I went with some friends on their yacht to TiritiriMatangi Island in the Hauraki Gulf for a day sail. This was a good opportunity to get used to a larger (42 foot) yacht. We nearly didn’t get too far as we grounded in the shallow channel shortly leaving the mooring. Fortunately, the club launch towed us off into deeper water. I had the opportunity to sail the yacht for most of the day and I really enjoyed it. I was, however, pleased that I didn't have to do too much tight manoeuvring as this was a large yacht to handle in a tight space. After that experience I booked a “Start Yachting” course with Gulfwind Sailing Academy in Auckland for my partner and myself. This was run over 2 days on the water with theory included.
The Start Yachting course is a 2 day course that covers the basics of sailing a keelboat. The syllabus covers knowledge of the yacht, rope work, steering a yacht on all points of sail, keeping an effective lookout, meteorology, man overboard recovery, clothing and equipment, emergency equipment and precautions.
Yachts vary greatly in size and use. The most common categories are:sailing dinghies (open craft, approximately 3 – 5 m in length)Trailer sailers (cabin, approximately 5 – 9 m in length, retractable centreboard means they can be towed behind a car and launched at a boat ramp) Keelboats (approximately 6 m and upwards, fixed keel means they generally stay in the water)Racing can be done in small and large boatsCruising is done in trailer sailers and keelboats.
The yacht used on the course was a Farr 1020. At just over 30 feet long, it can easily accommodate four people – and more for a day sail. These yachts have a reputation as solid cruising yachts and are also quite fast for racing. It is owned and operated by Gulfwind Sailing Academy. See http://www.gulfwindsailing.co.nz
Convection clouds are created by warm air rising over a land mass and condensing into cloud shapes like the above. We were taught to look for which side the cloud is starting to bulge out on as that indicates the wind direction higher up that would probably establish itself at sea level later on.Sailing involves a knowledge of meteorology for forecasting the weather for sailing, interpreting weather reports, and recognising weather changes while sailing. See http://www.metservice.co.nz for updated weather and tuition.
Modern sailboats have the advantage of employing electronic aids. These can include GPS, chart-plotters, and instruments that measure speed through the water, apparent and true wind speed and direction, radar, Automatic Identification System, and many more (depending on your budget!). These are powered from a battery that is recharged when the engine is run.Part of learning to sail is to know how to do it by the “seat of your pants” while incorporating knowledge of the aids that electronics can provide. Despite being able to read everything off a visual display unit however, it is essential to learn how to navigate the boat with chart and compass as electronics can fail.
There are numerous ropes used in sailing to raise sails, trim sails, anchor the boat, and tie off parts of the yacht. In this yacht ropes that are need for control are all fed back to the cockpit into the clutches seen in the photo which enables them to be locked off. The jib (front sail) sheets are different as they come back to the cockpit and are fed around winches.Raising and lowering the mainsail as in the picture above can be difficult when there is a lot of wind. Good coordination with the person steering is helpful as if they keep the yacht pointed into the wind, there is less flapping of the large sail as it goes up and it’s easier for the people working on the deck to keep their footing.
“Man overboard” is a serious matter in a keelboat. In a sailing dinghy going for a swim is all part of the rough and tumble, but a keelboat is not as manoeuvrable and has a lot heavier gear so injury can be done to a person if they are knocked overboard. It is important to have suitable safety gear to throw to people to:a) give them support in the water b) haul them back to the yacht.
There are a lot of ropes in sailing. Sheets are ropes that connect to sails. Halyards are ropes (sometimes wire as well) that raise and lower sails. It definitely helps to have labels that can differentiate the ropes. On this yacht the ropes were colour coded so you could tell where they went.
Most keelboats have winches to provide a mechanical advantage when pulling sheets (ropes that connect to sails) when they are under load. The photo shows the winch that the jib (front sail) sheet runs to on the starboard side. The sheet (blue rope) runs to the stern of the yacht where it is turned on a pulley to run forward and be wrapped around the drum of the winch. A few turns are taken around the winch drum then the sheet can be pulled even though there is a lot of force on the sail pulling the sheet. At a certain point, when it becomes too difficult to pull further, the crew person may turn the winch by winding the winch handle (in the photo, its the red handle on top of the winch). When the desired pull has been achieved the sheet is secured in a cleat so it can’t run out.Every time the boat tacks through the wind, the jib sheet must be released from the winch and allowed to run free, while the jib sheet on the other side is wrapped around the other side winch and tightened. This tends to be the most physical work done on the yacht on a regular basis.
We were taught to imagine the flow of wind as being like a river. Obstructions to airflow can divert the airflow, just as in a river. The sails are set at an optimum angle to the wind to cause the wind to accelerate across their face. When the jib (front sail) and the mainsail are set, this creates a slot for the airflow to be channelled through. As with an aeroplane wing, faster airflow across one side of the curved sail leads to unequal pressure which creates a force or lift in one direction. When sailing into the wind, this lift, combined with the resistance of the keel which stops “slippage” sideways through the water moves the yacht forward. The yacht can sail up to about 40-45 degrees up into the wind. When the wind is behind, then the force on the sails is a “pushing” force. Complicating all this is the notion of “apparent wind.” When sailing upwind, the yacht may be sailing at 5 knots. But if you add the wind of say, 15 knots that is blowing in your face then it feels like 20 knots of wind. Now, the wind speed feels like 20 knots to the yacht as well so it reacts as if it is in 20 knots of wind. If the yacht turns to run with the wind behind, suddenly everything goes quiet and the temperature seems to get hotter. This is because the yacht might now be travelling at 7 knots downwind, and that is subtracted from the real wind speed of 15 knots. Consequently, onboard it only feels like 8 knots of wind. This can be quite a suprise when running downwind for a time then turning upwind to find that the apparent wind speed more than doubles. It’s easy to think, “where did that wind come from all of a sudden?”
