Would you like to come sailing with me on your boat?

Posted by Grant Headifen on July 8, 2010 under About NauticEd, Bareboat Charter, Skipper, Videos and photos | Read the First Comment

I get this message below all the time from people that I know or meet. Here’s one I got this morning through my Linkedin account.


Hey Grant,

Long time no see. Grant, I’m thinking about learning to sail. Your sailing vacations all over the world have inspired me. What do I do, where do I start, can I buy you a beer some time and get some advice from you.



Here’s my reply this morning


Would be good to catch up. In the meantime – here’s my advice. Obviously I’m a little biased here but you should really start with one of my online theory classes. I’d recommend the NauticEd  day skipper courses. That will give you a good solid knowledge of what you need to know when starting out on a learn to sail quest.

Skipper Sailing Course

Skipper Sailing Course

The next thing I would recommend is to spend ¼ million dollars on a boat – nah just kidding. Go join our local yacht club and do some racing. Almost every yacht club is begging for members to be crew on their boats. A note on their pin up board that you want to crew will attract multiple phone calls to you. Also just call their office and ask what you should do. But I guarantee that they will be more than happy to have you out there. Yacht clubs appear old and stodgy on the out side but once you get inside there are dozens of skippers that are keen to help out.

Whether or not you’re into yacht racing, racing is the absolute best way to learn fast through immersion and you can rack up the experience fast. By taking the skipper course you’ll have the theory knowledge to know what you’re doing on the boat. Now you just need to burn it into your brain with the practical sailing skills.

Log all your yacht club time in our free online logbook as it counts towards your sailing certification rank.

Another thing you can do is to go to the local sailing school. In Austin it is the Texas Sailing Academy. They teach a 2 weekend long basic introduction to sailing and will give you hands on training. Just make sure that whatever school you go to that they don’t put too many people on the boat at one time. It waters down your practical experience. Some schools do this to keep the cost down but if you’re there to learn to sail then you’re there to learn to sail not water it down with a cheap course. With Sailing courses you get what you pay for.

The other ways to gain practical sailing experience is to catch up with friends who have a sailboat. Funny enough but sailboat owners are almost desperate to have some one call them and say “would you like to come sailing with me on your boat this weekend”? But people learning to sail are always too embarrassed to ask – so sailboats tend to sit in the slip month after month. So just ask.

If your goal is to take a sailing vacation then I’d also recommend aiming to reach our Bareboat Charter Master Rank and our day skipper theory courses. Most worldwide charter companies accept our certification. Sailing vacations are the way to go. They’re relatively inexpensive and you get to go to some awesome places. As you know, every year we gather our friends and go somewhere. This year we’re chartering three boats with The Moorings South Pacific in Tonga. I was up there a few months back and wow – what an incredible place. By the time we get there next month the place is supposed to be teeming with whales.

Let me know if there is any way I can help out.



Types of Anchors and bottom types that they are best suited.

Posted by Grant Headifen on July 6, 2010 under Bareboat Charter, Coastal Navigation, Crew, Skipper, Storm Tactics | Be the First to Comment

As you learn to sail, you should be also learning about anchoring. There is more to tossing the hook so to speak.

After doing some research on the internet and looking at some of the tests performed on holding power, I’ve made a quick summary of what I learned.

Anchor types are selected based on the bottom conditions. These are rock, mud, clay, sand, grass, coral and shoal.

Charts will usually tell you what the bottom conditions are, as will local sailors from whom you should never be afraid to ask.

The following shows the type of anchor and the associated bottom that the anchor is best suited for.

Danforth: Works best in sand and mud

Danforth Anchor

Danforth Anchor

Hinged Plough CQR: Works Best in sand, rock and mud.

Hinged Plough CQR Anchor

Hinged Plough CQR Anchor

Non Hinged Plough Delta Anchor: Works best in sand rock clay and mud.

Delta plough anchor

Delta plough anchor

Non Hinged Plough Roll bar anchor: Best for all types of bottoms – sand, rock, mud,clay, grass

Rollbar plough anchor

Rollbar plough anchor

Bruce Anchor: Best for sand, rock, mud.

Bruce anchor

Bruce anchor

The Roll Bar Plough type anchor is a new type of anchor and therefore is not that common yet. However, tests show that it is certainly one of the winners when it comes to selecting an anchor.

How the Tides Work

Posted by Director of Education on July 3, 2010 under Bareboat Charter, Coastal Navigation, Crew, Skipper, weather | Be the First to Comment

As a new sailor, just learning to sail, the thought of figuring out tides can be quite intimidating. We know that even some seasoned sailors tend to just wing it – a dangerous concern. This learn to sail series article will dispelled any concerns about understanding, reading and predicting tides.

Gravitational Pull
Tides took a lot of figuring out by some very smart people over the ages including Galileo.

But now that the principle causes of tides are understood and quite well mathematically modeled, they are pretty easy to understand by the average Joe when explained properly.

Tides exist solely because of the celestial bodies the moon and the sun. The moon is relatively close but comparatively small.  The sun is far away but a giant when it comes to mass. Gravitational pull increases linearly with mass but decreases inversely with the square of the distance. So when you balance these out and do the calculations, the sun’s effect is 46% that of the moon.

So the moon has the dominant and most noticeable effect on the earth’s tides. However the Sun still has a significant effect.

There are a couple of tricks to understanding the tides that took the physicists quite a while to figure out in the old days. The moon circles the earth about every 28 days. During this time the earth completes a rotation every 24 hours. So in effect  from a relative point of view the moon appears to rotate around us every 24 hours and 50.4 minutes. Given that you’d think that there would be one high tide every 12 and a bit hours. But for most of us it seems that the tide takes about 6  and a bit hours to go out and 6 and a bit hours to come back in. That’s a frequency of 12 and a half hours not 24:50 hours. What’s up with that?

Tide is actually a gravitational concept rather than specifically related to the movement of our oceans. All celestial objects are susceptible to tidal effects from other “relatively close” bodies. Consequently a planet with in gravitational range of another body will experience pull leading to stresses acting to deform the shape of the planet.

