The task of becoming sea-worthy

Posts tagged “how to

We get by with a little help from our friends…

Yachtmaster Eric

God is awesome, isn’t He?  In the mist of all our learning and yearning to be good sailors, God sent us an incredible gift, in the form of Eric and his sweet wife Janet.  Eric is a FaceBook friend whose been following the antics of S/V Knot Alot online.  Last weekend he graciously agreed to join Guy & myself for a day of sailing.  And what a day it was.

Meeting them both was interesting.  Janet is soft-spoken, bubbly and joyful to be around,  She has the most beautiful, sparkly eyes.  Eric is a very humble, gracious man.  He didn’t come across boastful even though he has tremendous sailing experience and knowledge.  He met us at our level and learning ability, kinda like we do with our beginner riders.

The most helpful thing was after a month of online and book learning, we finally got a hands on feel for the things we had been reading about.  This was going from classroom training to practical application and things started to make sense.

Figure 8

Starting off with learning about knots.  we learned how to tie the figure 8, square knot and a half hitch.  Also proper cleating – the Cleat Hitch, or Cleat Knot, secures a rope to a cleat. It is deceptively simple.  A simple way to hold the rope allowing the cleat to do its job.  The lines sometimes need to be secure, but tied in a way that you can unsecure it quickly.

Figure 8 is used for tying a rope thru a pully so the line can’t be pulled thru it. It’s a stopper knot – saves the rope escaping.  Half hitch is used for for fastening a rope to an object, while a square knot is used for tying 2 lines together or to tie a line in a loop around something.

First off. we walked around the boat, checking all the lines, going over everything necessary to launch the boat.  Making sure bumpers were aboard, all lines were fastened properly.  Making sure all the sheets were in working order before we hit open water.

Square or Reef Knot

The funny thing about current –  its hard to see it has a mind of its own.  So, Eric thought it best for Cap’n Guy to take the helm and steer us out of the slip. Sometimes learning is best handled by doing. You know how when someone’s watching you and you try to do something you’ve done well before?  And no matter how hard you try to do it as you have many times before, nothing works.  That’s what happened next.  Cap’n Guy tells the story…

The book said the rudder can cause you to walk steer, when the current steers you instead of you steering the boat.  Since it’s never happened before, I proceeded to back out as always in an attempt to dazzle everyone with my amazing manuvering skills.

Half-Hitch or Rolling-Hitch Knot

Using the rudder to position the bow correctly,  I forgot that the motor was steering the boat, so as I’m pushing the tiller into the correct position, I can’t figure out why the boat is heading in the wrong direction.  I’m still trying to look cool.

Andrea offers a newbie solution to just let her go all the way, in the wrong direction, til she comes about.  Eric was patient, hiding his amusement from us and offered an alternative solution as well.  Using the motor to steer while motoring does in fact bring more effective results. Imagine that!

After amazing him with the slip donut technique, Eric astutely determined it might be best for us to raise the sail while still in the no-wake zone.  We raised the mainsail and he loosened the boom vang and secured the main halyard, then trimmed the leading tack to take out some slack that was at the bottom of the mainsail.

Then it was time to raise the jib.  We had discussed our difficulty getting it to unfurl, convinced that another repair was emmentent.  He explained it probably wasnt necessary and unfurled the jib sheet with no trouble at all.  Wouldn’t you know it, we were just doing it wrong.

Traffic On The Lake

When both sails were up, he instucted me to find a point of focus on land to keep the boat going in a continuous direction.  I then turned the bow into irons until the jib sheet began to luff so I could turn the bow back into the position of close haul that I wanted.   That was him teaching me where the best use of the wind and position of the bow to pull the boat forward.  Closed haul is pulling the boat with the wind, running is pushing the boat with the wind.

We did multiple zig zagging tacks in the no wake zone getting us prepared for the open water. Finally we had tacked into open water and the wind really began to take the sails.  We straight away went into full running, which is the most precarious position in sailing.  However, Eric is an accomplished sailor, so we knew we’d be just fine.

