Preventing the Frustrating Auto-Tack

Posted by Director of Education on October 3, 2015 under Skipper | Comments are off for this article

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First – what is an auto-tack?

It’s when you are sailing along on a close haul about 30 or so degrees off the wind minding your own business when either the wind changes OR you weren’t watching the boat turning up into the wind. Either way the wind now is coming from the front of the boat – it back-winds the jib sail and over you go onto the other tack. Oh man that is frustrating because there is now a lot of work to do with grinding in sheets, getting back up to speed then tacking back. Whew!

In addition, it makes you look like an absolute twit of a sailor – in front of new people and especially in front of experienced people. It’s a rookie landlubber thing to do.

Here is a couple of tips on how to prevent that. (thank goodness)

(1) As soon as it has happened take the wheel and do a giant turn to try to bring the boat back onto its original course. I’m not talking about just turning the wheel – it has to be a giant turn and it has to be fast. If you have a tiller then bring the tiller all the way over.

The reason you have to do this large and fast is that you still have velocity in the boat and the rudder at this point is still pretty effective but it has to overcome the very large force on the front of the boat because of the wind back-winding on the jib now pushing your boat around. You have a few seconds to use the rudder to quickly overcome the force and get it back around. The further the boat goes through the wind the greater the force at the front of the boat. Acting fast prevents the turning force on the jib from getting too big. The other thing that is happening is that the boat is very quickly losing velocity and this is making the rudder less and less effective. Force on the rudder is proportional to the square of the velocity. So if you halve the velocity the rudder become 4 times less effective.

So do a large and fast turn on the wheel or tiller to get the boat back to its original heading.

(2) Another thing to do is to instantly release the jib sheet. This totally takes away the front turning force on the jib, giving all control forces back to the rudder only. Provided you have any speed left in the boat, usually you can get it back around.

Number 1 above is best because it involves less grinding – if you can get it back. Number 2 should be instantly done if number 1 is not working. All in all both have to be done fast.

In reality, this should never really happen to you if you are constantly aware of the wind forces on the boat. You can feel these forces easily because the boat heels over (even slightly) due to the wind. If the boat begins to stand up straight it is happening for 1 of 2 reasons. 1- you are heading too close into the wind either by not paying attention to your heading or a wind shift to forward or 2 the wind suddenly dropped. In both cases you will make a turn downwind. 1 is obvious but 2 is because if the true wind drops then the apparent wind shifts to more come from the front of the boat. Thus in both cases, when the boat stands up you should be turning the boat downwind. Number 2 (wind drop) is not going to make you auto-tack but number 1 a wind shift to forward or an unbeknownst unwatching turn into the wind will make you auto-tack.

Thus the zeroth way to prevent an auto-tack is to feel the boat. But this takes more experience.

Anecdote: One time I was out with some friends sailing. I had a friend steering. He kept on doing autotacks – from just not paying enough attention and not feeling the boat stand up and not making the turn down wind. I told him the next time he did that he would have to start doing all the work on the jib sheets. That fixed him – he doesn’t do it anymore. Hee hee. Learn by fire!

Here is a quick animation to show a rookie helmsperson not paying attention and turning the boat up into the wind. Half way through you release the jib sheet removing the forward force and then also doing a big turn downwind with the rudder.

Here is another great similar article on a concept called pinching and what it is doing to the boat and how to feel it and how not to do it.


Some sailing courses/books try to give you the stiff technical stuff on sailing. NauticEd courses get right down into the nitty details like this to make you a better sailor all around.

Take the NauticEd Skipper Course and learn the technical details but also so many tips and tricks you’ll come out looking and sounding like a professional. For Beginner to intermediate sailors, the NauticEd Skipper Course should be your first stop.

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How to steer a sailboat

Posted by Director of Education on August 28, 2014 under About NauticEd, Bareboat Charter, Crew, Skipper | Comments are off for this article

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Sailing the helm should be natural – like riding a bike


Riding and sailing

What do these have in common?

This past summer I invested some serious time into having my daughter learn to ride a bike and it paid off on the last day of summer break.

It’s very sailing related so read on – no really!

Here’s what I did. I took the pedals and training wheels off and lowered the seat so that both tippy toes could touch the ground. Then on a hard surface, with a very slight incline I had her sit on the seat and push the bike along with her toes. At first when the bike tipped to one side she would put her full foot down to catch balance. After about 10 different sessions I noticed that as the bike was tipping she would automatically compensate and steer the bike to account for the tipping. I did not teach her this – it was just automatic and becoming natural. She was keeping her feet up and the bike was gliding. At about session 15 she was doing this to the point where I thought she was ready. I took her to a grassy area with a slightly bigger incline – just to account for the friction of the grass. I put on the pedals and pushed her off and AWAY SHE WENT.

The key ingredient here is automatic compensation. She did not even know she was doing it. She would automatically turn the wheel to follow the direction of her imbalance.

Helming a sailboat is exactly the same. At first you are all over the place trying to keep a straight line but as with my daughter, the more time you spend at the helm the more automatic it is going to become. This of course means more helm time more helm time and more helm time.

