Part 1 of 3 (I think)
For those of you that have actually met me you might be thinking; “Oh no Captain Frank please, you’re gonna make me go to therapy to get that image out of my mind. How could you”? So, before you dial the out-reach hotline let me assure you that I will remain fully clothed when I sail, most of the time anyhow.
What I’m talking about here is going sailing and leaving the electronics turned off. Actually turn them on but cover them all up except for the depth instrument. Whether you’re day sailing or taking a trip to destinations near or far, sailing naked will dramatically improve your technique, confidence and navigational skill. But it takes practice.
In this series we’ll take a look at our electronics and how we can get over our addiction to them. Let’s start with the anemometer.
The anemometer utilizes a weather vane to gather wind direction data and a series of cups or paddles that spin in a circle to relay to us the wind speed. We don’t need that digital windmill on top of the mast. We have everything we need to know where the wind is right next to (not under) our nose. If you turn your face very slowly you will know exactly when the pressure on both your cheeks is the same. If your hearing is good enough you will hear the wind in your ears. At that moment you are staring exactly into the wind. With practice you will learn to stand behind the helm with your face positioned so you know where the wind all the time. Anemometers are notoriously inaccurate and often incorrectly calibrated. Most of the time they are giving you bad info anyhow. Regarding wind speed, get familiar with the Beaufort scale so you can identify the wind speed by looking at the sea-state (the waves).
If you are sailing close-hauled then depending on your boat and the tack you’re on you should be looking some where between 1 and 2 or 10 and 11 o’clock. Trim your sails in close. If you are heeled more than about 12 degrees, or if you have more than 4 degrees of rudder applied or if you can’t hold the helm with two loose fingers then you have either poor sail trim or to much sail up. Fix it! Less sail area trimmed well is way faster than too much. Keep those tell-tales flying and the main from luffing (unless you’re double reefed and still have to much power (what the hell are you doing out there anyway?)).
The wind is on your face from 1:30-3 or 9-10:30 o’clock. Trim the jib to make the tell-tales fly and trim main until it just starts to luff, then ease it slightly. It’s that simple. Close reaching is what God actually intended man to do. It’s just right.
We all know what a beam reach is, right? The wind is blowing perpendicular to the centerline of the boat (right across the beam). If you turn your face to the 3 or 9 o’clock and your face is getting that “I’m in the wind” feeling then guess what. You’re on a beam reach. So, trim your sails silly.
Okay, I’ll admit, it’s harder to tell where the wind is when it’s behind you. However, last time I checked my spine and neck were capable of rotating and while the wind pressure on your face is less apparent (because the apparent wind is less), it is still present. All sailboats with a jib have a built in alarm system forewarning of the dreaded accidental gybe. As we sail deeper off the wind we ease the main further and further out.
Eventually the main steals the wind from the jib (sneaky greedy man, shame on you) and the jib gets weak and finally collapses from lack of oxygen. This indicates that you are getting into the gybe zone. Turn the boat slightly upwind and jib flies proud again. So see, we don’t have to have a TV screen telling us what’s going on, our sails tell us. By the way here’s a great little tip. If you see that collapsed jib turn the wheel away from the boom to prevent the gybe. Wheel toward the boom to gybe, wheel away from the boom if you’re scared.
When we broad reach we are pretending to be a “square rigger”. It’s all about presenting sail area to the wind. Don’t let your jib billow out in front of the head-stay. We want to create a wall perpendicular to the boat centerline with the luff of the jib. If we let the jib billow in front then we have given away the largest area of the sail. The luff area is parallel to the wind (not very fast) rather than capturing the air (fast).
The jib tells you when you’re running. It’s trying to get to the other side of the boat. Let it go! If it loves you and you let it go it will stay with you.
Well there you have it. The anemometer is no longer holding you back from sailing naked. We’re one step closer to sailing naked!
Till tomorrow when we get together again On the Water…With Captain Frank