February 28, 2013

Something you pay dearly for

THE TINKLE OF ICE in a tall glass is an entrancing sound. It’s especially delightful when you’re safely at anchor in a pretty cove after a hard day’s sail. But it takes a surprising amount of power to make ice on a small boat.

Weekend sailors mostly make do with ice-boxes, but long-distance cruisers often opt for on-board refrigeration.

The two most common methods are engine-driven compressors feeding supercooled fluid to metal holding plates in an ice-box, and modified household fridges running on 12-volt motors. Holding-plate systems are expensive to start with, and require you to run the ship’s engine for about two hours every day. Fridge systems cost about one-third less, but the electrical draw is heavy and constant.

Your 12-volt batteries will need to provide about 4 amp-hours of power for every hour of refrigerating—almost 100 amp-hours a day—in hot climates. That’s a lot for the average cruiser to replenish, even if the auxiliary engine is running an extra-large alternator. And then there’s the noise of the fridge motor cycling on and off all day and night.

One way or another, you pay dearly for ice.

So learn to maintain your system. There are no repair shops at sea.

Today’s Thought
Most of the luxuries and many of the so-called comforts of life are not only indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.
— H. D. Thoreau, Walden.

(I think Thoreau got it wrong. He surely meant dispensable, not indispensable. — JV)

“May I recommend the cold tongue, madam?”
“Certainly not, waiter. I couldn’t possibly eat something that came out of a bull’s mouth. Just bring me an egg instead.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

February 26, 2013

The greatest test of patience

BOOKS WRITTEN FOR PEOPLE who want to cross oceans in sailboats usually have a good deal of advice about how to prepare for storms, and how to handle a yacht in heavy weather. But very little is said about another problem that sometimes crops up on ocean crossings, and that is how to handle calms.

Calms are the greatest test of a sailor’s patience and unfortunately some people are not psychologically equipped to deal with them well.  They are often quite shocked at their response to calms.

I was once at sea in a 33-footer with three friends when we ran into a giant high-pressure system in mid-South Atlantic. This was real doldrums weather, where the sea resembled a constantly bulging mirror, and not even the slightest ripple creased its face.

After three days of rolling with limp, slatting sails, one of our crew, a young, vigorous civil engineer, was at his wits’ end.  He was used to being able to make things happen, usually on a big scale. The calm had a terrible effect on him because this was the first time in his adult life that he hadn’t been able to do anything to change his situation.

Eventually he pleaded with skipper to retire from the race we were in.  He said we should use our precious supply of gasoline to motor about 100 miles to the nearest shipping lane, where we could flag down a passing freighter and load our yacht on board. He was even prepared to pay to have the yacht shipped home again.

Listening to him, it was easy to believe that we would be stuck out there forever. We could see ourselves running out of food and water.  We’d never be heard of again.

You’d be surprised how realistic this seems to a crew stuck in a dead calm for three days.

But at the end of the third day the wind filled in gently.  We started moving toward Rio de Janeiro at a steady three knots.  Our civil engineer was transformed.  You’ve never seen a happier man.

The way you react to calms obviously depends on your personality.  I confess that I just love calms.  I prefer a calm to a storm any day. Calms give you time and opportunity to study the ocean you’re sailing through. The truth is that we know comparatively little about the deep oceans and what hides in them. I love hanging over the side and seeing what’s in the water. I have spent many happy hours examining the contents of buckets of seawater.

There is an amazing variety of stuff out there, including the tiny creatures of the  sea, the odd creatures, the things that look like plastic coins tilted at odd angles, and the things that walk on water. Thousands of miles from land, you will come across minute insects that skate across the surface, dimpling the water with their tiny legs. You can see them only in calms, of course, and I have no idea where they go when the wind gets up and the seas start breaking.

There are spectacular light shows to be seen, too, not just phosphorescence, which is showy enough in its own right, but also large discs of light that flash brilliantly a few feet under the surface as you drift slowly by.

These are secrets that Nature reserves for those who dare to go to sea, and who have the patience to drift in calms.  For me, the quiet sea is a source of constant fascination. I am never bored by calms.

Today’s Thought
There is a third dimension to traveling, the longing for what is beyond.
— Jan Myrdal, The Silk Road

“How did your date go on Saturday?”
“It was a bust. Not only did he lie about the size of his yacht, but he made me do the rowing, too.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.) 

