the tiller, the boat will round up. On a wheel, you have the wheel turned slightly downwind to stop the rounding up propensity – if you center the wheel the boat will round up into wind. Most people think this is solely for safety, while it works for safety, the greatest advantage is that with the rudder pointed slightly upwind you get a windward force component on the boat helping your boat climb to weather marks (a point upwind).
When you start changing forces by 8 to 16 times any perfect balance systems you think you have start to get out of whack quickly. For example, on our Beneteau 373, anything over 12 knots of wind, we begin to round up into the wind and full rudder over can not stop the round up. i.e. there is too much weather helm. Not only are round ups dangerous but the increased weather helm creates excessive drag slowing the boat and water speed over the rudder and thus reduces rudder effectiveness. Additionally, heeling also reduces rudder area and thus effectiveness all the while you are trying to use the rudder to combat quadrupled wind force. Ahhh!
Therefore the first thing we do on the 373 is to reef the mainsail to shift the center of pressure forward which reduces the round up propensity. The center of pressure moves forward because the center of the combined area of the sails presented to the wind are now further forward. This is good because the sail pressure force moving forward tends to act to less push the aft of the boat downwind.
Play this animation to understand what I’m talking about here. I used a floating coke bottle because you can easily relate to taking your finger and pushing on either end of the bottle and watching it turn in the water. When you push on the bottom of the coke bottle the bottle turns to windward. This is equivalent to a lot of force on the main sail. To combat this you would turn and hold the rudder as if to turn the boat downwind – this creates pressure on the helm called weather helm. The tiller would be pointed to weather (wind).
When you push near the top of the bottle the bottle turns downwind. This is equivalent to a lot of force from the headsail. To combat this you would turn and hold the rudder as if to turn the boat upwind this creates pressure on the helm called lee helm. The tiller would be pointed to the lee.
Besides the importance of reefing to reduce sail area in both the main and head sail to try to gain back some balance, there are other things that you should be doing when sailing in high winds to reduce weather helm, reduce heeling, balance the sail plan and gain back some efficiencies.
Draft is the depth of curvature of the sail. The deepest part of the curve is called the position of the draft. Typically for a mainsail in best trim this should be at about 40-50% away from the mast. As wind picks up the draft position shifts back as the sail cloth stretches.
For high winds then you want to reduce the draft (flatten the sail) and move it forward to 40 – 50% from the mast.
To reduce the draft depth (curvature of the sail) flatten it by tightening the outhaul. To move the draft forward, tighten the Cunningham.
On our 373 we don’t have a Cunningham, so with the mainsail de powered we tighten the halyard as much as possible as well as cranking heavy on the outhaul.
Note that the outhaul will only tighten the foot of the sail. The mid to upper area of the sail is not affected much by the outhaul. Thus to flatten the mid to upper section of the mainsail on fractional rigged yachts tighten the backstay. This bends the mast and shifts the mid section of the sail forward and thus tightening (flattening) the midsection of the sail. Fractional rigged yachts are where the forestay does not connect to the top of the mast, rather it is connected a fraction of the way down. For this reason most racing boats are fractionally rigged with backstay tensioners.
Our 373 does not have a back stay tensioner as it is not a fractional rig (the forestay goes all the way to the top of the mast).
A few other tricks we used was to twist out the top of the sail by easing the mainsheet. This decreases sail power aloft and thus heel. We also depowered the lower part of the sail by easing the traveler to leeward which acts to move the center of pressure of the sail plan forward and thus decrease weather helm.
With all the above tricks we were able to sail the boat in this frontal wind system quite effectively. However we certainly got knocked around with the many wind bullets coming over the cliffs and down onto the lake. I’d say we more than shook the rust out of our test out sailor. He handled himself fine and thus passed the Verified Skipper Proficiency on his NauticEd Sailing Certification.
If you want more information on sail trim, take our sail trim course.
Sail Trim Course
Combating Prop Walk
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Prop walk can be quite frustrating on sailboats with a drive shaft. On most boats the aft of the boat “walks” to the port when the engine is put into reverse. It seems like there is nothing you can do. Watching this animation will help you deal with prop walk when backing into a slip. Note that however it is always best to start out far away from your slip with the aft pointed into wind. Then engage reverse at low revs. Once the boat speed has picked up, water flow over the rudder will combat the prop walk effect and you can begin to steer the boat in what ever direction you want. Water flow over the rudder is key to combating prop walk. Therefore DO NOT stop the boat’s motion before the boat enters the slip. To do so will be to start the boat from standing position again where the prop walk will take over and completely embarrass you in front of the entire marina.
Play the animation below.
