Mooring Lines — Don’t leave synthetics in the sun
Modern lines stretch more, chafe less and last longer than their antecedents — that is, if you look after them properly. What manufacturers seldom say, except in small print, is that manmade fibers and bright sunlight do not mix. Even in temperate climes this remains a problem, because most of us prefer to go boating in sunny weather. Lack of under-deck storage is often stated as the main reason lines are left on deck. A seamanlike alternative is to cover them with a custom canvas. It keeps them out of the light and can look good too. Don’t forget to wash these lines when hosing down the deck with fresh water. This will extend their lives. Visually check lines carefully for sun damage, wear and chafe. I remember only too well one occasion when a badly maintained rope snapped, severely injuring the legs of the crewman on the foredeck.
Be Innovative — When it goes wrong, use your loaf
One of the greatest skills a seaman can develop is the intuitive use of innovative ideas. No matter how careful you are, things can go wrong at sea. Mostly these are minor irritants, but occasionally it is worse, not life-threatening but certainly annoying. Ashore you can drive down to the store, phone a friend or use Google to solve a problem. At sea, sometimes you have to make do and mend. I refueled one time down-island and set off for Bermuda, only to find the dock had also served me up a healthy dose of dirt from the bottom of its tank. Mr. Diesel did not like that. Too far from shore for help, we had to strain the fuel, gallon by gallon, through the only suitable device we had on board — coffee-filter papers. It worked perfectly, albeit very slowly, and we arrived safely. On another occasion a sailing friend of mine hacked the top and bottom off an empty fire extinguisher. He used his creation to join the two broken parts of his mainsail boom.
Oil and Water Do Not Mix — And if they do, here’s what you do
I am not sure I should really be telling this tale, since it is truly embarrassing to admit my error. Let me first say there were mitigating circumstances: It had been a long passage from Venezuela to Antigua, we were very short-handed, and I was very tired when we arrived in English Harbour. Low on fuel, we went straight alongside the fuel berth and began to fill the tanks belowdecks. The first tank filled surprisingly quickly, and it was only as I took the hose out that it dawned on me why. I had filled one of my half-empty freshwater tanks. It took 24 hours and one tanker to empty the contaminated liquid and a rather battered credit card before we slunk off the dock. The moral: Never ever try to do anything when you are too tired to think straight. Oh, and always mark the water tanks “Fresh Water” in extremely large letters right by the filler hole.
Where to Park — The art of dropping the anchor right the first time
I have watched, and have to admit taken part in, a few arguments over where to anchor. It seems a common occurrence between partners aboard a yacht. Which side of the bay is best?, where is it easiest to get ashore?, and who is nearby? are but a few questions that cause strife. Safety must always be the first priority when choosing your spot. It is never fun to re-anchor in the middle of the night because the wind has picked up and the boat is starting to drag anchor. Anyone who has been sailing a few years has experienced this at least once. To ensure re-anchoring is kept to a minimum, know the anchor and the seabed beneath your boat; take into consideration the rode of other yachts anchored close by, remembering that sailboats swing differently from motoryachts; and always use a snubber for quiet and peace of mind.
Corrosion — The marine equivalent of foot-and-mouth disease
Yes, it is called stainless steel, but remember this is stain-less, not rust-free as many people think and wish. Rust and corrosion are the yacht owner’s worst enemies, and they seem to creep up and spread like cancer. While rust on deck fittings is just unsightly, at least in the early stages, other corrosion can be deadly. Seacocks and through-hull fittings are often overlooked during maintenance, lying as they do hidden in the bilges. At the start and end of every season, the good seaman checks his seacocks to make sure they are working correctly and moving freely. If you have not hauled your boat recently, consider diving under her (or hiring a diver) to visually check the through-hulls for the early signs of corrosion. Caught in time, corrosion can be halted. Visually, many items, such as hose clamps in the engine room, bilges and heads, can look perfect, so touch and rattle gently to see that they are sound. On critical items, such as cooling-water hoses, I like to use not one, but two, stainless-steel clamps.