That means that as the moon circles the earth, the earth is deformed by the moon. Similarly, the moon also experiences deformation by the earth and thus is suffers a tide effect. The effect is called tidal force. Fortunately for life on earth, the deformation is small but it does lead to the rising water that we experience. Therefore, with out the moon, life on earth would be vastly different.

As non celestial body and gravitational experts we’ll probably struggle to understand the resultant effect because it happens in a way that we might not initially expect.

Double Bulge Phenomenom

It is suffice for this description of tides to state that the planet doesn’t just bulge towards the distant body but actually bulges on both sides in a line between the center of the two bodies because of the volumetric stress imparted upon the planet. Various arguments still exist on why, some are flat out wrong and some are right. As sailors we really don’t care too much other than knowing the resultant.

To gain a visual appreciation for this, although not in anyway accurate in science, take a calamari ring and hold in two points opposite each other. Now hold one side still and pull the other side. You’ll see the ring bulge on both sides in a line of the direction of pull.

That is a similar resultant action to what the earth is experiencing. The bulge occurs on both sides of the planet diametrically opposite each other and in the plane of  a line between the moon and the earth. So following this, we have a high tide on the same side of the planet as the moon and simultaneously on the opposite side. Thus leading to a theoretical tidal period twice for every rotation of the moon about the earth.

The double bulge concept has nothing to do with the spin and inertia of water on the earth, although you will find some arguments and textbooks reporting this as a contributing factor to the opposite bulge. Not so! In any case, again as sailors we don’t necessarily care too much. We just need to know and realize that the double bulge occurs to explain two tides in a day rather than matching the periodicity of one moon rotation per day.

The exact same concept is valid for the sun. A solar high tide exists on the same side of earth as the sun and simultaneously on the opposite side of the sun.

Theoretical Tide Heights

Now let’s look at a few theoretical mathematical numbers for comparison. If the earth’s oceans were uniform in depth and no landmasses existed and just considering the moon and if the moon was rotating around the earth every 24 hours, plus a few other ands and ifs, then the theoretical rise of the water at high tide would be 54 cm (21 inches). Now consider the suns effect in the same way. This would lead to a theoretical tide rise of 25 cm (9.8 inches). If the moon and the sun aligned or were directly opposite (from the bulge theory above) then we could add these heights together and get 79 cm (31 inches). If the moon and sun were acting against each other by being 90 degrees apart, then we would subtract the numbers and be left with a tidal height of 29 cm (11 inches).

The phenomenon then of a spring tide has thus been explained. Spring tide is when the sun and moon align or are diametrically opposite. The word spring does not come from a relationship to the season but from the concept of “force”. Meaning there is more force during this period of alignment, which occurs about every 14 days – full moon and new moon.

Consequently, a neap tide is the minimal tide effect from the action of the sun and moon opposing each other. When they are at 90 degrees from each other – not diametrically opposite each other due to the double bulge effect. Again, this occurs at a period of every 14 days.

In addition to the above, the sun and moon operate in elliptical orbits relative to the earth. You can then imagine as the sun and moon become at their closest points to the earth that a greater effect would take place. The effect is increased 18% for the moon and 5% for the sun. Since the earth rotates about the sun once per year, at a certain times of the year then you would expect all these phenomena to exist simultaneously and create a theoretical tidal height of 93 cm (37 inches).

You can also imagine a common high high tide condition existing when the moon is closest to the earth with the moon and sun aligned (or diametrically opposite). This is called a perigee spring tide and occurs every 7.5 moon cycles.

This can be further expanded to include the sun being at its closest point along with the moon and in a spring tide situation. This occurs every 18.6 years. For this reason tidal high high and low low measurements are recorded and reported over periods of 19 years by statistical governmental recording agencies.

There is one last effect to discuss and that is that the sun and moons orbits are not directly aligned with the pole of the earth. Both the sun and moon’s orbits are not in unison and change day by day. For this reason the height of each high tide will vary day by day.

And just in case you’re wondering, Venus provides the next greatest tidal effect on the earth. But it is less than 0.001% of the magnitude of the Sun’s effect.

We’ve added a rudimentary animation of the Moon’s and the Sun’s tidal forces on the Earth at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZNnb9YP1xg. The animation shows the Moon’s larger tidal force in blue and the Sun’s smaller tidal force in yellow turning relative to the Earth with different frequencies. You’ll need to view it several times through to see that when the bodies are aligned either on the same side or diametrically opposite, that the tidal forces align creating a spring tide. You’ll see Neap tide occur when they are 90 degrees apart. Of course in reality, the earth rotates about the sun but for relativistic purposes of an observer standing on the Earth, this demonstrates the effect. Additionally we did not simulate the 7.5 lunar periods before the cycle repeats nor did we show differing declination of the orbits or the elliptical shape of the orbits … and a few other things.

How the Tides Work

How the Tides Work

In Reality

So now let’s take out some of the theoretical arguments and start adding back in landmasses and differing ocean depths. The effect is called Bathymetry. These affects greatly affect the timing, tidal heights and periodic frequency of the tides at different places on the earth. Regardless of this, the tides still occur with periodic consistency in each location according to the above discussion of the moon and sun movements. This last sentence, matched with empirical data over time, means that tidal predictions are very accurate, both height wise and time wise.

Lets say that again; Tides heights and times are highly predictable!

Most places on the planet experience two high tides every 24 hours and 50 minutes as discussed above. This is called a semidiurnal tide. However due to bathymetry, some places experience one high tide every 24 hours and 50 minutes. This is called a diurnal tide and is experienced in the South China Sea, the Gulf of Mexico along with a few other places. Another significant departure from the theory is the experiencing of two differing height of tides. This is called a mixed tide and is experienced in quite a few places including the west coast of the United States.

Keep in mind that 100% of the reason for departure from a semidiurnal tide in these locations is solely due to Bathymetry. Bathymetry is also the reason for departure from the high tide being at exactly the same time as the moon at its highest apex in the sky overhead (or diametrically opposite the planet). As an example, in Norfolk Virginia USA, high tide is approximately 2 ½ hours before the moon passes overhead. Typically on the planet, a spring tide occurs 2 days after a full or new moon.

Bathymetry also explains why tidal height in some places is far greater than the theoretical predictions above. As water moves and slushes around the planet it does so with lunar (and semi lunar) frequency setting up a crowding effect of the water in certain places.

