Rig tension

Having the correct rig tension is important because a loose rig can impart shock loads to twangshrouds and chainplates as the mast flops from side to side; a too tight rig can cause structural damage.

A well tuned rig will have equally tensioned shrouds so that the boat will perform well on both tacks, the leeward shrouds won’t dangle flaccidly and the forestay won’t sag. She’ll feel right on all points of sail.

You don’t need a tension gauge to set up the rig – there are methods whereby you can measure the change in length of the shrouds and stays as the turnbuckles are tightened, and there’s always the tune your rig like a guitar technique – “Twang! Middle C, that seems about right.” But the Loos tension gauge gives you a quick, accurate, check and that will encourage you to test often, making sure all is well. For racers who set their rigs to suit the prevailing conditions a Loos gauge is an important tool in their race-winning armoury.

For many of the more popular boats there are tuning guides published by the big sail makers and these give Loos tension gauge settings for shrouds and stays.
There are Loos gauges for wire rigging from 2.5mm to 10mm and for rod rigging of all sizes. We stock them all and we regularly check to ensure we’re the lowest cost supplier.

In the articles section of the Saltyjohn website you’ll find more information on using a Loos gauge to set up your rig.Loos PT2M

A tuned rig is a happy rig, so get yourself a Loos tension gauge.

DIY Dinghy Baler

Balers are easy to make, definitely not rocket science, as you can see from the picture.Bailer
I prefer to use milk cartons because the material is relatively soft and conforms to dips and depressions in the fabric base of the dinghy. For a big boat bilge or hard floor dinghy you might choose a fruit juice carton which is made of sturdier material.

Are you ready for heavy weather?

On a small boat in really heavy weather the only thing most of us want to do is lie in our downloadbunk wishing it would all go away. If you’re seasick it must be a hundred times worse. Going on deck to take action to secure the survival of the boat is a frightening proposition. It’s easy at this point to convince yourself that you should wait until it’s a bit calmer before putting in that reef, or dropping the main, or securing the dinghy which is beginning to come loose in its chocks. Of course you can’t succumb to that inner voice; you have to put on the harness and lifejacket, get yourself out into the maelstrom and get the job done.

If you’ve never been there you can’t imagine just how hard it is to operate under the conditions you’re likely to find on deck: The banshee wail in the rigging, the constant deluge of spray and solid water, the violent motion threatening to hurl you overboard.One hand for the boat and one for yourself is the rule, although for much of the time it’s two hands for you and that leaves none for the boat which is why it’s so terribly hard to perform tasks that seemed so simple when it was calm.

This is why my mantra is simplicity in all things. That huge sea anchor with a complex bridle of rope and chain which you bought for just this occasion is going to defeat your attempts to deploy it, unless you have a large, strong and un-seasick crew. Even putting in the third or fourth reef with your single line reefing system with miles and miles of line is going to be a challenge if you’ve left it a bit late. Securing the boom or tying down those spare fuel and water jugs is infinitely easier to accomplish before the heavy stuff arrives.

So, analyse your systems again and ask yourself how easy it’s going to be to get the boat snugged down and safe when the shit hits the fan. Can you get the sail plan sorted quickly and efficiently? Can you heave-to? Can you secure the helm? Is there any chance of items lashed on deck coming loose?

If you plan ahead and prepare the boat for bad weather before it arrives you probably can lay snuggly, and smugly, in your bunk until the storm passes. Assuming your lee cloths are properly designed and tested, of course, and your lockers have good catches and the floorboards are screwed down.

Reflections on a Scottish trip

We’ve just returned from a splendid few days sailing on the west coast of Scotland with our good friends John and Liz aboard their boat, Claymore, based at Ardfern.Reflections

After a night on board we set off from the marina at Ardfern bound for Tayvallich, which we reached after a downwind run on a sparkling sea in twenty knots of breeze and fine sunny weather. In the distance the magnificent Paps of Jura thrust towards the sky.

Sailing 2016

As we were leaving Ardfern the 305 foot, 1500 ton, schooner Eos came in and anchored. This huge boat is the plaything of American billionaire media mogul Barry Diller. She made quite a sight against the rugged pine covered hillside. You sail in good company in these parts; Princess Anne keeps her Rustler 44, Ballochbuie, on a mooring at the marina.

EosHRH small 2



We had a splendid meal aboard at Tayvallich that night, swinging on a mooring in the small, protected, bay and then set off early the next morning for a brief stop at the tiny port of Craighouse on Jura. Leaving Tayvallich there wasn’t a breath of wind and everything was faithfully reflected in the mirror-calm waters of Loch Sween.Glorious scenery 1

At Craighouse there’s a distillery and a pleasant hotel and we lingered long enough for a cup of coffee in the tearooms by the small jetty before heading back to Ardfern.

And then the long road home after our short but thoroughly enjoyable sojourn in this heavenly place.


Night sailing

When the sun has melted into the horizon like a knob of butter on a hotplate you flick on 6 Nov sunsetthe navigation lights and prepare for a night at sea.

Night sailing is at times magical, at other times intimidating. Deep water with plenty of sea room, no traffic, a gentle breeze and a big moon are the ingredients for a pleasant night passage.

We enjoyed just such an untroubled passage between Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico on our sloop Adriana. It had been hot and windless during the day but as night fell the breeze came back and the lights of Mayaguez twinkled on the horizon. I set the jib, slacked the mainsheet and cut the engine. Adriana leaned her shoulder into the sea and came alive. The sky grew into deeper shades of night beset with a million jewels as we cut a swathe through the boisterous sea.

Other night passages have been less idyllic: Battling to windward along the north coast of Hispaniola under a grim moonless sky, hugging the rocky coastline to stay within the umbra provided by the land, lightning blooming on the horizon – this wasn’t the most relaxing of night watches.

Dawn creeps up with the promise of delight or of dire warning – radiant sunburst or red tinged clouds. Another day at sea begins. What will it bring?

Galveston Bay, Texas

Galveston Bay, Texas, has the third highest population of boats in the USA, outside the Great Lakes. Up in the northwest corner of the Bay is Clear Lake where a great many of the marinas are clustered. Clear Lake is connected to Galveston Bay by a narrow neck and that’s a great place to sit in the sun and watch the boats make their way back and forth to the Bay. Here’s a few of the diverse collection you might see on a typical weekend.

Boat 1


























Of course, it’s always better to be out on the water and we were fortunate enough to be invited afloat, first on an 18 foot Mako with a 225 hp outboard which went faster than I’ve ever travelled on water before, and then by the current owner of my old Grand Banks 32, Annie.

It was fun to get my first wake shot from the Mako and a real pleasure to be invited by Jim for a run around the Bay on Annie which he is steadily restoring to pristine condition.

Annie 1wake

Across the pond

Tomorrow we take the silver bird across the pond to the USA. I’ll be reporting on sailingIMGA0014 and boating in Florida, but first I’ll be reporting from the area with the third biggest concentration of boats in the USA: Galveston Bay, Texas.

Salty John, the shop, will reopen on 23 May, by the way.