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2009 Newsletter Archive

Here are the Newsletters written by Jim Murrant and Ann Reynolds for The Boating Bible Manual of Seamanship published during 2009.

2009 Newsletter index

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Talk about plans and mice and men - 30 Dec 09

Talk about plans and mice and men! As we told you, we had planned to go to country NSW to spend a few days with Annie's family over Christmas. We don't see them very often as they are four hours' drive away from Sydney.

Well, it didn't happen. We'NewsletterArchive.htm#Racing" class="one">earlier newsletter was that the focus was on the big boats. How boring.

While we're later than usual with this newsletter, we do have the opportunity to point out that our sale ends as the New Year begins. At midnight on 31 December.

We wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year! Why not make a resolution to be safe on the water?

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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Season's greetings! - 24 Dec 09

This is the last Newsletter but one for this year but you're not going to hear anything about safety at sea, complaints about ocean-racing yachts that are really motor boats or warnings about mixing booze and boats. (But do be careful getting in and out of dinghies).

Instead, we want to wish you the very best for whatever season you are celebrating and particularly send our very best wishes to those of you suffering the extreme cold of the north of the world. We hope you do not suffer too badly.

Also, don't worry too much about us down here. While warm weather might seem attractive to you it's not that comfortable when it's 40 degrees Celsius, and a decayed cyclone has reached central Australia and is threatening rainfall of up to 20cm (nearly 10 inches) in a day - and therefore flooding. But then, it might end the drought and put out the bushfires.

So please enjoy a safe and happy festive season with your family and friends.

We'll be back again next week, so see you then.

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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What is happening to yacht racing? It's hardly racing! + Follow up to how to avoid losing boat speed while tacking + Question about over-masting a yacht - 17 Dec 09

As the year draws to a close we always look forward to watching the start of the Sydney-Hobart race on Boxing Day, even though it's more than ten years since either of us competed.

This year we will be watching on a television in Young (in country NSW) and getting angry about how little coverage there will be of the smaller and older yachts in the fleet.

The focus is always on the big boats, their line honours chances, professional crews and canting keels - boats that are not designed for the conditions they may experience in the 630 nm race. One only has to look back to the 1993 and 1998 races to know that it's not always a downwind dash from start to finish.

So today's newsletter discusses some of the changes that have made our sport less appealing, at least to us. But we'll also share follow-up comments on last week's tacking and boat speed story and an answer we gave to a subscriber about over-masting his yacht.

1. What is happening to yacht racing?

We gave up following the America's Cup many years ago, not long after Australia II wrested it away from the New York Yacht Club. In those days, race results were often decided by the Protest Committee.

Fast forward to 2009 and who knows when the next America's Cup will be contested. Lawyers seem to have taken over control of the event, with technicalities being argued in court.

2. It's hardly racing!

The Sydney Morning Herald has a report on yesterday's SOLAS Big Boat Challenge, one of the lead up races to the Sydney-Hobart. In it Jacquelin Magnay wrote about a problem aboard Investec Loyal. Apparently its engine failed and, as that's what works the winches and moves the canting keel, was unable to tack.

"The engine stopped 12 times during the race, but it is something we have enough time to fix, it is nothing insurmountable," skipper Sean Langman said.

Of course, this is not unique to Investec Loyal. A number of this year's competitors rely on engine power.

What if that happens again on Boxing Day, in the pre-start manoeuvring? Or in an upwind start, just as a yacht is nearing the spectator fleet and getting ready to tack? Or when called to tack to give way to a yacht on starboard?

This seems to be a basic safety issue and should be a concern to race officials and competitors alike.

And in any case, it's hardly yacht racing when you have to sail the whole race with the engine running.

3. Follow up to how to avoid losing boat speed while tacking

Our item on this topic last week drew the following comment from one of our Affiliates, Simon Firth. Simon has competed in more than 25 Sydney-Hobarts, many aboard Mirrabooka, owned and skippered by John Bennetto.

We had a saying on the 'Booka' about tacking: "Fast early and slow late." Mind you, JB never took any notice. If we got it right we would go into a tack at 7.8k and come out at 5.9k.

The real trick is to ease the genoa a little as the helm is put down. Because of the change in vector caused by the bow swinging, the apparent wind frees just a little at the very beginning of the tack and you can maintain boat speed right up to about 15 degrees.

Then it's a case of minimising drag as the headsail crosses the centreline. The 'slow late' bit is to prevent the common sight of helmsmen throwing away weather gauge because they have gone too far through the tack.

Being slow late also gives the trimmers a chance to get it all in before the pressure comes on. There are very few boats adequately winched so as to be able to ignore the last bit.

How's that for grandmothers and eggs?

4. Question about over-masting a yacht

We received an email from one of our subscribers who was seeking advice about changing the mast of his yacht for a longer one and increasing the weight of the keel to counteract it.

Here is my response:

I've given a lot of thought to your question which actually raises some very interesting alternatives.

Basically my answer to you is that you can't turn a sow's ear into a silk purse. Unless you have training that I don't know of you would have to employ a naval architect to calculate the balance between keel weight and mast height. Or you might have to know somebody who has already done what you plan to do.

The first alternative would be expensive and here is where I've come to a different way you might like to think. Whatever you do to a very old design will have two effects.

1. You won't be able to sail in one-design races if that's what you planned.

2. While you certainly could increase the performance of your boat by what you plan, it still would not beat boats of later design against which you would be likely to race.

What I suggest is that you think about whether you would be better off selling the boat you have and putting the money that you would otherwise have paid to an architect and shipwright, together with the proceeds of the boat, and with that increased money buy a later and faster boat.

Obviously it's a personal choice. I've only talked about racing because I presume you wouldn't want to overpower a cruising boat.

Good luck with whatever you decide. And I'd be interested to hear your decision.

5. Don't miss out! Sale ends soon

Remember, from now until 31 December 2009:
When you order The Boating Bible Manual of Seamanship
or individual CDs through our website you will save 10-20%.

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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How to avoid losing boat speed while tacking + Watching the weather + International Maritime Organization (IMO) Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea - 8 Dec 09

This week we thought we'd have a look at one of the basic yacht manoeuvres - tacking. Then discuss why awareness of weather patterns and sea conditions is essential if you want to get to your destination. And, finally, we congratulate the winners of an IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea.

1. How to avoid losing boat speed while tacking

Some racing skippers think it's best to throw the helm over quickly and then get annoyed when the main trimmer hasn't repositioned the traveller and the headsail trimmer is still fighting to bring the headsail around, let alone into trim.

As with most sailing, practice will improve performance but the first change to make is to get the skipper to tack slowly.

The crew should be aware that a tack will be called for and expect a cry of "Ready about" from the skipper. The skipper should wait until the crew acknowledge that they are, indeed, ready to tack before saying "Lee-ho" and making the turn, slowly, so that the headsail is not released too early but helps turn the boat on to the new tack.

Readiness to tack for the headsail means that:

  • the lazy sheet has at least one turn around the winch
  • the working sheet is uncleated and its tail ready to run freely
  • any crew on the rail are ready to move across the boat, out of the way of the tacking headsail

Readiness to tack for the main means that:

  • the main sheet is cleated
  • the mainsheet trimmer is ready to move the traveller into position for the new tack

Take time to practice tacking slowly before the start of your next race and you should be able to maintain your boat speed better through the tack.

2. Watching the weather

With less than a month to go before the start of the Sydney-Hobart, I've been watching the weather charts as I always do.

It seems to me that the southerly changes are coming through more rapidly - every two to three days, instead of every six or seven. Not only that, but the winds before and with each change seem stronger and gustier than in, dare I say it, an 'average' year. What this means is that yachts competing in the Hobart will almost certainly be hit by a strong southerly.

Also different this year is the location and strength of the Eastern Australia Current. It's much further south than usual.

Every year yachts head out to sea to pick up a few knots' advantage, but we should expect some breakages when the southerly set comes up against a southerly change.

So skippers, navigators and tacticians will have to agree on where to place their yachts to make the best use of the conditions.

3. IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea

We were pleased to read that an American couple, Maurice and Sophie Conti, have received the 2009 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea. They were presented with the Award recently in recognition of their rescue of three people off Fiji.

They were cruising in Fiji last October when they heard a distress call late at night, at a time when their radio would normally have been turned off.  After contacting authorities in both Fiji and New Zealand, the Contis volunteered to go to the aid of the yacht Timella that had gone aground on a coral reef two or so hours away.

On arrival at the location, the Contis had to launch their dinghy which Maurice then navigated to the reef to rescue the three crew members while Sophie kept their catamaran Ocealys a safe distance away. When helped aboard, one of the two women was suffering hypothermia so Sophie gave her special attention to get her warm and dry.

It's good to see people who are prepared to put themselves at risk to save the lives of others. Even more so when you learn that the Contis' had their two young children aboard Ocealys with them that night.

We congratulate them on their courage, planning, preparation and performance.

Coincidentally I know the reef Timella hit. It is called Cakaulekaleka and when I lived in Fiji I went fishing there. Part of the problem they would have had is that it is tidal - in other words, it is sometimes below the level of the water. However it is fantastic fishing!

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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Christmas Sale + Don't rely on electronics + Debate on whether dinghy sailors make good offshore racing crew - 1 Dec 09

As you know, we don't flood you with special offers. But as 2009 draws to a close, we've decided to give you an early Christmas present.

1. Christmas Sale

During December you can purchase The Boating Bible Manual of Seamanship for only AU$156 - a 20% discount off its advertised price. This multimedia Manual contains the five titles listed below, plus you receive a free bonus 75-minute DVD, The Joys of Sailing.

If you'd prefer, you can buy single CDs for AU$40.50 - 10% off the advertised price. These would make ideal Christmas gifts for your family or friends who share your love of sailing:
* Boat Handling 1 and 2 (not sold separately)
* Navigation and Passage Planning
* Safety and Emergencies
* Skipper and Crew, Knots and The Language of the Sea
* Weathercraft

Order now to ensure you receive The Boating Bible Manual of Seamanship in time for Christmas.

2. Don't rely on electronics - Chart your progress and maintain a log

If you're using a GPS linked to navigation software on your laptop, it's easy to rely on both to tell you where you are. It's more seamanlike, however, to keep track of your yacht's position on a paper chart and maintain a log of its progress.

This is particularly important if there's a storm or other bad weather approaching. You should get regular marine weather forecasts while at sea. They will give you the position of the storm, including wind direction and the speed at which it's travelling. It's up to you to calculate how long it will take to reach you.

Before the storm arrives, make sure you have an accurate fix of your position and plot that position on your chart. You should also make a log entry showing, at the very minimum, the time, your heading and boat speed.

But remember, if you're unable to reach sheltered water before the front arrives, you may need to alter course to suit the changed conditions.

This manual record-keeping should become second nature to you, just as shortening sail to prepare your boat for the blow.

It's also good practice if something incapacitates the navigator, by providing a starting point for whomever tales over.

3. Debate on whether dinghy sailors make good offshore racing crew

Once again we thank Mike Kingdom-Hockings for his comments on dinghy sailors offshore:

Having been through the dinghy racer to offshore crew route, I can add one small proviso - the habit that needs to be unlearned.

Out of sight of land, dinghy sailors need to remember to steer a compass course, not try guessing how to get optimum VMG by following the wind around. The navigator can't do his job unless he knows where he is!

And, when beating to windward, dinghy sailors need to record course changes brought about by windshifts, for the same reason.

This ties in well with 1. above where we recommend that skippers/navigators chart the yacht's progress and maintain a log. By recording the boat's course, speed, wind direction and strength etc. every hour, as well as at any time a major change occurs, information will be kept that may not be available from the electronic system.

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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Managing your power on board + From Laser racing to the Sydney-Hobart race + "Boxing the Compass" - 24 Nov 09

1. Managing your power on board

If you want to ensure that you have enough power whenever you need it, you need to have at least two marine batteries or two banks of batteries. You'll also need a switch that allows you to turn both batteries 'Off', switch on battery '1' or battery '2' or 'Both'.

One battery should be dedicated to starting your engine, the other used for navigation lights, electronics and 'house power'. Under no circumstances should you use your engine's battery for any other purpose.

So, before starting the engine, you will turn the battery switch to '1'. As soon as the engine is operating and, assuming it's a diesel, the exhaust has been checked to see that water is being spat out as part of the engine's water-cooling system, the batteries should be switched to 'Both'. This will recharge both batteries at the same time.

But, and this is a big but, you must remember to switch to 'house power' only when you've turn off the engine. Otherwise your instruments, lighting, refrigeration, water pump, 12 volt TV, iPod recharger etc. will draw power from both batteries and possibly flatten them before you realise what is happening. Then, when you really need to start the engine again, you may not have sufficient power to do so.

2. From Laser racing to the Sydney-Hobart race

As I say in Skipper and Crew, Knots and The Language of the Sea, I believe that, with a little training, dinghy sailors make excellent offshore racing crew. In particular, both their knowledge of the wind - its strength, direction and fluctuations - and keenness to trim sails to optimise a boat's performance make them highly thought of.

So I was interested to read about the background of a young Indian man, Ajay Rau, who plans to compete in his first Sydney-Hobart yacht race this year. At the same time, he is working towards becoming the first Indian to qualify for the Laser class at the 2012 Olympics.

How did he get into keelboats? I don't know the answer, but I'm sure he'll be a valuable crew member aboard Merit when she heads south out of Sydney Heads on
26 December.

3. "Boxing the Compass" from Mr Punch Afloat, 1910

"Assume a fighting attitude, and hit the compass a 'smart stinger on the dialplate,' as the sporting papers call it. But before you do so, you had best take care to have your boxing-gloves on, or you may hurt your fingers."

