I’m finding it increasingly difficult to generate fresh material to interest my boating audience. I suppose this is mainly because I don’t get out on the water as much as I used to. I can’t bring myself to just re-post YouTube links and I don’t want to become a bore regurgitating the same old stuff, so I’m bowing out now. I’ll leave the site active for a while so newcomers can browse the archives.
Site traffic has declined a bit recently but is still very good for a boating blog, more than 250 unique visitors a day, so a big thank you to my faithful followers!
The Salty John on-line boat business is in its thirteenth year and flourishing as a supplier of communication antenna systems, including the fantastic Metz antenna range. I’ll continue to devote my time to that enterprise for many years to come.
“Bit smelly down here, isn’t it?” said the engine.
The engine’s talking to me. I’m hanging upside down in the bowels of my boat trying to get this bloody job done and the engine’s talking to me. OK, I’ll play:
“Err, yes, the smell. Boats are like that, very difficult to keep the bilge from smelling.”
“Well, try a bit harder, please. Some of us have to live down here.”
“Right, but can’t you see I’m busy right now?”
“What’re you doing?”
“Trying to unbolt your exhaust elbow so I can replace it. Last bolt’s stuck.”
“Yeah, we like to do that. Four bolts to undo, the fourth will always be the one that sticks. Twelve screws holding something, the head on the last one will be stripped. We wait till you’ve invested some time and effort before we plonk the first obstacle in your way.”
“Inanimate mechanical objects.”
“Why put obstacles in my way? I’m doing this for you.”
“See, that’s not true. You’re fixing me because you don’t want me to break down. I don’t care if I break down. I’m not the one that’s going to suffer. You are. You’re changing the exhaust elbow for your own selfish reasons. See, you lot need to be honest with us.”
“Animate objects, specifically humans.”
“OK. Sorry. I lied. I’m doing this job because I don’t want the engine to stop just when I need it. Please help. Is that better?”
The spanner moved, the bolt turned freely.
“Wow. Thank you, engine.”
“You’re welcome. You’d be amazed what a polite request will do.”
“I’ll change my ways, engine. I’ll never again swear at an inanimate object; kick it, hurl it across the room. Promise.”
“Good. Now, see what you can do about that smell, will you?”
I’ve read somewhere that the most widely held dream in the western world is to set off in a small boat to sail around the world. It’s the lure of total freedom that does it, of course, and as dreams go it takes some beating – master of all you survey, no schedule, no boss, tropical beaches, gin clear water, fun in every port.
As you acquire more knowledge, however, reality draws closer and you have to address some of those inconvenient concerns that intrude – the ones that make you bash your pillow, turn over and try to recapture the dream as it was, unadulterated. Concerns like: How much money will we need? What if we get ill? What about storms? Will I get seasick? But then you tell yourself these are just speed bumps on the road to freedom. Many, many people have been this way before and they overcame all kinds of obstacles. You know for sure it’s possible and, of course, you’re right.
But I’d suggest that those who have actually sailed beyond the horizon are less likely to dream of a life on the ocean waves than those who have barely set foot on the deck of a boat. A rough three-day offshore passage during which you’re debilitated by seasickness can’t intrude unless you’ve experienced it. Running aground, dragging anchor, the constant motion and having a clogged heads won’t disturb the dream because they’re concepts beyond your ken. Ignorance is, indeed, bliss and a little knowledge is dangerous.
I sailed in an offshore race with a very experienced man and wife team and two days out the wife stood in the saloon and screamed at the top of her voice “Get me off this f…… boat!” Then she went on deck and stood her watch. And then again, I’ve listened to people who have done no more than coastal hop from marina to marina expound their plans to set off around the globe.
Far be it from me to discourage anyone from seeking adventure in a small boat, I’ve done it twice, but beware the little devil who sits on your shoulder and whispers in your ear, “Set off now, before you’ve learnt enough to know this isn’t the life for you.”
Sailors fall into two categories – those that have run aground and those that will run aground.
I’ve run aground countless times – seven transits of the US ICW and gunkholing in the shallow waters of the Bahamas and Chesapeake Bay will do that to you – and it’s usually a pretty harmless event. More often than not, running aground hurts you’re pride more than the boat.
Here are some running aground basics:
1. Recognize you’re aground as soon as possible and stop forward motion. A slight feeling of sluggishness or the entire crew lying in a heap at the front end of the cockpit are clues that you have run aground.
2. If motoring, go into reverse immediately. If sailing, get the sails down, check for lines in the water and start the engine, then go into reverse. Be aware that your rudder is vulnerable when backing up in shallow water. If you’re towing the dinghy this is where the painter gets wrapped around the propeller.
3. If reversing fails, limit the damage by getting an anchor out to windward. If possible orient the boat to provide the most protection from wind or waves.
4. Reduce draught (draft if you’re from across the pond) by heeling the boat. A very effective method is by pulling on a masthead halyard. Another method is putting weight onto the end of the swung-out boom – a crewmember or a flooded dinghy being the main candidates. Motor or tow the boat off into deeper water. If you have twin keels or a winged keel this method is unlikely to work because your draught will increase as you heel – you’ll need to get weight onto the fore deck to try to reduce draught.
5. Seek assistance from the professionals, or hail a passing Good Samaritan. It’s time to swallow your pride. If you contemplate an ICW journey a Tow Boat US insurance policy is fantastic value.
6. Running your engine in shallow water and when aground churns up the bottom: Check your raw water intake strainer – if it’s filled with sand and mud check your raw water pump impellor for damage.
With a boat that can safely take the ground and some experience of getting afloat again you’ll be able to explore with impunity the very fringes of the watery world
The snubber is a length of nylon or polyester three-strand line that takes the anchor load from the chain to a deck cleat or Samson post, absorbing the shocks and leaving the chain hanging in a loose bight, resting lightly and relatively noiselessly in the bow roller.
The snubber is attached to the chain by a chain hook of some sort – there are a range of proprietary variations available – or a rolling hitch. After a few months, we dispensed with our clunky chain hook in favour of the rolling hitch – we found this more positive than the chain hook and more deck and toe friendly. The rolling hitch is particularly suited to this purpose, it doesn’t tighten under load and so won’t jam and become difficult to undo.
The snubber for a 35 to 40-foot cruising boat would be typically 12mm diameter and at least 12m long. If you choose a line that’s too heavy you won’t get enough of the beneficial stretch into the system, which is why old halyards and sheets aren’t really suitable for this purpose, they tend to be low stretch. The snubber is attached to the chain and a strong point on deck and then the chain is run out until the snubber comes up taught, then a few more feet to give a nice healthy loop of chain and you’re set. If the snubber chafes through the chain retakes the load.
A snubber is also useful in anchorages where the swell comes from a different direction to the wind, curving around a headland, perhaps. The boat, lying to the wind, may take the swell on the beam and roll uncomfortably. In this case, lead the snubber line all the way aft to a cleat or sheet-winch on the side away from the swell. Then, as you let out more anchor chain, the boat will turn her head toward the swell as the anchor lead point moves aft. This bridle arrangement can mean a good night’s sleep in an otherwise impossibly rolly anchorage.