On Deck


Picking up a mooring line or dock line is very difficult for the VI sailor.  In some lighting conditions I manage quite well, but in others I can not see the things at all.  So, here is a little tip that may or may not help.  I made up a floating line with a bowline in one end.  Just after the bowline I attached a bright orange float.

With a spring added to absorb shock, a bright float and buoyant line, this little invention makes docking a lot easier.

The idea being that I have only to thrash about with a boat-hook in the vicinity of the float to stand a reasonable chance of catching the floating line.  Then it is simply a matter of dropping the bowline over a winch and we have a secure fixing, roughly amidships.  (Alex has no mid-ship cleats), with the engine in slow ahead and the tiller hard to stbd she inches forwards and nestles nicely up against the finger pontoon.  All the other mooring lines are adjusted to length with bowlines or eye-splices in the ends and are just dropped over the appropriate cleats.



Halyards and Sheets

For those not into nautical jargon, Halyards raise and lower sails the Sheets control them.

The most obvious thing I thought would make life better was to colour code them.  For example the Main Sheet (the bit of rope that controls the mainsail) is a very bright green colour, whereas the Jib Sheet (that’s the rope that controls the sail at the pointy end, usually known as a Jib or Genoa) is bright yellow.  Simple.  Even when they are both in a massive heap on the floor of the cockpit, I can usually sort between them.

Alexandros also has a new set of mooring warps.  In this case I chose black, as being different from every other rope aboard.  This was a Boat Jumble bargain at just £30 for 30 meters of 14mm nylon 3 strand.


Seeing the compass is a real problem for me.  Alexandros has the usual bulkhead mounted affair, but to be honest I simply can not see the thing sitting in the cockpit.  I have mounted a hand bearing compass on the opposite side of the companionway but this is not much use either.

The brackets were sourced from the www at just a few pounds each. A drop of Sikaflex in the holes and voila, sorted.

James, my erstwhile crew, came up with a great idea last time out.  He suggested mounting the H/B compass on the cockpit coaming, either side.  This should allow me to sit at the tiller and squint at the H/B compass.

With a bracket on both sides of the cockpit, the idea is to move the H/B compass to the most suitable place.  I suppose, if this works, another H/B compass might be an idea so that they can be left in place whilst sailing.

Stbd compass in place.

I noticed that when in the stbd position there is a deviation of some 5 degrees or so.  The port position seems to be fine.  I will have to ‘box the compass’ next time out and try to work out why only the stbd positions seems affected.  It could be that the fuel tank is situated on the stbd side but it is several feet below and behind the compass position.  The other possibility is that the finger pontoon has a mild steel framework.


GPS/Chart Plotter

The little Standard Horizon 180i is installed just below the H/B compass on the bulkhead.  Now this is a great bit of kit, and takes a lot of guesswork, er, careful calculation, out of navigation.  I fitted two mounting brackets, one in the saloon for passage planning and as a place to store it when away from the boat.  In the three years I have owned it it has only played up once.  BUT why did I buy such a small version?  When sailing I have a lot of trouble seeing it from the helm, and have to leave the tiller and have a squint from time to time.  Not ideal.  When I win the lottery I have promised myself a huge screen version.

Lazyjack and Stackpack

Having sailed Alexandros for a season, I quickly came to the conclusion that I had to streamline sail handling.  When I took ownership, Alex was pretty much as she left the factory, some 30 years ago.  I am sure that her sails were original too.  Lowering the main, to reef or stow, involved climbing onto the coach roof and manhandling the flapping sailcloth into a bunt along the boom.  Holding it in place with four or five gaskets (more jargon, just bits of rope about 1/2 meter long).

Fitting the Stackpack with the help of a very nice chap, John.

As a VI person, I had to find a better way.  Well Lazyjacks and a Stackpack sailbag seemed the way to go.  Now I can stand in the companion way and pull the sail into its bag without any messing about, one long zip and there you have it.  The only problem I have found is that when raising the main, you must be head-to-wind otherwise the battens catch in the Lazyjacks.  Not a big deal really, as an ex-dinghy sailor this seems the natural thing to do anyway. 

Roller Furling

In the video ‘Knoll Beacon Cruise’ you can see the problem of handling foresails while sailing.  When I took over Alexandros, she came with a range of foresails, small storm jib, No.1 and No.2 jibs and a genoa.  After much discussion my son’s view prevailed that we should keep this traditional setup of hanked on foresails.  It is true they set better than a furler, and there is less chance of anything going wrong.  The thought of your furling line suddenly ‘letting go’ and releasing a full genoa in a nasty blow does not bear thinking about.

Alex with the mast down.

