In an old post I mentioned the importance of preventers. But given the nature of the Never for Ever‘s B&R rig and our cockpit enclosure, I have never managed to rig one the completely satisfied me. A preventer, in case you are wondering, is a method of preventing the boom from swinging accidentally and sometimes violently from one side of the boat to another. When sailing downwind your mainsail is generally out as far as possible and when gybing (moving the sail from one side to another as your stern moves through the wind ), one always centers the boom before turning the boat to ensure the boom is moved from one side to the other under control. But in the case of an accidental gybe, the boom can fly across the cockpit generating line-snapping forces and being a huge danger to anyone in its path.
There are all sorts of fancy boom brakes available but the simplest way to rig a preventer is by tying the boom into position. The issue on our Hunter 386 is that the only place to tie off a preventer that I have access to is midway down the boom and it isn’t easy to tie that off to anyplace except the chain plates (or worse a stanchion). The angles involved don’t give me much reassurance about the rig’s ability to handle any of the massive forces an accidental gybe can generate.
Well I decided the other day to shake off the old Google-fu and see what the internet had to say. And lo and behold Selden’s website pointed out the obvious solution. Their downloadable Hints and Advice Guide from the rigging section spelled it all out and also solved a minor mystery for me.
One of the lines that came with the boat (that I had previously used to try and rig a preventer with) was a length of about 8 feet of braided line with a eye splice in one end. I could never figure out why this line was a part of the boat’s inventory, but used it as a handy line when I needed a short length. Turns out it was used as part of the preventer but not in a way I had imagined.
The line was meant to be pre-tied to the outer end fitting of the boom and then temporarily attached spliced eye end to the kicker slider. This means you don’t have to worry about accessing the end of the boom when at sea (something that due to our bimini I gave up on almost immediately).
Then, when rigging the preventer, you tie off a “preventer guy” to the loop and lead it forward to the bow cleat (or a snatch block if I ever get a spare). If the line is long enough you can lead it back to the cockpit so you don’t have to go forward to release the setup.
The manual also stated “The preventer guy must not be fitted to the centre of the boom since that could cause damage, especially if the end of the boom goes into the water as a result of rolling” which is what I had been doing and had been wholly dissatisfied with. Turns out I am getting some good sailorly instincts after all…
Whether sailing across open water or sitting at a dock, one thing you need to get used to in boating is that if you drop something, or don’t fasten something down securely , once it hits the “ground” it is likely you will never see it again. Decks have lots of slopes, docks have lots of cracks and gaps and once it hits the the water, it is generally too deep and too cold to get it back.
So you take extra care with winch handles and always put your binoculars in a safe place. I put tethers on things like my crescent wrench (reminiscent of my theatre days) and multitool and try to use a cloth to put small things down on so they won’t roll away. Stuff on deck is tied down or clipped to rails or bungied to some part of the boat. But inevitably something is forgotten, a clip isn’t strong enough or a bungie not secure and over she goes. It’s usually not one of the most important things so you get careless. My most common error to date is forgetting that I put something down and then when I pick up whatever container I put it in, it rolls out and then I have that oh-so-lovely, slow-motion, self-recriminatory moment where you call yourself several kinds of idiot as the one bolt you mustn’t lose hits the surface of the water and then glitters like a precious jewel as it slowly sinks to the bottom. Notice I said common…you’d think I’d learn.
And your pockets also become suspect. The number of times I check my pockets in any given hour has increased tenfold. You spend a lot of time bending, crouching and squatting and things just have a way of working themselves out. Followed by the inevitable splash. This reminds you once again that things are different on the water and you just have to increase your situational awareness. I have a friend who lost several iPhones not so much to carelessness as to momentarily forgetting… I am especially paranoid about my electronics.
There is also the stuff that just disappears. It was there one moment and the next time you glance out, you can’t quite put you finger on just what is different — until it occurs to you that something that was “secured” no longer is. In fact it’s no longer there. You read stories of missing dinghies occasionally… but anything not tied down is susceptible to the wind and the heel and occasional wave coming over the bow. So securing things becomes a bit of a mania. I believe the reason sailors are so into knots isn’t just to pick up girls, but because they get tired of things disappearing. Because once that knot goes, it is unlikely that you are getting that expensive whatever-it-was back.
Sometimes you get lucky. I read a story the other day where the harness on an outboard gave way and the young man in the dinghy was able to grab the handle before it disappeared completely. Didn’t save the motor from a thorough soaking but at least it wasn’t lying on the bottom.
I imagine in the tropics where people regularly dive to check their anchor, rescuing things is more plausible, but here in the PNW it has to be a pretty expensive item to make me want to jump in and search.
So here’s a fun list: a few of the almost important things that I have dropped overboard and been unable to rescue — all from one short season of boating…
- The bolt that fastened the BBQ to the stern rail (Thanks to R Shack Island for a spare.)
- A solar shower (crossing the Strait of Georgia)
- Her bath towel (no idea where it went)
- A $85 pair of linesman pliers (not mine unfortunately)
- The head of my electric beard trimmer (still have the trimmer though)
- The restraining nut for the dingy’s oarlock (luckily we were on the dock so it was only a small inconvenience)
- A bright yellow pair of briefs (in case you find them)
We’ve lost a bunch more stuff overboard — hats being the big ones — but always managed to rescue them. And thank god buckets float for a few minutes before they sink. Talking to others dockside, I can believe I have gotten off pretty easy. Leave a comment if you want, and tell us what you’ve lost overboard…