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The Maneuvering a Sailboat Under Power Course is a must. In a marina is where you will have your accidents and they are not cheap. Become an absolute expert with the Maneuvering Under Power course. You’ll learn how to maneuver forwards, backwards, spin in tight circles, deal with a 40 knot cross wind, do a Mediterranean mooring with a cross wind etc etc. We put together 28 sample exercises that you can use to practice with. Take these exercises with you on a windy day, a mate, a few refreshments, lunch and have a fun day out. And become an expert. You’ll really like our most popular NauticEd Course and it’s part of your skipper certification – rightly so!
Maneuvering a Sailboat Under Power Course
Now also an iBook – view it on your iPad or now on Mac with the Mavericks update. Go to our Sailing Apps page
Maneuvering a Sailboat Under Power ibook
Back Winded Mainsail
We are on a close haul at 30 degrees to the wind. I want you to check out this photo and have a good look at the shape of the mainsail. The photo is taken on the windward side of the boat.
Look at the black seam line. Good or Bad?
Well is is doing exactly what I wanted it to do. The front of the sail is curved in on itself – but why?
On this day we had about 15 knots of wind and I had not yet reefed the mainsail BUT we were over powered. So I eased the mainsail traveller out a little but keeping the head sail in tight. This back pressured the leading leeward edge of the mainsail causing it to create an “S” shape. This pressure comes from back eddies at the forward leeward side of the mainsail and from pressure gathering between the main and the headsail pushing the leading edge to windward. I do this often prior to reefing. Effectively it reefs the sail. If you look, only the trailing last half of the main is powered up making the sail act almost exactly like it is reefed. BIG NOTE: the sail is not luffing. It is constantly in this shape if you’ve got it adjusted just right.
Back Winded Mainsail diagram
This effect can be seen in the image below. While I am the first one to recommend reefing the sails, this little trick can help you out when riding just on the edge. Try it next time you’re out.
Want more information on Sail Trim?
Take the NauticEd SailTrim Course!
Sail Trim Course
Imagine you are being chased by a pack of lions up to a mountain cliff with a 1000 ft drop below. How do you solve that?
Now what do you do?
Easy – just stop imagining.
Coming Soon – Crew Mates Authentication ™
Now imagine you would like to have an authenticated logbook. i.e. one that has been signed by others verifying that your time spend on a boat was real – that you didn’t just make it up. How can you get one?
Easy – just stop imagining. Coming soon NauticEd will add an optional ability to digitally authenticate your logbook. The value in this is enormous and exciting. In old paper days people had the captain of their ship sign their paper logbook for sea time. In commercial situations this still exists. Pilots do it also. But until now it has not been practical for a recreational sailor to keep a logbook and have it authenticated with a signature and then save it and mail it when requested. Charter Companies have always needed to rely upon honesty of the client when they fill out their resume.
In the digital age, with a little bit of code (actually a lot) an authenticated logbook becomes as easy as a click of the mouse.
Here is how the new NauticEd Authenticated Logbook works. First you set up your Crew Mates using our Crew Mate tool. These can be either other NauticEd students or not. When you make an entry into your logbook online now you simply (and optionally) select who you were out on the boat with. This then generates an auto email to your Crew Mates and asks them inside the email to do one click for authentication. If the Crew Mate is already a NauticEd student, then their logbook is also updated and authenticated. The authentication is optional of course – but with it being this easy for the student to build a fully authenticated logbook it becomes incredibly valuable – and sort after.
This is a revolutionary resume verification system for yacht charter companies now. For years people have asked how true really is the student’s logbook. The authenticity now is beyond question. You’ll have a fully authenticated logbook digitally signed by dozens of different people. Your experience is unrefutable.
Now take a look at elements of a NauticEd Certification
- Extensive online theory courses with interactive animations and video providing a real educational experience.
- Digital Logbook of sea-time
- Authenticated sea-time via people who were actually on the vessel
- Behavioral badges depicting real practical good boater activities.
Like us on Facebook or g+1 us and be the first to know when the authenticated logbook launches. Est. late April 2014.
Using a Wind Meter – get your head out of the boat
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First let me state my point of how to use a wind meter in strong language - stop watching the dang wind meter and get your head out of the boat.
Lately I’ve had a great opportunity to be out on the water teaching again and this issue has become very apparent so I’m going to iterate it here so that you get the point. Stop watching the wind meter – get your head out of the boat. And just one more time a little louder ; STOP WATCHING THE WIND METER AND GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF THE BOAT.
If you’re an old hat sailor then you’ll appreciate this article next time you’re out teaching a friend to take the helm. If you’re a new sailor then read on also.