However, after a season I had decided that, as a VI sailor, hank on jibs were not an option.  Just between us, I confess that every single time I tried to change sails I put the new one on upside down, not once, but every time!  Not realising my mistake until I tried to hoist the thing.  This gave my son a good chuckle but really not a good idea in heavy weather really.  So the search was on for furling gear.

In the end I purchased from Crusader Sails (no connection just a satisfied customer).  Very impressive company, I have to say.  When I phoned them for a quote they said £1900 for new sails, stackpack and lazyjacks and Furlex roller furler.  Then the nice chap on the phone asked if I were going to attend the Southampton boat show.  When I replied in the negative, he offered me the boat show discount anyway!  So, I got the whole lot for £1400 or a shade under, brilliant!

Fitting the 8mm forestay

The Furlex was a bit tricky to fit, the spars have to be carefully measured and fitted together, the mast has to be dropped to fit the upgraded forestay and lazyjack fittings.  But with the help of friends the job was done in a day!  A cold, wet day, but done it was.

Now, for those not familiar to furlers, the basic idea is that rather than change foresails to suit differing wind conditions, one simply rolls the furler in and out, using a line specifically for the purpose, to adjust the size of the sail.  In for stronger winds, out for lighter.  So for this VI sailor, no more going forward to change sails.

The Tender

Alexandros was kept on a swinging mooring out in Maylandsea Bay on Sophie’s old mooring and a tender was vital to be able to get to and from the boat.  Now, I do not claim great experience of tenders but have owned a few.  Here are my thoughts thus far.

Traditional GRP ‘rowing boat’ type tenders. Easy to row, stable and roomy.  But they are heavy to get into and out of the water single handed and usually require the use of a separate launching trolley.  We found that even an 8′ tender knocked about 1kt off of our sailing speed, was noisy and something else to worry about.  With my limited vision I like to keep things as stress free as possible and the hassle of towing a heavy GRP dinghy added to my stress levels!  Fate – Sold it for £50

Ex-sailing dinghys. An old Gull sailing dinghy without centerboard and mast, was found to be a superb tender, but it leaked like a sieve and took two or three strong men to recover.  Not ideal. Fate – Sold it to a club member.

Injection mounded plastic dinghy. Elsewhere on this site, I mention our Walker Bay 8.  Light, roomy and a dream to row, but, and this is entirely my own opinion (well it is my blog after all) the WB8, while it’s initial stability is good, it has very poor secondary stability.  In other words, once it starts to go over it does not stop!  I notice the good people at Walker Bay sell an inflatable collar (sponson) kit for these dinghy’s and I would think that they are essential.  Indeed I would go as far as to say that without the inflatable collar they are downright dangerous.  The tiny launching wheel was a joke, it jammed with even the smallest of pebbles.  Fate – Sold on eBay.

Bic 245. After our near-death experience with the Walker Bay we purchased a Bic245, the successor to the 252 that has been around for years (as the Tabur Yak 2).  Very stable, easy to row and good with a small outboard.  I had one of the earlier Tabur’s as a youngster and found it impossible to capsize.  My son, ever doubting, tried standing on the gunnels of our Bic, all 121/2 stone of him, and jumped up and down.  The little Bic lived up to its reputation as the most stable of tenders.  But, talk about wet!  In even a gentle chop the water poured in over the bow.  It was impossible to get either to our boat or back from it without a soaking.  In any sort of wind it would have been good to have worn a wetsuit to be honest.  A lovely safe boat but… Fate – Sold on eBay.

Inflatable tender. This is our current tender.  Now Alexandros lives in a marina I no longer have to stress about getting to the mooring without dying, getting wet or gaining a hernia, I decided to try an inflatable.  I felt that I needed a tender to enable us to get ashore in out of the way places and also for the added peace of mind knowing that I have, in effect, a dodgy life boat on board.  After much research I plumped for a Plastimo Raid 240, mainly because it is bright red (!).  I can at least see the thing.  It folds up into its bag and fits in the sail locker nicely.  Also my small Honda should drive it well, small inflatables being notoriously difficult to row.  I also purchased an electric 12v inflation device.  Not the sort of thing one might use to blow up an air bed, but a 25w jobby that blows up the boat in less then 1 minute, no kidding, I tested it in the living room.  The tender was used for the first time to get ashore from the pontoons at Brightlingsea to the shore. With the little Honda OB on the back it proved to be stable, surprisingly fast and above all DRY! Still would not want to have to row it too far but it seems great with the OB. We towed the dinghy back from Brightlingsea to our home marina and to be honest, it did not seem to slow Alex at all. With a bridle fixed (SaltyJohn) it tracked very well behind. There is a clip of it in the video ‘There Be Dragons’ on the video page.


more coming.

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