Monday, October 31, 2016

Practice for Mumfest? hmmm...


Today's sailing exercise was similar to what we'll be doing for the Mumfest sailing demonstration. We sailed a 'Baby Duck' drill (link) which is quite basic, and some skills were GOOD! but others need work. Most of the beginner skippers have TACKING down pat, however we still need to work on Points of Sail before the maneuvers will make sense.

This graphic shows the Points of Sail, it's a nice drawing so perhaps this will be a little better to learn than the very simple diagram.Here


Here is what our sailing practice looked like. Usually, when we have a photo of two boats sailing towards each other and it looks like there might be risk of collision, it turned out fine. This time it went KA-BLAM! Fortunately the boats were not badly damaged and nobody was injured.

Perhaps this is a mistake that we learned from?

Anyway, today's sailing class was fun and everyone improved their skills. At this point, all the students should have studied up thru the first 9 on-line lessons (link) to Right-Of-Way. We have one more sailing session, then Mumfest (Sunday Nov 13) !!!


Monday, October 24, 2016

Rigging up, going sailing, business as usual !!


We have made good progress in the class. We know how to rig up the boats... although I did see a few knots being tied twice with a frown... We can hoist the sails... We know how to steer with a tiller... We are not quite sure about Points of Sail and Tacking, but we're getting the boats going pretty well much of the time. Some of the cadets have definitely found the Javelin's gas pedal!


Here we see Coach Hallquist's team, which includes an advanced sailor, rigging the mainsail on their Javelin. You can tell that the coach is not really needed at this point


Here is Coach Jackson's team already out sailing. Can you identify any mistakes they are making? For one obvious catch, YES the skipper should be looking where he is going! But there are a few other minor things that could be done better.

The real key to basic sailing is to always know the wind direction. Everything about what the boat is doing, or what to do with the boat, follows from wind direction.

Most of the sailing class is probably tired of hearing about POINTS OF SAIL. However, we must be able to figure this out before being able to do anything further.

Just to help refresh the memory, here are the Points of Sail.

What is the difference between Port Tack and Starboard Tack? This can be very important!


Which boat here has the Right-Of-Way? Both boats are on a Beam Reach (approximately).

Once we know the Points Of Sail, we can learn the maneuvers. Today we practiced Tacking, and many of the cadets could make decent tacks. All needed more practice, especially if we expect to be sailing the FJs! A sloppy tack can stall or capsize an FJ.


Coach said "Sail right to that buoy" and they did!

Notice the jib is backwinded (deliberately trimmed to the windward side). This helps steady the boat and slow it down. Usually a maneuver we teach advanced cadets, but it comes in handy when getting untangled.


OK, let's talk about TACKING.

A TACK is a turn. It can be a turn from port to starboard, or the other way. However, a tack ALWAYS swings the bow towards the wind, then past the wind, so that the sails change sides.

The first step of a tack is to get ready. The lookout must confirm that the path is clear, crew must be ready to handle the sails and to shift their weight (especially when it's windy).

The next step is the actual turn. The skipper will always put the tiller TOWARDs the sail, and hold it there for a brief time.

The crew should release the jib sheet, and start trimming ... slowly... on the new sheet. Why slowly? Because if you backwind the jib (see photo above) it will stop the boat's turn, and the tack will fail. We know this is true, because it happened several times today!

A successful tack is from CLOSE-HAULED to CLOSE-HAULED, Spinning the boat around from a beam reach to a beam reach might work, but is likely to fail because the sails flog for most of the turn. 

What happens if the boat is on a BROAD REACH and the skipper pulls the tiller away from the sail? And keeps turning until the sails change sides? We saw that happen several times today too.

Here is a crew under good control and sailing along . By the end of the day, the cadets had reduced the numbers of mistakes they were making.

Next week, we shall try the Baby Duck Drill (link)!


... posted by Coach Douglas King

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

What do we do when there is NO WIND??


Hurricane Matthew came thru our area a week ago. We were fortunate to have little damage, the boats were unrigged and stored. Now, the coaches have re-rigged the boats.

Beautiful weather, not a breath of wind.

The plan is to launch the Javelins and move them to their regular slips. Not only is there no wind, but the hurricane rains inland have flooded some areas and the river current is MUCH stronger than usual.

The cadets had to paddle against the current. It was a workout but it was also a success.