"Boxing the compass" actually is when you name each of the 32 points of the compass. In other words, North, North by East, North-North-East, North-East by North, North-East, North-East by East, East-North-East, East by North, East and so on.

The yachting community is more familiar with the 16 points of the compass that are used in weather forecasting to designate wind direction. Namely, North, North-North-East, North-East, East-North-East, East and so on.

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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Avoiding collision + Rescue with a difference + More from Mr Punch Afloat, 1910 - 17 Nov 09

1. Avoiding collision

The risks some motorists and motorcyclists take when cutting in front of other traffic, particularly fully laden trucks or buses full of passengers reminded us of the very similar risk of collision both at sea and in harbour. The momentum involved means that trucks and buses take much longer than the average passenger vehicle to brake to a halt.

Even at a slow speed of four knots, it can take seven or so minutes and a quarter of a mile to stop a fully loaded 800 foot tanker. And, what's more, what happens to its steerage when it's trying to pull up?

And also, on the water there's a large blind spot to be taken into account. And it's directly ahead of the large vessel, so that if you get too close, no one on the ship will be able to see you either directly or on radar. This blind spot can extend some 200 metres ahead.

Another thing that's often overlooked is the size and effect of the ship's wind shadow. And then there's the turbulence caused by its propellers.

All in all, it's wisest to keep well clear of all shipping.

2. Rescue with a difference

We read recently on Berrimilla's blog about a yacht coming to the aid of a ship!

After leaving Port Macquarie on its way to Lord Howe Island, S&S 34 Morning Tide's skipper and crew noticed a ship firing orange flares. They immediately started the motor, lowered the sails and headed for the ship. As they approached, they could see a person in the water.

The crew of the yacht deployed their MOB sling, motored around him and then managed to get him aboard and wrap him in a SeaRug.  

He had suffered head and back injuries from falling 20 metres from the ship's deck so, after contacting the water police, the yacht turned back to Newcastle to put him ashore. A paramedic was put aboard from a water police boat but decided not to try to transfer him at sea because of his injuries.

Allan Fenwick, the skipper and owner of Morning Tide, was very pleased that the lessons he had learned on a Safety and Sea Survival Course some years earlier meant that the rescue of the injured crewman went ahead without hesitation. He and his crew are to be congratulated.

3. More from Mr Punch Afloat, 1910

"Hugging the Shore.
"When you desire to hug the shore, you first of all must land on it. Then take some sand and shingle in your arms, and give it a good hug. In doing this, however, be careful no one sees you, or the result of the manoeuvre may be a strait-waistcoat*."

In fact, the phrase 'hugging the shore' really means keeping as close as is possible to the shore, avoiding the deeper, open water.

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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An accident that should not have happened + Exceeding maximum hull speed + Whistling
- 10 Nov 09

1. An accident that should not have happened

One of the Clipper 09-10 Round the World competitors, Hull & Humber has been in the news this week for successfully rescuing a crew member who had fallen overboard in daylight, 25-30 knots of wind and six to eight metre waves. And all credit to them for their speedy response, the whole recovery taking just 17 minutes.

But it was an accident that I believe should not have happened.

The 51-year-old crew member was going off watch and moving towards the companionway when a large wave hit the yacht. He was knocked off his feet, across the deck and through the lifelines into the ocean.

Although he had his inflatable lifejacket on, he had broken one of the rules of safety at sea - he had unclipped his tether before he had climbed into the safety of the saloon.

On the other hand, Hull & Humber's crew had been well drilled in man overboard procedures while training before the start of the race.

After checking the survivor for signs of hypothermia and finding none, the skipper motored back to where the MOB button had been pressed and recommenced racing. But the Hull & Humber team did lose second place as a result and has been unable to catch its usurper, Uniquely Singapore .

You can subscribe to receive the Clipper Race Daily Updates by email.

2. Exceeding maximum hull speed

One of the great joys of sailing is when downwind conditions allow the helmsman to catch waves and surf, using the yacht's hull as a kind of giant surfboard. The feeling of the boat being picked up and carried along with increasing speed, before slowing falling off the back of the wave and getting ready to do it all again.

If the helmsman can keep the rudder aligned with the hull and make only minor adjustments to course, all aboard will really be experiencing champagne sailing.

This is just one of the times when you can go faster than what is otherwise known as 'maximum hull speed'.

Another time is when you are sailing with a current, whether in a river or other strong tidal area. And thirdly, sailing with a spinnaker can, in the right conditions, make the boat sail faster than the theoretical maximum hull speed.

I recall a friend talking about one Sydney-Hobart when he and the rest of the on-watch realised it was time to drop the spinnaker and change to a headsail. But only after the yacht had speared into the back of the wave ahead and, submerged back to the mast, stopped dead!

X. Whistling

"When you whistle for a wind, you should choose an air appropriate, such as 'Blow, gentle gales' or 'Winds, gently whisper'."
From Mr Punch Afloat, Educational Book Co, London, 1910.

Of course, whistling while at sea has long been frowned upon. Superstition has it that such whistling is at the devil, who then shows his anger by provoking stormy weather.

But sailors have no problems wetting their whistles when safely ashore at the end of a voyage.

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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Close encounters with whales + Deadlines should be avoided + Bosun's chair recall + Code Flag 'R' - 3 Nov 09

Some years ago during a Sydney-to-Hobart yacht race, we saw a pod of whales in Disaster Bay, just south of Eden on the far NSW South Coast. What we actually saw was a series of water spouts, rather like a geyser erupting. Appreciating their size and strength, we were glad we were giving them plenty of sea room. The crew in the following story, however, were not so lucky.

1. Close encounters with whales

People pay a lot of money to go out whale-watching, hoping to take really good close-ups of whales breaching but, for the crew of J/World, the whales got far too close. The yacht was one of 170 participating in the annual Baja Ha-Ha, a 750-mile cruising rally from San Diego, California to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Not long after a morning sked, the crew found they had sailed into the middle of a pod of whales. Then they felt a bang, then another. It seemed that one or more whales was attacking the J/120's rudder, breaking it and allowing the ocean to flood in.

The five people aboard tried pumping the water out but were unable to keep pace with the inflow. The decision was made to abandon ship.

The crew set off the EPIRB, picked up the grab bags and launched the liferaft. They also grabbed two handheld VHF radios, enabling them to talk to a Coast Guard helicopter that came to their rescue some four hours later. This sped up their safe recovery.

Meanwhile, it took only five to seven minutes for the yacht to sink. It was just as well they knew what to do and take with them when they abandoned ship.

2. Deadlines should be avoided

I have always said that whenever planning a voyage, prudent navigators/skippers should ensure they arrive in port in daylight.

One incident we read about last week highlights this. It was about Russ Day, owner of a 41-foot yacht that he ran aground on a beach in Florida. He broke one of the golden rules of sailing - his own.

"Normally it's my prime rule not to sail into and out of harbors at night," Day said. "But I ended up getting in late and tried to get into the harbor to anchor for the night."

A single-handed sailor, he admitted that he now plans to buy a chart plotter to keep track of his position and an auto pilot that will enable him to leave the helm when he's tired!

He was fortunate that locals volunteered to help him refloat the yacht, which was undamaged.

3. Bosun's chair recall

Australia's Burke Marine has issued a voluntary product recall of the Burke Deluxe Bosun Chair and Burke Standard Bosun Chair purchased Australia-wide after June 2007 that do not display either a production batch number or inspection label.

Owners should stop using the above models and contact Burke Marine to organise a free inspection and load testing.

It has been found that bosun's chairs manufactured in July and August 2007 may have been fitted with a defective stainless steel lifting ring that, if used, could split or break, causing injury or death.

Read the official product recall notice.

4. Code Flag 'R'

Code Flag 'R' has no single letter meaning and is, therefore, only used in combinations with others, e.g. 'BR' means 'I require a helicopter urgently'.

When yacht racing in some countries, Sailing Instructions may use Code flag 'R' to indicate that the course to be sailed should be reversed, i.e. competitors should go to the last mark first and all marks originally to be rounded to starboard should be rounded to port and vice versa.

Code flag 'R' is a red flag with a yellow cross, +, as shown below:

| Re Re | Re Re
| Re Re | Re Re
| ______|______
| Re Re | Re Re
| Re Re | Re Re
| (the vertical lines denote the flag pole)

That was the final flag of the alphabet.

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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An innovative way to measure time and distance + The Halloween Howl + Bravery or bravado? + Code Flag 'J' - 28 Oct 09

1. An innovative way to measure time and distance

We've been reading Alex Whitworth's blog of his voyage home to Sydney, Australia from Falmouth, UK. He recently described how he breaks down the distance into Berri or Berrimilla Units (named after his 10 metre yacht) in these two extracts:

In astronomy there's a unit of distance called an astronomical unit or AU. 1 AU is about 93 million miles, the distance from Earth to the Sun. In Berri, we have the Berri Unit or S2H which is about 630 miles [Sydney-to-Hobarts] or just over 10 deg of latitude.

Both an astronomical unit AU and a Berrimilla unit BU can be a rough measure of time - the AU being about 7.5 minutes, the time it takes light to cover the distance between the Sun and Earth, while a BU is about 5 days [later corrected to 6] at Berri's nominal and much more placid speed of 4 knots - a fast walk.

This whole voyage would be about 21 BU - sounds much easier to handle than 13,000 miles - and [as at 24 Oct 09] we've covered about 4 of them so 17 to go!

Note: the words in the [] are ours.

Alex updates Berrimilla's progress daily.

2. The Halloween Howl

Growing up in England neither of us had any notion of the fuss now made about Halloween. This week in our own street decorations have been appearing, particularly in the windows and doorways of homes with young children. And the annual 'trick or treat' doorknock will take place on Saturday evening.

While surfing the net recently we found a novel way of celebrating Halloween - the Halloween Howl. It's an annual regatta held at Newport, Rhode Island for sailors under 15 years of age on various types of dinghies, with attendant support boats (particularly important as it's so late in the season!).

As well as divisional prizes, there were awards for the best Halloween costumes.

Held last weekend, conditions on Saturday were quoted as:

The strong Fall southerly breeze never clocked below 14 knots and reached a steady 24 knots over the afternoon. Gusts over 28 knots were reported in the last race of the day.

Read more of the Halloween Howl story.

Must have been an exciting day's sailing!

3. Bravery or bravado?

Following on from the youngsters braving strong winds and the cooler temperatures, we're not sure whether Peter Burling and Blair Tuke should be certified! They completed the 120 nautical mile Cannonball Run to the Bay of Islands in New Zealand in a 49er, hitting top speeds over 20kts. The coastal trip took them nine and a half hours during which they recovered from four capsizes and two pitchpolings.

Although not part of the race fleet, after eight hours they were still close to several 50 footers. Not surprisingly, they too had a support boat with them. View some photos of the 49er in action.

4. Code Flag 'J'

The meaning of Code Flag 'J' is 'I am on fire and have dangerous cargo on board, keep well clear of me'.

It's a blue, white and blue flag, divided horizontally, i.e.
a blue flag with a white stripe across the centre, like this:

| Blue Blue Blue
| Blue Blue Blue
| White  White
| White  White
| Blue Blue Blue
| Blue Blue Blue
| (the vertical lines denote the flag pole)

Next week is the final flag of the alphabet, 'R'.

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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Scend - If you don't know what it means it might kill you + Offshore wind farms - How do they affect sailing? + Code Flag 'X' - 20 Oct 09

1. Scend - If you don't know what it means it might kill you

There have been several meanings of the word - most of which have fallen out of use. The important one from the sailor's point of view follows:

Scend is the distance from sea level to the bottom of the trough of a wave. The trough can be taken as being equal to the height of the wave above sea level, or more simply as half the height of the wave. This means that, with a 3m sea running over a bar, the depth available to you may be 1.5m less than you would have in a flat sea.

At sea, scend is irrelevant. It is only when a wave comes to shallow water that it becomes important. A prudent navigator will take scend into consideration when approaching shallow water, usually when entering the port, almost inevitably when crossing a bar into a river or harbour, and, much more dangerously, when approaching islands particularly in the Pacific Ocean.

The danger is increased when an onshore wind has blown for some days and built up a significant swell. When that swell 'feels' the shallowing water the height of the wave begins to increase - which means that the amount of scend increases, just as happens when a wave comes to a beach. This can be quite unnerving when the boat comes out of the calm of the lee of an island and meets this steep and possibly breaking wave.

But the hidden and more frightening fact is that there may not be enough water underneath the keel and the boat may run aground. The calculation a navigator should have in mind when estimating the depth of water in such circumstances is as follows:

a) To the depth of the keel should be added a safety margin. I always used to make that safety margin 100% of the depth of the keel. In other words I allowed for twice the keel's depth.

b) The next calculation is to work out the charted level of the sea and add the extra water caused by the state of the tide.

c) Next estimate the average height of the waves and take half that average and subtract it from the height of water you arrived at. This allows for the scend.

You will soon know whether you have enough water to be safe. If you have the slightest doubt about the safety margin, wait for calmer conditions or a higher tide.

Arriving at land or leaving the port can be the most dangerous time for a sailor. Remember the words of Sir James Hardy:
"It's not the oceans that you have to worry about, it's the crinkly bits on the edge."

2. Offshore wind farms - How do they affect sailing?

I've sailed through areas where oil rigs are located, but they are easy to see, day and night. Particularly at night, when they are lit up like Christmas trees. Of course, if a fog rolled in, it would make safe navigation much more of a challenge.

But what about wind farms?

Today I read an article written earlier this year announcing approval to build the world's largest offshore wind farm. To be built 12 miles off the Kent and Essex coasts of England it will be, not surprisingly, out of sight of land.

