15 April 2012 | Daytona Beach/New Smyrna, Fl
Rob the Rigger
The importance of spending time surveying your boat cannot be over-valued. It is what you do when you walk the deck, always conscious of soft spots, running rust from a clevis pin, oxidation of the mast at the partners, pooling of water on deck or worse - on the mast step.
Your boat and rig are always following the laws of physics, working together transferring the forces of water, wind, waves, into balance - moving the direction of forces into forward motion. You have to be on the look-out regularly. You may not think you know what to look for, but you probably do. What's more is that the more you look the more you will recognize your enemies. Your enemies are all things like:
oxidation, chafe, sun, improper leads, dissimilar metals, salt water, compression, sheer, elongation, under-sized blocks, sun damaged sheaves in blocks...we can go on a long time, right? So look at your standing rigging and running rigging as systems. In your mind imagine the forces at work and follow them through the tangs to the spreader tips, to the chainplates to the stringers, etc...
After a day of sailing, spend a little time talking and listening to your boat - figuratively speaking - or the dock neighbors might really start wondering.
Today's post-sailing investigation found compression in our mast step, a ring of safety wire around the cap shrouds (a hint that the spreader tips that were wired to the shrouds might not be anymore), corrosion on the mast at the partners - the worse of which is the mast step compression.
We were discussing the age of our standing rigging on a boat that is sailed well at least twice monthly..
We sail 3 boats with regularity: the E Scow, A Johnson 18 and the Evelyn 25.5. I crew aboard many other boats, but these are our boats we race consistently. We love a screeching spinnaker reach as much as - Okay, maybe more than the next guy sometimes. The second race of the season we were sailing in building breeze and seas, near shore in mid Florida. We set the big chute on a run and the helms-women (it was a family day of racing - gotta love it) did a good job, but the death roll came on and our big chute got the best of us. We recovered after two near-knock downs. The next spinnaker set, we set the small chute instead. We skidded to a victory after the finish line - hitting 10 knots. We had 8 hands aboard and so heavy weather was our friend. Two or so weeks prior, we went out with some newer, less-experienced crew (with a core of experience behind them after race committee called the race with conditions of 6-8 ft seas and gust to 32 knots. The boat did well. My point, and I assure you I have one, is that the boat was sailed 'hard' recently. Today's 'surveying' might have been the findings of the loads that we have been subjecting our boat to already this season. Mast steps can be monitored for condition, rebuilt, etc... The age of the standing rig now necessitates a rig replacement although the swages all are investigated regularly....that's what's good about having a rigger/sailmaker on the boat! But you probably don't.... So be the investigative, proactive type...and have a rigger survey your rigging, spars and running rigging. He can tell you if something is amiss or if something is questionable, BUT don't minimize the value of your eyes and ears. Survey your vessel all the time. When was the last time your crawled around in the nooks and crannies just looking for trouble?
As I walk the deck I always am running my hands over the standing rigging wire. I am feeling for raised stands in the rigging. Looking at the swages for discoloration, feeling for changes in the 'tightness' of the rigging, looking at the shape or straightness of the mast. Taking it all in... You do the same.
It's pretty serious stuff being the captain. Ultimately YOU are responsible for the lives aboard your vessel. Maintaining the condition of your boat is YOUR responsibility. Prudence demands that you keep your eyes peeled. ...and go sailing...and have fun.
Racing Makes for Better Cruising
31 December 2011
Rob the Rigger
The Beginning is a Good Place to Start
When it comes to the things that please us, the possibilities are endless. What’s more, those that fail to venture outside their comfort zones may never actual know what potential is there.
To some, sailing is a timid, elitist, thinking-sport where men in white shorts and saggy brimmed hats yell things like “jibe ho” or gather at elistest clubs and speak with that accent made so well known to all of us by Thurston Howell on Gilligan’s Island (I’m dating myself here.)
When it comes down to it, there are posers and egotist in every facet of life. You see them everywhere you go and the observant can (or think they can) spot them easily. If you let them, they might discourage those interested in learning more. Let me assure you that just as there are people as described above there are oodles of level-minded, good people racing aboard boats everyday.
In my profession I meet people all the time that verbalize their lacking sailing confidence by not knowing terms or understanding sailing principals. When I come across such a person I tell them the same thing every time, “Everyone starts at the same spot!” No one was born with a proficiency in sailing, although some may advance more quickly than others. We all start out at “the beginning.”