At this point in the class, we should be beginning sailing drill. Everyone should know the ropes & knots (link). We should be familiar with steering with a tiller, and Points of Sail. Everyone has TACKED (link) several times in our two previous sailing sessions.

Approaching a dock under (arm) power is different than under sail; however some things never change.

It is more difficult to steer a boat moving slowly, yet it is obviously a bad idea to approach the dock too fast. The crew must be prepared with dock lines (in this case, the boat's bow line).

When handling boats around docks, one of the precautions is to NEVER get a body part (particularly hands or feet) get caught between the boat & the dock. Yet we must also take care to not let the boats be damaged against the dock.

There is always more to learn. The class is making good progress, today we also reviewed Points of Sail, Tacking, and Stopping. The whole course is available in our on-line lessons (link). In our next session, we should begin sailing drills and students should be able to sail the boats without coaches assistance. That's what this is all about!

... posted by Assistant Coach Douglas King


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Fall Sailing Sessions Underway


We've held 2 class sessions, one at the school and one on the water at Bridgeton Harbor. Last week the sailing class had to be cancelled for bad weather, so we are trying to catch up.

So far, we have studied basic terms, and practiced rigging the boats. To get the sails hoisted properly, we must know standing rigging & running rigging, halyards & sheets, port from starboard, rudder, tiller, and why they call it "the boom." Here's our lesson pages on terminology.

The cadets showed they remembered most of the rigging & terms from 2 weeks ago... not bad, y'all!!

We not only have to remember the details of 'boat words' and which part connects to what rope, we have to keep in mind that we in a different and potentially dangerous world on the water. For example, there is a right way to get on a boat, not doing it the right way can have bad results!

Huh?!? Is there a "right way" to get in a car??!!??!

Here you can see the element of TEAMWORK in the cadets rigging their Oday Javelins.

We have a web page lesson on basic rigging


Once the sails have been rigged and hoisted, the coaches check everything. Then we get underway! The beginner sailors have coaches with them in the Javelins.


The first sailing session is simple- sail back and forth, getting used to steering with a tiller and handling the sails. One of the keys to making it work is WIND DIRECTION.

Our gold-colored Javelin, with Coach Jackson, in on a nice easy BEAM REACH (point of sail). Is the skipper sitting in the correct position?


Docking a sailboat is kind of like landing an airplane. It's not necessarily difficult, but it certainly doesn't happen smoothly all by itself.


Under the expert direction of Coach Hittner, this cadet skipper & crew docked their boat almost perfectly, and Head Coach Rezab (in dark blue T-shirt) is on hand to recognize their accomplishment.

Here we see the next crew waiting their turn to get aboard with Coach Hittner.


Each crew got approximately 20 minutes of sailing time, this is not much. However we had to switch crews and give every cadet some sailing time. Hopefully, we will get rigged up and underway faster next session, and thus gain more sailing time.

Oh yeah, next time... we will move forward with learning about TACKING (which we did today) and POINTS OF SAIL, with more practice on these maneuvers too. Here's the next web page lesson 


Class is almost over- the last part is unrigging and putting all the gear away.

Here we see one of the advanced sailing cadets showing some beginners how to properly roll up a mainsail.

It is important that we keep these boats and the gear SQUARED AWAY. This is safe, it is efficient, and it lets the world know we are capable and serious.

... posted by Coach Douglas King


Monday, May 30, 2016

Congratulations to our 2016 SAILORS


What does it mean to be a "sailor?" First, it means to NOT be a passenger, just along for the ride. A sailor has a job to do, and must be relied on to do that job correctly even when danger threatens. In the dark, in a storm, water gushing in, whatever: the ship and everyone on board depends on YOU.

Being a sailor means hard work, especially teamwork. The boats must be rigged & lifted onto the dolly, wheeled down to the river, and launched; then held steady while the sails are hoisted. Nobody can do it all, nobody can do it alone.

Being a sailor means having skills and having technical knowledge. It means being alert to surroundings, the weather, the vessels course & location, other vessels nearby. All sailors have to keep a sharp lookout for objects in the water, there may be a hazard like a floating log or there may be a person in the water needing rescue.

We have completed the sailing course for Spring 2016; this was not the biggest class we've ever put on the water -BUT- it is by far the largest sailing class we have graduated as SAILORS. In the past we've had more than 30 cadets sign up for a semester of sailing, but usually more than half the class drops out or does not achieve the qualification. The sea does not accept excuses!