Regarding all the above discussion about high tides, for every high tide there is a corresponding low tide. As sailors, we’re pretty concerned about low tides and low low tides due to grounding issues. For mixed semidiurnal and semidiurnal tides, low tides occur every 12 hours and 25.2 minutes. Low low tides occur at spring tide every 14 days about 2 days after a full moon or new moon. And lowest low tides occur every 7.5 lunar cycles when there is a perigee spring tide situation.

The Tidal Map

Putting it all together, and considering the periodic consistency, bathymetry and real empirical data, NASA has developed a tidal map of the planet. The map is quite revelational and will help you understand tides even further.

Tidal Map of the Earth

Tidal Map of the Earth

Grey parts are landmasses. The colors on the map represent the amplitude (height) of the tide. Note the locations marked in red. These are well known really-really high tide areas. Some in excess of 40 feet (11m). Also if you’ve ever sailed in the Caribbean or Mediterranean, you’ll have noticed a distinct lack of any tide. These are marked in Blue.

Of particular interest for me is the west coast of my home country, New Zealand. Near Auckland, two estuaries, one from the west coast and one from the east coast are separated by about 500 meters of land only. Yet the tidal difference is hours apart and the two tide heights are vastly different. Similarly take a look at the area around Panama. Extreme high tides exist on the west coast and almost none on the east coast. The UK also has some very interesting tidal results particularly in the Solent area.

The highest tides in the world can be found in Canada at the Bay of Fundy, which separates New Brunswick from Nova Scotia. At some times of the year the difference between high and low tide in this Bay is 16.3 meters (53.5 feet), taller than a three-story building. Anchorage, Alaska, comes in at a close second with tidal ranges up to 12.2 meters (40 feet).

The white lines on the NASA map above represent one hour difference in time for a high (or low) tide. Note how the lines appear to be randomly placed around the planet with out any particular reason for their placement. Again this is due to bathymetry. Of note however is that over time, the lines are don’t move. For example the blue region in the middle of the south pacific where the white lines converge always experiences little to no tide. The high tide travels around this point in a clockwise direction. The amphidromic point where the lines meet defines the meeting point of high and low tide giving rise to a consistent zero tide effect. In fact, at most amphidromic points as such in the southern hemisphere, the tide turns clockwise due to the coriolis effect of the earth spinning. In the northern hemisphere at most amphidromic points the tide turns anticlockwise (counterclockwise).

What does this really mean? It means that if you consider the amphidromic point near Hawaii and the radical lines from it incident on the west coast of the USA, then the high tide must move north along the coast over time. IE the high tide in Los Angeles will be after the high tide in San Diego (San Diego being south of Los Angeles). Of significant value when understanding this is that if you can read a table showing the high tide in one place you can predict the time of the high tide in another location.  Look at the southern part of the south east coast of South America. The high tide occurs all along that region at almost the same time but over approximately the same distance along the east coast of New Zealand, that experiences 5 hours of high tide time difference. Interesting!

It is doubtful that even the most complex mathematical models could predict all this. However combining the empirical data with the periodic frequency of the two celestial bodies gives us every thing we need.

Practical Application of Reading And Understanding Tides

Whether we’re experienced sailors or just starting out in our learn to sail quest, chances are you’ll be sailing in an area where tides are happening.

One of the greatest reasons you need to understand and deal with tide heights is when you are anchoring. Anchor at high tide and you might find your self stuck tipped sideways on the ocean floor a few hours later. Anchor at low tide and with a lee shore and you might be blown onto the rocks when your anchor scope becomes less than sufficient to allow the anchor to hold.

Tides are also significant when dealing with bridges. Cleverly, charts list bridge heights as height above high tide not low tide.

There is some language around the practical application of tides that we now need to learn.

  • Ebb tide:             Water going down towards low tide
  • Flood Tide:         Water coming up towards high tide
  • Slack Water:       Times when the water movement due to tidal effects are minimal. Note that because of the time it takes for bays and estuaries to drain out, slack water is not necessarily at high tide and low tide. Consult current tables to learn slack water times.
  • MHHW:             Mean higher high water level. Average height of high tides at spring high tide
  • MLLW:              Mean Lower low water level. Average height of low tides at spring low tide
  • Chart Datum:      Reports of water depth on charts are taken at MLLW
  • Bridge Heights:  Reported on charts as the height above MHHW
  • Tide Current:      Flow of water due to tides

Below is a tidal prediction chart for a buoy position in La Jolla,  San Diego,  California. Note a few things: (1) The prediction is extremely close to the observed. (2) That it occurs twice per day – Semi diurnal (3) The heights are different with in the same day – Mixed Semidiurnal. (4) The low tide drops below the MLLW.

Tide Data in San Diego

Tide Data in San Diego

Rather than carry around masses of graphs as above, convenient tide tables have been produced by the maritime agency in almost every country that borders an ocean. Visit you local chandlery and they’re bound to have a copy of the local tide table. Or search on the Internet. In the USA go to http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/tidesXX – where XX represents the last two digits of the year you want to explore.  Tide table are abundantly available to us.

So whenever we want to know the time and height of the tide we can just consult the tide tables. And from the above, we now know and are very confident that, they will give us a very accurate prediction. Tables are arranged to give us tidal heights and times at most well known ports called Reference Stations. Time and height adjustments are then provided to get predictions for lesser known ports that are called Subordinate Stations.

To predict your tidal information from written tables find the closest Reference Station, then make the time and height adjustment from that Reference Station to your closest Subordinate Station. Because of the power of computing, on the Internet, many Subordinate Station calculations are already done for you. In this case you can just look up the tide heights and times directly at your location. Most of us don’t carry Internet connected laptops on our boats so the ability to read and understand the table is paramount.

For example, from a table you might read the time and height of the low tide on the afternoon of January 15th 2010 in Los Angeles. But if you are further north in El Segundo in Santa Monica Bay, the tide will be slightly different. From the NASA developed tide map above you at least know that high tide will occur later because of the anticlockwise turn of the amphridomic point near Hawaii, but by how much time and by how much amplitude? Thus we consult an adjustment table.

