27 Jan


“Over-sized” Anchor?


Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 9.08.45 AM

Excerpted from Anchoring: A Ground Tackler’s Apprentice by Rudy and Jill Sechez

How conservative one should be when computing the load on the ground tackle is a personal decision. At one end of the spectrum would be day sailing in a small, limited area and only in pleasant conditions and where well-protected anchorages or ready access to mooring or a slip are plentiful. At the other end of the spectrum is a boat which spends every night at anchor in widely differing locations, wherein the anchorages are quite varied in protection, high winds may occur, and many, if not all, of these additional load factors may be encountered.

Fortunately, there is one rule that reigns supreme—those who “oversize” their gear, seldom have the problems which often plague those who don’t. But first, stop and think about he term “over-sized” for a moment—if the gear did not bend or break or if the anchor did not drag, is the gear really “over-sized”? Since the term “over-sized” often imparts a negative connotation, maybe we should, instead, start using the term “big enough.”

So you see, the loads on ground tackle, even for modestly sized boats, can be huge. So, when loads like this are anticipated, it is no wonder that the use of big, hefty gear comes highly recommended. If the boat can be located so as to not receive the full force of the wind or surge, so much the better, though it should not be depended upon that this can always be arranged.

Have you been wondering why that anchor, mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, bent? This anchor had dug in so deep that it could not come around sufficiently to stay “in-line,” as the boat changed direction, thus had a side load imposed on it. This anchor had a tensile strength that was more than adequate in straight-line pull, but as we discovered, it did not have the strength that it needed when when the boat veered and a side load developed on the anchor; thus it bent. Since bent anchors are not reliable anchors, we immediately switched to using a different anchor. Eventually we were able to return that anchor into service, but only after it was straightened back to its original shape…however, this anecdote does not end here.

For years we had been seeing reference to the idiosyncrasy for items to bend or break with less force when side-loaded than what it takes for them to bend or break in straight-line pull. Thus, about a year later we had an epiphany while perusing a tensile strength chart provided by the manufacturer for this, as well as other size of anchors. We noticed that the anchor one size up had more than twice the tensile strength than the anchor we had been using.

It was at this point it dawned on us that this idiosyncrasy of things to bend or break with less load when side-loaded can easily be overcome simply by up-sizing that piece of gear. Once the implications of this simple alternative sunk in, we replaced the now know-to-be-too-weak main bower with another anchor, one of the same design, only bigger, one strong enough to resist the side loads our boat can impose on the anchor in 60-knot winds.

Filed Under: Uncategorized

24 Nov


Riding the Wild Ocean


By Paul S. Krantz, Jr.


Butler Hole and Pollock Rip –
The seas continued to build, the wind now shrieking. Lou began to express concern with the narrowing channel. On the GPS screen, he could see the shoals squeezing us on both sides. Our flashing red four-second buoy was clearly visible off the port bow as we rode over wave crests but disappeared in the troughs. Once again hard on the wind, we were going to slip safely past the red flasher mid-channel. The next buoy, a flashing green about a mile to the east, was directly in our path. We had to stay to the north of that buoy to stay within the channel. Missing that to the south would take us over shallow areas of sixteen to twenty feet at the northern end of Stone Horse Shoal, the channel being generally over forty feet deep between shoals. The concern over those shallows was not bottoming out against the sandy sea floor but encountering locally larger, steeper seas. I could tack to port to reposition into the channel but preferred to avoid that risky maneuver in those dark seas if possible. Lou could feel the seas still building. He began voicing his concern that he could not control the boat in the raging maelstrom. Suddenly he cried out, “You have to take the boat. I can’t control it!…

Dawn began breaking. In the dim gray light of morn, I silently went into shock at the spectacle of the seas surrounding us. Although we had been in them for hours, we had not seen the seas before that moment. I had never been in anything like that in my life. Mountains of water nearly as high as my spreader, which is halfway up my thirty-foot mast, raced by. Every wave foamed with angry, writhing energy. Spray blew from every wave top into the next trough. There was no color in that predawn world, only bleak shades of gray…