Here is a analogy – imagine you were teaching your daughter to drive a car and you said to speed up to 50 miles per hour. So she put her head down and continued to look at the speedometer until it got to 50 miles per hour. One major thing would happen – you’d never get to 50 miles per hour. You’d be through a fence and upside down talking to the sheep. It is obvious right? Let’s look at what actually happens when you speed up to 50. Starting from say 30 you instantly calculate that you’ve got 20 mph to go so foot goes down while you continue to look at the road ahead. As the car speeds you flick check for 1/4 second at your speed – it’s now 40 – ah ten to go. You hold your foot for a bit longer while LOOKING AT THE ROAD. Another flick 1/4 sec check -45 hmmm only 5 to go – foot starts easing – flick 1/4 sec 48 – foot eases more WHILE LOOKING AT THE ROAD. 50 ahhh good. Now first time drivers might overshoot a little then ease back down then speed up a few times and that is natural – and they will get used to that over time to gain a feel for how the car reacts. As an old time driver – even given a formula one car I beat you could get it to 50 easily. BUT you would have done it by keeping your eyes on the road. You would not think of watching the speedo – you flick check 1/4 sec each time and make decisions and adjustments based on how far or close you are to the desired speed mark.
SO WHY DO NEW SAILORS WATCH THE WIND METER? (STOP IT BTW)
The reason new sailors watch the wind meter is that they are transfixed by it. Their brain is trying to process and calculate which way do they turn the wheel or tiller to make the meter get to the desired place. AND get this – their brain can not possibly calculate it so it transfixes them.
This is the thought process in a brain if you try to calculate it. So the captain said to keep the wind meter on 30 degrees on the meter and the wind is on my left. The meter reads 70 degrees pointing left – if I turn the wheel starboard that will make the meter numbers increase or decrease – hmmm um well lets see straight up and down is dead ahead and the wind is now coming from my left so if i turn the wheel to the right that will make the meter go um bigger um yes that’s right I think so perhaps to the left the meter will go smaller um yes I think so – wait does it? hmmm let me try an experiment … oh wait now the meter is reading 90 oh I steered way to much in the wrong direction but wait why did that happen I thought…
So now lets get into the brain of someone with their head out of the boat watching land and clouds.
- Flick check 1/4 sec – the wind meter is reading 70 and the captain said keep it on 30. So if it is at 70 the wind must be coming from that building on the land over there. The difference between 70 and 30 is 40. 40 degrees from my heading towards that building is that orange roof house. Ok let me aim for that. Like a car I just turn the wheel to aim for that house. Ok I am heading right on that house now.
- Flick check 1/4 sec – the meter reads 40 – oh so I need to go ten more degrees. That tower should do it. Turning a little little bit. Ok I’m on the tower.
- Flick check 1/4 sec – cool right on 30 degrees.
- (Then comes a little changing gust)
- Flick check 1/4 sec – ohh ohh creeping inside 30 degrees let me turn away from that tower downwind say 5 degrees – that’d be half way between the tower and the orange roof house.
- Flick check – 1/4 sec – cool back on 30 degrees.
So the mantra here is “flick check 1/4 sec”. You have got to explain to your student that trying to figure out which way to turn by watching the meter is impossible. You figure out which way to turn by looking at the land and the clouds and knowing which building tree house tower cloud that the wind is coming from. Then making your decisions about your heading based on that.
The processing in the brain looks like this:
- What angle on the boat is the wind coming from? (Flick check 1/4 sec – meter says 90 deg (say))
- What thing on the land is the wind coming from -that is 90 degrees to my boat? (That building there)
- What angle does the captain want me to be sailing at with the wind? (30 say)
- What is the angle difference? (60)
- What then should I aim for – what thing on the land is 60 degrees into the wind from my heading now?
You always calculate the new point to aim for based on what thing your boat is heading towards and the angle difference between your desired wind meter reading and the now wind meter reading.
So now a little test. The wind meter reads 30 and you want to go to 45. What is the angle change? Should you pick that angle from the heading of the boat or should it be from where the wind is coming? Should you turn into the wind or away from the wind?
Answer: Turn downwind to a new point 15 deg from where you are heading now. Once you have arrived at that point – flick check 1/4 sec – make new adjustments based on land objects.
Now there is always a few who say – what if you’re not aiming at land perhaps I should use the compass. NO NO! That will now have you transfixed on the compass. Get your head out of the boat and aim for a cloud. And if there are no clouds then tack the boat and aim for land - this exercise is about getting you used to making course adjustments based on the relative direction change of the boat. Once you master this you will never have to worry about this again. Master getting your head out of the boat for now and making course adjustments based on things out of the boat. Don’t worry about their being no clouds.
Time for an animation. Get the feel of what is happening with the land and the meter.
