John's Tips, Tricks and Thoughts

Weekly Digest:

This Won’t End Well

It seems like Brunswick Corporation is buying up just about every marine electrical and electronic company out there: Blue Sea, Ancor, Mastervolt, and more, and putting it all under the banner of Navico, which is a conglomerate itself comprising many hitherto independent companies.

I know, they are on this acquisition spree with the goal of enhancing products and services and wouldn’t dream of stifling competition or price fixing…I also have a nice bridge over the East River you might be interested in buying.

What the hell ever happened to the trust busters? Margrethe, we poor yacht owners need you…OK, maybe not.

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A Cruiser’s Way Stop Gets Hammered

Phyllis and I were fortunate. Being in the safe semicircle and well away from the centre of Hurricane Fiona, we had only gale force winds with gusts to around 50 knots.

Our power was out for just 36 hours and even our internet came back on today.

We were lucky, others were not. We are thinking of Atlantic Canadians to the east of us who had a far rougher time of it, and particularly of the residents of Channel-Port aux Basques, a town we have visited countless times over the last 30 years, either on our boat or when taking the ferry to and from Newfoundland.

You can search Google to see videos of significant wave height seas of 14 metres, which means there were probably waves of at least 25 metres, crashing in and sweeping parts of the town away. Truly terrifying.

The harbour, with its many sheltered wharves, friendly people, and good provisioning, as well as fun and interesting walks, has often been both a way stop and refuge from heavy weather for us and many other cruisers. We know it well.

A welcome haven after the tough beat south along the west coast of Newfoundland, or a crossing of Cabot Strait.

To remember the town in better times, here are a few photos I took over the years. (Click on each to see them bigger.) The wedding appearing out of the fog is my favourite and says the most to me about good people living in a tough place and making it home. They will fix their town.


Here Comes Fiona

We are just starting to feel the outer bands of Fiona here at AAC World Headquarters…our cottage in the woods. Thankfully, it looks like we are in the safe semicircle and so will likely avoid the worst of it, but we may be “off air” for a while.

The photo is our J/109 stripped and snugged down for the storm.

Phyllis and I are sending good thoughts to those in eastern Nova Scotia, PEI and Newfoundland who it seems will feel the brunt of Fiona.


Securing Mooring Shackles

Over recent years I have noticed that many mooring service companies, ours included, have started using wire ties instead of seizing wire to secure shackles.

I always ask for seizing wire and even provide the wire when the mooring is commissioned in the spring.

But even so, while checking today, I found wire ties.

Fixed now. Note the locking turns so that even if one strand breaks the seizing will stay put.

Worth checking what your mooring service company does.

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Mooring Check Hack

With hurricane Fiona heading our way I have just checked our mooring bridle attachment and swivel.

To make this easy, even though the chain is quite heavy because it was sized for our last boat, I attach a spinnaker halyard to the bridle and hoist it up while it runs over the bow roller, as shown.

Way easier and less messy than attaching a line to the bridle and running back to a sheet winch.

Note that this only works in winds under about 8 knots since more breeze will blow the boat back and cause the bridle to jump out of the roller.

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Dinghy Tow Rope Q and A


A few years ago I wrapped the dinghy’s painter round the prop while manoeuvring to anchor in a very crowded anchorage. I don’t like towing a dinghy at sea but we had only come round the corner from a lunch spot and I forget to shorten up the line. 

My question is: would we be better off with a floating painter ?

Member, Mark


I didn’t have a good answer, but AAC member Rob did.

And that got me interested in options in North America. Turns out that New England ropes makes a line specific for this use, with a polypropylene core to make it float and nylon sheath for easy handling.

I’m no fan of towing a dinghy, but sometimes it makes sense, so I will try this rope out.


Sail Care Q&A


What’s the best way to pack and store sails? I am unable to fold the hank on sails properly on deck, in a blow, solo. So I somewhat stuff it in the bag. Then on a nice and calm day, I will dry them by hoisting, and try to fold it as neatly as I can (not very neatly), before putting it in the bag.

Should sails in general be folded? Folded in the same spot every time, or is it preferred to fold it differently every time? Do they need to be rinsed and dried?

Member Arne


People get really worked up about sail care, but as long as they are woven how you fold them is not that important, although folding is generally better than stuffing, but not a lot, as long as the bag is big enough that you don’t have to jump on it to get it to fit.

If it were me with hank on sails, I would get a couple of sausage bags made, like race sailors use, and then zip them into the bags prior to taking them off the headstay and stow like that without refolding. Any decent sailmaker will be able to make these for you.