Then he asked –  you wanna see some real razzle-dazzle sailing and he proceeded to instruct us to place the sails in full wing position.  This was a very advanced potition for our first 20 minutes having been in real wind.  It was really exciting!

We were able to hold that potition for about 15 minutes before we jibed into our new position.  It was awesome.  I would have never expected us to do something that cool that quickly into it.  The jib was full on the starboard side,  the boom swang out to the port side, all the way,  the boat stayed level and we picked up speed.

We're Sailing 'Winged"!!

The boat, our boat looked like a peacock strutting its feathers instead of a roadrunner dashing twards a destination. we were so proud.  We then went to mutiple tacks and jibes, learning closed haul, closed reach, beam reach.  This finally put the book and blog learning into proper perspective with an addition of safety that allowed us to focus on learning completely.

The multi- jibing and tacking manuvers got us into a comfortable place where we  were ready to be comfortable heeling and even enjoyed it.  We were doing between 7-10 degrees heeling and we weren’t afraid.  This was a first for us.  The afternoon slipped away quickly.  The time went so fast the next thing we knew it was time to head back to the marina and go have some dinner.


The first day as REAL sailors…

Admiral’s Log 08/29/2010

Before It Got Exciting

If I’m not the captain, then I cannot write the Captain’s Log.  He says he wants to write on here too, we shall see.  In the meanwhile, my new friends at have explained that I am the Admiral.  I like that!

Yesterday was quite exciting.  It didn’t last that long.  We had a guest crew member, so there were a lot of skill-trials we did not do.  But there was a point that we were moving forward at a speed of about 6 knots, strong but comfortable lean to the boat and everyone was in sync.  That’s when we realized, ‘we were sailing’.

Sorry for the lack of pictures.  It had been my intention to take lots of pictures so we’d have a photo record of the great moments.  But as the great moments came, picture-taking was not possible.   Either we would have tipped or my new droid would have been lost at sea.  As our sailing skills increase, my photo ops will improve.

It felt different heading out of the marina today.  We knew it’s going to be different.  We were going to notch it up just a bit.  There was limited wind at the start, so we motored after pulling up the sails.  We had a guest crew member, GP,(guy’s son) and we didn’t want him to be bored.  The challenge for Cap’n Guy was to effectively captain, to feel confident in instructing his ‘crew’ on what to do.

We began this day’s adventure with Cap’n Guy at the helm, me on the mainsail and GP working the jib.  We were at quite an advantage seeing as GP is in the Navy.  As I said, in the beginning we were motoring with the sails raised initially.  There was a point that we could see we were actually under wind power.  We killed the engine and paused to listen… yep, we were under wind power for the very first time.  What a feeling!

The beginning stages of learning to sail is a lot of letting those around you make mistakes so they can learn what to do, and what not to do.  I am a perfectionist by nature, so a lot of my energy was just focusing on the mainsail & leaving the others to their duties.  There was synergy amist the lack of knowledge we all shared.  The wind was strong enough to move the boat, but not enough to heel uncomfortably. 



Heeling is leaning.

As my new friend Eric explains, it is a necessary part of successful sailing.

There is a Lev-O-Gage on the boat.  It’s like a level, zero at the bottom middle numbering left and right.  You can gauge how much the boat is heeling with this.

Right now we are working at mastering the 0-5 degrees of heeling.




Perfect Storm

I suffer with anxieties, so sailing is not something I ever thought I would be ale to do.  I believe in facing my fears, so we OWN a sailboat now.  Every time we go out, I am doing something called ‘Desensitization’.  I go out on the boat, in a controlled environment (ie, limited winds, ability to return to dock at my discretion, limitation on amount of heeling, etc.), and experience sailing to recondition myself to feel fear and instead experience it as enjoyment.  The picture to the right describes what my brain experiences as we heel 15 degrees.

