TWO VERY EXPERIENCED ocean racers have agreed that it would be wise to criss-cross the cockpit of a yacht with ropes during a storm at sea.
I am a bit puzzled by this.
At first sight, I’m not sure it’s a good idea at all, but I would be foolish to argue with either of these men.The first is Warren Brown, of Bermuda, who owned a 40-foot ocean racer named Force Seven. She was designed by William Tripp, and she was overtaken by a hurricane between Bermuda and Newport, Rhode Island, in August 1964.
Warren is quoted in a famous book on the danger of deep-sea voyages called Heavy Weather Sailing, by K. Adlard Coles. Here are Warren’s own words:
“By 1700, steering had become extremely difficult, and of concern for the deck watch. We criss-crossed the cockpit completely with rope, giving handholds for every movement in this area as a safety measure additional to safety belts.” Force Seven was knocked down many times, and her cockpit was filled with water on several occasions, but she weathered the hurricane and eventually arrived safely in Newport.
The second experienced ocean racer is Adlard Coles himself, of course. In his book, Coles describes the cockpit lash-up as a “useful tip,”and adds: “It is not uncommon for part of the crew to be swept out of the cockpit if a yacht is knocked down in a heavy gale, and several went overboard in the gale of the Bermuda Race of 1960 . . . the criss-cross of ropes seems a practical idea to help prevent accidents of this sort.”
Well, I can see the sense of providing handholds for the cockpit crew, but how would they be able to move around in the cockpit with ropes strung like spider webs at or about waist level? I can’t imagine trying to move fore or aft by high-stepping over line after line. It would be bad enough with the boat at rest in harbor, but how would you do it at sea with the boat bucking and heeled over? I also wonder about the chances for getting sheets, other sail controls, and even your own tether snagged and tangled up in this web.
Warren doesn’t give any details of how many ropes were used, or where they were attached, but I presume they’d have to be strung from coaming to coaming, which might even be higher than waist level on some boats. I’d be interested to know if anyone else has ever tried this trick, and how it worked out practically. Meanwhile, I’m highly skeptical, despite the authoritative recommendations.
They were suffered to have rope enough till they had haltered themselves.
— Fuller, Holy War
I want to know
How fireflies glow.
Do they carry
Their tiny bexides?
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