NauticEd Unveils High-Tech Teaching Tool

Posted by Grant Headifen on June 22, 2009 under About NauticEd, Crew, Skipper | Be the First to Comment


Today, NauticEd again lived up to its tag line of being “The World’s Most Advanced Online Sailing Education” by unveiling it’s latest teaching tool – NED. NED is a very high tech interactive online sailing instructor whereby new and novice sailors can learn how the sails should be positioned for any wind direction.

The player can:

  • Turn the boat and watch the speed of the boat change with different wind angles
  • Increase or decrease the speed of the wind
  • Trim the jib sail and the main sail and watch the boat speed change with trim
  • Gybe the boat
  • Tack the boat
  • Learn the points of sail
  • Watch the boat’s heel angle change with wind condition and angle
  • Learn exactly how you should set the sail trim with the wind angle

The simulation is very realistic because the speed profile was extracted from a real speed polar plot diagram of a racer cruiser sailboat.
Grant Headifen, the Educational Director for NauticEd developed NED. “It was just time” he said “For too long now instructors have been forced to rely upon blackboards and crude models made of plywood, dowel rods, sting, eyehooks, handkerchiefs and a fan to explain points of sail and how to set the sails for a particular wind direction. Now, students can simply log on to the internet and play with the simulator to really get the feel of the wind and properly understand the dynamics. Instructors now can get the students out of the classroom and onto the water faster which is what every student wants. It’s a very exciting and useful free tool”.

Once NED has been mastered, NauticEd also provides Advanced NED, an interactive game whereby the student must sail a course and achieve the best time.

NED the Sailing Instructor

NED the Sailing Instructor

NauticEd decided to make the tools, NED and Advanced NED available for everyone for free. “It’s one way of showing off NauticEd’s dedication to bringing technology to the sailing education world. But, by making NED free we are also helping potential sailors get out of their arm chairs and onto the water. You can’t resist it, once you play with NED you’ll want to test it out on the water… and that benefits the entire sailing industry alike” Headifen added.
NauticEd even allows anyone to embed NED. Sailing schools and others who want potential customers to spend more time on their site can embed NED into their own website. NauticEd provides the html Embed code for free to anyone.

What about COB – Captain overboard?

Posted by Director of Education on June 9, 2009 under Bareboat Charter, Crew, Skipper, Storm Tactics | 2 Comments to Read

Last week we made a pretty good point about using the engine as your first method of pick up when you have a man overboard while under sail. And it was quite well received by followers – thanks. Many sailing schools teach the figure 8 recovery method whilst under sail and this is correct we believe so long as it is used as the second method for recovery.

But it may need to be the first if someone has the engine keys in their pocket. Durh!

The problem is that it’s usually the captain who turns off the engine and puts the keys away secure in his/her pocket. And it’s many times the captain who is the most competent sailor and worse yet if the only competent sailor aboard or not aboard as in the case of COB.

The scenario is now pretty easy to realize. Captain goes overboard with keys in pocket and a non experienced crew left on board to sail the boat to a recovery pick up.

Leave the keys in an accessible place. Have a second set of keys available in the chart table and ensure every one knows the COB (captain overboard) recovery plan.

Sailing schools in particular should take notice here because many times you have novice students who are just learning to sail  loaded on the boat. Make COB part of your initial briefing.

When on a bareboat charter make a keys talk part of your initial briefing to everyone.

Stormy conditions? Remind everyone about MOB and COB during the batten down the hatches phase.

Preventing an autotack in a sailboat

Posted by Grant Headifen on June 5, 2009 under Bareboat Charter, Crew, Skipper | Be the First to Comment

In continuing our learn to sail series of blogs we discuss the annoying problem of autotacking.

Scenario – A gust of wind comes ripping through and causes the sailboat to round up and autotack or you’ve given the helm to a novice, they’re not paying attention and sail too close to the wind and they autotack.  How annoying now you’re heading in a direction you don’t want to and have to re-tack the sailboat back. Worse yet – if you’re in a race you’ve probably lost 200 ft. And in other circumstances it can be dangerous because you have essentially lost control of the boat and  especially if there is high traffic, you might tack right into another boat.

To explain, an autotack is the process when the sailboat tacks over with out your permission. Most often caused from a severe roundup.

Here’s a cool little trick whereby you can prevent most of them.

Once the sailboat’s center line has crossed the line between it and the point where the wind is coming from, your head sail is going to back wind and begin to really push your sailboat further around to the other side. Thus you now have a huge force at the front of the boat pushing it  right around to the other side. Once this happens, it’s all over – you’re going to autotack.