February 24, 2013

Windlass problems

ONCE WHEN I was working for Sea magazine a distressed sailor called me from Mexico.  He wanted to know how to stop his anchor chain jumping off his windlass.  Apparently he’d been caught on a lee shore with a reef close behind and he’d had a very bad night watching the reef grow closer.

The wind died down before his boat struck, but he was concerned that his anchor winch wasn’t working properly because when he tried to weigh anchor in order to re-anchor in a better spot, the chain just kept slipping off the winch.

I found out that his chain made only a quarter turn on the wildcat before dropping through the pipe into the chain locker below.  This is a fairly common arrangement, but it is far from satisfactory if the strain on the anchor chain is excessive.  Then it will tend to jump the cogs when the bow rises to a swell.

The answer is to fit a chain stopper to the foredeck or the bow roller.  It’s a simple pawl that clicks into a link of the chain and jams it when the chain tries to run backward out of the roller.

The manufacturers of anchor windlasses do their best to warn people not to expect too much from them, but that doesn’t stop many sailors from abusing them. Windlasses are designed to lift only the weight of the anchor and its line. They aren’t meant to drag a heavy cruising boat up to her anchor in choppy seas against a strong current or heavy wind. But it happens all the time.

The makers try to salvage their reputations by advising us to choose much bigger windlasses that we really need, so we won’t wreck the machinery before the warranty runs out. Nevertheless, the windlass slaughter continues.

You may do your pocketbook a favor by taking the strain off your anchor rode.  Use power or sail to move forward over your anchor and simply let the windlass take up the slack. If you do this, you can get away with a much smaller and less expensive windlass.  And if you have a manual windlass, your arms and back will be very grateful.

Today’s Thought
Better lose the anchor than the whole ship.
— Danish proverb

When a man and a woman marry, they become one. The trouble starts when they try to decide which one.

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

February 21, 2013

Do you need a life raft?

MOST CRUISING BOATS are their own best lifeboats.  That’s the conclusion I came to once, after a lot of thinking about whether I could afford a life raft and all the fuss, bother, servicing, and money that goes with it.

The best plan is to forestall problems that might lead you to abandon ship, rather than the retrograde step of simply providing a life raft in the event that something goes wrong.

Therefore, you need to give a lot of thought to safety gear that will keep the boat out of trouble in the first place. Strong construction, strong rigging and good design are essential safety factors. But there is another factor that is just as important, but often overlooked, and that’s the need for a fit and mentally agile crew — that is, a crew able to work the boat and make intelligent decisions.

So do whatever is necessary for crew shelter and comfort. Provide hot food, dry beds and plenty of sleep. And take especially good care of the navigator.

Buy heavy ground tackle. No makeshift picks on dental floss rodes, please.  And good, bright navigation lights, plus a powerful strobe light, either with self-contained batteries and hauled up to the spreaders, or connected to the ship’s 12-volt supply and permanently mounted at the masthead.  Don’t worry about the legality of it. The international rules allow you to attract help in any way you can.

A good radar reflector, correctly mounted in the raincatcher position, is a must.  A radar detector and an AIS receiver/transmitter are among other safety devices that are helpful if you can afford them.

An auxiliary engine is something almost all cruising boats are equipped with these days, and while it’s undoubtedly an important safety feature, you should try very hard never to place yourself in a position where the engine is your only hope. On any boat that can sail half decently, it is a last resort, and I mean a last, last resort.

If you’ve decided to forgo a life raft, you’ll need to plan for a jury rig in case of mast failure. Wire clips or spare terminals, wire cutters, spare stays and jury spars are all things you need to think about. And before you disappear over the horizon, figure out how you’re going to steer if something happens to your rudder.  Are you prepared to sacrifice that expensive spinnaker pole and the beautiful locker door to cobble together a rudimentary rudder? If so, how are you going to bolt them together?  How will you pivot it? Buy the hardware now while you think about it.

Two bilge pumps are the minimum, at least one of which can be worked manually by the person at the helm. Two fire extinguishers are the very minimum, too, and you would also do well to have a couple of galvanized steel buckets handy.

A proper storm jib and towing warps or a drogue are standard safety equipment for riding out bad weather. Add a mainsail reefing system that is strong and easy to work. Slab reefing is fine. Don’t be tempted by roller-furling mainsails. They can be a lot of trouble at the worst of times.

