“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain


Dinghy Anchor (Stolen from Active Captain)

First, if I haven’t said it before on our blog I just want to make it clear how much my Bride and I love Active Captain.  We have been using this website for about 6 years, since we started doing local cruising on our old boat Splash.  I think we have over 300 reviews and local knowledge posts on Active Captain.  For those that don’t know about it, sign up for their newsletter.  It’s not just about Active Captain, it also had great deals on equipment through a partnership they have with Defender (another one of our favorite companies).  They also share tips and tricks they have learned through their time cruising.  We also follow Karen and Jeff’s blog, Taking Paws that has a lot of great posts on what to do when you take dogs cruising with you.  Recently there was a great interview with Jeff on the Sailloot Podcast.

Enough Active Asskissing.  Let me get back to the idea I stole from them.

I have been thinking about adding some wheels to our Highfield Aluminum RIB.  The prime purpose of our dinghy is to take Summer to shore.  This means on a given day, we are beaching the dinghy 3-5 times.  Often we like to go for longer walks.  On an outgoing tide that means carrying the dinghy back to the water; on an incoming tide that means worry about the dinghy floating away.  A couple of years ago, when we were using the limo dinghy, we picked up a small folding grapnel style anchor at the Marine Consignment Shop for $15 with 50 feet of nylon, 3-strand rode.

defender anchor pic

It was convenient, compact when not in use and fixed part of the problem with taking Summer for walks.  We could throw the anchor out if the tide was coming in and if the boat floated it wouldn’t get swept out to sea.  It didn’t do much on outgoing tides.  You could throw the anchor on land and push the boat back out but it would just drift back in and just end up beached further down the shore. We tried a two anchor set using a friends anchor and it just was a pain.

It was also nice to have the anchor for hanging out in the dinghies.  We have a group of friends from the dock and we often go for group dinghy rides with 10-20 inflatables.  One Sunday morning our little anchor and rode held 12 dinghies in place for a bloody party (I had made a couple of pictures of bloody marries, we went up the river near our dock to get out of the wind, anchor and enjoyed the day).  Plus in a pinch you could use the anchor to prevent you from being washed out to see if you were having engine problems.  Nice safety feature.

Last year we had a bonfire on the beach of a Boston Harbor Island to celebrate a birthday for someone in our group.  We all forgot to pay attention to the tide and our dinghies ended up high and dry on mud flats. It was midnight so the choice were to carry all the dinghies out of the mud and down the beach to where we could relaunch or wait for the tied.  We carried the dinghies (probably made the wrong decision in retrospect) and a couple of them had the plastic wheels.  They didn’t really help.  But we thought those larger wheels might help.  I even found a really cool pair from a company called BeachMaster, but they cost about $300.  I was hoping to find a similar pair at the Marine Consignment Shops this year but no luck.

About 2 weeks about the Active Captain newsletter had a great solution.

This approach seems like a great solution for anchor at the beach to go for a walk.  Best of all, it would be a cheap fix.  All I needed was about 5 feet of galvanized chain and shackle to connected to the dinghy.  I could use stuff we already had for the rest.  I got 5 feet of SeaChoice Anchor Lead Chain with Shackles for $8 on Amazon.  I attached the anchor to the chain with the shackle. Here is a little tip.  I use Lanocote on threaded parts that will be exposed to seawater.  It protects against corrosion so you can take it apart again later.



I then spliced some old dockline to the chain and put an oversized loop on the other end.  I had to retire the dock line due to chafe but there was still enough good line for this project.


Ones a factory splice that I had to cut off and the other is mine. I was surprised I could barely tell the difference. Not bad for my first time.



I was going to use the old rode I had for the dinghy as the trip line.  But I got a better idea.  For $10 I got some reflective polypropylene line; it will be easier to see and retrieve at night.  And I could save the old rode for the next part of this project.



Here is the new system all together.  The oversized loop on the anchor line can quickly and easily be slipped through the bow handle and secured by turning it back on the sides of the handle.

