November 11, 2010

Ready to charter?

I NOTICE THAT SOME PEOPLE are happy to swop boats with others in distant cruising destinations, so that both parties can have boating vacations at little or no cost. But I couldn’t do that. Sharing my boat would be like sharing my wife. It may be very old-fashioned of me, but I can’t do that.

Like most people, I prefer to charter. Sometimes, however, the charter companies are fussy about your experience of handling boats. So, what do you think? Are YOU ready to charter yet?

Here are the first two questions in a 10-part quiz I prepared to test your skills. The answers are below, so be careful not to peek before you’ve answered the questions.

1. Anchoring

Your chosen night anchorage is a charming little cove protected from the prevailing wind by a high, steep hill. The holding ground is good but when you arrive there your find it’s crowded with charter yachts.

You notice, however, that there is space enough for you up to windward of everybody else, close in toward the beach and under the hill in about 10 feet of water — plenty for your 5-foot draft, even allowing for the tide.

Should you:

(a) Anchor there?

(b) Anchor to leeward behind everybody else, far away from the beach in 40 feet of water?

(c) Ask someone already anchored if you can raft up alongside them for the night?

2. Maneuvering

At your on-board briefing the charter company representative informs you that you have a right-handed propeller. She asks if you understand this, and you nod wisely. After all, most things are right-handed, right? That’s obviously another word for normal.

So, when you’re backing out of your slip under power, what’s most likely to happen to the stern if the rudder is centered?

(a) The stern will probably tend to swing to port, or your right as you face aft.

(b) It will just go backward in a normal straight line.

(c) It will probably tend to swing to starboard, or your left, facing aft.


1(b). If you’ve ever tried this, you’ll know why the answer isn’t (a). Frequently a steep hill or cliff will create a backwind for a short distance to leeward. You could end up being sucked in toward the beach and going aground.

It pays to be suspicious. There’s usually a good reason why nobody’s already anchored in what looks to be a prime spot. As for (c), even if you found a willing host, most charter companies forbid rafting up — for good seamanlike reasons.

2 (a). Looking from astern, a right-handed propeller turns clockwise when it’s driving forward. In reverse, it turns counter-clockwise. It also tends to “paddle-wheel” the stern one way or the other, particularly at slow speeds.

So think of the propeller as a paddle wheel moving the stern to the left when you’re in reverse, as seen from behind. Correspondingly, a left-handed prop will move the stern to the right in reverse, of course. Different boats behave differently, but this is what a prudent sailor would reasonably expect and be prepared to make allowance for.

Today’s Thought

It takes several years for anyone to learn to handle a yacht reasonably well, and a lifetime to admit how much more there is to learn.

— Maurice Griffiths

Boaters’ Rules of Thumb #119
Knots and line strength. All knots (and even tight kinks) reduce the strength of a line. Here’s how much the strength of the line is reduced by:
Anchor bend, 24 percent; round turn and two half hitches, 30 to 35 percent; bowline, 40 percent; clove hitch, 40 percent; sheet bend, 45 percent; reef knot, 55 percent.
Note: None of this should worry you unduly because most modern lines on yachts are far stronger than they need be.

Teacher: “How many times can 2 be subtracted from 10?”
Student: “I have done it 154 times and every time it comes to 5.”

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