SAILING NAKED!!!! I have the guts, do you?

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Sailing Naked

Part 1 of 3 (I think)

Sailing Naked

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.

Our 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).

Close hauled:

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?)).

Close reach:

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.

Beam reach:

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.

Broad reach:

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).

Running:

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

SAILING NAKED!!!! (Learn to sail without Electronics) knot log

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Sailing Naked

Today we will continue on our quest to find the freedom and guts to go sailing naked.   What instrument are we going to eliminate today?  I vote for the knot-log.

knot log

So, what exactly is the knot log?

The knot log is a transducer that protrudes from the bottom of our boat usually located ahead of the keel on or near the centerline.   It is important for the knot-log to be out front in clear water so that the water flow across it is the same no mater what tack or point of sail we are on.   The log has a paddle wheel that spins as the boat travels through the water.   It works just like the anemometer that we spoke about yesterday.   Unfortunately, unlike the anemometer, the knot-log is vulnerable to being fouled by barnacles and debris in the water.   It is also notorious for being inaccurate.   There are new designs that help to eliminate this problem but they are still not the norm.  The knot-log gives very different information than your GPS.   It measures our boat’s speed through the water while the GPS measures our boats speed across the ground.  

You ever find yourself sailing along and all the sudden realize that the boat feels just awesome?   When we have our sails trimmed correctly and the boat on the correct point of sail it just feels right.   Guess what, we’re probably sailing the boat as fast as it can go at that moment.   When was the last time you went sailing and said, “Hey, I think I want to slow down”?   That just doesn’t happen.   When sailboats are hauling butt they’re going 6.   That’s already slow, right? Most of us want to go “fast”, so slow just isn’t a skill we want to develop although many of us seem to have a natural ability to accomplish it.   When the boat is “fast” it has that awesome feel.   We don’t need to have a digital display flashing in our face telling us what we already can feel.  

We should be able to be at the helm in a comfortable position, with the boat at the optimum angle of heal (about 12 degrees), the rudder at 3 or 4 degrees to leeward and the wheel being held loosely between our thumb and pointer finger.   If that’s not going on then there are only three things to look at and they are:   Sail trim, amount of sail up and point of sail.  

Sail trim:

If our sail trim is poor the boat will be slow.   Most sailors tend to overtime their sails.   The tendency is to trim in to far.   This will “bind up” the boat and may well increase weather helm.   All well designed boats have a tendency to turn into the wind.   This is a good trait that adds to safety (if there is a problem at the helm the boat turns into the wind and slows or stops) and the ease of steering (by giving the helmsman a little pressure to “feel the rudder” with).   But as with most things in life, too much of a good thing is not good.   With over-trimmed sails we need to apply more rudder angle to keep the boat sailing straight.   More rudder angle equals more drag and that equals 5th or 6th place at the end of the race.   Under-trimmed sails means we are giving away power and drive.   Proper trim will allow the boat to sail fast.

Amount of sail set:

This is really an extension of sail trim.   Regardless of how well we trim our sails if we simply have too much or too little sail exposed to the wind the boat will be slow.   Obviously if there is not enough sail out the boat will be underpowered.   Being underpowered will make us sail at a lower angle to the wind (sail fat). It takes sailing fat to get the boat speed to where we expect it, so while the boat speed may be okay our journey to the free rum (directly upwind) will take longer and that equals slow.   The opposite problem is too much sail out and that will make us overpowered.   If we are overpowered we will experience an excess of weather helm. We counter-act that weather helm by turning the rudder leeward. Keeping the rudder turned increases drag and slows the boat tremendously (it is also exhausting to hold the helm against the added pressure).   In the worst case picture the rudder is unable to hold the boat on course and it will round up into the wind.   Now, that’s really slow.   It is important for us to get to know our boat and discover what amount of sail is appropriate for the wind conditions on any particular day.  

Incorrect point of sail:

If we have deployed the correct amount of sail and we have trimmed those sails perfectly for sailing close-hauled but we are sailing on a close reach then our boat speed will be terrible. It is crucial to be sailing on the point of sail that we think we are.   Our talk yesterday explained how to be sure we are sailing the way we want.   Go back and read it again if you are having trouble with this. All of this aside, does it really matter whether we are sailing at 5.2 or 5.4 knots.   At the end of the day we will be where we want.   Our trip planning skills prevented us from planning a trip based on speed that closely monitored.   Didn’t it?   How could we plan for that level of accuracy anyway?   Ever here of current?   So, if we spend a great day of sailing with proper sail trim, proper deployment of sail and on the point of sail that we say were on we will get our boat from point A to point B as quickly as possible.  

Go practice, better yet get an instructor and go practice.   By doing so, these things will become second nature and you’ll have more fun on the water.   Knot-log? Knot now!   Ah, I can smell that freedom comin my way.   Naked sailing here we come.   See ya tomorrow On the Water…With Captain Frank