This system looks like it will work great. Except if we need an emergency anchor or if we want to have another bloody party.  That’s why I saved the old rode.  I spliced a loop onto the end of that line.



You can slip the white lines loop over the oversized loop in the black line, then pull the white line through the loop to create a square not that is holding the two loops together.  In less than 5 seconds you can extend the dinghy anchor rode by 50 feet.

IMG_3066 IMG_3065

For the splices, I used Animated Knots by Grog.  This site is great and has every knot you can think of.  It is far better than watching a YouTube video because you can either watch the knot or splice as a video or go frame by frame to make sure you have it correct.

For cleaning up the splices I used my Brides fabric cutter.  Works great for that purpose too.

IMG_3063Can’t wait for it to be warm enough to launch the dinghy and try out this new system.

Fair winds



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Great Service on our Highfields Inflatable

Considering today was the second day of Spring and it was snowing, I was prepared for a pretty disappointing day.  Glad I was wrong! 🙂

We have fallen into a routine that on Saturdays we go to my office and work on various boat projects and on Sundays we study for our captains licenses and work on smaller projects on the boat.  All part of trying to get that Epic To-Do List gone.  So today’s task was for me to drive our Highfields RIB to Portsmouth, RI to drop it off for the dealer to fix a leak at one of the valves.  If you have read our We Bought a Boat at the Boat Show or review of our Highfields CL290 Aluminum RIB you know we went a little deep into the cruising kitty for this purchase but are very satisfied with the dinghy.


Summer enjoying a ride around World’s End in our Highfields


Late last year I notice it seemed to be losing air on the port side.  This was in October so I thought it was mostly related to the cold weather.  Over the winter I am lucky enough to store the inflatable in our heated warehouse at work.  I noticed it seemed to lose air in the warehouse too.  So I did the typical check with soapy water and found that we were losing air around portside valve.  I figured this was a warranty repair but I expected it would take a while to get it back because the dealer is probably busy with getting ready for Spring.

So this morning I packed up one of the work trucks with the RIB and drove the hour and a half or so to Maritime Solutions/Inflatable Experts.  When I got there Norm, whom we had dealt with when we purchased the boat, so me coming and knew why I was there.  He had a couple of the guys from the shop come out and unload our RIB.  I explained the loss of air and that I thought it was coming from the valve.  They pumped it out and checked it with a soap like I had and found the same valve leak.  They explained to me that the valve systems were screwed together to compress the fabric between and inner and outer section.  They got the specialty plastic wrench and tightened up all the valves.


When I told them they we were going cruising to the Caribbean one of the guys in the shop went and got me an extra valve wrench that he had.  He didn’t want me to lose any fun days out cruising to get such a simple repair done.

They put the dinghy back into my work truck and helped me strap it down.  I was there for about 45 minutes and left with a fixed dinghy.

The guys are Maritime Solutions/Inflatable Experts are great and I would recommend them to anyone without hesitation.



Sailing a Modern Hull

Last weekend we were at a friends yacht club for some nautical bingo.  Fun night and we won an eco air horn and spare dockline.

During the evening I got to talking to a prospective member of the club.  He has been sailing a Catalina 30 out of a nearby marina for 8 -10 years and was trying to become a member of the club and purchase a bigger boat.  He was looking at boats similar to the Catalina 36.  After talking to him about what he was looking for in a bigger boat (i.e. larger master berth, more room for short term guests, bigger cockpit, bigger head, etc.) I suggested he should look at the Catalina 350 as many of the layout aspects may be better for his intended use.  He responded that he had ruled out the C350 because he heard it didn’t point or track well.  Ugh!