Over time, I will be able to heel at 15 degrees and have it feel like the boat is leaning a little and we are picking up speed.  I will have a typical exposure response like everyone else.  That is what we are working towards.  Join us again and see how it goes!

Slow, simple starts…

Sometimes, painfully slow.  And boring, but I’m going somewhere with this.  Saturday, off to the boat.  As we are learning our way around the boat, we continue to learn our way around one another.   Arriving at the boat, we hauled all our stuff aboard and determined what the goal for the day would be.  Depth finder.  This proved more time-consuming than originally thought.   The transducer appears to be working fine.    The display panel for the depth finder was cracked, so we replaced it.  It got very hot, we got very cranky.  I began to notice Guy & I work differently.  In typical ‘guy’ style, he spreads all his ‘stuff’ out and jumps from one job to another.  He starts a job without first gathering all the necessary tools, then makes random requests for things hidden deep within compartments buried under all the ‘stuff’ we haven’t yet organized.

He also likes to work alone.  And that’s good, I guess.  Though it seems more efficient for me that we communicate what we are doing to the other, so we know we are progressing in an efficient manner.  Yes, I saw that.  Twice in one sentence even.  So maybe I’m a little… what?  Efficiency is good.  Organization is good.  Especially in small cramped spaces, right?  He had just successfully completed the depth finder installation.  He did a great job.  Found a short in our generator, wired around it.  It’s all good.  Then he’s off to attach the anchor and clean the mainsail cover… kind of at the same time, kinda without the tools he needs.  That’s when I noticed what he was doing.  With the rope.  Tying random knots in it and throwing the anchor to the other side of the cockpit, done.  Remember, we don’t know anything about sailing.  We decided together that we would learn how.  That we would invest the time.  Did I tell you how hot it was?  Anyway, I was sewing a tear in one of the cushions.

Back up.  So, earlier when we were at the store buying the anchor chain and totally cool sailor gloves for my hands, we discussed tying knots and he assured me that he knew how to tye all the different knots.  He’s done this before on other boats, blah, blah, blah.  In an attempt to show that I respect his knowledge and remembering he promised not to act like he knew how to do stuff when he really didn’t, I smiled, kissed him and went looking for a hatchdog knob.  (Is this just another ‘guy’ thing, where ya’ll like to pretend you know how to do stuff and then see if you can figure it out correctly???  Please let me know, I promised I would learn to respect his ‘guy’ traits.)

I jump up, set the cushion aside while explaining that I read on the web that there are all these different knots for different things and how each was real important, blah, blah, blah.  Grab my netbook to show him the knot tying diagrams I have, we’re starting to both get cranky, I set the netbook on the tiny edge of the table that is piled high with all this stuff, turn slightly to grab my mouse and CRASH!  Long to short, my netbook is broken.  And because I’m female it takes all of about 45 seconds for me to rationalize how it was his fault.  And only five minutes to explain it to him in such a way that it even makes sense to him in the end.

This IS on my list.  I have a list of all the things I ‘know’ that I do that may cause him difficulty in life and work on them so we can have more fun together.  ‘Too rigid in method’  is up towards the very top.

Anchor Hitch

It’s just really hard, because these methods make such good sense… to me.  Like with the anchor knot, for instance.  When you throw the anchor overboard, the water, current and pull can unravel some knots.  So they have a special knot that is really good for tying ropes to anchors.  It’s called an anchor hitch.  See???  This makes sense to me.

So, like I said, we’re learning to work together better.  On to the sailing part.  So, now it’s 6:30pm.  The air has cooled, as well as our tempers.  We’ve kissed and made up and we determine we only have enough time to take her out into the channel and turn around, heading back in, no sails, all engine.  We decided that I would do it ‘all by myself’, so I could get comfortable being out in the boat alone.  That brings us to our next ‘learning opportunity’ of the day.  Guy has these feelings that he keeps bottled up inside him, that only he knows about.  Every once in a while, they rear their ugly heads.  Tonight, it was that he has absolutely no faith in my boat maneuvering ability.

