There years ago my family and I, with some friends, sailed out of Larchmont, N.Y. for Shelburne, Nova Scotia aboard our 45-foot sloop, Mustang. Southerly winds stayed fresh all the way; the days were warm, the nights cool and star-flecked, and plenty of good food was served from the galley. It was as close to perfect as any cruise could be, and when we had tied up in Larchmont harbor, a batch of cocktails back on the quarter topped off four easy weeks of real pleasure—the pleasure that belongs to ocean cruising. One of our guests, a fellow who had never cruised before, was rather surprised by it all. "It wasn't the way I'd heard," he remarked. "No broken boom, no water in the cabin—just four weeks of easy living. How come we never had a crisis?"
This is an article from the June 25, 1962 issue
As owner and skipper of Mustang, I had the primary responsibility. But I also would have been to blame if the trip had turned out to be miserable. Perhaps more than any other type of boat a cruising auxiliary reflects the planning, the knowledge and the judgment—good or bad—of the skipper. Its condition is proof of his regard for his boat and its crew. He and he alone is responsible for what his boat may be: a safe, secure and comfortable home for ocean cruising or a nightmare for all aboard, uncomfortable, insecure and—not the least important—unsafe.
The differences between comfort and misery are surprisingly small. One detail overlooked—a bunk board installed improperly, for example, so that in a rolling sea it pitches a guest from his bunk, perhaps breaking a bone—and a cruise, not to say the guest, can be ruined. The difference rests in the sum of all the little things: the tiny details of a boat's gear, its fuel, water and electrical systems, its sails and rigging. The difference can also be in the clothing you wear, the food you bring aboard—Carleton Mitchell has worked out an excellent basic cruising menu (SI, Jan. 16, 1961)—and, finally, in the skipper's continuing recognition of varying abilities and limitations of all the people on board.
There is an example of this concern in the picture above, showing my family and me on Mustang completing a tack. My wife, Marge, is at the tiller; Betsy, my 13-year-old daughter, is assisting me with the jib sheet. The cranking of the winch is left to me, and that is as it should be. Marge and Betsy are both good sailors who can steer the boat as well as I can. Winch-cranking, however, can be an exhausting and sometimes impossible chore for a woman. But beneath such little things there is a single, strong foundation, an attitude which, as a naval architect, I've had to maintain over the 30 years I've been designing boats, racing them on the oceans of the world and later cruising with my family. That attitude is: plan ahead, stay relaxed yet alert and be mildly suspicious of every bit of gear and every situation.
I was planning ahead when I bought Mustang almost 17 years ago. I wanted a boat a family could live on comfortably, whether out for a weekend off Larchmont or on an extended cruise along the coast of Maine. I also needed a boat which, with the family ashore and a crew of ocean racers aboard, could beat across the Gulf Stream to Bermuda. The measurement rule for the Bermuda race and most other blue-water events sets a practical minimum of about 35 feet in overall length. But since the bulk of the heavy chores on a family cruise would normally fall on me, I felt the boat should not be over 45 feet so I could handle it myself if need be. In the 17 pleasurable years that I've been cruising and racing Mustang I've never regretted that decision. There is much to be said in favor of a compact cruising boat.
The size of a boat has never been a matter of safety; it is rather an index to cruising comfort. It governs the degree of privacy below decks, the amount of stowage space and the comfort or lack of it in a rolling sea. For the needs of my family, Mustang has been more than adequate. In a boat this size or smaller there are fewer worries under sail because there is less of everything aboard to worry about—and hence there is more fun. For instance, if the wind builds up suddenly, sails can be taken in without difficulty; if we have to reef (see page 38) we can get the job done in five or six minutes. A smaller boat is lighter, and thus easier to bring into a dock or mooring. Moreover, the smaller the boat, the less will be the effect of an error committed—and less skill and muscle will be needed to correct it.
I am also in favor of a simple sail plan: in boats up to approximately 45 feet I tend to prefer a sloop, which has a single mast, only two working sails and hence fewer pieces of gear to worry about.