If you need more helm time but don’t own a boat read this post about gaining experience on a sailboat.

I was speaking to my friend Robert Barlow at Texas Sailing Academy in Austin Texas yesterday. Robert is an excellent sailing instructor.  He described a similar thing when he teaches. We were both talking about how students get distracted by the wind meter and the wind vane and the sails and waves and boats and… which keeps getting them off course. All we want the student to learn at first is to feel the boat and react accordingly to keep the boat sailing in a  straight line – towards a distance house or tree on land as a reference. What Robert does is to blind fold the student so that they have to rely on their senses.

Some of the senses are:

  • Boat heeling more or less
  • Hearing the wind direction over your ears
  • Hearing the flapping of sails
  • Feeling pressure on the helm

All of these give an indication that something is happening requiring an adjustment.

BUT the big trick is to get to a point where the information by passes your brain and goes directly to your hand. Not really – your brain still does the processing, but assigns less and less processing power to the required action – like the riding the bike scenario. How much processing power does your brain assign to needing to turn the wheel to stay balanced. If it required any of the main Ram to stop and think – “Oh I am falling – now which way should I turn the wheel to make me stay up – um let me see if I turn to the right the bike will do ummm that or left it will do this – ok left it is”. No that doesn’t happen.

Back to sailing. We need to get to a point where if the boat say heels due to a wind gust then the HAND automatically adjusts the helm to compensate the boat wanting to turn upwind. You hand just goes into automatic mode and prevents that by turning the boat down wind WITH OUT THINKING. Your senses hear the sail flapping – your HAND turns the boat down wind. Your ears sense more wind in your upwind ear, your HAND turns the boat upwind.

It is like your hand is doing the processing not your brain. This point is well proven possible by the bike scenario.

A few months back I was out riding my mountain bike. I was angling towards a tiny rock ledge no more than 3 inches high. If the front wheel takes on that ledge, the ledge will win. It’s simple physics a force to the left at the bottom of the bike near the ground opposing my momentum centered 4 feet off the ground will create a tipping moment. One that quickly ends in the middle of a cactus in Texas. None of these thoughts went consciously through my brain as my eyes delivered the information. My right leg mashed the pedal down, both arms pulled and my back muscles tensed to shift my weight back – all automatically and in the correct timing to lift the tire up over the ledge. Having completed that maneuver the arms swung to miss a rock and so on. At the next water break I stopped and thought about that and said WOW – that brain process is cool. Any neuroscientist sailors care to pop me an email to explain this? – I’ll post it as a comment here. How does the brain assign the processing power initially at a conscious level then pass it down to the subconscious. Even years later, the subconscious remains – ridden a bike lately? It’s still easy.

Back to sailing. And this is a note to instructors and to captains teaching crew members to helm. Be conscious of the subconscious.Try to help your student move that reactionary process to the subconscious so that the “hand” is doing the processing not the brain. If you are thinking about it – you just need more helm time.

I always say:



Grant Headifen
Director of Education

Congrats Alexandra on your first ride without the training wheels.

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Sailing Vacation of a Life Time

Posted by Director of Education on July 13, 2013 under About NauticEd, Bareboat Charter, Crew, Skipper | Comments are off for this article

How to take the sailing trip of a life time

Mount Everest

Picture I took of Mount Everest

Last night I was telling a friend about trekking in Nepal a few years back and mid story it suddenly occurred to me the better part of the untold story. The main story – we hiked for 17 days on the trail and it was awesome. We were rewarded at the top of the trail at 18,000 ft of a most commanding view of Everest and the Himalayas on a beautiful clear and blue sky day. Whoof. What a life long story – BUT here’s the better part of the story. When we were given the opportunity to go, I had 1001 excuses that this was the wrong timing. I was launching NauticEd, running a major contract for another giant boating company and wrapping up the sale of another business – there was much to do. All in all it was to be a month of time off work. What was one to do? What would you do? The logical thing was to put it off, to do it “another” time.

If you’re a student of life and of time then you’ll know and understand that “another time” does not exist. Memories exist of the past and plans are made for the future but time only exists right now. No one says “what will be the time in 5 minutes from now?”

And so fortunately at the “time” of making this decision, I understood this. And so we went on a life experience never to be forgotten AND I now have stories to be told about the experience until time stops for me.

That was 6 years ago and I can absolutely tell you with out a doubt, that the month off did not make a difference. Nothing as important as being able to tell the story of trekking in the Himalayas would have ever happened in that month. In fact I can’t think of a single thing of how my life would have changed if I’d stayed and worked. No amount of money that could have been saved that was worth not having that memory. The credit card charges are paid off long ago.

But even now as I write this – it’s an interesting reflection because – what do I have? Based on that decision to go or not to go the only real difference is I have a story or I wouldn’t have a story. There is nothing else. I can say this with certainty however, it was amazing. If I’d stayed and worked – it would not have been amazing.

The question then to ask is – do I want to have an amazing life? The answer we give ourselves is proven by the actions that we take when opportunity arises. One thing we all know is that enough “now moments of time” are going to pass so that at some point there will not be any more moments left for us.

So the choice then about life is: “Stories or no stories? That is the choice.”

