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Keep the romance in sailing with 10 common sense tips

by John Jamieson (and anonymous delivery skipper) on 16 Apr 2012
Keep the romance in sailing with ten practical tips. SW
Cruising sailing is not all about electronic gear, navigation, even sail plans...and the sailing won't go on being romantic unless backed up with practicality. These common sense tips come from a delivery sailor, who, like a cruising sailor, is not backward about wanting the magic of sailing without stress. The tips have developed over many years of passage sailing.

If you sail offshore or along the coast, there are certain pieces of sailing gear or techniques that will make your sailing easier. I want to pass along to you ten things that I discovered that can make a big difference in comfort and sailing safety for you and your sailing crew.



1. Sailing Knife with Lanyard:
Wear a knife every moment you are aboard any boat--in a marina or an ocean! Attach a lanyard for superior security.

It continues to baffle me that many sailors will step aboard a boat without the proper sailing gear attached to their person.

Make the simple sailing knife with lanyard a 'must have'.

Loop it through your belt before you set foot on any cruising or racing sailboat - in a marina, lake, bay, river, or ocean!

It has a hundred uses aboard any boat...

And could save your life if you fall over the side with a line or sheet wrapped around your foot!

2. Quick Drying Sailing Shorts:
'I need help right now!' came the call from the cockpit early one morning. The boat was heeled like a drunken sailor, flattened by a powerful squall. We grabbed our foul weather jackets and dashed up the companionway to the cockpit. We needed to get the furling Genoa and mainsail reefed. By the time we were done, our sailing shorts were soaked.

Now, if you are anything like me, I love my sailing shorts. But they're cotton, which retains water. The better sailing shorts are made of lighter weight synthetics that dry faster and help keep moisture away from your skin.

Carry the cotton for dry days, but pitch in a few synthetic shorts with belt loops (to hold your knife) too. You will stay dryer and more comfortable when the wet stuff comes your way.

3. Sailing Shoes with Traction:
Purchase shoes that will grip a morning-dew or spray coated deck. And will dry fast when soaked. Nothing quite makes a sailor as miserable as feet encased in wet shoes. Save money with a top brand sports shoe with synthetic uppers and superior traction soles.

4. Long Sleeve Summer-weight Shirts:
SPF 30 long-sleeve summer shirts? You bet. The newer line of microfiber synthetics has come a long way with material that's super lightweight, wicks sweat from your skin, covers your arms for protection, and looks good enough to hit the yacht club bar.

Columbia makes a great long-sleeve shirt that's perfect for sailing. It was tested on several hot, sultry days with heat indexes over 100 degrees and kept us cool and comfortable.

5. Full Finger Sailing Gloves:
Wear sailing gloves that cover all except the ends of your fingertips. These offer great protection against 'rope burn'.
Unless you are one of those fortunate sailors that spend lots of time at sea, or racing or cruising inland waters, you will need to contend with soft hands. Sailing involves handling lots of sailing rope from halyards to sheets to anchor line.

And without protection, you can get a nasty condition known as 'rope burn'. The skin sears away from the insides of your fingers as if grated by a cheese-grater.

Protect yourself with a full finger (also called 3/4 finger) sailing gloves. These cover all except the tips of your fingers and give you good protection on any size cruising or racing sailboat.

6. Hands-free Headband Light:
Need to check or work on your diesel engine after dark? Or check the set of the Genoa while on watch? Or make a log entry and plot a GPS fix on the mid-watch without waking the tired sailing crew? Enter the wondrous headband light.

Go to any camping or sports department store or section in a super store like Walmart, and you can pick up a battery operated LED headband light for just a few dollars. Make sure it has a red filter toggle switch to keep your night vision in tact. These lights are reliable, water resistant, and have long battery life.

7. Quick Energy Pre-bagged Snacks:
Expect your crew--and yourself--not to be feeling 100% the first 48 hours or so underway. After all, we are land beings, not sea creatures. Veterans and novices alike experience different levels of mal-de-mar at the onset of a voyage.

Before you cast off, make up several small bags of high energy snacks full of dried fruit, seeds, nuts along with a few bags of bite-sized high energy meat products like jerky.

This will provide plenty of nourishment for long watches, high energy for sail changes or winch grinding, and keep you clear of the cabin to lessen the effects of the seasick blues.

Harnesses and jacklines should use bale operated clips. These can be opened and closed with one hand (yellow arrow), allowing you to hold on with the other. Test bales to make sure they snap back in place when released.

8. Safety Tethers and Jacklines with Secure Clips:
Would you trust your life to a tether? These four to six foot pieces of sailing rope or webbing attach to your safety harness.

In rough weather, you use the clip on the the end of the tether to hook on to the jackline (a long piece of line or webbing that runs from bow to stern).

The combination of tether and jackline keeps you attached to a heeling, pitching deck if you need to go forward to reef the mainsail, repair a jammed furling drum line, or change out a headsail.

Always test the clip integrity on your harness and the jackline (see illustration). After many years of use, the bale mechanism can fail to close all the way.

On this delivery, we found two harnesses with failed bales that allowed the clip to stay opened when released. 'Trust but verify' all sailing safety gear--before you use it!

9. Inflatable PFD with Integrated Harness:
Spend the extra money for an Inflatable harness with the sailing harness built in to the vest. Make sure the harness has oversized, super strong D-rings. An integrated harness means you won't need to wear a separate sailing harness in addition to your life vest.

Before you buy, test the vest for comfort and fit. Squat down (as if grinding on a halyard or sheet winch), raise your hands above your head (as if hauling down the mainsail for reefing). If you like how your vest fits, you won't mind wearing it in any type of sailing weather.

10. Microfiber Watch Caps:
Even during the brutal heat of summer, evenings and nights at sea can be cooler than you ever expected. Squalls or showers can add to the discomfort, even in full foul weather gear. A close fitting watch cap can make the difference in comfort and warmth.

Select one of the lightweight, microfiber variety, like those made by Under Armour. They will keep you warm, wick away sweat from the scalp, provide comfort when wet, and dry super fast.

John Jamieson (Captain John) teaches sailing skippers the no-nonsense cruising skills they need beyond sailing school. Sign up for his highly popular free sailing tips newsletter here. Become a member for instant access to 425+ articles, video tutorials, newsletters, and free eBooks.

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