Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Reaching For Some Resolutions

Well, it’s Happy New Year 2009, and I wish all flat waters, fierce winds, and favorable currents during the coming year of sailing.

The year just past has been a little weird and strange one - at least for me, and in the arena of sailing.

However, with the coming of the New Year, comes the age-old ritual of setting down the New Year’s resolutions. While I always set them down, I am usually not able to keep many or sometimes any of them. Notice that semantically I used the word “resolutions” and not “commitments.”

Nevertheless, I have done my “New Year’s Sailing Resolutions for 2009,” and I thought I would share them with you. Maybe going public will give me increased motivation to complete a couple in 2009.

1. I will always keep my sailing knife ready for immediate deployment and use, and I will insist that all crewmembers and others on board my vessel do the same.

While I pretty much always have one in my pocket, I have not been checking my crew. I’m going to do that for 2009.

2. I will always wear an inflatable PFD with the harness buckle when I am out sailing, and I will recommend that all of my crew do the same.

This should not need a lot of explanation. The water is cold, the currents are strong, and once in the water, you are going to need all the help you can get.

3. When out sailing alone, or when going out into the Gulf of the Farallones or the Pacific Ocean with a crew, I will rig the boat with jack lines and have everyone use them with a tether to their PFD harnesses.

Again, sailboat racing should be fun and challenging, but safety should rule under all conditions. The community lost a few sailors in the last several years because they were not attached to the boat when something went wrong.

I don’t ever want to have to go through that experience.

4. I will purchase a personal EPIRB. If I fall in, I want someone to know it immediately and to be able to determine my exact global position, in addition to that of the boat, which may be sailing rapidly away from me.

Besides, it will give me another excuse to go browsing in West Marine. - as if I needed one.

5. During the pre-regatta practice, I will recommend that we practice a few man-overboard drills, in addition to the normal starting and chute-setting drills.

Not only will these drills increase the crew’s skills in getting back and picking someone out of the water, but also they are also great drills in developing crew coordination and managing rapid tacking and jibing of the boat.

6. I will balance my yacht racing between San Francisco Bay “buoy regattas” and racing out in the ocean.

Long-distance racing out in the ocean develops additional skills for everyone on boat - the skipper, the navigator, the tactician, and the total crew. I have not done enough of it, and I am not alone.

7. Before leaving the slip, I will check to see how every crewmember tails and trims lines, sheets, and halyards.

I have observed the problem of incorrect trimming aboard most sailing vessels. The load on all of the lines on a big boat in the Bay’s big winds is frankly, frightening.

The proper way to trim or tail any line is with your “thumb up” toward your face as you pull it in. If your thumb is facing the opposite way, it (and your other digits) can accidentally be pulled into winches, self-tailers, blocks, and other assorted nasty things.

In his book “The Proving Ground,” author Bruce Knecht describes how mogul Rupert Murdoch lost an index finger while improperly trimming a sheet aboard Larry Ellison’s Maxi Yacht Sayonara.

Again, this is another situation that I do not want to experience.

While there are a few more sailing resolutions on my list, they are a little more personal than I want to get into at this time.