And remember that there are isolated parts of the world where help is limited. You might need to be able to repair your hull yourself if you hit a reef, a whale, or a chunk of floating Japanese tsunami debris. Whether it’s wood, steel, GRP, concrete, or aluminum, take the right bits and pieces. 

The other thing about life rafts is that they have proved less than satisfactory in emergencies such as the deadly Fastnet Race off Britain and the Queen’s Birthday storm off New Zealand. All too often abandoned yachts are found weeks later,  half waterlogged, it’s true,  but still floating, while their crews, who took to life rafts, are never seen again.

Today’s Thought
He is free from danger who, even when he is safe, is on his guard.
— Publilius Syrus, Sententiae

A cowboy who took up a successful career in politics was heckled one day in the middle of a heated debate in Congress.
A female opponent asked him with a sneer: “Is it true that you used to look after cows?”
“Yes ma’am, it’s true,” he said. “Are you feeling ill?”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

February 19, 2013

He's tracking you all the time

A DINGHY SAILOR I used to know once confided in me that while he loved sailing, he was afraid of the ocean. He would never get a bigger boat, he said.  He had no desire to go to sea, there to be caught out in a storm and drowned.

I sometimes wonder how many others there are like him, how many whose apprehension rules their lives to this extent.  I suppose we all know people who buckle up every time they drive a car, not because the law requires it, but because they believe it might save their lives.  And there are people who won’t take an elevator, who refuse to ride in an airplane.  But is there any point in all this precaution?  Is the continual worry worth it?

I was reading one of my favorite authors the other night, a fellow now known as Alfred George Gardiner but who in his time, during World War I, was known only by his pen name, Alpha of the Plough. He wrote a column for The Star, a London newspaper, at a time when sudden death from German bombs was all around him.

Here’s what he had to say about those who lived in constant fear:

“You cannot be alive unless you take life gallantly. You know that the Great Harvester is tracking you all the time, and that one day, perhaps quite suddenly, his scythe will catch you and lay you among the sheaves of the past.

“Every day and every hour he is remorselessly at your heels. A breath of bad air will do his work, or the prick of a pin, or a fall on the stairs, or a draught from the window. You can’t take a ride in a bus, or a row in a boat, or a swim in the sea, or a bat at the wicket without offering yourself as a target to the enemy. You may die from the fear of death.

“I am not preaching Nietzsche’s gospel of ‘Live dangerously.’ There is no need to try to live dangerously, and no sense in going about tweaking the nose of death to show what a deuce of a fellow you are.

“The truth is that we cannot help living dangerously. Life is a dangerous calling, full of pitfalls. You, getting the coal in the mine by the light of your lamp, are living with death very, very close at hand. You, on the railway shunting trucks, you in the factory or the engine shop moving in a maze of machinery, you in the belly of the ship stoking the fire — all alike are in an adventure that may terminate at any moment. Let us accept that fact like men, and dismiss it like men, going about our tasks as though we had all eternity to live in, not foolishly challenging profitless perils, but, on the other hand, declining to be intimidated by the shadow of the scythe that dogs our steps.”

I wish my dinghy-sailing friend could have read this. Who knows what oceans he may have crossed and how much he might have profited by it.

Today’s Thought
Shrinking away from death is something unhealthy and abnormal which robs the second half of life of its purpose.
— Carl Jung

Paddy Murphy was enjoying a pint of Guinness in Bert’s Bar when the bar-keep came along and said: “Here’s a puzzle for you. My mother had a child. It wasn’t my brother. It wasn’t my sister. Who was it?”
Paddy scratched his head and pawed the floor but eventually had to give up.
“It was ME, you fool,” cried Bert.
Paddy thought that was a very good joke and decided to tell his wife when he got home.
“My mother had a child,” he said, “It wasn’t my brother. It wasn’t my sister. Who was it?”
His wife was flummoxed. She gave up.
Paddy was triumphant. “It was Bert over at Bert’s Bar, you fool!”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)   

February 17, 2013

A deceptive turn of speed

AN ACQUAINTANCE who is looking for a boat says he’s attracted to the Westsail 32 for her space down below and her sheer solidity. But he’s heard the old rumor that she’s slow, can’t point, and is outdated, with her bowsprit and full-length keel. “Would you buy one?” he asks.