This is one of those things that you hear and that is perpetuated by the internet that drives me crazy.  How you sail a boat has a lot to do with the hull shape, the rig and the conditions.  You just simply can’t sail a Catalina 310 the same way you would sail a 1970s Cape Dory or a Lyle Hess Bristol Channel Cutter. Understanding the hull’s stability curve is paramount to sailing the boat efficiently.  This requires having some basic knowledge about form stability vs. overall stability vs. dynamic stability.  In this day and age of computer designed boats and boat designers willing to help the public learn it’s never been easier to get this general understanding.  Here are some of my favorites:

Bray Yacht Design, Stability – What Is It and How Does it Work?:

Stability is the ability of a vessel to return to a previous position. Positive stability would then be to return to upright and negative stability would be to overturn. Stability in it’s most basic form is the relationship between the center of all floatation in your hull (center of buoyancy, or CB) and the center of all weight (vertical center of gravity, or VCG). In other words, the downward pull of Gravity and the uplifting force of Buoyancy. These are the primary characters in this scene and all others play minor roles. Once you understand how their relationship works, understanding stability becomes a simple matter.

M.B. Marsh Marine Design, Understanding Monohull Sailboat Stability Curves:


Righting moment with KG's scaled for hull loading

Righting moment with KG’s scaled for hull loading

  • Hull A, the narrow one, will have a hard time flying much sail. She’ll heel way over in a breeze. But she can’t get stuck upside down.

  • Hull B, a moderately slender cruising shape, also can’t get stuck upside down- her AVS is 170 degrees. Her extra beam causes the centre of buoyancy to move farther to leeward when she heels, so she has more initial / form stability than hull A and can carry more sail.

  • Hull C, which is typical of modern cruising yachts, has over twice the sail-carrying power of the slender hull A. She’ll heel less, and since her midship section is much larger, she’ll have more space for accommodations. The penalty is an AVS of 130 degrees. That’s high enough that she can’t be knocked down by wind alone, but wind plus a breaking wave- such as in a broach situation– could leave the boat upside down until a sufficiently large wave comes along.

  • Hull D, the broad-beamed flyer, can hoist more than three times the sail of hull A at the same angle of heel. She’ll be quite a sight on the race course with all that canvas flying. Her maximum righting moment, though, is only 37% more than hull A’s, which leaves less of a margin for error- hull D is more likely to get caught with too much sail up, and will reach zero stability at a lower angle of heel. If she does go over, she has considerable negative stability, making it unlikely that she’ll get back upright.

Wavetrain blog, Modern Sailboat Design: Form Stability:







Stiff boats with good form stability in one sense are more comfortable, especially for novice sailors, than boats that heel easily. In another sense, however, they can be very uncomfortable. Though they are rolled to less severe angles, they snap back from those lesser angles more quickly and abruptly than boats with less form stability that are rolled to greater angles. The resulting motion can seem jerky and violent, and this is reflected in a boat’s motion-comfort ratio. This quick motion, combined with the tendency of a flat-bottomed boat to pound in a steep head sea, may lead some to conclude that there can be such a thing as too much form stability.

The most important thing to remember about form stability is that it does not translate into ultimate stability. A sailboat’s hull form can help it resist heeling up to a point, but past that point all bets are off. A boat that depends too much on form stability to stay upright will be capable of supporting an enormous sail plan in moderate conditions, but when caught in a sudden squall with all its sail up, it can be laid over and capsized very quickly.

Ted Brewer Presents a Primer on Yacht Design:

The terms and ratios that follow are used by all yacht designers so it’s a good idea to have an understanding of them if you are considering buying a boat, or having a custom design created (of a classical style, of course!).

You may need to work out some of the ratios for the boats you are considering for purchase from the available information but the formulas are simple and can be handled by an inexpensive scientific calculator. The one I use in my design business is a Sharp EL-520, almost old enough to vote, and cost less than $25 new, too many years ago.