(our animations are best experienced using the Google Chrome browser)
And now for a test. Lets play “Captain Says…” To solve these questions put yourself on the boat. Don’t try to figure out which way to turn the boat according to the direction of anticipated movement of the needle of the wind meter. Be on the boat and turn into the wind or away from the wind.
If you like this animation and felt it helped please “LIKE” it. And share it with your crew mates.
If you thought this was cool, just wait until you take our Electronic Navigation course – its a big wow and you’ll be impressing others with your new knowledge.
Electronic Navigation Course
Rounding up is so – so – so dangerous. Last weekend we were out sailing and a speed boat came ripping by at about 20 knots to the windward of us and only about 60 ft away. Yes they are stupid – yes they should know better and yes they should be shot – but that is not going to save your life. You have to take responsibility for yourself out there. Think about what could happen if a last minute gust hit you and you rounded up into that speed boat. You’re dead – and actually by maritime law it would be your fault.
So you’ve got to know how to handle a wind bullet and you’ve got to be at the ready. A last minute gust can kill you and your crew.
… and btw if you are a speed boater please pass to the leeward side of a sailboat … (leeward is the downwind side btw)
First a definition and explanation of Weather Helm:
Forces from the wind aft of the keel are balanced by the rudder.
Weather helm is when the boat wants to turn towards the wind and you have to hold the helm in a leeward turning position to maintain a straight course. i.e. if you let the helm go the boat would automatically turn towards the wind.
Usually a boat is trimmed so that you purposefully have a little weather helm. Why? Well if you are turning the rudder so that you are fighting the weather helm it means that the leading edge of the rudder is pointing upwind. i.e. the boat wants to turn upwind but you are counteracting this by turning the boat downwind. Turning the boat downwind means by definition the leading edge is pointing upwind. See the graphic.
All this means that as the water hits the rudder there is a component of the water force that pushes the rudder (and thus boat) in a windward direction i.e. it actually makes your boat climb upwind from the water force on the rudder. This is a desired outcome when sailing towards a windward destination. Few sailors know this.
I say all that to say this – your boat should naturally have a little weather helm.
Here is what a wind gust does:
First, it immediately heels your boat over. Because of the heeling angle, less and less of the rudder area is effective in providing turning force to counter act the weather helm. See the animation below.
Second, in a gust, the wind force on the sails increases with the square of the velocity but the counteracting force from velocity of water over the rudder does not increase because in that instant the boat speed has not increased.
So you’re trying to dip twice to use the rudder – eventually there is none left. The helm will be all the way over and the wind force has completely overpowered the rudder = round up.
Third, by definition an increase in true wind speed across the water shifts the apparent wind angle on your boat so that it comes more from an aft angle. i.e. if you are on a close haul, the wind now more feels like a beam reach. This exacerbates the heeling force because your sails are now in too tight. The wind gust is pushing sideways on the sails rather than flowing smoothly around both sides of the sails. This is now a triple whammy on the rudder. Poor Rudder!
Why does an increase in wind increase weather helm?
A boat is trimmed with weather helm by raking the mast backwards. This shifts the force on the sails backwards. To see the effect now, push sideways on a pencil on your desk. If you push in the center, the pencil moves laterally sideways. If you push towards the eraser end the tip moves “upwind”. Increase the force, the tip mores upwind more. i.e. the more force towards the back of the boat, the more the boat wants to turn up into the wind = weather helm.
But remember – a small amount of weather helm actually helps you “climb” upwind using water force from the rudder.
Why does an increase in wind speed move the apparent wind angle more aft?
Best you take a look at our free sailing course on sail trim. There is an excellent explanation there.
Wind Gust Directions
Offshore the wind gust is more likely to be in a consistent direction as the existing wind. Close in to cliffs, the gust can be heading in many different directions.
Back to dealing with gusts.
First off – you can see them coming. They are a change in perceived water color because the light reflects different off the small ripples generated by the extra wind. Seriously – they are easy to spot. Haa haa during the daylight.
Here is an animation that we did for our iBook “Your First weekend in Dinghy Sailing” showing how a gust is handled on a dinghy but also note how the animated rudder effectiveness changes with the heel angle.
As the wind gust approaches you should be prepared in your mind and with your crew for the outcome. Don’t leave it until the gust hits to start battle stations. Remember, gusts can be dangerous. Unprepared crew members can be thrown around. Boiling water in the galley can be splashed. People tossed out of bunks. Gear can be thrown around into someone. Someone can be thrown against a bulk head. Someone can loose footing and go overboard and finally as we started, you can be rounded up into another boat.