Preventing an autotack of a sailboat

Preventing an autotack of a sailboat

So … here is your prevention technique. As the boat comes up to the line of wind or even if it is through the line of wind,  no problem, simply release the head sail sheet. This prevents the wind from back winding your head sail. Since all forces to round the boat up or to push the sailboat around to the other side have now disappeared, there is only one force left on the boat and that is your rudder going through the water. Since you have head way you can just steer the boat back to it’s original position. As the wind come back to the original side, just tighten up the head sail and go on your merry way.

Sounds all good in theory but does it really work? Yes as long as you are quick with the release, it works almost every time.

The NauticEd online sailing school is full of tips like this. And once you’ve registered for a sailing course you can always comeback to retake any sailing lesson with out cost. Learn to sail with NauticEd.

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Anchoring a sailboat

Posted by Grant Headifen on March 6, 2009 under Bareboat Charter, Skipper | Be the First to Comment

Learning to anchor a boat is an integral part of your learn to sail lessons. There are lots of considerations. Here we’ll cover one of those considerations – swing!

Care must be given to swing. As the wind changes during the night your boat will move with the wind and can put you into a precarious situation by being to close to the shore. Many times you’ll find an anchorage area with moorings. Remember that boats tied to moorings swing less than anchored boats. In this circumstance you may swing into other boats. Golden rule is “watch your swing”.

Swing path of a boat at anchor

Swing path of a boat at anchor

In addition, consideration must be given to the tide. As the tide “ebbs” out, you not only get closer to the bottom but your swing circle grows and the shore becomes closer. This diagram shows your swing path with deep water and correct scope.

Swing of the boat with current and wind changes

Swing of the boat with current and wind changes

This diagram shows that as the tide ebbed out your scope increased as well as your swing path bringing you dangerously close to the bottom and/or shore.

Swing of a boat after the tide goes out

Swing of a boat after the tide goes out

This online sailing instruction comes from Module 9 in the Skipper course. Take the course – you’ll learn a lot about sailing and get the skipper sailing certification.

Skipper Course

Skipper Course

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Learning to hold a straight course

Posted by Grant Headifen on February 6, 2009 under Crew, Skipper | Be the First to Comment

One issue that appears most often with new sailors learning to sail 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).

learn to sail with a wind meter

learn to sail with a wind meter

The windmeter above which is installed on most modern sailboats shows that the wind is coming from 60 degrees off your bow and is blowing at 24.3 knots (Hope your sails are reefed in). You should be sailing on a close reach. Do you know if it is starboard or port? See the answer at the bottom of this post.

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. 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. 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.

Remember this:
You’re a sailor if …
you can hold a course,
and hold a drink,
and hold a conversation.

And if you can do that while telling a joke – then you’re advanced.

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Understanding true vs apparent wind

Posted by Grant Headifen on February 4, 2009 under Crew, Skipper | 3 Comments to Read

Here is an easy description of true wind and apparent wind. Put you hand outside the window of your car traveling at 60 miles per hour on a still day and your hand will feel a 60 mile per hour wind. That’s apparent wind yet the true wind is zero. What if the car was driving into a 20 mile per hour head wind? Your hand would feel 80 mph. Or if the wind was blowing from behind at 20 mph, your hand would feel 40mph.

Now what about a cross wind of 20 miles per hour? Well we need to do a little Pythagorean theorem work on this. What is the square root of the sum of 60 squared plus 20 squared? Your hand would feel 63.24 mph and mostly from a direction in front of the car. If the car accelerated to 100 mph your hand would feel 102 mph again mostly from the front. If the car decelerates to 10 mph your hand would feel 22 mph mostly from the side of the car and if he car stopped you’d feel the full true wind of 20 miles per hour from the side of the car. What ever your hand feels is the apparent wind. The apparent wind equals the true wind when your car is not moving.

When determining direction of the wind, the faster the car goes the more the apparent wind direction comes from the direction of travel of the car. Again imagine the cross wind. At 1 mph the apparent wind feels almost like the true wind from across the car. As the car accelerates the wind feels more and more like it is coming from the front.

This is similar to a boat. The faster the boat sails into the wind, the more the apparent wind speed increases and the more it feels like it is coming from the front of the boat. As a general rule of thumb then, when sailing the true wind is about 15 degrees more towards the back of the boat. IE point to where you feel the wind is coming from then point 15 degrees further back and that is about where the true wind is coming from.

The following diagram illustrates this.

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Sailboat Rigging and Some Nomenclature

Posted by Grant Headifen on January 24, 2009 under Crew, Skipper | Be the First to Comment

Learning to sail can be a bit overwhelming at the start because of the nomenclature. But don’t worry it’s just a matter of learning a few at the start then adding to them as you progress in your sailing education.

