BOAT HANDLING TIPS
Steering by Compass - When at sea or on a large body of water, steering is done by compass. But steering by compass is an art unto itself. Most newcomers to compass steering end up all over the place.
Say you are trying to maintain a course of 200 degrees. You want to keep the lubber line (which is 1-degree in width) right on 200 degrees on the compass rose. But, suppose you get off course and steering 195 degrees. The helmsman must swing the boat’s head with right rudder to bring the lubber line back to 200 degrees.
Think of the lubber line as the bow of the boat. The compass card actually stands still, while the lubber line swings around it. A magnetic compass does not react quickly as a digital or gyro compass. There is a delay and even a reverse movement of direction of the compass. In our case above, you turn right to get the lubber line back to 200, but initially the compass will appear as if going to the left, rather than the right. And once you get to 200, the compass may keep on going to the right before coming back and finally settling down to its actual heading.
For the novice helmsman this can really drive you nuts. Often you will see a novice helmsman making a zig-zag course, yawing from side to side, trying to catch the compass. A straight course is the goal. To do this you make only slight movements and straighten the helm. Small changes in headings do not cause the radical reaction by the compass.
Even experienced skippers find ways to make it easier. Once on a heading, find an object to steer toward and use the compass as a reference. If no land is in sight, you can use a cloud temporarily, or at night a star.
|Standing Rigging - You will see most folks rinsing their boats off after every dousing of the boat in the water.., fresh or salt. A very good idea unless you live in an area where water is not plentiful and/or expensive.
But, despite all the washing and rinsing of your standing rigging, it may still go bad in a few years. And worse, often you do not know it is going bad – stays often rot from the inside out.
The outside of the cable may show no signs of going bad. It is difficult to assess the wire rope condition by external visual examination and in any event it is not possible when internal deterioration takes place.
Adding to the problem of inspecting the wire rope itself, we also usually like to have our standing rigging plastic covered. Now, there is nothing to see even when it would be obvious to see.
What to Look For - There are some things you can look for, however:
|Going Aground and What To Do About It - Hopefully you were not going at full blast when going aground. Usually
one is going slow in a strange harbour, feeling things out.
After grounding the first thing to consider is the tide, is it coming in or going out. If it is coming in and rising, you have time on your side, things will only get better and you should be clear soon. If the tide is ebbing, you may have to act quite swiftly or you will be there for some time.
|Taking Care of Rope - To ascertain the line you are using on your boat serves you well, you must take good care of it.
|River Navigation - Unlike open water or coastal navigation, rivers have a nearby shoreline all the time. Local lore often outweighs good piloting since the rivers bed and edges are constantly changing.
Most rivers have very easily identifiable marks and landmarks, so knowing where you are is not all that difficult. The big problem is avoiding hazards.
|When the Anchor Drags - Here is the scenario: You have set the anchor at minimum of 7:1 scope (Let out 7 times more anchor rode than the depth of the water) and gone to bed. But, during the night you feel the boat rolling. This means the anchor is dragging and the bow is no longer into the wind.
With a quick check of a transit you see that the boat is definitely not sitting in one place (Earlier issues had defined a transit – line up two objects and if they do not stay the same you are moving).
|Anchoring in Changing Wind and Current - It is a good idea to use two anchors when
anchoring in tidal current or when a weather front is approaching. In both cases the boat will be swinging on its anchor to a new direction.
When that happens the anchor will likely break loose. Some anchors can reset quickly and safely, but many do not.
Even the good ones may cause a problem. The best bet for these conditions is to set double anchors.
There are two ways to use double anchors. If the change of direction is not too radical, you can place two anchors ahead of the boat. It is important that you lay the anchors out at an angle.., not in line. To do so, lower the anchor and allow the boat to drift back slowly applying more and more resistance on the cleat until you have the minimum 7:1 anchor rode (length of anchor rode let out is seven times the depth of the water) and then some. Now, go forward at a 45-degree angle to the present anchor until you are abeam of it, lower the second anchor and drift back to where the anchor is set at 7:1 ratio. Secure them both and you are safe. A real advantage of this technique is that the boat hunts very little for peace of mind when sleeping.
For radical changes (i.e., a total reversal of tide current) you may need to set
the second anchor at 180 degrees from the boat. To do so lower the windward anchor, then let out enough anchor rode to more than double the 7:1 ratio. Then lower the downwind anchor. Now go windward again until you are directly between the two anchors and secure them both.
This will allow the boat to swing in either direction. Pleasant dreams!
|Dead Reckoning Navigation - Even though you may be an lake sailor, it is still a good idea to learn about dead reckoning. It is a way to have knowledge of where you are on a chart.
In order to calculate where you are, you must first have the definite knowledge of where you were. So, before you start on a journey, determine where you are on the chart.
To calculate you must use the following three equations (D = Distance in miles, T = Time in hours and S = Speed in knots or mph):
D=ST or S=D/T or T=D/S.