Below is a typical tide table for Los Angeles. Click the image to go to this page on the tidesandcurrnet.nooa.gov website.

Tide in Los Angeles

Tide in Los Angeles

You can read (probably with glasses) that the afternoon low tide occurs in Los Angeles port at 3:46pm and is 0.7 feet below the MLLW chart datum.

Correction tables will show that for the Subordinate Station of El Segundo, the correction from the Reference Station of Los Angeles will be to add 13 minutes for low tides and to add 13 minutes for high tides. And to multiply the low tide reported in Los Angels by 0.96 and the high tide by 0.96.

Correction of Tide for El Segundo

Correction of Tide for El Segundo

Thus the afternoon low tide in El Segundo will be at 3:59pm and will be 0.67 feet below MLLW.

The below table confirms that result. Click the image to go to this page on the tidesandcurrnet.nooa.gov website.

Correction of Tide for El SegundoSo there you have it. You completely understand tides and can now use the table to predict tide times and heights.

Of considerable further interest is the currents produced from tides. These must also be understood, especially as sailors, because in many cases your sailboat can not sail as fast as the tidal current. San Francisco Bay is a good example of this. Module 1 of the NauticEd Skipper Course discusses Tidal Currents and their prediction.

This article was written by Grant Headifen, Educational Director of NauticEd. NauticEd is an online sailing school providing sailing courses and sailing certifications for beginner to advanced sailors.

Learn to sail online with NauticEd.

Weather Helm Vs Lee Helm – What is it? How to use it?

Posted by Director of Education on June 16, 2010 under Crew, Skipper, weather | Read the First Comment

During the Americas’ Cup campaign in New Zealand in 2003, I saw one of the best explanations of this on a TV interview with the Greg Butterworth, the Tactician for the Alingi Team.

Most of us sort of understand the concept and we’ve been left with the answer of “Well – weather helm is better because it’s safer.” But few explanations go into how it gives your boat a sailing advantage.

The definition of weather helm and lee helm is simple and it is easy to remember which is which. If you have a tiller, weather helm is when you have to pull the tiller to weather (toward the wind) in order to keep the boat going in a straight line. Lee helm is when you push the tiller to lee (downwind) in order to keep the boat going in a straight line. We’ve probably all felt this slight pressure required on the tiller when underway.

Your boat can be tuned to give weather helm or lee helm. Rake the mast forward  and you move the center of effort of the wind forward which causes your boat to want to turn downwind. Rake the mast back and you move the center of effort of the wind back causing your boat to want to go upwind to weather.

When your boat gets rounded up – you just experienced massive weather helm. No matter how much you pull the tiller to weather, you can’t stop the boat going to weather. Dumping the main sail moves the center of effort forward thus reducing the weather helm.

The basic perception of weather helm being safer comes from this effect: if you let go of the tiller, it will automatically go to center because of the water flowing over the rudder and because the rudder is pivoted at its leading edge. Now there is no rudder force to counter the desire of the boat to turn up wind to weather so the boat does exactly that. It turns to weather and rounds up slowing the boat down and reducing forces on the rig. Conversely, lee helm  means that if you let the tiller go the boat will turn away from the wind, heel over more increase forces on the rig.

So from a safety point, weather helm is good. BUT there is another advantage that we’re not generally taught. Holding the tiller to weather means that there is a slight pressure on the rudder to windward. This actually MOVES THE BOAT TO WINDWARD as it slices through the water. And we all know what that means, race advantage!

The Weather Helm Advantage

The Weather Helm Advantage

The illustration shows how the water pressure from weather helm creates a sideways force on the rudder tending to push the boat to weather.

Now Greg Butterworth went on to explain that there are other cool things you can do. One is to put a little trailing edge swinging control surface on the keel.

The illustration below shows this effect too. For us pilots, this is much like a trim tab on a wing of a small airplane. The trim tab creates the ability to adjust the lift at that point on the aircraft and thus create a balance of forces. The issue to remember here is that you’d need to trim the tab the other way when you tack over.

A control surface on the keel

A control surface on the keel

So there you have it. While we’ve all been understanding the lifting effects of the wind over the sail, the other fluid that we’ve ignored is the water under the boat and how we can gain lift from it too.

Next time you’re out sailing on a nice steady 10 knot breeze, come up on a close haul, trim the sails perfectly so that all your tell tails are flying smoothly. Then notice what pressure you’ve got on the helm. Note that if you’ve got a wheel, weather helm will be a tendency to apply downwind turning pressure on the wheel (which is the same as pulling a tiller upwind right?). Ideally you should have slight weather helm. If not, you should probably not jump right in and start raking your mast back. Talk to a mast tuning specialist in your area first.

Stopping Rounding Up Dead in it’s Tracks

Posted by Grant Headifen on June 8, 2010 under Crew, Skipper | 7 Comments to Read

Rounding up is caused by many factors. One is too much wind and force aloft which tends to heel the boat over. This reduces the amount of rudder in the water and thus the rudder’s effectiveness. Another factor in rounding up is the center of pressure of wind on the sails is too far aft which then pushes the aft of the boat downwind and thus the front of the boat up wind.

The NauticEd SailTrim clinic discusses this topic and so what we wanted to do was test it out for sure. So last weekend we took out a friend’s Beneteau 373 to test out an anti-round up theory. Read on to find out the results of our experiment.

First though, we must first understand wind shear. The phenomenon of wind shear is pretty easy. Wind moves faster at the top of the mast than is does at the water level because the stationary water slows the down the wind in close proximity.

Secondly,  consider the concept of true wind vs apparent wind. Which is best understood by imagining driving your car in a cross wind with your hand out the window of the car.   At stand still you would feel the wind coming from the side of the car. The faster you go, the more you feel the wind coming from the front of the car. But when a gust of wind comes (which is just an increase in true wind speed) then you would feel the wind shift back more to the side. When relating this to a sailboat, if your boat was standing still, the wind at the top of the mast would be the same apparent direction as at the cockpit level albeit, faster (from the wind shear phenomenon). However as your boat picks up in speed the apparent wind moves forward BUT because of wind shear it shifts forward less at the top of the mast. IE at the top of the mast the wind tends more to the direction of true wind direction because the true wind speed is higher.  Thus at the top of the mast the true wind is more aft than apparent wind. Aft means it is coming from a direction further towards the back of the boat. Get it?

