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How to avoid expensive mistakes when you buy a new or second-hand yacht. 

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GMDSS A User's Handbook

By Denise Bréhaut

GMDSS A user's handbook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) provides a fast and efficient way of calling for assistance at sea, whatever the size of craft or its geographical position. Since it was first published, this book has helped explain the system for anyone using GMDSS and has been excellent pre-course reading for students.

 

SAFASAIL CAP

SafaSail HatThe SafaSail Hard Hat looks just like a sailing cap, but will help protect you if you get a bang to the head.  See our review here

Anchoring - check it's ready!

Rocna AnchorChecking the anchor should be part of your safety check before putting to sea. The first thing to do is to make sure that it can be easily released, and that the anchor cable can run smoothly. Check the locking pin, and replace it if it's bent, or stiff, or rusted.

If you've got a swivel between the anchor and the chain, I suggest you replace it with a shackle. A swivel is, in theory, a good idea, but in my view this is one place where theory and practice differ. [Editor's note:  see the discussion on this point in the forum here]

Firstly, there shouldn't be much twist in a properly laid anchor chain anyway. Secondly, under any kind of tension a swivel simply won't swivel anyway. And thirdly, it's a recognised weak point - especially with a sideways pull.

If you doubt this, check the breaking strain of the swivel against the breaking strain of the chain. And if you have any doubt at all, replace it with a galvanised shackle one size larger than the chain link, and secure the pin with monel wire.

Next, make sure you can tell how much anchor chain you're letting out. If you haven't done so at the start of the season, when you're alongside, lay the anchor down on the pontoon and let the crew pull the cable out of the locker, flaking it out along the pontoon until the entire length is laid out in front of you.

If you measure the first length of the flake to five metres, and then double back, it makes it easier to measure off the cable in ten metre lengths so you know the maximum scope, and therefore the greatest depth you can anchor in.

It's usually a 'start of season' job, though. At laying-up, the anchor and its cable really should be removed from the yacht, cleaned, re-galvanised if necessary, and put into storage. That way, you won't face a lump of rusting de-galvanised chain in the chain locker, and rust marks, or worse, rust streaks running down the bow after a long wet winter laid up. Then, at the start of the new season, it gets flaked out along the pontoon, checked, measured, and marked.

People have all sorts of ways of marking anchor chain. The messy way is to use paint - I've stepped over newly painted chain on numerous occasions, and it takes a careful painter not to leave ten metre marks on the pontoon itself.

I much prefer coloured polyurethane cable ties, with white for tens and red for fives. One white through a link for ten metres, two whites through adjacent links for twenty metres, and so on, with a single red for each intervening five metres.

But each skipper will have his or her own preferred method, and as long as it's noted in the ship's handbook somewhere, it really doesn't matter what is used, as long as you can tell how much cable has been let out when you're anchoring.

The debate about chain versus rope will always raise a heated argument in the sailing club bar. I much prefer chain, but galvanised steel anchor chain is both expensive and heavy, and in order to have sufficient scope without creating too much weight, you can extend the anchor chain with good quality rope.

My preference is always to have a good length of chain - over 30 metres if possible - but I am quite happy to extend the scope with a good quality rope. But it has to be the right stuff.

Plaited nylon is best for anchor cable. The twisted nylon used for mooring lines is not really suitable for anchoring because the twist does what is suggests - twists as it goes out through the bow roller, and un-twists as it comes up, spinning the anchor and creating a real old birdsnest in the chain locker when the tension comes off and it attempts to twist back again.

Nylon is good for anchoring (and mooring lines) because of its ability to give. But it's pretty useless for other things for the same reason!

Now we're sure the bow anchor is properly secured, can be easily released, the chain marked, and the whole contraption secured to the yacht (there's usually something to tie it to in the chain locker), it's time for some practice.
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