There are rules of the sea just as there are rules of the road. The Collision Prevention Rules forms Part 22 of the Maritime Rules that must be obeyed by vessels. In the open water, powered craft gives way to sailing vessels. So when this large launch came steaming up fast from the rear it complied with the rules by slowing and altering course. It was important that we didn’t change course as our yacht was the “stand on” vessel. If we had it would have led to confusion about who was supposed to give way, and might also encourage the launch skipper to think that maybe another yacht will get out of his way in the future (when it isn’t legally required to).On the other hand, when sailing through the Rangitoto Channel we encountered large freighters in the shipping lane that legally had right of way. These were given a wide berth.
Finding my way is one of the aspects of sailing that I find very satisfying. This slide shows a paper chart compared to the visual readout of a chart-plotter. Paper charts, compass,measuring instruments and a pencil are the basic tools of navigation. This has been supplemented in the electronic age by GPS, radar and chart-plotters that can provide an enormous amount of information at the touch of a button. They rely, however, on batteries, electronic circuits and satellite transmissions that may potentially fail. Due to this, most people use a combination of paper and electronic technology.
Keelboats are usually crewed rather than sailed alone. This means that people share a relatively small space with each other while avoiding swinging booms, ropes tangling underfoot, and others moving around the yacht. The ability to get along with others is important! Cruising is a relatively laid back pursuit and it doesn’t usually entail split-second timing and abrupt changes of course. Therefore no-one appreciates a skipper who aggressively yells instruction at the crew and no-one wants to go sailing with someone if they have annoying behaviour. I have read many accounts of sailors, particularly on longer voyages, who ended up hating one another.
The yacht is typically steered with either a wheel or (as shown here) a tiller. Steering is called “helming” and basically is intended to keep the yacht on a fixed course. I found it interesting to learn that in sailing close-hauled (about 45 degrees up into the wind), the sails are sheeted tight to the centre line of the boat then the best angle is found by steering as close to the wind as possible. However, when sailing off the wind more, the boat’s course is set by the angle steered then the sails are adjusted to suit that course. It was interesting to see that of the yachts on the water, several were not getting that balance between the course steered and the angle of the sails correct.As the wind speed increases the yacht typically wants to “round up” into the wind so the helmsman feels increasing pressure on the tiller that he or she must counteract. This is called “weather helm” as the boat wants to turn “towards the weather”. In my experience at the helm of the 42 foot yacht previous, this made steering a very muscular performance and I was surprised at how hard it was. On the helm of the Farr 1020, even when the wind increased, the pressure was nowhere near as bad as the other yacht. I learned that this is a function of the balance of the yacht – how the amount of sail in front of and behind the mast wants to rotate the yacht around its turning point. In a well-balanced yacht, the forces on the helm are kept to a minimum.
There is much that is aesthetically pleasing about sailing. Visually - a yacht under sail looks impressive. Even watching the yacht that I am on cutting through the water under the power of the wind alone is visually pleasing. To be on the sea is to open one’s horizons. Without the confinement of buildings, there is a feeling of “far-sightedness” that is like a metaphor for getting perspective in your life.Tactile sensations – the wind in one’s face, the feel of the rope and tiller as it gives feedback from the yacht to the helmsman.Auditory – the sound of the waves made by the yacht’s passage, the marine environment of seabirds are all quite different sounds compared to normal life. Being natural they feel soothing to me.Equilibrium – although it can disturbingly be the cause of sea-sickness, there is also a sense of adventure at being “off-balance” as the yacht makes it way through the water on an angle of lean, and lifts and falls to the coming seas.
Above decks is a social, fairly public space. Below decks is more private.Below: sleeping, cooking, socialising all usually while moored. Not usually a very comfortable place while sailing if the wind is up and the boat is heeled!Above: active involvement in sailing or enjoying the experience with others (hopefully).
Part of the fun of sailing is the “not-sailing.” It’s the getting to where you want to be and enjoying it until you choose to move on. This photograph is taken in Kumototo Bay in the Marlborough Sounds. I was on a kayaking trip through the Sounds with my partner and this is where I first formed the idea of looking further into the idea of taking up sailing. A major part of the attraction for me was the ability of sailing to cover more distance than in a kayak and arrive at the anchorage without having to set up a tent each day. We were camping on a small grassy patch just above the beach visible in the photo, and from there I watched several yachts arrive for the evening then depart the next day.
This photo is of a large seal in the outer Marlborough Sounds, just south of Ship’s Cove. Being on the water gets me closer to the marine environment that I love. I free-dive, swim, fish, and enjoy watching the birds and sea life. Sailing provides a platform for these other interests.
There are lots of constraints in my pursuing sailing. I don’t have much income. I am away on placements for extended periods through the year. I don’t live near the sea. But unless I make something happen now then the learning to date won’t lead to anything further. So I booked six days in the Bay of Islands for my partner and myself: 3 days further training, 3 days with the yacht on our own. To make this happen I have to work as much as possible through Summer to pay for it and make a few sacrifices.
Learning record: Occupation of sailing
6 hour day sail
2 Day Royal Yacht Association “Start
4 hours review of “Rules of the Sea” and
Type of craft
Use of craft