This is not to say that we shirk our responsibilities. But what I’m proposing is that when a story generating opportunity arises, GO FOR IT. Do it like this will never come about again because it probably won’t.

Stated very clearly then, there are no valid excuses to miss out on an adventure of a life time.

Taken to the next level – get this – last week I was having a discussion with a group of friends and my friend Mike said – I think my adventure of a life time this year will be to the Mediterranean. He was laughingly referring to the fact hat he takes an adventure of a life time every year. A few years back he took a boat trip from Argentina to the Antarctic, he’s now been on all seven continents of planet earth. And he’s got great stories and he is a good guy to hang with any time.

What has this got to do with sailing you’re perhaps asking? Well everything!!!!!

With NauticEd, you’re given an opportunity to gain the knowledge in your arm chair every night after the kids are in bed with 1 hour of free down time to work towards your Bareboat Charter Master Certification. We provide a road map for you via friend’s boats and yacht clubs to gain the proper practical experience. We provide access to sailing schools world wide to gain the practical verification stamp for your certificate. You can do this. And having achieved it – you could be chartering a sailboat in Tahiti/ Bora Bora, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean within the next year or two OR you could not. In either circumstance the next year or two is going to pass.

Our motivation here is genuine – we want to help you live your sailing dreams and, as related to this blog, your life dreams. We’re more than likely only one of a very few that are motivated to help you achieve this. Yes we get paid for it just like any other life coach but for the one time cost of the Bareboat Charter Master Certification and the value it represents I think you’re glad we’re pushing you to gain an achievement that represents yourself.

Now is the time to decide to put adventure permanently in your life or to leave it for another “time”.

Live Life. Get started completing your Bareboat Charter Master Sailing Certification today.

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Sailing in Bora Bora

Planking on a Catamaran in Bora Bora

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Sailing by the Luff

Posted by Director of Education on November 24, 2012 under Skipper | Comments are off for this article

This question was posed to us on our NauticEd Sailing facebook page

Well My Uncle invited us out to see the tall ships on parade in Long beach harbor… but we sailed outside the breakwater, then headed back in. At one point I got behind the helm of the boat to get the feel of steering the boat. And my Uncle tells me to “Steer by the Luff of the sail” I was a little bewildered by this since I’ve never heard the term before. So, I hope this will be explained here!

When I learned to fly – the instructor’s first introduction for me to flying was to teach me to fly the plane straight and level.  He did not explain any thing else about flying speed and stalling  or turning or direction or anything – it was two full sessions on straight and level flying. The same needs to be done with learning to sail. Teaching from the outset to sail the luff of the sail is a bit bewildering for the new student. The best way to start some one new at the helm is to get them to point exactly at a point on land and have them continue to sail to that point. After a while a new point can be sailed to then a new point. It’s important to develop “straight and level” sailing with a new student. Sailing by the luff of the sail is too advanced for a first timer. Sailing the luff of the sail is a combination of sail set and boat heading to have the sail set at it’s most efficient setting. But with out understanding all the wind flow dynamics first – how can a new sailor be expected to understand this. The theory needs to be shown on paper – or better yet using animated graphics. NauticEd’s basic sail trim course shows the dynamics of wind flow over the sail. It’s some thing that can not be efficiently taught on a boat on the water. You might send the basic sail trim course link on our site to your uncle.  Not to take anything away from him at all – it’s awesome that he gave you the helm. I think if you understood a little of the theory first – you would have grasped the practical goings on very quickly.

Please take our Free Sailing Course on Basic Sail Trim and tell as many people about it as possible especially people with boats – if they could have people go through this course before they took them sailing it would help a lot.

Coastal Navigation and Anchoring in Inland Waterways of Australia

Posted by Director of Education on January 6, 2012 under Bareboat Charter, Coastal Navigation, Rules of Right of Way, Skipper | Comments are off for this article

Where were you over the holidays? Sailing?

If you tried to email us over the holidays, you would have gotten a polite “out of the office notice”. We were busy catching up with our Canadian friends who have been sailing the world with their three kids for the past four years on a 42 ft PDQ Antares Catamaran. Early last year we meet up with them in New Zealand in the Tasman Bay (see the video in New Zealand). This year we meet with them in the inland water ways around Brisbane and the Gold Coast of Australia. Sailing with the Ellsay’s on Stray Kitty is a real insight to the lifestyle of world cruisers. They’ve certainly got it down and watching the kids in action with the lines and fenders was pretty impressive. This adventure was particularly interesting because of the intercoastal navigation issues in and around all the waterways. So here, I thought I’d relate a few stories as highlights of the issues and proof that both theory and practical knowledge is king.

Waterways south of Brisbane

Waterways south of Brisbane

One beautiful sunny afternoon we were anchored at a place called Jumpingpin. We went for a walk along the beach and came across a uniquely Australian experience by encountering a group of wallabies hoping across the sand.