One thing I’ve noticed over the decades is that sailors like to teach others that are interested in learning more about sailing. We love to share the passion that drives us, whether we are a cruiser or racer or both. Getting out there on the water and sharing the love of sailing is, I think, a common goal.
For those new to the sport or wanting to learn more, racing is a great way to hone skills. I know, I hear it all the time: I’m a cruiser – I don’t wan that go fast racing stuff. Well, if you are truly a cruiser then honing your ability to trim the boat for efficient sailing is going to benefit you greatly! A faster passage from point A to point B may allow you to dodge that front heading your way with it’s foul weather and unpleasant conditions. Bettering your ability to handle your boat by learning from others is a definite winning scenario for more enjoyable cruising. I think much of the time people are afraid to let others know what they don’t know. Over the years I have made a goal of racing with crews I admire, skippers that commonly are in the money and those that are better tacticians than me. Yes, I have made stupid, embarrassing mistakes over the years, but as time has passed my skills have grown and I am a desirable crew member to have aboard (most of the time anyway.)
Start by knowing the strengths you bring to the team. Are you a good cook? Are you handy as a mechanic? Sit down before you offer to go racing with someone. Be honest about your experience level, but realize that you do probably have plenty to offer. Are you a first responder? Take an inventory of what makes you a good member of other groups at work, home, church, the bowling league - whatever. Many things transcend and translate to beneficial traits in sailing. Sometimes the best skill to is to be the first person to get off your butt and offer to take on the task at hand. I remember one time I was sailing aboard a boat that I have crewed for years. The skipper had brought thee college kids to sail that day, each had limited experience aboard “a big boat”. When it came time to ready the gear for a spinnaker launch nobody moved. I was working alone. I walked back and said, “Ya know, this boat is not the most comfortable boat. You have to be careful to not stub your feet and there are no cushioned seats. It hurts your bottom to sit there – so get off your ass and do something.” It was not the softest, PC way to put it, but they got it right away. Don’t wait to be asked – offer to help and listen to direction. Humbling your self is the first step that you can take to make yourself a desirable crew member – and to get invited back!
Another paradigm true in sailing as well as elsewhere in life: show up on time. When I started in my first career my boss sat me down and said, “The first secret to success is just showing up.” He meant showing up on time. Don’t be late. Nobody wants to rush to the race start because they waited on you (no matter what your skill level.)
Come prepared. Know the expected weather conditions or ask the skipper before race day and come prepared, but not with two bags and a cooler. Weight, as you probably know is not so desirable aboard a boat.
I am not a yeller when sailing. If I yell it is to increase the amplitude of my voice to make it over the conditions or to be sure I am heard because the message is important to be heard and understood. Realizing that about your skipper, or knowing to expect that he/she will yell is probably something you will learn quickly. I’ve never sailed a second time with a skipper that yells anything belittling – you might feel the same, but I can count their numbers in my experience on one hand…and I have sailed with many different skippers and crews.
The bottom line is that sailing might be about winning, but winning is about preparation and doing your personal best! Striving to do your personal best every time will definitely drive you to be a better sailor, do tasks better each time and will ultimately make you a batter sailor. Being a better sailor will help you to enjoy your own boat much more…and increase your confidence for those times when whether or circumstances challenge you – most often when you least expect it.
So think about it! Go racing!
Most clubs or associations will welcome your phone call and direct you to the race chairman who may be a great source for helping you find your way onto a boat. Be careful though, you might meet people that love the same thing you love, make friends and hone your skills all at the same time.
Enjoy! Go sailing!! Go Racing!!
Rob the Rigger
Stop The PHRF complaining and sail a true course!
24 July 2010 | Daytona Beach
There are many things in my life that I love, few that I love as much as sailing. Yah, I know, family really does come first and I believe I walk the walk in that theater of my life, but sailing is the place I run to when I need time alone.
Do I sail alone? Sometimes. It's terrific when I do. Most of the time I sail with others, but when competing, my mind is focused on sail trim, boat speed, thinking steps beyond the moment at hand. By focusing on these tasks and with the absence of cell phones, traffic, and other demands on my attention, I find myself in my own world, a simple place where only a short lidt of things demand my immediate attention. Storms or calamity aboard only serve to give me greater focus. It's a world where my happiness can be directly related to my own performance. Even if the boat does not finish first or even if it does, with me it is always about how I feel about my performance. Did I do my personal best? In one-design racing this is a very important perspective to have and maintain.
