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Ten Top Sailing Tips for Safer Sailing

by John Jamieson on 30 Oct 2011
Cruising short handed SW
What ten top sailing tips top the list? Collected from cruising sailors around the world, John Jamieson (Captain John) recommends you add a handful of these to your 'best of' list of sailing skills, techniques, and tips for safer sailing worldwide.

1. Develop a skipper-mentality underway. Keep a running dialog going in your head that begins with just two words...

'What if?'--for example...

What if the backstay parts while sailing downwind?

What if a windward shroud snaps while beating?

What if your engine quits in a crowded marina?

What if the mainsail batten jams when hoisting?

What if the anchor drags on a black, stormy night?

2. Shift the helm watch in fog or rough weather every 30 minutes. Extensive research proves that attention spans fall after this period.

3. Tie a small diameter line with a float on one end to the outboard end of your anchor rode or chain. In an emergency you might have to cut the anchor line (or let out all your chain). The float will serve as a marker so that you can retrieve your ground tackle later on.

4. Use this rule if you have a leak...'slow down and raise high'. If under sail, heave to on the same tack as the damaged side of the boat. If under power, shift weights to the undamaged side of the boat.

5. Protect costly sailing rope from chafe. More anchored vessels are lost in storms due to parted anchor lines than dragging anchors. Use lots of chafing gear, check it often, and readjust it as needed.

6. Descend a companionway ladder so that you face the ladder. Grip both handholds and work your way down the ladder on the balls of your feet. If you slip, this position protects you from serious back or neck injury.

7. Add extra security to lifelines when coastal or offshore sailing. Veteran offshore sailors rig an extra set of chest-high rope lifelines. Use shroud cleats to anchor the lifeline between the bow and stern.

8. Make collision avoidance maneuvers early and change course by at least 60 degrees. Large ships can take up to a mile or more to stop in an emergency. Always assume that they cannot see you.

9. Pump more speed and power into your sails on reaches. Ease each sail until the luff just begins to flutter. Then trim each sail just enough to put the luff flutter 'to sleep'. Watch your boat accelerate like a stallion on steroids!

10. Button up your boat before heavy weather arrives. Close hatches and ports. Remove cowl vents (except for engine cowls). Apply extra lashings to dinghies. Above all--keep your decks clear!

John Jamieson (Captain John) with 25+ years of experience shows you the no-nonsense cruising skills you need beyond sailing school. Visit his website at www.skippertips.com for a free sailing tips newsletter. Become a member for instant access to 425+ articles, instructional videos, newsletters, e-Books, and live discussion forums.
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