- A crew member should be stationed and attentive to the traveler. You should warn the crew member of the approach. As the boat begins to heel, the traveler crew member should begin to ease the traveler. With a big gust, the traveler may need to be dumped all the way to leeward. This spills the wind out of the mainsail.
- The mainsheet crew member should be made aware that if the traveler dump does not work that the mainsheet should be eased. But make sure that both sails are not being dumped at the same time. Traveler first then mainsheet if needed.
- Tune the crew into whether an ease will work or a complete dump is needed. A good crew member will be able to anticipate and adjust. Training is good!
- As the helmsperson, you can turn up into the wind gust a little assuming it is a lift. A quick look at the masthead wind indicator can tell you that answer. The gust will hit the top of the mast before it hits the boat. Turning into the gust will alleviate the heeling a little and allow you to take instant advantage of a lift. But make sure that you don’t overturn.
- The headsail (jib or genoa) is to be left alone in a gust. Since the force on the headsail is positioned forward of the keel, the headsail does not contribute to rounding the boat up into the wind. In fact it acts opposite it helps prevent rounding up because the force on that sail is far forward of the keel. i.e. push on that pencil on your desk again. The head sail does however contribute to heeling. But again, the heeling in a gust can be controlled by the mainsail traveler and sheet.
If you’re getting hit by a lot of gusts and the crew is working hard to control – consider reefing the mainsail. This has three effects:
- It shifts the center of pressure of the sail forward so that the rounding up effect from aft pressure is reduced
- It reduces sail area aloft which reduces the heeling moment
- It reduces the sail area in total which reduces the heeling moment
Heeling will be reduced by reefing the headsail, from the above arguments then this helps the rudder effectiveness.
Don’t try to tough out a windy situation by not reefing. Your boat will actually sail faster if you’re not weaving all over the place each time you round up and your crew will have a better time.
A professional delivery Captain told me once that his motto when crossing the Atlantic was “if you are thinking about reefing you should have done it yesterday. If you are thinking about shaking out the reef, wait until tomorrow”.
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Leadership and Friendship on a Sailboat Adventure
This is a pretty embarrassing story for me to tell but I’m going to tell it anyway in first person rather than say “I knew a guy who once who …”. It’s pretty much a result of me getting out of the wrong side of the bed and it affected my abilities on a boat and turned a really good day out into a massive reset relearning experience for me – and a dang good blog topic. One that I really hope you devour and take to heart.
It’s about how to be an effective leader on a boat.
Being on a boat is a test of your personal management and people skills. Typically you have friends, family, spouses etc on the boat and also often, friends of friends. So as skipper, managing all those people and personalities is a challenge not to be taken lightly. The test of success is to end the adventure where people still like you because that’s more important than anything. Much of the time leadership is not a big issue especially on a day outing but sometimes and especially on a week long adventure, situations arise when you can make the biggest of mistakes with people.
He’s an example of a situation this past weekend. We all went out on my friend’s Beneteau 37. It was an awesome day with lots of wind and I was anxious to fly his genaker.
On the boat were my friend (the owner) some of his friends and some of mine. Amongst the friends were various levels of sailing experience from zero to intermediate.
My friend and I have captained boats all over the world, so stepping on the boat we made the giantest of mistakes by not setting roles and I made the biggest one of all by assuming the role of leader and completely forgetting that it was his boat
First off – a pleasure boat is not the corporate world and it’s not the military. People are on the boat solely to have a good time. They are away from the office and don’t want to be told what to do. They get enough of that in their jobs. So barking orders and using the excuse – I’m the Captain is not going to let people leave liking you.
And you’ve got to manage your own ego too. In my younger days before I realized this stuff here – I’d like to show off a little that I knew what was going on. It felt to me to raise my self worth and it felt good – to me. Note there is a lot of “me” in that. That information coming in from other people on the boat was already what I knew and I let them know that. Someone would say “watch out for that boat” and I would say “I know I already saw it”. Funny though because I’d take info from a GPS device but not from people. I also made the big leadership mistake in those days that knowledge was power and that I would gain leadership by showing knowledge which auto gave me the power. You can observe this this failing everyday in the corporate world. A boss will withhold info just to make them feel powerful and all it really achieves is that it pisses off their subordinates. So we know that doesn’t work.
What works well on a boat is the President Lincoln leadership style. Lincoln is attributed as being one of the world’s greatest leaders. He involved people to make them feel like they were part of the process. He gathered the advice and then made a decision. His Generals and others around him saw that he was taking input and thus they felt valued. When someone feels that they are valued – they will follow. They also see that you’re making a decision from the best advice at hand. Leadership is NOT about knowledge, it’s not about barking commands, leadership is about getting people to follow you from a perspective of respect in you. Respect is earned not appointed. You’ve got to be a respect ROCK and you can’t let your ego get in or your impatience take its toll or your anxiousness overtake.