Racing PHRF is growing less interesting to me. In our fleet there is constantly someone unhappy with their rating. Letters are written to the race committee to appeal ratings. The conversation at the yacht club bar moves from how this one or that one could improve their rating, if only a fair committee were in charge. Years go by, ratings get changed but, the finishers in our fleet remain the same or change little. What is it that we are missing?
The ratings found in the US SAILING book are numbers posted by clubs around the nation. They sail same boats in different conditions. The distribution of those boats throughout various regions experiencing various conditions (except maybe for those boats who are seldom found in the book/when the population of data is too small, ) somewhat acts to average the ratings fairly well, in most cases. So why so much worry about the rating?
Something else that works its way into the rating is sailing in an Olympic style course. An Olympic style course is a course that includes a windward/leeward leg. Our fleet is sailing to set marks with no regard for sailing to windward and leeward. The performance of the boat, whether a detriment or a compliment to the boat's performance is lost. Without a windward/leeward leg, our triangle course tends to be one close hauled leg, one beam-reach leg and one broad-reaching leg. We can basically call this waterline length racing or sail-area to displacement style racing. Gone are the added strategies for arguably the most challenging and potentially rewarding legs of our racing! I think what it comes down to is time. Skippers are not willing to await the start of racing for the placement of a windward pin. We have said for years that we have no chase boat for such duty. The truth is we have set marks (due to some going missing) on many, many occasions for that day's racing. When we set them, instead of configuring a windward pin position that would allow us to compete with a windward leg, we instead choose to place the marks exactly in the place of the missing marks - adding nothing for us.
If we want to complain about ratings then let's race a course where your rating truly should represent the expected performance of the boat and give all boats, fast and slow, high aspect ratio sail plans and low aspect, spinnaker boats and non-spinnaker boats a chance to race as the system was meant to be implemented. What's more is it just might make it more fun! We might even find that our ratings aren't so far off! We might even find ways too attract new boats to the fleet. You'll never know if ya don't try it.
One thing's for sure. We're not adding boats to our fleet doing what we are doing/ what's been done the same way for decades. Maybe if we sailed half our races on Saturdays instead of only on Sundays? Ultimately, what is best for the fleet should be considered. I say race the course as it should be raced, on an Olympic style course to include a windward/leeward leg! Add some races that could be raced on
Saturdays. See if Saturday racing brings out some new competitors that we currently are unaware of. Try whatever we must to attract new boats, but ultimately, complaining about PHRFs won't help grown the fleet. Sailing this around the buoys course with no windward/leeward leg may be doing nothing to neither attract nor detour new or current sailors, but we don't know unless we try. I can tell you that anything to make it more interesting is welcome.
My interest are pure. I want sailboat racing in Daytona to be something greater than what it currently is. I want it to survive and grow. I plan on racing for decades to come. I fear that the fleet will not exist in 10 years at our current rate. Is our fleet to dissolve into nothing? I sure hope not, but I am going other places and racing in other fleets, racing one-design when possible. I would just hate to see something that can be so enjoyable, an activity that enriches life, in an area like Daytona go away.
Safety At Sea Starts at the Dock
26 May 2010
Spring time always brings a rash of rigging surveys. People scurry around in rush to ready their vessels for spring and trips to turquoise water. It's a time of rigging surveys.
I enjoy sailing in heavy weather. I always tell people that if you trust your boat (ie, it's in good condition and all systems are in good order) and you trust your crew (they're experienced and up to the task), then you have little to fear. Safety at sea starts at the dock.
Every time I step aboard my boat, I usually come aboard at the shrouds, I automatically run my hands down the shroud wires, feeling for a wire strand standing proud. I look down at the turnbuckles and visually check the turnbuckle, stud and the cotter pins. My mid is actively and passively searching for signs that signal me to give something a closer look. I walk the boat and check the standing rigging, the headsail furler and the furling line. Am I extreme in my vigilance? No, I've seen too many things on the boats of others.
Checking the boat should be as normal as checking the furl level when you get behind the wheel, and it's more important.
Recent a long time client of mine had a near dis-masting that could have and should have been avoided. We had priced and proposed replacing a headstay and old furling system for years. It is a larger boat so the cost was significant to the owner. The furling system and stay replacement was in the $4k range. Flash forward to spring of 2010 now and the owners son and a friend had sailed to the islands and were returning.
RULE ONE: You can't always pick your own weather. Sometimes it picks you.
