Using a Kellet

There’s a word you don’t see every day. So, what is it? A kellet is a 15 to 25 pound weight, which you “hang” from the anchor rode. Often, it’s referred to as a sentinel, although technically, that is the rope the controls the weight, not the weight itself.

There are a number of theories about the value of a kellet. It’s been credited with increasing an anchor’s holding power (a better way is to increase scope) and improving shock absorbing power (a nylon snubber is better.)  However, the real value of a kellet is in keeping the rode clear of the keel and/or rudder. All chain rode doesn’t have a problem, but a rode with a combination of chain and nylon might.

In most anchorages around San Francisco Bay wind and currents shift throughout the night. Many times, wind and current compete with each other. If the boat is hanging on a nice tight rode, there isn’t going to be problem. Unfortunately, if the boat is floating “lazy circles” around the anchor, the rode can easily wrap around the keel. Sliding a kellet 10 or 15 feet down the rode keeps it below the level of the keel, avoiding the problem.

Tradewinds boats that do not have all chain are outfitted with a mushroom shaped anchor as a kellet. To use, attach the carabineer onto the rode and let it slide down. Cleat the bitter end of the sentinel on the boat, and enjoy your evening.

There is another great use of a kellet. If you didn’t have the foresight to set it up ahead of time, and find the rode wrapped around the keel the next morning, slide the kellet up and down the rode now. This will generally free it. It will take time and patience, however, it will work.


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Sailing ABC A is for Anchor – Anchoring, VIII

Whether you have selected the perfect spot in a secluded bay or arrived at the end of the day at a popular, packed anchorage, the next challenge is to successfully park the boat so it stays put.

Prepare the anchor to move freely over the bow roller and if the rode is rope it can be faked on deck, laying it out in long loops, to the length of the desired scope. Secure it on a bow cleat, and check that the bitter end is tied off. Make sure it can be released quickly if necessary.

If it is all chain in the anchor locker, the windlass usually controls the chain as it pays out. Check that the end of the chain is secured somewhere in the anchor locker and make sure it can be released quickly if necessary.

My friend Salty Clay says that to look good while anchoring, decide on hand signals with your crew to communicate between bow and helm. No yelling back and forth. If there are enough hands on deck, assign a “parrot” at the shrouds to relay directions and information, if words are necessary, keeping voices low. Directions should always come from the helm. The bow crew passes information back to the helm, to help the skipper make decisions.

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On Your Feet!

You don’t want to be slipping on the deck of a boat. At best, you look the fool. At worst, you’re in the drink. And in between, there’s a bunch of stuff to knock your head or bruise your backside on. Believe it or not, the best thing to do, although they deny this in all the sailing books, is to go barefoot. Bare feet have something even the most advanced sailing footwear can’t provide: nerve endings. When you step on a slippery surface in your bare feet, you can tell before you fall that you have no traction. This is better than finding out when you’re fanny-over-teakettle. “Crivens! That was slippery!” Of course, when sailing barefoot there will be the occasional broken toe when your naked foot encounters a cleat or block, but everything’s a compromise.

That’s fine for the tropics, but in the extra-tropics where we are, I’m not man enough to go barefoot. Cold feet are one thing when you’re about to get married, but quite another when your actual feet are cold. So San Francisco sailors wear stuff on their feet. Typically, this is a sailing boot that is tall and made out of some rubber-like product. They are hard to get on and off, cold, and clammy.

But I always wonder why people really need that height. How many times on a sail around the Bay have you had ten inches of water in the cockpit? Okay, now cut that out! It is possible for the waves to climb up your leg in an impertinent way if you are sitting on the rail on a windy day. But my solution to this is to advance my position in the crew beyond rail meat.

So in the winter or wet weather I wear duck boots. L.L. Bean, I believe, originated them, but there are lots of knock-offs and they come in a variety of styles and heights. They lace up so you can adjust them to just the perfect tightness. You can buy them lined with Thinsulate so they are nice and toasty. Should you find yourself swimming, it is possible to untie them and kick them off. The best thing is, their gum soles are as sticky as any boat shoe you can buy—even if they aren’t as secure as bare feet.

They may not be fashionable, I don’t know. Sometimes people laugh at me, but there could be other reasons for this.

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Murphy Was An Optimist – Part II

Sadly, “stuff” happens on a sailboat. The good news is, planning and preparation for the things that go can go wrong actually go a long way to preventing the situation from coming up. Checking tide tables prevents groundings. Examining standing rigging locates problems and helps prevent the mast from coming down in the middle of a sail. Checking coolant flow from the exhaust keeps the motor running smoothly.

