Bay Area Sailing School

Wayne's Comments Continued

Go to Wayne's Cruising Comments for dispatches prior to August 26, 2015.

November, 2015 Dispatch


It’s a Wrap

A few months ago I was sailing alone in the Gulf in my cutter-rigged 37’ Tayana, the Starbound.  When it came time to furl up the 130% jib I found that the halyard had slackened so the roller furler wouldn’t roll it in.  What to do?  The wind was coming into the channel so I could conceivably sail in on a run, but I still would have the problem of having to roll the sail up after arriving.

Here is what I decided to do:  First I lowered the main.  Then I went forward and cut the jib sheets about 3 feet from the clew, leaving the jib to flap.  Then I went back to the cockpit and started the engine and locked the wheel so that the boat would rotate in the direction which started the jib self-furling.  I ran forward and during the 180 degrees of the turn that I had before turning downwind I was able to get the jib almost entirely furled.  After completing the furling, I tied the jib sheets around the sail in a (of course) square knot.  I next brought the main halyard forward and wrapped it around the jib, securing it in place.  Then I was able to come in with the sail furled.  And I lost only a few feet off of each jib sheet.

Moral:  Never let your jib halyard become slack.



On a recent occasion I was sailing on a 103/104 Combo  with a student class on a Bristol out in the Gulf.  The weather was rough  20-25 kt. SW Winds, 4-6 seas.  We had the main up – double-reefed and the engine running.  The boat had a four foot keel with the possibility of dropping a centerboard which added 7 ft to the draft.  We left the entrance channel at marker ‘6’ and headed NE past the North Jetty.  We found that the wind and waves were driving us towards the North Jetty slowly, but we had enough forward motion that it appeared that we would be able to clear it.   We were making about 2 knots headway because of the counter-swells.  We decided to lower the centerboard to decrease our lee-way.  Indeed, this did decrease the leeway but our forward motion almost totally ceased because of the drag.  So, again…what to do?

We were on a starboard tack and if we had tacked to a port tack we would continue to have the problem of sliding into the Jetty, only even worse.

So, we ultimately had to raise the centerboard and lower the sail and motor back to the entrance channel.  The only way to prevent a repeat of the situation would be to motor further out the entrance channel so  that when we left the channel and started sailing our leeway would not be blocked by the Jetty.  This is what we should have done in the first place.  By impatiently leaving the channel early we put ourselves between a swell and a hard place – should have anticipated this.

Im telling this story to make the point that you must always keep your presence about you – not only within yourself but the overall presence of the situation in which you find yourself – wind, waves, engine, sails, channel, Jetty.  This is what makes the Galveston Entrance Channel so interesting and challenging.


Did Francis Drake Sail the Drake Channel?

I was recently speaking with Vernon, another instructor at BASS.  He made a comment about the islands around Francis Drake Channel.  Afterwards, I thought, “There are no islands around Drake’s Channel.”  Who was right?

Well, as it turns out, we both were.  He was referring to the” Francis Drake Channel” in the BVI and I was thinking of “Drake’s Passage” south of Cape Horn.

So, did Drake sail through both of  these?  Most certainly yes to the one in the BVI.  But probably not in Drake’s Passage south of Cape Horn.  It seems that Drake went around the tip of South America through the Strait of Magellan, but when he exited the west side a storm blew him south to about 57 deg S. Latitude (about the tip of the island Terra del Fuego).  When he returned to England after his circumnavigation, during which he had pirated many Spanish settlements and ships thus winning Queen Elizabeth I’s approval, he was knighted.  He told everyone, including the Queen, that he had named an island after her.  In appreciation, after the English took over the dominance of the sea from the Spanish, the English claimed the area south the Horn as English – hence Drake’s Passage.  Empire has its advantages.



October 1, 2015

1st October Dispatch


Choosing a boat for cruising

If you have the good fortune to be able to choose any boat for cruising then you don’t need to read this.  You’ll find many books and articles describing all the possible features you can get on a modern boat and you will be able to spend a lot of money. (See Rousmaniere, J. ed. Desirable and Undesirable Characteristics of Offshore Yachts. By the Technical Committee of the Cruising Club of America).

