8. Open Boat Seamanship

The important fact to remember about sailing is that the average double-end lifeboat, in good condition, is exceptionally seaworthy. It is far better equipped to fight a storm that you are. In any kind of a gale, do not try to sail the lifeboat. You will only be offering resistance against a greater force, thus inviting disaster without getting anywhere. But if the men keep down on the bottom boards, creating a low center of gravity, the boat will be able to take a terrific pounding without capsizing.

REEF. -- In hoisting sail in a stiff breeze, always reef your sail first. If it is not needed, the reef can easily be shaken out.

TILLER. -- When you move the tiller to port, the boat turns to starboard, and vice versa.

In good weather handling the tiller is child's play. It is then that you should pick up pointers and gain confidence in steering.

SAILING. -- To get the best results in speed,


the sail should be kept as nearly as possible at right angles.

A boat rigged with a dipping lug sail cannot point higher than 8 points to the wind -- which means a beam wind -- and make any speed. To reduce somewhat the considerable amount of leeway -- the sideways drift caused by the pressure of the wind -- which a beam wind causes, shift as much weight as you can to the weather side. See page 129 for changing a lug to a sprit-sale.

FOLLOWING SEA. -- You should learn to steer in a following sea during the daytime.

Keep a following sea on your quarter.

Caution: When a following sea starts to break on you, do not pull the tiller away from the sea. If you do, you will bring the boat broadside toward the oncoming sea -- with the danger of being swamped.

In a following sea always put the tiller toward the breaking sea. Hold it there while the sea is rushing upon you, bringing the tiller amidship when the sea has passed. You must repeat this maneuver again and again -- every time the sea is about to break.

At night, when the water is phosphorescent, it is easy to determine which way the sea is breaking.

It is much easier to steer at night as well as by


day if a white pennant is hoisted on a boat hook just forward of the helmsman to show the direction of the wind.

COMPASS. -- It is not necessary to watch the compass. It gives you only a general direction. Watch the sail. If you are making good speed, do not worry about keeping a course.

SQUALLS. -- In squally weather you will be able to make excellent speed; but the boat will be very lively, and much care will be required in handling it and the sail. In heavy squalls shorten sail by reefing and be alert for a sudden shift of wind -- or the sail may be caught aback, that is, reversed.

WIND. -- When running before the wind, it is always best to have the wind on your quarter in preference to astern. With the wind on your quarter, you will get the most speed out of the boat.

If the wind veers, it is going clockwise. To keep the veering wind on the quarter, put the helm up to it.

If a sharp puff of wind hits the boat, ease the helm.

SEA ANCHOR. -- Used as a drag, the sea anchor will keep the boat in line with the wind and the sea.

Great care must be taken in using the sea anchor as a drag. Watch out that the line does not


unlay, kink up, and break apart, all of which can happen within a very few minutes.

When riding out a gale, the sea anchor should be over the bow.

When their sea anchor was lost, the Robin Moor men used the oars to keep the boat head on. The boat took such a pounding that the men let it go broadside to. With the weight low, the boat rode nicely. In a very rough sea, you must not attempt this. With water towering around the boat, there will be too much risk of it filling up and swamping. In a rough sea, keep the boat head on. If the sea anchor has been lost, use the oars.

LEE SIDE. -- Since the men are used to walking on the lee side aboard ship, they must be cautioned not to walk on the lee side of the lifeboat. Their weight on the lee side is liable to capsize the boat. The men must keep on the weather side, and as close aft as possible, to hold the rudder down in the water.

SHEET. -- Do not make the sheet fast. If an incompetent man is on watch, and a heavy blow comes up, there is a grave danger of the boat capsizing. You may take a turn around a cleat, but be sure that you can let go the sheet instantly.

Never haul the sheet so tight that the foot of the sail is inside the gunwale.

COLLISION. -- When the boats are together,


the men are apt to become a bit playful, especially at night if the mates are asleep. Care must be taken that the men do not run the boats too close and have a collision.

STORM OIL. -- To help prevent seas from breaking, use storm oil. All lifeboats are provided by law with storm oil. A conical-shaped can is inserted in the sea anchor. By cracking the tap sufficient oil will flow to make a slick.

LAGOON GLARE. -- Near lagoon islands in the South Pacific, a lagoon glare will be visible on clear days. This is a light greenish tint in the sky caused by the reflection of the sun from the coral on the bottom of the lagoon. It is often very pronounced, and is sometimes visible up to 75 miles. With only a compass, Baker, the Prusa's third mate, has navigated a small boat between the islands in the Gilberts by this glare.

CLOUDS. -- A cumulus cloud over water, when the sky is relatively clear, usually indicates an island. If only one cloud is in the sky, and it is cumulus -- which has the appearance of heaped, rounded masses -- an island is practically assured.



LANDING. -- Near land is where impatience too often has cost lives. If the breakers are heavy, wait outside, if possible, until they moderate.

Do not leave your lifeboat and attempt to swim through surf in a rough sea, unless it is your only choice.

As you approach the beach in the boat, look for the spot where the breakers are the least heavy. Head straight for the beach. The sea anchor must be over the stern. The oarsmen must keep a strain on the drag line. That strain will prevent the sea from throwing the stern around and capsizing the boat. Use oil to help keep the seas from breaking.

Coming to the beach, as the boat reaches the crest of the last sea, the oarsmen should pull strenuously. The father you can get the boat up on the beach, the less chance there will be of capsizing.

Your greatest danger is when the bow becomes buried in a sea. This is one reason why you must never remove the air tanks.

A good method of rowing through surf is to have half of the crew sit in the opposite


direction to the others. When a heavy sea roars down, have one-half of the crew row toward the sea until the crest passes. Then have the other half row toward the shore until the next sea comes along. Remember that in surf landings the seas are irregular and their velocities varied.

When the gunboat Tacoma went aground on Blanquilla Reef near Vera Cruz in 1924, William Caves used this method in taking a line to the reef for a breeches buoy. With six men, three sitting each way, Caves was able to get a 13-foot dinghy through heavy surf.


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