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(Hampton, Virginia)
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Art of Sailing

Read these articles to learn more about the art of sailing, the complexity of racing, and other seamanship topics.
Icon File Name Comment  
Balance Weather and Lee Helm.pdf  
How To Sail.pdf  
Princeton Sailing Instruction.pdf  
Racing Basics.pdf  
Sailboat Racing 101.pdf  
Tips for New Racing Crew.pdf  

Cruising Skills

Icon File Name Comment  
Sea Scout Meals Afloat Guidelines.pdf Galley guidance for the rising Ordinary Scout  
Sextant Users GuideV6.pdf Celestial Navigation - Easy Instructions  


Icon File Name Comment  
Standing Rigging.pdf Standing Rigging Specifications and Repair  


First Step in Weather Casting:
Step outside and look at the sky!

“Red sky at night, sailor's delight. Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning.”

Step Two for the Weather Man:
Check to see from which quarter the wind blows!

"A wind in the south has rain in her mouth."

Weather Casting Rule Number Three:
If you don't trust your own judgment, check with the local wildlife!

“Sea gull, sea gull, sit on the sand. It's never good weather while you're on the land.”

Failing All That, Choose Step Number Four:
Perhaps the most important weather rule of all for sailors!

Whether the weather be fine
Or whether the weather be not
Whether the weather be cold
Or whether the weather be hot
We'll weather the weather
Whatever the weather
Whether we like it or not.

Tips for New Crew Members

Many thanks to Ship 1781 for posting the original listing of "Tips".

  • Wear white-soled tennis shoes or boat shoes on the boat. Black soles leave marks that are difficult to scrub out. Plain old tennis shoes work fine - you don't need special boat shoes.
  • Take any clothing that you might need with you in a small bag. Include sunglasses, sailing gloves, and sunscreen.
  • Learn where to stow your bag down below. If you don't it might get launched with a spinnaker.
  • Get a watch with a countdown timer and learn how to use it.
  • Never leave wet foul weather gear on the boat.
  • Go to the bathroom well before the boat is ready to leave the dock. Most boats don't use their heads or use them as little as possible. Learn how the head works. If you mess up and leave a valve in the wrong position you could flood the boat.
  • Make sure to put sunscreen on your ears, forehead, neck, and the backs of your hands. These are prime skin cancer sites. And for us older guys, do the top of your head or wear a hat.
  • Don't pull or push on stanchion tops when docking. There's lots of torque and you will damage the deck. Always catch the stanchion at its base.
  • Don't abruptly stop the boat with a dock line when docking. A 10,000 pound boat has lots of momentum and snubbing a dockline sharply can damage the deck. Slow the boat down slowly and smoothly.
  • Learn to rig the boat. You should know perfectly where every line goes.
  • Learn how to use the electronics on board.
  • Be at the boat on time. Early is better.
  • If you're good at something teach it to someone who isn't. Learn someone else's job.
  • Walk softly. Don't stomp on or jump on the deck. Many decks are fiberglass with balsa wood cores and high or repeated impacts can delaminate the layers.
  • Talk about what you see and hear and feel and think. Is the boat going fast? Is the wind building or shifting? Is another boat faster or higher on a different part of the course? Is the jib lead too far forward? Is the boat accelerating too slowly? How could the last mark rounding have been better?
  • Learn where all of the safety gear is and how to use it (e.g. life jackets, inflatable life jackets, VHF radio, Channel 16, man overboard gear, flares, etc.)
  • After the cruise strip off all of the lines and clean up as much as possible before breaking out food and drink.
  • Don't set gear or lines on the deck where they can slide or get kicked off into the water.
  • Bring a dry change of clothes for after the cruise. 
  • Don’t walk on hatch covers or windows.
  • Don't kneel on, hit, or otherwise abuse electronic instruments.
  • Even if you're not pulling lines or trimming sails you can make very important contributions during a race or cruise. These can be observations on the wind and weather, how lines are run, where other boats are, where racing marks are, etc. Learn how to recognize these things and distinguish what's important from what's not.
  • Get safety straps for your glasses and hat.
  • Never lie on top of, walk on, or sit on sails!
  • Find a safe place to put your keys and wallet in the boat. This is often in a your ditty bag so you don't risk losing them when rifling through your gear bag for a hat or foul weather gear.
  • You might want to wear kneepads until you get to know the boat. The bruises will eventually fade (or just merge together) when you reach this state. 
  • Cruising Behavior

