The Online Magazine For Amateur Boat Builders

Odds and Ends on Sail
by Alvan Eames

Swan Song


Inshore sailing would be a fair description of the sort I have indulged in, and I have recently bought a book entitled “Coasting”, by one Jonathan Raban. It is not solely about sailing, but has observations about Britain as he sailed round the coast.

The first chapter has, as a heading, a marvellous quotation from “Great Britain’s Coasting Pilot” of the year 1693. The author was a Captain Greenville Collins. It reads: -

The Marriner having left the vast Ocean, and brought his Ship into Soundings near the Land, amongst Tides or Streams, his Art must now be laid aside, and Pilottage be taken in hand, the nearer the Land the greater the Danger, therefore your care ought to be the more.

Being in Tides-ways, narrow Channels, Rocks and Sands, I hope the ingenious Mariner will not take it amiss in recommending this to your care, your Tides, your Courses, Soundings, and the goodness of your Compasses.

The above two paragraphs have the authentic spelling of the original!

It occurs to me that in our kind of sailing, we have the same problems as those good folks of three hundred years ago.



I have just about exhausted my memory banks of Bits and Bobs for these columns for the present, so shall sign out with a few one-liners (?) for the time being. It might well be that I shall continue to dredge up from the memory banks some ideas which I have found to be of value or interest, and, if this happens, then I shall jot down the same, and forward them along to Chuck for consideration for his excellent web-site. For the nonce, then, think on these...

When building, or thinking about, a rudder stock, then remember that a tiller, which forks, can break. Whereas a tiller that sticks into a hole in the stock, can be jury-rigged with any old bit of stick. Such as a boat-hook, or a spinnaker pole, etc.

Hockey as a game, not ice-hockey, makes use of hockey sticks, which are easily obtained (in the UK, at least), and make unbreakable tillers. I have acquired a few at the splendid price of ONE UK Pound each.

As I may have mentioned previously, though, the handle from a felling axe makes for a beautifully shaped tiller.

Bearing in mind that the surface of the sea is much cooler than the shore, I have found that (in my local UK waters, at least), it is better clothe myself in serge and wool than in cotton jeans. I have, on occasion been caught out in an overnight trip, and have been glad of the advice that I was handed many years ago, by an old-timer fisherman, to wear woollen clothing. AND do not forget something on the head.

When on a dead run in shallow water (or to use the splendid Stateside phrase, thin water), if you can have the boom on either side, then for Pete’s sake have the boom pointing to the shore. If you touch the bottom, then heel the boat, haul in the mainsheet and sail off. If you do it wrong, then you will be pushed further aground with no chance of sailing free.

In Europe, to my everlasting regret, we have been made subservient to the Metric System of measurement, which renders useless the time-honoured method of calculating the rise and fall, plus the speed of the tides. I refer to the TWELFTHS RULE. In the old Imperial system, which is still used by the United States of America, the Twelfths Rule provides a method of calculating, mentally, the ebb and flow of tidal waters. I stick hold of my old Charts, which are calibrated in fathoms and feet, and wonder how we in England were ever conned into accepting charts done with the Metric System. It is almost the same as having Ohm’s Law, or Boyle’s Law repealed. I shall not here go into the old Twelfth’s Rule, but if it is requested, then I shall do a piece on it. Doubtless it is available through Google, for those interested.

So to my last bit, for the inshore sailormen who do it without electricity. Remember that a TRANSIT is the only certainty in navigation. Everything else has a margin of doubt...