Year: 2013

Looking for Wind? Look for Cat’s-Paws

Glassy water is gorgeous to look at… frustrating to sail. Look for cat’s-paws – textured, darker patches of water – and steer toward them. Cat’s-paws are tiny ripples on the water created by the wind moving across the surface of the water. On a light air day, steer toward them to find a bit of wind. On heavy air days, cat’s-paws indicate a gust is coming. Hold your course – but be prepared to vent your mainsail. So why are they called cat’s-paws? Don’t cats hate water? The idea behind this old nautical term is that the ripples look like a cat has just pawed the surface of the water… but didn’t want to stick a paw in to get wet! And, yes, the term really does have both an apostrophe and a hyphen. “Cat’s-paw.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 20 Aug. 2013.

Ted Turner Comments on Lake Michigan

A favorite story told at the Chicago Yacht Club concerns the humbling of Ted Turner by the Chicago-Mac. When he brought his Twelve Metre American Eagle to Chicago in 1970, Turner expected an easy ride and went so far as to characterize Lake Michigan as a “mill pond.” After two days of battering by a northerly gale, he contritely announced… “I hereby publicly retract anything and everything I have ever said about inland sailing.”* * New York Times, July 23, 2001.

Points of Sail

Continuing the clock analogy… 12 o’clock. Wind on the nose = NoGo. 2 or 10. Wind on the cheekbone = Close haul. 3 or 9 = Wind straight on the ear or shoulder = Beam reach. 5 or 7. Wind behind the ear = Broad reach. 6. Wind directly on the back = Dead downwind. Jibe ho!

Where’s the Wind?

At some point, any experienced sailor stops looking at landmarks and just feels the wind. Without visual indicators, sailors who are blind feel wind from day one. Sometimes it helps to describe wind as numbers on a clock face. Ask your class to point to the wind. That’s 12 o’clock. Have them turn around, so the wind is at their back. That’s 6. Ask your students where they feel the wind… On the face – does the wind feel faster? Cooler? Back of neck – does it feel slower? Warmer?    

3 Easy Fixes to Adapt Any Boat

Adding tactile cues to help a beginning sailor can be as simple as… Braille labels. Textured lines. Labels that identify lines while hanging on the cuddy are fine. But at some point, those lines will be in the cockpit. Just as sighted sailors use color to quickly identify lines, various textures can help sailors who are visually impaired. Depending on the boat, it may not be necessary to purchase all-new lines. Try splicing the textured line onto the existing line – you could find you only need to add new lines for the last few feet. Clutches and cleats. Consider opportunities to replace a cleat with a clutch. Then add textured material to the clutch arms to help distinguish each.