The following illustration shows the parts of the sail and associated control lines. Of note is the bolt rope which is one of very few actual ropes on a boat (another is the bell rope). And note that you can use this information to win some decent size bets with many sailors because many are under the illusion that there are no ropes on a boat.

learn to sail

learn to sail

  • The bolt rope provides strength to the luff of the sail and is used also to slide into the track if there is one. On a head sail the bolt rope provides strength to the luff of the sail when “hanks” are used.
  • Hanks are basically sliding clamps that slide up the forestay and are clamped onto the bolt rope at the leading edge (luff).
  • The main halyard is attached to the head of the sail and is used to pull the sail up the mast.
  • The gooseneck is a swivel connection from the boom to the mast.
  • The reefing points are points where the sail can be pulled down in order to reef the sail if a roller furling system is not used.
  • The topping lift holds the back of the boom up.
  • The boom vang holds the boom down when beating to wind. On down wind legs the boom vang can be loosened to provide more shape to the sail.
  • The cunningham pulls the sail down tight and is used also when reefing.
  • The outhaul line is attached to the clew to pull the sail out along the boom.

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Learn to Sail

Posted by Grant Headifen on January 23, 2009 under Crew, Skipper | Be the First to Comment

Just how hard is it to learn to sail. I meet people on airplanes all the time and their comment is many times “sailing? Isn’t that hard”. Well, was it hard learning to ride a bike? Kinda. Is it easy riding a bike now? well … yes.

So learning to sail is similar. There are theory elements and practical elements in learning to sail. Some of the theory is rules of the road etc but some is also understanding the winds flow over the sails. And for some, that topic is more exciting than for others, but in order for you to move a boat through the water under sail, one must realize that the wind pushes and pulls the boat along depending on the angle that the boat is presented to the wind. It’s a concept that is easily understood with just a bit of study.

Most people can understand the wind flow over a wing. Below we are relating that same effect to a sail.

learn to sail

learn to sail

This is the principle of how a sailboat can head upwind. It uses the low pressure on the leeward side of the sail to pull the boat upwind much like an airplane rises into the sky.

In learning to sail then, one just has to fundamentally realize that the way that the sails are presented to the wind gives rise to force on the sails which is transferred to the boat.

When going downwind, you might liken the effect to trying to hold a sheet of plywood in the wind. The wind would have it’s greatest effect on the plywood when it was perpendicular to the wind. So in the same way , when going down wind you want as much of that sail presented perpendicular to the wind a s possible. IE let the sails out square to the wind.

A general rule of thumb then is shown in this graphic where you can see that the further down wind the boat sails, the further out the sails are set.

learn to sail

learn to sail

Almost all other principles of sailing build upon this above. If you can understand the above, it’s not too hard to learn to sail.
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Happy New Year – learn to sail in light winds

Posted by Director of Education on January 1, 2009 under Skipper, weather | Be the First to Comment

What better way for NauticEd online sailing classes to start off the year by going sailing. The NauticEd crew will be racing their Beneteau 373 on lake Travis in the Red eye regatta today. Winds are predicted to be light at 6-10mph. So it’s going to be a light wind sailing day. Light wind sailing raises a few issues that many new sailors have a hard time picking up on at first but with a little experience you can learn to sail in light winds.

The trick is to understand that the rudder when turned adds drag to the boat which slows it down. When we have plenty of wind this is usually insignificant – but at slow wind speeds the drag becomes a significant force. In addition, the slower the boat moves the slower it turns and so turning the wheel doesn’ seem to turn the boat as fast. This results in the inexperienced sailor turning the wheel more to get the same rate of turning that they are used to. And as we discovered above – more turning creates more drag which slows the boat even more.

So the big trick is patience. Turn the wheel and wait – it will turn but slowly. And when turning the wheel just make small turns. This is a really hard one to master but with practise , you’ll get it. Many cruisers just turn on the engine when winds drop this low but racers have to deal with all wind conditions. It’s one of the reasons that racers typically become much better technical sailors than cruisers. But they do miss out on all the trips to the Caribbean that the cruisers take right?

So… race and cruise – that’s the real answer. Become crew on the many undercrewed sailboats. Just show up at the club house before a race and almost guarnteed you’ll be asked to crew.

Have a great learn to sail year!

Very Technical

Posted by Eric Perlinger on December 20, 2008 under Uncategorized | Read the First Comment

What a difficult course. I read and re-read the material 5 times and still failed the test, several times. I finally passed it on my 4th try. I then took it a 5th time to better my score. The clinic is really worthwhile. I feel I have a good base it what powers a sailboat.