Learn to Sail Like a Pro - Keep It Simple to Sail More

Want to spend more time sailing and less time dockside, waiting for parts, repairs, or doing maintenance on your sailboat. To learn to sail, you need to go sailing, and that means you need to determine what you have to have aboard for comfort and which shore-based luxury items you can do without.

Here are three things I've never had aboard that have helped me sail more while others spend their free time laboring away in their slips!

Beef Up Your Icebox

Crewing aboard delivery yachts offshore helps me see which systems give skippers headaches the most. And refrigeration/freezers take the prize near the top. You can still eat like a king if you forgo such things as butcher meats or frozen entrees. Buy canned meats (ham, beef, chicken) instead.

Make your icebox more efficient with at least 4" of insulation all around. Collect small, empty, individual size water bottles or soda bottles. Fill them with water, freeze them, and use them as a better, more economical substitute to store-bought ice.

Rig an Inner Forestay or Babystay

As wondrous as furling gear may be, veteran voyagers Lin and Larry Pardey rank it the #1 item that breaks down the most when they deliver yachts. It's super complicated with a zillion parts and it puts up with severe use--and abuse--from sailors who just don't understand how to use it the right way.

Go without the furling sails and return to the simplicity of a single wire forestay. Hank-on Genoas and Jibs last longer, cost less to maintain and repair, and help your boat perform its best on all points of sail.

If you absolutely must have a furling headsail system, then you must have a backup headsail system in place if you venture outside of protected waters. Rig a removable inner stay (sometimes called a "baby-stay)-- just inside the headstay. This baby-stay serves as a great backup if your furling system fails, allows you to hank on a small working jib, lapper, or storm jib, and gives extra support to your mast when beating or reaching offshore.

Learn How to "Scoop" Air

Nothing beats air conditioning on a luxury yacht in the hot, steamy Caribbean waters...as long as it works! It's one more big, complex machine that I've seen break down time and again. Enter the hatch scoop. The names are many--"wind scoop", "super scoop"--but they all work the same way.

You pop open your hatches, attach the scoop to the lip and hoist it a few feet above the hatch. The panels of light, rip-stop nylon spinnaker cloth are arranged to "scoop" the wind and funnel it down through the hatch into the cabin below.

Cowl vent hoods on production sailboats are sized for a vessel underway--not moored or at anchor. When not underway, replace these with hoods with a scoop diameter 2 to 3 times the size of those that came with your boat. Turn each hood so that it faces the prevailing wind.

Keep your side ports open for good cross ventilation and to keep your cabin free of mold, mildew, and condensation. Make up mosquito screens for all side ports and hatches. Order "rain shields" so that you can keep side ports open when it rains. These louvered plastic fittings pop into each opening port (check out those offered by Beckson Marine, Inc.).

Learn to sail without some of these shore-based luxuries to spend more time sailing and less time tied up waiting for parts and repairs. You will keep more money in your cruising kitty and enjoy simpler, more economical small boat cruising--wherever in the world you choose to sail.

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Captain John teaches sailing skippers the skills they need to learn to sail like a pro! Get his popular free report "Ten Top Boat Safety Checks for Cruising Boat Skippers" at Learn to Sail at Skippertips.com.

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