Once a man buys a boat, he should get to know it as fast and as thoroughly as possible. He should sail it frequently, learn the feel of it under various conditions and know all its working gear. I try to imagine what might happen with every piece of equipment aboard, prepare for the worst and then hope that it won't happen. Unfortunately, it sometimes does.
One time in the 1952 Bermuda race, at about 2 a.m., I was below, dozing off in my bunk, when I was awakened by some choice comments from the helmsman, who had just discovered that the tiller had broken off in his hand. I had seen no reason to think it would break; there was nothing wrong with it when we started, but I had an extra one aboard—just in case. Within minutes, the new tiller was in place, and I was back in my bunk. Without that spare tiller our chances for an early finish would have been sharply reduced.
The sensible skipper will be this thorough about all his gear. For example, every boat carries an anchor; many have two aboard. Mustang carries three anchors at all times. One is a Danforth, which holds well for its weight and is fine for normal conditions, but the heavier CQR plow anchor can be a little more reliable if wind and current make the boat circle the anchor. In deep water and a poor holding bottom the third anchor, the classical kedge, is put to work. Our anchor lines are nylon, which stretches and thus eases any jerking on the anchor. Just about every other piece of line on board is nonstretch Dacron. And all the lines are of synthetic materials, which won't rot and are stronger and more durable than natural fiber. Despite their virtues, however, synthetic lines become temperamental with age. They tend to harden—which makes them difficult to coil or to keep on a cleat. When they get this old they must be replaced.
Hoisting sail on a cruising boat is basically the same as it is on a class boat, but there are a few extra precautions you should take. On a big boat it is particularly important to remember one of the fundamental principles of sailing: whatever goes up must come down, often in a considerable hurry. Halyards should be accurately and carefully marked to show the maximum point to which they can be safely hoisted to guard against jamming aloft of the splice or terminal fittings. A few years back a friend of mine sailed into Price Bend at the end of a day's run on Long Island Sound. When he tried to drop the jib he found that it had jammed aloft. It took 30 minutes of skillful work, including a trip to the masthead, to get the sail down. And this was in a harbor. Had the same thing happened in a rough sea, it would have been beyond the capacity of the crew to handle the job. My friend's original mistake was in not having a halyard marking of light line—which can be seen in daylight and felt at night—to tell him when the halyard had been hoisted to its limit. His other error was in setting a sail too long for the jibstay, so that the end of the sail jammed in the sheave.
Chafing, both in running rigging and in sails, is a problem when the wind is blowing hard and the sea is rough. Aluminum or wooden roller sleeves on the shrouds will help both the rigging and the sails, but it is still wise to check periodically the four major points of chafing: where working jib sheets pass the main shrouds, where genoa sheets come over the lifelines, where the spinnaker guy goes by the shrouds and where the spinnaker sheets may come in contact with the main boom. Running backstays and the main boom topping lift should be set so they don't damage the stitching of the sails—on Dacron or nylon sails, the stitches lie exposed on the surface of the cloth. It is also a good idea to check over the lashings that secure the mainsail slides and headsail fittings that hold the sails in place. In a race off England three years ago, a hard gale hit; more than one boat had a sail blown out when the fittings let go.
You can display considerable courage in a storm, but I'd much rather do things the quiet, easy way. Storm sails (which should be aboard for any cruise overnight or longer) should be set early. Don't wait until the wind has blown the mainsail out; get it down, furl it on the boom and get the storm trysail up on the mast track as fast as possible. Set the storm jib—it should have its own sheets for quicker handling—and get the crew below, where it is, presumably, dry and warm.
The auxiliary engine and its fuel system should get the same care as the sails and rigging. If the motor is not a diesel the entire system must be kept free of gasoline fumes. The gas line should have a shutoff of the packless type. It should be closed every time the engine is stopped. This type of shutoff eliminates gas leakage around the stem of the valve. Fuel tanks—and water tanks as well—should have vents installed high up and as near the centerline of the boat as possible to keep to a minimum the chance of water or fuel spilling out if the boat is knocked down. It is preferable to have the water-tank vents below and the fuel-tank vents on deck, so gasoline fumes will dissipate in the open air. With a gasoline engine, a blower system is essential, but even with a blower, plus good natural ventilation, the best safety device is an assiduous nose sniffing for gas odor. And, despite all the modern gadgets that exist for measuring fluids, the best means ever invented to check your fuel and water level is an old-fashioned tank-sounding stick, notched to indicate the gallons and painted black so the liquid shows clearly.