Jumpingpin - A popular day stop (so long as you anchor properly)

Jumpingpin - A popular day stop (so long as you anchor properly)

After a nice stretch along the beach we returned to the boat just in time to beat an approaching thunderstorm. And in Ausy fashion, this one turned out to be a real beaut. About the time winds reached a peak of 40 knots we realized the washing was still on the lifelines and my bald head got a real pelting with the huge sideways rain drops as I brought in the now drenched washing. All the while that I was doing this, Chis, the skipper was pulling out fenders ready to fend off any of the at least ten yachts that were now dragging anchor.

To make matters worse, the tidal range in the area is around five feet. This creates particularly strong tidal currents in the narrow waterways. As the thunderstorm pelted us, the tidal current had risen to about 5 knots and was flowing in the same direction as the wind. This put huge forces on the anchors and it was pretty hair raising to see how fast the boats that had drug anchor were flying by. As an observation, almost all of the boats that had drug anchor and were now trying to reset them were using CQR plough type anchors.


CQR Anchor

The Dreaded CQR Anchor. Leave it at home.


Stray Kitty uses a Rocna roll type anchor and it held fast. Of course, in typical style of many boaters, the scope used was also way to low on boats that were dragging. And so we were able to watch the comedy of anchoring errors unfold in front of us. In reality there was no comedy. Some of the dragging boats were coming way too close, way too fast.

Boats anchored at Jumpingpin. Anchor scope too small caused dragging.

Boats anchored at Jumpingpin. Anchor scope too small and CQR Anchors caused dragging.

Next, one of the boats that re anchored abeam of us did it a bit too close and so as the current reversed later that night we began to come dangerously close. We elected to raise anchor and reset further out into the channel. However this presented quite a challenge with site selection. The wind was flowing in one direction whilst the current was in the other, and, we knew the current would again reverse before we awoke. Couple this with the difficulty in determining distance at night from other boats made us both glad of our previous anchoring experiences and knowledge. The worse scenario consequence of dragging anchor in the night and being washed out of the protected albeit high current waterway into the huge breakers coming in thought the cut was not one I wanted to spend to much time thinking about.

Another challenge was the markers. First off, Australia abides by IALA-A system which is opposite to the America’s IALA-B system of navigational marks. I.E. red right returning doesn’t work – it’s green on your right when returning. And in the USA the intercoastal water way fairly consistently uses green to seaward along the full length of a waterway with specially marked intercoastal day marks. IE heading from New Jersey past Florida and onto Texas you would keep green intercoastal daymarks on your left. In Queensland, they don’t seem do that and so the green and red swap inconsistently up and down the waterway.

Red Day Marker

Red Day Marker

Sometimes the red and green swap sides, some times they don’t. They seemed to use the yellow special purpose marks to designate a channel intersection rather than a preferred channel marker with red over green or green over red that is used in the USA.

Special Purpose Marks designating a channel intersection

Special Purpose Marks designating a channel intersection

Twice we were caught out nearly heading onto a sand bar because the day mark swapped over. The Australian navigation system also uses cardinal marks. Being able to read these quickly kept us out of trouble when it came to isolated dangers.

East Cardinal Mark

East Cardinal Mark (Safe Water to the East of this mark)

On top of all that, sand bars move and so your highly relied upon GPS map showing the exact position of the day marks can’t be trusted. When sand bars move the local coast guard move the day marks to remark the proper deep channel. So you can be looking at your GPS telling you that the channel is in one place when the marks tell you some thing else. Which do you trust? You have to trust the day marks.

Waterway Chart. Even with GPS don't rely on the chart. Follow the day markers.

Twice we had to turn right angles to follow a day mark went the GPS was telling us that the depth was one foot. Of course a slow and easy pace combined with the depth sounder readings is essential. Still, when you have only two feet to play with below the keel, sometimes it’s not the greatest comfort.

We tried our best to time our sailings each day with the changing tidal current so that it would help our speed. On the day that we approached Surfers Paradise this was not the case however and our 7 knot though the water speed only gave us a three knot SOG (speed over ground) due to current. On one particular day we had to ensure that we crossed under powerlines at half tide or lower due to the height of Stray Kitty’s mast.

Under Sail (Me Posing for the shot)

Under Sail (actually me just posing for the shot)

As hairy as I seem to have made the above sound, we definitely had a spectacular time visiting this area. It’s off the beaten track when it comes to top charter locations around the world and probably for good reason due to the complexity and also due to the spectacular and more popular Whitsundays area to the North.

There are two highly relevant NauticEd sailing courses to this article. The first is the NauticEd Anchoring a Sailboat Sailing Course. I’d venture to say that none of the power boats that drug anchor that day would have done so if they’d taken this course. First thing they’d have done was to leave the CQR in the garden at home and secondly they’d have understood scope a little better. Surely those people are embarrassed that they drug so badly.

The second course that would really help someone enjoy our intercoastal venture as much as we did would be the Coastal navigation sailing course. This course teaches in depth the navigation marks of both IALA-A and IALA-B systems including cardinal marks.

The other comfort to the whole trip was having very experienced world cruisers  on board. After a hard day of tidal currents, thunderstorms, crazy reversing navigation day marks and shallow waters we were rewarded with gourmet type dinners under the southern sky. The crew of Stray Kitty, after living on their cat every day for the past four years, did not sacrifice food quality one bit and were even able to whip up a birthday cake for me on the 31st.

