John’s Tips, Tricks, and Thoughts—June 2022

© Sarah Webber

First off, a huge thank you to all of you who upgraded your legacy memberships to the preset price or AAC Supporter.

Obviously, the added revenue is wonderful, but in some ways even more heart warming for Phyllis and me is all the trouble so many of you went to to provide input on how to both improve AAC and ensure our financial security going forward. Again, thank you.

All that support got me fired up about solving a problem that’s been bugging me for years:

I have far more ideas in the run of a week, particularly when working on our boat, or sailing her, than I can ever find time to write about.

I also see things when around boats—most of my waking time outside the AAC office; still obsessed after all these years—and in other media, as well as interesting stuff that gets emailed to us, that it would be useful to share.

A couple of years ago I did try some multi-subject articles, but they took too much of my time and energy away from the in-depth stuff and associated discussion that you are paying for, so I stopped.

Since then I have thought about this problem from time to time and decided that some sort of microblog platform that I can easily post to, including photos and videos, was the answer.

But what platform to use?

Twitter was the obvious answer: quick to use from my phone and with a length limit of 280 characters to make sure that the new medium does not distract me from my in-depth work.

I have now experimented with this and found that, in the run of a day working on our J/109, I can easily post 3 to 5 tips, including photos and/or short videos, from my phone in less than 15 minutes, total, most of it when taking breaks my aging bod needed anyway—zero impact on my AAC work.

That left one remaining problem: I don’t have the time, or inclination, to deal with the trolls and idiots that are all too common on Twitter, or to interact with non-members.

But, by hosting out Twitter feed here at AAC, I think we have found a way to make this work:

  • Members do not need to join Twitter to read and interact.
  • We can and will discuss my entries in the comments here at AAC, just as we always do.
  • Tweets that generate a lot of discussion will be a good source of new in-depth article ideas—gives you members even more input into what I write about.
  • I won’t be interacting on Twitter, other than to refer non-members to a page explaining why I don’t and how to become a member.
  • This may even bring in new members, although after years of testing, we have pretty much established that social media does not do much for us, so that’s not the goal here.
  • Once a month or so, depending on my output, we will publish an article linking to the Twitter feed embedded here, so that it appears in our new article notices and in our monthly member digest.
  • I will categorize the Tweets, using hash tags, so eventually each Online Book can have an article listing the tips that apply to it.
  • This will be a good way to inform members of new articles and, better yet, articles that have been updated, which we have not had a good way to do in the past.
  • We will also link to a page containing the feed from the New and Topics pages for those of you who want to follow along in real time.
  • Of course you can follow us on Twitter, but you may miss a lot of the tips that way—how Twitter decides what to show to whom is a mystery I have no time or inclination to unravel, particularly since I’m sure they are constantly changing the algorithm.

Of course this could be a bad idea with all kinds of unintended consequences Phyllis and I have not thought of. But if it is, we will stop.

The other possibility is that this first attempt ends up being a prototype for a micro-blog that’s more tightly integrated with the site.

Click the button to take a look and tell us what you think in the comments:

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Michele Del monaco

Great idea, love it!

Terry Pimentel

Great idea. Been on twitter since 2011 and use it for exactly this purpose….near instant news and info that is relevant to my interests. The platform is brilliant but agree one needs to try and steer clear of those tweeting solely to engage in verbal combat. Hope it works.

Taras Kalapun

Love the idea!
Can you share your Twitter nam / handle please, so we can follow?
Edit: Found it @morganscloud

Mitchell Allen

Good plan, Thanks for doing all this John!
Mitchell

Stein Varjord

Hi John,
I like it. Sometimes a drop of info can be just as important as a deep article, and as you mentioned, the drop might inspire other efforts.

The Scuttlebutt item about updating the rules about masthead tricolour light rings with me. I’ve hated the tricolour light for years and have several experiences similar to the one described. On our boat I’ve removed the switch. I haven’t removed it from the mast head yet, but I will. It should be made illegal. There’s absolutely no reason to keep this exception from the actual rules.

I also think the bicolour in the bow is a poor idea, for the same reasons, albeit not as horrible as the tricolour, and it is also not rules compliant. The steaming light should be at least 1 metre above and forwards of the red and green…

While ranting about lights: I will also remove the anchor light at the mast head. It’s a useless location. An anchor light should make the boat visible for those close by. Then the light(s) absolutely need(s) to be low. With LED that’s zero problem. No excuse exists.

