The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

John’s Thoughts & Photos, May 2013

Keith Mclaren

A Race For Real Sailors

I’m thinking that some of you might be interested in learning more about the series of races that the original Bluenose was built to win.

A series that was inspired by the desire of working schooner fishermen to go out and show a bunch of effete yachtsmen racing expensive, silly and fragile boats to win an old mug, how real men go sailboat racing.

I highly recommend A Race For Real Sailors by Keith McLaren, a history of the International Fishermen’s Cup races held before World War II. It’s a great read about a series of races that can only be described as “bare knuckled”.

temple to the wind

And if you want to know more about what the effete yachtsmen were doing in their silly boats, then Temple to The Wind by Christopher Pastore is well worth a read too.

And now those of you in the marine business know why I keep bugging you so aggressively about advertising with AAC. Yes, you guessed it, it’s to finance our book buying habit.

Halyards at the Mast and Simplicity

Reader Bruno Lefevre sent me a link to this post over at the Sailing and Simplicity blog. As I have said before, I’m not saying that not leading the halyards back to the cockpit is the only way to go, but Benji makes a pretty good argument for my way of thinking on the matter.

Lindsay Dobson Photography

dobson 2

I have written on the joy of being able to make interesting photographs wherever and whenever, not just in very scenic places or at dawn and dusk with magic light.

When researching something else, I stumbled on the web site of Lindsay Dobson, an English pro photographer who writes well and illustrates her thoughts with great pictures. I have certainly learned a lot from her. Highly recommended.

Towing Tips From Matt

TowingMatt Marsh, technical correspondent here at AAC, has a great post over at his own site on how to tow a large boat with a small one. Don’t miss it, this knowledge could dig you out of very deep yogurt some day.



OK, this one I find hard to do. After all, I’ve linked to this guy’s stuff before, not once, but twice. Of course I’m not really counting…much. And far be it from me to expect some reciprocation. Are you listening, Charlie?

But damn it, sulky as I am, I have to link to the best explanation of stability I have read in a very long time. It’s a long read and fairly technical, but well worth your time. Once you get through that, you might want to check out Colin’s post on stability and lifting keel boats. And I have a post on some of the seeming contradictions when evaluating stability.


I thought I would end this post with a couple of photographs from my stock. You can click on them to make them bigger.

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Austin Baird

Colin’s diagrams on stability and previous posts on the topic of stability and modern recreational yachts, brings to mind the fate of Ocean Madam, 1997. It was the loss of Ocean Madam that resulted in the European Recreational Craft Directive of 16 June 1998, requiring that any new boat be provided with a product manual which gives certain stability information. While there were contributing factors, including the loss of cabin washboards, relevant to your text is stability data for the yacht, a Beneteau Oceanis 390, which revealed a loss of positive stability at 109.37 degrees. Buyers should be mindful that not all of the issues related to Fastnet ’79 capsizes were addressed by industry and many boats with unfavorable Limits of Positive Stability are available on the market. The potential for high internal volume, beamy, relatively light displacement recreational sailing yachts to be vulnerable to wave induced capsize was a key finding in the report on Ocean Madam. The link to the incident is available on the web at


Dick Stevenson

Dear John,
At some point you are going to be hard put to challenge us readers for beating a dying horse if you keep doing so yourself. I have read Benji’s article on reef lines lead back to the cockpit and I believe he has some sage concerns about many set-ups and choices one has to make in doing so. (I could describe how all his concerns need not have to apply to a well designed system, but most have already been described in previous streams on this site.) It is the condemnation that he and you then migrate towards that concerns me and the pressure to do things a certain way. I, single-handed, can reliably set 2 of my 3 reefs (slab) from the cockpit on my mainsail from my cockpit in 1-2 minutes with another minute of fine-tuning. I then end up with a perfectly shaped sail. That latter point seems the most pertinent as I would wish functionality to prevail over preferences.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Dick Stevenson

Dear John,
I appreciate your invite to write a description of how I do reefs from the cockpit, but that was not my point.
I very much do not see one way as better or more seamanlike: it depends on the execution. I believe either method can lead safely to reliable reefs being put into one’s mainsail. It is the implied or manifest condemnation that I object to. You direct us to that article because the author “makes a pretty good argument for my way of thinking on the matter”. Going to the article one finds the very title of the article ends with the phrase “The Con of Leading Lines Aft” and that tone prevails for the rest of the article. It is an attacking article. And, yes, you do acknowledge that you are ”not saying that not leading the halyards back to the cockpit is the only way to go”.
Yes, it is very much your site, but, I write, in part, as I see the site as being a wealth of wise and thoughtful thinking about being at sea in small boats and I find articles such as the above off-putting and undermining of the site’s integrity and suspect others might also. And I wish the vast majority of the ideas expressed on the site to find a wide audience.
We have bumped into this dilemma before as this disagreement is little different in structure than some we have had about boat size and its manifest implications.
In any case, overall, I wish nothing but the best for the site and appreciate the freedom to state my views.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Keith Jones

Lines led aft is a preference not a requirement of an offshore boat. A well executed plan like Dick enjoys is great. On Pearl ,our Bristol 45.5, everything is done at the mast and it has it’s advantages/disadvantages. Suffice it to say either approach, well executed, would not disqualify a boat.

If you want to rant on something along these lines (pun intended) – how about powered winches used to overcome all the friction introduced? I’ve seen headsail furlers fouled in storms and heard of an in-mast furling sail that got so fouled it had to be burned out.



Dick Stevenson

John, I very much enjoyed Matt’s analysis of towing techniques. I know the majority of us have inflatables and I urge all to try his methods on a calm day with nothing around. You will learn a lot and have a good time doing it. When I had a very balky engine and on a previous 38 foot boat, with my dinghy, hip tied (what Matt called side tied), I was amazed that in calm waters, I could move the mother ship going 3-4 knots with a 3 hp (maybe 4 I can’t remember, but small) and be quite maneuverable. We moved to way too many repair areas in just that fashion.
Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy
PS. Matt’s mentioning a log needing towing out of the way. For short distances, I have found reverse gear and towing from the bow to be most controllable. Dick

Marc Dacey

I will support Dick’s observation here. When an engine overheating issue necessitated a shutdown in calm waters several NM short of our YC dock, I lashed our Zodiac RIB with a long-shaft Honda 9.9 on the starboard “hip” (just aft of amidships) and through trial and error found the angle of motor offset that would drive the “main” boat at a comfortable 4 knots. The secret was in getting OUT of the Zodiac and simply sitting on the rail next to it in case of trouble (yes, the lashings were sound).

Two caveats, however. Having a typical outboard prop pitched to get on the plane, the motor laboured and got pretty warm pushing itself and 10,000 pounds of sloop. Were I to do it again (which I have, thankfully, not), I would have reduced speed to 3 knots SOG. The second issue was close maneuvering through the rather narrow space in our seawall and into dock, which was a touch finicky.

Needless to say, I changed the outboard’s oil immediately after this “self-rescue” and said nice things about its dependability to others! I have towed in the same fashion (bridle off the transom) smaller sailboats in the past. I find a very gradual increase in throttle helps, plus a willingness to cast off and get out of the way of the boat being towed early.