This spring we have 19 cadets who have completed the basic sailing course. They know the ropes (and the knots), terminology, rigging, points of sail, basic maneuvers (including how to stop when you have no brakes), and basic Right-Of-Way rules. They will wear their NJROTC Sea Cruise ribbon proudly!

... posted by Assistant Coach Douglas King


Monday, April 18, 2016

FJ sailing... Learning + practice + wind = FUN


This is the first time this semester we have sailed the "Flying Juniors," affectionately called FJs. These are the sports cars of our fleet, much lighter, generally faster (not always) but certainly more sensitive and responsive than the Javelins.

Some advanced sailors and a few select beginners rig up the FJs and move them down to the beach. It's a bit more work than rigging up the Javelins at the dock... but oh so much worth it!

I apologize for not having any photos of the beginners sailing Javelins today, but they were working with  Coaches Hittner, Gowans, and Jackson who did not take any pics for me.


Head Coach Rezab supervises operations at the beach. It's a clear sunny day, and a "sea breeze" sprang up even as we were preparing to launch. This is why the boats are beached with bows facing outward, it is easier to hoist sails with the boat head-to-wind (or at least close to it).

We had some minor mayhem getting underway with the FJs, mostly because only 2 of the current sailing class have ever sailed FJs anyway, and partly because of the onshore wind (link) . We have not yet learned the lesson about "lee shores" but after today, it should ring some bells.


Once we got away from the beach, the sailing part was pretty good. The sailors improved visibly with every tack, every controlled stop, every bear-away. FJ's are very sensitive to sail trim and weight, so the cadet got constant reminders of how to perform better. No capsizes, but a few lose calls!

The sailors in FJ#1 (left, further away) are figuring out what the hiking straps are for. Good fun, and the boat is really moving!


We did not get in a good 'Baby Duck' drill (link) . The sailors were just getting familiar with the boats, and tacking, and keeping their weight located where needed (sometimes scrambling!). We did practice TACKING (link) and also STOPPING (link), so these skills will come in handy as we get further into sailing drills.

We are more than half-way thru the semester, and in order to pass, the basic/beginner sailors need to begin sailing drills. The advanced sailors also need practice too (we all do!), but today's session had excellent weather and everybody had a great time!

... posted by Assistant Coach Douglas King


Monday, April 11, 2016

Windy & Rough Again... real sailing


There seems to be a weather pattern this spring, every Monday afternoon the wind picks up and the river kicks up. After lots of practice on everything we need to do, there is nothing left but to go sailing. So, that's what we do... sail!

But first, we have to rig up the boats. Work before fun! This class is a bit slower than some we've had in the past, many are struggling with the terminology and the parts of the boat. However, we're improving!

Here is the Table of Contents (link) for our sailing lessons. Most of the class would benefit from a little browsing here.


"Which one is the halyard and which one is the sheet?" By now, all sailing cadets should know this basic stuff, we've been studying it for 8 weeks!

To be fair, one of the students in this photo is an advanced sailor helping out, not a struggling beginner.


These cadets are all beginners, and they were the quickest to get rigged up. Here they are investing the saved time by practicing a few moves on the boat. Usually the reward for being the first to rig up is MORE SAILING but conditions today were too rough.


We also had Coach Mike Murphy (link) bring his own boat, a Montgomery 15 cruiser. Another advanced sailor is showing his ability as skipper, with a beginner as crew. Coach Murphy is on board, just ducked out of sight the moment this photo was taken.


We took turns sailing the Javelins, here is Coach Hittner steering while two beginners handle the sheets and get the feel of the boat moving in 15 ~ 18 knot winds.


Taking turns sailing Coach Murphy's boat also. These two are both beginners, doing well for their first time.


Here we are at the dock, switching out crews. There are several safety rules to keep in mind when handling boats around the dock, and on a windy, choppy day like today, they are not just theory!


Coach Murphy's boat has a ballasted keel and is more stable than the Javelins, which in turn are much more stable than the FJs. It takes practice! Here is Coach Hittner correcting the steering of a beginner.

"Don't look at the tiller, look where you're going!" 


THIS is more like it!

After all, today was our first actual real-life sail. With such a strong wind and rough water, mistakes could be very costly and/or painful. However, everything went quite smoothly, we only made some small errors and hopefully learned... like this time!

Approx half the photos in this posting were taken by NJROTC cadets

   ... posted by Assistant Coach Douglas King