In the evenings, and when bad weather comes in, much of the living aboard a boat is done below decks. This, too, can be a large part of the pleasure of cruising, provided it is done sensibly. In the relatively close confines of a sailboat's cabin there is nothing more unhappy than a hot, soggy crew. Good ventilators, partly opened hatches fitted with snug canvas covers to prevent leakage and a canopy over the companionway to let air in but keep water out are all essential. A well-thought-out cabin plan and a system for stowage are just as essential, to safety as well as comfort.
The layout and stowage arrangements in the main cabin are shown and discussed on page 42. Aft of the main cabin is a smaller compartment with two quarter berths which, besides being two more bunks for the crew, provide stowage space for sails, an inflatable life raft and the life jackets we always carry aboard. When small children are sailing on Mustang, however, those life jackets are not stowed; they are worn. A grown-up who is a poor swimmer will generally bob up right away if he falls overboard, but a small child is likely to keep going right on down. I learned this once from a friend whose small son fell off a club float. My friend kneeled down to grab the boy when he came up—but he didn't. Happily, the youngster was pulled out in time, but this was an enlightening experience and one that would have been fatal in deep water.
The after cabin also contains my navigator's tools—charts, dividers, parallel rules, reference books—and a lot of unglamorous little essentials like pencils and thumbtacks. I am very fussy about the details of navigation. I enter every change of course in Mustang's log, and on coastal cruises, when there is any distance between buoys, I take bearings to keep careful and constant track of the boat's position. Fog can move in very quickly along the coast, and that last bearing can be the difference between being on course when it lifts and being lost completely. One bright, clear night during the 1956 Block Island Race, I had come topside to relax a little and, because I am in the habit of taking bearings at night, I got a cross bearing from several distant lights. Not more than 10 minutes later we were completely blanketed in fog; but that bearing, taken so close to the fog's onset, gave us an accurate position from which we could find Block Island without having to grope for it. The bearing, incidentally, was the reason we won the race.
The space immediately forward of the main cabin (Just past my right shoulder in the drawing on page 42) is taken up by the galley. In a relatively small boat like ours, where electrical cooking is impractical, I prefer an alcohol stove. But no stove, regardless of type, should ever be left without someone tending to it. One last word on the galley: we don't keep a fire extinguisher there. If a galley fire should break out we don't want the only nearby extinguisher caught in the flames. Therefore we keep an extinguisher in the head, immediately adjacent to the galley, and one in every other compartment.
I haven't said much about handling a cruising boat under sail. The operating principles are essentially the same in cruising sailboats and the small class boats Lowell North discussed in Part II of this series. The sensible attitude described by William Collins in Part I and the firm respect for the sea that Eugenie Marron spelled out in Part III apply to boats like Mustang as much as they do to outboards and power cruisers. All these principles are fundamental to boating enjoyment and, together with the concern for details which I have discussed, are the primary means to better—and more pleasurable—cruising.
A MASTER'S PLANNING
Rod Stephens Jr. (shown left starting out on a cruise with his family aboard their 45-foot sloop, Mustang) is one of the most accomplished ocean racing and cruising sailors of the world. He is also a naval architect, associated with the firm of Sparkman & Stephens. As such, he has applied his knowledge and concern for the tiny details of safe and comfortable cruising to his own family boat. Note the small portholes, far safer than large windows, which could be smashed by seas. The companionway, fitted with a bronze rail that can be held while climbing up and down, has a canvas hatch cover, which permits ventilation but prevents water from getting below. The stanchions for the lifelines are bolted through the deck instead of being held by screws. There is a strong handhold next to the binnacle, so that an off-balance crewman can steady himself on it rather than on the binnacle. Life preservers are lashed inside the lifeline on the after binnacle, reachable from the helm yet secure against the power of boarding seas. The cockpit is shallow, only 16 inches deep, a safeguard against an unreasonable weight of water that may come aboard. Even the main boom topping lift, the thin wire running aloft from the end of the boom, has a nylon tackle at one end; nylon stretches slightly and thus absorbs the force of the boom's weight when the heavy spar drops down as the sail is lowered at day's end.
