Sail better with these top tips
FRESHEN UP THE ELECTRICS
I’ll bet your electrical panel doesn’t open to reveal a thing of beauty like this. None of mine ever have. All the same, as we add more and more electrical gismos to our boats, most of us are guilty of just finding a spare terminal, shoving the power line on and hoping for the best. Time taken once a year to tidy up the snake’s nest behind the panel will pay off when a vital light starts flickering in mid-channel, or the radar goes down with what looks like the USS Missouri on a steady bearing in the fog.
TIME AND VARNISH
The best hour to lay on a coat of varnish in any but the hottest, driest weather is usually toward lunchtime. That way you can mop off the morning dew after break- fast, rub down at your leisure and enjoy your 1300 cocktail with a clear conscience, leaving the varnish all afternoon to go off. Be warned, though, that if you get greedy and try one last coat at 1700, the evening damp can set you back behind square one. These days, I make a point of dumping last year’s varnish and starting the season with a fresh can. Those old half-cans thicken up and skinover in winter so that the stuff never flows quite the same. The cost of varnish compared with the price of our time is next to nothing, even if we use the best, so don’t be mean. Shell out and have a nice day!
KEEP CHEMICALS OUT OF YOUR LIFE
There are a number of elements we don’t want creeping around in our bilges, but two stand out as horrors. One is propane, with its tendency to shorten crew lives violently when allowed off the leash. (That’s why we keep the LPG in a dedicated, air-tight, self-draining locker.) Apart from gasoline, the other is solvents. I can live with a minor spill of traditional varnish in my paint locker. In fact, I quite like the smell, and it doesn’t last long anyway. Modern high-tech products, however, are a different story. Some of today’s thinners will take the skin off your hands before settling in to eat the membranes of your lungs. So why not stow all the nasty stuff in the LPG locker? The compartment is generally so effective that if a can of thinners rusts out, the first we know about it is when we open the lid and find it empty.
HAVE A HEART
Pulling up the outboard every time it’s not in use to keep the prop clear of fouling is a kneejerk reaction for many of us. In an ideal world, we’d all do it every time. However, nothing is as effective at ruining a smart yacht’s topsides as an outboard propeller, and when it comes to other dinghies, a sharp prop can munch its way through an inflatable in an afternoon. Heave the prop out of the water at a dinghy dock with a varnished wooden tender alongside and the owner will likely disembowel you if he gets back from the pub in time to catch you. So take a look around, and think before you lift! s