The Crew of Stray Kitty (next to their Christmas Tree)

The Crew of Stray Kitty (next to their Christmas Tree)

Other tasty delights on the menu were kangaroo, pork roast, shrimp pasta, steaks, roast turkey, gammon (cooked in the oven on board), plenty of salads and cookies. Some great Australian and new Zealand wines were poured on top of the above in the warm southern hemisphere summer over the Christmas and 2011/2012 new year.

Christmas Dinner Table Setting Aboard Stray Kitty

Christmas Dinner Table Setting Aboard Stray Kitty

Thanks to Stray Kitty and her Crew!!!!!!!!!!!

Alexandra, Andrea, Grant, Ryan, Christine, Cari, Chris, (Vanessa photographer - Nikon D3100)

Christmas Dinner with Alexandra, Andrea, Grant, Ryan, Christine, Cari, Chris, (Vanessa photographer - Nikon D3100) on Stray Kitty - a 42 ft PDQ Antares Catamaran

Furling a head sail in high winds

Posted by Grant Headifen on February 5, 2011 under Bareboat Charter, Crew, Skipper | 2 Comments to Read

Sailing last weekend reminded me of this tip so here it is.

Often times when using a roller furler head sail you’ll find that if you’re furling it in really high winds, there is not enough furling line in the spool. And this has the potential problem of damage if you’re not watching what you are doing.

Here’s the scenario: You’re trying to stop the sail from flogging whilst furling so you’re holding the sheet on the winch and releasing slowly. The high wind puts a lot of tension on the sheet and thus you require a lot of tension on the furling line. The sail then furls up very tightly. This means that it takes more turns to furl to sail. Turns that you don’t have stored in the furling drum.

Now you’re cranking and cranking and all of a sudden it becomes very hard to pull in more furling line but the head sail is still a little bit out and needs a couple of more wraps. If an inexperienced crew member is doing this then, with the power of a winch, something is going to break. Ouch!

This happened to us last weekend sailing in a 30 knot blow in Tasman Bay, New Zealand on a 42 foot PDQ Catamaran. Fortunately I was doing the furling cranking and determined the problem instantly.  Not that I’m the world’s greatest expert, but I’ve just seen this plenty of times before.

Oh oh - no more line left in the furling drum

Oh oh - no more line left in the furling drum

I’ve got two solutions for this issue – of course once you reach shelter you can unfurl the sail and furl in back in with out all the back tension and problem is solved right? Well sort of. Not really because you might not be so lucky with the next crew member. So that’s not counted as a solution.

Here’s number one. Get some more wraps into the furler so you don’t have to deal with this again but how do you do that? I can remember the first time taking the end of the furler line, lying down on the deck with my head cocked all skew and feeding the line in and around the drum with great difficulty and frustration.

No the solution is much simpler.

(1) Pull out the head sail sheets forward and out from the fairleads, coil the sheets  and bring them forward.

(2) Wind the sheets around the furled sail  until the sail is fully wrapped then three more times for good measure.

(3) Pat yourself on the back that you read this blog.

(4) Uncoil and feed the sheets back through the fairleads – you’re done.

Wrap the headsail sheets around the furled sail

Wrap the headsail sheets around the furled sail

BTW – notice the awesome bay in the background.

A quick note however, some drums are really small and you might find that there is not enough room for those extra wraps. In that case you might consider a smaller diameter furling line.

What a small fine point of learning to sail this tip is. And now you’re understanding that it’s impossible to train your crew members on all the things like this on a sailboat but it can be a real problem and ultimately who pays for something on your boat when a crew member breaks something. You do!

So here’s the second part of the tip – A) Send this blog onto your crew members and also send to them your personal NauticEd Promocode. They’ll get $15 off their first NauticEd sailing course and you’ll get friend kudos and $10 credit towards your next NauticEd sailing for beginners Course. Cool eh!

Don’t know about the personal NauticEd Promocode? See here.

Oh – I Do Love to be Beside the Seaside

Posted by Grant Headifen on January 10, 2011 under About NauticEd, Bareboat Charter, Videos and photos | Be the First to Comment

It’s an old song but it certainly rang the bells for me recently.  Over this last new year’s break 2010-2011, my family, extended family and friends that we call family all traveled to Matauri Bay in New Zealand for probably one of the best aquatic experiences one could imagine. Unfortunately it was sans sailing cruising but sometimes it’s good to see the other side of the ocean (meaning other than sailing).

Matauri Bay - New Zealand

Matauri Bay - New Zealand

Here is the list of aquatic/camping toys we took

  • 6.7 m Surtees aluminum fishing/diving boat
  • 5 m wakeboarding/party jet boat
  • 6 sets of scuba gear
  • 10 fishing rods and reels
  • 2 lobster snare hooks
  • 3 windsurfers
  • 4 sea kayaks
  • 2 skim boards
  • 3 surfboards
  • 5 boogie boards
  • 1 performance jet ski
  • An uncountable amount of tents
  • A huge marquee tent
  • 5 sun umbrellas
  • Probably 2 liters of sunscreen
  • 2 barbecues


  • 23 dozen eggs.
Our Campsite at Matauri Bay

Our Campsite at Matauri Bay

The result, as with all vacations, was achieving absolutely nothing except good times. See the video here.

