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June 13, 2019 Boat Buying, Charter sail, Coleman Bridge, How to, Navigation, Navy, Rates, Rescue, Reservations, Reviews, Sailing, Trip Advisor, Williamsburg

10 Mistakes New Sailors Make

  1. OVER-THINKING—Look, this is a sport. It’s not rocket science. Many of my students had bad experiences on a sailboat as a child or with their dad or first husband. That was then. Now you have another chance. Clear your mind of preconditions and take one step at a time. Read a beginners book like “Sailing for Dummies” to realize how much you already know. For example: Once clear of the marina, keep the engine on low speed and raise the sail while pointing into the wind (see video above).
  2. OVER-CONFIDENCE—Men who own motorboats are the worst because they assume a sailboat isn’t much different. Way different, beginning with the stability curve. While a keel sailboat won’t tip over, a centerboard sailboat will easily flip. Motorboat dudes fail to realize how dangerous the boom can be when it tacks around, or worse—gybes.
  3. 10 Mistakes New Sailors Make
    ASSUMING SAFETY—The most dangerous thing about any boat is the water you risk falling into. In early spring when the weather warms up, river and lake water is still frigid and can lead to death-defying hypothermia in less than 15 minutes. Therefore…
    1. Always wear a life preserver.
    2. Tether to the boat if sailing solo.
    3. Fasten the tether up the middle of the boat so you can’t fall off.
    4. Dress for cold weather.
    5. Learn which lines to release first and last when departing the dock. Practice docking and departing (see video below).
  4. SAILING TOO FAR—It’s easy to sail out into the water on a close reach, only to find out that it takes longer to get back. Unless you have a competent engine, don’t go too far. Learn the range of how far to go on certain winds before having to turn around. Take a marine radio with you to summon help on the water. A cell phone won’t connect you to that nearby rescue boat.
  5. BUYING TOO QUICKLY—People get so enthusiastic that they sometimes fall in love with the first boat they have excelled on. Take your time and test different sizes and lengths. The American Sailing Association offers 22-foot and 36-foot keel boats to test the extremes. ASA has a membership component that precludes buying any boat. The website getmyboat.com offers myriad sailboats of all sizes to rent on nearby bodies of water. Think of it as Uber for boats.
  6. 10 Mistakes New Sailors MakeFLYING SPINNAKER—This looks fancy but requires a certain skill and experience. Choose asymmetrical over symmetrical because the latter requires more crew. Buy a chute for the asymmetrical to raise and douse the sail easily. Be sure to keep all the spin lines outside the boat. Learn the spinnaker from a buddy or a teacher before trying it yourself. Never fly it solo.
  7. BUYING TOO SMALL—Some new owners develop buyer’s remorse for having bought too small. Two rules of thumb:
    (a) Think distance instead of speed or comfort. If you plan on going out on a Saturday morning to sail across the water to a mooring overnight, you want at least 25 feet of boat. But if you’re taking a week’s cruise, think 30 feet. If you’re just enjoying an afternoon, 22 feet works fine. (b) Whatever length you decide, add two feet and buy bigger even if you think you can’t afford it. Otherwise within a year you’ll be selling the short boat at a comparative loss.
  8. 10 Mistakes New Sailors Make
    8. OVER-REACHING—The Close Reach is the optimum point of sail for speed, but the boat shouldn’t tilt or heel more than 15%. Anything beyond that is uncomfortable and won’t increase speed. Be prepared to ease the mainsheet or release the traveler. Watch the water for approaching gusts so you can turn instantly to a Beam Reach that will flatten out the boat.
  9. GADGETS—Sailboats come with plenty of challenges without adding complexity to things. Learn to read paper charts before investing in a chart plotter. Take the time to read the wind before installing a wind-direction meter. Learn to steer in any condition before converting to auto-pilot.
  10. OVERBOARD—The fatal flaw to boating. Respect the water. And don’t fall off the dock, which looks ridiculous.

Virginia Beach Sailors

Two couples from Virginia Beach had never met, but the men had a lot in common. Rick Albert works with Navy support ships, and Chris Wenz used to be a Navy captain.
10 Mistakes New Sailors MakeRick said, “I’m the chief engineer for the US Navy Support fleet, part of the Military Support Command. We service the engines for all the boats that provide bullets, bombs and beans for the Navy fleet. I operate out of Norfolk and have 150 engineers under me.” I showed him my Yanmar 18 hp with two cylinders, and he liked it. “That’s what they put in our lifeboats.” He was referring to the small orange boats on each side of a USNS ship, like what Capt. Phillips had in the movie of the same name. Rick and his wife Sherryl are looking to buy a sailboat in retirement, and they live at the oceanfront of Virginia Beach.
10 Mistakes New Sailors MakeChris is retired and began his sailing at the US Naval Academy, where he was on the sailing team. Severn River? I asked. “No, offshore, in 65-foot boats.” Against other NCAA teams? “No, against other 65s. We sailed the Newport to Bermuda Race, Block Island races, and others like that.” He gently guided his wife Diane on the helm as she deftly steered in fluky winds. Their daughter Michelle got a round on the helm as well. They were celebrating her birthday. “We sail with another couple on their 50-foot catamaran out of Virginia Beach. They take it to Key West now and then.” I love the casual nature of big-boat sailing. I take my boat to the fuel dock now and then. He added, as if hearing my thoughts, “We have a catboat in our back yard near Lynnhaven that our youngest daughter takes out.”
10 Mistakes New Sailors MakeChris had sailed the York before–in Navy missile cruisers headed to the Naval Weapons Station. I asked if it was always a rush to sail through an open bridge. “Yes, it was. I thought it important that junior officers get the experience, so I would put them on the helm as I stood shoulder-close to them.”

