April 2015 – Salty John : The Blog

From the steering oars employed by the earliest sailing vessels rudders have evolved into the centrally mounted foils we see today.

On a production boat you don’t usually have the option of specifying the rudder configuration – you get what you’re given – but the design of the rudder will certainly affect the suitability of a particular boat for your purposes.

Whether the boat is for competitive racing or for blue water cruising, the need to sail efficiently is a given and the primary aim of the rudder’s designer will always be to minimise wetted surface, minimise frontal area, and provide the most turning efficiency with the minimum drag.

A rudder is subjected to tremendous forces from the pressure of the water rushing past it – the designer has to get his sums right when deciding how to support the foil in this environment and then the builder has to be meticulous in implementing the design.

Where the requirements of the racer and the blue water cruiser will differ is in how much protection they demand for the rudder at the expense of speed and efficiency, and what priority they give to taking the ground without damage and to avoiding the snagging of lines.

At one end of the spectrum is the unsupported, balanced, skinny foil of the out and out racer; at the other end of the spectrum is the barn door bolted onto the aft end of a full keel. In between are full and partial skeg mounted rudders and transom hung rudders. Choose carefully.

The piece of the Lancaster Canal that runs north from bridge 75 to the Glasson Branch has a particular flavour. The countryside is beautiful in the conventional sense but there’s something about the light that casts a special tenor on the place. When the sun radiates from a cloudless deep blue sky and the air is still, the water is a mirror. Every tree, every bridge, every boat, every drinking cow or sheep, every water fowl, is seen twice. At times the rendition is so perfect that the real and the reflected are indistinguishable.

It’s a lovely place to be, that piece of the Lancaster Canal.

Having the correct rig tension is important because a loose rig is slow and can impart shock loads to shrouds and chainplates as you tack; an over 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! That sounds 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. There’s a link on the website to the North Sails catalogue of tuning guides – your boat might be in there and, if so, you’ll get information on the best Loos settings for all your wire.

There are Loos gauges for wire rigging from 2.5mm up to 10mm and for rod rigging of all sizes. You can get them all at Salty John.

So, you can’t tuna fish but you can tune your rig – with a Loos tension gauge.

If you’re planning to go full time cruising and you don’t intend to hop from marina to marina your systems and gear will need to be prepared to a high level of reliability and operational efficiency. Self sufficiency is the name of the game.

In earlier posts I’ve looked at fresh water supply and electricity generation, now I’ll consider other essentials.

Anchoring: Each skipper develops his personal anchoring techniques and trustworthy gear. My own are outlined in my article “The Happy Hooker” written a few years ago but still valid:  http://www.saltyjohn.co.uk/resources/haphook.pdf

These methods kept me safe during six years of full time cruising. Other experienced sailors will have their own particular variations but all will agree that flimsy, undersized equipment has no place on a serious cruising boat. Big anchors, chain and a good windlass are essential.

Protection from the sun: We all love the sun but it can very quickly become your enemy if you can’t shelter from it when you need to. If you’re heading to sunny climes your cruising boat will need oases of shade through which cooling breezes can blow, so give serious thought to the design of your awnings and bimini tops.

If you’re cruising in areas where the prevailing wind is from the east, as in the Bahamas and Caribbean, the setting sun will blaze down upon your cockpit and aft deck just when you’re settling down with those sundowners. Don’t underestimate how miserable it can be if you aren’t prepared for this assault. On Adriana one of the most useful items aboard was a rectangular sheet of Sunbrella which could be strategically fixed with bulldog clips and adjusted as the sun stalked around the boat. We also had an awning draped over the boom and secured to the guard rails; on our later ketch we had custom made awning frames, but still found the Sunbrella rectangle a vital defence when the sun was trying to sneak over the transom.

Repairs and maintenance: We aren’t all motor mechanics, sailmakers or riggers but it’s important to develop a degree of skill in repairing and maintaining your systems. Basic servicing of your diesel – bleeding the fuel system, changing the oil and replacing belts – along with basic plumbing and DC electrical skills add to your self sufficiency. If you’re really good at it you can even add to the cruising kitty by providing your skills to more mechanically challenged sailors.

Happy Cruising!

We are currently enjoying an early Spanish Plume. This is when we have low pressure sitting to the west of the UK and high pressure to the east. This results in a plume of warm air being drawn up from Spain, through France, to our shores. Thank you Spain.

We decided to take advantage of this phenomenon to play truant, sneaking out to take a hike along the local canal. If I can’t get out to sea on days like this my next choice is the canal, a river of tranquility meandering through the Lancashire countryside. Good for the soul.

There are boats here, too, although of a different nature to those you find at the coast marinas. But just like those marinas you get the good, the bad and the ugly. Take your pick.

Two months from now an intrepid group of men and women in sailboats, rowing boats and kayaks will set off on the 750 mile Race to Alaska which runs from Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, to Ketchikan, Alaska via a stop at Port Townsend, BC. The race is open to any boat that has no engine and the route is mostly up to the contestants, there are just two way points that must be past.

The rules are sparse; you can stop to provision or to fix your vessel as long as you don’t prearrange any assistance – self sufficiency is the name of the game.

The winner gets a prize of $10,000 and the runner-up gets a set of steak knives.

The water is cold, the grizzly bears fierce and the weather capricious. Venturesome barely covers it.

You can sign up for it here: http://r2ak.com/