Add to that the fact that everything terrifies me and off we go.  He shows me how to prime the engine with the gas-pump thingy.  He walks me through starting the engine, forward-neutral-reverse.  Always start in neutral, pull choke out, pull rope, start engine.  Rev it just a bit to get it warmed up, push choke in and lower engine into water so it stays cool. Explanation on tiller to port makes nose of boat go to starboard, tiller to starboard makes nose of boat go to port.

As I’m readying the engine, I explain REALLY LOUDLY to everyone around our boat that I don’t have a clue what I am doing and will probably kill them all, hoping the swimmers behind me take heed.  Nothin’ doin.  Shove engine in reverse and slowly back out.  Guy said I did really good, he was surprised since I was so terrified.  Pulled her straight through the center of the lane.   I’m totally terrified that I’m going to hit another boat and sink ours straightaway, but on I go.  Put her into forward, she responds.  Some attempts with the tiller to see how it feels, we head out toward the no-wake buoys at about 1 knot.

Because it was so hilarious, I want to give you a sense of it.  The whole time I’m steering and checking our depth, watching for boats ahead of us and behind, I’m explaining to Guy that I just know I am going to screw up and sink us at any moment and that I’m totally terrified.  He’s putting on a really brave face, acting like I am nothing more than an annoyance and trying to determine if there is anyone in our path I’m going to take out.  It wasn’t until later that he admitted he was  just as terrified, but not as honest sometimes.  A ‘guy’ thing as he put it.  Maybe you understand.

At one point the depth finder read 89 feet, seconds later it’s reading 2.5 feet.  Because we don’t have a clue what we’re doing, we go into full alert.  We’re in really shallow water suddenly and we are going to die.  Don’t argue with us about how our keel is 5 feet long and we couldn’t be still moving in 2.5 feet of water.  Don’t confuse us at this point with mere logic.  This is an emergency.  We fumble through trying to frantically steer her into deeper water.  Keep in mind, we are in the middle of a huge channel.   As I’m trying to remember what direction makes the boat go starboard, he checks the depth finder again… 2.5 feet, 100 feet, 3 feet, 20 feet and back to 89 feet.  Would this be a good place to mention he didn’t see a need to actually read the instructions for the depth finder.  Yeah, so anyway.

We got her officially out into the channel and he calls for me to turn about.  I push the tiller to starboard and am pleasantly surprised how quickly she comes about.  Heading back to the marina proved no less terrifying than going out.  I guess it was because we were moving so much slower than the other boats, coupled with the fact that we hadn’t looked at the topo map.  Everyone around me is just going to assume I know exactly what I am doing.  Why in the world would I be out there if I didn’t, right?  Righhhht.

We had one of those husband/wife moments.  Guy is telling me to head in a straight line back to the dock.  I’m looking at how I will have to cut across what I feel is a traffic lane to do that.  He keeps insisting that I’m not listening to him and that I need to do exactly what he tells me.  He gives very little supporting details.  I’m steering the boat while explaining that a soft arc into the marina feels like a better idea.  It made him very nervous that I was in control of the boat and not listening to him.  He did a great job not pushing me aside and taking over.  I arc her into the marina and announce that I’m too stressed to  put her in the slip.  We change seats.  He heads in and we realize we don’t know where our slip is.  He has to turn around in the lane and make a second attempt.  Can I say that I told him he was going to have 5′-8′ of drift when he tried to back up?  Can I say that he didn’t even hear me?  We figured out which slip was ours and he did an excellent job getting us docked.

Both he and I have boating experience.  Limited, but experience all the same.  With surface boats – you know, the ones that sit on the surface, with really large 75HP engines.  We noticed that what fueled our fear was not being comfortable with the 5 foot keel and not having a lot of faith in a 5hp engine moving a 3000lb boat out of a trouble spot quickly.  Adaptation.  We’ll get the hang of this….

