From the Shavings Archives: “So, You Are a Sailor”
This marks the first of a series of articles that will be republished from CWB’s Member Newsletter, Shavings. Our newsletter is published on a recurring basis and is sent to CWB Members. It contains news, updates, tips, boat stories and more. The article below was written by Jack Saylor, the pen name of an infamous CWB volunteer. Can you guess who it is?
So you are a sailor. You have the ability to sail a boat from point A to point B and back. This is no different from driving your car from point A to point B and back. There are preparations before you start driving or sailing and there are “things” that must happen while you drive or sail. There are certain sailing and driving habits that make both activities more pleasant, effortless and safe. Since we want to determine what kind of sailor you are, let’s review some of the nuances innate to sailing which make this activity so rewarding.
Before you begin your sail, you want to make sure your boat is fit for the trip. Inspect the hull for uncontrolled leaks (the water must stay outside the hull); you make sure the rigging is going to stay in place by checking the shrouds and stays which hold the mast erect and the pins that keep them attached to the chainplates. Check so the sheets will do their job of controlling the sails and the halyards will hoist the sails and keep them there. Once all this is done, you are ready to start getting the boat rigged.
You make sure the boat is facing the wind and, if you are sailing a sloop you hoist the mainsail first so the boat sits still, not wanting to take off. If you are rigging a two master such as the Caledonia Yawl or the Betsy D. you hoist the aftermost sail (the mizzen) first. Mizzens make excellent windvanes and keep the boat facing the wind. If you are sailing a cat-rigged boat like the Beetle Cat or an El Toro there is nothing to worry, as long as the boat is facing the wind.
Before hoisting the sails attached to the mast you release all lines (downhawl; main sheet) so that the sail can reach the masthead. The jib is always hoisted last, just before you are ready to depart. When ready to leave, release the downwind (stern) mooring line first and then the bow line. Remember that all sailboats boats are designed to sail staying on their waterline – the naval architect who designed it really knew what he was doing. To accomplish this you position yourself and your crew along the midhips of the boat so the boat stays level while it is doing its thing. By positioning yourself as close to midships as possible you are keeping the boat happy, it is sailing on its designed waterline. Also you have the tiller behind you where you have the full range of its leverage to move the rudder. If you sit next to the tiller you cannot make a sharp turn and if you don’t use the tiller properly your boat may not complete the turn when asked to, especially when tacking.
Remember that when driving around a corner if you only turn the wheel a bit, you will not complete the turn before hitting something. When you concentrate the weight too far aft, you are creating a different underwater shape and the boat does not sail as it should. Keep an alert eye for traffic and ask the crew to help you by scanning the area ahead of you – your vision might be impaired by the jib. Listen to the rustle of the water as the boat talks to you letting you know it likes the hull and sail trim. These are a few of the good sailing habits that make sailing relaxing and effortless. It is Nirvana, it is a communion of you, the boat, the water and the wind making you a sailor…..a good sailor.
– Written by Jack Saylor, originally published in Shavings, February/March 2008