Tag Archives: Sailing

Follow up on the Jackstay post

Kinetic Energy

Kinetic Energy

A big thanks to Andy for his feedback on my post on installing jackstays. Andy is the skipper of Adelaide based Kinetic Energy.  Andy and Les (Andy’s partner in life, co-owner of Kinetic Energy and foredeck guru) gave me the opportunity to race on Kinetic Energy when I lived in Adelaide. They are two of the most adventurous and generous people I know.  To have crewed for them was a wonderful learning experience in sailing and in life.

Below is some of Andy’s e-mail which I wanted to share.

“The currently teaching in SSSC is “intelligent tethering”. A tether is meant to keep you on the boat, not just attached to the boat. I suppose this is especially true for toddlers when you may not be able to get to them if you need to handle the boat in a crisis. Using a 3 clip tether so you always have a short tether available. Moving the jackstays further inboard. Terminating the jackstays to the centre line on the bow so they are further from the edge are all good considerations. This approach came from the “Lion” incident where the skipper went overboard from the foredeck on his tether and was dragged along with his lifejacket inflated. The helmsman did not tack the boat and he drowned. You only need 1 knot of boat speed to drag someone under when on a tether.”

When I first read this part of Andy’s e-mail, I thought you are right (Andy is rarely wrong).

But …

Either the Skipper or I will be with Orbit when he is on deck, plus, we would never let Orbit on deck if the conditions weren’t appropriate …

And then …

I thought about it some more, and things do go wrong. Even when you are on guard, even when the conditions are perfect, even when you are doing everything to prevent them, accidents do happen.

Les and I on the foredeck of Kinetic Energy

Les and I mid sail change on Kinetic Energy

So it is based on Andy’s feedback that I am reviewing our gear to see if we can make it and the way we do things safer. It is also another gentle reminder to be careful, not only looking out for Orbit and his safety, but the safety of the Skipper and myself.

Another learning from the “Lion incident” was the importance of practicing man overboard drills. This is particularly important in our situation, with only two adults on board and if one adult goes over the side.

Thank you Andy and thank you to others who have provided feedback – it is all welcomed and accepted with gratitude and appreciation.

The jackstays are on

Jackstay tied to the bollard on the port bow and the line tying Medina to the marina over the top

Jackstay tied to the bollard on the port bow and the line tying Medina to the marina over the top

Another task has been ticked off our To Do List, the jackstays are on. Like most things on Medina, it took a bit longer than I was hoping. It took longer because we got our jackstays tailor made, rather than buying them “off the shelf”. One of the advantages of getting them tailor made was the cost saving, about half the cost of buying an off the shelf product – which doesn’t happen that often!

So what is a jackstay? It’s a piece of rope, wire or webbing that runs along a boat’s deck.  We have decided to use webbing because it lays flat on the deck. There is usually a jackstay for each side of the boat – one on the starboard side (right side of the boat when looking forward) and one on the port side (left side of the boat when looking forward). Some boats only have one, but we prefer to have two, it means the Skipper and I can walk or work on either side of the boat in rough weather.

Tying on a jackstay to a bollard on the starboard bow (thanks to Andrew for taking this photo)

Tying on a jackstay to a bollard on the starboard bow (thanks to Andrew for taking this photo)

The more immediate purpose for the jackstays are to attach Orbit to them. Attach Orbit’s harness to be specific, when he is on deck. Once his harness is attached, he too can move up and down the boat, just like we would.

Jackstays (also known as jack lines) are used on boats (not just sailing boats) for crew to clip their harnesses on to, usually in rough weather. The theory is, if your clipped on to the jackstay and you go overboard, you will still be connected to the boat making it easier to rescue you, compared to a rescue if you go overboard and are no longer connected to the boat.

Its a pretty easy task to install the jackstays. It is just a case of tying them to the bollards at the bow (front) and stern (back) of the boat. I had an opportunity to do this on the weekend when we were taking some friends out for a sail.

The reason why it was an opportunity was because the bollards were not being used, i.e. for tying the boat up to the marina. If I was to attach the jackstays in the marina, I would have to release the line on the particular bollard I was attaching the jackstay too. I didn’t want to do this with the recent 10 – 20 knot winds we have been experiencing in the marina. It could mean if I didn’t get my timing right, Medina or the boat next to us could get damaged.

