Dart Sailability Wrinkles

Updated: Sep 17, 2018

Useful information for all sailors..........

The latest 'wrinkle' explains how to 'Reef an Access Dinghy', very useful information for all sailors, so.... We are creating a monthly article outlining different aspects of seamanship with particular reference to how we work at Dart Sailability. The plan is for past articles to be saved here so that they build up into a useful reference handbook.

We are creating a monthly article outlining different aspects of seamanship with particular reference to how we work at Dart Sailability. The plan is for past articles to be saved here so that they build up into a useful reference handbook.


Wrinkles so far:

8. Access Reefing

7. Mooring - to a Pontoon

6. Mooring - Cleating ropes

5. International Regulations to Prevent Collisions at Sea (IRPCS, or ColRegs) - Sail

4. Towing Access Dinghies

3. Knots - Round Turn and Two Half-Hitches

2. Marking a Waterline

1. International Regulations to Prevent Collisions at Sea (IRPCS, or ColRegs) - General


8. Access Reefing


When wind strengths get up, or if a new sailor needs a more gentle experience when learning, then this is the time to reef. A boat sails more efficiently when upright or nearly so and there is no advantage to be gained in maintaining full sail if the boat is heeling at 45 degrees or you are constantly having to spill wind. If in doubt, reef before you start - it is much easier to take out an unnecessary reef on the water than it is to reef when the wind gets too strong.


Reefing an Access is easy as both sails can be rolled round the masts by pulling the furling/reefing lines. If the Access is set up properly, both sails will be coming back from the starboard (right) side of the mast. To reef, pull on the port (left) reefing lines (the inner one for the main and outer one for the jib). When reefing the main, the outhaul first has to be slackened off, as well as the main sheet, as the boom needs to be allowed to rise. When the sail has been reduced sufficiently, it should be 'anchored' by hitching the reefing lines into the little jam cleats on the rear port side of the central console. This will prevent the sail unfurling again when sailing. (This does not work if the sails have been furled on the wrong side of the mast). Once the main is reefed, the outhaul will need to be tightened again. If reefing the main, take an equivalent amount off the jib as well to maintain the balance of the boat.


7. Mooring - to a Pontoon

The standard way to tie up involves three pairs of ropes - see diagram below:-

Bow Line and Stern Line. These lead forwards and backwards from the bow & stern to the pontoon and prevent the boat drifting back and forth with the tide. For our small boats on our sheltered pontoon, this is normally all we use, though it does allow the boat to 'saw' against the pontoon and the Hawk could benefit from springs (see below) to stop this happening when on the pontoon. Boats should be well-fendered against the pontoon.


Bow and Stern Springs. These lead back from the bows and forward from the stern to the pontoon, usually crossing over each other. They prevent the boat 'sawing' against the pontoon.


Breast ropes run straight from the bows and from the stern to the pontoon to hold the boat against it.


The ropes should not be bar tight, but have a little slack in them. As the pontoon rises and falls with the tide, this does not make a problem, but against a fixed quay, breast ropes would not be used and bow and stern lines and springs would need to be at least three times longer than the tidal range or adjusted frequently to prevent the boat being left hanging when the tide falls (or being pulled under when it rises) either of which could quite spoil your day - and your boat.


Note that where two or more boats are 'rafted' side by side on the pontoon, bow and stern lines should be run from each boat to the pontoon. If the outer boat(s) are just roped to each other, it can put a lot of strain on the inner boat (and make it more difficult to take out the inner boat). We make an exception to this rule with our little Access dinghies, which we attach to the safety boat and to each other with simple breast ropes.


6. Mooring - Cleating Ropes

When cleating off a mooring line, first take a complete turn round the cleat, then two or three complete figures-of-eight before finishing off with a further one or two turns. (See Diagram below)

1. Take the working end and make a complete turn round the cleat (Fig A)

2. Take the rope diagonally across the top of the cleat and behind the upper horn, then back to complete a figure-of-eight (Fig B)

Add a further couple of figure-of-eight turns.

3. Complete with another full turn around the base of the cleat (Fig C)

A final tuck is unnecessary, as are any extra turns.

It is often necessary to attach two or more ropes to the same cleat. When doing this, any subsequent ropes should not be cleated over the top of the first one, but should be tied off with a round turn and two half hitches round one or other of the 'legs' of the cleat. In this way, three ropes can be fixed to one cleat, and each can be untied without disturbing any of the others. (See Diagram below)


Once a rope has been cleated, any extra length outstanding should be coiled neatly beside the cleat so that it does not obstruct the pontoon.