Swabbing the decks…

We got ourselves all hyped up for a big weekend on the water.  We fully intended to spend both days learning our way around mainsheets, jibs and halyards.  The reality is we scrubbed every inch of the inside of the boat, and all the compartments.  9 hours on Saturday & a 7 hour solo-attempt on Sunday.

Spending time on the boat, we noticed a smell… mildewy, stale.  We couldn’t figure out where it was coming from so we decided to clean all of it to make it go away.  Every inch of the interior fiberglass had a light coating of dinginess on it.   The cushions are in really great condition, a couple of small tears, but their color is bright and fresh-looking.  There was mildew stains on the bottoms of all of them, so I scrubbed them with a soft-scrub sponge and some Clean Shower.

Cabin Before Example

While I was busy with that, TheGuy emptied and cleaned every below-deck compartment.  He rearranged the contents so they’re more user-friendly and make better sense.  Like taking the life-jackets out of the gas compartment (on port side of cockpit) and putting them across on the starboard side of the cockpit.  So we can get to them swiftly, easily and they won’t have a gas smell.

We decided to paint the interior of all the compartments with a complimentary colored garage floor paint/sealant.  We have that scheduled for 2 weeks from now.  While looking for how to sail tips, I happened upon a gent that discussed how happy he was by making this one small change.  We both agree it will be a great first change to get us some painting knowledge.   We continued to scrub the day away.

I didn’t realize how much time and energy it would entail.  There was a point where we found water in the starboard side cabin compartment.  We investigated to see what was leaking.  What we found was good & bad.  The water was coming from the galley.  That’s sailor-speak for kitchen.  The boat is equipped with a dry-fridge/sink/alcohol-burning stove thingy that slides out for use.  The fresh water compartment for the sink had water in it.  and lo & behold, the entire wooden bottom is water-rotted and leaking.  Huge source of the smell and the water.  We pulled it out onto the cockpit (very heavy), drained it and let the bottom dry in the sun.  Although it is fine for now, at some point we will have to replace the bottom of the galley.  I’m thinking to maybe replace the entire bottom of it with plastic and fiberglass seal it.

Our Galley

We took wood-oil to all of the wood trim on the interior.  It really looks good.  Again, I am surprised at the condition of the boat.  While it is going to take some work getting her looking close-to-new, cosmetically she is sound.  Which is good, seeing as we do not know her condition below the water line.  Currently there is a formica table in the cabin that sits between the 2 benches on the port side of the cabin.  We will be replacing that with some really beautiful wood in the next month.  We’ll be able to use all the brackets and the leg from the current table, so only have to buy and finish the tabletop.  TheGuy cleaned the battery compartment and installed the new battery I had bought.  We have lights, it’s too cool.

Sunday I came back alone.  I would have taken her out, but I don’t know how reliable the engine is so we thought it better to wait until there are 2 of us, if nothing else, so one can push our boat away from another boat while the other steers to avoid crashing.  So, I scrubbed the head instead.  That’s sailor-speak for toilet.  Yes, we have this really neat portable toilet on board.  It flushes and everything.  You have to carry it off-board and empty & clean it, which is gross, but… at least we have a toilet.  And TheGuy will be in charge of that duty.


The Cabin After

Ongoing to do list:

1.  paint inside & roofs of all hatch & compartments including doors.

2.  replace all seals on outside storage and hatch.

3.  paint inside and roof of all unpainted storage compartments.

4.  figure out how to install new battery – done.

5.  replace 1 hatchdog knob.

6.  replace the teak boards and trim on the companionway.

7.  sand and stain all other teak on inside and outside of boat.

8.  repair large ding in fiberglass on stern near motor.

9.  install new depth-finder.

10. paint engine.

11. tune up engine.

12. replace table top in cabin.

The First Day…

So today was the first day I was at the boat.  Took 400 hi-res photos so I can inspect her more closely at the house.  Over all, she’s in good condition.  I think the crank that raises the keel is broken.  Why do I get the feeling that will be expensive.  I found an acronym for boat on the web:





I hope that’s not true.  Or maybe I just hope that the enjoyment of her will out-weigh the expense.  One thing she really needs is a good scrubbing from bow to stern.  After that we already have some ideas on where to start.

