Newsletter – March 2008

March 2008

Just returned from a month in China. I had hoped to send a newsletter ‘hot off the press’ so to speak whilst there, but couldn’t get it to work! Likewise, I couldn’t access my blog for some reason.

Three of my reasons for going were to visit Qing Dao and check out the sailing facilities for the Olympics, see the Nanhai 1 museum in Yangjiang port and visit the Nanjing museum and shipyard in memory of Zheng He, the great navigator who sailed his fleets of trading ships on seven voyages as far as India and Africa almost one hundred years before Columbus struggled
to the eastern shores of America. Qingdao didn’t work out and the Nanhai 1 museum is yet to be finished – it being a three hour flight from Beijing I decided to wait until another time.

I spent a full day at the Nanjing Museum and yards (separate locations)catching up on the amazing achievements of this remarkable navigator. Virtually unknown in the west this admiral commanded huge fleets(sometimes as many as 200-300 vessels with nearly 30,000 crew)and proceeded to open up trade routes right through southern Asia, to Burma, Malaysia, Indonesia, Ceylon, India and right accross to the west coast of Africa including Mozambique and down as far as the Cape.

It has even been suggested that as he sailed around the southern side of Indonesia, he may have touched on the north coast of Australia and even more amazingly sailed as far as America. There have been ancient Chinese porcelain relics found underwater in the Caribbean.

The full size replica in the shipyard is 60 metres in length with a beam of 10.5 metres – Zheng He’s flagship or treasure ships would have been 130mtrs(400ft) in length. Built of timber they incorporated separate water tight compartments similar to bamboo to prevent them from sinking. This was a clever idea and light years ahead of European shipbuilding at the time. His
fleets consisted of separate ships for water, horses, rice, troops, gardens and even a craft carrying concubines and emissiaries for the pleasure of entertaining various Kings and
Chiefs they visited along the way.

Visit my blog for images of the museum shipyard and ship.

Zheng He himself was a huge man standing well over two metres and in all probability a eunuch – eunuchs were very powerful in court then. He was a voyager, navigator, explorer, diplomat and ambassador all rolled into one.

He made seven epic voyages from 1405 and opened up all those trading routes which ultimately became known as the marine ‘Silk Road’. He went in peace, not war and returned to China with amazing treasures for those times – lions, bears, tigers and even a giraffe which was comfortably accommodated in a large treasure ship.

The new Emperor shut down these expeditions and his last voyage was in 1430, culminating in Zheng He’s death on board enroute to home and being buried at sea.

Strolling around the shipyard where two hundred of these ships were built over a two year period, one can only marvel at the intense activity and noise that must have been created by the thirty thousand artisans and shipbuilders that worked there. There is also a large statue of the Admiral, a compass replica and a massive iron grapnel type anchor weighing four tonnes.

Fortunately for us some relics escaped the Emperors commands to destroy everything, hence the knowledge we have that has been pieced together to what we know today of this rather remarkable man and period of marine history.

There are a number of websites you can check out by typing Zheng He into your favourite search engine.

You can read more about Zheng He’s exploits and navigating in my ebook ‘Voyage of the Little Ship ‘Tere Moana’ on my website



The Navy sometimes allowed women on board for lengthy voyages, but it was generally frowned upon. When, on any of these voyages, a child was born the mother was usually bedded down in the deck space between two cannons to allow a modicum of privacy and the birth take place there – hence the term ‘son of a gun’.

In addition, if a child was born and the identity of the father was dubious, the child was entered in the ships log as a ‘son of a gun’.

That’s all for this newsletter and remember to check out Zheng
He and much more on my blog at


Newsletter – January 2008

January 2008

Ahoy there shipmates and very best wishes for your success in 2008.


Amongst all of your New Years resolutions, how many of you have committed to begin your planning for your adventure of your lifetime. For those of you that are already planning and those of you that have committed to begin, congratulations and I look forward to working with you this year.

For those of you who have yet to arrive at that point and leap that first hurdle, come on, let’s get cracking and do it together! You know, once you have jumped that hurdle, put pen to paper and begun, you will wonder why you didn’t begin a lot sooner. Here’s some guidelines and questions to help you along the way:


The challenge?
Always wanted to?
The love of sailing?
Sea change?
Experience different cultures?
Visit exotic destinations?
Achieve something extraordinary in my life?


Cross an ocean?
Sail to South Pacific?


Classic sailboat?
Modern design sailboat?
35-40ft, 40-50ft, larger?
Basic equipment or all bells and whistles?


Six months time?
One year?
Eighteen months?
Two years?
Five years?


Wife, Spouse, Partner?
Paid Skipper?
Hired Crew?

These are all crucial questions that will assist you in formulating your thoughts. Get them all down on paper or in a file on your computer and then start filling in the gaps. Once you have answered them fully you will have a much clearer picture in your head as to where you are going with it. In a
short while you will finish up with something called a plan!! Simple really – and when you have this plan you will carry it everywhere with you (mind, paper or file) and you will amaze yourself with all the additional things that come to mind that you will add to your plan.

Soon, you will reach a point where you cannot stop thinking about it and that is the point where you will suddenly become quite serious about it. That my friend, is when you realise and know you are going to do it – Oh, what a feeling!

I want to help get you to that point as soon as possible, because I know that once you have arrived there, your project will have gained such momentum you won’t be able to stop it – even if you wanted to – but at that point you will be so passionate that you will remove any obstacles that come along.

So, there we have it – begin your journey right now – Good Luck.


Following much prompting and then dragging of feet by me, I have launched a Blog on my website

Please check it out and see what you think. I will post regular items on it of events, happenings, tech. info, equipment news, sailing knowledge, in fact anything that is of interest to sailors.

As I post these regularly, you can log in at any time you wish as opposed to waiting for the Newsletter. You will still receive the Newsletter from time to time.


In addition to the blog I have recently added a short audio to my homepage. This gives the opportunity of folks hearing from me first hand the benefits of getting started with their planning.


Test your general sailing knowledge and of sailboat parts – work your way through and jot down your answers as you go. you can look on the internet for sites with images to identify various parts.

1. Identify the following parts of a sailboat: backstay, deck, jib, shrouds ,boom, forestay, keel, spreaders, bow, gooseneck, lifelines, stern, bow, pulpit, headstay, mainsail, stern, pulpit, cabin, hull, mast, traveler.

2. Describe the functions of the following items on a sailboat: boom, topping lift, fairlead vs. padeye, mainsheet, spring/breast lines, boomvang, fenders, outhaul, stays/shrouds, cleats, halyard, rudder, tiller/wheel, downhaul, jib, sheet, shackle, winches, telltails, cunningham.

3. Define the following terms: aft, coming about, helmsman, standing rigging, abeam, crew, leeward, starboard, ahead, forward, port, windward, astern, jibing, running rigging, tacking, beam, heel, skipper.

4. Identify the following sails and parts of a sail: battens, foot, jib, spinnaker, batten, pockets, genoa, leech, storm, jib, bolt, rope, hanks, luff, tack, clew, head, mainsail.


When a ship was working away from a lee shore, when gusts of katabatic wind came off the land to ease the pressure, it was called a windfall. These gusts made the ships job more easy to crab away from the lee of the land and danger, and were therefore considered to be of great benefit – hence the modern day concept of a lucky ‘windfall’

That’s all for this Newsletter – good planning and I look forward to seeing you regularly on my Blog on my website


Newsletter – November 2007

November 2007


Testing, testing – testing you on your ‘Phonetic Alphabet’ – how many of you were able to rattle off the phonetic code A – Z with ease? and how many of you can do the same, but backwards with the same ease? If you haven’t quite got there with it yet, keep at it and it will suddenly come. It is something you can practice on your way to and from work, whether it be walking, cycling, bus, train or driving.

Once learned it will never be forgotten. Morse code is the same, but fortunately none of us need to learn that wonderful system any longer. A memorial celebration was held around six months ago for the formal cessaton and burial of this great system of communication. It had a life of not much more than one hundred years. In its short life it served as a magnificent communication system for the whole world throughout the last century and a half.

When you consider that communicating by smoke signals, arm signals and flags has been around for hundreds of years, morse code got pretty short shrift. Such is the nature of the technological advances being made in communication. one wonders what the next step will be?

Whilst Morse Code is no longer recognised as an official communication method it is being kept very much alive by the ITU (International Telecommunication Union). To keep up with progress they have recently devised a character for the @ symbol in emails. You can find out more about this fascinating subject on Wikipedia, and


Taking a few days off recently at the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, a friend and myself rented a catamaran on a fine and blustery afternoon, with somewhat exciting and hair raising results. The following is a piece I penned shortly afterward and published on Whilst written in a humourous vein, the consequences of hiring out defective equipment could have far more serious consequences. Under the heading of ‘Safety at Sea’ we will have a look at some of those after the article.