SIX KNOTS ARE ALL YOU NEED
Though sailors have developed hundreds of knots, bends and hitches for various specialized purposes, the six knots shown above meet the basic needs of the cruising sailor. (1) The bowline is a fixed (nonsliding) loop used for many purposes, such as securing a boat to a piling or slinging a bosun's chair. It is a strong, secure knot, yet it is easy to untie after heavy strain has been put on it. (2) The sheet bend is used for joining and holding lines of unequal thickness. (3) The square, or reef knot, joins two lines of equal thickness, such as reef points or other light line. (4) The clove hitch is quickly tied, but intended only as a temporary hold at a piling. (5) The rolling hitch with a round turn, which will not slip or bind, is good for overnight dock tie-up or for tying a lighter line onto a hawser or cable. (6) Round turn, shown here with two half hitches, takes the strain off the half hitches.
DEEP-WATER DECK HARDWARE
Small extra features in deck hardware, like the ones from Mustang shown above, can make the difference between a successful and a frustrating cruise. Left: a shackle with threads in both holes keeps the pin from dropping out when it is unscrewed. Center: when the permanent backstay needs tightening, a turnbuckle like this one can ease the chore. Both collars swing up; one is held fast, the other is turned—but caution must be exercised. Too much cranking, and the rigging will be too tight, setting up a possible rigging failure and putting dangerous strain on the mast. Right: a Barient winch handle with a ball-lock attachment will eliminate the hazard of the handle slipping its socket. When the shank of the handle engages the winch, the balls lock inside an internal fitting; when the thumb button is pressed, the balls slide back into the handle's shank and it can be removed from the socket.
SAFETY ON THE FOREDECK
On Mustang's foredeck are three small but important details of cruising safety; position of each is shown above in overhead view of bow, with arrows pointing to enlarged close-ups. Running lights (left), back-shielded to eliminate glare at the helm, are mounted on the bow pulpit—not on the cabin trunk, where they would be blanketed by a genoa jib or spinnaker. Bow chocks are smoothly rounded, preventing wear on the lines. The special air vent (upper right), called a Dorade vent, prevents water from getting into the cabin. Water entering the air scoop is trapped in the vent box and runs out through cocks in the after side, while air passes freely through the inner duct into cabin below.
SAFETY IN THE RIGGING
A spinnaker net (below left), a preventer vang (center) and a radar reflector are additional safety features on Mustang. As soon as the chute is set, the spinnaker net, a simple web of light line, should be run up the forestay to prevent the sail from tangling itself in the rigging. "It took me one accident to learn the value of a spinnaker net" says Stephens. "The spinnaker wrapped around the jibstay, and I had to climb to the spreaders to free it—but that happened only once. I have used a spinnaker net ever since." The preventer vang is secured to the foredeck on the leeward side of the boat. Its purpose is to prevent the boom from rising or jibing accidentally. A wire-mesh radar reflector, run up out of the way of the sails, warns of the boat's presence. It is advisable to use the radar reflector when in heavy shipping or steamer lanes, especially in dark or fog.
REEF BEFORE THE BLOW
Reefing on Mustang (shown at right and in sequence below) is done early before rising winds make sail handling difficult. To reef: (1) lead the leach pennant through the out-haul fitting, then up through the leach reef cringle and down into the reef-location grommet, which indicates the place along the boom where the pennant should then be lashed twice around. Run the long end of the pennant forward along the boom, through a fair lead, around a winch, and cleat it on the underside of the boom. At the same time, slack the tack-downhaul and ease the mainsheet to take pressure off the sail and lower the main halyard from 1½ to 2 times the depth of the reef. Lash down the luff to the gooseneck fitting at the forward end of the boom and haul the leach pennant as tight as it will go (2), so that the leach reef cringle is snug against the boom at the reef-location grommet. Trim the mainsheet, bringing the boom in so reef points are accessible. Pass the leach lashing through the reef and clew cringles (3) and around the boom several times; make it fast so the reef cringle cannot rise up or creep forward. Finally, roll up the slack in the sail, bring reef points twice around the sail itself (never around the boom) and tie with reef knots. Leeward side of the boom is shown in 4. When reefing is completed, rehoist the sail, tightening the downhaul and adjusting the main-sheet. In heavy weather, wear safety harnesses like the one above, which fits high on the chest, so a crewman going overboard is not dragged underwater on the safety line.