1.  paint inside & roofs of all hatch & compartments including doors.

2.  replace all seals on outside storage and hatch.

3. paint inside and roof of all unpainted storage compartments.

4.  figure out how to install new battery.

5.  replace 1 hatchdog knob.

6.  replace the teak boards and trim on the companionway.

7.  sand and stain all other teak on inside and outside of boat.

8.  repair large ding in fiberglass on stern near motor.

Spent the rest of the afternoon laying in the v-berth, hatch open, watching the clouds go by.  Listening to the sounds from the wires hitting the masts- ping- click-clang.  Sounded like an unusual wind chime that was off-key.  Boat was gently rocking back and forth.  Staring directly up and out the hatch, it was easy to pretend I was anchored off in some cove.  My nose kept looking for the salt smell in the air.  That will be an adjustment.  I’m on a lake – fresh water, not salt. It was relaxing all the same.

In the beginning…

In the beginning was the word.  Or words.  On-line manuals, video clips and books.  Spent a good time yesterday google searching the art of sailing, saving documents, bookmarking videos.  There’s a lot to learn.  Sometimes I like to type things out as it adds to my retention and understanding.

First up, parts of the boat:

The sailboat diagram above shows the parts of a sailboat labeled in a clockwise direction. These parts are each numbered and described below.

1.Forestay: The rigging that runs from the bow of the boat to the mast that the jib is attached to.

2.Jib Halyard: The line that is used to raise the jib. It is attached to the jib’s head, runs up to the mast, through a pulley and down the mast to a cleat at the bottom of the mast.

3.Jib’s Head: The top corner of the jib. This is the corner of the sail that is attached to the jib halyard.

4.Jib’s Leech: The after edge of the jib.

5.Jib’s Luff: The forward edge of the jib that is attached to the forestay.

6.Jib: The smaller sail toward the bow of the boat.

7.Jib’s Clew: The lower after corner that attaches to the jib sheets.

8.Jib’s Foot: The bottom edge of the jib.

9.Deck: The top flat surface of the boat.

10.Bow: The front of the boat.

11.Keel: A vertical fin that is weighted and that acts as a counterweight that offsets the force of the wind that is pushing the boat sideways.

12.Jib Sheet: The lines that are attached to the jib’s clew that are used to trim the sail.

13.Hull: The body of the boat.

14.Main Sheet: The lines that are attached to the mainsail’s clew that are used to trim the sail.

15.Stern: The back of the boat.

16.Rudder: The vertical steering foil attached to the stern of the boat.

17.Tiller: The wooden arm that is used to control the direction the rudder is turned.

18.Boom: The horizontal bar (or spar) that is attached to the foot of the mainsail.

19.Eyelet: The circular hole that is at each corner of the sails that is used to attach lines to the sail or to attach the sail to the mast or boom.

20.Main Clew: The lower after corner that attaches to the mainsail sheets.

21.Main Foot: The bottom edge of the mainsail.

22.Main Tack: The lower forward corner of the mainsail.

23.Shroud: The rigging that runs from the top portion of the mast to the side of the boat. This prevents the mast from leaning too far to the side.

24.Main Leech: The after edge of the mainsail.

25.Main Luff: The forward edge of the mainsail that is attached to the mast.

26.Mainsail: The sail that is hoisted up the mast and attached to the boom.

27.Batten: A plastic or wooden slat that is attached to the sail that prevents the sail from losing its shape.

28.Main Head: The top corner of the mainsail. This is the corner of the sail that is attached to the main halyard.

29.Main Halyard: The line that is used to raise the mainsail. It is attached to the mainsail’s head, runs up to the mast, through a pulley and down the mast to a cleat at the bottom of the mast.

30.Mast: The long vertical spar that runs up the center of the boat and to which the sails are attached.

Cleaning the sails