Robert Perry (my personal favorite designer), Keel Design According to Perry on the Sail Far Live Free blog:

I have designed a series of full keel boats (Baba 30, Baba 35, Baba 40, Tashiba 31, Tashiba 36) and all of these boats sail quite well. But I have pulled the leading edge of the “full” keel aft and tried to give it a reasonable leading edge in terms of shape. Some people call these designs “modified full keels”. That’s OK but those labels can be pretty nebulous. Probably my biggest complaint with full keel designs is that they seldom if ever back up well under power. They also add a lot of wetted surface and that can kill light air performance. Plus, they are so long in chord that if you give them a good efficient foil say with a thickness ratio of 10% (width of the keel compared to the chord length) you will end up with a fat keel that adds too much displacement to the boat. And the funny thing is, and it’s not intuitive, all that keel volume is on the wrong side of the righting arm when the boat heels over. So technically a big full keel can reduce your righting moment.  Go ahead and love your crab crusher full keel boat but don’t try to justify the design on technical terms. Some traditional full keel designs have a lot of subjective, aesthetic appeal. That’s good enough reason to love your boat.

We don’t have to guess anymore about keels and draft. I use a Velocity Prediction Program (VPP) to analyze my hulls and keels. I can try various keels and drafts and pick the one that gives me the best combination of performance results. We reduced the draft on CATTARI 6” after doing a series of VPP runs.

I included this last bit from Robert Perry to highlight a point I often make.  Too often we fall in love with a look of a boat or how salty we think it makes us to have certain aspects of a design.  But seldom do most people actually understand what that feature actually does for performance.  Also, I often get chastised from old, salty types for bringing up that boats designed by computers have advantages over older designs done by hand.

Several weeks ago I came across this blog post: How to Sail a Morgan Out Island 416.  Many of the characteristics described in this post are similar for modern cruising boats like the Catalina 310 and Catalina 350.

All yachts are a compromise. As such, each design has its strengths and weaknesses; the Out Island 41 is no exception. She is very beamy to allow for more living space below and more room to enjoy the pleasures of being on deck. In addition, her draft was kept relatively shallow so as to allow her owners to enjoy many anchorages and gunk holes. These can be enjoyed only by dinghy when sailing deeper draft yachts. As a beamy, shallow draft yacht, she must be handled on some points of sail in a slightly different way than a deeper draft yacht with less beam. The most prominent distinction exists on the wind and close reaching. Sail trim on both these points of sail is critical for optimum performance.

This post goes on to describe some specific techniques for different points of sail and conditions.  Almost all of these tips hold true for our Catalina 310 and some other modern designs like Jeanneaus that we have sailed.

The way I often describe it to people is you have to sail a modern cruising boat almost like a catamaran.  My Catalina wants to sail flat footed.  We typically stay between 10-15 degrees of heel.  If we are heeling over 20 degrees we can see a noticeable reduction in our speed.  Compare that to a Pacific Seacraft 36 that feels like it will heel to 25 degrees with the slightest breeze but can’t get pushed over 40 degrees in gale force winds. This gets back to the form stability vs. overall stability discussed above; it’s like comparing Hull A (Pacific Seacraft) and Hull C (Catalina) in the article from  M.B. Marsh Marine Design.

If you sail a beamy, modern hull over heeled it will not point well. The keel is designed to stay deep in the water and not be up closer to the surface.  With the keel up high, you will have sideslip and your will not point well.

So REEF!  Reefing is not a sign of defeat or the sign of a beginning sailor.  On most points of sail we need to reef at around 18 knots or we lose significant speed.  The good thing is that Catalina designed our boat to make this easy.  We have factory installed, single line, slab reefing.  This means all you need to do to reef the main is ease off the sheet until luffing, release the main halyard and ease it down while taking up the reef line, once the reef point is down to the boom lock it in and retention the main halyard.  All of this can be accomplished from the cockpit in under a minute if you are well practiced.

There are many other small pointers such as sail trim, lead positions, etc. but the article on sailing a Morgan Out Island already does a great job of listing these so I won’t repeat them here.

In my opinion there are very few bad boats.  Boats are designed for a purpose and a price point.  Add to that some aesthetic characteristics.  To balance all of these you need to make compromises.  I always say that a boat is a series of compromises and it’s finding the balance of these that best fit your wants and needs that will make for a good match between the boat and owner.