Blustering upriver, salty and tangy, the afternoon breeze invades their senses. On such a bright and blue Queensland post meridiem our two heroes choose to launch themselves onto the waters by renting a catamaran for an hour or two. The previous day, with a much more gentle breeze, they had chatted up the attendant and been informed that the questionable and lonely looking twin hulled unit languishing on the sand strip was a bit of a &lsquo ;dog’ to sail on account of the starboard sponson opening up when tacking and allowing the ingress of water. The boat they needed was out but would be available tomorrow – it was duly booked.
Today, with a good eighteen knot breeze blasting off the sea and approaching the crumbling hut that grandstanded as a sales office, their craft was spied cutting neatly up on to the beach coming to rest alongside the ‘dog’. Payment in advance was demanded and docilely handed over. The proprietor in attendance today, kits them out with broken zipped and ill fitting life jackets amid many instructions as to where they can and cannot sail. He points out the jet ski channel markers( I always understood that power gives way to sail!), to various jetties and sand bars (which at half tide are rather obvious!), and definitely not to sail over the bar into the open ocean. Ready at last, our men turn to find that their boat has been released seaward again with the explanation from the attendant that the hirers’ wanted another hour! With their artful chicanery of yesterday blown in an instant and this being the last day of their holiday they allow the proprietor to convince them of the sterling qualities of the remaining ‘cat’. He postulates that the attendant was vastly overstating the case of the water entry and that the tiny ‘rip’ in the jib was of no consequence and would not slow the boat down too much when tacking. Glances are exchanged, but with the afternoon sun slipping forever horizonward, our intrepids trudge over the sand to the awaiting cat. Turning it seaward takes a mighty effort as she seems somewhat heavy – maybe the wet Queensland sand clings more vigorously to fiberglass than its southern variety?

Shoving off the beach at ninety degrees to the wind she gathers moderate speed whilst heading directly toward the jetski channel and the first sandbar. Getting the feel of her, our crew play with the tiller for direction and the clew for speed, knowing there is plenty of time left before they need to tack. Boat speed varies from not much to five to seven knots, but she should be going much faster. Taking her further off the breeze does nothing to increase speed. Cats are not known for sailing close to the wind but this is ridiculous. Several tacks are attempted, but immediately the tack is put in she stops dead in the water without her head coming through the wind. Four or five of these unsuccessful attempts later, they arrive at the first sand bar – literally – bumping to a standstill. This entails jumping off and manually turning the boat around. This achieved they jump aboard again to repeat the process all the way to the other side. The boat certainly seems to sail better on this tack and speed picks up to more like what it should. Whilst this lifts their spirits, spray flying in their faces and wet to the waist, the next problem is emerging. The starboard sponson cutting through the water begins acting like a submarine as the speed increases. The nose digs deeper and deeper into the water, listing the craft further and further to starboard. Our stalwarts have deduced by now that there is indeed rather more water in that hull than should be and that the attendant from yesterday was more accurate in his description than the proprietor today. This is of no great comfort to our crew at this point. The bow knifing deeper at an ever increasing angle, in turn encourages more water to run forward, which with its weight rushing downward, of course pushes the bow down even further. If no correction to this situation is taken, the hull will dive so deep and at such an angle the whole craft will execute a spectacular barrel roll catapaulting our crew into the water. As warm as the breeze and water is, it is felt that this would not be the best option from the point of view of seamanship, getting very wet, possible injury and not the least, spectator viewing from the shore!

All sheets are let go and the boat rights itself. By this time, the tiny ‘rip’ in the jib has run virtually all the way to the forestay, the upper section flapping wildly in its bid for freedom. Almost having lost all way she steers herself very neatly into and behind one of the very jetties our crew had been instructed to avoid (something to do with irate owners), running herself onto the rocky breakwater. The space is just wide enough to take her, but not nearly wide enough to turn her around. Wrestling her back out again into open water exhausts our crews’ patience and most of the time, so a decision is made. They turn her downwind and head homeward. She likes this much better and they cruise downwind in a direct line for the hirers shed, gybing all the way. A wary eye is kept on the recalcitrant hull, but the increased speed with virtually no list keeps the water and therefore the boat, more on an even keel.

Aiming for the beach, our crew notice that the other cat has returned. They hit the strand at around four knots and slide gracfully to a halt beside the other boat – best manoeuvre of the day!

Marching purposefully toward the hut, the proprietor sees them coming. His interpretation of the situation is quite rapid, prompted no doubt by his own guilt and he offers the other cat free for a further hour. Meanwhile however, his enthusiastic attendant has de-rigged it and with the suns’ lower limb closing rapidly on the tree studded island to the west our stalwarts call it a day. Under duress their fee is refunded and they stalk off having relieved their spleen on the proprietor by questioning his parentage and highlighting the dangers of renting out deficient equipment.

Trouping down the jetty and passing by the statuesque and salty blonde from the other cat (their cat!), she grins broadly at them and offers:

‘Hey, great fun out there today?’

Ouch! How to wound male pride! Our crew look at one another – was that a genuine comment? Or was she winding them up? Her smile was so wide and her white teeth backed up by two brilliant blue eyes in her happy sunburned face, they give her the benefit of the doubt.

Lounging around the pool in the soft evening and washing the experience down with a couple of cool beers puts it all in perspective. Couple that with several borderline jokes at the expense of the proprietor helps to restore any lost male face and once again all is well in the world.


Firstly, being as suspicious as we were, we should never have taken the craft out. Our excuse was that it was our last day of the holiday and it was the only boat left on the beach(for obvious reasons!). Secondly, and more importantly, the owner should not have been renting it out.

Here is a list of the faults we found:

  • One lifejacket partially torn
  • Zippers had no tags(broken) to open or close zips.
  • Buoyancy of jackets not tested so don’t know whether they worked or not.
  • Jib torn at seam which had gone full length in the stiff breeze by the time we returned.
  • Traveller cam cleat so sloppy that the sheet had to be constantly re-positioned and held in place to prevent it from popping out.
  • Starboard sponson held so much water it affected the trim of the boat – you can see in the pic how we have a decided list to starboard. With the breeze we had that day the boat should have been heeling well to port.

Can you wonder that we asked for our hire money to be refunded?

With those lessons learned do you think we would be any more circumspect next time? – probably not!! All you want to do at the time is get out on the water and have some fun!

Nautical Expression for the Month

‘By and Large’

A very common expression in daily use by most of us. When a vessel is sailing close to the wind it is ‘sailing by the wind’. When the wind is coming over the quarter the boat is sailing ‘large’. If a ship sails well under both types of conditions, even though a contradiction in terms she, is said to be able to sail ‘by and large’.

Christmas is closing on us rapidly and no doubt many of us are contemplating some kind of holiday. See if those of you in warmer(summer) climes can include some sailing in there somewhere. Good luck and talk to you again soon.

Cap’n Vinnie

Newsletter – September 2007


Ahoy there Members
This month we are going to look at some safety issues at sea and what you need to take with you on your adventure. But before we start on that subject I am going to give you the tables for the phonetic alphabet. This you need to commit to heart as you will need them every time you communicate by short wave radio. In addition it is also very useful to know this alphabet today when our whole internet email system relies on one another spelling out email addresses verbally over the ‘phone. If you spell using this alphabet then there will be no mistakes.

NATO Phonetic Alphabet

A – Alpha K – Kilo U – Uniform 0 – Zero
B – Bravo L – Lima V – Victor 1 – Wun (One)
C – Charlie M – Mike W – Whiskey 2 – Two
D – Delta N – November X – X-ray 3 – Tree (Three)
E – Echo O – Oscar Y – Yankee 4 – Fower (Four)
F – Foxtrot P – Papa Z – Zulu 5 – Fife (Five)
G – Golf Q – Quebec 6 – Six
H – Hotel R – Romeo . – decimal (point) 7 – Seven
I – India S – Sierra . – (full) stop 8 – Ait (Eight)
J – Juliet T – Tango 9 – Niner (Nine)

I have given you the NATO table as this is the standard today and the most widely used. Learn this so you can reel it off from the beginning e.g. ‘Alpha, Bravo, Charlie ………’, and also backward just as fluently e.g.’Zulu, Yankee, X-ray, Whisky……’. Once you have mastered this you will be able to roll it out whenever you need to. Learn it now rather than later when you will have much other mind clutter and things to think about as you progress with your planning and come closer to your departure date.
Two other websites giving you these tables are and

Safety at Sea:

This a major subject and one that often there is not enough thought given to and consequently may have tragic results because a piece of equipment failed, was not carried on board or worn, or crew had not been correctly or fully trained. We could fill every Newsletter for the next year on this subject, so I will take one or two aspects of it from time to time so that eventually we will cover them all.

To begin with I shall give you my list which we will then examine, not necessarily in that order:

Life jackets

Jack Lines

Danboy system with strobe

Life Rings



Pistol flare kit


Grab bag with 121.5 EPIRB

Personal EPIRBS

MOB button on GPS

MOB retrieval block and tackle kit

2182 alarm button on SSB radio

Fire extinguishers

Fire blanket(galley)

Medical kit

Let’s look at a couple of these.


Oviously this is a critical safety item and no ship should ever put to sea without one that has not been recently checked and certified. This certification needs to be done annually. Most used craft will come with one, so the first job is to take it to your certification station and have it checked. They will completely open it up and test it for soundness, no leaks, and also check all the contents and replace any that are not 100% satisfactory.

I recommend that when you have purchased your yacht and going for the first time, that you stay on and watch the procedure. Most will allow you to do this( you may have to go back at an appointed time) and it lets you see what your liferaft looks like on the inside.