So – whether you get it or not. The fact is: at the top of the mast the wind is higher in speed and more aft than at the cockpit level.

Figure A and B show the boat speed, true wind and apparent wind vectors for cockpit level and top of the mast. Obviously in both cases, the boat speed vector must be the same. The true wind vector is obviously the same direction but due to wind shear it is longer (faster) at the top of the mast. This results then in the apparent wind direction being more aft. IE in this case from 135 deg to 125 deg.

Wind shear and apparent wind phenomenom

Wind shear and apparent wind phenomenom

Thirdly, you should understand that if a sail is sheeted in to tight it creates more heel. This then is exactly what is happening at the top of the mast.  Even though at the bottom of the sail you may have perfectly trimmed the sail, the top of the sail is sheeted in too tight against higher wind speed. No wonder you’re getting excessive heeling. And excessive heeling creates round ups.

This is now quite a revelation! It means that the top of the main needs to be “out” further than the bottom of the sail for it to operate efficiently. This  is usually indicated by the top telltale. Often the leeward telltale will be stalling at the top of the sail. Especially in high wind because of the phenomena above.

The top of the mainsail needs to go further out so that the starboard telltale can fly smoothly

The top of the mainsail needs to go further out so that the starboard telltale can fly smoothly

Thus the top of the mainsail needs to be let out further so that the leeward telltale can fly smoothly. This is commonly referred to as twisting the sail out at the top. Except people believe you are just spilling out (wasting) the wind at the top. Not quite so now, as you’ve just learned. Twisting out the top of the sail is letting the top of the sail fly according to the direction of wind it is feeling.

In the illustration, you can see the top telltale on the downwind side is fluttering. If you let out the main at the top, the wind can reattach to the sail on the leeward side and the telltale will fly smoothly reducing the force aloft.

Understanding all the above. How do we stop rounding up?

Option one: Obviously the first and safe option in higher winds is to reef the sail.

Option two: Let out the traveler which is what most people do when hit by a gust. Just so long as you realize what you’ve done is not twisted the top of the sail out – all you’ve done is let out the mainsail from top to bottom and thus depower the mainsail. This reduces the force aloft and thus the heel. It also moves the center of effort of wind on the sails forward which reduces tendency to round up. The trouble is that you spend all day fighting gusts with still quite a few involuntary round-ups.

Option three: Let out on the mainsheet. Here again you’ve depowered the entire mainsail to handle the gust. Still, it works.

Option four: Permanently reduce the force aloft by letting out further on the mainsail and tightening up on the traveler. The trick here is to bring the mainsail bottom back in again using the traveler. Yes, bring the traveler to windward up past the center point. Most sailors are reluctant to do this because they’ve been taught that it detaches the wind on the leeward side. But not when you’ve let out the mainsheet. In effect, by letting out on the mainsheet, you’ve allowed the boom to rise up and the leech of the sail to slacken. This creates the desired twist at the top and allows the top of the sail to fly according to its apparent direction. At the same time, the bottom of the sail can fly according to its apparent direction.

By trimming the traveler and mainsheet together  you can manage the twist at the top of the sail as desired yet still keep power on the bottom of the mainsail. Keeping power on the bottom of the mainsail keeps your speed up which also increases the effectiveness of the rudder. Increasing the effectiveness of the rudder means it can hold more against any turning effect created by the shifting of center of pressure backwards. Wow – see how it is all connected.

What happened on our 15 knot gusty sailing day? Well, not one round up.

So to summarize, the sailing lesson here is when in higher winds bring the traveler up and sheet out the main. You’ll also need to release the boom vang a little. Letting the boom vang out allows the boom to rise which loosens the leech (trailing edge) of the sail and allows the top part to “twist out”.

This and many other finer sail trim concepts are discussed in NauticEd’s Sail Trim Clinic.

Day 4 of Introduction to NauticEd

Posted by Grant Headifen on May 15, 2010 under About NauticEd, Bareboat Charter, Celestial Navigation, Coastal Navigation, Crew, Maneuvering Under Power, Rules of Right of Way, Skipper, Storm Tactics, weather | Be the First to Comment

This is day 4 of 6 in your introduction to NauticEd International Sailing School. Watch the video and/or read the text below.

Today we’ll help you discover which courses are best suited for you personally.

We developed a series of 11 quick questions that will easily eliminate any confusion about which course you should be taking for your own personal sailing education.

Run the personal course recommendation tool now. You’ll save money by investing in only the courses right for you. When you login just look for “Recommended” under your Sailing Curriculum Marco tab

Getting Started with Multimedia Training

The first courses we believe that all sailors should complete no matter what their experience level is the FREE NauticEd Rules of the Nautical Road and the FREE Basic Sail Trim Course. These courses are already loaded into your curriculum.

If you’re an experienced sailor you’ll see the value in a quick refresher course. If you’re new to sailing then you’ll learn some VITAL nautical rules and sail trim knowledge.

In either case, these courses are free and thus you’ll be able to see how taking a NauticEd clinic and the associated test will work. Both are a highly graphical and fun 20 minute courses.

Complete your Navigation Rules Clinic and the Basic Sail Trim Courses now!

Then Set yourself up for a Proper Sailing Certification

If our free courses gained your confidence in us, then you may have already invested in either the full Skipper, Bareboat Charter Master or Captain’s bundle of courses. Most people do this eventually because it saves money and sets them on the right track to a proper Sailing Certification recognized by the world’s largest yacht charter companies. When you invest in a bundle you’re automatically given appropriate financial credit for any courses you’ve already taken.

Engaging in eLearning Process

As you go through the courses we really encourage you to engage in our nano-forum technology called SeaTalks. If you’re in the course and slightly confused on something, got a question or comment then post it on that specific page’s SeaTalks Nano-forum. You’ll see it at the top right of every page in the course. The community at large will answer and help you out. When in there, if you can answer someone else’s question go ahead. By fully engaging, you will become a better sailor.

Watch the video and learn more about SeaTalks Nano-Forums here.