    (Revised from Expedition Behavior - The Finer Points By Howard Tomb)

    A good crew is like a powerful, well-oiled, finely-tuned machine. Shipmates cook meals together, face challenges together, and experience the joyous freedom of the open sea. A bad crew, on the other hand, is an awkward ugly, embarrassing thing characterized by bickering, filth, frustration, and crispy macaroni. Nearly all bad crews have one thing in common: poor cruising behavior (CB). This is true even if crew members follow the stated rules, such as Don't Step on the Rope, Separate Diesel and Water, No Trash in the River, Keep your Boat Hook Out of My Eye, etc. Unfortunately, too many rules of cruising behavior remain unspoken. Some leaders seem to assume that their shipmates already have strong and generous characters like their own. But judging from a few of the sailors we've encountered, more rules ought to be spelled out. Here are ten of them.


    RULE #1 Get the heck out of bed. Suppose your shipmates get up early to fire up the stove and heat water while you lie comatose in your sleeping bag. As they run an extensive equipment check, coil lines and fix your breakfast, they hear you start to snore. Last night you were their buddy; now they're drawing up lists of things about you that make them want to spit. They will devise cruel punishments for you. You have earned them. The team concept is now defunct. Had you gotten out of bed, nobody would have had to suffer.


    RULE #2 Do not be cheerful before breakfast. Some people wake up perky and happy as fluffy bunny rabbits. They put stress on those who wake up mean as rabid wolverines. Exhortations such as "Rise and shine, sugar!" and "Greet the dawn, pumpkin!" have been known to provoke pungent expletives from wolverine types. These curses, in turn, may offend fluffy bunny types. Indeed, they are issued with the sincere intent to offend. Thus, the day begins with flying fur and hurt feelings. The best early-morning CB is simple: Be quiet.


    RULE #3 Do not complain. About anything. Ever. It's ten below zero; visibility is four inches and wind driven hailstones are embedding themselves in your face like shotgun pellets. Must you mention it? Do you think your friends haven't noticed the weather? Make a suggestion. Tell a joke. Lead a prayer. Do not lodge a complaint. Even if the sunburn you got while “Working on Your Tan” is more painful than a case of shingles, stand your watch like a professional – it’s your fault anyway. Were you promised a luxury cruise? Did somebody cheat you out of a fair wind or a following sea? If you can't stand your watch, go take a Princess cruise.


    RULE #4 Learn to cook at least one thing right. One cruising trick is so old that it is no longer amusing: on the first cooking assignment, the clever cook prepares a dish that resembles, say, Burnt Sock In Toxic Waste Sauce. The cook hopes to be relieved permanently from cooking duties. This is the childish approach to a problem that's been with us since people first started throwing lizards on the fire. Tricks are not a part of a team spirit. If you don't like to cook, say so. Offer to wash dishes and to prepare the one thing you do know how to cook – even if it's only tea. Remember that talented galley cooks sometimes get invited to join major expeditions across the ocean, all expenses paid.


    RULE #5 Either A) Shampoo, or B) Do not remove your hat for any reason. After a week or so on the boat without shampooing, hair forms angry little clumps and wads. These leave the person beneath looking like an escapee from a mental ward. Such an appearance could shake a crew's confidence in your judgment. If you can't shampoo, pull a wool hat down over your ears and leave it there, night and day, for the entire cruise.