COMFORT BELOW DECKS
In Mustang's main cabin (above) the Stephenses are enjoying a meal, their comfort and safety insured by attention to small details. When on a cruise, meals are taken with the boat lying securely at anchor whenever possible, not when it is bouncing around offshore. The dining table top pivots on gimbals, so that it remains level even though the boat may roll from side to side. A buffet counter (behind Rod Stephens) helps to eliminate unnecessary congestion when food is being prepared in the galley. The cabin's cushioned seats convert to sleeping bunks; the seats' backrests convert to bunk boards for the upper bunks—the lower bunks have sideboards, too—to prevent sleepers from being tossed onto the floor when the boat is heeled. (There is only one folding berth in the forecastle, but there are two quarter berths in the after cabin, where the boat's pitching motion is at a minimum.) Above the main-cabin bunks, handrails run fore and aft to give the crew something to hang onto in heavy seas when moving around below decks. An orderly stowage system is another element of Mustang's comfort. Navigational charts are kept in racks that drop down on hinges above the bunks, and each rack is indexed so that a desired chart can be found quickly. On the bookshelf tucked neatly above the buffet are tide tables, books on celestial navigation and technical manuals for guidance on emergency repairs. Directly behind Betsy's head is a magazine rack stacked with light reading for confining, rainy days. On such days anyone coming below immediately sheds his wet foul-weather gear and stows it away in lockers close to the entry, so that it can be found readily next time it is needed. Quick stowage helps prevent puddles from collecting on the floor. "Water below decks is inexcusable," says Stephens. "It dampens everything, including the spirits of all aboard."
TAKING A BEARING WITH RDF
Using the radio direction finder to take a bearing on a beacon station, Stephens (above) listens for the signal tone. The lone rises and falls as he rotates the antenna. When he zeros in on a null signal—the moment of minimum intensity—he takes his bearing from an arrow that sweeps through a circle calibrated in degrees at the top of the antenna. The RDF antenna can be folded up against main cabin ceiling, as shown on page 42.
PUMPING OUT THE BILGE
The bilge pump (above) should be hand-operated. An electric pump could die out just when most needed. Discharge should be looped above the water line (note dotted lines) to help prevent sea water from backing into the system. Light chains, which pass fore and aft through limber holes in the boat's floor timbers (see cutaway), can be pulled to clear the holes of obstructions, thus allowing bilge water to move freely to the pump suction.
TWO ANCHORS IN HEAVY CURRENTS
In shifting winds or currents, a boat may swing hard around a single anchor and work it loose. Under such conditions, Stephens puts out two anchors, as shown in the diagram above. To be effective, the anchors must be at least three boat lengths apart, with the current running between them and the boat lying equidistant from each anchor. The near ends of the anchor lines should then be lashed together securely with a lanyard and the boat allowed to lie back so that the lashing is in the water, well off the bow. The boat will then pivot without excess strain on anchors or chafing of lines in bow chocks.
HANDLING THE DINGHY
Right and below. Rod and Betsy Stephens show the correct way to put the boat's dinghy into the water. In the first step the dinghy is lifted upside down and balanced on the lifeline. Then Rod takes the stern strap, which bears most of the dinghy's weight, while Betsy holds the bow painter and presses her knees against the lifeline for balance. The dinghy is turned over and lowered slowly, not dropped with a splash. When the bottom touches the water Rod lets go of the strap but Betsy keeps hold of the painter. Note that oarlocks are secured to the seats with lanyards (insert) so that they won't be lost overboard. They are stowed in special canvas pockets when not in use.