Ranks and Courses

In email #2 we discussed the ranks Crew, Skipper, Bareboat Charter Master and Captain. Here’s how you work through these Ranks:

Right Now Your Rank is: [Database!Rank] – [Database!Level]

Gaining the Qualified Crew Rank


You are awarded the Qualified Crew Rank when you pass either the Skipper Course or the Qualified Crew Member Course and are level I experience qualified.

QUALIFIED CREW MEMBER COURSE: Learn to sail and contribute as a crew member on a modern cruising sailboat. Learn the lines, sailing terminology, sail trim and rules of the road. Estimated time: 7 hours total. Investment: $37.50.

Gaining the Skipper Rank
Skipper Card

Skipper Card

In addition to the two courses below, you must be at least Level I experience qualified.

The SKIPPER SAILING COURSE is a beginner to intermediate sailing course. It is a prerequisite to any certification and covers the fundamentals that every one must know. The total time needed to complete this course will be about 20 hours. Investment $67.00

The MANEUVERING UNDER POWER CLINIC: This is our most popular course. An absolutely essential maneuvering and docking course that will save you thousands in dents, bumps and scratches at the marina. Want to dock your boat like a pro every time? Want to impress? Take the most popular NauticEd Sailing School Course now. Estimated time: 3 hours total. Investment: $39.

The investment in the Skipper Bundle of courses is $95 instead of $106.50 a la carte.

Gaining the Bareboat Charter Master Rank
Bareboat Charter Master

Bareboat Charter Master Card

In addition to the Skipper Rank and the three courses below, you must be at least Level III experience qualified.

: Taking a sailing vacation? All hands on deck – this is the yacht charter sailing course for you and ALL of your crew. Make your charter sailing trip more enjoyable by getting ALL the bareboat charter tips you’ll need. Estimated time: 5 hours total. Investment: $39.

: Learn to navigate your sailboat. If you plan on sailing away from your home base or are taking a sailing vacation, you need this course. NauticEd Sailing School makes navigating a sailboat – a breeze. Estimated time: 10 hours total. Investment: $39.

: This Electronic Navigation course is the world’s only true interactive course where you learn all the instruments you might have onboard a sailboat. The exercises are designed so that you actually interact with a simulated GPS chart plotter and get inside the workings to REALLY understand how to maximize the information being presented to you. With ease, you’ll implement navigation techniques like setting your autopilot to track a waypoint or tack perfectly on a layline. Estimated time: 6 hours total. Investment: $25 or FREE when you invest in the BBCM bundle.

: Whether you are sailing your own vessel in coastal waters or chartering in the Caribbean or beyond, knowing how to safely and effectively anchor is one of the most essential and liberating skills you can have. Knowing about anchors, rodes, anchorages and anchoring techniques is a prerequisite for enjoying an evening in a magically beautiful setting as well as getting a good night’s sleep while swinging from the hook. The goal of this course is to either help you get more confident using the gear you have, or to help you select new gear and understand how to deploy it correctly.  We discuss available equipment and its performance. Estimated time: 4 hours. Investment: $17

The investment in the  Bareboat Charter Master Bundle of courses is $175 instead of $226.50 a la carte

Gaining the Captain’s Rank
Captain Card

Captain Card

In addition to the BBCM Rank and the four courses below, you must be at least Level III experience qualified.

: If you’re a real sailor then you need to understand and read the weather. It’s as simple as that! Written by the professionals at Clear Point Weather, this is the best weather sailing course available. Estimated time: 7 hours total. Investment: $39.

: Learn the true art and finesse of trimming the sails. When to adjust the fairleads, the traveler, the downhaul, the outhaul, the Cunningham, the boom vang. When leaning to sail properly, you should know what all these fine adjustments do. Estimated time: 4 hours total. Investment: $39.

: Even when day sailing, a storm can be upon us in minutes. Are you prepared with the knowledge now? This storm tactics sailing course will teach the essentials to keep you and your crew alive. Estimated time: 4 hours total. Investment: $39.

: Most mariners don’t realize that we never even hear about the many crews aboard vessels that had their share of problems offshore. Situations were evaluated, repairs were completed, and they made landfall quietly and efficiently – this done as a normal course of passagemaking. These able sailors had the skills, materials, and a plan to cope – having merely to carry out the work to get back on course. They understand that overcoming obstacles is a normal part of blue water sailing. Estimated time: 14 hours total. Investment: $39.

The investment in the Captain Bundle of courses is $307 instead of $357.50 a la carte.

In addition to the above courses and clinics, we offer the following:

CATAMARAN SAILING CONFIDENCE CLINIC: Converting over to a catamaran or chartering a catamaran for the first/second time? Learn the essential differences between sailing a monohull and a catamaran. This clinic will give you the confidence. It includes an interactive experiential online game to practice maneuvering in a marina. Estimated time: 3 hours total. Investment: $39.

: If you’re in any way intrigued with Celestial Navigation, this is the best and simplest celestial sailing course available. You’ll be able to do an actual noon shot and determine your position. Estimated time: 5 hours total. Investment: $39.

Tomorrow we’ll discuss practical sailing schools and how you can get a verified proficiency stamp added to your sailing certificate.

[ Jump to Day 5 ]

Return to How NauticEd Works ]

Make sure you run the personal course recommendation tool now.
Until tomorrow – fair winds,

Grant Headifen
Director of Education

NED the world’s coolest sailing instructor – teaching people to learn to sail

Posted by Grant Headifen on February 14, 2010 under About NauticEd, Crew, Skipper | Be the First to Comment

Here is a thread discussion on Linked in that I thought I’d repeat here about teaching points of sail

What have you found to be the best method to teach new students the points of sail?
Andrew – sorry for the shameless promotion – but the NauticEd online interactive flash game we have called NED is the absolute best tool. I’ve had hundreds of excellent comments about how it works from customers but also from instructors. It is a FREE application we developed and we’ve made it so that anyone can embed it on their site for free as well. The game is at our sailing simulator page.

NED the Sailing Instructor

NED the Sailing Instructor


Thanks for the suggestions Grant. In practice, is NED a bit too complicated for students of a 101 class? What has been your experience. There are a few ideas that could be adopted from concepts in the book Emergency Navigation by David Burch that in many ways parallel Dan’s thoughts. Get the student to “feel the wind” and begin to experience simple cause and effect as it relates to the boat.

