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New Boat Jitters: Excitement is No Excuse
The excitement of a new boat, even after you’ve toiled over it to prepare for its maiden voyage, should not be an excuse to neglect your safety preparation, nor forget your operational checklists...
Tricolor Light Follies
I idly looked aloft at the tricolor light, and it appeared to be showing its red light aft, which didn’t register as a problem, at least initially, until I looked aloft again and now saw the green light showing aft. It became obvious that the light fixture was unscrewing from the mast due to the movement of the boat as we sailed upwind plus the tapered threads used to attach the mounting post to the aluminum mast. I mulled over the possible explanations for a while, but what was exceedingly clear was the role of the tricolor light to my continued safety as I sailed amongst commercial traffic
The Errant Autopilot
A few minutes later, however, the familiar sound stopped, and the swing of the rudder and tiller came to a halt with perhaps 10 degrees of port rudder locked in. Before I could get to the tiller and lift the tiller pilot off its pin, the boat flew through an uncontrolled gybe ...
The Thruster and Mr. Murphy
... We were being blown onto the dock and had to make a hard turn to starboard into the wind to get out of the boatyard.  This was not really a problem, but just when I went to use the bow thruster that we had tested days earlier, it failed.  A little single screw backing and filling got us safely out of the slip and underway to our mooring.
​​​​​​​New Year’s Resolutions
But what about the resolutions we make with regard to the safe operation of our own sailboats and cruisers? How many times have you heard a fellow voyager say “Ya know, the next time we’re out, we ought to do a man overboard drill” or “I need to post instructions for how to broadcast a Mayday in the nav station.” With full knowledge that seamanship resolutions may have the same chance of succeeding as those we make about our behavior on land, I nonetheless suggest that we resolve to do the following:
​​​​​​​The Stereo Doesn’t Work? Sometimes, one thing leads to another.
I took down the radio panel and, with a multimeter in hand, was able to determine that the stereo wasn’t getting its 12 volts. When I improvised a 12-volt supply, it came to life. Progress, but a mystery remained behind the dead 12-volt supply line, which disappeared in the direction of the breaker panel.
Standing in the Way of Progress: Redundancy is not necessarily bad
After sitting next to Stan for about an hour, I stood up to stretch and get some blood flowing in my legs. As I did, I heard the faint but unmistakable snap of a circuit breaker going from the On to the Off position, followed by the sound of an alarm coming from the computer that was displaying the charts. “What happened to the GPS?” asked Stan as he looked at a message on the screen telling him that the GPS signal had been lost
​​​​​​​Standard Operating Procedures: Briefing New Crew
Suppose you’re heading off on a two-day race and some of your crew haven’t sailed with you before. They come highly recommended, but they don’t know your boat or your standard operating procedures. What should you discuss with them as you head for the starting line?
Mr. Murphy Never Sleeps
​​​​​​​A problem can easily arise when several knowledgeable sailors are on deck during a passage or even a daysail and it is not clear who is charge. Each is partially attentive, but no one is paying attention to the details on the chart or what other boats are hidden under the jib but are on a collision course. Even couples on a passage can have this problem when both are on deck during the day.