This past weekend I lost my rockness for some reason. Up on wrong side of the bed? Don’t know!. The first thing that set me off was a crew member who I consider knowledgeable let go of the docklines when we were side-to in the wind. It blew us against the leeward dock and set us up for a scrape down the side of the boat. I lambasted him for this – in front of the other crew. Now who’s the jerk? He made a fundamental boating mistake but I made a bigger fundamental people mistake. What would have been better was to say something like – “Hey John – I think I’ll pass the dock line back over you so we can start again – the wind is pushing us against the dock and I don’t want to scrape the boat. We’ll recenter the boat and then you can walk back with it as we pull out holding us away from the dock. Is that ok?” But instead what came out was “Come on John you know better than that- what the hell did you release that line for?” Which comment would garner me respect from him and the other crew?
Next thing that set me off was after we had reefed the mainsail and were heading on a beam reach, the mainsail was sheeted in too tight and so I said let out the mainsail. Two crew members blew out the reef. OMG. So I went into lambast mode again. Now I’m looking like a real jerk again. After the lambasting they claimed that my instructions were not clear. In my mind and my language I’m going “wow if were on a beam reach and the sail is sheeted in tight – isn’t it bloody obvious that let out the main sail means let out the sheet not the reef. OMG.”
So what’s happening here? Sounds like a corporate project meeting gone wrong with a leader promoted above their abilities doesn’t it. Blame, yelling, stamping excuses.
I’m keeping this in first person, accepting personal responsibility for this and blogging this publicly because I want to make the point that even though I think I’m a good leader on a boat look who I turned into – this is not me – I’m always being told that I am the calmest captain ever – because I know this stuff – but what the @#$%. What happened was I let my self down and my internal known leadership skills.
What should I have done in that last instance? Well first off – there is no danger – you’ve got to accept that – next confront the fact that you are frustrated – next use this knowledge here to know that frustration is not going to solve the issue.
In Steven Covey’s book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, he discusses this topic. He presents that Humans have the ability to observe an action, think about it and then after they have thought about it then they can decide on a reaction – that highly effective people are conscious of this and engage this in their everyday, every moment life. It’s a good read by the way.
So thinking about it – venting frustration is not the most effective way to handle blowing out the reef. Best way to handle that is to accept responsibility for not being clear. Equally obvious is that if a crew member blew out the reef then they did not know what they were doing. They did not do it vindictively – they did it out of lack of knowledge that I assumed they had. So best way is to remedy the situation. “Whoops, I’m sorry that was my mistake for not being clear. Let’s get the boom out, bring the reef back in and then we’ll set the main sheet to match our heading.” Then perhaps ask a question to re-involve the crew and gain some interaction. “BTW does anyone have any desired direction they want to go today”. i.e. you’re showing that whilst you have the technical issues of sail set down pat, you are involving the crew in overall strategic decision making.
Next thing that set me off was that as I moved to the bow of the boat to set up the genaker with the owner, I left a crew member in charge of maintaining course (same one who blew out the reef). The boat began going all over the place, I yelled back “sail the boat will you”. Then it got worse and worse with the owner jumping in and now throwing a tissy fit that he didn’t appreciate being told what to do.
This is a signal folks. Good friends at log aheads and with the crew sitting there too shocked to say anything.
As soon as you recognize something is going on like this on a boat, you have to put on your good leader hat and swallow crow and realize that you have created the situation and accept responsibility. With the owner now spitting the pacifiers out of the cot I should certainly have gotten privately together with him and had a talk. Afterward we realized it was over something small but significant enough to set him off – but only because I had created the “set off atmosphere” and he’d been breathing the bad air.