Practice, on the other hand, is what gets you through a problem when “stuff” does happen. We practice crew overboard recoveries … not because it’s a fun part of sailing … we do it because if someone does go overboard we want to get back to them quickly and safely. Without practice, crew overboard recovery is not an easy task.

Sailing into slips is another thing that requires practice. Anyone trained at Tradewinds was introduced to sailing into slips on the second day of Basic Coastal Cruising. You had at least two opportunities to do it, one upwind … one downwind. Have you done it since? If not, you are not ready for the time your propeller gets fouled, the fuel line gets plugged, or the motor overheats because the impeller goes out. Tradewinds preventative maintenance program stops most of these things from happening, however, as I said, “stuff” happens. Each of these three problems came up during April! Knowing how to sail the boat back to the dock or slip was the perfect solution in each occasion. But, that’s not a fun thing to do if you haven’t practiced ahead of time.

Start small and work up. The Capri’s are great boats to develop, practice, and refine skills of all kinds.

  • Start by using the practice buoys. Learn how much speed it takes to stop the boat beside the buoy on a close reach … upwind … downwind.
  • Put the fenders out, move to the “D” Dock pump out station and practice side tie docking under sail. Have the motor running in neutral as a safety backup.
  • Once you are comfortable with how the boat handles, find a couple of nice padded slips and practice docking in slips. On any weekend, after about 11:00, there are a number of Tradewinds slips available to practice on.
  • Move up to a slightly bigger boat and repeat the process.

You will be amazed at how much easier it gets with a bit of practice. And when you do sail in it’s great for the ego because of all the ewwwws and ahhhhs you hear from the spectators.

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Sailing ABC A is for Anchor – Anchoring, VII, Part 2

After studying the chart for water depth, swinging room, and bottom type, try to foresee if the anchor spot you have chosen will shelter you from the wind and seas. Check wind and current direction and predicted weather, then position the boat so that you won’t be set onto shore if the anchor should drag or if conditions change.

If other boats are already anchored, do a “drive by” and see what they did. In a crowded area, follow their method, e.g. one anchor off the bow, or two, or bow and stern, to minimize the chance of collision while swinging with the wind and current.

As you are making up your mind where best to anchor, look for alternate locations, in case you need options. Have a plan ‘B’. Consult charts and cruising guides for information where to anchor and to find anchorages for pleasure craft.

My friend Salty Clay says it’s a good idea not to anchor in marked channels, in busy traffic, and in shipping lanes. Also stay away from areas marked on the chart as prohibited, such as restricted areas, cable crossings and anchorages for explosives.

Be kind to your playground and never anchor on top of coral. Also be kind to your fellow boaters: if you have a choice, don’t drop your hook right next to someone else. Finally, don’t make wake in the anchorage.

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Sailing ABC A is for Anchor – Anchoring, VII Part 1

In “Sailing, A Sailor’s Dictionary” by Henry Beard and Roy McKie, ANCHORAGE is defined as: “1. Destination at day’s end. Always found at the junction of two charts, or on a chart not aboard. 2. Any location on the water where at least twenty boats may be accommodated in sufficient proximity to one another so that a sound of 10 decibels (roughly equal to the noise produced by folding a paper towel in half) made by a member of the crew of any one boat may be heard clearly by a person of average hearing on any one of the other boats.” The selection of an anchor site requires more consideration than just finding an idyllic spot that is away from it all. Before dropping the anchor, make a plan. Use your chart to find out the depth at the desired site and use your tide book to figure out if you will have enough depth to stay afloat at low tide, but not too much to lift your ground tackle out at high tide. Make sure that the water is deep enough throughout the entire “swinging room”, the circle your boat can make while at anchor when wind and current change. The radius of that circle is equal to the length of the boat plus the length of the rode let out, with a little safety margin added for good measure. Is there enough space around to prevent hitting another boat or a shore nearby? The chart will also let you see what kind of bottom your anchor is going to land on. Sand is good. Avoid rocks (known for trapping anchors) and weeds, (known for letting anchors slip and slide).

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Charter in the San Juans

By Tradewinds member Peter D.

Hi Matt!

We chartered a Jeanneau 45 for 10 days from San Juan Sailing in Bellingham.  That company just gets better every time.  I know that you’ve worked with Roger Van Dyken on your own trips.  He runs a smooth operation.

This was a guy-trip (our patient wives stayed home).  It’s the year we all turn 65 years old.  We all graduated together from Saint Mary’s College (over the hill in Moraga) in 1971.