Many liferafts are just strapped on the foredeck for coastal sailing and not particularly well affixed. If you are going ocean voyaging, then it needs to be well bolted down. Check the fixings and strengthen them if necessary – you DO NOT want your liferaft coming adrift and separating from your foredeck during bad weather – especially if there is a possibility that you may be needing it.
If purchasing a new liferaft, always get one the next size up for the number of crew you will have i.e. if you are going to have three or four crew, purchase a six-man raft rather than a four, and so on. The price is very little more (maybe a hundred or two dollars only) and the additional space you will have if you ever have to use it in anger is a godsend. There are many good brands out there but do your research first and find the one that suits your purposes best.

Obviously, once it is in position, you don’t want to test it out as it is very difficult to pack it up again, so I recommend you attend a ‘Liferaft Safety’ course. They are run frequently in your area and you can book them anytime. It is a good idea to wait until you have your crew organised and have them attend as well. It is a lot of fun, but more importantly, familiarises everybody with a process which otherwise none of you would know until you had to use it for the first time – not
good practise. Good Seamanship therefore is be prepared – it is a very steep learning curve having to take all that in for the first time if you are preparing to leave a foundering vessel!
So, now you have your new liferaft in place, lets hope and pray that it remains there for the entire trip, only to be ever removed for its annual certification. Remember, if you ever do have to use it for real, this old nautical ‘saw’, ‘When abandoning ship, never step down into your liferaft, only ever step up.’

Jack Lines:

If these are not already fitted it is essential you fit a set – see 101 Tip no. 84 and page 48 ‘Voyage of the Little Ship ‘Tere Moana’ on my site They are there to clip on your harness line any time you or your crew leave the cockpit. They run the whole length of your boat on the port and starboard decks. Take 35mm black webbing, cut it to length and visit your sailmaker and have him sew up the ends. Fix them to the forward deck with triangle tangs and at the stern end (beside the rear end of the cockpit) with quick link shackles.
Tighten them to a twanging snap on the deck. Now you have a fine, taut and extremely durable and strong set of jack lines. As tight as you have them on the decks, you will still find you can easily slip your fingers under them to snap on your harness lifeline shackle.

Every time any crew member leaves the cockpit they should clip on to these jack lines. Many a life has been saved in rough weather by crew being ‘clipped on’ when the boat has been tossed, a wave come on board or a boom swung over. Even in fair sailing conditions it can easily happen that someone trips as they climb out of the cockpit or walking along the deck. If no one else is on deck at the time that crew can go over without being noticed. It is difficult to retrieve a MOB from the sea anytime in the best of conditions – but if that MOB goes over
without anyone knowing, retrieval is infinitely less likely.

More safety issues later.

This month I will leave you with a revised version of John Masefields’ ‘Sea Fever’, with words aimed at the electronic nuts out there.

“With apologies to Masefield”, author unknown

I must go down to the sea again, in a modern high-tech boat, And all I ask is electric, for comfort while afloat, And alternators, and solar panels, and generators going,
and deep cycle batteries with many amperes flowing.

I must go down to the sea again, to the autopilot’s ways, And all I ask is a GPS, and a radar, and displays, And a cell phone, and a weatherfax, and a shortwave radio, And compact disks, computer games and TV videos.

I must go down to the sea again, with a freezer full of steaks, And all I ask is a microwave, and a blender for milkshakes, And a watermaker, air-conditioner, hot water in the sink, And e-mail and a VHF to see what my buddies think.

I must go down to the sea again, with power-furling sails, And chart displays of all the seas, and a bullhorn for loud hails, And motors pulling anchor chains, and push-button sheets, And programs which take full charge of tacking during beats.

I must go down to the sea again, and not leave friends behind, And so they never get seasick we’ll use the web online, And all I ask is an Internet with satellites over me, And beaming all the data up, my friends sail virtually.

I must go down to the sea again, record the humpback whales, Compute until I decipher their language and their tales, And learn to sing in harmony, converse beneath the waves, And befriend the gentle giants as my synthesizer plays.

I must go down to the sea again, with RAM in gigabytes, and teraflops of processing for hobbies that I like, And software suiting all my wants, seated at my console And pushing on the buttons which give me complete control.

I must go down to the sea again, my concept seems quite sound, But when I simulate this boat, some problems I have found.

The cost is astronomical, repairs will never stop, Instead of going sailing, I’ll be shackled to the dock.

I must go down to the sea again, how can I get away? Must I be locked in low-tech boats until my dying day? Is there no cure for my complaint, no technologic fix? Oh, I fear electric fever is a habit I can’t kick.

And software suiting all my wants, seated at my console And pushing on the buttons which give me complete control.

I must go down to the sea again, my concept seems quite sound, But when I simulate this boat, some problems I have found.

The cost is astronomical, repairs will never stop, Instead of going sailing, I’ll be shackled to the dock.

I must go down to the sea again, how can I get away? Must I be locked in low-tech boats until my dying day? Is there no cure for my complaint, no technologic fix? Oh, I fear electric fever is a habit I can’t kick.

Nautical saying for September:

Ahoy, or Ahoy there!

In ancient times ‘Ahoy’ was the battle cry of the Vikings.

Then it became the traditional method of hailing between ships. Today it is used as a general greeting or a way of attracting someones attention. It is still used when hailing other vessels at sea or when approaching a vessel on a marina berth when there is no one on deck. The hail ‘Ahoy’ goes out followed by the name of the vessel. This is the correct and polite method. The strength of the hail depends on the distance of the other vessel or whether or not the occupants of the moored craft are awake or not!

Enjoy and talk to you all again next month

Cap’n Vinnie

Newsletter – August 2007


Congratulations and many thanks to all you Members who took me up on my crazy offer last month – we had an amazing response! The average take up offer is 0.5 to 1% with internet sales, so your response of over ten percent was quite phenomenal and proves without a doubt that people need to see a website or an advertisement more than once before they purchase. So any
others of you that are thinking about buying my ‘101 Dollar Saving Tips for Sailors’ you m ay like to take another trip to my site again

Remember, in addition to the ‘101 Tips’ you also get my 135 page ebook of the ‘Voyage of the Little Ship Tere Moana’, all the back copies of Newsletter, plus FREE, the ‘Ten Point Tips’of what to look for when buying your dream sailboat, presented by Mark Clarke, International Marine Surveyor and USCG Captain.

Mark really knows his stuff and his report could save you many hundreds of dollars or maybe even thousands of dollars in making the correct decisions for you when inspecting vessels you are interested in buying.

So take a look at my site
again and lets begin our adventure/voyage together.


Two weeks ago we had the 40the. Anniversary Sydney Boat Show. It was quite an event, bigger and better than ever. The boats on display were bigger than ever as well! the equipment that so many yachts come with nowadays is mind blowing. Electric winches are standard on many yachts now and the electronics, navigation gear and computer software level has increased
exponentially. But once in awhile a breakthrough product comes along and creates a quiet revolution. GPS did that back in the early nineties. This time it is LED lighting. The proliferation of this evolutionary lighting is quite something. Many new vessels had it fitted for navigation lights topsides, but it was also very evident in lighting below decks.

The current draw is so much less from your batteries and it also gives a clean light – bright or dim, the purity of colour is not affected. LED lighting is of particular interest to sailors for passagemaking because of this reduced drain on the boats batteries when on a long passage. Many of them are solar powered, so can be completely separated out from the ships
normal circuit. There are so many variations available and on the market already it can be somewhat confusing as to which ones are best for you. The ones I thought were especially cute are the touch sensitive variety that turn on when you touch the lens with your hand and turn off again with a touch as you leave. This eliminates the necessity of switches altogether and
is a neat solution to turning them on and off. This is especially useful for reading charts below at night – instead of searching around for a switch in the dark, you just brush the unit with your fingers and on it comes – magic!

Because of the number of types available you need to do your homework carefully, so here are a few websites you can research and bone up on your LED light knowledge before you buy:

And the Daddy of them all is an electronics ‘junky’ heaven website looking at and testing all things electronic marine in great detail and exhaustive depth(dished up with a touch of humour) and excellent HD images –

Wikipedia also has some relevant technical data on LED’s.

Two LED’s set in foredeck – very handy at night

Here is my latest article published as an ezine article on the internet. It is my impressions of Bora Bora in French Polynesia approaching it for the first time – hope it gets your imagination up and running!


Poking his head out of the hatch, the salty blast of breeze slaps her captain in the face. Laden with moisture it fingers his face, threatening rain. Lead like, the southern sky is an endless flat grey expanse from the horizon up. Either she is sailing into a weather system, or it is another local anomaly.

Running a printout from the weather fax shows no major system in their slice of the ocean. Remembering a similar situation on the run down to the Tuamotus’ when she lost her shroud, her crew take a reef into her mainsail just to be sure. Mid afternoon sees the cloud shredding into blue, and, with the sun streaming through, the breeze frees again to the ‘Trades’. Her
crew shake out the reef and in no time at all she is barrelling along again in fine style, at her customary seven to eight knots. Her waterline, scrubbed before leaving Raiatea, has the water bubbling gaily along her sleek, fulsome waist and sides she feels great.