Matauri Bay is about a 4 hour drive north of Auckland. The bay is about 1 km wide with a beautiful sandy beach. A 250 m high upside down bowl shaped headland sits at one end and the top of that provides a commanding view out of the Cavalli Islands 1 km off shore. You can also see 30 kms south to the famous Bay of Islands.

The Cavalli Islands provide an abundance of sea life and spectacular anchorage bays. The water temperature at this time of the year is 20 deg C (68 deg F). In fact the entire Coastline is pretty impressive with high rocky cliffs leading down to beautiful bay after beautiful bay.

Cavalli Islands

Cavalli Islands

If you ever think about sailing in New Zealand, spend the almost required 4-5 days exploring the incredible Bay of Islands, but do not miss the Cavalli Islands and then venture slightly further north to Whangaparoa Harbour, a remote harbour with bush right down to the shoreline. If you’re not thinking about sailing in New Zealand – you should start. One of our Sailing Charter business friends here in the Bay of Islands is Sailing New Zealand, give them a call or contact me  and I’ll hook you up.

Cavalli Islands, New Zealand - Sailing Paradisese

Cavalli Islands, New Zealand - Sailing Paradisese

Scuba: We scuba dived so much that on one particular day I actually turned it down and opted for a day on the beach. We dived mostly for New Zealand Lobster which is referred to as Crayfish. The New Zealand Crayfish has no pincers unlike the lobster most people in the USA think of, but they do have a very spiny crustacean shell which makes it necessary to use a dive glove to capture them. One variety called the Pack Horse Cray can get pretty big.

Matauri Bay is also the sunken location of the famous Green Peace protest boat, the Rainbow Warrior. It’s wreck was moved here after being initially attacked and sunk by the French Secret Service in 1985 in the Auckland habour.  And so we were able to dive this wreck situated in 23 m of water. The sea has taken pretty good hold of it now and it thus inhabits a really great display of reef life. There are a few places for advanced divers to swim through the wreck and whilst it’s very ominous to swim through a sunken ship it is a fun thing to do to see the fish attending school inside the hull.

Rainbow Warrior (photo courtesy

Rainbow Warrior (photo courtesy

A memorial to the Rainbow Warrior and it’s crew Member who died in the attack is erected atop the Matauri Bay headland.

Rainbow Warrior Memorial

Rainbow Warrior Memorial

Thanks go to Craig Johnston who saved my dive. We showed up at the dive site in our 6.7 m dive boat, suited up (5mil wet suit required preferably with a hood), almost ready to tip over backwards into the water when I discovered that I’d left my mask behind. Although air is pretty important down there – a mask is probably the next most important. Craig was the Dive Master on the Paihia Dive boat that tied up to us. Paihia Dive is a professional dive company that takes tourist divers out to the Rainbow Warrior and Matauri Bay area for a 2 tank dive. Embarrassingly, I called over to their group and pleaded for a temporary borrow of a spare mask and offered up a bag of Salt and Vinegar chips as compensation. Graciously Craig accepted the highly unfair trade. Thanks Craig – the dive was great. Hope you enjoyed our chips.

Scuba Diving in the Cavalli Islands

Scuba Diving in the Cavalli Islands

Fishing and Sea Life: It’s hard to put a hook on the bottom in New Zealand with out catching something. In the north, it’s mostly snapper and thus the 12 days were mostly spent eating superbly fresh snapper although we did hook (and eat) quite a few other varieties.

Snapper - about 11lbs

Snapper - about 11lbs

All in all we sampled 11 different sea garden foods, including, lobster, local abalonie (called Paua), scallops, and fish fish fish.

Crayfish catch of the day

Crayfish catch of the day

At Matauri Bay you launch your boat off the beach – there is no ramp. Dean is the local tractor driver and for $20 he’ll expertly launch and retrieve your boat. I say expertly because sometimes the waves can be a little challenging and an expert tractor driver can save you from a lot of damage should a wave come in at the wrong time.

Launching the boat

Launching the boat

Windsurfing: It’s been a while since I’ve windsurfed but now from this trip, I figure it’s time to get back into it. I used to be pretty good about 10 years ago. My 15 year old niece, Steff, wins local competitions and so we went out on a couple of windy days together. I got a few good rides on one particular day when the wind was blowing 30 knots. I chickened out when I ventured out further and started getting into a 2 meter swell. Although I could handle it fine the small voice of caution was speaking PRETTY LOUDLY.

Windsurfing in Matauri Bay

Windsurfing in Matauri Bay

The principle of windsurfing is pretty cool. Once you start to understand sailing and forces it doesn’t take to much to figure it out or get back into it. Raking the mast forward moves the center of pressure of the sail forward and thus positions the force on the board more forward causing the board to turn downwind. Conversely, raking the mast backwards, turns the board towards the wind. The raking movement is done with your hand closest to the mast. Your aft hand works the sail like a  mainsheet, pulling the sail to center line on upwind runs or letting out on downwind runs. It acts like an accelerator and helps with your balance.