When complete, the farm will contain 341 giant wind turbines and generate 1,000 megawatts of electricity. It will cover 90 square miles of sea bed. Assuming that wind farms are off limits to shipping and recreational users, that's a large chunk of the Thames Estuary.

I don't suppose it will be too hard to miss, even in a UK fog.

You can read the story for yourself and see a map of the wind farm's location:

The story states that the wind farm will power the 750,000 homes in Kent and East Sussex and take 1.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide out of the air each year.

3. Code Flag 'X'

When used by ships Code Flag 'X' means 'Stop carrying out your intentions and watch for my signals'.

In yacht and dinghy racing Code Flag 'X' is displayed to indicate an individual recall. Rule 29.1 of the Racing Rules of Sailing 2009-2012 states:

When at a boat's starting signal any part of her hull, crew or equipment is on the course side of the starting line or she must comply with rule 30.1, the race committee shall promptly display flag X with one sound.

Code flag 'X' is a white flag with a blue cross, +, as shown below:

| White | White
| White | White
| _____|_____
| White | White
| White | White
| (the vertical lines denote the flag pole)

Next week's flag is 'J'.

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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A shocking overnight race + Australia II and that keel + Code Flag 'M' - 14 Oct 09

When we wrote about Excalibur last week, we had no idea that there'd be a serious yachting accident on the weekend. Here are some of the details.

1. A shocking overnight race

The yachting fraternity in Australia has been shocked by the deaths of two experienced sailors, Andrew Short and Sally Gordon. They died when Short's 24.4 metre yacht was smashed to pieces on Flinders Islet, off Port Kembla at 2.55 am on Saturday 10 October. The remaining 16 crew members were rescued, including two of Short's sons.

From reading the available reports, this is what may have happened. The yacht rounded the islet, a turning mark of the overnight race from Sydney. Apparently there was little wind but the ocean swell had built up after several days of heavy south easterlies.

After rounding the islet the yacht Chinese-jibed and then was picked up by a series of swells that carried it sideways and onto the rocks. Attempts to get the yacht to safety using the motor failed.

Of the three people who were washed overboard, Short's 19 year old son was the only survivor. The rest of the crew managed to scramble ashore.

Safety authorities were alerted by activation of the yacht's EPIRB and three red flares were spotted by other competitors, who immediately began to search the water for survivors.

We expect much more detail to be available when the report for the coroner has been produced.

2. Australia II and that keel

Anybody who's been interested in the America's Cup will have seen claims by the Dutchman, Peter van Oossanen, that he and a Dutch design team were responsible for the winged keel that led to Australia winning the cup in 1983. He claims that Ben Lexcen, the Australian designer responsible for the yacht had "between five and ten per cent" input into the keel design.

It's a bit tough, to say the least, to make such a claim after years and years of silence and many years after the death of the man most people have believed to be the designer.

What is more, it seems rather hard to believe since Ben Lexcen had, many years before the 1983 America's Cup races, put a winged keel on a Sydney 18-footer he had designed - called Taipan.

The reason given at the time for Lexcen to go to Holland was that tank testing facilities there were far more sophisticated than those in Australia.

Of course, if van Oossanen's claims are correct the Australian camp would have to give such a reason to prevent their keel being banned by the Americans. It could have been that what Lexcen was trying to do was to measure the forces involved in transferring a dinghy design to a powerful yacht hull.

We'll probably never know the truth but I consider it a shame that such a claim should be made when the person most affected by it cannot defend himself.

If you want to make up your own mind , there's an excellent article about Ben Lexcen reprinted from Seahorse Magazine on the Scuttlebutt website.

3. Code Flag 'M'

Code flag 'M' meaning, 'My vessel is stopped and making no way through the water'.

In appearance 'M' is a blue flag with a white or St. Andrew's cross. It's similar to the Scottish national flag. No graphic this week.

Next week's flag is 'X'.

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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Losing the keel + Port and starboard + More on sailing goose-winged + Code Flag 'L' - 6 Oct 09

1. Losing the keel

Last night we watched Part I of an Australian Story of the yacht Excalibur that lost its keel off the NSW coast in 2002. It's told by the yacht's owners, who were not aboard, and the two survivors. Four crew members, who were below deck, died.

It's worth watching to learn how the two managed to escape from underneath the yacht. Also how they had to survive for seven hours in the water, despite having set off a PLB at the outset.

You can watch a replay on ABC iView:

Warning from their website:
It's high fidelity, full-screen video for high speed internet users (ADSL2/1.1Mbps connection speeds). Accessing content via this service may affect your internet service provider download limits.

Hearing about yachts that lost their keels always reminds me how lucky I was not to have been skipper of Rising Farrster, a Farr 38 that lost its keel off the north NSW coast in 2001 with the loss of two lives.

It's sobering how often keel failure leads to loss of life.

2. Port and Starboard

Giving way to boats approaching on starboard is one of the standard rules of navigating safely, but what happens if you see a yacht sailing straight downwind under spinnaker? Can you be certain where her boom is, i.e. which tack she is on?

In the COLREGS, Rule 12 tells exactly what you should do in this situation:

(iii) If a vessel with the wind on the port side sees a vessel to windward and cannot determine with certainty whether the other vessel has the wind on the port or on the starboard side, she shall keep out of the way of the other.

When you are out on the water you really need to know the rules. You won't have time to check the rule book.

Our interactive Rules of the Road gives you the opportunity to learn, revise and test yourself. It'NauticalKnowledge.htm" class="one">Nautical Knowledge - the knowledge every sailor needs, whether cruising or racing, offshore or inshore.

3. More on sailing goose-winged

On reading last week's newsletter on how to sail goose-winged, our Tasmanian-based Affiliate, Simon Firth commented bluntly:
" ...or sail 5% by the lee ... and bugger a spinnaker pole!"

To which I replied:
"Well said! But can the average helmsman achieve this safely?"

4. Code Flag 'L'

The meaning of Code Flag 'L' is an instruction, 'Stop your vessel instantly'.

It's a yellow and black quartered flag, yellow at the upper hoist and yellow at the lower fly.

| Yellow Black
| Yellow Black
| Black Yellow
| Black Yellow
| (the vertical lines denote the flag pole)

Next week's flag is 'M'.

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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How to sail goose-winged + Racing to Lord Howe Island + Code Flag 'Y' - 29 Sep 09

Firstly, thanks to Mike Kingdom-Hockings for reminding us during the week that the yachting fraternity is familiar with Code Flag 'S' as the signal for shortening course. 

1. How to sail goose-winged

Although much less demanding than sailing with a spinnaker, there is still an important sequence of steps to follow when setting up your boat to sail downwind with a poled-out headsail, otherwise known as goose-winged. The various tasks are split between the crew member at the mast and another in the cockpit.

But first, a word of warning. At all times the spinnaker pole should remain attached, whether to the topping lift, downhaul or a deck fitting. If not, there is a very real risk that it may be lost overboard.

Cockpit: Ease topping lift and downhaul.
Mast: Attach the topping lift and downhaul (kicker) to the spinnaker pole. 

Mast: Clip the inboard end of the pole to the mast fitting.
Cockpit: Ease windward sheet.

Mast: Slot the windward sheet into the beak of the pole.

Mast: Lift the pole over the lifelines.
Cockpit: Pull on the topping lift to raise the pole to the desired height, while easing the downhaul to maintain control of the pole.

Trimmer: Pull on the jib sheet so that the sail fills, with the clew held firmly at the end of the spinnaker pole.


2. Racing to Lord Howe Island

Competitors in the 36th Gosford to Lord Howe Island Race run by the Gosford Sailing Club will set out from Broken Bay on 31 October. After completing the 414 nm race, the yachts anchor in the lagoon, overlooked by Mounts Gower and Lidgbird and enjoy the island's hospitality.

Having competed in this yacht race several times, I was interested to read about a proposed new race. Starting on Mother's Day 2010 (I can't imagine that being a popular move) competitors will sail from Newcastle to Lord Howe and back, non-stop. 

If you've ever been to Lord Howe you'd have to agree that it's almost criminal to treat the island as a turning mark. 

Awarded a World Heritage listing in 1982, it's got to be one of the most beautiful places in the Pacific, if not the world. And it remains that way because it limits the number of visitors that can be there at any time and maintains a sustainable environment.

3. Code Flag 'Y'

Before discussing today's flag, you may remember that last week we asked what indicates going ahead. The answer is a two-flag signal - QD - i.e. the 'quarantine' flag coupled with that for 'keep clear'. It makes sense, doesn't it?

Code Flag 'Y' is flown to indicate 'I am dragging my anchor. It can also mean 'I am carrying mails'.

In appearance it's a flag with five yellow bars intersected with five red bars, diagonally placed, yellow as the topmost and red the lowest bar. Or, in formal signalling language yellow at upper hoist, red at lower fly. 

Once again, we regret that it's beyond our capacity to illustrate this flag in text format. :-(

Next week's flag is 'L'.

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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Ever experienced a 24-hour race? + Rules of the Road + Code Flag 'S' - 22 Sep 09

1. Ever experienced a 24-hour race?

For most yacht racers, the concept of a 24-hour race is an unusual one, being a distance over time competition. We are far more accustomed to either racing around-the-cans by day or competing in an overnighter, rounding an island some distance from the starting point before heading for home. In those cases, the results are determined by time over distance.

There are several well-known annual 24-hour races, e.g. in UK organised by the West Lancashire Yacht Club's race for Enterprise, GP14 and Lark dinghies and in New Zealand by Murrays Bay Sailing Club for Lasers.

In both these cases, the dinghies are sailed by crew members in rotating shifts, with the 'off watch' going ashore to eat and rest. The New Zealanders even have a Le Mans-style start!

The Heaven Can Wait 24 Hour Race to be held on 3-4 October on Lake Macquarie is for keelboats, including multihulls and even yachts with movable ballast.

While the sailing should be far less strenuous than on the dinghies, navigating around the course will demand some skill. If the night is clear, however, crews will be able to take advantage of the full moon.

Yachts in the race may be less than 20 ft LOA provided there is 'an adequate Cabin to provide adequate shelter for crew when not required of the working deck'.

No comment is made in the Notice of Race about facilities for providing hot drinks, snacks and meals! We both agree that we'd want to be on a larger, more substantial racer/ cruiser.

And finally, all funds raised from the entry fees will be donated to the Cancer Council NSW and the Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol Swansea - two services we all hope we won't need to use, but that are there to help is if we do.

2. Rules of the Road

Most people know the basic rules, e.g. give way to starboard, that they observe almost every time they sail. But there are a number of rules that you may only need when sailing elsewhere, including abroad.

For example, which side do you need to keep when navigating in a narrow channel? And, what right of way should you allow to vessels fishing?

We have just launched the Nautical Knowledge - a stand-alone download comprising five interactive quizzes.

This means that you can learn, revise and then test yourself not just on the Rules of the Road but also on four other key areas of safety and seamanship: Buoyage; IALA regions A and B; Navigation Lights; Signal Flags; and Fog and other Sound Signals.

Keep yourself, your crew and your yacht safe. Download the Nautical Knowledge.

3. Code Flag 'S'

Displaying Code Flag 'S' means 'My engines are going astern' but you're far more likely to hear the three short blasts that vessels are required to give.

In appearance 'S' is the reverse of Code Flag 'P'. In other words, it's a white flag with a blue square in the centre, as shown:
| Wh Wh Wh Wh Wh
| Wh Bl Bl Bl Wh
| Wh Bl Bl Bl Wh
| Wh Bl Bl Bl Wh
| Wh Wh Wh Wh Wh
| (the vertical lines denote the flag pole)

So, if 'S' means that a vessel is going astern, what indicates going ahead?

We'll share the answer next week, together with Code Flag 'Y'.

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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New product launched, Nautical Knowledge + Code Flags 'E' and 'I' - 15 Sep 09

Our newsletter is shorter than usual, but that's because we have some exciting news.

1. New product launched - Nautical Knowledge

We've got great news for you and everybody who's interested in or needs to know the basic regulations that control our sport and our safety.

We've brought together the five interactive quizzes of The Boating Bible Manual of Seamanship and developed them into the perfect learning, testing and reference tool – the Nautical Knowledge.

They now break into clear cut sections.

The first is where you can learn the lights, the buoys, the sounds, the flags and the rules of the road. It is also where you can revise as often as you feel you need to.

The second is where you use the quizzes to test yourself. The order of the questions is randomised so that you won't know what comes next.

Nautical Knowledge is available to you for the rest of your life as a reference which you can keep on your laptop on board or on your computer at home.

Each of the subjects is separate but you can access them through a single download onto either a PC or a Mac. And it's only AU$9.95.

To order the Nautical Knowledge and/or see more information about it, here's your link:

2. Code Flags 'E' and 'I'

When selecting Code Flag 'E' this week, I realised that I should include its opposite, Code Flag 'I' at the same time.

Code Flag 'E' means 'I am altering my course to starboard', while Code Flag 'I' means 'I am altering my course to port'.

Code Flag 'E' has the upper half blue and the lower red, as shown:

| Blue Blue Blue
| Blue Blue Blue
| Blue Blue Blue
| Red Red Red
| Red Red Red
| Red Red Red
| (the vertical lines denote the flag pole)

Code Flag 'I' is a yellow flag with a black ball in the centre and inaccurately depicted below as:

| Yellow Yellow Yellow
| Yellow Yellow Yellow
| Yellow Ye Bl Ye Yellow
| Yellow Bl Bl Bl Yellow
| Yellow Ye Bl Ye Yellow
| Yellow Yellow Yellow
| (the vertical lines denote the flag pole)

Next week, we'll look at Code Flag 'S'.