    RULE #6 Do not ask if anybody's seen your stuff. Experienced adventures have systems for organizing their gear. They very rarely leave it strewn around the cabin or let it blow overboard into the dark abyss. One of the most irritating things you can do is ask your shipmate if they've seen your dirty towel you forgot to put away after it was dry. Even in the unlikely event that you find the towel or can borrow your shipmate’s, you might not be invited on the next trip. Should you ever lose your water bottle overboard, do not ask if anybody's seen it. Simply announce at the next marina, with a good-natured chuckle, that you are about to set off to buy a new one and ask if anyone needs anything from the store.  It's unprofessional to lose your soap or your toothbrush. If something like that happens, don't mention it to anyone.  Keep you stuff in your sea bag and properly stowed away when not in use; nobody wants to constantly keep moving your gear.


    RULE #7 Never ask where you are. If you want to know where you are – look at the chart. Try to figure it out yourself.  If you're still confused, feel free to discuss the techniques for finding your position. If you A) suspect that a navigation mistake has been made; and B) have experience in interpreting nautical charts, and C) are certain that your navigator is a novice or too fatigued to make good decisions, speak up. Otherwise, follow the group like sheep.


    RULE #8 Always do more than your fair share. When the trip is over, would you rather be remembered as a steely-eyed-salty-dog or a sky-larking slacker? Keep in mind that cleaning and polishing a stretch of deck won’t make your day any longer, but it might get the crew on liberty sooner. In any given group of land-lubbers, somebody is bound to bicker about chores. When an argument begins, take the extra duty yourself. Then shake your head and gaze with pity upon the slothful one. This is the mature response to childish behavior. Underway later that day, let the slacker stand the watch without a head call.


    RULE #9 Do not get sunburned. Sunburn is not only painful and unattractive. It's also an obvious sign of inexperience. Most land-lubbers wait too long before applying sunscreen. Once you've burned on a cruise, you may not have a chance to get out of the sun. Then the burn gets burned, skin peels away, blisters sprout on the already swollen lips. Anyway, you get the idea. Wear zinc oxide. You can see exactly where and how thickly it's applied and it gives you just about 100% protection. It does get on your sunglasses, all over your clothes and in your mouth. But that's OK. Unlike sunshine, zinc oxide is nontoxic.


    RULE #10 Do not get killed. Wear your lifejacket topside and wear a harness when conditions require. Suppose you reenact the face-in-the-wind scene from the movie Titanic. Pretty macho, huh? Suppose now that you take a vertical detour off the bow without a soul seeing you go over and you never make it back on board. Would you still qualify as a hero? And would it matter? The worst thing to have on your sailing resume is a list of the possible locations of your body. Besides, your demise might distract your shipmates from enjoying what's left of their vacations.


    All good cruising behavior really flows from this one principle: Think of your crew, the beautiful machine, first. You are merely a cog in that machine. If you have something to prove, forget about joining a cruise. Your team will never have more than one member.

    Expedition Behavior
    (Reprinted form NOLS website)

    • Serve the mission and goals of the group.
    • Be as concerned for others as you are for yourself.
    • Treat everyone with dignity and respect.
    • Support leadership and growth in everyone.
    • Respect the cultures you contact.
    • Be kind and open-hearted.
    • Do your share and stay organized.
    • Help others, but don't routinely do their work.
    • Model integrity by being honest and accountable.
    • Admit and correct your mistakes.

    Underway Job Descriptions


    A.The navigator will plot the course for his watch with the DR positions labeled on the chart and entered into the log not less than every hour on the hour and every ½ hour or more often as ordered by the boatswain.

    B.The navigator will keep the navigation log noting LAT and LONG at least every hour on the hour and every half hour on the half hour.

    C.The navigator will plot a fix at least every hour on the hour and every one half hour on the half hour by all means available.

    D.The navigator will promptly inform the boatswain of any hazard to safe navigation.

    E.The navigator will not change or alter the DR course based on new data, but will establish a TRACK as a separate record of the ship’s progress based on fixes.