Regarding NED,  there has two people who didn’t understand the point. But once interviewed they had not read the instructions (which are 1 paragraph long). Otherwise I have over 500 totally awesome wow keep it coming compliments.

Of course we at NauticEd never think about replacing online with practical experience – nothing like having the wind in your face for learning.

But I don’t think that any prudent and responsible educator would ever say that there is only one way to learn something. Some people learn best  by reading on their own, some by video, some by feel. What NED does is give some one a real interactive feel of all points of sail and teaches “points of sail” at the same time. The efficiency meter across the bottom of NED allows someone to really see and dial in the proper sail set. t’s also a big advantage to instructors because the last thing everyone else on the boat wants is spending too much time on one thing. If that can be learned/assisted off the boat then that helps everyone. All in all,  NED is just a tool. On top of that – the other point with NED is that it is fun and fun is what we all want to create to get people involved in the wonderful sport of sailing.

I showed NED to a 10 year old kid (who wins every regatta he enters) here yesterday and he got so excited about having the sailing clubs use it to teach other kids. I’ve been working on developing a kids version so that will be good. He especially liked the efficiency meter – he says that he races past good sailors all the time purely because they aren’t operating their sails finely tuned. NED is a really good tool to learn that – then see it happen in real life after.

The new kids version will have a window with the telltales in it.

Stay tuned!

One final point is that the FREE advanced version of NED is a game whereby people have to dial in the correct sail angels as fast as possible to get around a course. This acts to really “burn in” the sail angles versus wind with out thinking. This is a huge learning tool.

NauticEd gives NED away for free so that any one can embed NED on their site for FREE. I’d encourage all instructors to at least just add NED to their arsenal of tools for effective teaching.

PRESS RELEASE: NauticEd Announces Pacific Island Post Graduate Sailing Flotilla

Posted by Grant Headifen on February 4, 2010 under About NauticEd, Bareboat Charter, Skipper | Be the First to Comment

NauticEd Online Sailing School will begin offering a Post Graduate Sailing Flotilla to its students. Students who graduate to the NauticEd Bareboat Charter Master Rank will be invited to celebrate their graduation by skippering their own charter sailing yacht with their friends and family for a week long sailing adventure.

tongaGrant Headifen, Educational Director and Founder of NauticEd, has previously lead dozens of successful sailing flotillas throughout the Caribbean, Mediterranean and Pacific. “This time we’re spicing it up a little with a sailing adventure to the Kingdom of Tonga” says Headifen. “Tonga is ideal for this type of trip. It’s navigationally a simple sailing ground and is a safe introduction to yacht charter sailing vacations for someone who has not ventured beyond local and familiar waters. It’s also a pretty awesome location to ‘come and get your feet wet’ ”.

The Moorings charter sailing base in Tonga is owned and operated by Shane Walker. “Tonga has always been an excellent sailing ground but has not been highly publicized because it is slightly off the beaten track – but that’s part of the allure – untouched beauty. NauticEd has chosen well, during the flotilla participants will almost certainly see humpback whales, other incredible sea life, breathtaking beaches and clear clear water, with consistent 10-15 knot winds”. Says Walker.

NauticEd students who have reached the Bareboat Charter Master Rank have logged a minimum of 50 days of practical sailing experience on large sailing vessels and have completed relevant courses online through NauticEd’s online learn to sail, sailing education program. The online sailing courses that are a prerequisite are:

  • Skipper course
  • Maneuvering a Large Sailboat Under Power clinic
  • Coastal Navigation” clinic
  • Bareboat Charter Clinic

A video explanation of the NauticEd Sailing Certification system is available at http://www.nauticed.org/sailing-school-student

NauticEd’s electronically managed Sailing Certification allows students and NauticEd to determine automatically if the student has reached the Bareboat Charter Master Rank. Once reached, the student will receive an official invite to the Post Graduate Sailing Flotilla. “This is going to be a really fun and excellent celebration event” says Headifen. “on top of the excellent sailing and fun navigational exercises, we’ll have GPS treasure hunts, a mini regatta, a 100m dash on the beach wearing mask, fins and snorkel, there will be spot prizes for best boat maneuvering, best dressed crew, sand castle design etc etc etc. Reaching Bareboat Charter Master Rank is really an achievement and we’ll be there to make sure the Skippers are appropriately recognized.

The NauticEd post graduation flotilla will take place in August 2010 – with exact dates to be announced. Sailors interested in participating in the sailing flotilla in Tonga lead by a professional Captain should contact NauticEd.


Sailing Resume – Logbook

Posted by Grant Headifen on January 18, 2010 under About NauticEd, Skipper, Videos and photos | Be the First to Comment

Here is a question posted by Nancy KnudsenEditor Sail-World Cruising. Sail-world is one of the largest and respected online sailing news companies (http://www.sailing-world.com) to NauticEd this week. Followed by our answer.

On 1/16/10 6:47 PM, “Nancy Knudsen Cruising Editor Sail-World” <cruisingeditor@sail-world.com> wrote:

Hi Grant
I have a question about the sailing certification video you have sent me.   The practical experience that is mentioned in the video.  For a sailor not within practical distance of your facilities, how does this happen.  Do you take the word of the sailor that they have completed this? – or what happens.

As my readership is international, this is a very important point for me.  (I understand that if it is an honour system then the ‘verification’ process at the end would make up for this)

Nancy Knudsen
Sail-World Cruising

TetraMedia established in 2000, operates the largest online marine news network in the world. It now has regional sites around the world, with Sail-World UK-Europe, Sail-World Asia, Sail-World NZ, Sail-World USA, Sail-World Australia, Sail-World Cruising International, Sail-World Cruising USA, Sail-World Cruising Canada, Sail-World Australian Cruising, Powerboat-World and Marine Business News.

Each week, more than 165,000 newsletters are sent to subscribers, by its seven editors. More than a million individual boaters have visited Sail-World and Powerboat-World in 2009.