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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Clipper Round the World 09-10 + What is true wind? + What is apparent wind? + Code flag 'D' - 8 Sep 09

For as long as I can remember, I've been a believer in one design racing. Racing against boats of the same design means that success is achieved by superior boat handling, navigation and tactics, to say nothing of stamina and determination.

1. Clipper Round the World 09-10

After following the fully-crewed yachts in the Volvo Ocean Race and the single-handers in the Vendee Globe, it's now time to watch the progress of the Clipper competitors, starting from Humber in the UK on Sunday.

The fleet for the Clipper Round the World 09-10 are ten identical 68 ft yachts, crewed by people from all walks of life, representing more than 230 professions and 33 nationalities!

I have an added interest in the race in that I know one of the skippers, Jim Dobie (Uniquely Singapore). He was previously a sailing instructor with Flying Fish Australia where I presented master classes on seamanship - heavy weather sailing and knots and ropework - to students of their skipper development course for many years.

The boxing kangaroo, made famous during the 1983 America's Cup, will be proudly displayed on Spirit of Australia , another of the competitors.

Although all positions have been filled for 2009-10, you're invited to sign up now for 2011-12 . No prior sailing experience is necessary, but it's certainly not for the faint-hearted!

2. What is true wind?

True wind is the wind as it blows naturally. It changes speed and direction just about all the time. You can watch its effect on your electronic wind instruments or masthead wind indicator, while sitting on your yacht in its marina berth, on a mooring or at anchor.

To sail effectively the helmsman has to react to changes in wind strength and direction by steering to maintain the most effective angle to the wind. Alternatively the crew have to trim or ease the sails or, when experiencing strengthening winds, change down the headsail and reef the main.

Now for the complication.

3. What is apparent wind?

As the boat moves through the water when beating, the wind appears to be coming from ahead of its true direction. That's why it's called 'apparent wind'. And, at the same time as appearing to change direction, the wind appears to increase in speed.

What this means is that if you're on a boat running at eight knots in an 18 knot wind the apparent wind will be 10 knots. But if you harden up onto the wind, the boat speed will drop to about five knots and the apparent wind 'strengthen' to 23 knots.

In the meantime, the true wind, although not constant, will have maintained basically the same strength and direction.

4. Code Flag 'D'

Code Flag 'D' is the 'Keep clear' signal. When used in the combination 'DV', i.e.  with Code Flag 'V', the meaning is 'I am drifting'.

It's a yellow flag with a wide central horizontal blue stripe, as shown:

| Yellow Yellow
| Blue Blue Blue
| Blue Blue Blue
| Blue Blue Blue
| Yellow Yellow
| (the vertical lines denote the flag pole)

Next week, we'll learn about two flags, Code Flag 'E' and 'I'.

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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Putting out a fire + Do your crew members have the skills to rescue you? + Code flag 'W' - 1 Sep 09

For most of us, the annual safety audit is just another occasion when we have to buy something we hope we'll never have to use. But do you know how to use the various items of safety equipment we are compelled to have on board?

1. Putting out a fire

Have you ever read the instructions on your fire extinguisher? In an emergency, you're more likely to grab and activate it.

If you read how to operate the extinguisher, say once a year when you're checking its use by date, you will remember what to do.

And here's an easy mnemonic to help you remember - PASS:

P ull the ring pin.
A im the nozzle at the base of the fire, holding the extinguisher upright.
S queeze or press the lever, while standing approx. 8 feet from the fire.
S weep the extinguisher from side to side at the base of the fire until it goes out.

2. Do your crew members have the skills to rescue you?

Almost always, when practicing man overboard drills, the skipper helms the boat and directs the crew in what to do. Obviously, this is the most sensible division of labour when the skipper is on the boat but what happens if you, the skipper, go overboard? Does your crew have enough sailing experience to manoeuvre the boat back and pick you up?

What I'm suggesting is that next time you take your boat out you give your crew some practice. Drop a buoyant 'man' over the stern, call "Man overboard" and move away from the helm. Try to find a spot where you can keep out of the way of your crew so that they can take control of the boat, keep a look-out and get back to rescue the 'man'.

If you sail regularly with the same crew you may already have a second-in-command who can take over. If not, you may want to nominate a person each time you go sailing.

Valuable time can be wasted while crew absorb the shock of their skipper being lost in the water.

If I were ever to fall overboard, I'd want to be very confident that my crew would retrieve me as quickly as I would rescue one of them!

3. Code Flag 'W'

Represented by 'Whiskey' in the phonetic alphabet, Code Flag 'W' means 'I require medical assistance'. But we all know that crew with injuries or hypothermia should not be given alcohol under any circumstances.

Code Flag 'W' is a red rectangle in the centre of Code Flag 'P' (a blue flag with a white rectangular centre), as shown:

| Bl Bl Bl Bl Bl Bl
| Bl Wh Wh Wh Bl
| Bl Wh Re Wh Bl
| Bl Wh Wh Wh Bl
| Bl Bl Bl Bl Bl Bl
| (the vertical lines denote the flag pole)

Next week's flag is 'D'. 

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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Know your boat and what's on board + There's nothing new under the sun + Code Flag 'K' - 26 Aug 09

1. Know your boat and what's on board

It doesn't matter whether you are cruising or racing the following is true:

The more you know about your boat, the safer you will be and, in the case of racing, the better you will perform.

When you really learn your boat inside out, you will know not only when to begin shortening sail but also the best sequence for it. For example, trial and error will show whether you need to reef the main before changing down to the number three. This decision will almost certainly be based on whether your boat is masthead rigged or fractional.

Make sure you have all the safety gear that's required and that you and your crew know where it is stowed. Everyone should also know how to use it.

One way to discover exactly what you have on board is to work around, particularly below deck and empty each locker and hidey hole in turn.

You are likely to find all sorts of 'treasures', things that have been stowed hastily, perhaps by a visitor and 'lost' – a winch handle that hasn't been seen for months, your favourite hat or wind-seeking sunglasses (no racer should be without a pair).

2. There's nothing new under the sun

Sail magazine's August issue has featured the 'Lewmar sliding bolt track and Ocean series towable genoa cars'.

That sounds very flash but I set up exactly that sort of control on one of my boats – an H28 – 40 years ago. And when I wrote the first edition of The Boating Bible in 1991 I illustrated it with the caption 'With this sliding car system the jib sheet can be adjusted in any conditions and under load.'

Below is the illustration of the system as published in the book.

Sliding car system for jib sheets
Have a look at it and then use this link to see the 'modern' version:

One of the advantages, according to the magazine, is that in short-handed sailing the sailor does not have to leave the cockpit to adjust the sail.

If you wanted to facilitate headsail changes you could have a second track inside the first. The inner track would be for windward work and the outer one for off the wind, allowing for the 'barberhaul effect'.

3. Code Flag 'K'

In the phonetic alphabet 'K' is 'kilo'. It's meaning is 'I wish to communicate'. As we've said before, nowadays there are many easier ways to 'speak' to another vessel. Most commonly used is Channel 16.

Code Flag 'K' is made up of two vertical stripes of yellow and blue, as shown:

| Yellow Blue
| Yellow Blue
| Yellow Blue
| Yellow Blue
| (the vertical lines denote the flag pole)

Next week's flag is 'W'.

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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Anchoring before and during a yacht race + EPIRBs + Code Flag 'V' - 19 Aug 09

1. Anchoring before and during a yacht race

When most of us think of the Fastnet race, we think of strong winds and bumpy seas. Watching Berrimilla's erratic progress towards Fastnet Rock on the RORC yacht tracking software last week painted a very different picture. In fact, twice during the race she anchored to prevent being carried away from the Rock by the tide.

Anchoring before or during a race is not something that we often do in Australia. But one Wednesday afternoon, just before the start, when the wind dropped out and the tide started pushing us away from the starting line, we did drop our anchor.

We watched as the rest of the fleet was carried several hundred metres behind the start line. It was unfortunate for us that the breeze filled in from astern, bringing the fleet with it and so our 'advantage' was lost.

There was a lively debate back in the clubhouse about whether it was legal to anchor. It is legal, provided that you don't kedge (pull the boat forward on the anchor). In other words, you may only raise the anchor when the boat begins to sail forward and takes the tension off the anchor rope.

In the Fastnet, Alex and Pete on Berrimilla anchored firstly when:
"Out almost over the Shingles ... falling breeze not enough to carry us over the incoming tide. Anchored in 125 ft of water, about 3kts of tide. Pete on anchor watch and I'm going to try to get some sleep. We drifted back 250 metres before we decided to anchor."

And then later spent "about 10 hours anchored or going backwards and sideways in the tide at Land's End".

I imagine a number of yachts in the Fastnet fleet did likewise. One hopes they had their anchor lights on!


I learnt three things about EPIRBs from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority at the recent Boat Show:

i) You probably know that satellite processing of 121.5 MHz EPIRBs ceased on 1 February this year. But did you know that from 1 February 2010 it will be illegal to activate a 121.5 MHz EPIRB and will attract stiff penalties and fines?

ii) If you haven't already bought a 406 MHz EPIRB for your boat, one of the decisions you will need to make is whether to buy a brand offering a reconditioned replacement EPIRB. The advantage of this is not having to be without an EPIRB for two to three weeks while it is being serviced. The disadvantage is that you have to update its registration number. 

iii) This is obvious, when you think of it. If you're buying an EPIRB to stow in a grab bag, i.e. not mounting it in its bracket, make sure you choose a manually operated EPIRB. Some types of EPIRB have water-activated switches which are armed when taken out of or incorrectly positioned in their mounting bracket.

3. Code flag 'V'

The meaning of code flag 'V' is 'I require assistance'. It's a white flag with a red X on it.

Next week we'll look at code flag 'K'.

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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Proper look-out + Fastnet 2009 + Fastnet 1979 + Code Flag 'T' - 11 Aug 09

1. Keeping a proper look-out

As sailors, we are required* to maintain a proper look-out at all times. This is particularly important when you're sailing hard on the wind as the headsail may obscure a large section of the sea. And if you're the helmsman, on port tack and hard on the wind, you will be unable to see vessels to your right to which you must give way.

When you think about it, if the wind is moderate to strong, leaning down and straining to see around the sail is not really an option for the helmsman.

If it's a light day, however, and you're sitting to leeward, you will be able to see around the genoa and identify the boats that you have to give way to. But you won't be able to see those approaching from windward, who may need calling to become aware of your presence and right of way.

This is why a good skipper will assign crew members to provide information on approaching vessels - position, distance off and course.

For example, before the start of a race you'll often see a person on the foredeck keeping a look-out for the helmsman so that the boat can be steered safely through the fleet as everyone competes for the best starting position.

* See our blog post, 'Maintaining a proper look-out' for the actual rule.

2. Fastnet 2009

This year, being unable to confirm arrangements with the Russians to return to Australia via the North East Passage, Alex Whitworth and Peter Crozier are competing in the double-handed division aboard Berrimilla. The race started on Sunday and Alex and Pete hope/expect to finish by Friday.

Track their progress in both Class 2 Handed and IRC 3B.

In the first 24 hours of the race nearly all the yachts' tracks showed circles or squiggles as there was little wind and they were carried by the tide.

3. 1979 Fastnet

You're probably aware that this year is the 30th anniversary of the stormy 1979 Fastnet when 15 sailors lost their lives and 23 yachts were abandoned or sank.

At that time, it was not a requirement to carry a VHF marine radio. An inquiry into that Fastnet found that 55 of the 235 yachts who responded to a post-race survey did not.

Read the full report and recommendations on the Yachting and Boating World website.

A number of yachts experienced steering failure during the race and had no means of repair or replacement. Emergency steering equipment became mandatory as a result.

The inquiry into the race found that six people died when their harnesses broke or the attachment point failed. Recommendation: harnesses should be fixed to strong points and two tethers used in extreme conditions.

Safety in yacht races has come a long way since then, for example with tracking systems and personal locator beacons. But it's impossible to guarantee no lives will be lost.

And the following rule still applies:
"It is the sole and exclusive responsibility of each yacht to decide whether or not to start or to continue to race."
RORC Special Regulations 1979

4. Code flag 'T'

The meaning of this flag is 'Keep clear of me; I am engaged in pair trawling', i.e. it is displayed by both vessels who are trawling for fish side by side. One would certainly want to keep clear to avoid getting entangled in their nets and lines.

The 'T' flag has three vertical stripes, namely red, white and blue.

| Red White Blue
| Red White Blue
| Red White Blue
| Red White Blue
| Red White Blue
| (the vertical lines denote the flag pole)

The flag for next week is 'V'.

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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Boat show highlights + Bounty correction + S&S 34 + Tsunami update + Code flag 'H' - 4 Aug 09

Time to 'fess up. When we said last week that we'd be going to the Boat Show, it wasn't true. Actually, Annie was deputised to attend as, these days, I'm not able to do the amount of walking and standing around required.

She picked up heaps of brochures and other info from the exhibitors which will take some time to ponder and we will report on what we think may be of value or interest in coming weeks.

1. Boat Show highlights

Annie returned from the Boat Show last Thursday evening, exhausted but full of enthusiasm.

But not so much for the new marine hardware and software on display, both in the halls and on the marina, as for the talks given by the sailing adventurers (Pete Goss and Don McIntyre), crazy kayakers (James Castrission and Justin Jones) and would- be circumnavigator (Jessica Watson). She even bought James's book, Crossing the Ditch!

During the day she caught up with two of our Affiliates - Mariner Boating Holidays and Pacific Sailing School (PSS). In fact, the Mariner team displayed  The Boating Bible Manual of Seamanship on their stand to encourage visitors to enter a lucky draw for a single disk from the range. 