Jim Cathcart a national speaker and author developed “The Acorn Principle”. It says that an acorn already knows that it will turn into a mighty oak. From that he developed the concept of asking yourself in any situation “How would the person I want to be – do the thing I’m about to do”. For example, how would Lincoln have solved this? Applying this then you have to ask yourself, “if I am to be the best leader of this boat (corporation, government, non profit, team, family) what should I do now.” If you know the story of Shackleton, you might ask “how would shackleton have solved this? Almost immediately this has the effect of settling you down with the answer. At any point on that day adventure – if I had asked myself that question the day would have been completely different. The answer surely would not have been “to get frustrated and yell and embarrass crew members”. Moreover it would have been more like “To help fix the situation in a positive manner, involve the crew, make sure they are having a good time and if someone does something stupid – it’s not stupid to them”
Finally I’m going to address the safety of the boat vs people management issue because some will say “well dang it – it’s my responsibility to save the boat and if we are in a bad situation then people’s feelings don’t matter”. To answer that I’m going to call rubbish. Not matter which way you cut it, that is bad leadership and you’ll create panic, uncertainly arguments and mutiny (ask Captian Bligh who’s been tagged as the biggest jerk captain ever). If you’ve got a sinking boat, a bad storm, a life situation your good leadership skills are more paramount than anything. Leadership will save the boat, get you through the storm and save a life. Good leadership might go like this “Crew we have a serious situation, I know what to do and I will need all your help and agreement to get us through this as a team. As a team we will solve this. Can I have your agreement?” If there is an injury then you can then ask “who is the best at bandages?”. You see, you don’t have to say I know what I am doing and take over the bandages. You’re establishing command and leadership and involving the crew. When you get a difficult crew member arguing with you it’s best to take that person aside. Put on your leadership hat lower your voice, listen and say to yourself how would Lincoln have solved this? Perhaps if you really listen to one of your crew (generals) one just might have a good idea but would otherwise be too scared to bring it up. A one minute good leadership meeting will do more to save your boat and crew than any amount of barking orders and trying to command civilians from your self appointed captain’s seat.
If there is one thing you can take from this article, please take the acorn principle “how can I be the best leader in this situation right now?”
That and make sure you get out of the right side of the bunk everyday – that goes for life too.
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PS – if you’re taking a bareboat charter trip please get all your crew to read this article then get them to take the Bareboat Charter Sailing Course (you too). The course is not a repeat course on how to sail a boat – it’s more about making sure everyone has the right information to make the trip a success – after all that is what you are going for – a good time right? Who wants to have a crappy time on a sailing vacation because the crew didn’t gel? Also available in iBook format here – Bareboat charter sailing iBook on iTunes for iPad.
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Why doesn’t a sailboat tip over?
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Here’s an animation that shows the balance of forces actually it is technically the balance of moments. First off then we’d better explain moments. Simply explained, If you hold your hand out straight and some one puts a pound weight in your hand that is harder to hold than if they put the same pound on your elbow. Even easier – if they put the pound weight right by your shoulder. It’s the same pound weight but it was the Moment that was straining your muscles not the weight. Moment then is weight x distance.
- What tends to tip the boat over is the moment of the wind force high up in the sails.
- What tends to right the boat back is the keel weight and the distance it is off center.
So now watch the animation 10 times over or so and watch each dynamic as it is happening. Then refer to my extra text below.
Use the green “incr. wind” button. This interactive animation is best observed using Google Chrome browser.
We’ve said it many times over in our courses that the force on the sails is the pressure x the area on the sails on which the wind is acting on. The pressure is proportional to the velocity of the wind squared. Why? – just is.
And from above the Moment is the force x height of the place where the wind is considered to singularly act. This is called the center of the pressure. The center of pressure is the position on the sail whereby if we replaced all the wind all over the sail with an equal force at some position – that would be the position called the center of pressure. On a right triangle sail the point is 1/3 of the way up the mast.
So the tipping moment is proportional to area, height and wind speed squared.
So what really happens is – the wind tips the boat over a bit, this shifts the keel weight off centerline a bit. The boat will continue to heel over until the tipping moment by the wind is equal to the moment from the keel being off center. At this point the boat will stop heeling over further and the moments are balanced.
Now the wind picks up again – and again the boat heels over further and the keel does some righting – but also notice that the area of the sail presented to the wind has reduced and also the height to the COP has also reduced. So as the boat heels – area and height decrease on the tipping side of the equation.
At all times for the boat to not continue to heel further the moments of tipping and righting have to be balanced.
i.e. keel weight x distance = area x height x vel²
The only dynamic input to the system is the wind – everything else in the equations are just working to balance the vel²
And notice that all of area, height and keel distance off center are just an output from heel. So it is the heel that is purely balancing the wind force on the rig. Durh we knew that but perhaps you had not seen the equations like this.
Now go back and run the animation some more. Notice that the two moments are always in balance.
So also extrapolate – when the boat heels way way (way) over – there is almost no sail area presented to the wind and the height (h) has reduced also – where as additionally the keel distance off center has moved way out which is acting to pull the keel down (boat upright) again.
So next time you’re out there and the boat heels way (way) over – don’t worry every little thing is going to be alright. You’ve got mathematical equations working in your favor. Area and height are reducing and keel distance off center are increasing.
Best you check the keel bolts every now and again however! Yup that’s be a problem!
If you liked this – you should take the NauticEd Day Skipper Course. It’s a beginner to intermediate sailing course that gets you quickly up to speed on stuff like this using multimedia teaching. Watch this video and learn about the Skipper Sailing Course.