The guys left in a breeze that was soon met with a storm of 50-60 knots just as they cleared out to sea. The owner's son was smart. He anticipated the storm and took down the mainsail ( a roachy, big & powerful mainsail that could have been reefed - but read on). After the mainsail was down he went to shorten the genoa's sail by furling. He had needed to add some line to the drum, noting this the evening before. In the freshening breeze approaching a gale he was going to be left with an appreciable amount of sail area still presented to the wind. So he unfurled and tried to roll it in again. BANG! It happens. In that split second the bobstay turnbuckle, that turnbuckle chain that connects the chain that goes from the tip of the bow sprit to the connection near the waterline at the bow gives up the ghost. The sea water, years of shock loads, fatigue and time had worked their magic against the hard surfaces of the good quality stainless turnbuckle and T-toggle causing a crack in the T-toggle that would go un-seen unless visually inspected. At that moment the T-toggle head separate from the turnbuckle, the force of the 60 knot storm transferred great loads that were now pulling against an aluminum 3 inch diameter sprit that now had a tremendously reduced ability to resist the load. The owner's son said it sounded like paper tearing away. The sprit was torn away and went flying skyward, taking with it the bow pulpit that was attached to it and 15 feet of lifeline and stanchions port and starboard. It must have seemed that the all hell had broken loose. The pulpit and sprit finally came to rest after what must have seemed an eternity, wrapping themselves around the port cap shroud, near the deck.
Amazingly, no one was seriously injured or killed. The boats designer in later conversations was amazed that the crew had not lost the deck-stepped mast. They would have - had the owner's son not lowered the mainsail first thing!
All this arguably could have been avoided for the cost of replacing a turnbuckle T-Toggle. In reality it would have been a $4k furling system replacement that would have included the turnbuckle and T-toggle, but that pales in comparison to the repairs now that must be made. The cost for replacing the sprit & bow pulpit alone are that!
Start your day of sailing with a visual check or rigging and hull every time. It does not take long. It can even be done with an adult beverage in hand, if you so choose (just not after many!)
1. Run your hands down each shroud for several feet. Feel anything unusual?
2. Watch for signs of running rust. Investigate the source if you find any. Rust on chainplates requires further investigation.
3. Do the shrouds seem much looser than normal? Investigate the mast step, if so.
4. Did you find a cotter pin or ring on deck and wonder where it came from? Tiem to go aloft or call a trusted rigger.
As a manager in a brokerage firm long ago, my bosses would encourage me to spread work to my employees. "It's good for them to build skills", they would say. They also said, "Delegate the authority, but remember, you cannot delegate the responsibility." Similarly, an owner of a vessel should check their vessel regularly...and have a rigging survey yearly or before significant forays into the deep blue.
Safety at sea starts at the dock.
Many happy sea miles!
Land locked with Bikers
04 March 2010 | Daytona
There is little in life so free as the feeling I get when sailing. You may share this feeling too. It is such a pleasurable balance to harness the natural forces to move through the water. The sounds, acceleration and the sense of the boat responding to your movements and commands bring you into a comfortable illusion of control. For those that sale performance craft the illusion is evasive and sometimes short lived. There's a great feeling of accomplishment and pride that comes with manipulating the rig and sails, the trim of the craft to coax her best performance.
Today was a day that I'd rather have been sailing. Instead, I was dry docked among bikers in Daytona. I ran from marina to marina, yard to yard spreading the word of our recent move to our new location. Everywhere I visited, people told me stories of how sailors were avoiding Daytona and their boats, assumedly until both the cold weather and bikers leave.
I should have gone sailing. I called my meteorologist friend and left a desperate message for a sailing partner for the afternoon, but received no response. I guess that he had far too many responsibilities holding him away from the boat. Work gets in the way of the necessities of life, doesn't it? Maybe he was just avoiding bikers too. Cannot say that I blame him.
Tomorrow holds new hope.
Coming soon: Spring Survey - the Southern sailors guide to surveying from the deck
See you on the water soon.
A New Home
02 March 2010 | Dockside
Well, We're settling into the new loft. It's never easy moving 25 years of accumulated gear, memorabilia, trash, unidentifiable sailing paraphernalia and so on. The moving part was not that bad, it's the reorganizing part that takes more time.
We're looking forward to making this our home. We started off with taking an order for a bi-radial mainsail for a good client's Beneteau 51. I'm looking forward to raising it with the crew on delivery! Maybe even racing to Charleston with them.
Of all the things that comes along with the job of rigger, sail guy and so on is that I get to meet great people and share with them a common interest we share, The love of sailing.
See you on the water soon.