John's Tips, Tricks and Thoughts

Weekly Digest:

Getting Ready for a Hurricane

The North Atlantic heating up in the last week got me working on preparing our new-to-us J/109 for a strike.

We have always added a backup pendant before expected winds of storm force or over, but in the past it was chain. Now, with a smaller boat and the availability of high-modulus rope, we are going with 1/2″ Dyneema 12-strand single braid. Spliced it up yesterday.

Given that the break load is three times more than the boat weighs, it should be strong enough, but of course chafe is always the issue, more than strength.


A Fractional Rig is Like a Gearbox

Above is with the backstay set for light air (about 7 knots true) and mast on our J/109 pretty much straight. Big time power in the mainsail and lots of sag in the headstay powering up the jib.

This is the same two sails in 14 knots true at which point we de-powered by pumping the backstay down 3.5″.

Main is now quite flat with a nice open leach and plenty of twist and headstay much tighter, doing the same to the jib.

In a mast head boat with a rig this big, and without gorillas on the rail, we would have had to reef, but then would have been a bit under powered.

Loving sailing a fraction boat again after all these years.

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49er, 49er FX and NACRA 17 Worlds

A friend invited me along to watch some of the races.

Amazing how performance sailing has changed since my days in the 505, and yet, in some ways, is still very much the same.

Also interesting that of the few races we watched, the women’s teams in the FX seemed by far the most aggressive, and maybe skilled, too, at the mark roundings. Perhaps the smaller rigs in the FX, and therefore slower straight-line speed, puts more emphasis on boat-to-boat tactics.

The women mixing it up at the top mark; two boats had to do turns in the space of 30 seconds.

Anyway, a fun day and huge congratulations to Sail Canada and all the other partner organizations and volunteers for putting on what looked like a great regatta on St Margaret’s Bay, as perfect a body of water for closed-course racing as one could imagine.

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Review of Furuno DRS2DNXT Radar

Eric Klem, a deeply experienced commercial and recreational mariner, and professional engineer with huge radar experience, just reviewed the latest Solid-State Radar from Furuno.

Don’t miss this comment (membership required to read), you will learn a huge amount, just like I did.

Read Eric’s Comment

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Slippery Deck Shoe Fix

My Gill deck shoes were completely losing their grip. We are talking scary-slippery, to the point I nearly went on my ass, and overboard was a real possibility.

We have seen this before. Seems like whatever material deck shoe soles are being made of these days, it develops a hard yellowy layer way before the shoe is worn out—shoe on right.

We have tried sanding before, but with not a lot of success, so this time, in desperation, I took a grinder with an 80-grade disk to them—shoe on left.

That fixed it, as grippy as new.

Keep at it until the yellow is gone and wear a respirator, I can’t imagine the dust is good for us.


Demo of In-Boom Furling

My friend Hans, who advised me while I was writing the article on the tragedy aboard Escape, took me out on his Farr 56 for a demo of hoisting, reefing, and furling, using his in-boom automated mainsail-handling system.

Hans is an incredible resource, since he has owned boats with slab, in-mast, and in-boom furling, as well as being a deeply experienced ocean sailor, including countless trips to and from the Caribbean over decades, and five trans-Atlantics in the last few years—two with slab reefing, two with in-mast, one with in-boom.

I will be sharing his wisdom on all three systems and how to choose which is best for each of us, in an in-depth article.


Safer Transom Ladder

Our new-to-us J/109 has a robust transom swim ladder that could definitely enable someone who fell overboard get back into the boat, at least in smooth water.

But check out the photo above: There’s no way for someone in the water, particularly wearing a lifejacket, to deploy the ladder unassisted. The angle is just wrong for that.

So I made the modification in the photo below. Works a treat.

I will be writing more over the next year about changes we are making to the boat to reduce person overboard risk, in our Online Book on the subject.


Nylon Line In Europe 2

The plot thickens. I came across this product page at RobLine an Austrian rope maker and they have a bunch of lines for mooring, docking, that will be good for anchor snubbers.

Interesting quote from that page:

Robline caters to the trend toward using different fibers for mooring and anchor lines, depending on the specific use, and introduces cordage made of polyamide (known as nylon) in order to utilize the high elasticity of this fiber to cope with critical shock loads.

These lines are available from, in Germany, who ship everywhere, among others.


Starlink Maritime

Starlink are going to provide a solution for moving vessels, but before we get too excited check out the price! Think US$10,000 for the unit and US$7000/month for service!

Looks like I will be right that Iridium will the solution for most of us for some time to come. In 2019 I predicted 10 years more of standard old Iridium for most of us.

Might still be right, but then again five years from now might be closer for always-on internet at sea at a reasonable price—only 30 years after the billionaires started promising it for “next year”.


Nylon Rope in Europe

A member was having a heck of a time finding Nylon rope for a snubber, as we recommend, in Europe. After some research I think I have found out why:

What we call Nylon in North America, and the UK, is known as H.T. Polyester in Europe and staff in stores sometimes refer to it as “polyester with stretch”.

Check out this page at Gottifredi Maffioli. One of their mooring line products has a heading of “Nylon Braid” but the detail says H.T. Polyester on the English language page.

Also claims “Elasticity, ease of handling” for this rope, so I think that is a Nylon equivalent.

Anyone have specialized knowledge on this? If so, please leave a comment.

Also see this tip for a source of Nylon in Europe.


Reaving Halyards

You see people taping messenger lines to halyards, but that can lead to tears when the messenger comes off inside the mast.

So way better to put a flemish eye, sometimes known as a reaving eye, in the bitter end of all halyards and internal reefing lines.

The key to success is that the eye should have no bigger diameter than the rope, so a normal splice does not work.

Or, if you suck at rope work as much as I do, get a good rigger to do it for you.