Making their goodbyes earlier in Raiatea, the arrangement is to meet up again in Tonga, if not before. Both ships are taking the same course, visiting Niue on the way, but with vhf having a range of twenty five or so miles only, it will be difficult to keep in contact with their friends. Passing out of Raiatea, she had headed around the top end of Taaha Island, and looking in one of the ‘Passes’ our crew beheld one of the most wicked
surfing breaks imaginable. Curling in at the point of the Passe, rising up onto the reef, the glassy black rollers boom onto the jagged coral, snow white spray leaping high. A few surfers are actually riding them, taking their life in hand every time they catch one of these monsters. Our crew could hear the whoop of the occasional surfer brave enough to try and
ride it out, surviving.

Her captain, gazing at the sea, is once again struck by the multitude of different moods she parades herself – revealing all, but revealing nothing. Every day is different, from blazing blue through to stone grey, sometimes even almost black – from calm to rough and sometimes tempestuous, and back to calm again – sometimes sparkling and sometimes threatening – constantly changing, so that even a half hour can make a difference. The one constant is constant change. No wonder that artists always struggle in their daubs to capture the true image of the sea. She is so elusive, even in a fractured
moment, too much for the artists eye. Capture it on film ok, but transfer that with medium to canvas or paper and something is always missing. The restlessness on a human face can be conveyed in a portrait, but the heaving, ongoing, never stopping restlessness of the ocean is beyond our capabilities.

The best the artist can hope for is a fairish representation of this element that covers seventy percent of the planets’ surface. That statistic, plus the fact that our bodies are seventy two percent water, gets him wondering if there is any connection between the two, and in the end, we are all mixed in together, as in a giant washing machine, and part of this huge juggernautical whirlpool called life. Whatever it may or may not be, water, in all its forms, fresh or salt, sea or lake, river or pond, has a colossal effect on our lives as joint occupants of this Earth.

Wafting up the companionway, a redolent whiff of fresh baking rouses him from his musing, and his thoughts turn to a more basic requirement – food.

‘Insufferable glutton!’ she taunts her captain. ‘That’s all you think about – filling your belly!’

There are few things more pleasurable than demolishing several hot buttered scones in the cockpit of a yacht on a fine breezy tropical afternoon, and washing them down with pure drinking water with a touch of lime, from the watermaker.

On to Bora Bora, our little ship cruising quietly now as the breeze moderates, notices an increasing number of glutinous floating objects gliding by. These are the jellyfish of the round, mushroom shaped, transparent type with four darker rings placed precisely in their centre. By the time our crew notice them they have multiplied to legion proportions and her bow is slicing through them, shoving them aside in their hundreds.
They travel like this for some thirty minutes and during this time the animals are so thick that they have a deadening effect on the surface of the water, smoothing it down from a regular light to moderate breeze wavelet surface, to a gently undulating mass of these strange creatures.

How far they stretched away from our little ship on either side, they cannot tell, but taking into account the time it takes for her to sail through them, the shoal must number in the multi millions. Our crew wonder idly if these animals have any natural predator – maybe they are whale fodder, and because there are less whales now, the jellyfish has prospered. With
this gummy carpet of living jelly heaving all around them, even though the breeze is still there, a kind of eerie stillness pervades the scene. She is ploughing through them at around five knots, but leaving no trail. Her cutwater shovels them aside and they slither along her sides, the full length of her hull, to immediately close up again as they pass under her
stern. There is no trace of where they have been a few moments before. The phenomenon begs the question, why such a concentration of these animals right here? What are they doing here? Are they going anywhere? Or are they just drifting on the ocean currents of the globe? Are they here in preparation for mating? If so, there is no shortage of choice! Nature takes
care of her own, keeping a balance, and she no doubt has them here as part of her master plan. Breaking out the other side, the diminishing numbers are shaken off and she surges forward, and away from the mass concentration. Some several minutes later, she has cleared most of them and they have reduced to the occasional laggard slipping by and into her wake.

The twin peaks of Bora Bora are climbing out of the forward horizon and the island is taking shape exactly as described in the pilot. Part of her captains’ mind is always surprised at how the geographical features of a new destination, viewed for the first time, are a faithful replica of a printed or photographic description, as if there is the possibility of there being some change or difference, or that the cartographer got it wrong! And so there is this mild feeling of surprised satisfaction that the real thing matches the representation and it has been chronicled correctly. The leisurely approach of a sailing yacht enhances this feeling and gives our crew the opportunity to study this island jewel closely as they draw nearer. Bora Bora is known as ‘The most beautiful’, and from this distance it is shaping up to its reputation. James A Michener immortalised it in his ‘Return to Paradise’ with the following : ‘I first saw it from an airplane. On the horizon there was a speck that became a tall, blunt mountain with
cliffs dropping sheer into the sea. About the base of the mountain, narrow fingers of land shot out, forming magnificent bays, while about the whole was thrown a coral ring of absolute perfection, dotted with small motus on which palms grew. The lagoon was a crystal blue, the beaches were dazzling white, and ever on the outer reef the spray leapt mountainously into the

On this perfect South Seas day, the sun casting its flawless, radiant light into the mountain tops of the island, it is indeed the embodiment of paradise. Blazing white of sand under, the delicate pale aqua of the lagoon is reflected upward onto the underneath of the fluffy white clouds around the twin peaks, creating a unique and dazzling display, floating and turquoise in the skies. The coral reef surrounds Bora Bora like
a necklace in that it is almost perfect in its symmetry and equidistant from the main island. Fortunately there is a Passe, the only one, on the western side of the reef. It is named Passe Teavanui and leads into a magnificent deepwater bay right under the splendid, towering twin peaks for which Bora Bora is renowned. Our little ship sails easily through this wide Passe,
across the bay and right up to the Bora Bora Yacht Club, nestled in a cove about one and a half kilometres north of the main town, Vaitape. The water off the clubhouse is a dark, still, fifteen fathoms, dotted with vessels of various description and vintage. In addition, there are a number of
orange mooring buoys in the bay and, to one of these she heads rather than dropping anchor in this deep water.

‘Take the least line of resistance when offered’. She thinks, her captain concurring directly.

She judges it perfectly – no wind here – they hook on, her captain shuts down the engine and she settles to rest in this, another corner of paradise.

Extract from the ‘Voyage of the Little Ship Tere Moana’


“The whole nine yards”

In the old sailing days a typical ‘square rigger’ had three masts or spars. Each mast had three yard arms for the sails. So, when under full sail with all up and sailing hard they used the expression ‘the whole nine yards’, meaning the ship was using everything she had.

Next month is going to be a dead set serious Newsletter and we are going to look at some safety procedures at sea.

Till then – happy dreaming and planning – how’s your bowline coming?

Cap’n Vinnie

Newsletter – July 2007


Cap’n Vinnies crazy offer to you this month only.

Ahoy there Members,

I have been thinking deeply about my website and what I am doing with it. My ultimate goal is to have as many folk as possible motivated and planning their ocean adventure voyage. So this month’s newsletter is largely directed to those Members who have signed up for my Newsletter but have yet to buy my package. For those folks I have revised my website and added an additional Bonus for you. So here goes.

All my people think I am NUTS to make this offer, but I know something they don’t – I have sailed ‘The Adventure’ and know the expectation, the feeling of excitement, the personal growth and the sense of fulfilment that I reaped (and you will too) from doing it. So for me, the greatest number of people I can encourage to put in place their own plans to make ‘The Voyage’, experience the same feelings and gain from them the same way I did, the happier I will be. This is worth much much more than a few dollars and cents.

Imagine after many days of sailing at sea you are about to make landfall at a never before seen tropical island. You have been sailing in the steady breeze of the Trades, holding your course and observing the wonders of all the sea life around you – the Dolphins, flying fish, the occasional whale, the birds, fish and the constantly changing sea and sky. You have been studying the charts and the pilot, so you have some idea of the topography of your destination – but for you it is an
undiscovered island and you have only a sketchy idea of what it will look like in reality. It is nothing like flying in in a jet with someone else at the controls, or driving in on a man made road – this is arriving entirely as a result of your own efforts.

So imagine if you will, when a mountain peak slowly rises out of the ocean ahead of you, or some coconut palms or a range of lush green hills begin climbing up the blue wall, the feeling of elation, anticipation and excitement of a brand new landfall. Top that off with the utmost satisfaction of being exactly where you are supposed to be – priceless! – you just cannot put a value on that. And on an extended voyage such as
you are dreaming of or already planning, imagine how many times you will actually experience this?

Creeping ever closer to your chosen landfall you study the land, then the shoreline and markers until the whole panorama is laid out before you. Finally, you pick out the leading marks, lights and buoys that will lead you safely into port, and gliding into the lagoon, bay or harbour you experience the deliciousness of having achieved something really worthwhile. You drop anchor and then look to the shore, for the first time drinking it all in through hungry eyes, filled with expectation
of what this new adventure will bring.

My insane offer to you to encourage you to get started is on my website There you will find my

– ‘101 Dollar Saving Tips’ for Sailors which could save you many hundreds of dollars and more.

– My 135 page illustrated download ebook ‘Voyage of the Little Ship Tere Moana’ with all ‘Tips’ hyperlinked in the

– A completely FREE six page report from International Marine Surveyor and USCG Captain Mark Clarke ‘Ten Point Plan’ of what to look for when buying your dream vessel.

– Plus you can sign up for my monthly ‘Tips for Sailors’ newsletter and access the archives for all the back issues.

