Always! Really? (proper loading of a winch)

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Times in Sailing when the Word Always Applies

I always raise and lower the seat appropriately when I use the head. I always make sure that my bride, Lisa, knows how much I appreciate her. I always do a thorough pre-check of all systems before I leave the dock. I always have a good time when I’m on the water. I always get my ass kicked when I round Frying Pan Shoals, off Cape Fear North Carolina.

The real truth defined, always

Liar, liar pants on fire! Shame on me. The truth is that I do try to remember to use the seat correctly, to let Lisa know that I appreciate all the things she does, and to check my boat out before I leave the dock. The vast majority of the time I do have a good time on the water and yes I usually get my ass kicked when I round Frying Pan Shoals (one time I remember actually basking in the sun with smooth following seas). Maybe as often as 99.99% of the time but, NOT ALWAYS!

If you GOOGLE the word “Always” (isn’t it amazing that I wrote that rather than: if you lookup the word “Always” in the dictionary) you will learn that “Always”, used as I am in this post, means the following: Invariably. In other words it means absolutely every single time without exception.

winch

Few things in life are the concrete, but there are sometimes when sailing that the word “Always” is accurate. One such time occurs when speaking about the proper way to load a winch.

Clockwise, always

When you put a line on a winch you ALWAYS wrap the line clockwise on the winch drum. Doing so insures that the winch will be helping you and not the object, usually a sail, attached to the other end of the line. Winches are designed to give you a significant mechanical advantage, http://onthewaterwithcaptainfrank.com/winches-101/, and they are ratcheted so that they only work in one direction (guess which way that is). So, if you load the winch clockwise you are super strong, counter-clockwise and the sail on the other end of the line, already very powerful, becomes a Goliath.

If you were born during a time when we actually used clocks that told us the time by representing it in a circle then clockwise is a simple concept. If not, then clockwise means you rotate the line to the right as you put it around the winch. Some people get confused when wrapping the line, so a simple way to get it right is to just spin the winch drum before you load it. If it rotates in the direction that you spun it then load the line that way. Another simple and faster method is to load the line and then give it a little tug. The line should come toward you easily and you will hear a little clicking sound. That sound means you are the Goliath rather than the sail.

Uh, oh! Now what?

In the event that you have not loaded the winch correctly and you don’t discover it until you start pulling the line in, there is only one thing you can do. Immediately take the line off the winch, and I mean right now and completely! The line may respond wildly and it may be difficult to control. Don’t try to control it! Without applying any tension to the line place one loose wrap correctly around the winch, pull in some slack and then quickly apply a second wrap. Pull the line quickly and hard. Get all the slack out of the line you can and finally get a third wrap, cross the silver feeder bar, and place the line into the self-tailer. Now grind like hell cause you got a mile of line to bring in due to the loading error.

Whether you have loaded the winch correctly or not, you should generally (notice I didn’t use the word always) start the pull with two wraps of line around the drum. Pull all the slack you can and then add additional wraps as needed to provide the necessary friction to hold the load. Do not start with the winch loaded with more than two wraps. Doing so is a great way to perfect the technique of “knife tacking” (tacking and cutting the sheet with a knife to be able to clear the over-ride that is on the winch), which, while fast, is very expensive.

Always is a very powerful word with a very clear and important meaning. I’ve talked about one time to apply it. Do you have any others? Let me know when you think always applies to your sailing and life!

Finally, Lisa, I will try very hard to fulfill my vow to you; to ALWAYS do my best in all my endeavors!

While I’m trying, be sure to see me On the Water…With Captain Frank

ALWAYS, revisited (Additional critical items that must be conformed to)

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Times in Sailing when the Word Always Applies

A few weeks ago I wrote an article entitled “Always! Really?”. The article was about the strict meaning of the word “always” and, more importantly, the proper loading and use of a winch.

Today, I want to expand that discussion of proper usage by describing some more occasions, when boating, that the word “always” applies.

Electronic gas solenoid

I always turn the electronic gas solenoid off when I have finished using the boat’s stove or oven.

This is critical. If the solenoid is left on, the propane — a highly explosive gas – can, if a leak develops, flow into the interior of the boat (the cabin). Since propane is heavier air, it will seek the lowest part of the boat, the bilge. Any spark, no matter how small, can cause the accumulated gas to explode, destroying not just the boat, but also any boats in the immediate area.

Leaks can occur at any location in the gas plumbing, but certain areas are more susceptible than others. Those areas include:

  • Where gas lines pass through bulkheads
  • Any place that the piping is joined together, such as the rigid pipe connection to the flexible hose leading to the stove
  • The flexible hose connection to the stove

Always, turn off the propane electronic solenoid!

Attach the kill switch

I always attach the dingy engine’s Kill Switch strap to my wrist.

The Kill Switch on the dinghy’s engine will not keep me alive. However, it will keep me from dying as a result of the dinghy running over me if I am ejected.

One very common way the "clip" is attached to the engine.  (red button can also be pressed to stop engine)
One very common way the “clip” is attached to the engine. (red button can also be pressed to stop engine)

The kill switch strap is attached to a clip on one end and attaches to your wrist on the other. The clip is fitted to the engine in one of several ways. The common factor of all the attachment methods is that a switch on the engine is kept in the “on” position by the clip, allowing the engine to run. If the clip is removed, the switch will automatically be turned “off” and the engine will shut down instantly.

This strap can be worn on the wrist or clipped to the PFD the driver is wearing
This strap can be worn on the wrist or clipped to the PFD the driver is wearing

With the strap being worn, if the driver is thrown from the dinghy or tossed off balance within it, their arm’s drastic movement will force the clip from its attachment point and the engine will stop.

So, why would the driver be ejected from or tossed about the dingy? Most dinghies are RIB’s. A RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) is a boat with a fiberglass or aluminum hull and air inflated chambers, called tubes, surrounding it on all sides except the transom, where the outboard engine is mounted.

The tubes serve several functions including:

  • Keeping water out of the boat
  • Give the passengers someplace to sit
  • Adding stability and buoyancy
  • Acting as fenders when coming alongside another vessel

RIB’s are typically equipped with outboard motors ranging from eight to twenty horsepower. These engines are easily capable of bringing the dinghy up on plane and traveling at speeds in excess of 15 knots. In addition, RIBS equipped with these engines are able to turn extremely rapidly requiring very small movements of their tiller.

 

What’s a blob??

Have you ever seen someone “BLOBed”? Well, sitting on the tubes of a RIB is very similar. When the tube gets compressed, either from a wave below or someone else on the tube being bounced, the rapid compression of the air within the tubes can launch you like a water-balloon on Fourth of July! That, combined with the rapid change of direction from an unintended quick turn has the potential to make the driver or one of the passengers look like a stunt-person in a B-rated movie. If the victim is the driver, then an already dangerous situation can become deadly! The Kill Switch doesn’t prevent the unexpected departure from happening, but it “kills” the engine and stops the boat when it does.

I ALWAYS wear the Kill Switch strap when I drive a dingy!

Well, there you have it. As I think of more proper uses for the word “ALWAYS”, in regards to boating, I’ll be sure to write about them. Until then be sure to ALWAYS be On the Water…With Captain Frank.