2. Bounty re-enactment - correction

Don McIntyre is planning to re-enact Bligh's 1789 voyage (3,618 nautical miles) from Tonga to Timor next year but not in a replica of the 23 ft open boat. Don has built a replica of a whale boat which is very similar to Shackleton's vessel.

Perhaps he'll re-enact that voyage after the Bounty one - it would certainly be a change of climate!

A replica of the original vessel, Child of Bounty, was on display at the Boat Show. It's hard to imagine how its captain and crew survived 47 days at sea in it.

3. The S&S 34 - a great yacht design

Annie listened to Jessica Watson being interviewed and also spoke to her briefly. She assures me that Jessica is a very level-headed young woman.

Jessica said she was particularly pleased to have met Jesse Martin recently. She discovered that he's not much bigger than she is!

Her boat, an S&S 34 which as been fully refurbished, is now named Pink Lady. I sailed my first two Sydney-Hobarts on an S&S 34 so I know what a sturdy boat they are.

And, of course, it's not the first time an S&S 34 has been chosen for a solo, non-stop, unassisted circumnavigation - Peri Banou (Jon Sanders, twice around non-stop, 1981-82) and Lionheart (Jesse Martin, 1999).

In 1996 David Dicks, then aged 17, was forced to accept assistance from the British Navy after damaging his mast. Their delivery of a replacement bolt for the mast prevented his being an unassisted voyage. His yacht, Seaflight, was yet another S&S 34.

3. Tsunami update

After last week's tsunami story, here's a comment we received from Mike Kingdom-Hockings of

That Tsunami warning must have been pretty worrying - 7.8 is a big 'quake. However, in the open ocean, a tsunami's energy is carried by a very low-amplitude, long wave travelling very fast. It's when that wave enters a big shallow region (like around the China Sea) that it gets slowed down and transfers its energy to the amplitude (height) of the wave. I thought the ocean was mostly pretty deep between NZ and Australia, and any local shelf too narrow to have a chance of slowing a tsunami very much.
Am I wrong?

And no, Mike, you are absolutely correct.

4. Code flag 'H'

After last week's flag, 'G' meaning 'Want a Pilot', it should come as no surprise that Code flag 'H' means 'Pilot on board'. This flag is made up of two vertical stripes, as shown:

| White Red
| White Red
| White Red
| White Red
| White Red
| (the vertical lines denote the flag pole)

Next week's flag will be 'T'.

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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What's new? + Helped by an Anchor light + Tsunami that wasn't + Code flag 'G' - 29 Jul 09

1. What's new at the Sydney International Boat Show?

Tomorrow is the opening day of the Sydney International Boat Show - - and we'll be going along to check out what's new and report back on what may be of value to you.

Hopefully, there'll be time to sit in on one or more of the talks by,
for example:

  • Pete Goss, who completed the voyage from England to Australia earlier this year in the 37 ft wooden Cornish lugger, Mystery, which will be on display.
  • Don McIntyre, who is planning a re-enactment of Bligh's voyage from Tonga to Timor next year (2010) in a replica of the 23 ft open boat.
  • Jessica Watson, who hopes to become the youngest person to complete a single-handed, unassisted, non-stop circumnavigation.

2. Helped by an anchor light

Some ago I was delivering a Hobart race boat back to Sydney for the owner and we had decided to go into Wineglass Bay on Tasmania's East Coast. It was a nasty night, not severe but very unpleasant with scudding rain.

There's a lighthouse at Wineglass Bay but it's useless for navigation unless one is simply going past. There's nothing to cross refer with and so it doesn't tell you when you would need to turn into Wineglass Bay.

The bay is, as it sounds, like a wine glass, very wide at the opening, then narrowing into a 'stem', then widening again into a beach which forms the base. The beach is a 40 minute walk long, but the 'stem' of the glass is probably only 200m wide - through which one has to navigate.

There wasn't a glimmer of light to help us. I had two people in the bow keeping a look out and one of them shouted they could see a glow of lights near where we thought the anchorage was.

I surmised, tentatively, that they were from the anchor lights of other vessels anchored in safety. It proved to be so and it was only because of that that we dared to continue into the safety and comfort of Wineglass Bay.

So, please remember that if you're anchoring for the night, display an anchor light. This single white all-round light will alert other mariners to your boat's existence and could help sailors like me.

3. The tsunami that wasn't

At 7.22 pm (AEST*) on 15 July an earthquake measuring 7.8 magnitude occurred at a depth of 33 km approximately 160 km west of Invercargill on New Zealand's South Island.

A tsunami warning was issued by the Bureau of Meteorology for the east coast of Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales, including Lord Howe Island, where people were evacuated from low-lying accommodation for several hours. Waves were expected to hit Lord Howe, any time between 9.30 pm and midnight.

We were particularly concerned because my daughter and her children were holidaying on the South Coast of NSW, staying in cabins located on a flood plain. Our attempts to contact her failed as there was no mobile (cell) phone reception.

As it turned out, the waves generated were less than 8 inches in height and so the warnings were cancelled.

*Australian Eastern Standard Time

4. Code flag 'G'

Code flag 'G' means 'Want a pilot', i.e. a ship displaying this signal flag is waiting for a pilot to come aboard and take control of the vessel's progress, whether in or out of a port or through a narrow passage where local knowledge is essential.

This flag is made up of yellow and blue vertical stripes as shown:

| Ye Bl Ye Bl Ye Bl
| Ye Bl Ye Bl Ye Bl
| Ye Bl Ye Bl Ye Bl
| Ye Bl Ye Bl Ye Bl
| Ye Bl Ye Bl Ye Bl
| (the vertical lines denote the flag pole)

Next week's flag will be 'H'.

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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Not a world record + Stormy weather + Flinders, the navigator + Code flag 'Z' - 21 Jul 09

1. Not a world record

We were pleased to read an editorial by Brad Hampton on the website disputing Zac Sunderland being proclaimed the world record holder as the youngest solo circumnavigator. Sunderland's achievement, while considerable, simply does not equate with Jesse Martin's voyage, completed in October 1999 at the age of 18. Martin sailed his yacht, Lionheart, solo, non-stop and unassisted around the world in 327 days*. Sunderland, on the other hand, motored on a number of occasions, including through the Panama Canal.

To be fair, Sunderland is not claiming that his voyage matched Martin's. But, as part of the yachting fraternity and at risk of being derided, we wanted to distinguish between a motor-assisted voyage and a true sailing world record - one ratified by the World Speed Sailing Record Council (WSSRC). WSSRC is the only internationally recognised official body overseeing sailing records.

*Interestingly, the first to sail single-handed around the world,
Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, took 313 days in 1969.

2. Stormy weather

Our link to the London Daily Telegraph - Yacht left high and dry in boat race  - prompted the following comment from one of our Affiliates, Mike Kingdom-Hockings of

"I reckon Manning was very lucky. Looks as if he got the keel jammed between rocks strong enough to hold the boat upright. If he'd laid over on that stuff, with the usual Atlantic swell, he'd have done a lot of damage even without the stormy weather they often get..."

If you want to see an example of the 'stormy weather' he's talking about, go to his site, scroll down and play the YouTube video. 

3. Flinders, the navigator

Continuing the story from last week...

Five days after the survivors had struggled ashore from their shipwreck on Wreck Reef, Captain Flinders launched a six-oar cutter they named Hope. Together with the captain of the Cato and 12 crew, Flinders set out to navigate over 700 miles back to Sydney - no easy feat in an open boat.

After arriving in Sydney in the evening of 8 September Flinders busied himself organising ships to rescue the 80 men who had been left behind on the reef.

With the help of Governor King, Flinders set out in charge of three ships. He had command of the Cumberland and would continue to England. The Rolla was a merchant ship bound for China, while the Francis was to return to Sydney. The Cumberland was very small - only 29 tons - so could carry only a small crew. When rescued, the rest of the men were given the choice of destination, China or Sydney.

A crewman on the Rolla spotted the ensign on the flagstaff six weeks to the day after the Hope had set out. Arriving at Wreck Reef they found that the men had already built one of the two ships that they'd been ordered to construct by Captain Flinders. This was with the aim of rescuing themselves should the voyage of the Hope have failed.

That Flinders reached Sydney in the Hope is evidence of his determination to rescue his crew. That he returned to find the tiny Wreck Reef is a testament to the accuracy of his cartography and navigation skills.

4. Code flag 'Z'

Code flag 'Z' means 'I require a tug'. The flag is divided into four segments diagonally, the left segment (against the mast) is black, right segment is blue, the upper is yellow and the lower red.

| Ye Ye Ye Ye Ye
| Bk Ye Ye Ye Bl
| Bk Bk Ye Bl Bl
| Bk Bk Re Bl Bl
| Bk Re Re Re Bl
| Re Re Re Re Re
| (the vertical lines denote the flag pole)

Next week's flag will be 'G'.

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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''Embarrassing misjudgement'' + Code for distress + Another distress signal - 14 Jul 09

1.  An 'embarrassing misjudgement' or two

A few days ago a sailing mate of mine sent a photo of a utility truck towing a motorboat on a trailer. Nothing unusual in that, you say. But it was on a boat ramp, the vehicle's bonnet was under water and its cabin nearly submerged. The trailer's wheels, on the other hand, had only just entered the water.

Two men, one the undoubtedly very embarrassed owner, had attached a towrope to the trailer to prevent further progress down the ramp.

The email subject was: "I don't think we're doing it right".

Now picture this. A yacht, high and dry, on rocks! And upright! The owner/navigator, a man with 40 years' successful racing in tidal areas still managed to do this. He admitted that there had been an 'embarrassing misjudgement'.

View the photo and read the full story in the London Daily Telegraph:
Yacht left high and dry in boat race

2. Code for distress

Code flag 'N' means 'No' and 'C' means 'Yes'. When displayed together as 'NC', the meaning is 'I am in distress and need immediate assistance'. Just like a 'Mayday', displaying 'NC' is an internationally recognised distress signal.

So what do these two flags look like?

Code flag 'N' a blue and white checked flag:

| B W B W
| W B W B
| B W B W
| W B W B
| (the vertical lines denote the flag pole)

Code flag 'C' has five horizontal stripes as follows:

| Blue stripe
| White stripe
| Red stripe
| White stripe
| Blue stripe
| (the vertical lines denote the flag pole)

The next flag we will tell you about is 'Z'.

3. Another distress signal

After his successful circumnavigation of Australia and the mapping of much of the coastline, Captain Matthew Flinders set out from Sydney to return to the UK. He was aboard HMS Porpoise, in company with the Cato and the Bridgewater who were bound for Batavia (modern-day Jakarta).

A week into the voyage disaster struck. The crew saw breaking seas not far ahead. Captain and crew were unable to prevent the Porpoise from running aground on an uncharted reef. Before they could warn the Cato she too ran aground on what Flinders called Wreck Reef.

The Bridgewater managed to avoid not just the reef but also her responsibility to render assistance. Her captain later claimed that all aboard the two other ships had been lost and he had sailed off.

As it was, all but three young lads survived, the survivors camping on land just six feet above high water mark. Provisions were rescued from the wrecks, together with Flinders' charts and notebooks.

Had he stood by to search for survivors, the Bridgewater's captain would have seen that Flinders had rigged a broken spar from the wreckage as a mast. From it he had flown a large blue ensign upside down - the internationally recognised signal of distress, then and now.

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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VHF marine radio start + Code flag 'F' - 9 Jul 09

1. VHF marine radio

Last week we talked about a US Coast Guard controller who located a 'missing' boater using Facebook. It was ingenious use of technology and the new social networking systems. But technology, however ingenious, is not always the best solution.

For instance you should not rely on a mobile/cell phone to make a distress call. There are several reasons for this:

  • You may get only intermittent service/reception - or none.
  • You may waste valuable minutes trying to call a series of
    people before making any contact.
  • When you do make contact your call can be heard only by the
    receiver, who must then make more calls to activate a search
    and rescue.
As the US Coast Guard recently reminded the American boating public: When a MAYDAY is sent out via VHF-FM radio, it is a broadcast, so not just one party is receiving the distress call; any nearby boaters can hear the distress call and offer immediate assistance.

Remember, it is compulsory if you hear a distress call and can help to do so.

Different sea safety areas have their own regulations, apart from the internationally agreed rules. For instance, if you are venturing more than two nautical miles offshore in Australia, you must carry a marine radio.

A VHF radio, hand-held or fixed, is the best way of letting Coast Guard-like shore stations know if you get into trouble.

In any case the prudent coastal traveller will contact their nearest coastal radio station, advising them of their planned voyage.

In my experience they are pleased then when you call in while passing successive stations. They pass you on to the next one which will wait to hear from you. Remember to tell the last scheduled station when you have completed your voyage.

2. Code flag 'F'

This week's signal flag, 'F', means 'I am disabled, communicate with me.'  It's white with a red diamond in the centre.

I can't imagine a yacht ever flying this flag but sailors should remember that the system is meant to convey basic information to anybody within sight.

Next week you get two flags for the price of one when we tell you about 'N' and 'C'.

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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Before the start + Man Overboard + Found via Facebook - 30 Jun 09

1. Before the Start

Here are two issues that may cause problems before the race even starts:

I. Being late

"I was caught in traffic." "I missed the bus." Except in extraordinary circumstances there is no acceptable excuse for being late. You are never going to perform well if you are late getting down to the boat. You'll be late getting out on the water, have no time to test conditions and make timed runs to the line before the start.

If you're serious about racing, you simply can't afford to let this happen.

II. No weather forecast and/or tide information

These days you should be able to access this information via a mobile phone before you turn it off and stow it securely in your sailing bag. There is enough going on out on the water without being interrupted by your phone.