Matt

I intend to change Maverick V’s anchor lighting to be the same: white all-round at masthead, and a second white all-round at the stern arch.

Rule 25(c) red-over-green is distinctive, unambiguous, gives a nice sense of scale and distance, and is extremely difficult to implement on a yacht (it’s all but impossible to find good all-round or half-round coloured LED fixtures, and putting a one-metre stick above the masthead is awkward, and putting them below the masthead means the genoa and main will hide them from at least one-third of approaching boats).

I would like tricolours a lot more (I kind of hate them now) if they were regularly used with, not instead of, deck-level lights. In close quarters, it’s often easy to miss that single faint dot 60 feet up on a boat that’s heeled over. A pair of lights, one at the masthead and one at deck level, moving together, is much easier to recognize and to track.

As for sharing this stuff on Twitter, yes, I think it’s a decently good medium for short snippets of the “this might be worth sharing” form, that aren’t worthy of the 4-8 hours it takes to research, write up, and moderate a full article.

Rob Gill

Hi John,

Confused by the working paper idea for sailing vessels to have a flashing white light at the masthead.

Specifically item 103 on page 19 states:
While flashing lights are used as aids to navigation, the movement of an offshore racing yacht, the height of the light above the water and in most cases (other than if used in a harbour) where the vessel is sighted, would eliminate the boat being mistaken as an aid to navigation…”

Having been a professional navigator on large ships I found that it was devilishly hard to judge the distance of lights at night, and the height of a mast would make no difference, due to the lack of perspective from a ship’s bridge. It can also be highly confusing from a cockpit.

Is that light a mid-channel marker buoy flashing white at a distance? Or a yacht closer in (but I can’t see the side lights yet)? Or is that a yacht in front of the buoy? Or possibly a yacht alone? Or even two yachts?

The authors continue: “In any case, the situation would be quickly resolved by the other lights displayed by the boat and its movement.”

Seriously? Such movement might be obvious, but at other times a vessel may be on a dangerous collision course ahead, and on a steady bearing and be not-at-all obvious. Particularly if the watch keeper is bleary eyed having just assumed the watch and is expecting to see a lighthouse with a flashing white light ahead, appearing anytime soon according to the passage plan. At sea, we often see what we want to see…!

Further, in strong winds and big waves, a flashing bright white light above much of the water-vapour layer close to the sea surface could show up at say three to five nautical miles. But the sidelights down in the salty air might be seen at only one to two nautical miles.

Don’t plan on ships seeing and correctly reading the proposed lights together. When you are less than two nautical miles from a ship on a collision course, travelling at 20 knots and they have just noticed you are a yacht, there isn’t much time for error.

Rule 36 is quite clear on this; a vessel’s lights “cannot be mistaken for any aid to navigation”. I can’t see how the authors’ proposal meets that high bar in a number of scenarios. Am I missing something?

Matt

Stein, where are you getting the idea that the bicolour in the bow is not rules compliant? The requirement that the forward masthead light be ahead of the sidelights (Annex I 3(b)) is only for vessels over 20m, and the combined bicolour lantern is explicitly described in rule 21(b) as being a compliant solution for vessels under 20m.

Stein Varjord

Hi Matt,
Yes, I know it’s “compliant” as is the tricolour, but they both depend on concessions based on small boats needing to save power. That need is obsolete, no more true. Which means, so are the concessions. Small boats should have the correct configurations, as somewhat bigger boats have to. I don’t think the bicolour is a big problem. I just think it’s not as good as the right solution: Single colour lights. Each in its optimal spot. Way easier to interpret from a distance. By the way, I totally agree that the tricolour might be a lot better if it was used together with the deck level lights, but perhaps that could cause misunderstandings? Anyway, now not compliant…

On that note: Bigger boats should be demanded to have dramatically more visible running lights, perhaps stronger, or perhaps larger lit area, or both. What is currently legal on big ships is equivalent to a candle lamp on a smaller boat. Cars could use that 120 years ago, when it was dark at night and 20 km/h (15 Mph) was a blistering speed. 🙂

Loads of near and actual accidents happen because of the ridiculously outdated running lights rules. Here in Amsterdam leisure boaters don’t discover that there is a cargo ship nearby, because it’s running lights are barely discernible until the bow has passed. (!) Bigger boats have radar and AIS, so they don’t care about the running lights. Still those lights should have had a far better utility. We now have useless rules from another century when there was fewer boats, lower speeds, less background lighting and no LED.