– You can also read other new ezine articles I have published on the internet.

How much would you expect to pay for all this? $199? this is
what it would normally sell for and it is good value at that.
But I am not offering it to you at that price, not even $99,
not even $79, or $49 or $39, but for a short time only, the
crazy low price of $49.95.

But you must hurry to right now as the price of $49.95 including the FREE six page survey report is for the first 150 buyers only – after that the price revert to the normal $49.

So please hurry and visit right now and book your copy – remember after the first 150 Members the price goes back to normal – so don’t delay, get yours now and we can begin your journey together.

Looking forward to seeing you on

Best regards

Cap’n Vinnie

p.s. Those of you who are already on Your journey and would
like to have a copy of Marks ‘Ten Point Plan’ absolutely FREE,
please email me at and you will
receive the download details by return.

Mark Clarke – International Marine Surveyor and USCG Captain

Mark as you now know is the author of the valuable ‘Ten Point Plan’ survey he has written for us. Check him out on his site There you will find out all about
Mark and the work he does for boaties all around the globe.

That’s all for this issue folks – have a great month and I look
forward to meeting you again in our August Newsletter.

Happy sailing

Cap’n Vinnie

Newsletter – June 2007


Last month we saw how how a major potential disaster was avoided on my voyage with a little resourcefulness and a large slice of luck. So, I thought that this time around we would enjoy some of the adventures of a crew actually out there doing it right now.

I present to you for your reading pleasure two daily logs from the crew of ‘Northern Child’, making the passage from Horta in the Azores to the U.K.

T hese two log extracts are courtesy of a lively and interesting site stuffed full of interesting nautical information and stories.

Northern Child Daily Log 2nd June

Position: 45.28N 13.33W
Speed: 7.5 knots
Course: 050M

Another fine day’s sailing out here – well, fine is the wrong word as actually it has been overcast and cloudy all day. But the thing is, the winds have been great and that is what matters. That full moon and starlight I was telling you about? Nope, not tonight, nada, nothing! Except the wind – beats the hell out of beating!

The low pressure system to the north of us is doing what it should and heading north east, leaving us with nice, constant south westerly winds of roughly 20 knots which means that we can sail along nicely at 7 or 8 knots towards Ushant. This band of winds will fade out in the next 24 hours, but will be replaced by northerlies which, if we position ourselves right, will bring us right into the English Channel. There may be a patch in the middle of the changeover as the high drifts north where we lose the wind, but we don’t expect it to last long and have plenty of diesel if it does go light.

It’s this Azores High! Claire is convinced that every time I say we are being influenced by it, we get bad weather! Trouble is, the damn thing moves! This time….

There was a massively excited call of whale this afternoon as a big whale surfaced right next to the boat. Tom’s watch were on deck, but the rest of us saw the blow of the whale as it moved away from us – apparently it was huge, right next to us. On asking how big, Douglas replies ‘don’t know, it was a whale – big!’ Funny thing was, I had been looking at the echo sounder with Edd just before this which was giving some very odd readings and we had just been joking that perhaps some massive monster of the deep was right underneath us! It’s great to know that they can still survive even this far over towards Europe, there aren’t that many left now.

Douglas and Tom have become the boat’s main fishing team, using loads of enthusiasm where knowledge may be lacking. They bought two huge new lures in Horta and today lost Monty (short for Montezuma) – Monty was an enormous squid lure luridly coloured purple and obviously something big decided they liked it because unfortunately this evening we lost the lure. I am sure that tomorrow they will try again and eventually will be rewarded for all their effort!

We decided that tonight would be party night as it is the weekend and we fancied going out. Obviously there is a slight technical hitch with that part of the plan, so we have decided to have a party on board. As getting slightly merry on board may not be the best answer as we are still in the middle of Biscay, we have decided that each watch and the permanent crew will each produce a dish – I slightly suspect at the moment that we may end up with 3 or 4 deserts for dinner tonight! I will let you know how we got on on tomorrow’s log.

We now have 340 miles to go, having sailed 170 miles in the last 24 hours towards our Ushant waypoint. If all goes well we should be off the northern tip of France sometime on Monday and then be able to sail up towards the Channel Islands overnight. It is still our intention to stop somewhere on Tuesday and have a little relaxation ashore.

Northern Child Daily Log 28th May 2007

Leg 2, Number 1 at 1200GMT, 28th May 2007 Horta

Hello again, Northern Child is back on line! We are all still alive after 3 days in Horta’s bars and restaurants and we are back at sea where both Northern Child and all the crew should be!

Having arrived into Horta Friday morning we found that the two marinas were full! After a little scare where we thought we were doomed, we rafted up outside a superyacht called Mirabella on the commercial dock for the day – better than having to anchor out. Because the winds have been so strong for so long boats have been arriving, but not leaving, so consequently the place was extremely busy.

But we didn’t care, we were attached to land and we had arrived! The first day passed in a blur of getting to know the place and sorting ourselves out from the passage. We were lucky enough to be able to go onto the fuel dock in the evening and refuel for the next leg – a major job done. As the fuel dock was closing we stayed there for the night and Kathy managed to sort us out a marina space for Saturday morning.

We now had a great, safe berth for Northern Child in the marina and we were able to finally relax and enjoy Horta. Peter’s bar became our second home and many a breakfast, lunch, snack, beer or dinner was taken there – anytime you couldn’t find someone, they would normally be found in Peter’s bar. We managed to eat a lot, drink a lot, see the sights and complete the one major crew job, do the laundry. Douglas got the prize for the most mess made of doing your laundry, and got his back this morning, just before sailing!

We were able to look around the Island or volcano on Sunday, depending on which group you were in, and then Monday morning came round far too soon! A last shop in the supermarket, check out with the authorities, last showers and off! We had a fabulous stop in a lovely place, where the locals are really friendly and everything seems cheap – a great stop!

AegidiusHans has now left us and is staying in a very nice hotel for the night before catching his flight back to Zurich – Hans, you are already missed! Welcome on board to Aegidius from Germany who has replaced Hans in his watch – we don’t have a nickname for him yet, but watch this space!

This log is now being sent out to you just after lunch, our time. Douglas and Tom (Ted) have bought a new lure and called it Herbert (?!) and have streamed it out the back of the boat. It is a lovely, warm, sunny day and we are now 20 miles from Horta, motoring clear of the Islands and the fluky winds that persist here. That’s it for now; catch you tomorrow.

Fascinating and fun don’t you think? That could be you out there sailing across the oceans and living your dream. Begin planning now and you will find that you will be able to leave sooner than you think. And don’t forget, you can read more about my own sailing adventures on my website

How is your knot tying coming along? you should be able to tie a bowline with your eyes closed by now – you cannot practice too much. The website have a new knot for you to bone up on this month – try it and see. There is another site also dedicated to animated knot tying. It is and features around fifteen useful sailors knots. You can visit it and enter a knot tyers’ heaven!


SKYSCRAPER: An amazing word in everyday use, originally came from the very highest sails that could usefully be set on the clipper ships. It was a triangular canvas set above the ‘Royals’ in light weather to take advantage of any breeze that may have been up there at that height above sea level – and called a ‘Skyscraper’.

See you all again next month, and in the meantime you can visit me on my site to catch up with the latest news and other links etc.

Happy planning,

Cap’n Vinnie

Newsletter – May 2007


Ahoy there,
This month I thought we would look at replacing an essential part of the rigging whilst at sea. We lost our starboard intermediate shroud in a blow overnight and had to take drastic action to stop the whole rig collapsing. I have reproduced the section from my book below to show how we achieved this. The consequences could have been extremely serious, but in the event our solution was simple and relatively easy to implement. See more about this on my website

Extract from ‘Voyage of the Little Ship Tere Moana’ – en route from the Marquesas to the Tuamotus:

Making good time sailing into the advancing twilight of yet another magnificent tropical evening, all is well with the world and she is feeling quite grand, settling in for a good nights’ progress toward Manihi. Skipping along on a port tack, her cutwater effortlessly slicing through the faintly ruffled but slinky water, she knows she is cutting a fine image, and just faintly irritated she has no gallery of onlookers to acknowledge her finery. Her crew appreciate the show, but some recognition from others would do wonders for her self esteem – she likes to show off just as much as the next ship! Pride always comes before a fall and with no warning whatsoever and certainly with no foreknowledge on her part or the crew a thundering crack shatters the evening calm. Her captain and sibling crew race up the companionway to see Anglo crew staring skyward at a lazily swinging starboard intermediate shroud. It has parted at the upper spreader tang, dropped into a half hoop and now drooping out to starboard.

Aghast, her crew stare at one another. Having heard and read many stories of yachts losing their rigs at sea, thousands of miles from the nearest yard, because of failed rigging, they are speechless for a few moments. The scene before their eyes spells disaster if they cannot effect a solution quickly. She brings her head around through the wind, and into the hove to position. She is most remorseful but hasn’t time to worry about that now. Fortunately, the weather is benign and her crew determine that providing they remain on a port tack, the port side rigging will take the very considerable strain. Equatorial darkness is now upon them, so they secure the swinging end to the starboard lifelines and plan to jury rig another shroud in the morning. Immediate crisis over she returns to her heading, gingerly gathering speed again with no apparent problem.

‘Phew, that was tricky’, she thinks. Maybe she will get out of this one relatively lightly?