As we left Bellingham on Wednesday May 26, I hoisted the TWSC burgee and we were off to Shallow Bay (Sucia Island) for our first overnight.  We were on mooring balls at Shallow Bay, Prevost Harbor (Stuart Island), and the cove at the back-door of Butchart Gardens.  We anchored in Port Browning (South Pender Island, BC), Sidney Spit (Sidney Island, BC), Watmaugh Bay (Lopez Island), and Inati Bay (Lummi Island).  We were side-tied at the public wharf at Ganges (Saltspring Island, BC) and at Friday Harbor (San Juan Island).

The TWSC/ASA anchoring and mooring class gave me the confidence and skills I needed to put my bow (and stern) exactly where I wanted.  And my line handling crew seemed grateful!  This charter was my first experience using a bow thruster and it was really helpful in tight spots (e.g., turning around inside the Friday Harbor breakwater & getting away from the Bellingham marina’s pump-out facility).

Leaving Port Browning, South Pender Island, BC. Can you tell that I’m having fun?

Leaving Port Browning, South Pender Island, BC. Can you tell that I’m having fun?

The happy crew of “Misty Blue Yonder” at Friday Harbor.

The happy crew of “Misty Blue Yonder” at Friday Harbor.

“Misty” at anchor with stern-tie, Inati Bay (Lummi Island)

“Misty” at anchor with stern-tie, Inati Bay (Lummi Island)

Letting our anchor “soak” and settle, Shallow Bay (Sucia Island)

Letting our anchor “soak” and settle, Shallow Bay (Sucia Island) 

Thanks again to Tradewinds for building my skills!

- Peter D.

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Estimating VMG

It’s easy enough to estimate time of arrival when you are fetching your destination; distance divided by speed equals time. But suppose you want to figure out how long it takes to sail to San Francisco. With the prevailing summer wind, it’s going to be a beat and let’s say your boat does 6 knots through the water—just not in the right direction because you have to tack. The “ETE” or estimated time enroute, and “VMG” or velocity made good aren’t so straightforward. We heard a lot about VMG during the America’s Cup. You can figure a rough estimate, though, without knowing trigonometry or having a whole cabal of nerds running arcane computer programs for Larry Ellison.

What we’ve got when sailing into the wind is an isosceles right triangle where the hypotenuse represents the distance to your destination and the legs represent your tacks. So x + x is the distance you’ll have to sail to get from F to D via point E:


Remembering that geometry class in high school, a squared + b squared = c squared, but since the legs are the same the hypotenuse is equal to either side times the square root of two. (In this theoretical treatment it doesn’t matter whether it’s ten tacks or one.) This means if you divide the hypotenuse, which is in this case the distance from the end of Portrero Reach (F) to the City (D), by the square root of two (≈1.41) and then multiply by two, you will have the distance you need to sail to get there. And then if you divide that by your six knots of speed, you’ll have your time enroute or ETE. Divide the distance from F to D by the ETE and you’ll have your velocity made good or VMG.

Because that calculation is based on a perfect right triangle and you’re neglecting leeway, the distance is actually a little more than that so your ETE is longer and your VMG is less. So forget all that square root stuff. It turns out that just multiplying the distance from F to D by 1.5 is going to give a close enough estimate of the actual distance you’ll have to sail, assuming the destination is dead to windward. (If it isn’t, the multiplier will be less than 1.5, but of course, never less than 1.) So put those high school trig and geometry books back on the shelf next to your vinyl Pat Benatar albums. The City is roughly 7 nautical miles to windward from the channel entrance, so you’ll have to sail 7 x 1.5 or 10.5 miles at your boat speed of 6 knots. 10.5 divided by six is about one hour and 45 minutes, your ETE, giving a VMG for the seven miles of 7/1.75 = 4 knots. In fact, you can make it real easy and say your VMG into the wind is roughly 2/3 your boat speed through the water. Not so hard.

But wait. We also have to figure current, as the above assumes slack water. This can get a bit cumbersome but let’s see if we can, again, find a shortcut. Have a look at the current charts at the back of your tide book. Turn to the max ebb chart on p. 57. You’ll see 1.4 knots from behind, then a little over 2 knots of current to the right. This is on an average day at maximum current. To find what the figure is on a strong day, go to the chart on p. 48 and you’ll see the multiplier is 1.5. This means that at max ebb on a strong day, you’ll get 1.4 x 1.5, or a little over 2 knots of help halfway there, and then let’s say 2.4 x 1.5 or about 3.5 knots of being set to the right, which also helps. Averaging those, you’ll have a bit less than three knots in your favor for the whole trip. When we add this to the six knots your boat does over the water, we get a speed of nearly nine knots. The distance sailed is the same 10.5 miles, so now the trip will take about 1 hour and 10 minutes. This is at max ebb on a very strong day.