Caught in a Fish Trap –
Not wanting to sail headlong into the net and dismast the boat on the overhead steel cable, I threw the tiller to starboard. The boat began to spin to port just as it slammed against the unyielding net. I heard the single starboard shroud screech and then groan as it scraped along the heavy cable. The wind plastered the sail against the net folding it about the cable. The boom clamored past and under the cable with a metallic clunk. The jib flailed violently against the net. The sea that drove me into the net slammed against the hull and into my sail pinning everything hopelessly against the unforgiving net. I could see little in the inky black night. I was soaked. I could hear large fish next to me inside the net smashing into one another in their panic to escape the unseen intruder trying to get at them through the net. The boat dropped into a trough, allowing the stern to wash deeper into the net. The starboard shroud, riding against the cable, held the bow somewhat into the wind and the seas. Waiting for the seas to swamp the boat, I knew I was going to die.

The Bull’s Eye rose with the next advancing wave as I stood in the cockpit somehow hanging on to the sail above me. As the boat lifted in the sea, my head was driven into the overhead cable, which then scraped down the side of my face and ear onto my shoulder. I screamed with pain expecting my collarbone to snap. The excruciating pain collapsed my knees, and I fell to the floor. As I went down, the cable followed me pressing my back ever lower…

Chatham and the Race to Provincetown with Tropical Storm Hannah –
Our host drove us out onto the pier to the arch leading down to our boat. As we exited the car, the wind-whipped rain pelted us unmercifully. Vaguely aware of a large human form standing in the archway, we hurried in that direction toward the gangplank leading down to the floating dock. As we approached, the form moved into our path making clear his intent to stop us. Under the semi-shelter of the arch, I could see his face glaring at me from under the hood of his yellow, commercial grade, rubber foul weather jacket. He was wearing khaki shorts revealing heavily scarred, well-tanned legs, and leather work boots. With rain cascading off his foul weather gear, he conveyed an ominous intent. I came to a stop about four feet from him, Lou behind me.

“Do you two belong to that little sailboat down there?”

I responded with a firm, “Yes.”

“Do you make a habit of helping yourselves to other people’s slips?” I stood there dumfounded, staring up into that hard craggy face, not knowing how to respond to the question…

“Get your boat off my dock! I don’t care where you go, but get it out of here.”

Stalling for time, I mumbled something about sailing all night into Butler Hole, and twelve to fifteen foot seas in Pollock Rip, searching for an opening in the combers across Chatham Bar, getting caught in a rogue wave that ripped my dinghy off the back of the boat…on I babbled…about how exhausted we were. I began to feel about as pathetic as I must have sounded as I contemplated the agony of going back out into that storm to search for another place to stop and tie up…

Book available here.

Filed Under: Uncategorized

30 Oct


Discovering the Wilds in a $400 Yacht


Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

David Buckman

The flickering lantern spread a civil glow across the cabin as we had dinner, the depths of our tiredness washing over us. Clearing the bilges of the leaky 18-foot wooden sloop after settling into our sleeping bags, I left the pump propped up next to my pillow, its hose stuffed into the centerboard trunk. With this arrangement I could roll over in the middle of the night and evacuate the influx before the ever rising internal tides gave us the rudest of awakenings. “Remember Bucky,” the mate chortled seconds before snoring reverberated from his berth on the other side of the centerboard trunk, “The tide waiteth not upon the sloth of any man.”

Morning was burdened by a dull pewter sky, scarves of fog blowing low and the main halyard beating a tattoo against the mast. Tuning in a local station on the portable radio, the only piece of electronic gear aboard, the marine forecast started out with small craft warnings, calling for a 15-25 knot southwesterly. We were hoping for something more civil, decidedly more civil. There was a certain tension to our mood, that we tried to keep to ourselves, but every time the mast shuddered, the reality of the challenge was painted vividly across our minds.