Without a forecast you can only guess what the wind will do during the race. Even if you can usually rely on a sea breeze, a forecast may alert you to the chance of thunderstorms or a major wind change coming through.

If you don't know what the tide is doing you won't know where to put your boat to take advantage of or counter its effects.

3. Code flag 'O' - Man Overboard!

This is the shout that no one at sea ever wants to hear. On a yacht both skipper and crew should immediately start their well-practiced man overboard drill.*

The flag is red (R) and yellow (Y) and divided into two right-angled triangles:
| YR R R R R R
| Y YR R R R R
| Y Y YR R R R
| Y Y Y YR R R
| Y Y Y Y Y YR
| (the vertical lines denote the flag pole)

* You can download the best practice Man Overboard guidelines from the ISAF website.

Our next flag will be 'F'.

4. Missing boater found via Facebook

While most of us are still trying to make sense of so-called 'social media', a member of the US Coast Guard recently used Facebook to locate a missing boater. His actions saved the US taxpayers nearly $US30,000.

Early one morning when a park ranger found a vehicle and boat trailer, but no fisherman or boat, he reported it to the Coast Guard.

Having identified the missing man from the vehicle's registration plates, Paul Conner, the local Coast Guard search and rescue controller, used the internet networking site, Facebook, to find the man's contact information. A call to his mobile phone located him safe and sound.

"For over 200 years the Coast Guard has been using any means necessary to fulfil our mission," said Conner's boss, Captain Jim McPherson, commander at Sector Northern New England. "Now we can add social online media as another tool in our lifesaving kit."

We wonder how long it will be before a similar story is reported here in Australia.

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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Debriefing, learning from your mistakes + Aviva record + Berrimilla update + Uniform - 23 Jun 09

1. Debriefing - learning from your mistakes

If you're serious about winning races, you simply must take time at the end of each race to debrief it. By this I mean discussing the race, leg by leg, with your crew and talking about what went well, which manoeuvres you can improve and any mistakes to avoid next time.

There are many benefits. The whole crew is involved in the discussion, so the whole crew is aware of the team's aims, theories, decisions etc.

This is the cement that bonds the skipper and crew. I have sailed on some top ocean racing boats where the discussion occurred during the race as well as afterwards.

It's called communication.

2. Where there's wind, there's a way - Part 2

Yesterday (22 June) Aviva broke the record for sailing Round Britain and Ireland by 17 hours and 16 minutes. Skipper and owner, Dee Caffari and her crew of Sam Davies, Miranda Merrin and Alex Sizer drove themselves and the boat hard the whole way.

As Aviva slowed down sailing up the English Channel, Annie followed the progress of the four women almost hourly. They completed the course during our evening drinks and we celebrated the new record of 6 days, 11 hours, 30 minutes and 53 seconds.

The previous record had stood for five years. I wonder how long this one will last.

3. Berrimilla update

Alex Whitworth writes that he needs to receive approval from the Russians by 30 June to give himself and fellow yachtsman Peter Crozier any chance of returning via the North East Passage. You can read more on his blog

4. Code flag 'U' - Uniform

If you know the meaning of code flag 'U', you'll be able to think of many times when you wished you'd seen it. I certainly can! Had it been flying you may not have gone aground, hit a submerged object or become entangled in a submarine cable.

It means 'You are running into danger'.

The flag is divided into four squares:
| Red   White
| White Red
| (the vertical lines denote the flag pole)

Next week's flag will be 'O'.

5. Free Introduction to The Boating Bible Manual of Seamanship

If you haven't already done so, you can download our short
Introduction to The Boating Bible Manual of Seamanship

It contains examples of the videos, animations and interactive quizzes as well as text and illustrations from the 6 CDs - Boat Handling 1 & 2, Navigation & Passage Planning, Safety & Emergencies, Weathercraft and Skipper & Crew.

After viewing the Introduction, please feel free to email us if you have any questions or would like to know more about the Manual.

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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Spinnaker or poled-out headsail? + Do you have what it takes? + Where there's wind + Explosives! - 16 Jun 09

1. Spinnaker or poled-out headsail?

Gung-ho sailors would never dream of doing it. Regardless of wind strength, they round the windward mark and pop the spinnaker instantly. But sometimes, in the tradition of the tortoise and the hare, poling out the headsail brings a better result in these conditions.

Unless the crew has been sailing together as a team for a long time, it's easy for the boat to round up in a gust. The resultant mayhem on deck can take minutes to get back under control, allowing the yacht with the poled-out headsail to sail past, keeping exactly on its course to the next mark.

2. Do you have what it takes?

If you've nothing better to do, why not take a so-called Personality Test to see if you have what it takes to sail around the world? Actually, it's not so much sailing around the world as Volvo-style racing, as you'll discover. The quiz is from CNN's MainSail channel.

3. Where there's wind, there's a way

Dee Caffari and Sam Davies, not content with finishing the Vendee Globe in 6th and 4th positions earlier this year, have set sail from Gosport on Dee's yacht Aviva with Miranda Merron, Alex Sizer and Isabelle Joschke (as it turned out, Isabelle did not participate). They are aiming to break two records:

* the fastest ever circumnavigation of Britain and Ireland (currently seven days four hours); and

* the fastest by an all-woman crew (currently ten days 16 hours).

Interestingly the latter record is held by Sam Davies.

You can follow their progress -

4. Explosives!

As members of the RAN Sailing Association, based in Rushcutters Bay just opposite the naval base at Garden Island, we quite often saw vessels flying code flag 'B' as warships took on explosives. If we hadn't known its meaning before, we wouldn't have taken long to find out that code flag 'B' means 'I am taking in, or discharging, or carrying dangerous goods'.

Heading out for an afternoon sail, we used to look for the all-red, swallow-tail flag with some trepidation. We were certainly grateful for the warning.

Next week's flag will be 'U'.

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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World Oceans Day + the Great Pacific Garbage Patch + acidification + code flag 'A' - 9 Jun 09

1. World Oceans Day

8 June was World Oceans Day. Did you notice? Those who did will have come across some pretty disturbing news.

2. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The worst was something I'd heard of vaguely - the Great Pacific Garbage Patch - a vast area where the major ocean currents are cancelled out, creating a virtually stagnant 'pool'. It is polluted with millions of tonnes of disintegrating plastics of all kinds.

It was no consolation to learn that several more such areas have been discovered in other oceans recently. The only 'cavalry' coming to the rescue is a team in the US building a boat of a new kind of plastic which they hope will sail through this area across the Pacific finishing in Sydney Australia where the vessel will be dismantled and recycled.

You can read more about Plastiki and its voyage.

3. Acidification

Another batch of bad news was that of the acidification of the oceans, so reducing their capacity to clean up our atmosphere.

Seventy scientific academies at a meeting in Bonn said that the current rate of acidification is much more rapid than at any time during the past 65 million years and is irreversible on timescales of at least tens of thousands of years.

In the past 200 years alone the world's oceans have absorbed about a quarter of the carbon dioxide produced by human activities, which have increased as has the population.

As carbon dioxide dissolves it alters ocean chemistry, leading to an attack on the carbonate building blocks needed by marine organisms, such as corals and shellfish, to produce their skeletons, shells and other hard structures.

Professor Martin Rees, president of the Royal Society in Britain, said: "The effects will be seen worldwide, threatening food security, coral reefs, reducing coastal protection and damaging local economies that may be least able to tolerate it".

Here is more information about the acidification of our oceans.

4. Personal observations

I am not a scientist, but I can put two and two together. There are just too many people, not enough of whom are educated about the dangers of what is happening around us.

When I arrived in Australia as a boy in 1947 I and my brother used to fish under the ferry wharf at Manly. The water was so clear we could see the bottom and on a day that we considered to be famous we saw a manta ray, lazily flying along the bottom.

We knew that we had to be careful swimming in the harbour because, albeit rarely, sharks tried to eat people, usually when there were a lot of bait fish around.

Over the years the harbour got more and more polluted and had fewer and fewer bait fish which in any case were targets for commercial fisherman. Eventually the harbour's water was almost dead.

The State Government banned fishing in the harbour, mainly because the catch was toxic. Various ecological regulations were brought in and gradually the bait fish began to return. So have the sharks. Isn't that terrific?

People who use the water really should do whatever they can to ensure that they don't damage its natural state. It's not just the forests that need protecting.

5. Code flag 'A'

Which brings us finally to this week's code flag, 'A'. Meaning 'Diver down, keep well clear at slow speed', this is one flag that everyone on the water must recognise and obey. The 'A' flag is white and blue, divided vertically, with the white part next to the mast and the blue swallow-tailed.

Code flag 'A' should be dropped when the dive boat is underway
and also when the divers are not in the water.

If, however, carbon emissions, global warming and the plastic garbage dump continue to increase the underwater pleasures of diving will be few and far between.

Next week we'll move on to the 'B' flag.

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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Sale + swine flu, the cruise to nowhere and the 'Q' flag - 3 Jun 09

End of year sale - The Boating Bible Manual of Seamanship

If you already have The Boating Bible Manual of Seamanship you may like to go straight to the Swine flu story. Otherwise, please read on.

We are having an end of year sale. From today until 30 June 2009 we are selling our range of CDs at 20% off the standard advertised prices.

Take advantage of this special discount and buy the complete set of CDs for only AU$156, a saving of AU$39. Don't worry, you will still receive your FREE bonus DVD, The Joys of Sailing. Order The Boating Bible Manual of Seamanship now.

If you haven'NewsletterSubForm.htm" class="one">Introduction to The Boating Bible Manual of Seamanship .

This download is free and takes less than three minutes (broadband). You will see content from each of the CDs, including animations and extracts from the five interactive quizzes to test your nautical knowledge.

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Swine flu, the cruise to nowhere and the 'Q' flag

Last week my brother and his wife were on the Pacific Dawn for what was promoted as the 'Tropical Treats' (TT) cruise. They were really looking forward to spending ten nights aboard, leaving Sydney and cruising up the east coast of Australia.

The ship was due to stop in the Whitsundays, Port Douglas and Cairns. As it turned out, following the diagnosis of three crew members with swine flu, health authorities prevented the ship from berthing at any of those locations.

While the 'P' flag is worn prior to the departure of vessels, all vessels and watercraft of all sizes MUST display the 'Q' flag as they enter the Port of Entry from a foreign country. The 'Q' flag means 'My vessel is healthy and I request free pratique'.

If, however, there is anyone on board suffering from an infectious disease - and in some other, rare, cases - two 'Q' flags should be displayed, meaning 'I require health clearance'.

There is a small 'Q'Safety.htm" class="one">Safety and Emergencies disk.

We're not sure whether Pacific Dawn was displaying one or two 'Q' flags when she arrived in Sydney after her South Pacific cruise (the cruise immediately prior to TT one).

In any case, all turned out well for the TT cruise passengers. There were no further cases diagnosed during their cruise. Also, passengers are receiving 75% refund of their fares and offered 25% off their next cruise booking.

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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GPS - Should we rely on it? + Code flags and their use today - 29 May 09

GPS - Should we rely on it?

I'GPS-Tips.htm" class="one">Don't let your GPS mislead you - describing situations where GPS units cannot function accurately. But what follows raises much more widespread concerns.

The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report on
7 May 2009 under the heading: GLOBAL POSITIONING SYSTEM - Significant Challenges in Sustaining and Upgrading Widely Used Capabilities.

These words should be enough to alert any GPS user, but particularly ocean-going navigators, that they may not be able to trust what their GPS tells them. Over the last 10-15 years, more and more skippers have relied on electronic navigation to plan and track their voyages. And electronic navigation relies on the information it receives via GPS.

The GAO report claims that the as early as 2010, i.e. next year, more and more older satellites will fail and the overall level of GPS service will drop to a level where there could be "wide-ranging impacts on all GPS users".

All skippers and navigators should have back up systems or skills in place. You can no longer simply say that you have two or three different GPS units on board to use in case the yacht's primary GPS fails.

So now's a good time to dust off your charts and brush up your navigation skills.

Here is a link to the GAO Summary Report:

Code flags and their use today - the 'P' flag

"England expects that every man will do his duty" was the famous signal sent by Nelson from HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. It was sent using the very same signal flags still in use to this day.

Everyone who goes racing knows the Blue Peter - the flag which may be raised prior to a race start and used to be lowered to indicate the actual start.

Officially it's code flag 'P' in the International Code of Signals, a blue flag with a white rectangular centre, indicating that all crew should report on board because the vessel is sailing within 24 hours. You'll see it displayed on cruise ships and other vessels about to depart.

In the ISAF 2009-2012 Racing Rules of Sailing adopted throughout the world the preparatory signal - which used to be only the Blue Peter - is hoisted four minutes before the start and dropped one minute before the start.

However under these new rules there are several flags which can count as a preparatory signal. You can find out which applies to a particular race by checking the Race Instructions. I know it's like reading a manual, but you're going to have to get used to it.

What other code flags should the yachting fraternity know? In coming weeks we'll look at the most important and then work our way through the complete alphabet.

With all the talk about cruise ships and swine flu, next week we'll tell you about the 'Q' flag.

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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Safety first! + Piracy and Berrimilla updates - 20 May 09

Safety first!

As skippers, we have responsibility for the lives of our crew. That is not an overstatement of the case, even if we are sailing in sheltered waters. Or should that be so-called sheltered waters?

Accidents can easily happen - running aground, being hit by a motor boat or other larger vessel, or being overwhelmed by waves whipped up by a stronger than usual front hitting when the yacht's hatches are not locked down.

Does your crew know where the life jackets are stowed? Do you give a short safety briefing when a new crew member or visitor comes aboard?

As crew going for our first sail on a boat, we should ask for this information.

You never know when you may need to grab a life jacket. Its buoyancy could save your life.