The two things that really hurt sails (of all types) are UV (sunlight) and flapping (flogging), so the key to long life is to always cover them and not let them flap any more than you must.

When I was sailmaking I always rubbed my hands in glee when I saw customers hoisting their sails and letting them flap in the sun to dry them perfectly.

Damp is not much of a problem, although it can cause mildew, but better that than a lot of flapping or sun.

If the sails will be stored for a while, hosing the salt off, drying, and folding is worth it, but again, we want to minimize the flapping and sunlight.


Wichard Self-Locking Shackles

We had the jib off, so I just replaced all the standard Harken shackles our new furler came with with Wichard self-locking ones.

We have been using these things for decades in places where wiring the shackle is not a good idea (spinnakers are expensive) and never had one back out on us. Highly recommended and really nicely made.

That said, on an offshore voyaging boat, I would add a drop of Loctite Blue.

You can see how they work in the closeup below.


Hack To Stop The Headstay Pumping

On a lot of boats with a roller-furling foil, and particularly with no sail rolled on it, the headstay will start to pump once the wind gets up, sometimes to the point it gets quite alarming.

Not only that, all that pumping can do real damage to the rig if left long enough.

But there’s a hack that stops it every time, at least for a boat swinging to the wind on a mooring or anchor.

Set up a spinnaker halyard just forward of the headstay as shown in the shot above. That’s it? Yup.

I guess the halyard causes turbulence that breaks up the laminar flow on the headstay foil…or something.

Anyway, we have been doing this for years and it works.

Thanks to Deborah Shapiro and Rolf Bjelke, as I read the tip years ago in one of their excellent books.


Nice Bags and No Hole Mounting

I like these sheet and odds and ends bags from Blue Performance a lot, but I hate drilling holes in our boats.

So I ordered these snap together fastener strips with adhesive backing to stick on the boat, and disks without adhesive to bolt the little mounting doodads the bags come with to.

Seems to work well, and the same hack can be used for mounting a bunch of different things.

The pics below show the details:

Here are the McMaster Carr part numbers:


Harken Bosun’s Chair

I let my much-loved and venerable Hood Sails bosun’s chair go with her when we sold our McCurdy and Rhodes 56.

Just received this replacement from Harken. After a quick look over, I’m liking what I’m seeing a lot, but of course I will know more once I have used it and will share that in a two-part series on going aloft that Matt and I are working on.

What bosun’s chair do you have and how do you like it? Please leave a comment.

Note we are not talking climbing harnesses here, that’s a different piece of kit.


Cruiser Under $20K, Bayfield 29

My last post got me thinking about the importance of just getting out there in some boat, any boat, if we really want to go cruising and make a success of it. We can always buy a bigger and better boat later.

With that in mind, there’s a Bayfield 29 we go by on our regular rows, that caught my eye as a functional cruiser we could get for half the price of cars most people buy these days.

So buy a modest car and a Bayfield 29 and get out there. Better still, forget the car and use the money to cruise for a year.

A guy I met the other day had a Bayfield 29 on Great Slave Lake, got drunk one night in a bar and boasted that he was going to sail it across the Atlantic. So then he had to, and did…and back—testosterone is a dangerous drug.

That said, I have no special knowledge on the Bayfields, so do your due diligence.

More on buying boats.

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A Boat While You Wait To Go Cruising

I came across this cool article on old small boats available for less than the cost of a good dinner out.

One of these would make a great project while waiting and saving to go cruising:

  1. Learn some useful skills while fixing the boat.
  2. Then hone sailing skills.

The O’Day Day Sailer for US$78 jumped out at me. When I was a teenager this was the boat I lusted after. Sails well and even has a tiny cabin.

If you want to sleep aboard (definitely camping), look for a Rhodes 19 originally built by the same company, albeit for more money, but you might find an old one for less.

At one point I taught sailing to adults in one of these, and even spent a few nights aboard sleeping on an air mattress.

Owning, fixing, and above all sailing one of these old boats is way more fun, and will impart way more useful cruising skills, than watching YouTube about lithium batteries and the Unattainable 45.

More about getting out there cruising.


Brion Toss Splicing Wand

I have owned this great tool for at least 25 years. I don’t use it that often, but when I do, it saves so much agro.

The photo to the right shows the way I was using it locked in a vice to Brummell splice 1/2″ Amsteel.

No way my little D-splicer was going to work to get 40 inches of tail threaded through.