But if you are like most people who want to go cruising, you will have to be very choosy.  Again, there are many articles and books which will describe and discuss features of boats having to do with comfort and cosmetics, but I won’t repeat what they will be able to communicate much better.  Instead, I will focus on just two aspects of the choice.

As we all know, the dominant variable which affects both the pleasure and safety of cruising is the weather.  At its most extreme, it will either keep you from going sailing or wish that you had not.  So we need to look at features of boats which will prepare you for the extremes of weather: when it is perfect and when it seems to have a grudge against you.  Looked at this way, there are only two questions to be answered:

1. In good weather, what is the largest sail boat I can handle short-handed?

The answer to this question is fairly simple.  === somewhere around 40 ft.  Any sailboat larger than this will require a lot of work for one or two people to sail.

The type of rig is relatively unimportant.  You are unlikely to be considering a catboat (though there are some good cruising catboats – the Nonsuch, for example), a schooner or a yawl.   So the choice will be between a sloop or a ketch.  Everyone who takes the 101 class learns how to handle a sloop rig and all sloops up to who knows how many feet handle the same, heave-to, tack, run down wind, etc. functionally the same.   Consequently, many people worry that they won’t know how to handle a ketch.  But let me disabuse you of that notion.  If you can handle a sloop and understand the principles of sail balance, then you can handle a ketch – in fact I would venture to guess that you would come to prefer a sloop.

So, the answer to the first question:

A less than 45 ft. sloop or ketch.


2. The second question is for me more interesting.  It is: 

What boat do I need to get which will take care of me when the weather and sea seem to want to kill me? 

A well built boat will survive a storm long after the homo sapiens on board given themselves up for lost.  So how do you find such a boat?  Again, you will be able to find a lot of very erudite literature on sailboat stability.  But we have got to keep it simple.  In a nutshell, what we are asking is:  If a boat is knocked down by waves or wind, will she right herself?  You should quickly understand that I am speaking only of monohulls here, for a multihull vessel is just as stable upside down as upright.  (Need there be any other reason to not consider a multi-hull for cruising?) 

The two variables which are the most important in determining if a monohull will right herself are:



Put simply, a beamy low displacement sail boat might win the Saturday regatta, but out in the deep blue, if knocked over, may stay upside down like a plate.  Anyone interested in the history of this issue should read of the 1979 Fastnet race, in the book, Fastnet Force 10.

So, here is the equation:

Capsize Screening value:

To figure out a boat’s CSV divide the cube root of its displacement in cubic feet into its maximum beam in feet.  CSV = beam divided by the cube root of the displacement in cubit feet.

A boat’s weight and the volume of water it displaces are directly related, and that displacement in cubic feet is simply displacement in pounds divided by 64 (which is the weight in pounds of a cubic foot of salt water). 

Example:  A 35-ft boat that displaces 12,000 pounds and has 11 feet of beam:

To find its CSV, first calculate DCF:  12,000 divided by 64 = 187.5.

Find the cube root of the result:  5.72

Divide that result into 11

CSV = 1.92

Any result of 2 or less indicates a boat that is sufficiently self-righting to go offshore.  The further below 2 you go, the more self-righting the boat is. accessed September 12, 2015.

Here are the CSVs of several boats which successfully circumnavigated.  You will be surprised of some of the results:

Boat                                                                                       CSV               

1. Crealock 34                                                                    1.68

2. Tartan 34                                                                         1.77

3. Bristol 355                                                                       1.76

4. Catalina 34                                                                      1.95

5. Contesa 35                                                                     1.87

6. Hunter 34                                                                       1.97

7. Baltic 35                                                                           2.07

8. J/34                                                                                   2.29

9. Beneteua 51                                                                  1.86


Leonard BA. The Voyager’s Handbook: The Essential Guide to Bluewater Cruising.  (Blacklikc, OH: McGraw-Hill, 2007), 65.


Hubris in the Pacific

Here is a trivia question I would have missed:  Who was the first person to sail around the world?