Head down and serious she now wants to atone for her earlier rush of vanity. Over an obligatory nerve settling cup of coffee, her shaken crew discuss the problem. Firstly, Manihi Atoll being sparsely inhabited and therefore unlikely to be of assistance is struck off the itinerary. Her course is altered to Rangiroa Atoll which has the greatest population in the Tuamotus’. Fishing is the mainstay income earner for most of these atolls and that means boats, ropes, cables, wires, will be in abundance – sailors are the same the world over! Into their second cup and with their minds more settled with some reasoned thinking, the major implications of the problem appear to recede for the moment. Given that if all things remain equal, most of her sailing will be on the port tack the entire way to Tahiti, where they know all things marine are available. They are carrying a considerable length of spectra rope and this will be fashioned into a replacement shroud tomorrow. This Spectra line has an even lower stretch factor than Kevlar and if it can be drawn down tight enough over the spreaders and onto the deck fittings it may suffice until they make landfall in Papeete.

When Mother Nature is in the frame, nothing is equal. She carries out her vocation at her discretion. Running a printout from the weatherfax shows no alteration in the weather pattern anywhere in the area of the ocean they are sailing – just the steady SSE trades the whole way across this sector. Within an hour of their mishap however, cloud covers the night sky, blackening out the stars. The rising wind backs, bringing rain with it, and our little ship is continually buffeted. It is suddenly squall like, with winds up to thirty knots and likely to come from any direction. Thirty minutes into these conditions, the captive hoop of steel wrestles itself free and commences a pattern of wild arcs amidships. Its main target is the mainmast and every few seconds this eleven millimetre diameter steel punch wants to embed itself into the aluminium spar. The tang originally attached to the end has long since disappeared into the sea with a loud hiss, leaving a lethal steel rod hell bent on penetrating anything in its swooping path. Aluminium, wood or a skull would make no difference, in that all would accept the flying projectile to a depth dependent on its own physical resistance.

Her mainsail had been dropped earlier at the beginning of the squall attack, and she is sailing under genoa only, therefore her sails are under no threat of damage. How to quickly secure this flailing missile and survive before it wreaks major havoc? With a now heaving deck her skipper, lifejacketed and clipping onto the jackline, scrambles portside. Her crew, shining the weaving spotlight in the general direction through the rain, observe the wet and glistening shroud flashing back and forth through the beam – they are thankful to be in the cockpit still. Her captain, crouching low and dodging it at the same time, attempts to catch it as it swoops past. By the time it reaches the end of its arc to port it is way too high anyway, and out of reach – so plan A is not going to succeed. By now, it has whacked the mast many times already, fortunately, not always head on. Crew, seeing the black shape slumped in the port scupper think he has given up or been hit. He rises again, this time with the port side halyard loose in his hand and following several misses manages to catch the tip in the slack halyard, whip the cord around the steel as many times as possible, draw it down taut and fix it to a port side pad eye. Job done, he straightens and scuttles back into the cockpit grinning from ear to ear. No doubt he thinks he is a hero now, not realising that it was a pure stroke of luck the shroud caught in the halyard on its wildly gyrating path. However, the possibility of any further immediate damage being eliminated, she is content, allowing him to bask in his thirty seconds of fame. Tomorrow is another day, when options will be examined, but for now cosy bunks are awaiting. Filled they are, leaving the remaining crew on watch to ponder what might have been.

Gently swinging from her mast head, her captain surveys the scene all around him. A brilliant tropical morning, swept fresh and crystal clean by the overnight rain, leaves a scintillating picture. Three hundred and sixty degrees of perfect and sparkling blue disc encircles her, holding her permanently captive, dead centre. Swivelling his head, he marvels at the outrageous extent of it. Endless, like a womans’ love, the blue ocean seemingly stretches to infinity. The canopy overhead is without blemish, but for several fluffy and harmless looking thunderheads dotted low on the horizon in the south west quadrant. Probably hovering over some distant speck of land, but being so far off, cannot be seen over the horizon. For the rest, a broad canvas of wide shades of blue, lightly brushed with glittering sparkles as the sun reflects from the wave tips in the wispy breeze. No camera, restricted as they are to a small window, will ever be capable of capturing the overall uplifting feeling of seeing and being part of such a scene. Pumped full with a tranquil joy of being alive, her captain turns his head to the job at hand.

Dawn breaking, as it had this morning, into a beautiful unruffled day with only a light breeze on her stern, her captain had decided a trip up the mast was in order to see what could be done about her errant shroud. He would also inspect Miguels’ swage on her forestay.

‘Waste of time even looking at that!’ she says, ever practical, ‘good or bad, what does he imagine he could do about it out here?’

Human nature being what it is, there was no way he wasn’t going to be hoisted up the extra height to the truk for an inspection. Apart from anything else, that is as high as he can go on her and he will go there! Normally at sea, a trip up the mast would only be contemplated in an emergency. Five degrees of movement on deck translates to a fifteen to twenty degree arc up here. It is imperative that the mast is clamped firmly between the thighs of the climber to avoid swinging out and slamming back into the spar. These youngsters doing a round the world race, go up in all weathers – the fearlessness of youth no doubt propelling them. One becomes a little more prudent with age.

Miguels’ engineering masterpiece is of course flawless and he feels a spurt of affection for that moustachioed man and the product of his craft. Three thousand five hundred nautical miles in their wake, toiling he will be still. Drinking in the view, lingering as long as is practicable without the crew on deck becoming suspicious, distracted (it’s a twenty metre drop to the deck!) or just leaving him up there, he hails the deck to lower him to the intermediate spreader. Hooked to his belt is the spectra line, and in his pouch a replacement tang. Glancing down the whole length of rope all the way to the deck, he is momentarily fascinated by the convoluted gyration it takes from in close to the mast, to way out over the sea. With its woven diamond blue and white pattern it looks much like a very long and very lazy python, snaking all the way up to his rear end!

‘Come on’, she checks him, ‘get on with the job!’

It is relatively easy to double loop the spectra cord through the tang, hook it into the keyhole in the mast and drop the two loose ends down to deck level for attaching to the deck fitting. On the way down he checks the leather spreader end covers41 for wear. Back on deck with several inner thigh skin burns, the results of which are deposited somewhere up and down the mast, the episode is shared over a cooling beer – cannot rush these jobs at sea!

Thoughts of lazy days in those far off, but approaching ever closer, fabled south sea islands, spur them on, and her captain and Anglo crew set about drawing down the jury rig shroud as taut as their combined strength will allow. With no block and tackle system available that would work in this situation, they will have to rely on pure physical strength. This is quite considerable in Anglo crew but her captain’s contribution will be somewhat puny by comparison. Being on the starboard side, the slack side, they surprise themselves as to the degree of tension they are able to exact upon the brute. Even tension with its twin intermediate shroud on the port side is not so much an issue now, as having in place a rig that will keep the standing rigging upright without breaking or collapsing. In the event, the product of their exertions preserves this premise admirably all the way to Papeete Port. Meanwhile, the arrival of a platter of steaming scones liberally coated with globs of rapidly melting bright yellow butter part way through the operation, undoubtedly inject them with sufficient hairy chested drive to crank down that extra pound or two required.

‘Men!’ she thinks, ‘they’re so easy!’

The completed assembly, without too close an inspection, looks passably shipshape. Strong enough for fair to moderate weather anyway, and her crew admire their resourceful handiwork from her cockpit. Both she and her captain pray for the Trades to hold until Tahiti.

You can download the complete ‘Voyage of the Little Ship Tere Moana’ on my website

A Little Knot Tidbit: The most used knot when messing around with and in boats is the bowline (pron: boelyn). You will be amazed at how often you will use this most versatile of knots. it is important that you learn how to tie it well and speedily.Recently I came across a Spanish website which shows you how to tie it in real time on your screen. You too can see this on , click onto ‘nudos marineros’ and you can see it tie itself before your eyes. Then take a good length of supple line, throw it around anything vertical and practice, practice, practice. When you can flash one out correctly in five seconds or so, you know you have made it.

Nautical expression for May:
Straight as the Crow Flies: Crows detest water. English sailing ships would keep a cage of crows on board when sailing up and down the English coast. When the fog was so thick they couldn’t see they would release a crow which would fly off heading dead straight for the nearest land. The crew would then know in which direction the nearest land was, but not how close! This is also why the lookout cage is known as the ‘Crows Nest’ as opposed to simply ‘Birds Nest’.

Well, that’s all for this month – happy knotting and see you again in June

Newsletter – April 2007


There are many factors to consider before you choose and deploy your ground tackle. Some of those considerations are outlined in this article. I have outlined this into phases so simplicity.

Phase 1- General Anchoring Terms To Know:

Ground Tackle: The general term applied to anchoring a boat (vessel)

Rode: Anchor line and Chain

Scope: Length of the anchor rode measured in units of water depth (8:1 ratio respectively) recommended

Shackle: A “U” shaped connector with a pin or bolt across the open end

Bitter End: The last part of the line

Have you noticed how many different styles of anchors there are? This can be especially confusing for the new boater. Some of the styles available are: Fluke, Grapnel, Mushroom, Plow and Navy. Newer anchors may be known by the name of the manufacturers such as Danforth or Fortress.