Oh Sure! You are asking, "Why learn to do all this when I can use a GPS?" Good question, but learning dead reckoning is a basic
skill that should not be overlooked.., just like learning your A, B, Cs.
|Line Handling - Ever watch a new boater approach a dock and try to throw a line to someone on land. Usually they bunch up the line and try throwing it. And usually it is a disaster. Funny, but line is hard to push.
So, you need to know how to coil line properly.
|Getting Your Boat Off a Dock - Sounds easy enough, right? Just push until you are clear of the dock and off you go. But, if your boat is rather large, there is a lot of wind or adverse current, it is not that easy.
If the wind or current is moving parallel to the dock, this is a pretty easy scenario. Then you simply need to use a spring line and some good fenders. The spring line should be used on the opposite end of the oncoming current or wind. For example, if your bow is into the wind/current, then you would put a spring line from your aft cleat and go forward on the dock. Just release the bow line and hit reverse a bit and the bow will swing out. Once clear, motor forward and retrieve your aft spring line.
NOTE; if there is nobody on the dock to undue your mooring line, here is a good tip. Use a dock line that has a clean end – no knots, kinks or unravelings. Then for your spring line secure it to your cleat, around a piling or cleat on the dock and back to the boat cleat. Once you have sprung the boat off the dock, untie the clean end, let it go and retrieve the line. The loose end will slide around the dock cleat and back to the boat.
If the wind is perpendicular to the dock and blowing you on to the dock, this is a much more difficult situation. You best bet is to spring your bow line. Use hard rudder in the direction that will kick your stern out and away from the dock. Once the stern is out far enough to clear, reverse rudder and engines and retrieve your bow spring line.
|Reading the Weather - When venturing out on any body of water it is wise to always check the weather. But as we all know, the reports are not all that reliable for boaters. And most weather forecasts are for a very broad area and may not be specific to your cause.
So, it is a good idea to look for signs of bad weather coming.
The following are portions of an excerpt from Chapman’s Piloting:
|Towing - While towing sounds pretty simple, it usually is only simple in perfect conditions – calm winds and seas. When things are easy like that you need only get in front of the other boat and toss them a line.
(Note on tossing a line: coil the throwing line so there are no kinks. Separate the coil in two with the bitter end of the coil in your throwing hand, the rest of the coil on the other hand. Then toss the line over and past the receiver. The hand not throwing should be laid open and pointing toward the receiver so the rest of the coil will easily exit the hand.)
|How to Handle a Squall or Storm - First, do not purposely go to sea when
a storm is forecast.
|Docking Your Boat - Hope you don't think just because the left side of your boat is called the "Port Side" that you always should dock with that side toward the pier. There are several reasons why you should dock on one side or the other, but here is the most important:
Almost always and almost without fail you should first determine the direction of the wind and/or current before deciding which side should go to the pier. Whichever is the strongest determines the direction into which your bow should be pointing.
For example, if the wind is blowing lightly from left to right across the dock, but the current is roaring from right to left, you would want to approach with your bow into the current and dock to the port side. That is because the current is stronger than the wind.
To determine which is strongest just park in idle off the dock and see which way the boat wants to go. If you see that the forces of wind and current push you from right to left across a dock, plan your approach from left to right, with your bow into the strongest force.
|Navigating a Channel (e.g. Wabamun or Sundance) -
Unlike a car, you should not always hug the right side of the road (channel) while navigating with a boat. Of course, in a heavily traveled channel with lots of traffic, you want to stay toward the right side and have oncoming traffic pass to your port side.
If you have the opportunity, you would be prudent to stay toward the windward side of the channel. Current also should be a factor in the decision on where you should be steering your boat. Staying to the windward side, or the side from which the current is flowing, is very prudent and can be looked upon as "defensive navigation."
You always want to anticipate what you would do if something went wrong with your power:
By being on the side of the channel that is upwind or up current, you have a lot more room and time to handle the dilemma. And if you go aground, the wind and/or current will help you get off. Had you been on the leeward side, the wind and/or current would get you stuck even worse.
|Magnetic Compass Errors - The most basic compass error is "Variation"
which is the angle between the magnetic and true meridian. In other words, the straight up and down the globe
longitudinal lines of the earth are considered the true meridians, but the magnetic latitudinal lines are not straight at all.
Variation is the angle between the straight line true meridians and the magnetic meridians. It can be designated as EAST or WEST. The magnetic angle is either east or west of the true meridian. The amount of Variation differs dependent on your location. In the USA west of the Mississippi you will have an EAST Variation, while the east coast has a WEST Variation. And there is nothing you can do about Variation except recognize its existence and make a steer allowance for it.
The boat compass hardly ever exists in a magnetic-free environment. It is subjected to magnetic forces in its surroundings in addition to the earth's magnetic field. Any other magnetic influences in its environment will cause the compass to deviate from its ideal position along the magnetic meridian. This deflection is called