I would have guessed Magellan.  But that would be wrong.  Magellan was the first to plan a circumnavigation, but he was killed in the Philippines when he provoked a religious war and got in on the wrong side.  This first circumnavigation was actually completed by the 18 survivors of Magellan’s voyage.  The Captain-General of the returning vessel, the Victoria, was Juan Sebastian Elcano (elected after Magellan’s death).  I tell this bit of trivia to reiterate what cannot be repeated too often:  Hubris has no place on board a vessel at sea.  Be pleased if you negotiate a tie with Mother Nature.


August 26, 2015

What LaSalle Didn’t Know and We Do,  and Fluid and Electrolyte Replacement – especially Potassium


What LaSalle did not know, but we do, and why it matters.

After [leaving present day Cuba] we set course west and west –northwest until 2 o.clock in the morning of January 5 when, in sounding as usual, we found that the water was shoaling…When we found that we were in more than six fathoms of water, we headed west-northwest, risking even northwest.  When we found the water shoaling again, we sheered off…On Wednesday, January 10, the weather cleared a bit and we took a latitude of 29deg. 23’. [near the entrance to Galveston Bay].  At 2 o’clock in the afternoon, the wind having picked up, although not constant, we got underway and set sail.  Not much headway was made because the wind varied and changed several times; then it fell again all of a sudden.  We had to anchor because the currents were drifting us toward land.( 1. Foster, WC.  The La Salle Expedition to Texas.  The Journal of Henri Joutel 1684-1687.  (Austin: University of Texas,  1998), 69-71).


The modern day chart 11340 reports of the area between New Orleans and Galveston:

The hydrography within the heavy dashed black line was surveyed by NOS in 2005.  A shoaling condition has been observed in relation to prior surveys.  The density of the most recent survey data is inadequate to rule out the possibility of shoaler depths or undetected submerged features in these areas.


                What all this means is just what La Salle discovered.

In 1684, the great French explorer Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle led an expedition from Europe to the New World.  It was his intention to establish a military presence in Louisiana.  However, the expedition ended in disaster – both for La Salle, who was murdered by his own men near the present-day Texas city of Navasota, and for his ships, which either returned to Europe are were sunk.  And a major cause for the disasters were physical facts about the Gulf Coast which modern-day sailors of the region must take into account every time they venture out from the shore.  These physical facts are:  the coastline of the Gulf is part of the continental shelf of the mainland and is very shallow.  It is swept by a strong current – the Gulf stream – which when it flows over the relatively shallow salt domes produces shoaling and irregular and unpredictable swells and currents.  The other major physical fact is that the weather pattern of the region is dominated by periodic cold-fronts which roll down from Canada and pass out into the Gulf, like giant rakes which sweep everything in front of them with winds from 25 to as high as 45 knots/ hour.  And all of these facts had a direct influence on La Salle’s plans, causing him to miss his goal – the Mississippi – by several hundred miles and end up in Matagorda Bay, where he lost his ships and lost the support of his men, some of whom murdered him.   When a modern-day sailor contemplates sailing from the western Gulf to Florida he too has to take these facts into account.  The Gulf Stream provides some assistance in the venture, but the periodic cold fronts are a background threat which must always be taken into account.  These fronts arrive in a periodic sequence separated by an interval of three to five days.  And the distance from, say, Galveston to Tampa Bay, make it such that one must plan on being hit by as many as three of these “northers” in the course of the passage. 

So what is the best path to take?  There are three different possibilities:  1. Inside, along the intercoastal waterway, 2. Coastwise, in snatches from Texas to Louisiana to Mississippi to Alabama to Florida with pauses for anchoring along the way or, 3. Out at sea along the Safety Fairway.  Each choice has its advantages and disadvantages.

1. ICW:  Sailors hate, just hate! travelling along the ICW – motoring! Arrggh!  And there is always the possibility of running aground at some point.  As far as advantage – one can tie up alongside a wharf and ride out a norther.  And the ICW community is an interesting mix of unique Americana.

2. Coastwise:  This is essentially the mirror-image of La Salle’s voyage – and we know what happened to him.  There are numerous places where there is the danger of shoaling – the chart give data of 1 ½ fathom out several miles from the shore.  The winds and currents coming from the several rivers are unpredictable and challenging.  The anchoring would be on a lee-shore, except when a norther comes through.  The bays are shallow (Galveston Bay is generally 7 to 10 ft throughout, with innumerable places to run aground).  There are literally thousands of oil rigs between Galveston and Tampa Bay, some of which are not marked on the chart and some of which are not lighted – so attempting to pass at night is especially fraught with danger.  And the mighty Mississip (the “father of waters”) comes rolling far out into the Gulf, making for some interesting (to understate the case) and challenging current patterns.