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Here’s how to fuel up your sailboat without spilling a drop of fuel into the water.
Hi all – for years I struggled with fueling up the boat and trying my best to not spill any diesel in the water. Now here is your non stress easy way to fuel up guilt free. Use the simple -siphon device. It’s got a one way check valve – just pump it up and down a few times, the hose pipe fills with fuel and off it goes. Buy one and save from dripping even one tiny drop into the water.
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This tip and hundreds of others are a full part of becoming a sailor and … you learned it here online. Sailing is absolutely about having your hand on the tiller and the wind in your face but also a major part of learning to sail is the tips and tricks and theory. All of which you can pick up inside the NauticEd Sailing Courses and at the same time gain a recognized sailing certification.
Continue to grow your sailing knowledge properly from the experts by taking the NauticEd Skipper Course. This is our beginner to intermediate sailing training class that everyone should start out on. An already expert sailor will also agree that this tip above comes from pure practical knowledge, it’s doubtful that it is in any hard printed text books. It’s just something that you’d learn randomly from bumping into the right person on the docks one day – either that or you learn all the tricks from the experts here at NauticEd. I love it when a rookie can teach a salty ol’ dog something. By knowing this stuff like the above, you’ll be doing that. They’ll say “wow where did you learn that trick?” and you’ll say “oh – online”!
Watch our Skipper Sailing Course Video
Wanna get in the mood of sailing a catamaran? Watch this video we just posted. It features a Lagoon 52 sailing in the clear waters of the Bahamas. We have embed this video into the start of the Catamaran Sailing Confidence course to get our catamaran students in the mood for taking the course. When they see what they can have with a little knowledge – it motivates them to complete the course.
Check it out.
On the same topic, last night a group of my friends and I met up at our friends Richard and Kathleen’s place. They announced that they are chartering a 46 ft Catamaran for a month with their 8 year old in Martinique this summer. He invited his friends to come in a week at a time to take advantage of the 2 spare cabins. A month we all said? Nice for some! And yes I agree – it will be nice and they deserve it. They work hard. Richard and Kathleen have been friends of mine for 12 years. He and his wife first joined us on their first charter to Belize in 2003 and they were instantly hooked. Since then he has learned to sail and skipper a boat himself and last night was a great surprize for all of us – a month – A MONTH! His justification was simple – this is life he said. If not now when? They are going to use this month as a test to see how they like an extended trip. Anyone who has chartered knows that a week is just too short. If they like this then they will gradually increase this and build up to buying a Cat and using it to eventually head off to the blue.
I just thought this is a great real story of real people who are challenging themselves just a little. It’s inspiring and I’m proud to be the one who got them started all those years ago – I was lucky in that they were great students and friends. Similary, we all at NauticEd are proud of you, that you’re taking the courses and working towards your sailing certification. We are always here to help you get what you want out of sailing and perhaps we’ll meet on the water some day.
So speaking of inspiring, We just updated our Catamaran Sailing Course with new professionally shot video and hi res pics courtesy from Lagoon Catamarans. The feedback coming in is awesome and we are really excited to have this very practical Catamaran Sailing course to inspire you step up to the challenge of chartering a cat next time.
Here is the video we have posted which discusses the nuts and bolts of the Catamaran Sailing Course.
If you’ve never sailed a Cat before – we think you’ll beleive it’s time after watching that video.
While the thought of sailing a cat can be a little intimidating, we can assure you that after taking our Catamaran Sailing Confidence course, you’ll be ready to give it a try. The principles are essentially the same but there are just a few nuances that are different. One being is that it is incredibly important to reef the sails at the prescribed wind speeds. This is because the cat does not heel. When a monohull heels over, the sails see less wind presented to them which reduces the forces on the mast and rig. Rather – on a cat when the wind speed increases, the forces increase with the square of the wind speed i.e. when wind gusts from 10 knots to 20 knots the forces on the rig have gone up 4 times.
A couple of other things are that a cat will tend to get stuck in irons as you tack over. You can prevent that if you delay the release of the headsail. This backwinds the head sail just a little and assists the cat from coming through the wind. The traveller on a cat is so long that you can really make use of this to twist out the top of the sail for wind efficiencies.
And what about maneuvering a cat in a tight marina – sounds scary? Actually not. Play our catamaran maneuvering game and you’ll see that you can spin a cat inside its own length, stop, go sideways, backup easily, there are no worries with propwalk etc. You’ll be delighted with its maneuverability far beyond a monohull.
All this and more are fully explained in the Catamaran Sailing Confidence course with awesome multimedia.
Catamaran Sailing Confidence
And Also available on iPad from the iTunes store – visit our sailing apps page
Catamaran Sailing Confidence as an iPad App eBook