28 The skinny on swing­ing at the hook, weather cloths and an­chor balls

SAIL - - Contents - with Tom Cun­liffe


I’ve spent so much of my life at an­chor it’s hard to imag­ine folks strug­gling with the ba­sics, but re­cent events have re­minded me that swing­ing cir­cles can cause gen­uine con­cern. With no tide and a stiff breeze, such as one finds in the Caribbean, it’s safe to nudge up astern of the next boat, let go a length or two un­der her stern and then blow away to lee­ward, giv­ing her plenty of room and know­ing you can re­cover your hook with­out prob­lems. How­ever, in a tidal river, things are very dif­fer­ent. The safest op­tion here is to as­sume that when the wind is blow­ing against the cur­rent both boats will be suf­fi­ciently con­fused to snug­gle up to­gether at the full reach of their low-tide scope. The ideal is to leave enough space to ac­com­mo­date this sce­nario. It may not al­ways be fea­si­ble, but it’s the only sure way.


Cock­pit weather cloths are a grand idea, but like most good things on­board, they come with a down­side. I learned about this the hard way many years ago in a North At­lantic storm. I’d been hove- to in a big sea for 24 hours and had just popped up into the cock­pit to see how bad things re­ally were when I heard the dreaded ex­press train noise and knew I was in for a soak­ing. The break­ing wave roared down from wind­ward. It didn’t knock the boat over, but the weather cloth got the full ben­e­fit. Amaz­ingly, it didn’t burst. In­stead of rip­ping out of its lashings, it stayed at­tached and the stan­chions went with it when it blew off to lee­ward. They were bolted through the deck, so they took a plank with them for good mea­sure. Ever since, I’ve made sure weather cloths can be taken down eas­ily when the weather turns vi­cious.


Every time I sling the pick in a windy an­chor­age, I’m amused to see those slot-to­gether an­chor balls twirling like spin­ning tops be­tween a bit of a down­haul and a spare hal­yard. The breeze blows in amongst the faces where they’re slot­ted to­gether and off they go. Aboard my boat, how­ever, I’ve re­solved this men­ace with a piece of string. First, I at­tach a down­haul to the bot­tom and the hal­yard to the top. Then I hitch four or five feet of string to a side be­tween them via one of the spare holes, reach up as high as I can and clove-hitch my string around the rolled-up headsail. That done, I heave gen­tly on the down­haul to pull the ball away from the sail be­fore fin­ish­ing off by ten­sion­ing the hal­yard for a sea­man­like job. Oh, and for those who don’t bother to hoist an an­chor ball when they drop the hook, give some thought to what the judge will say if some­one runs into you.


One un­seen dan­ger when sail­ing yachts lie along­side one an­other for a con­vivial night is that if they hap­pen roll to a wash or be­gin to move in an un­ex­pected sea, the spread­ers can clash to­gether and suf­fer cat­a­strophic dam­age. Al­ways look aloft when raft­ing up and make sure the masts are well out of line. s

Watch your swing­ing cir­cle in tidal ar­eas

Weather cloths are great in port, but can be a li­a­bil­ity

Here’s how to tame that spin­ning an­chor ball

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