    F.The navigator will record the following data for his watch:

    1.   Engine running hours

    2.   Average boat speed every hour on the hour

    3.   ETA to course change at least every hour on the hour and again 5 minutes before scheduled course change

    G.The navigator will keep the boatswain advised of the next visible aid to navigation by range,relative bearing and description of the object.

    H.The navigator will clearly mark the chart in pencil using the following symbols:

    1.   FIX:  Circle with dot inc enter and time in 24 hour time, labeled parallel to bottom of the chart. GPS FIX: Diamond with dot in center.

    2.   DR POSITION:  Half circle with dot in center on DR course line, with the time in 24 hour time labeled oblique to the bottom of the chart.

    3.   COURSE:  Labeled in magnetic degrees, labeled on top of course line, preceded by the capital letter C.

    4.   SPEED:  Labeled on bottom of the course line in knots, preceded by the capital letter S.

    5.   ESTIMATED POSITION:  A box with a dotted line from course line, dotted line 90 degrees to line of position.

    6.   LINES OF POSITION:  Label with time on the top of line that is drawn to object on which the bearing is being taken.  Label in degrees magnetic on bottom of line of position.

    I.The navigator will inform the boatswain as to the preferred attitude of the vessel relative to all forthcoming aids to navigation or navigational hazards.

    J.  The navigator will be assigned no other duties.


    A.The helmsman will steer a course as given to him by the boatswain.

    B.The helmsman,when given an order to change course by the boatswain, will repeat the order in a loud voice.

    C.The helmsman will not change course without an order from the boatswain of Skipper in an emergency.

    D.  The helmsman will not carry on unnecessary conversation.


    A.In good weather the forward lookout will be positioned on the bow; the aft lookout (if stationed) will be stationed on the stern.

    B.The lookout will report:

    1.  Any vessel within sight that could possibly be a hazard to the vessel.

    2.  Any object in the water.

    3.  All aids to navigation.

    4.  Underwater obstructions and shallow water.

    C.The lookout will give the range and relative bearing of the objects being reported using degrees relative and yards or nautical miles. Example: “Power vessel bearing 030 relative, range 400 yards.”

    D.The lookout will report to the boatswain.

    E.The lookout will report all persons or objects falling overboard and maintain eye contact with said objects or persons and give continuous reports of their positions to the boatswain. If a person falls overboard the lookout will point at the person in the water.

    F.The lookout will wear a life jacket at all times and will wear a harness in bad weather or during darkness.

    G.The lookout will have no other duties and will not engage in conversation not related to ship operation.

    Boatswain (Crew Leader)
    Inspect your ship, check navigation, confer with the Skipper, design drills, and designate crew assignments.  You must mentally prepare for every contingency and know who is the best person for each job you assign.  Your term as Boatswain is not where you demonstrate your expertise in performing every task on the boat.  Remember, you are to anticipate events, make decisions, and give appropriate instructions to your crew.

    The Boatswain-of-the-Day will conduct at least two emergency drills during his term of duty.  One drill must be a crew overboard drill.  Refer to the Sea Scout Manual (Crisis-at-Sea) for expectations.  The second drill will be chosen and designed by the Boatswain.  As Boatswain, you must provide a step-by-step procedure and construct a station bill (Refer to your Sea Scout Manual).   The Boatswain is expected to provide training of the crew for the two drills prior to executing the drills.

    Boatswain Preparation Checklist

    Please consider the tasks on the following list and use this document as a checklist to assist you in the performance of your duties as boatswain. 

    I. Prior to Getting Underway Planning and Training

    ð       Reviewed navigation and checked all courses for correctness and safety and submitted to Skipper for approval

    ð       Made a personal check list to be carried on person of all courses, hazards, and compass courses for Tacks for each course charted

    ð       Reviewed all tides, weather reports, and established exact time of sunset

    ð       Scheduled all duties for watch including helmsman, navigator, lookouts, galley assignments, and posted schedule

    ð       Conducted pre-sail check of vessel using checklist and noted and corrected problems including check for all equipment required by law, condition of life jackets, flares in date and demonstrated complete knowledge of required equipment.