If I wanted to sail around the world, or take long cruises, or just live aboard, I would.  If I wanted to take part in Wednesday-evening races around the cans, I wouldn’t.

There are a couple of myths about the Westsail 32 that deserve to be dismissed. I tackled them in my book, Twenty Small Sailboats to Take You Anywhere, in which I quoted David King, of Portland, Oregon, owner of at least two Westsail 32s, and a professional delivery skipper.

He was the one who convinced me that the Westsail 32, a design greatly influenced by Colin Archer’s Norwegian sea-rescue ketches, is not a slow boat. In 1988 he entered Saraband in the Pacific Cup race from San Francisco to Hawaii. She came first in class and first overall on handicap, a shock result that caused an uproar among the owners of larger dedicated racing boats.  What made it worse was that none of Saraband’s crew of five was a racer.

But once wasn’t enough. To hammer the point home, King entered Saraband for the Pacific Cup again in 1990. She was first in her class to finish, first in her class on handicap, and third overall on handicap.

How did this come about? “We have an automatic feathering propeller and it makes a big difference,” said King. “Saraband gets up to 7 knots pretty quickly.” But she sustains her speed well, too. “I did 184 miles all by myself in one day,” he said. “She goes best on a close reach. In fact it’s very interesting that she goes from her comparative worst (a beat) to her comparative best (a close reach) in a matter of a few degrees.”

Also very interesting is that fact that her waterline length of 27 feet 6 inches gives her a theoretical top speed of more than 7 knots, and even if she normally reaches only 90 percent of that speed she’s going to be sailing faster than most other 32-footers with shorter waterlines.

That’s why she does well on long passages, where it’s not maximum speed that counts, but sustained high average speeds.

If you want to cross oceans swiftly, and take everything with you (including the kitchen sink), this rugged 20,000-pound cutter will do it in style and safety.

Today’s Thought
There is more to life than increasing its speed.
— Mahatma Gandhi

I see there’s a trend toward smaller cars again. Most Americans are not crazy about them, but they do have one distinct advantage. You can squeeze one helluva lot more of them into the average-sized traffic jam.

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

February 14, 2013

There's bad luck . . . and bad luck

OKAY, WE’RE BACK IN BUSINESS. The flu doctor knew his business and the computer is sputtering along nicely again.  I’ve been looking at pictures of that monster of a cruise ship that was adrift in the Gulf, and thinking what a scandal it is that the engineering crew didn’t have the skills and/or resources to get her engines going again after the breakdown. Shame on them.

The rescue tugs seem to have had a time of it, too, what with the tow line breaking and all. One begins to wonder what has happened to the art of seamanship in these days when cruise ships are shaped like gigantic apartment blocks and the air-conditioned bridge stands a hundred feet up in the air, remote and isolated from that nasty old sea.

It all reminded me of the only time so far I have needed a tow into port.  I was singlehanding back from Canada on a dead calm day when the Westerbeke’s water pump quit and I had to shut it down.  It took me six hours to sail the four miles to the nearest marina at Chemainus, on Vancouver Island.

I dropped the sails about a quarter mile outside the harbor entrance, hopped into my 10-foot fiberglass dinghy, and attached a tow line to the thwart.  I sculled with one oar over the stern, and noted how little power it took to move the boat, a Cape Dory 27-footer displacing between 7,500 and 9,000 pounds, depending on which marina crane driver you believed.  I waggled the oar back and forth, keeping a nice steady pressure on the tow line, and the boat followed obediently at perhaps a knot or so in the calm water. I didn’t even raise a sweat.

A couple of kind Canadians came running when I entered the marina on a shortened tow line, probably more concerned about the damage I could do to their boats, but I managed to nudge the Cape Dory sideways into a vacant berth and they helped me make fast.

A kind skipper of a 50-footer from the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club invited me to supper aboard his boat with friends, and also gave me a 10-mile tow to Maple Bay next day, after I discovered there was no marine mechanic available in Chemainus.

I found one in Maple Bay all right, but he discovered that the water pump was beyond repair, so I had to order a new one from Seattle, which meant a wait of four days. I couldn’t complain, though.  Maple Bay was a good place for an enforced stay.  It had a pub and restaurant just a few steps away from my berth.  It wasn’t a totally luxurious holiday, but it was heaven compared with what the thousands of passengers on that cruise ship have had to put up with. At least I didn’t have to eat raw onion sandwiches or dodge streams of sewage coursing through my cabin.