5. International Regulations to Prevent Collisions at Sea (IRPCS, or ColRegs) - Part 2 -Sail

No-one should take control of a boat without being fully aware of these 'Rules of the Road'. It is your responsibility to prevent a collision and these rules have evolved over the years as being the safest approach. When two boats approach each other on a possible collision course, one boat becomes the 'stand-on' boat and the other needs to take appropriate evasive action. The trick is to be able to identify which boat you are and then what action to take. Note that neither boat has 'right of way'; even if you are the 'stand-on' boat, you still have a duty to avoid a collision.


To break the rules into bite-sized pieces, this article only deals with them as they apply to two boats under sail. An earlier article ( Wrinkle 1 ) covered power boats. (a sailing boat under engine, becomes a power boat).

A. If two boats are approaching on different tacks, the boat on the starboard tack (boom to port) is the 'stand-on' boat. The boat on the port tack must alter course to avoid a collision. This may be by tacking, or altering course to pass astern of the other boat:-


B. If two boats are on the same tack, then the windward boat keeps clear (normally passing behind the other boat):-


If boats are overtaking, then it is the duty of the overtaking boat to keep clear.

D. Both sailing and power vessels should keep clear of a vessel not under command, a vessel that is "restricted in its ability to manoeuvre" (e.g. The Higher Ferry), as well as a boat engaged in fishing and a vessel constrained by its draught.

In each case, the 'stand-on' boat should refrain from making any alterations of course that could frustrate the efforts of the other boat to keep clear.


Please Note: This is a simplified summary of the regulations, and the

very minimum that you should know before being in control of a boat under sail. The complete regulations can be found at: www.collisionregs.com/Collregs.html


4. Towing Access Dinghies

For ease of getting alongside the pontoon and to enable a volunteer to help rig and unrig on the water, we tow the Access alongside the Safety Boat (rather than behind it).

The first rule for such towing is that the stern of the towing boat (safety boat) must be behind the stern of the towed boat (Access), which makes maneuvering much easier (see the lower ferry).


Secondly, the centreline of the Access should be parallel to that of the safety boat. If the Access is at an angle, its keel becomes an angled blade and water pressure causes the boat to heel once you start moving.


As the dredged channel is very narrow past ‘our’ pontoon, it is important to have the dinghy on the side nearest the pontoon (i.e. to starboard on the way out and to port on the return) and to drive slowly and, below half-tide, very close to the boats moored to the pontoon. For the same reason, keep close to the end of the pontoon when turning towards the river.


When picking up an Access on the river, ask the sailor to stop by heading into the wind and then drive up alongside (usually bringing the Access to your port - left - side), get hold of the bowline (which should be attached to the mast) and make it fast - but not too tightly - to the safety boat. Then tie on the stern line fairly tightly before tightening up the bowline if necessary until the boats are parallel. You should use a round turn and two half-hitches for these ropes. Once the boat is secure, then first the foresail, then the main can be furled. Until this is done, the driver should keep both boats heading into the wind.

Once towing, ask the sailor to centre his/her tiller so that it does not interfere with your steering. (An alternative would be to remove the rudder, but see below). Be aware of the feelings of the sailor who is sitting much closer to the water, and do not go uncomfortably fast. Go very slowly when driving past the pontoons.


Having a boat alongside does affect your steering: you will be able to turn much more sharply to the side with the boat on, and turning away from the boat will be much more gradual, so make sure you have room, go slowly, give the boat time to turn and be ready to use reverse if necessary. You can ask the Access sailor to help by steering in the same direction.


When the water is low, keep as close as you can to the boats moored to the pontoon. If there is not enough water when returning to the pontoon, then you will need to raise the keel. If this is necessary, do not forget to pull out the rudder(s) as well - they break easily if caught in the mud.


3. Knots - Round Turn and Two Half-Hitches

This is the knot you will probably use more than any other. It is easy to tie and fixes a rope to a ring or bar, or post. It is also easy to untie, even under strain. It is used to tie mooring warps etc.


1. Pass the rope below the bar or ring, up over the top and repeat to make two complete turns.





2. Take the working end over the standing part, round beneath and back up, tucking it under itself. This completes the first half-hitch.


3. Repeat stage 2 to make a second half-hitch. Pull both ends to tighten.


Do not be tempted to leave out one of the round turns at the beginning. Having the two initial turns makes the knot stronger and greatly reduces wear on the rope against the bar or ring.