    ð       Conducted training regarding handling of lines to get underway, made specific line assignments,trained crew on commands to be used and correct responses of each crew member to each command

    ð       Conducted training of helmsman, reviewing proper helm commands as per manual and proper responses

    ð       Conducted training of navigator reviewing procedure for reporting every hour and half hour, and exact nature of the report

    ð       Conducted emergency procedure training for “Oscar” drill including review of the station bill and the duties of each crew member for that drill

    ð       Conducted training for colors ceremony and demonstrated proper boatswain calls (All Hands, Pipe the Side and Carry On)

    ð       Conducted ground tackle training including deployment of the anchor, staging of lines and proper handling of lines and commands to be used

    ð       Established a written backup or contingency plan for such events as sudden bad weather, equipment failure, illness or injury of crew member, etc.

    ð       Followed engine checklist,started engines and checked for any water or fuel leaks, checked that transmission is engaging both forward and back

    ð       During all training checked for understanding, was clear in his training, training followed an outline made by boatswain, used aids if necessary

    ð    Posted a station bill for the following emergency situations: man overboard, fire, damage control and abandon ship.

    II. Executing Colors

    ð       All hands at stations on time and colors ready, halyards ready

    ð       All hands property executed colors ceremony

    ð       Played all required calls property (All hands, Attention, Pipe the Side and Carry on)

    ð    Executed all commands correctly

    III. Getting Underway

    ð       All hands at stations according to a written and posted plan

    ð       Received permission to get underway from Skipper

    ð       Briefed crew on proper way to disconnect electrical power, disconnected shore power, and supervised proper storage of electrical lines

    ð       Proper commands given to helm and line handlers and all personnel responded properly

    ð       Commands were clear and loud enough for all to hear

    ð       Special sea and anchor detail posted and ready

    ð    All hands wearing life jackets, in work uniform and all safety equipment ready 

    IV. Emergency Drills

    Oscar Drill: At Skipper’s discretion, Skipper places floatable object over the side.

    ð       Within 5 seconds, boatswain gave the first order to the helm to execute a Quick Stop,turning the stern away from victim and gave subsequent proper commands to helm to properly perform that turn.  Deploy Life Sling

    ð       Boatswain checked with navigator to be sure navigator fixed location

    ð       Boatswain insured that lookout was tracking victim by pointing

    ð       Boatswain gave proper steering commands

    ð       Boatswain gave proper commands to deck crew to pick up victim (target)

    ð       Boatswain insured that helmsman was calling out compass headings during turn

    Second Emergency Drill- Without notice Skipper announces emergency drill(Boatswain’s Choice: Fire, Abandon Ship or Damage Control)

    ð       Within 5 seconds the boatswain gives the first order to implement his plan

    ð       Boatswain orders navigation to fix position

    ð       Boatswain directs navigator to place appropriate emergency call to USCG to monitor situation. Directed efforts but did not leave station

    ð Was able to accurately describe his plan following secure from stations 

    V. Underway Command Skills

    ð       Used correct commands to helm and required correct response. Properly supervised navigator, required navigation report on the hour and one the half hour

    ð       Vessel always on course,but boatswain informed Skipper if vessel was off course, received Skipper approval for any course changes

    ð       Before making any course change, obtained input from navigator, looked at chart personally, performed a 360 degree visual check of the area and gave clear command to helm and crew

    ð       Ensured lookout schedule was followed

    ð       Ensured that meals were served on time and all was clean

    ð       Handled any emergency or change of plans

    ð       Delegated well and did not leave the bridge

    ð       All commands were clear and loud enough for all to hear

    ð       Responses to all commands were correct or boatswain corrected crew member response

    ð       While underway, Skipper will make a sudden change in course and plans; boatswain directed navigator and crew members to make proper changes and then implemented changes properly giving all proper commands 

    ð       Conducted review and counseling of crew members and held after-action debriefing following watch end