That it would be a fair breeze once we cleared the Sakonnet River was the only comfort, and with an early start we hoped to put a few miles behind us before it matured to full force. We knew if we didn’t give it a try, we’d spend the rest of the day regretting it, and after studying all the escape options from Westport to Fairhaven, we shoved off for Marion, 41 miles to the east.

Bashing into a cauldron of steep sided seas, the little wooden sloop pitched over on her ear and bucked through the white crested slop. Slap. Slam, crunch the bow bit into every wave. Slacking off the wind a few degrees to minimize the pounding, which I feared would loosen every screw in her dodgy bottom, a steady stream of salty tears sluice aft.

Weathering the frenzy of whitewater bursting against Schulyer Ledge, our sense of deliverance was palpable as we bore off the wind and winged out sail. Ahead lay the plentifully periled waters of Buzzards Bay, a shallow 50-mile-long sound, contained on its southern flank by the broken chain of the Elizabeth Islands, and to the north by a low coast harboring the old whaling ports of Fairhaven and New Bedford.

As the ebbing tide turned its weight against the wind, growling seas heaped into frothy crests that toppled noisily alongside, and our lot was invested of a stirring spectacle. Hauling away at the centerboard pennant till she had little more than two feet of draft, eased the helm and gave her a more forgiving posture in case she flirted with a broach, which I’d witnessed a number of times on the race course.

Like a skier playing the rhythm of a mountain we banked our $400 cruiser off the crest on one wave, and swooped down the trough of the next with a rush of speed that set our stomachs to quivering. We worried that she might bury her bow in the backside of waves we were overtaking, but the sloop rose buoyantly to challenge after challenge.

Peering into the mists as we raced along there was a wildness to our lot beyond our most vivid imaginings, but no time for anything but paying attention to the Leight’s mood which was transmitted to us with commanding alacrity. Feeling like prey among predators I cast quick glances at the army of seas rolling up astern, and checked the backstay telltale to make sure we were square to the wind.

In the midst of it all the mate’s pallor began to take a turn for the worse. “Skip, I think I’m going to be sick,” he mumbled. His moment of extremis was exceedingly graphic. He felt better for it. I felt worse.

Not long after the mates returned to duty we were startled by a pale specter rising out of the water off the bow, and with our hearts thumping away like drum beats we struck the jib with the downhaul to slow our flight. The amorphous shape evolved into the hulk of a rusty old freighter impaled on Wilkes Ledge.

We discussed putting into Fairhaven, which was tempting as it was only a few miles to port, but without the confidence of experience these were uneasy calls that left us anxious. Hours passed, the mists grudgingly dissipated and not long after midday we washed into Sippican Harbor in as civil circumstances as could be imagined, for at this point in our life of adventure, any cruise we could walk away from was a good one.

Poking about the shallows by Tabor Academy we came to rest alongside a dinghy float at Barden’s Wharf and inquired about a berth for the night. When the dockmaster asked where we were laying, he did a double take when we pointed to the Leight. “Oh that,” he said flatly as though she were an unworthy trifle. “Stay right where you are, I won’t charge you for that.”

She might have been an unworthy trifle to him, but I saw many good things in her simple harmonies and felt affection, which seemed the optimal circumstance in which to pursue such things. —END

Signed copies of Bucking the Tide available here.

Filed Under: Uncategorized

30 Sep


Nominate Your Favorite Small-Boat Cruising Ground



There are lots of places to sail—especially in a small boat—but let’s face it, some places are better than others. Maybe it’s the amazing weather and consistent winds, or the scenery, or the miles of shallow water and deserted anchorages, or the special history of the place. Whatever brings you back, we’d like to know about it for a feature article we’re working on.

In the survey below we’ll ask you for a few details about your favorite spot and we might include your quotes and information in the upcoming feature. (We know we’ve already asked some of you this question and we appreciate your previous response and may use those too, but this more formal survey will help us flesh out the article—Eds)

Click here to participate in survey.


Filed Under: Uncategorized