Mas­ter­class with Pip Hare How to deal with calms

HOW TO DEAL WITH CALMS

Yachting World - - Contents - WITH PIP HARE

Psy­cho­log­i­cally, I have al­ways found sail­ing through calms to be far worse than bat­tling any storm. End­lessly flog­ging sails and op­pres­sive heat can fray tem­pers on any yacht. With no abil­ity to go for­ward and no sign of any breeze it can be dif­fi­cult to main­tain a pos­i­tive ap­proach. But, if man­aged in the right way, whether cruis­ing or rac­ing, to­tal calms can be pro­duc­tive, use­ful and even fun.

Re­view your watch sys­tem

Change to sin­gle per­son, short watches dur­ing the day and in­volve the re­main­ing crew in other jobs. The on-watch crew will look out for both traf­fic and wind and try to keep the boat go­ing in the right di­rec­tion.

Overnight ei­ther re­turn to orig­i­nal watch pat­terns or have a re­duced watch with the re­main­der on standby in case of squalls.

When rac­ing, avoid fill­ing the cock­pit up with on watch crew. Only one per­son is nec­es­sary to hold the helm, the rest should sit where their weight will have the most im­pact (see ‘rac­ing trim’ panel, right), re­turn­ing to the cock­pit only when re­quired.

Lock and drop

Helm­ing dur­ing calms can be im­pos­si­ble: if there is no flow over the rud­der then turn­ing the wheel will have no ef­fect. Con­sider lock­ing the helm into one po­si­tion, us­ing a wheel lock or the au­topi­lot in ‘helm hold’ mode (this is a func­tion most pi­lots have and sim­ply locks the ram in one con­stant po­si­tion). Do not worry too much about which di­rec­tion you end up point­ing; if you are go­ing nowhere then it does not re­ally mat­ter. Once the breeze kicks in and the boat starts to move don’t for­get to un­lock the wheel.

Even with the slight­est of swells, re­lent­less snap­ping as an empty main­sail flops from one side to the other can dam­age not only the sail but the san­ity of your crew mem­bers. Drop­ping the main in to­tal calms has a num­ber of ad­van­tages: it makes for a calmer at­mos­phere on board; al­lows a to­tal sur­vey of both sail and hal­yard for dam­age; en­ables a makeshift canopy to be made up over the boom; and in 1-2 knot down­wind con­di­tions will al­low un­in­ter­rupted wind to flow onto your head­sails. Even if the main­sail is down, pin the boom into one po­si­tion to min­imise snatch­ing move­ments.

Calms are a great op­por­tu­nity to clean, main­tain and take stock on longer pas­sages. Make a job list, pri­ori­tis­ing those that need to be done be­fore the breeze fills in and al­lo­cate in­di­vid­ual tasks. Try not to be over­am­bi­tious and en­sure that ev­ery job is fin­ished and tools put away be­fore each new one is started. Al­ways be pre­pared for the wind to fill in at short no­tice.

Take the op­por­tu­nity to do things that are not pos­si­ble when un­der way. Per­form a rig check, open all hatches and ven­ti­late the boat, get down­wind sails on deck and in­spect for dam­age, tape up sharp fit­tings, clean and lu­bri­cate mov­ing parts.

Make an in­ven­tory of re­main­ing food, wa­ter and other con­sum­ables. Empty and clean the fridge, or any large lock­ers which get the bet­ter of you in a se­away. If be­calmed for longer than ex­pected, es­pe­cially in hot weather, check your ra­tions. Is it nec­es­sary to limit wa­ter con­sump­tion? Be aware of the im­pact this may have on morale.

Clean the hull

When the boat is sta­tion­ary it is an ex­cel­lent op­por­tu­nity to clean the bot­tom. To do this from deck level you will need a ‘floss­ing rope’. This can be made us­ing a long piece of cover from a 12-14mm rope with knots tied in it ev­ery half a me­tre or so. Two crew mem­bers take one end of the rope each and drop it un­der the bow of the boat, then pull the rope back­wards and for­wards be­tween them walk­ing slowly back­wards along the sid­edecks un­til they reach the keel.

Swim­ming off the boat should only be at­tempted by strong swim­mers and with ap­pro­pri­ate kit for the wa­ter tem­per­a­ture. For ev­ery swim­mer in the wa­ter, en­sure there is one per­son on deck watch­ing and al­ways trail a re­cov­ery line astern. If div­ing un­der the boat to in­spect keel, rud­ders or prop, en­sure the diver is fit­ted with a safety line and there is no risk the en­gine could be turned on.

Send a crew mem­ber aloft to look for any wind, they should go with binoc­u­lars and a hand bear­ing com­pass to give pre­cise in­for­ma­tion about any patches of breeze they may see.

Fi­nally, have some fun. To­tal calms are a great time for cel­e­bra­tion so make a cake, have a spe­cial meal, play a game of cards, laugh, re­lax and be­lieve that the wind will come.

Cor­rect trim will al­low a yacht to make the most of calm con­di­tions

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