For a flood where the current is adverse, consult the chart on p. 51, and again adjusting by the chart on p. 48, we’ll multiply by 1.5 for a strong day. We get 1.5 knots of adverse current and then a little less than 2 setting us to the left, opposite of where we want. (The flood difference is smaller than the ebb difference because on average the ebb is stronger than the flood. A subject for another day.) Averaging the 2 with the 1.5, we can subtract 1.7 knots from our boat speed, bringing it to about 4.3 knots. The distance is the same 10.5 miles, so it will take a little less than 2.5 hours to get there. Again, this is against a max flood on a strong day.

The end result is we get a range of ETE from one hour, 10 minutes with a strong ebb, which yields a VMG of 6 knots; one hour, 45 minutes at slack for a VMG of 4 knots; and two hours and 25 minutes against a strong flood for a VMG of about 2.9 knots. For practice you can figure this with a boat speed of 7 knots, or you can try figuring ETE and VMG on your next trip to Drake’s Bay, which is 26 miles across the sea—to windward. The current is commonly less than a knot once you get well clear of Point Bonita, sometimes northerly in winter but usually southerly.

OK, I admit, that was a bit complicated. But you only have to figure this out once, based on the speed of your particular boat, and you’ll know at a glance how to estimate your ETE to the City or Drake’s Bay given the state of the current. All of this assumes constant wind and consistent boat handling, so your figures may vary. Not that you really care, because if you’re sailing, you’ve already arrived.

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Home Made Lead Line

by Tradewinds Member Art E.

After reading Matt’s post some time ago about depth sounders, and with my practice of spending the night at shallow Ayala Cove, I decided I really needed to know where the the keel ends and the bottom of the Bay begins for each boat I take out.

This simple lead line was made for less than $10. Nylon string, a fishing weight, some colorful duct tape and, for a whopping $1. 57 at Home Depot, an electric cord wrap.

Each time I go out on a boat (even the same boat repeatedly) I turn on the instruments, see what the depth gauge reads, and then slip my line over the side before I leave the dock. For the first couple of depth marks I spaced the measurements several feet apart. But after 10 feet I marked the string every two feet up to 25 feet.

Gives me lots of confidence in the depth of the water everywhere I go in the Bay.

Lead Line 1 Lead Line 2Lead Line 3

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Murphy Was An Optimist

We have all heard about Murphy’s Law, “whatever can go wrong, will go wrong,” however, the truth is that Murphy was an optimist, and that was his downfall. There was a lack of preparation and planning on Murphy’s part that caused a test he was responsible for to go totally wrong. Sadly, it’s like that on boats quite often.

Listening to channel 16 on the VHF on a “busy day on the bay” Saturday can be quite an educational experience. Yesterday was a great example. There were a lot of boats out on the bay, too little experience on the part of some of the captains, and a good amount of wind. Added together you have a recipe for disaster. The Coast Guard got called with “emergencies” several times. The one that caught my attention was a 54’ sailboat that had lost all steering. The Coast Guard ran through the normal questions. What is your location? Just South of Angel Island (with the wind blowing from the South). How many persons on board? Seven. Does everyone have a life jacket on? Yes. Are you in immediate danger? The captain responded, rather tentatively, “Not for about 15 minutes.” Vessel Assist came on the radio about this time advising they were in the area and would respond. A few minutes later, the boat safely in tow, the danger was past.

What does all this have to do with Murphy? Preparation, planning, and practice. There are things that can be done to steer a vessel without rudder control.   The sails for example can be used to steer a boat. In this case, the sails were down. Get them up and use them. Trim the main and ease the jib … the boat turns to windward (you can actually do a tack this way). Ease the main and trim the jib … the boat turns to leeward (don’t try to jib this way). Is there something that can be rigged as an emergency “tiller?” Check out books like Chapman’s and the Annapolis Book of Seamanship. Both have some great ideas, and we have copies in the office for your use.

Now to the point of this tip. There are generally things that can be done, however, the middle of an emergency on a 43’ boat is not the time to miraculously come up with a solution. Plan for and practice what you would do. To learn using the sails to steer, take a Capri out and practice it in Marina Bay. Then take a 30’ to 32’ boat out and practice in a safe area. Keep building on the skill … bigger boat … more challenging wind and sea conditions. I have on a couple of occasions sailed back from the San Francisco city front never touching the wheel. Preparation, planning, and practice are what get you through when Murphy’s Law rears its ugly head … and it will.

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