Extreme conditions, windy days, currents

In Southern California the weather is predictable and utilizing websites like www.NOAA.org or local weather forecasts can really help you decide what your day will look like ahead of time. Even so, sometimes you may find yourself in stronger conditions than you are comfortable with. We recommend checking www.sailflow.com before you leave the dock to access current conditions, but still, you may leave on a calm morning only to try to return and find challenging winds or currents, crowded marinas or unforeseen events that make docking more difficult.

The average boat can handle more than the people riding around in them, but you can stay much safer if you know how to use the conditions to your advantage rather than trying to fight them. This is where understanding fundamentals of how to handle a boat comes in very handy.

While we never recommend putting you or the boat in harm’s way, you should prepare for windy days and challenging conditions so that when those conditions arise you can handle them proactively rather than retroactively. In most circumstances you can use strong winds or current to your advantage but only if you know how. You can also simulate challenging situations in a more forgiving environment so that you can train yourself to make the right moves when the pressure is on.

So how do you get your boat into the slip when you have a 20 knot cross wind? How can you get into a fuel dock when there are 10 other boats waiting in line and there are gusty breezes? Would you have more control bow or stern into a current in a river or strong tide? We could tell you in writing but you may never learn to do it right from a blog or book….

Do your family, friends, your boat and yourself a favor and call or email for info on setting up lessons.

Powerboat and Sailboat Principles- Cars vs boats and Licensing Requirements

Driving a boat is not like driving a car. Sure there is a steering wheel and forward and reverse gear, you stick to the right side of the water in a channel but that’s after that the similarities are few and far between. Did we mention there are no brakes? And without the benefit of your tires and friction with the ground you can slide all over the place at the mercy of the wind and currents.

A car steers from the front tires where as a boat steers from the rear where the motor(s), prop(s) and/or rudder(s) are located. It is important to know where the pivot point is on a boat for docking and close quarters maneuvering. Also stopping distances and backing up are things that you should practice because no two boats are alike just like driving a small car versus driving a big truck.

It isn’t that difficult but it does take a bit of practice just like drivers education training before you can get your driver’s license. It is amazing that most states do not require a license for a boat although to rent a larger one you must prove you have training or do an on-the-water checkout with a skipper. States are beginning to come around and trying to prevent accidents with California signing in a new law January 1, 2015. Senate Bill 941 (SB941) requires that vessel operators must pass a boating education test and obtain a Vessel Operator Card (“VOC”) to operate a boat propelled by an engine on California waterways. The program will be phased in starting in 2018 when those 20 years of age and younger must obtain the card. By 2025 all persons operating engine propelled vessels will be required to have a VOC.

There are a few exceptions and one of them includes those who have taken an approved boating safety course. Once issued a VOC will remain valid for the operator’s lifetime so sign up for some lessons today and get on your way to compliance with the new law. Since you cannot really learn to master a boat online we strongly encourage you to take some on the water lessons and get a head of the pack. Stay safe stay, smart and learn to make your boat do exactly what you want.

Sailboat types- Centerboard vs. Keelboat

Sailboats come in all shapes and sizes but one of the biggest distinctions is between a centerboard/ dagger board and a Keel-boat. To sail effectively across the wind or upwind you need something to resist the tendency for the boat to slip “leeward” or sideways through the water. Keels and centerboards accomplish this goal.

Centerboard Boats usually smaller 6’-20’ although some larger cruising boats use a swing keel to get into shallow water. Because they are generally a smaller boat they are sometimes referred to as a “dingy”. These dingys are great for learning because the basics of sailing are quickly learned through a responsive and more basic setup. Centerboard boats are light and fast and the weight of the person(s) on board are the ballast that helps the boat stay flat as the wind pushes or pulls the vessel through the water. A centerboard is a retractable fin that keeps the boat from slipping sideways whereas a dagger board is off to the side of the boat (less common usually very small boats). A huge benefit of this retractable fin is when it is in the up position you can pull the boat up on to a beach or easily trailer the boat. Both fin types can be pulled up when running straight down wind to lessen drag, since leeward is the direction you want to travel you don’t need something from going leeward. The rudder (another fin used to steer the boat) is typically removable/ retractable so it isn’t damaged when in shallow water or beaching the boat. Centerboard boats can flip over if you are not properly moving weight around, and one of the first things you learn is how “right” the boat and get sailing again. For this reason they are typically used near-coastal or on lakes and in warmer weather or with wet suits. They typically do not have a motor- another reason sailing skills are learned at an accelerated pace. Common centerboard boats include Sabots, Lasers, Sunfish, Lido 14’s among others. 

Keel boats have a fixed keel that is weighted to provide ballast which makes these boats more stable and forgiving. These vessels are typically 10’ up to the largest sailboat in the world at 359’, the Sea Cloud. The weight of the keel is typically near 50% of the total displacement weight of the boat. For this reason a keel boat is self-righting and more suited for venturing offshore. “Heeling” or leaning over of the boat is a fun part of sailing and the more a keel boat leans over the more the boat wants to right itself. For this reason keel boats do not flip over in all but the most extreme conditions and even if they were to capsize, they will almost always right themselves. Keels come in all shapes and sizes from the most common fin keel to a full-keel boat designed to go straight for long range cruising. Many sailboat manufacturers make the same model in a standard keel and shoal draft version for shallower cruising grounds.  Race boats often bulb keels that consist of a heavy missile like structure at the end of a long fin. Some of these fastrace boats like the Volvo Open Ocean 65’ Class race boats have canting keels that allow the keel to “cant” or lean over to the windward side increasing the amount of power you can put into the sails while keeping the boat from heeling over too much. Common keelboats include; Catalina’s, Hunters, Beneteau’s, 

Neither centerboard or keel boats are necessarily “better” but rather more suited for specific boating variables. Lucky for you, we happen to love and have both types of sailboats so you can learn to captain them yourself, or just go for a cruise!

Excerpts taken from July 2016 edition of Marina Reader- Long Beach, CA

-“The Long Beach Harbor includes Alamitos Bay, Long Beaches Shoreline Marina (Downtown Marina), and Rainbow Harbor (Rainbow Marina) and truly has one of the greatest locations in California, if not the United States, for boat slip mooring.

 

Boats are protected by a series of offshore breakwaters and by a natural south facing bay. Our boating public appreciates the rapid access to open water, prevailing winds and close proximity to Catalina Island. Sailing conditions are practically perfect year round. We treasure the popularity of our marinas and encourage visitors to use trustworthy and legal businesses as opposed to illegal and unreliable operations.”

 

-“The city launched its Livability Initiative which is designed to encourage residents and visitors to recreate in our waters and promote our natural assets. Long Beach, as boaters know, has some of the best weather in the country and the water quality has significantly improved. Long Beach received 100% A Grades for water quality in the 2015 Heal the Bay Annual Report Card.”