The red over green has been discussed several times. I’m a big fan of it. I agree that it’s not easy to implement, but still possible, with some creativity. All bigger sailing ships here use it, (hundreds of those, just near Amsterdam,) and some smaller boats too. If more boaters wanted it, it would quickly be easy to find the necessary items.

Kit Laughlin

I definitely do not want to interact with the AAC I know via Twitter, ever. From the comments I see below, I am in the minority, but the format and presentation of articles up to this point via (in my case) a laptop is my strong preference. Instant is not necessary, for me. YMMV.

Iain Dell

Hi John – I appreciate the basic philosophy in wanting to use Twitter simply as a noticeboard before engaging on this site. I hope you can pull this off as Twitter seems to create and mutate arguments all by itself. Perhaps the only thing of note asked by former U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron was “Do two tweets make a tw@t”?

Barry Z.

Concur!

JOHN SHEPARD

I have not taken to Twitter like others. No room for critical thinking.

Regarding lights at night, liked the article. The ColRegs define the minimum. No reason you cannot have more lights on. Racing sometimes stealth is used as a tactic. When it in dangers others it is wrong.

James Evans

I’m surprised at all the hate about masthead tricolour lights coming from supposedly “adventure cruisers”. I can only assume they’ve never met another yacht so equipped on the open ocean in big seas, where deck level lights are as useless as masthead lights in a crowded harbour. Both have their uses.

Mitchell Allen

James, I wholeheartedly agree. Both are in use on my boat.
Mitchell

Stein Varjord

Hi James and Mitchell,

I’m one of the masthead tricolour haters. 🙂
The reason is exactly what you have also observed: Masthead is good for spotting a boat further away, especially in a seaway, but quite useless for close quarters detection and interpretation, especially when there are city lights anywhere near. “Deck level” lights, which could be higher than deck level, work way better for the latter situation.

The problem is that we’re not allowed to use tricolour together with deck navigation lights, perhaps for good rasons. We have to actively choose what we think works better for anyone in our vicinity. Not an easy taks to remember, let alone to make the right decision at all times…

Since electricity consumption from running lights isn’t relevant nowadays, we can have lights both at deck level and at the mast head at the same time, which would make our detectability far better than either option, always. My preference for this is the “red over green” mast head lights, combined with deck lights.

This configuration is already in the COLREG rules as a signal for sailing vessels. We just have to start using it. The recommendation is that the red is 1 metre / 3 feet above the green, but for small vessels 30cm / 1 foot is plenty. This is not too hard to install. We use the tricolour cable to power it, of course.

I have absolutely no issue with anyone disagreeing with me, on this topic or anything else. I like people disagreeing, since it forces me to think better about my own opinion. That’s the key to improvement.

Alastair Currie

The Twitter idea is great. I like the articles that you have Tweeted and find that they save me from searching for relevant content on the web. I am reducing my online footprint and the Twitter resource from AAC has improved the utility of your information source. Also, I don’t have to join Twitter but can still read all Twitter comments by clicking on the Twitter link below the article. I guess if I needed to comment I can wait for an article here, or join Twitter, but for me, its the delivery of information that I am interested in that is the real bonus. Hence, by maintaining my membership here, I get quality real world experience articles on Adventure Cruising, and quick access to interesting stuff posted on twitter via AAC. What a convenience!

Richard Ritchie

This appears a useful way to share micro-postings or “post-lets”. But three thought-lets:
1) I am concerned that you seem to firmly link it with “Twitter”.
Surely you should stay technology neutral and Twitter is just a technology you personally use to collate these post-lets: we do not need to know that. (I am certailly not going to get a Twitter account: previously burnt fingers)
2) Newest at top please (and refresh button) Otherwise we will have to trawl through every time, further and further.
3) Comments: how do I place them in line? For instance your tape for mousing lines: You did not seem to say what brand it is but where willI make this response?
Great content, though! That is your strength.

Tom Borgstrom

I don’t use Twitter, but love the idea of short posts like on this thread.

One suggestion: Rather than have to scroll down and find this thread to get the latest Twitter posts, perhaps add a fixed button on the top of the screen, perhaps between “New” and “Books” to quickly get the Twitter posts.

Arne Mogstad

I agree with Tom, that I’d like it on the top, but what you’ve done so far also works, so no complaints. But actually, having it in the bottom together with the “recent comments” would be nicer than in your article “signature” (easier to evil to the very bottom of the page). Anyway, just thought I’d let you know that I’ve also been missing it in the top. 🙂