3. Outside along the Safety Fairway:  This passage offers the advantage of being free of oil rigs because it is the designated sea-highway for ships.  But that reveals the obvious disadvantage – lots and lots of deep-draft vessels.  Of course, one could go even further out, but this makes the passage a long one- 1500 nms.

At present, I have not decided which of these courses I will take.  I will probably mix and combine the approaches, depending on the circumstances.  Ill let you know in the future.


Fluid and Electrolyte replacement in the summer heat.

I recently reviewed some articles on the issue of fluid and electrolyte replacement in performing athletes.  While no one has done empiric studies on sailors performing in south Texas in the summer I can make some general recommendations.  Let me make a broad general statement first.  Then I will back it up with the evidence.


GENERAL STATEMENT:  Like a Texas election, where it recommended that you vote early and often, you should drink early and often.

For a weekend course (say, the Combo 103/104, which covers three days) you should begin drinking Gatorade (or other “sport” drink) even before you leave and continue until after you return.  In order to prevent hypohydration and keep performance up to its optimal you should drink 20 liters (! Yep, liters) over the course of the weekend – that is 20 of the big jugs of Gatorade. 

Since I am sure that no one routinely does this let me break this statement down:

1. The first few days of exposure to high temperatures are the hardest on the body which loses more electrolytes than water at first.  Your thirst mechanism lags behind and is not a sensitive mechanism for determining when you need to re-hydrate.  So you need to pre-hydrate if you know you are going to be in high temperatures. 

2. Likewise, the recommendation for Gatorade.  The kidneys are going to have an obligatory loss of water, even if you are hypohydrated, so you will be hypodydrated before you are even aware of it.  After about three days you don’t have to drink Gatorade because your body will extract the needed electrolytes from the food you eat.

3. In the case of hypohydration, skeletal muscle has proportionally more water than does fat, so your skeletal muscles suffer the most when you are hypohydrated – hence the decreased physical performance.

4. The volume?  Empiric studies have shown that physical activity in 100 deg F temperature required 8 liters of fluid replacement/day, hence the recommendation of 20 liters for a three day weekend course.

5. If you become hypohydrated here is what happens:

                Performance suffers.  Muscle will actually break down, resulting in soreness the next day.

                Skin blood flow decreases, so your capacity to resist sunburn decreases

                Kidneys retain water as much as possible but still loses enough water to continue obligatory potassium loss.   This results in skeletal muscle cramps (and eventually cardiac muscle cramps – otherwise known as cardiac arrhythmia – risking sudden death !  I am not kidding you.  The way the great state of Texas executes its prisoners is by altering the potassium content of the blood, producing cardiac arrest.  They usually put the prisoner to sleep – though not always.

                Blood pressure drops (hypotension) leading to dizziness on standing and the possibility of syncope (fainting).  When that happens, you are already seriously de-hydrated.


6. If you happen to be taking a diuretic (most commonly thiazides) for hypertension (high blood pressure) then all of the above effects are exaggerated and the necessity to replace electrolytes, especially potassium, is increased to the point of being an emergent situation.  If you are tough guy and think you don’t need to do this, then you need to get a defibrillator on board and instruct your crew on how to use it on you.

7. Alcohol in any form is not a good replacement for electrolyte replacement fluids.  Alcohol is actually a diuretic so you will lose relatively more water than electrolytes and the soporific qualities (puts you to sleep) of alcohol might make you go to sleep lying in the sun – an activity guaranteed to cause heat illness.

Next: Progress on the Starbound




1. Sawka MN, Montain SJ. “Fluid and electrolyte supplementation for exercise heat stress,” in Am J. Clin Nutr 2000, 72 (Suppl) 564S-72S.

2. Casa DJ “National Athletic Trainers’ Association Position Statement: Fluid Replacement for Athletes,” in Journal of Athletic Training 200, 35(2): 212-224.