Steff showed me some technology advances in windsurfing equipment. She told me that tightening up the downhaul made the top of the sail twist out. Wow I had to think abou that for a sec.  Turns out it’s pretty easy to understand and is the same principle that I wrote a blog on a few months back. On a flexible mast, tightening the downhaul puts a significant bend in the mast. This bends the tip of the mast down closer to the aft of the boom and thus reduces leech (aft part of the sail) tension on the sail. New windsurfing sails have a large roach in the sail, ie the line from the head (top of the sail) to the clew (back bottom of the sail) is not straight but curves out significantly. Thus reduced leech tension allows the curve of the sail to twist out under wind force. In my previous blog the same twist out on a large sailboat is achieved by releasing the main sheet but bringing the traveler to windward. In both cases you are effectively reducing the size of the sail and more importantly forces aloft on the rig. It’s cool to know that once you understand the principles you can just figure it all out from there.

Skim boarding: I doubt there is very many people at my age hydroplaning on a skim board in the 1 cm wash of the beach waves but anyway I gave it a pretty good go without busting a hip. My 11 year old nephew, Rafi, mastered it quite well and was doing 180’s by the time we left.

Surfing: I’m not a surfer. Give me a sail. But my 60 year old brother-in-law rode the 1.5m waves on several days and showed up every one on the beach.

Jet Skiing: OMG – this jet ski was a high performance version built for time trials and wow it could accelerate faster than you could hold on almost. The requirement to make the tight turns at speed make it very unstable to sit on. In deep water it’s very difficult to climb onboard . One day, it was hosing down with rain and so we figured that the only thing to do on a wet rainy day was to get wet in a big big way. The jet ski was the answer – that was fun.

Sea Kayaking: The rocky coastline around the headland and further up the coast provides a most awesome sea kayaking location. The surge from the swell washes water through cracks between close to shore rocks and reefs. Running the kayak through these is pretty exciting at times. But you also can see into the water and watch the kelp below flow side to side with the occasiona fish venturing along. Seagulls protecting their young dive from the rocks above.

Seakayaking in Matauri Bay

Seakayaking in Matauri Bay

We paddled quite a way up the coast to a house set slightly back from the beach – but there was no road into the house – just a very basic farm track. Which brings up another point – I just can’t think of any other place in the world where you have working farms that go right down to the shore in such a high percentage of coastline than New Zealand. This little (beautiful) house was just sitting there in the most gorgeous bay with a backdrop of a green grass valley and 100 feet from a deserted beach and an ocean loaded with sea life. Wow!

The Beach: Great place for the kids to play. My Daughter and (great) Nephew had the best time of their lives.

Alexandra and Cooper

Alexandra and Cooper

Whales: I left the high light for the end. We were blessed with 2 visits from a pod of Orca Whales.

Orca Whales Right Next to the Beach

Orca Whales Right Next to the Beach

On one occasion they were swimming all around us on the boat when we were returning from a scuba dive on my birthday. On another, they came right into the beach next to us. My sister and I promptly jumped in the sea kayaks to go for a visit. They were breaching all around our kayaks so close that we were getting wet from their blow holes. Although seemingly slightly scary because they have big teeth, our Captain Nemo friend Alex (who we are sure has gills on the sides of his neck, assured us that Orcas in the wild have never eaten anyone. Despite this – I my heart raced a bit when one breached about 5 feet away from my kayak.

Orca Whales

Orca Whales

So that’s what one can do in 12 days in paradise with a big family and lots of toys. Now it’s back to work with NauticEd – we’ve got some exciting advances coming this year. Right now we’re working on a referral program to be launched in the next few days and a Skipper test out exam for advanced sailors. Beyond that we’ll launch more courses this year including a sailing race regatta clinic. Some large companies are approaching us for alliances and … whew it’s exicting being at the forefront of technology, education and wrapping it up with something we love – SAILING. I hope you all can take advantage of everything what we offer and get your sailing certificate!



PS  – if you’ve ever been to Matauri Bay – add your comment below.

Come Join us for the Rolex Regatta on a Maxi Race Yacht

Posted by Grant Headifen on July 13, 2010 under About NauticEd, Bareboat Charter, Crew, Skipper | Be the First to Comment

Rolex Regatta St. Thomas

Rolex Regatta St. Thomas

Join us on an 80 ft Maxi Yacht in the Rolex Regatta.

In the movie “Hunt for Red October” the XO came to Sean Connery and said: “Captain, it is time”. It was the time to make the decision to go for it – or not. And it is now one of those classic movie lines you just can’t forget.

Well everyone, that time for you is now!

Join us on Kialoa a 80 ft maxi yacht

Join us on Kialoa a 80 ft maxi yacht

NauticEd along with sailing adventure partner, Safe Passage Sailing, and members from other sailing clubs are chartering Kialoa V, an 80 ft (25m) Maxi yacht to participate in the Rolex Regatta (the “Crown Jewel of Caribbean Racing”) in St. Thomas in March next year.