Today’s Thought
What evil luck soever
For me remains in store,
’Tis sure much finer felows
Have fared much worse before.
— A. E. Houseman, Last Poems

“Did you see the doctor?”
“Yeah, he said I had water on the knee.”
“Did he fix it?”
“Yeah, he gave me a tap on the leg.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

February 12, 2013

It's virtual flu season

Folks, I'm sorry to say my computer has caught the flu.  I'll call in the computer doctor and see what can be done, but it looks as though I won't be posting for a while. 

Meanwhile, if you're desperate for something to read, there is an archive of more than 600 old columns over there on the right.  Just click on the arrows and you'll find the way.  Or, if you have a particular subject in mind, scroll down to the bottom of this long page and click on anything that tickles your fancy.

February 10, 2013

How to Rename Your Boat

HAVE YOU NOTICED what silly names other people give their boats? As the buyer of a used boat, it’s only natural that you (a civilized, intelligent, educated person of wit and charm) would want to change the old name to something more suitable.

I mean, it’s such a pity. There’s this gorgeous boat just waiting to be looked after and coddled by someone wise and sensitive like you, and the previous owner named it Phluphphy or Bumphluphph. Or possibly Swashbuckle; Trashcan; Scutt le Butt; Hasta la Pasta; Tuppence Ha’penny  (dinghy : Penny Farthing); Malgré Tout; or  Beauzeaux.

Enough said. You don’t have to convince us that a name change is in order. But you’re scared, right? You’ve heard that it’s unlucky to change a boat’s name. Well, not so. Not if you take precautions.

One of the most popular articles I ever wrote was Vigor’s Interdenominational Denaming Ceremony. It described the steps I took when I wanted to rename a 31-foot sloop I intended to sail from the Indian Ocean to the United States with my wife and 17-year-old son.

The guts of it was a formal little denaming ceremony, a request to the ancient gods of the wind and the sea to erase the boat’s name from their records, and to accord her the same protection she had enjoyed from them before, when she was re-baptized under a new name.

It worked for me, and I’ve had no complaints from the hundreds of people who have used it since.

You will find a free printable copy of the ceremony and full instructions if you click on the “Denaming Ceremony” tab in the list on the right. Alternatively, you can buy the book, How to Rename Your Boat, which has a whole lot of other interesting stuff in it, or you can do an Internet search using the words “denaming ceremony,” which, I should warn you, might bring up some inferior rival ceremonies. And finally, you can get a nice free version by going to and looking in the article archives.

Today’s Thought
Who hath not own’d, with rapture-smitten frame,
The power of grace, the magic of a name ?
— Thomas Campbell, The Pleasures of Hope.

“Did you get those camouflage trousers you wanted?”
“Nah, I couldn't find any.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

February 7, 2013

Gathering vital sailing statistics

A NEW STUDY being undertaken by the Department of Statistics of SoCal University involves interviews with veteran sailing couples who have crossed at least two oceans.  The Dean of the Department,  Dr. Earle Dentworth, said : ‘There is a lamentable lack of statistics regarding the voyages being accomplished these days by small yachts. We don’t even know for sure how many private yachts are sailing around the world at any one time, but this increasingly large demographic appears to number many thousands.  Interestingly the vast majority of them are citizens of the United States and Northern European countries. Very few of these cruisers originate in developing countries such as Russia, China, or Brazil.’

 Dr. Dentworth declined to reveal full details of the study plan, but he indicated that each cruise can be broken down into percentages. He said the study would try to establish the amount of time amateur sailors spend on a cruise while experiencing:




Misery, and 


The study will also explore the percentage of time voyaging sailors spend in:

Waiting for weather to improve

Cursing the engine

Waiting for engine spares

Trying to clear Customs and Immigration

Searching for fuel

Filtering water and sludge from fuel

Searching for fresh produce

Searching for someone who speaks English

Searching for a mechanic

Searching for a mechanic who speaks English

Repairing the refrigerator

Patching the inflatable, and

Arguing about where to  go next

‘We hope the statistics will enable us to discover why people go cruising in the first place,’ Dr. Dentworth added. ‘It’s not an entirely reasonable thing to do, on the face of it. The motives are obscure. There are easier, cheaper, and less irritating ways to go around the world — but it’s possible that long-distance cruising appeals to people with regressive genes.’