This is NauticEd’s response


Yes  – as with all charter company resumes – it is the honor system. It is completely impossible to verify time. Additionally the United States Coast Guard accepts the honor system for the USCG Commercial Captains license as do most other country licenses.

What I’ve been able to do is to also back this up with a Proficiency Verification by a NauticEd affiliated sailing school. Right now we are encouraging schools to be affiliated with us because there are a ton of “students” (we are all students) out there who don’t see the value in taking a basic course if they are already past that point. Thus the entire sailing school network is missing out on touching many students. With the verification check out, schools now can actually add this to their income stream thus it’s a big incentive for them to align. Students benefit by solidifying their resume to charter companies and by picking up a few professional tips along the way.

The technology is simple but clever. When an instructor is finished verifying a student’s proficiency, he or she simple logs into the site and clicks the verification button against the student. Before the student can get home, their certificate is updated with the Verification stamp.

We’re making it pretty simple for a school to sign up with us. They must be an established school with a website and have commercially legal instructors and follow our standard when performing a verification. A new system that we will implement shortly is a way for students to publicly rate the experience with the school on-line on our site. This ensures the school is providing an excellent learning experience for the students else they may get a bad rating. This I think is essential for the growth of the industry – no one in the sailing industry wants a single student to have a bad/boring/unprofessional initiation experience to sailing.

So to answer you question specifically – we plan on expanding our verification-training schools. However even with out a verification the honor system for building a resume is fine. Whats’ exciting to us is our sailing iPhone app which makes it easy for a student to update their resume on the dock in 2 clicks.

If you have any more questions please let me know.


Grant Headifen
Ph 512-696-1070

Go Completely Nautical
Take the FREE online Rules of Right of way clinic for Sailboats at NauticEd.org
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The World’s Most Advanced Online Boating Education

NED – Interactive Sailing Instructor

Posted by Grant Headifen on July 16, 2009 under Crew, Skipper | Be the First to Comment

NED is an interactive online sailing instructor developed by NauticEd – The World’s Most Advanced Online Sailing School.

The educational sailing training tool uses interactive flash technology to show novice sailors how to set the sail trim according to the wind direction which maximizes the efficiency of the sails. The tool teaches in about 5 minutes that which sometimes takes hours on a sailboat. Sailing Instructors worldwide are adopting this tool as the standard for teaching basic sail trim.

To play with NED below – READ THIS FIRST.

There are 4 main controls:
Mainsail: Sheet-in and sheet-out (pull the main sail in or let it out)
Headsail: Sheet-in and sheet-out
Helm: Turn to port or starboard
Wind Speed: Click the red triangle to change the speed of the wind

IMPORTANT: The center dial represents a true wind meter on a sailboat. All windmeters have the boat pointing straight up because you are standing behind the wind meter when on a boat. On NED however, there is one slight difference to simulate the boat turning when you depress the helm button. The boat will turn but will flick back up to its proper position when the helm button is released. You will notice then that the wind direction and the HDG (compass heading) has appropriately changed according to how much you turned the sailboat.

As you turn you’ll notice that the speed of the boat changes as with the efficiency slider bar across the bottom. the trick is to maximize the speed and efficiency for the wind direction.

Go ahead and try it out. Here are some exercises – each time set the sails to maximize the sailboat speed.

  • Turn the boat to 120 degrees off the wind on Starboard (wind from the right hand side of the boat). Notice the screen will announce the point of sail “Broad Reach”
  • Turn the boat to 90 degrees off the wind on starboard (“Beam reach”)
  • Now change the wind speed to 20 knots and notice the change in boat speed.
  • Tack the boat through the wind to 30 degrees on port (“Close Haul”)
  • Turn the boat to 80 degrees onport
  • Now go to 180 degrees (wind directly behind)
  • You’ll see the sails gybe over when you go to about 170 degrees.

Play with NED as much as you like until you really feel you have the hang of the sail set. You’ll discover that this is almost exactly what you’ll need to be doing when out sailing. See below for a few tips about sailing with a windmeter. Once you’ve mastered NED – you can play with the Advanced sailing Instructor version on the NauticEd Online Sailing School website.

Access to NED is provided FREE to the world courtesy of NauticEd.org

Windmeters are great because you don’t have to keep looking at the top of the mast (and around the bimini) to find the exact direction of the wind. Therefore learning to sail with a windmeter is a necessary skill. When sailing with a windmeter here is a sailing tip which we cover in the NauticEd Skipper Course.

One issue that appears most often with new sailors is focusing too much attention on the electronic wind meter or the wind direction indicator (the pointy arrow thing at the top of the mast). Imagine driving down the highway looking at your speedometer for more than 10 seconds. You would surely have an accident. Now relate this to looking at your wind instruments. As with a speedometer in a car, you only need to look at them for long enough to gain the information it is telling you (IE check wind instruments for about 1 second every 10 seconds). The rest of the time your eyes should be up out of the boat and looking at your surroundings and the horizon taking note of which tree, house, cloud, island etc that you are sailing towards to hold a straight course. You make your course corrections when looking out of the boat then you check the wind instruments to see if you’re back on the desired wind angle. If not then lift your head out of the boat again and make a new course correction. In this manner you can judge exactly how much your boat is turning.

If you make course corrections while looking at the wind instruments you will tend to over shoot every time. So the Sailing Technique is to keep your head out of the boat and check the windmeter in short glaces. Think about trying to drive down a highway using a compass only and stay in a straight line or make a 90 degree turn using a compass. Not really possible or practical yet the tendency to do this when sailing is high. Rid your self of any such habit from day 1.

People ask “well what if you’re on the open ocean and there are no objects to point at”. Don’t worry – by the time you get to the open ocean you’ll have the “FEEL”.

This discussion is equally similar when you give the helm over to a novice. The best thing to do to a novice is to start them out by having them aim at something so that they can get used to sailing in a straight line using small 1/4 turn max corrections on the wheel. Trying to explain to someone who has never taken the wheel about the wind indicators is pretty pointless.

As you’re becoming more confident in your sailing abilities you can test your self out on a clear steady wind day by looking at the wake you’re leaving and ensuring it is in a straight line. This will tell you if you’re tending to slightly over steer and keeping focused on the job at hand.

The previous discussion was taken from the NauticEd Skipper Course.