ISAF Guidelines for Prevention of Piracy

The recent report of a French navy frigate capturing 11 suspected Somali pirates who had mistaken the military vessel for a merchant ship brought some humour to an otherwise very serious situation.

The incidence of pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden is so high that ISAF (International Sailing Federation) has published a set of  Guidelines for yachts who are considering making a passage through the area.

Circumnavigation update

Here's an update on Alex Whitworth and his yacht, Berrimilla. Last week Berri, as she's affectionately known, was meticulously anti-fouled. She has now been launched after spending winter on the hard in Falmouth. There's plenty more on the job list to be done before Alex sets sail for Sydney.

You can see pictures and read more on Berri's blog.

Alex recently submitted the paperwork to the Russian Government requesting permission to return to Australia via the North East Passage, i.e. all the way across the top of Russia! A friend of ours, Sergei, helped with translations and interpreting. Fingers crossed that permission will be granted.

If it comes off, it will be a great voyage to follow.

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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When lightning strikes, does your yacht need protection? - 12 May 09

With thunderstorms seeming to occur far more regularly these days it made me wonder about what steps a skipper can take to minimise the risk of damage by lightning to both crew and yacht.

Some years ago during an ocean race I was part of a bizarre conversation about thunderstorms. At the time we were heading towards a front, which was generating a storm. Much as we would have liked to, there was no way that we could avoid it.

Inevitably, one of the watch asked the unaskable - what would happen if the yacht was struck by lightning. No one aboard could provide a scientific answer but there were plenty of theories.

We were, also, very much aware that not long before a well equipped yacht, crewed by experienced sailors, had disappeared during a race from Hobart to Auckland.

We discussed whether the VHF aerial, installed at the top of the mast, would protect us.

I thought that, perhaps, a well-rigged mast with the rigging screws linked to the chainplates and the chainplates to the keel might actually be a problem. Would a lightning strike follow the links and blow a hole in the boat, most likely below the waterline.

Have you experienced a lightning strike while sailing? If so, please let me know what happened for a follow-up story.

In the meantime I'd better do some more research.

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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Global warming, local effects - 5 May 09

Because we're a worldwide organisation, we have to deal with different times. As an example, we can watch spring spreading through the USA, starting in the Gulf of Mexico and gradually moving north.

We can see it from the increase in boating activity - not just sales, but comments on blogs, questions about getting boats out of their winter wraps, all sorts of indicators.

It's not even just horizontal temperature zones. In North America, spring also moves in vertical lines from the warmer, sea-bound east and west coasts to the bitterly cold central plains.

All over the world it is local weather effects that dictate what sort of sailing takes place. Here in Sydney we can sail all year - and do. The winter series are just as hard fought as the ones of summer, although we are not so foolhardy as to sail to Hobart in winter!

This year our temperate climate is playing up. Not behaving as we would expect. We are having great waves of cold, usually lasting about a week, followed by unseasonal warmth for about the same time.

My belief is that it's because of global warming - after all, if the extra warmth is real and it's melting the ice, where does the cold air go? Where the wind blows it!

Think what you like about global warming, it's going to be the local effect that matters. It will dictate where people move, and when.

So what's in it for sailors? It's even more imperative to keep a watch on what happens in the sky because it will always show the telltale signs of approaching trouble.

Did you know?

One of the barometers that Captain Fitzroy took with him on the voyage of the Beagle (1834-36) was what is known as a 'storm glass'. The liquid held in the glass was a combination of potassium nitrate, ammonium chloride, distilled water, ethanol and camphor.

By observing the storm glass, Fitzroy was able to predict fairly accurately what the weather would be for the forthcoming
24-48 hours.

This voyage is better known for having aboard as assistant surgeon a then unknown Charles Darwin.

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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If you race, you should know the rules - 23 Apr 09

Nobody wants the rules to take over and spoil the fun of racing, but you can't allow chaos.

To pass the safety check prior to entering a race series, each yacht must have a copy of the latest racing rules on board. The current book, known in Australia as 'the blue book', has been in effect since 1 January 2009.

It's not good enough to buy the book and keep it on your yacht, you really need to read it to see what rules have changed in this edition.

If your yacht club offers sessions where experts come and explain the new rules, it's well worth attending.

In the northern hemisphere boats are just being put back in the water and skippers and crew are readying themselves for their summer sailing series. Part of the preparation must include a review of the rule book.

Safety first

Last week the skipper of the yacht that Ann and my granddaughter were sailing on chose to pull out of the race for several reasons:

  • the conditions were blustery
  • there were people on board with little or no sailing experience (including my granddaughter having her first sail)
  • most of the crew were unfamiliar with the boat

One of the five fundamental rules applies directly to this situation, namely:

The responsibility for a boat's decision to participate in a race or to continue racing is hers alone.

After pulling out, the skipper put the boat on a broad reach up the harbour and back and watched a number of the other yachts who were still racing rounding up and being knocked flat by the gusts. The crew did not regret the decision.

Did you know?

Forty years ago today Robin Knox-Johnston became the first person to sail around the world single-handed. How different was his voyage from the recent Vendee Globe competitors in their state of the art yachts?

Sir Robin's circumnavigation of some 30,000 miles was in his 32 ft ketch Suhaili and took 313 days.

Michel Desjoyeaux sailed 28,303.2 miles and took just over 84 days, sailing at an average speed of 14 knots.

Of the nine who started in the Golden Globe race in 1969, Knox-Johnston was the only one to finish.

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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Know the flags - 15 Apr 09

We were interested to read that there was some confusion at the start of this year's Tasmanian Three Peaks race. The start cannon failed to fire and, as a result, a number of the boats turned back, thinking that the race hadn't started.

Nick Edmunds, skipper of monohull Haphazard, knew better and took an early lead.

What the other skippers had failed to remember was that the gun is only fired to draw attention to the flags, which are raised and lowered in a designated sequence prior to the start.

What is the Three Peaks race?

Based on the English race of the same name, Tasmania's version comprises three sailing and three running legs. We blogged about a mate of ours who competed in this year'OurBlog/?p=484" target="_top" class="one">Three Peaks race. He finished second. Pity the poor runners if they get seasick! Pity them in any case as they have to help with the sailing where needed and, in particular, when navigating the Dunnally Canal.

Bicycles are fitted to a number of the craft to help propel them through the narrow channel and the runners and sailors all pedal away furiously. At least the sailors get to rest while the runners are on the ground.

Follow up to last week's newsletter

One of our Newsletter subscribers, Mike Kingdom-Hockings, commented as follows:

I agree wholeheartedly with using pressure cookers on board. During a hectic Cowes Week many years ago, my first job each morning was to drive to Warner's Holiday camp (our owner was a director and catering manager) to collect a pressure cooker of excellent Hungarian Goulasch. If you don't overfill the pot and you have good fiddles & clamps, you can heat up a stew in a pressure cooker even while beating to windward in a heavy chop.

What's this marine coffee boat you talk of? Sounds like an excellent facility...

What we were referring to are the so-called cappuccino boats that ply the waterways. And they don't just sell coffee, but also newspapers and icecreams.

One other really good point about preparing meals in advance is that the frozen food acts as solid iceblocks, assisting in keeping the fridge chilled down and, as a result, the beer and white wine cold.

Did you know?

The Golden Hinde, the ship in which Sir Frances Drake made his circumnavigation 1577-80, was originally called Pelican. Drake renamed the ship after rounding Cape Horn and entering the South Pacific. Seems he wasn't bothered by the superstitions surrounding the renaming of vessels.

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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Camping on board - 7 Apr 09

The Easter weekend (and school holidays for some!) prompts us to revisit the idea of going cruising or simply spending some time aboard.

Camping on board

If you like spending the occasional weekend out of town at a plush hotel but don't feel you can afford it at the moment, why not overnight on your yacht? Provided you have sufficient sleeping space for yourself and your partner, you can easily enjoy 'camping' on the boat.

Where you would have been paying big dollars for food at a hotel or restaurant, why not drop by the local fish market and pick your own fresh seafood basket? Camping on the boat also means that you don't have to drive for hours - saving you stress, time and fuel costs!

Perhaps you may be lucky enough to receive a visit from a marine coffee boat, so you won't even have to go without your caffeine hit.

Pressure cookers on boats

An article in Good Living section of today's Sydney Morning Herald was a timely reminder of the usefulness of the pressure cooker at sea. There are several reasons I prefer using a pressure cooker to
a saucepan when cooking or reheating meals on a boat:

  1. It uses less fuel to cook because it's quicker
  2. The lid can't fall off and allow the food to scald the cook and/or spread across the galley

To simplify cooking aboard take the trouble to prepare some meals at home in advance and freeze them. Each morning, remove the evening's meal from the icebox and place it in the pressure cooker to defrost during the day.

Make sure you have fiddles on your stove to hold the cooker safe and sound, particularly when going offshore or in a busy seaway.
© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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On a leaky boat - 31 Mar 09

At the moment it's raining. No, that's an understatement, it's pouring. And if it were a racing day, we'd seriously consider staying ashore in the warmth of our clubhouse. There are, however, some worthwhile discoveries that may occur should you be caught on your yacht when a downpour starts.

Have you ever rowed out to your boat and found water in the bilge? A quick taste test shows whether it's salty or fresh which leads you to the search for where the leak is. Fresh water must be getting through one of the following:

  • Deck fittings have not been adequately sealed
  • There's a gap in the window frame
  • The mastboot is not securely fitted
  • The hatch cover no longer sits squarely in place or its rubber seal has perished
  • Somewhere in the otherwise beautiful teak deck there is a small hole

One of the most annoying things about leaks is that where the water enters and where it emerges may be far apart and therefore tracking and fixing them an almost impossible task.

Now, if it happens that you are aboard when the rain starts, you can begin your detective work immediately. Even if you have to wait for the yacht to dry out completely before you can make the repairs, knowing what you have to fix is a big part of the solution.

Years ago I owned a classic yacht, Te Uira. Her hull was made of triple-planked kauri and tight as a drum. When it rained, however,  her deck leaked like a sieve and the crew slept in their sleeping bags in large plastic bags to keep dry.

With navstations on yachts now full of electronic equipment, keeping that area dry has become essential. But it's also hard to navigate in pencil on a dampened nautical chart!

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Earth Hour 2009 Update

We enjoyed a candlelit dinner to celebrate Earth Hour but have been unable to ascertain how many people joined us worldwide. In our household the only appliance we left switched on was the refrigerator.

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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Earth Hour 2009 - 24 Mar 09

As sailors, we understand the need to preserve power on board for the essentials - radio communications and re-starting the engine to re-charge the batteries. While using the boat's power supply for the navigation lights is preferable, keeping the drinks cold in the refrigerator becomes an unnecessary luxury when problems develop with the boat's electrical system.

What's the link to this Saturday? It's Earth Hour - an opportunity to join people all around the world making a statement against global warming. All you have to do to join in is switch off all your lights between 8.30 and 9.30 pm on 28 March. Obviously this is a symbolic gesture, but it's also a timely reminder to preserve power at every opportunity, saving money as well as the planet.

Two years ago the first Earth Hour took place in Australia and 2.2 million homes and businesses participated. In 2008 the event became global, with 50 million people switching off their lights.

**   Sign up for Earth Hour!  **

Earth Hour's goal is that one billion people participate this year. Will you join us?

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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Matthew Flinders and deviation of the compass
- 17 Mar 09

I am sure you know and understand deviation of the compass. But do you know how it was discovered? It was discovered and 'cured' by a sailing genius I idolise called Matthew Flinders, the first man to sail around Australia.

As yesterday (Monday 16 March) was the 235th anniversary of his birth - an event Annie and I celebrate each year by raising a glass in his name - it seemed a good opportunity to invite you to join the party!

Flinders was one of that remarkable group of Royal Navy navigators - Cook, Bligh, Vancouver, Furneaux etc. - who were the space travellers of their day. They were not simply great and daring sailors. They were also great practitioners of the complex mathematics that went into knowing where they were.

Accurate chronometers, essential for calculating longitude, had only just been designed. Their development was so rapid that by the time Flinders was retracing some of Cook's courses along Australia's east coast he was able to correct some of the master's observations.

A thing to bear in mind is the smallness and tightness of this group, even across several decades. Bligh was sailing master to Cook and so learned from him. Flinders was sailing master to Bligh. Furneaux commanded the Adventure , which was the second vessel in Cook's second voyage. And so it went on.

In my view, as well as being one of the great navigators and explorers, Flinders was a scientific genius. He discovered deviation of the compass (although he did not name it) and he could not have done so unless he possessed the kind of mind that scientists use when they collect data in an orderly fashion, correlate it and come to a conclusion from it.

Read more about Flinders' discovery and how he counteracted deviation.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Last week we promised to tell you how Alex and Peter on Berrimilla came to talk to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2005. While in the Pacific Ocean, Alex commented on 15 Feb - -
in his usual understated way:

Here we plod, in one of the most remote spots on the planet, with a bit of water around us.

As a result, one of his readers Malcolm Robinson sent an email to NASA suggesting a link up between a small ship and a space ship. As it has turned out, Leroy Chiao, Commander of Expedition 10 aboard the ISS, thought it was a great idea.

By the time the link up took place, Berrimilla had left the Pacific and was in the Falkland Islands. That didn't detract from the excitement of the encounter with space on 18 March:

I wonder what Matthew Flinders would have thought!

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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Berrimilla Down-Under-Mars - A remarkable achievement - 11 Mar 09

Last night at RANSA, our yacht club, we heard a fascinating presentation by Alex Whitworth about his recent voyage from Sydney to Falmouth through the North West Passage.

How did Alex come to make this voyage?