There are so many variables and requirements for adequate ground tackle, it’s impossible to really establish a firm set of rules. Factors to consider are the type and weight of the vessel, characteristics of the ocean bottom found locally, the average depth of water in the anchorage area and the strength of the normal prevailing winds and currents. Unless ground tackle can be depended upon to hold securely even while the boat is unattended, it is not adequate. The bottom line is that there are many variables.

Anchoring Know-How Phase 2:

With knowledge of the general terms and anchor styles, we have decided on the anchor needed for our particular circumstance. Next is figuring out what the diameter and length our line should be before we attach it to the chain and anchor. Most of us will utilize 3/8″ or ½” line. We’ll use 3/8″ line for boats up to about 4,000 pounds and half-inch line for boats up to about 7,000 pounds.

Larger diameter line will be needed for heavier boats. We’ll need a length of ine that will allow us to have a scope of at least 8:1 ratio in the depth of water we usually anchor. Most of us will have a minimum of 100′ – 200′ of line for our main bow anchor. I recommend having a second, smaller anchor onboard too. Use it as a stern anchor or lunch hook.

Deploying two anchors will allow you to anchor at the beach in close proximity of other boats without your boat swinging into your neighbors’ boat. Having the second anchor allows you to deploy a smaller more manageable anchor while stopping for a quick bite to eat. This anchor should also have the same diameter line and chain as the main anchor with at least 100 feet of line.

Next, we determine the diameter and length of chain for the anchor. The size and weight of your craft will be factors in this calculation of the chain between the anchor and the line. Why do we need chain? The chain acts as a dead weight which assists in setting the anchor or digging into the bottom. There are different grades of chain, just to confuse us I think. Being budget minded, I use the Hot Dipped Galvanized type as most of my boating is in salt water.

We need adequate strength in our chain; ¼ inch chain has an approximate breaking strength of 5,000 lbs. while 5/16 inch chain has a breaking strength of about 7,600 lbs. You guessed it, the thicker the chain, the stronger it is. I use six feet of 5/16′ chain with my anchors on my 4,300 lb boat.

Now we need to either splice or have spliced an eye with a Thimble in one end of our line. Through the Thimble we need to attach the chain by installing a Shackle and then on the other end of the chain we use another Shackle to attach the anchor.

Don’t forget to insert a length of stainless steel wire through the head of the Shackle pin and around the shaft twisting its ends together. This prevents the Shackle pin from backing out over time. It is now time to do a back splice on the other end of the line to prevent it from unraveling/fraying. Of course, you can check out the pre-spliced Anchor/Chain Rode packages at your local marine store to save yourself time and work.

Anchoring Know-How Phase 3:

I recall a nice summer afternoon at a local beach. My friend and I were about 17 and just pulling up to the beach in my 16 foot Starcraft Aluminum boat. Bert was at the bow ready to deploy the anchor and I was at the helm. I looked to the stern to check the engine for a split second and when I looked forward, I observed Bert sitting in about two feet of water with the anchor in one hand looking baffled.

We had anchored that boat successfully many times in the past. This time however, he forgot the number one rule, keep feet clear of the line. He had become entangled in the line and as he threw the anchor overboard, Bert went out with it! This was good for a laugh as he was not hurt. It is best to lower the anchor, not throw it.

Another experience was on the other side of the same beach. With a raft of six boats spending the weekend, I questioned the size of the anchor my friend had deployed. Six boats rafted together is a lot of tonnage and in an area which normally has a nine foot tide and a 4-6 knot current. I had recommended deploying a stern anchor in conjunction with the bow anchor. This I knew would prevent the rafting boats from swinging during the tide change.

My suggestion was rebuffed as over-kill and I was advised that this is the way they did things for years without a problem. Early the next morning we all awoke to a terrific thud. We were nearly thrown out of our bunks. You guessed it; the anchor lifted during the tide change and as the boat swung it lifted the anchor which didn’t reset itself.

We drifted until the out-drive on my boat caught the stern anchor-line of another raft of boats which swung us into that raft. This did stop us from going a bit further though, which would have been smack into a raft of Bertrams! Our insurance companies would not have been pleased. I don’t know how, but there were no injuries or damage, just one more lesson learned.

Bonus Tip: Deploy two anchors when over-nighting in tidal waters.

Summary of Key Points:

  • Practice your anchoring skills in areas of less congestion when possible
  • Keep your lines neat and coiled
  • Lower the anchor carefully, do not throw it
  • KEEP feet away from the anchor line
  • Tie off the bitter end to prevent anchor & rode from going overboard
  • Replace worn rode

Arthur Hatfield is a life-time boater and teacher of boating skills. Having completed various boating courses ranging from safety to navigation and beyond, Arthur enjoys time spent on his own watercraft and sharing his boating experience via his online newsletter, Insider Boating Tips. To subscribe to Insider Boating Tips for free, be sure to go here now

Much of the advice given above is around smaller boats, but the same principles apply no matter what the size of your boat. So, if your yacht/sailboat is forty feet or more, carry out the same procedures as described. You can read more about anchoring in my narrative on page 80.

See you again next month

Cap’n Vinnie

Newsletter – February 2007



The head of Queen Charlotte Sounds are tidal. The tide range is not huge, but the water being as shallow as it is, low tide reveals a great expanse of brownness. Ringed by lush native bush to the waterline, this little corner of Marlborough is paradise to a small boy. That great area of exposed mud, littered with stranded puddles of left behind sea, pockmarked with crab holes and their scuttling tenants, dark seaweed smell everywhere, draws like a magnet. Large holes left by monster snapper excavating for succulent molluscs with their bone crushing jaws, floated tremulous images before his eyes of what the next high tide may bring.

Spirits soaring along with the flowing tide he trudges up the dusty strip to collect his fishing gear. Containing his excitement, he knows precisely how long the advancing sea will take to creep up over the mud, so he need not hurry. Nevertheless, with the trembling thrill of anticipation running through him, he finds it difficult not to break into a trot.

Gear was pretty low tech back then and consisted of a hundred yards of sturdy green twine woven, and wound bobbin like onto a handy piece of discarded squared off dowel. A home poured barrel lead weight slid down nestling against the brass swivel linking the line to three feet of heavy gauge nylon. Knotted to the end of this nylon is his favourite ‘fish killer’ hook. Glittering in the sunlight, its wicked barbed tip is buried deep in the layered green strands wound on its stick. This is it then, the mighty snapper killer, costing all of five bob(five shillings) in the old currency, to make. Compare this if you will, with the cost today of putting together an effective fishing ensemble of expensive rods, reels, lines and boxes of lures.

Stepping back onto the first few grey planks of the long rickety jetty, his fishing line nestles comfortably in his left hand. The jetty stalks its way the best part of a hundred yards out over the squelchy mud. Tapping his toes on the ancient grey boards, he rattles out the last of the sharp stones from his sandals. Squinting along the jetty, the twisted boards stretch into the hazy distance like ever diminishing tramlines. Many times he had set out along them with the intention of counting each one, all the way out to the end. His steps however, always reeled them off faster than his brain could keep up and, with the easily distracted mind of a young boy envisioning monster fish, he never got beyond five hundred. Being about a third of the way, his estimate of fifteen hundred was probably fairly close, but it always rankled slightly that he never did get an accurate count.

Swirling around the mussel festooned pilings, the inflowing tide, foam capped, fans out, bubbling its way over the mud flats, filling the myriad crab houses as it goes. The occupants, bolder now, scuttle about freely under the silt filled blanket of advancing brine.

One hour before and one hour after high tide, is the best time for hooking into a monster snapper. He knows this precisely, ambling his way to the outermost end of the jetty. He is in good time and will be able to organise his position, bait up the snapper killer, and heave it into the water, hopefully so it comes to rest near a crab hole that a cruising snapper would want to investigate.

Approaching the end he sees he has the whole jetty to himself. He has known this from the moment he stepped on, but still, it fills him with a great satisfaction for it to be devoid of any other humans - he will share it with a largish black backed seagull eyeing him warily from the outermost bollard. This is how he likes it. Toes protruding over the very end, he stares down into the murky water, fascinated by the swirling patterns slowly eating their way up the dense carpet of bearded mussels.

Rummaging in his small fishing bag he extracts the specially prepared bait and cuts it into decent sized chunks. Weaving it carefully onto the hook he works the barb until it is just wickedly exposed through the tough skin. The skin of a Trevally is so tough that many a time when a cast has been unproductive, producing only a few nibbles, he has retrieved the line to find all the flesh removed, leaving only a sodden, sorry, grey strip of skin wetly dripping on his hook - this morning is the time for big fish only!

Casting a final professional eye over his handiwork, he is all set. The green line is ready coiled on the dock for its whistling journey out over the water just as far as he can heave it. Grasping the line two feet up from the weight, he begins to twirl it around his head in long slow sweeps. As it picks up speed he allows more line to slip through his fingers bit by bit until it is whirring around his ears in an ever increasing arc. The combination of length and speed transmits its message into his arm via the brain when it is just right, and leaning into it as he steps forward, he releases it on the upward swing at precisely the exact moment. The solid lead weight leaps forward in its path to escape, lifting the coils off the deck as it goes and travels its parabola, curling down into the water with a far off plop. As it hits the surface he puts his foot on the remaining coils, picks them up and feeds out enough line to allow the sinker to drop to the bottom – not far in these tidal flats. Glancing around, he notes the seagull blinking, but with no applause forthcoming, he assumes it is indifferent to his skill!