Orbit and I on the high side, his harness is clipped on to the jackstay (which is under his left foot) (thanks to Andrew for taking this photo)

After a bit of jovial ribbing from the Skipper about how long I was taking, the jackstays were on. No matter which boat I have sailed on, the world always looks different from the cockpit and there seems to be a time warp. By this I mean, the waves and swell are always smaller from the cockpit compared to on the foredeck. And while the person working on the bow is doing their best, working as fast and as safe as they can with salt water spraying down on them and a deck falling away from beneath their feet, 30 seconds on the bow feels like 5 minutes in the cockpit – or longer! I can say this from both perspectives, being the person in the cockpit and the person working on the foredeck.

After the jackstays were on and the sails up, we were ready for Orbit to go up on deck. Previously when Orbit was on deck, we would attach his harness to ‘strong points’, meaning he would have to stop and wait for me to disconnect and reconnect his harness each time he got to the end of the tether. And this was driving him to the end of his tether!

Orbit can now sit on the bow (in the right conditions) thanks to his harness and jackstays (thanks again to Andrew for taking this photo)

Orbit can now sit on the bow (in the right conditions) thanks to his harness and jackstays (thanks again to Andrew for taking this photo)

He was surprised when he could keep walking with out me saying ‘hang on mate, just have to clip you on and off’. At each point where I would normally say this, he paused and waited. The smile on his face when I said he could keep going was priceless! He was also quite pleased with himself when he made it all the way to the bow (which was a first). Without any encouragement from me (i.e. asking him to sit down), he found a comfortable spot to sit down and enjoyed the ride. He had a grin from ear to ear. When it was time to drop the sails, he wasn’t very happy with me when I said we had to go back to the cockpit. I am sure he would sit up on the bow all day if we let him.

As long as Orbit has his harness on and it’s clipped on, he can play up and down the deck when we are at anchor or in the marina (with the Skipper or I supervising him of course). It also means he can spend time on deck when we are sailing (in the right conditions), allowing him to explore his ever moving world at his own pace. There is an unexplainable joy in watching Orbit exercise his growing independence, to go on little adventures around Medina, to discover new things and to find his true sea legs.


So what’s in your first aid kit?

One of the non-negotiables on our To Do List is to build a quality first aid kit and do a first aid course that covers the potential accidents or illness that can happen on a sailing boat.


The first step in developing our first aid kit has been to ask other sailors. I have been throwing into conversations,  “so, what’s in your first aid kit”. Like most things sailing related, there is no definitive answer.  Each response was dependent on the person I am speaking too, their situation and their approach to safety.

Some of the fantastic advice I have received from other sailors has been:

  • know your own personal health status, any issues you have or may have, and if you can, get them addressed before you leave.
  • have Orbit’s immunisations up to date and plan to be somewhere that can provide the next set of immunisations.
  • be prepared for ‘typical male/typical female/typical child’ infections (e.g. ear infections, urinary tract infections) even if you don’t have them.
  • set up a ‘first aid’ cupboard, label everything in the cupboard and have an inventory on the front of the cupboard, so anyone on your boat knows what is in it.
  • attend a first aid class, marine first aid is better.
  • have a first aid book on board, don’t rely on your memory.
  • talk to your local GP and ask them for advice on what to take and what prescriptions to carry (if you can).
  • have a Yachting Australia Category 1 Racing First Aid kit, because if you need to call for help, the person advising you knows what you have on the boat.

The second step has been to undertake some internet research. There are all sorts of marine/yacht/sailing first aid kits that can be purchased and reading through the inventory it can be quite daunting to think that the Skipper or I may have to administer some of these things. Hence, the need to undertake a comprehensive first aid course.

Now I have some lists to compare, I can start to have more detailed conversations with those sailors who offered the fantastic advice above, our local GP, Orbit’s paediatrician and other medical professionals.

I dread having to do first aid, it means someone I love has been hurt or is sick. But I would rather know what to do and have the equipment than not, particularly when we could be a long way from someone coming to help us.

Toddlers on the high side

Why as first time parents do some of us over think the changes in our little one’s lives? Fear of the unknown is one obvious answer. While I spent many a waking hour thinking through how to make the changes Orbit’s life as seamless as possible, he had worked it out himself or was just happy to go along with the change.

Orbit playing in the relative safety of the cockpit

Orbit playing in the relative safety of the cockpit

Now Orbit is walking and happiest when he is exploring the world, his attention span has widened beyond the relative safety of the cockpit (Medina has a fully enclosed centre cockpit). This isn’t a big issue when we are in the marina because we can easily hop off the boat and go for a walk or when we are at anchor we can jump in the tinny and do some beach combing. But what about when we are sailing?

So, although not the average milestone in a baby’s life, we were faced with the dilemma of when to let Orbit out of the cockpit when sailing (harnessed on and supervised of course).