During Berrimilla's circumnavigation in 2004-05 its crew, Alex and his friend Peter Crozier, linked up with the International Space Station. (We'll tell you more about this next week.)

As a result, Alex and Peter were invited to speak at the 2007 Risk and Exploration Symposium organised by Leroy Chiao and Keith Cowing. Leroy had been Commander and NASA Science Officer of Expedition 10 aboard the International Space Station in 2004-05.

The subtitle of the symposium was 'Earth as a Classroom' and their presentation titled 'Travels on Sea and in Space'OurBlog/?p=321" class="one">a recent blog and invited Alex and Peter to Devon Island to view the total solar eclipse on 1 August 2008. Leroy, Keith and Pascal were all involved in the Haughton-Mars Project  - nothing to do with Mars bars - and using the remote landscape on Devon Island as an approximation of Mars to test all manner of equipment from spacesuits to vehicles.

Berrimilla is only the 77th vessel to get through the North West Passage - Amundsen's Gjøa was first in 1903-1906 - but the third smallest. She is the second Australian yacht but the first to complete the passage in a single year.

Now Alex is considering returning from Falmouth to Sydney via the South East Passage, i.e. taking Berrimilla over the top of Russia.

We'll keep you informed.

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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Passage planning for an Easter cruise - 5 Mar 09

It's March already and not that long until Easter, which brings most of us a four-day weekend. Here in Australia it's a great opportunity to have a break from life ashore and go cruising.

A long weekend won't let you travel very far but perhaps you can make the outbound voyage at Easter and leave the boat for a few days before returning to home base the following weekend? Or maybe you'll decide to take the rest of the short week off and have yourself a comfortable cruise?

Whatever your decision, we have a few things to say on the subject of:

Passage planning

If you are planning a cruise or other voyage, there are several things you must take:

* Plans
You'll need plans for all the ports that are on the way to your destination. Why is this so important? Some years ago, I was asked to deliver Mercedes IV from Fremantle to Sydney for its then new owner. As my charts are mostly of the east coast of Australia, including Melbourne, Bass Strait and Tasmania, I knew I had to fill in the gaps.

* Charts
Visiting a good friend and looking through the charts he kindly offered to lend me, I saw the plan of Esperance and instantly remarked: "Who'd want to go there?" Esperance is protected from the Southern Ocean by the 105 islands and some 1,200 reefs of the Archipelago of the Recherche, some of which have not been charted since Matthew Flinders' voyage in 1802.

As it turned out, Mercedes was dismasted and we headed for Esperance because it was the nearest port! The chart we took, not expecting to use it, was vitally important to our safety.

* The relevant Pilot(s)
These days you may feel that the Pilot has become superseded by all the information available on the Internet. The reason the Pilot is so important to have on board is that its content carries weight. As it turned out during the above voyage, we discovered that there were fewer islands shown on our chart than were mentioned in the Pilot. We were able to work out their whereabouts and avoid them because the Pilot told us where they were.

Hopefully you will be able to borrow plans and charts if you'd rather not buy them. If so, make sure that they have been corrected recently.

Jim's second cataract operation took place on Monday and he is now both reading and weather watching without glasses, apart from sunnies. Good news, indeed!

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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Getting off to an early start on race day - 24 Feb 09

In last week's Newsletter we mentioned that we would be on the committee boat for RANSA's annual regatta. Even though the regatta was obviously a local one there were lessons involved that should be learned internationally.

1. Get out to the start early

Some of the boats that did particularly well were the ones that got on the water earliest. They had plenty of time to judge what sails they wanted up, which was an important decision because the winds were light and fluky. Because of the amount of time they had, they formed a much better idea of the wind's general strength and direction than those who charged up just in time for the start.

2. Make timed runs to the starting line

Even more important, the yachts that came out early could decide unhurriedly on their starting tactics and then practise them. I saw one boat do at least eight timed runs to the line. It certainly wasn't a day to get too far away from the start line but we didn't any problems with crowding because the race had a handicap start.

3. When to hoist the spinnaker

As the regatta had a single starting line set to accommodate a nor'easter, the afternoon sea breeze here, it meant that on the day the yachts began the race downwind in a light east to south easterly. This meant that skippers had to decide when to hoist their spinnaker:

  • Well before the starting line so they could hit the starting line with the spinnaker full and properly trimmed and the boat at maximum speed, which wasn't that fast, bearing in mind the lightness of breeze.
  • When close to or just through the starting line, which often involved a lot of delay and noise, after which the boats took a long time to settle down again and concentrate on sailing as fast as the conditions would allow.

We'OurBlog/?p=229" class="one">Don't get me started!

4. General warning / request

If you're not racing, please keep clear of start/finish lines when out on the water. As the yachts finished yesterday several other yacht's numbers were recorded and then scrubbed out as they had not been competing.

Later in the afternoon one larger yacht was doing practice spinnaker runs through the line, oblivious to our presence. And when the 18-footers came out to race, they attacked us like a swarm of angry hornets, one even hitting the committee boat, a 32 metre, 148 tonne patrol boat!

PS: Jim wore wrap-around sunglasses and his Tilley hat to protect his face, but his eyes in particular, from the sun as he'd a cataract removed from his right eye last Thursday. Ann, however, forgot her sunnies but spent a lot of the day taking film and photos which would have been difficult with sunglasses on.
See our Newsletter Archive on Sun Protection and UV Radiation

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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Check your boat regularly - all year round - 18 Feb 09

1. Recent event

We're going to meet a TV star this Sunday, 22 February! HMAS Advance, an Attack class patrol boat which is part of the operating fleet at the Australian National Maritime Museum, is the committee boat for our yacht club's annual regatta.

Unfortunately we are unable to compete in RANSA's regatta this year but we've been invited to spend the day on board HMAS Advance. The regatta is held in support of the Sir David Martin Foundation, an organisation dedicated to helping young people in crisis.

To mark the event we have donated one complete set of The Boating Bible Manual of Seamanship to RANSA as a prize.

We plan to take both our video and stills cameras with us and hope to add to our library of film clips and photographs, ready to develop future disks.

And who is the TV star? In 1979 HMAS Advance starred in the first series of the ABC TV program, "Patrol Boat".

2. Check your boat regularly - all year round

Wherever you moor your boat, you should check its condition at least once a month. If the weather has been unusually wet and windy, or snow or hail has fallen, you need to check it as soon as possible after the extreme conditions have passed.

Here are a few basic checks, but there are plenty more:

  • Check the cockpit drains are clear. From time to time advertisers throw promotional material aboard in plastic envelopes which could cover or block the drains and flood the boat.
  • If it's been very wet, check that the bilge pumps are working effectively. Make sure the float switch is working freely.
  • Ensure the batteries have sufficient power to keep the pumps working, in other words, run the engine for long enough to keep them charged.
  • Tie the halyards off where they can't rattle against the mast, forestay or shrouds.
  • Check that all items left on deck are tied down securely.
  • Look for damage to the rigging, which is often hard to find.
© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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Protect your eyes from UV radiation - 12 Feb 09

We didn't want to send out this newsletter without acknowledging the devastation caused by the bushfires in Victoria. It's been sobering to learn that the burns are considered worse than those experienced in the Bali bombings a few years ago. If you have family or friends who are suffering, please accept our sympathy for your loss.

1. Request for help

Last week we asked for your help to name this newsletter. There's still time to email in your suggestions. All About Sailing, Jeem's Jottings and Ocean Waves are three we've come up with so far. Don't hold back, make it funny, whatever you like.

2. Use sunglasses to protect your eyes

This week I (Jim) have had my eyes measured prior to having cataracts removed in the coming month. For some years prior to this I had noticed that my eyes had become very sensitive to strong light. As a result, I've been using sunglasses that fit over my ordinary 'long range' glasses and also wrap around to block glare from getting in at the sides.

Damage from UV radiation is cumulative and can lead to the development of cataracts and other serious eye problems.

And don't overlook your children! Their sight has to last them a lifetime.

3. A hat helps, too

I've had a Tilley (Canadian) hat for years now. They're particularly clever in how they are rigged to prevent being blown off. Their wide brim has a green underside which also lessens glare. Before my Tilley, I had a series of caps.

Caps are still good to wear when fully hooded up in your wet weather jacket, allowing your head to turn more easily.

4. More information

If you want to learn more about protecting your eyes from UV radiation, you can download a PDF from the Cancer Council of Australia -

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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Sail design and sailcloth - 3 Feb 09

Well there's one thing about sailors, the good ones that is, they learn all the time. The thing they most need to learn about, naturally enough, is the wind and how it is used by the sails.

Another factor is that whatever kind of sailing you do it is developing all around you - new techniques, new technologies, new sailcloths and so on.

In trying to keep up with the development in sailcloths and sails we went to have a look at the  North Sails website. Norths are deservedly famous for their books on sails and sail handling and their scientific approach to both.

We found the site an absolute knockout. Their page on Sail Design, under the North Technology heading, explains in very few words pretty well how they operate. These explanations, teamed with half a dozen or so CAD images, will quickly tell a sailor more about air flow and the design of sails than thousands of words.

We can't say the same about the highly technical section on their 3DL sailcloth but if you've got the time, you'll be well repaid by reading it all.

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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Halyard burn - it could happen to you - 27 Jan 09

Not long ago I was training some youngsters in spinnaker work. They had not used spinnakers before and there was a lively breeze over 20 knots so it wasn't much of a surprise when the spinnaker got out of control as it was being dropped.

An experienced hand would have let the halyard go and then helped to recover the spinnaker even if it got into the water, but one of the youngsters - following his natural instincts - grabbed hold of the halyard to try to stop the out-of-control drop. The result was not unexpected, he burned his hand quite badly.

Those of you who have seen a halyard burn will know that the skin is virtually fused and melts. With a bad burn all the layers of the skin will be burned through. These burns can be very painful.

In this case we immediately got a bucket of salt water from over the side and put the victim's hand into it and made him keep it there.

At first one of the other crew members was going to get fresh water from the tap in the galley, but I suggested that they should use salt instead. The reason for this is that there is a very low level of antisepsis in salt water and fresh water, particularly from an unknown tank, may contain all sorts of nasties.

As this training was taking place in the harbour, and the student was staying nearby, we dropped him at a wharf and he was able to walk to see his own doctor. He was back on the boat within half an hour holding a packet of frozen peas in his hand.

The doctor had complimented us on taking the heat out of the wound, which he then proceeded to treat with this well-known cure for sprains and strains and burns. It is a good idea to remember the frozen pea method, because once given a couple of bashes to loosen up the peas will follow any awkward contour and keep the 'ice' close to the wound. The quick treatment limited the burn damage.

In the above scenario we followed the standard first aid advice:
1. Stabilise the patient.
2. Seek medical advice as soon as possible.

Obviously, if you are cruising or racing offshore, you won't have such ready access to medical services - unless you have a doctor or other health professional on board. In this case point 2 (above) will mean radioing for medical advice or contacting a doctor or emergency services via mobile phone.

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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A rude awakening - losing the keel - 21 Jan 09

In last week's newsletter we discussed what to take with you when you have to abandon ship. Today's edition describes a more frightening scenario.

Imagine this. You wake up suddenly as you are thrown from your bunk. Your world seems to be turning upside down. It is! Everything that's wasn't held in place is in motion - sails, shoes, sleeping bags, pillows, gear bags, everything. And now there's water coming in, covering the floor.

You struggle to reorientate yourself but you have no time to think, beyond the undeniable recognition that you need to get out immediately.

Making your way across the yacht's ceiling, stumbling over a grab rail or hatch, you head for the companionway. But you find the foot of the steps. You realise you will have to dive to get out of the boat. Taking as big a breath as you can you pull yourself down the steps and push yourself through the opening into the cockpit.

But the cockpit is also full of water and awash with swirling lines - sheets and halyard tails. You press on quickly to get out into open water. Again, you have to dive, being careful to avoid the lifelines and other hazards.

At last. You pop up in the open sea and gasp for air. You had no time to think of the grab bag that would have helped you to survive.

Only now you have time to see whether the crew on watch have been able to launch the liferaft. You're in luck.

How long has all this taken? Only a few minutes.

This might seem all doom and gloom but even thinking about how you might get out of a similar situation might buy you a bit more time. That could be crucial.

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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What to take with you when you have to abandon ship - 14 Jan 09

Here's some advice that will help you prepare for the frightening event of abandoning ship.

When the time comes to launch and board your liferaft, you will have little time to think about what you'd like to take with you.

That's why it's important that each crew member has their own grab bag containing a sunscreen with a high sun protection factor (SPF) as well as treatments for seasickness and any other personal medication required, a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), personal emergency lights or strobes and prescription and sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat with cords to keep it on (the Canadian Tilley hat which comes with twin cords and an owner's manual is my favourite).

This advice is given with the caution that a liferaft is not a cargo-carrying vessel.

Certainly it's important that the navigator has a grab bag, even if some navigational tools are packed in the liferaft. These days there's no reason not to have a waterproof VHF and a GPS - both are now so cheap - to try to contact the outside world and give your location.

Even if you know there is an EPIRB in the liferaft, it's worth taking the boat's as well. This will give you a signal for twice as long, provided you activate them one after the other.

Remember that there's a real risk of losing the contents of the liferaft overboard, not just when launching the raft and boarding it but also when it inevitably capsizes and is flipped over by the seas.

Anybody who has done the sea survival course knows that for the first 24 hours in a raft nobody drinks any water. The rest, properly rationed, will last about three days. You can last about a month without food, just five days without water, depending how hot the weather is. Extra water is paramount.

And, finally, remember that you should always step up into your liferaft.

© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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Sailing highpoints of 2008 - 6 Jan 09

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© 2009 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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