2. Marking a Waterline

We have a new Access dinghy which needed a waterline marking. There are basically two stages: getting the boat level and then marking out the waterline. You will need:-


A flat level and smooth surface

Assorted bits of wood for chocks and a gauge

A felt-tipped pen for marking out

Masking tape

  1. Determine where the waterline comes at the bow and the stern by observing the boat in the water (containing all normal equipment but with nobody aboard), or by seeing where the weed grows to if the boat has been removed from the water.

  2. Take out mast, centre plate, rudder and all lose equipment and place the boat on a smooth, level surface.

  3. Draw a waterline reference mark at the bow and stern. This is a short, horizontal mark crossing the centreline of the boat at the waterline (see 1 above). On an Access dinghy, the stern mark is at the bottom edge of the transom (the flat stern of the boat) and the bow mark is just where the straight bow begins to turn in towards the keel. (See diagram A)

  4. Chock up the stern or bows until the bow mark and the stern mark are exactly the same vertical distance from the ground. (‘a’ in diagram A)

Diagram A

5. Without disturbing the stern/bow chock, put chocks under either side until the boat is level. The vertical distance from the ground to the mid-point of the gunwale on each side should be the same. (‘b’ in diagram B)

Diagram B

6. Make a gauge by finding or cutting a bit of wood to the vertical distance from the ground to the reference marks. Use this and a felt-tip pen to make a series of short marks every few inches working round the hull, keeping the wooden gauge vertical.

7. Turn the hull upside-down and make a fair curve between the marks with masking tape. On the upside-down boat, the top edge of the tape should be level with the marks.

8. If the hull has not been painted previously, a coat of hull primer should be painted on before anti-foul.


9. Then paint with anti-foul. There should be two coats, at least round the waterline and along the keel.


1. International Regulations to Prevent Collisions at Sea (IRPCS, or ColRegs) - General

No-one should take control of a boat without being fully aware of these 'Rules of the Road'. It is your responsibility to prevent a collision and these rules have evolved over the years as being the safest approach. When two boats approach each other on a possible collision course, one boat becomes the 'stand-on' boat and the other needs to take appropriate evasive action. The trick is to be able to identify which boat you are and then what action to take. Note that neither boat has 'right of way'; even if you are the 'stand-on' boat, you still have a duty to avoid a collision.


A later article will summarise the rules as they apply to two boats under sail. This one covers how they apply when at least one vessel is a power vessel.


A. "Keep. To the Right". When motoring up or down the river, the basic rule is to keep to starboard, i.e. keep to the Kingswear side when going up-river and to the Dartmouth side when going downstream. If you are on a collision course with an oncoming boat, you should turn to starboard to pass it on your port (left) side. Note that, on the river, there is a speed limit of six knots.


B. If a boat is crossing or converging on your course from the starboard (right-hand) side, you are the 'give-way' boat and should reduce your speed or alter course accordingly. Conversely, if the other boat is on your port side, then you should continue, as the 'stand-on' boat. (If the give-way boat fails to take evasive action in time, it remains your duty to avoid a collision - stop or turn to starboard. Do not turn to port as this would bring about a collision if the other boat belatedly turned to his starboard).


C. A power boat gives way to a boat under sail. (But if sailing, use common sense and do not try to push it. A large powered vessel may be restricted to a deep water channel and be unable to take evasive action, and would, inevitably, take time and distance to slow down or turn away. The Kingswear Castle paddle steamer, in particular, has limited manoeuvrability. Even when sailing, we try not to impede the river boats and to build a reputation for good and professional seamanship). N.B. A sailing boat using its engine becomes a power boat.

D. Both sailing and power vessels should keep clear of a vessel not under command, a vessel that is "restricted in its ability to manoeuvre" (e.g. The Higher Ferry), as well as a boat engaged in fishing and a vessel constrained by its draught.


E. If you are the "give way" boat, then it is important that you take action early and in a way that makes your intentions obvious to the other boat. In other words, a definite and obvious alteration of course in plenty of time rather than a gradual easing of the helm to 'just slip past their stern'. The other skipper needs to know that you have seen his or her boat, made a realistic assessment of the situation and are taking the appropriate action.

Please Note: This is a simplified summary of the regulations, and the very minimum that you should know before being in control of a boat. The complete regulations can be found at: www.collisionregs.com/Collregs.html

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