Prior to going into the details, I would like to acknowledge that each family makes its own decisions based on their situation and there is no right or wrong answer.

There are two schools of thought on managing development changes in babies lives, parent led change or baby/child led change. For us, the answer of when do you let your baby out of the cockpit started as a parent led change,  getting him used to being outside the cockpit and the restrictions on him when out there, e.g. sitting on the back deck in the baby carrier then in the bumbo seat then as he got older playing in the safety harness. The parent led change quickly transformed into a baby led change. When Orbit wants to get out of the cockpit there is much gesticulating and he pulls out his harness (it lives in a rope bag in the cockpit for easy access) as a way of communicating to us what he wants to do (“the signal”).

Learning the golden rule "one hand for you and one for the boat"

Learning the golden rule “one hand for you and one for the boat”

Prior to letting Orbit out of the cockpit when sailing, we waited until he was used to wearing his harness, was used to moving around the boat when we were under sail and we had the most appropriate sailing conditions. We then waited for him to give us “the signal”.

On the weekend everything came together, and we popped Orbit up on the high side of the boat, harnessed on and me within close range (trying not to let my fear get the better of me). Orbit blissfully unaware of my fear, absolutely loved being on the high side, the freedom of being able to walk up and down the boat and to see things from different angles. He was sure footed and absorbed the rolling deck with ease. His confidence and ability to move around the boat (high side only) surprised me but not the extremely proud Skipper.

My biggest learning from the weekend was how much my baby is growing up and how I need to give him the freedom to keep learning and while he does, we will always be there to guide and catch him.

[Definition of high side – when a boat is under sail it leans over from the force of the wind (known as heeling) making the boat have a high side and a low side. The high side is the side of the boat which is furtherest away from the water and the low side is closest to the water.]

Why Medina is the right boat for our adventure

Medina out of the water (its weird seeing your home hanging in the air)

Medina out of the water (its weird seeing your home hanging in the air)

The Skipper and I took many years to decide which boat to buy for our adventure, it was a common discussion as we watched our savings account slowly grow. Our priority was and still is safety, followed by performance and/or comfort.

Medina has been designed to cross oceans, as long was we sail her safely. She was built and outfitted by talented tradespeople. Being made of steel, she may not be the fastest boat on the water, but that is ok. We know we will enviably hit something or something will hit us, and a well maintained steel hull gives us peace of mind. The original owner had her painted yellow so she could be seen from a distance, another safety feature. We weren’t particularly fussed on having a yellow boat, but now it would seem odd to change her colour when she needs her next paint.

Another feature of Medina’s design which appealed to the Skipper and I was her semi long keel. I have included a diagram showing the different types of keels because many people don’t get to see the underside of boats (as they are usually in the water). One of benefits of a semi-long keel is that you can access areas with shallower water e.g. anchorages as the boat ‘draws’ less water. One of the down sides of a boat with a semi-long keel is they have a really bad turning circle, which can make going in and out of tight spots, like marinas a bit more of a challenge.

Different types of keels on sailing boats (source: Schinas 2005 p. 45)

Different types of keels on sailing boats (source: Schinas 2005 p. 45)

Other features of Medina’s design which appealed to us was her centre cockpit – great from a safety perspective but not from an entertaining perspective and being rigged for single handed sailing, this is where all the running rigging (or ropes) essentially come back into the cockpit, again great  from a safety perspective.

Internally, Medina had the features we were after, including an aft cabin with a bed that was accessible from both sides (so one of us doesn’t need to climb over the other to get out), two heads (or toilets), a separate shower, a well appointed galley, as much storage as possible (there is never enough storage), good size water and fuel tanks. Another bonus was that Medina was meticulously outfitted and maintained so no renovations required.

Orbit in the v-berth, the lee cloth is up to stop him from falling out.

Orbit in the v-berth, the lee cloth is up to stop him from falling out.

Raising a baby on board has just meant using common sense and organisation to use the same area for multiple uses. For example, the v-berth is Orbit’s playroom, nappy changing table and dressing room. As we have to use most parts of Medina for multiple difference uses, we have to keep our things pretty organised – “everything has a place and there is a place for everything”. This mantra is also part of basic seamanship, so its a good practice to have on any boat.

We still need to make some modifications to Medina prior to going on our big adventure. The modifications include installing a water maker, building another sea berth which will double as another couch and install netting around the lifelines. I am sure we will continue to make modifications as our adventures continue, as we learn more and as Orbit gets older.

Medina is a safe boat, designed to tackle the adventures we would like to have, but it is up to the Skipper and I to make the best decisions we can to make sure we have a safe adventure and  make it back home.