VHF Radio for Leaving the USA

Sorry the blogging has been a little light lately.  The closer we get to leaving it seems like the less time that is available.  The to-do list seems like I cross off two things and add three.  Anyways, on to the post.

One item that came up in my research is that a US vessel leaving the country will need a Radio Station Authorization from the FCC.  If you only intend to operate your vessel within the waters of the US there is an exemption for recreational boaters.  But if you plan to leave the US then you need the Radio Station Authorization.  The operators also need the FCC Restricted Radiotelephone Operator Permit.  But in talking to cruisers it appears that you get asked for the boat’s radio station authorization but not the individual operator’s permit.  So we may not bother with the Restricted Radiotelephone Operator Permit.

There is one significant benefit to the Radio Station Authorization, you can get an international MMSI number  (Maritime Mobile Service Identity).  Most people just get the free MMSI number from Boat US.  Which is fine if you are in US waters.  It allows you to use the Digital Selective Calling (DSC) feature on your radio.  With DSC you can call friends on the VHF and have a private conversation almost like being on a phone.  You can also use the one button SOS that sends your info to the USCG with your GPS position.  However, the free MMSI doesn’t work outside of the US.  An FCC issued MMSI will work internationally.

The process was pretty simple.  You go to the FCC License Manager site.  Click on the “Need an FRN?” link then the “Register” link.  Fill out the info.  You will get an FCC Registration Number.  Return to the FCC License Manager, log in.

Once on the FCC License Manager, click “apply for a new license” on the upper left hand side.  The next screen will have a “Select Service” drop down.  You want the “SA or SB – Ship”.  You then run through a series of questions, we didn’t have a call sign, we are not required to carry a radio but we are traveling to foreign ports, enter all your boat info, enter some emergency contact info, etc.  You end up paying two fees, the PASM for $65 (for the MMSI, IIRC) and the PASR for $150 (for the authorization).   I completed this at 6PM at night.  By the next morning I got an email with the link to my authorization.  You can then print your authorization to keep a copy on the boat.  Other than the fee it was a relatively painless experience.


Winter Liveaboards – Other Upgrades That Helped

I have had this post in draft long enough that spring is almost here.  Sorry.

Here are a couple of other things we did this winter that really helped make the boat liveable during one of the coldest and snowiest winters Boston has seen in decades.

We added dry deck type products below the mattress.  After doing some price shopping we ended up going with Greatmats Staylock.


These added some great air flow below the mattress that really helped cut down the condensation.  Prior to adding these the mattress would feel wet on the bottom.  Some of the other liveaboards put some ridged foam down under their mattress to act as a barrier.  I don’t think that is necessary if you get air flow with something like this.

We stole this next idea from Andrew, our neighbor who has lived on his C310 for over a decade.  We put foil, bubble insulation along the sides of the berth.

IMG_2632This added some insulation to help keep the heat in but more importantly it prevented us from touching the cold sides of the forward berth at night.  Andrew has covered his with a felt material.  This seems to be a good addition and we would have done that if we were going to be doing this next winter.

With all of the cold weather and snow, close to 100 inches in a one month period, we were never cold on board.  The heaters kept us in the low 70s while not having an electric bill over $200 for a month.  Moisture issues were minimal and we didn’t have to run the dehumidifier full time.  We only had one time when the power went out and we had to use the propane heater.  That was during the first blizzard of the season back in late January.  We were only without power for about 3 hours.

The ice around the hull got a little nerve racking at times.  Hell the US Coast Guard icebreaker got holed the ice was so thick and the commuter boats had to discontinue service to Hingham for close to a month.

The marina had some struggles keeping the water flowing to our boat and the waste flowing away.  In their defense, the systems they had in place had worked for the last 15 years without a problem.  It was just an exceptionally cold winter.  But they kept the docks clear of snow and ice and eventually figured out ways to keep the water flowing.