Leaning up against a bollard he settles down to wait in the warm sunshine. The high overcast this morning breaks the power of the sun, and with a slight breeze wafting up the Sound, it makes for very pleasant basking. His old floppy sun hat shields his eyes so he can spot any movements in or on the water. High tide is approaching, so water motion has slowed right down. The line rests lightly in his fingers, tingling as they anticipate the first tug. A constant war rages within as high tide approaches without a bite. Does he pull in the line to check the bait and possibly miss a fish? or does he leave it out there, hoping the bait is still intact? There is something pulling on his finger and looking down he sees a horrible large bug eyed red cod latched on, so big it is dragging him off the wharf and into the water!


Instantly alert, he starts and realises he had dozed off in the morning warmth. The line is slowly sliding through his fingers and gathering pace. He knows it is a snapper, and in its cautious way it has picked up the bait in its mouth and is slowly swimming off with it, testing. Any resistance in this shallow water and he will drop the bait straight away. After a few yards the fish will have enough confidence and swallow the bait. All he needs to do at that point is stop the line in his hand and set the hook with a hefty tug. This he does. The snapper doesn’t like this and fights back with the familiar steady thud, thud, thud, as it shakes its bony head against the pull. A snapper this size is quite strong and pulls very hard at the outset but, with the hook embedded in its stomach, rapidly tires and he is able to pull it to the jetty after a few minutes. Floating on the surface now right by the piles, he is able to lean over and quickly gaff the fish and lift it weakly flapping on to the dock. He pulls out his kauri kerry and gives it a smart blow over its forehead and it lies still. It is a ten pound beauty.

Immediately gutting the pink and shiny snapper, he examines its stomach contents and yes, as he suspected, it is crammed full of crabs, caught on the incoming tide and mostly still alive. Fresh fish very quickly becomes stale and smelly fish if left out too long in the sun. Quickly baiting up again, he launches another cast in case the partner is snooping around and runs all the way up the jetty to hang his prize in the cool, dark shed at the top. Admiring his catch shining out of the gloom, he sees the other two empty hooks which he plans on filling today. Three snapper that size will feed the whole company!

Turning away he hurries back along the dock, light of foot and whistling to himself. Arriving once more at the end he cannot believe what he can’t see. At first glance his fishing line has completely disappeared, gone. Then he sees it, the end still tied around the pile, but no spare coils on the deck, and it is stretched taut to twanging point directly out to sea. He leaps on to it, knowing that with no give, the line will snap. He pulls in a short length to gain some slack and there is a huge pull back. He stands there, not gaining, not giving, for some moments trying to figure out what is on the end. The familiar tug, tug, tug has been replaced by a strong steady heaving pull, which is threatening to haul him right off the dock. What to do – the stout line is cutting into his hands, but he dare not let go as the line will snap when it comes up taut at the end of its knot on the piling. Right at the moment when it is going to be either the fish or him, the monster turns and for some reason begins swimming toward the jetty. Pulling in line as fast as he can to keep up, the fish turns again and starts moving in large circles. This pattern continues for some twenty minutes and with each circle the fish swims he is able to work it a little closer. He can feel it tiring now and once again it turns shoreward, heading toward him and those mussel covered piles.

He gets his first glimpse of something black and something massive. Still not sure what it is, he works it ever closer. Emerging slowly from the murk is a huge black waving blanket, which gradually transforms into a gigantic black stingray. He has never seen a fish so big, and suddenly is a little scared. This is replaced pretty much straight away thinking about the ‘mana’ he is going to receive from the others when he has landed this monster all by himself. Meantime, the next problem is rapidly growing in his mind. Way too large to gaff out onto the dock, he is going to have to walk it all the way up the jetty to the beach. How is he going to do this without the fish swimming in under and into the piles and cutting his line on the sharp mussels?


Help is at hand. Looking along the dock he spies two people walking down. Now is the time to invite other humans to be involved. He lets out a strangled cry, and they come running. Not quite believing what they see, the problem is assessed and they race back to get some large sticks. Returning with some suitable length manuka sticks, they begin thrashing the water between the ray and the pilings. Every time it attempted a dart under, the shouts and thrashing raised to a crescendo so the poor animal never had a chance. Exhausted now, it floats just above the mud by the wooden steps. There being no concerns about the preservation of marine stocks in those days, our young hero is only concerned about securing his trophy. A stout rope is foraged out of the shed, slipped through the rays’ gills and with the help of three other stout participants from the gathering crowd, it is hauled up the wood steps. Not wishing it to have a slow death and having seen the recently released movie ‘Psycho’, he takes his trusty fishing knife and proceeds to stab it many times in the head. With all its life drained away, he steps back, looks at the sleek shape, almost overcome with sorrow for what he has done. Never mind, it’s only a fish, and supposedly they don’t feel pain.

Many estimates of its weight are bandied about, but after a few minutes of banter, the general consensus is that it must weigh something over four hundred pounds – truly a monster from the sea.

After the initial excitement has died down, one or two of the onlookers started to question the ability of this one boy to catch this huge fish by himself. What affrontery is this? The taller of the two boys who had helped scare it away from the jetty was quite happy to let them think that he had caught it, so our man was forced to take some action. He stepped up and thanked them both for their vigorous thrashing of the water and the fellow didn’t say much after that. He removed the barbed sting from its tail which, along with any photographs will be proof enough. Cameras started to come out and many a shot was taken of our proud young man with his monster trophy.

The sting itself is almost twelve inches (29cm) in length and covered with black venom. Washing it away and examining the sting he can see that many of the barbs are worn down and he comes to the conclusion that his stingray must be very old.


This species of ray lives for thirty odd years and this one must be close. Finding it difficult to feed itself in the open ocean, it probably cruised up here looking for easy pickings. Strolling back up the metalled road, drinking in the adulation, he thinks all in all, not a bad days fishing notwithstanding there are still two empty hooks in the shed. Tomorrow is another day.

Good planning

Cap’n Vinnie

Newsletter – December 2006


Welcome again to our monthly newsletter. Some more reading for you this time around. Two excellent manuals for the Southern Pacific Ocean that you cannot put to sea without.

Cruising Guide to Tahiti and The Societies

Like ‘Charlies Charts’, this is a very comprehensive cruising guide to French Polynesia, and well worth having. Put together by a couple who spent many months sailing whilst living aboard, it is full of facts, navigational aids and interesting anecdotes on this fabulous area of the Pacific. The sketch charts are very detailed and contain just about all you need to navigate Polynesia – do take the proper hydrographic charts as well. A handsome and useful addition to your ship board bookshelf.

Charlies Charts of Polynesia

When you are planning venturing into the South Pacific, a copy of ‘Charlies Charts’ are a must. He covers east of 165deg. west. This means as far west as Niue, then all the way east to Pitcairn Island, plus the Hawaiian Islands. They are sketch charts and not to be used for navigation, but they are certainly sufficient for picking your way around all of these wonderful islands and archipelagos. Full of interesting detail, his sketches highlight sea and landmarks, lights, hazards, reefs, anchorages and much more. Charlie has passed on now, but his wife Margot still runs the business. You can find her on

These two volumes are spiral bound to lie flat, of a similar size and sit nicely together. Computer graphics are all very well, but you can’t beat all the other personalised information gleaned from years of experience contained in these two manuals.

Next month we will have some more tips for you and I look forward to seeing you again then.

Good planning

Cap’n Vinnie

Newsletter – November 2006


This month I am going to tell you about another two very valuable tools for your collection.

Japanese Ryoba Saw

This type of saw is a must. It operates by a pull stroke as opposed to a clumsy push stroke. Pulling the blade means that it never will flex on itself, so the blade can be much thinner than with a western type saw. Once adjusting to the new action, you will be amazed at how fine a cut and how well fitting your work will be. Working with teak, you will very quickly learn to make some beautiful items. Be careful not to go overboard though, or else your cabin may become festooned with teak woodwork!

Purchase the ryoba type, which has a ripper one side of the blade, and a cross cutter the other. Good sawing!

Jigsaw and Other Miscellaneous Useful Tools

A jigsaw is invaluable for rough cutting any shape from marine ply and other timbers. Once cut, it can be finished off with your ryoba saw. They can run off shore power when in a marina, or your inverter when at sea. Purchase a good quality hacksaw with a selection of blades. Select one with plastic handle and mirror stainless shaft. Try to find a steel brush with stainless steel bristles. Mild steel bristles fall out and rust wherever they lay – this is not good on fibre glass on the inside of your hull.

I purchased a Dremmel type tool, which I expected to be useful
Forgetting into tight corners. It is excellent for this, but in reality it was
not used a lot.

Get an electrical polisher with a good stock of lambs wool pads for when you polish your hull. You can buy polish anywhere, but not good lambs wool pads. Do not think your electric drill will double up as a polisher/buffer, because it won’t. It does not have the power for this heavy duty job, nor will it last the distance – it will reach burnout fairly quickly.

I kept my tools in a large canvas sports bag. This has the advantage of not marking or denting your woodwork like those solid plastic/metal boxes will.

Cheers for this month
Cap’n Vinnie