Today’s Thought
I’d rather go by bus.
— Price Charles, aged six, when asked if he was excited about sailing to Tobruk on the royal yacht.

How many men does it take to put the toilet seat down?

Nobody knows; it hasn't happened yet.

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

February 5, 2013

Is sailing an art?

HAVING WRITTEN ON THE SUBJECT in the past, I was naturally curious when I spotted a list of books that mentioned Einstein and the Art of Sailing. The first thing I remembered was that Einstein wasn’t very good at sailing. He certainly showed no talent for artistic boat handling.

And then I was forced to wonder: Is sailing actually an art?

According to Wikipedia, which knows everything, “Art is something that stimulates an individual’s thoughts, emotions, beliefs or ideas through the senses.”

Unfortunately, that definition is far too loose to be useful.  After all, the appearance of a pretty girl  may stimulate a young man’s thoughts and emotions, but one would hesitate to call the result “art.” 

We often hear mention of the art of gardening, knitting, floral arrangement and so on. Until the 17th century, an art was any human skill or mastery, but in later years the grand arts were separated for special treatment, and it was held that no life was complete unless its possessor had a true passion for one of them: music, painting, ballet, literature, opera, sculpture, drama, architecture, and the likes.

Many of us have harbored a passion for sailing, often at the cost of neglecting the grand arts altogether, but I wonder how many have ever associated the act of sailing with art? And yet, when to you come examine it more closely, there could be a case for such a designation.

There is undoubtedly flowing art in the lines of a yacht lifted from the naval architect’s drawing board. Photographs by Beken of Cowes of the great racing yachts under a full press of sail lack nothing in that category either.

I sometimes think that art is something that makes you halt in your tracks, and this often happens to me when I see a handsome hull in a pretty anchorage.  And what can it be that makes so many of us stop and turn around for a last look after we have safely berthed a boat and walked away?

And then there is sailing itself. The curve of a sail in a breeze is art.  The steeve of a bowsprit and the sheer of a bulwark is art. The angle by which the mizzen mast of a ketch drifts aft from the vertical, compared with the mainmast, is art, and the human eye is offended if the two masts are wrongly parallel.

No one with a soul can deny there is art in the foaming wake of a sailboat at sea.  Even the shivering rectangle of the ensign that so stirs our national pride surely qualifies as art.

And finally, we come to the real proof. We know that true artists have to suffer for their art.

And we do. I surely don’t need to tell you how.

Today’s Thought
 The role of art is to make a world which can be inhabited.
— William Saroyan

A drama critic is a man who leaves no turn unstoned. — George Bernard Shaw
A tanning booth is a place where no stern is left untoned. — John Vigor

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

February 3, 2013

Take more care at night

GEORGE DAY, a former editor of Cruising World magazine, wrote this in his book Safety at Sea: “There is a strong correlation between losing sight of a victim and the fatality of that victim.” In other words, if you fall overboard and the crew on board can’t see you, you’re likely to die. This is especially true at night.

At sea in anything except a dead calm, your chances of being saved at night are very bleak indeed. In fact, if you don’t have a light on you, your chances are about zero. Even if you’re wearing one of those personal strobe lights that attach to your arm, your chances aren’t a whole lot better.

An electronic flash may look quite bright, but when it’s so low down on the surface of the water its range is very limited.

At five knots, a boat travels about 10,000 yards in 60 minutes. She therefore covers 100 yards in 36 seconds, so by the time the first minute has elapsed the victim is nearly 200 yards away. Given the usual conditions of swells, breaking waves, and spray that’s too far.

The message is clear: You should take extra precautions to stay aboard at night. Wear a harness and make sure there are strong attachment points in the cockpit and on deck.

I know this sounds like advice you’d expect to get from a socialist-liberal nanny government, but I’m only doing what I know to be right. On the other hand, I regret to say I can’t count the number of times I’ve reneged on a promise to my wife that I’d faithfully wear a harness and lifejacket whenever I was on watch in the cockpit alone.

I suspect many of you are guilty of the same crime. I promise to try to be better in future, and I would urge you to give it a go, too.

Today’s Thought
Who can hope to be safe? who sufficiently cautious?
Guard himself as he may, every moment’s an ambush.
— Horace, Odes

Confucius, he say if man think by the inch and talk by the yard, he will be kicked by the foot.

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)