Sailing to Tahiti

Hardly a new sailor, Gordon Kerr joined his physician colleague Alex Culquohoun and family for an exciting afternoon on the York. We were reefed to two-thirds on the main and plowing through waves under winds of 15 mph. 
10 Mistakes New Sailors Make“I just got back from Panama,” Gordon said, “where I helped a fellow outfit his 54-foot sailboat for a trip to Tahiti. Russ will go through the Canal and then on to the Marquesis Islands and Galapogos Islands and finally Tahiti. The trip out and back will take a year. He’s 65 and his girlfriend is in her 60s. They’re taking two young men. One is from Alaska, where he does offshore fishing like you see in ‘Deadliest Catch.’ The other is from Grenada; he helped build the boat. Russ started out in [nearby] Deltaville. They’re looking for a fifth crew, namely me. But I’m still working and can’t take that much time off.”
I was curious about the risk of underwater hazards, namely those cargo containers that fall of the freighters and lie submerged just under the surface. “Russ has read about that, and we’ve talked about it. But what can you do? If the container has heavy machinery, eventually the box will take on water and sink.” I asked: But what about a container full of sneakers, like the one Robert Redford hit in “Lost”? “I don’t know. You just hope they are few and far between.”
10 Mistakes New Sailors MakeAfter a while, I said to Gordon, “You know, every  day I have to fix something on this boat. So I go to the store. What do you do in the middle of the Pacific Ocean?”
“That’s a good question. To that point, Russ had a bad stretch where his electronics weren’t working. The communication systems weren’t communicating well with each other. He had to run several tests, and then the macerator in his galley sink malfunctioned and he had to fix the electronics of that. Then the head got jammed up, so he had to take that apart. He found toilet paper jammed in the impeller. He got tired of all that and decided to go sailing. When he went to turn on the engine, nothing happened. Just barely a CLICK. All the batteries were dead from all the testing. All 12 of them. He was lucky he was still at the dock, where he could recharge them.”
I suggested Russ would need a lot of patience in the Pacific. “Yes. Well, he’s a neurosurgeon.”

10 Mistakes New Sailors Make

Bumpers Added

Unbeknownst to thousands of motorists crossing the Coleman Bridge, a project has been ongoing for two months to add giant bumpers to two piers. Mariners who transit the bridge have watched a tugboat snug a barge up to the south pier outside the main channel. Vessels are required to go through the main two turrets that form the center of the bridge, so it seemed odd to put bumpers in an unauthorized place.
10 Mistakes New Sailors MakeBrittany McBride Nichols, spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Transportation, explained, “VDOT is installing the fenders to protect the underwater cables that provide the electrical power to operate the movable bridge. These cables have been hit by a vessel in the past and caused the movable bridge to lose a source of power until the cables were repaired. To prevent this in the future, the fenders are being installed to protect the cables and power to the bridge.”
The project explains why the Coast Guard Sector Hampton Roads sends out a message several times a day warning that any vessel needing to open the bridge for transit needs to inform the bridge of the bridge two hours in advance. The message need only be aimed at the US Navy as that’s the only real client the bridge has. The advance notice is required so the Bunny C can take the barge workers off the site and out of the way as the two turrets turn to open the bridge. The Bunny C is temporarily docked at York River Yacht Haven and makes the trek daily to snug the barge.
10 Mistakes New Sailors MakeThe project is complete on the south side and last week proceeded to the north side. The barge is anchored by four long cables with yellow barrels marking the do-not-cross perimeter. That’s important to small vessels because mariners need to know where the cables go as they stretch from the corners of the barge to the depths 80 feet below. It’s even more important to the US Navy as they near the bridge for transit. As long as the Navy ships stay in the channel between the two large turrets, they’re fine since the project operates just outside the channel. The two Moran tugboats that typically accompany a Navy ship do a lot of maneuvering near the bridge, so the barrels are even more vital to them. 

Let’s Go Sail                                                                        

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10 Mistakes New Sailors Make
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10 Mistakes New Sailors Make
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Sailing out too far from the marina when you're new to sailing can create trouble. Here's a short list of things to beware once you learn to sail.
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Williamsburg Charter Sails
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