On board will be world-class sailing and winning professionals Rich Stearns and Brian Thompson along with NauticEd’s Educational Director, Grant Headifen to lead us through the weeklong event and … hopefully win.

The event consists of 2 training and preparedness days followed by 3 race days out and around the various island of St. Thomas and St. Johns.

Because of the reasonably serious nature of operations on such a large yacht, we will be requiring a certain level of sailing experience to sail on this Maxi yacht so you’ll need to ensure you fill out your NauticEd Sailing logbook under your login account.

STOP PRESS: UPDATE: – Due to great response we are adding a second boat which will be a Swan 51 with an all women crew. If you’re wanting to be apart of this unique opportunity (and you’re a woman) then contact us at with subject line “Rolex Regatta Interest Women Crew Member”

See our successful Antigua Sailing Week Video.

We have space for 10 more crew members only on this 80 ft yacht so in order to participate you must register your interest with us NOW. Accommodation in local rental Villas is available but these will disappear fast after that the hotels can get quite pricey so contact us now to get moving on this opportunity.

Accomodation can take place in several rental villas that we have identified – BUT … these will go fast so you really should contact us fast.

Send us an email to: / subject line: Rolex Regatta Interest

See our brochure on the Rolex Regatta which contains the itinerary, costs, professional hired crew resumes, etc.

Discounted rates for 4 or more so update your facebook page, send out a tweet and bring a few friends!

Leeway and a Bottle of Rum

Posted by Director of Education on June 22, 2010 under Bareboat Charter, Coastal Navigation, Crew, Skipper | Be the First to Comment

Leeway is just one of those things that is a law of the universe that we have to put up with. It’s just like gravity. Still with gravity – the advantage is that it’s highly predictable. And so then is leeway.

Leeway is the sideways slip motion of our sailboat down wind from the pressure of wind against our boat and sails. It results in a course that is less than desirable.

Leeway Slips Your Boat Side Ways Down Wind

Leeway Slips Your Boat Side Ways Down Wind

Airplanes suffer from the same issue. When flying in a cross wind, the plane crabs (slide slips) downwind. The course becomes different from the heading.

Not accounting for leeway will have you sailing (or flying) in a fairly unnoticeable arc to get to the mark. To represent an example with a mark to the north and a westerly crosswind, here’s what happens; you aim for the mark at 000, your boat slips sideways to the west. Now your mark is at 359 but you don’t really notice it. After a few minutes your mark is at 358 still in noticed. Minutes later your heading is 355 then 350 etc. All because you keep aiming at the mark but you’re being pushed to the east by the wind. Your course over ground becomes an arc and is the long way around.

The prudent sailor will account for the leeway and sail a constant heading depending on their known leeway of say 350 for the example above. The sideways slip motion will deliver them to the mark in a straight and shortest line.

Now that we’re in the electronic age, navigators will plug in the destination to the gps. The autopilot which is cross talking to the gps takes care of the rest. The gps analyses the cross track (the boat’s distance away from a straight line to the mark) and feeds back to the autopilot the proper heading to minimize this in real time. Thus resulting in a straight course to the mark.

I’m doubt that during the Wednesday/Friday night beer can race such electronic methods are utilized. So I’m suggesting that to take line honors and win the bottle of rum at your club race by taking account of leeway.

Leeway is particularly more prevalent when you are sailing on a close haul or close reach and can be as much as 20 degrees depending on the wind conditions, water conditions, your sailboat design, your apparent angle with the wind and how your sails are set.

However, other than buying a new boat, the only thing that you have control over is the trim of your boat and sails.

Here’s a couple of general rules to follow:

  • Over sheeted sails cause more sideways force and thus sideways slip (leeway). Fly the telltales diligently.
  • Aim for a position to windward of the mark you’re trying to go around. The more you are sailing on an upwind course, the more the degrees upwind you should aim.
  • The higher the wind speed, the higher above the mark you should aim.
  • In general, on a close haul, allow 10-15 degrees. Adjust this less if the wind is light, more if the wind is strong. Reduce this amount linearly as you bare away from the wind.
  • Make sure your boat is trimmed with slight weather helm.

When doing serious navigation we absolutely must account for leeway and an excellent understanding of how your boat performs leeway wise is essential and how to solve for it once you know it. NauticEd developed an educational navigation video solving a leeway and current exercise at

Using a gps and a nice steady windy day, you can do a simple determination of your sailboat’s typical leeway.

(1)   Begin sailing on an angle slightly off a close haul direction and with a recognizable land marker dead ahead.

(2)   Measure your speed

(3)   Douse the sails and begin motoring at the same speed in exactly the same direction.

(4)   Take note of your gps course.

(5)   Deploy the sails and turn off the engine.

(6)   Continue to aim for the same point on land.

(7)   Now read out your gps course.

(8)   The difference in course angles will be your leeway

(9)   Repeat for different points of sail

(10)    Repeat for the opposite tack.

(11)     Repeat on different days with different wind strengths

Note that:

(a) this method is relatively immune from current because you have normalized it out by performing the motoring task.

(b) this method will not account for the leeway due to the hull of your boat presented to the wind.

We hope you enjoy your bottle of Rum!

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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