    ð    Anticipated problems and events and responded accordingly, while notbecoming part of the action

    VI. Coming along side or use of ground tackle

    If Anchoring

    ð       Crew and anchor detail received review of procedure including safety briefing

    ð       Ground tackle properly prepared, bitter end secure

    ð       All hands wearing life jackets

    ð       Proper commands given to helm and proper response received

    ð       Proper commands given to crew and proper responses received

    ð    Once deployed directed navigator to take fix and if necessary set anchor watch

    ð    Crew did not secure from anchor stations until directed


    If Coming Along Side

    ð       Crew received review of procedures and safety briefing properly conducted

    ð       All hands wearing life jackets

    ð       Lines properly prepared well in advance and clear of life lines

    ð       All crew members at proper stations: bow lines, spring line, stern lines)

    ð       Proper commands given to helm and proper helm responses received

    ð       Proper commands given to crew 

    ð       Vessel did not impact any unintended object

    ð    Approach was well planned taking into account capability of vessel,wind, current and vessel traffic

    ð    Crew did not secure from docking stations until command given


    VII. After Securing from Being Underway

    ð    Ensured all equipment was properly stored

    ð    Ensured all navigation equipment, lights and electronic gear was turned off

    ð    Briefed crew on safe and proper way to attach electrical cords, made proper connection to shore power 

    ð    Briefed crew on activities to take place, training, etc. for remainder of day

    ð    Ensured that mess crew is prepared, understood meal and how to prepare the meal

    ð    Ensured that mess crew understood safety related to stove

    ð    Ensured that mess is clean and all is cleaned up after meal


    VIII.Debriefing of Crew

    ð       Conducted a debriefing of the crew, asked for suggestions to do better as well as what went well during the day

    ð       If necessary conducted counseling privately for individual crew members

    ð       Praised the crew for what they did well and suggested improvements for things that did not go well

    ð       Conducted additional remedial training if necessary

    Sea Sickness

    From Wikipedia, 

    Sea sickness is a form of motion sickness characterized by a feeling of nausea and, in extreme cases, vertigo, experienced after spending time on a craft on water.

    This condition is caused by the rocking motion of the craft. Most people tend to concentrate on the inner surroundings, or close the eyes and try to sleep. This will cause the worst effect of the disturbance.

    The brain receives conflicting signals: while the eyes show a world that is still, our body, and in particular the equilibrium sensors located in our ears, send signals of a moving environment. This discordance causes the mind to send to the whole body a general alarm signal, in order to stop all activities, in particular the most complex of all, the digestion process.

    Generally, the disturbance will cease once the visual and motion stimuli are synchronized. This can be obtained concentrating on the horizon until this appears fixed and horizontal. This is the signal that our vision has switched from the reference system of the boat to the reference system of the earth.

    Sea sickness happens to about 1 in 3 sea scouts on short trips, and nearly 4 out of 5 on big cruise ships.  It takes a day or two to adapt if you are sensitive. Once you have adapted, you are immune for at least 6 weeks.  If you have discovered that you are sensitive, then my suggestion is to take Bonine or Dramamine at least an hour before showing up to the boat.  Drink some coffee or a cola to ward off drowsiness. 

    While in big waves, try these simple ideas:
    • Stay out of the cabin - The cabin often accentuates the feeling that leads to motion sickness.  The cause is a lack of reference for your eyes.
    • Stay in the center of the boat - Sit in the front of the cockpit, low on the seats, and resist swaying.
    • Keep an eye on the horizon - The horizon will help your eyes and inner ear match, therefore less sickness. 
    • Keep busy - If you stay busy then your mind will not notice the heaving seas. Take the helm, trim the sails, clean the deck, or take a bearing for the navigator.
    • Don't read or text - If you focus your attention on a book or cell phone, it's motion will not match the motion of your head.  Therefore the mismatch between what your eyes see and your ears fee will be accentuated and sickness may follow.

    Read the articles below for additional information.
    Bonine information from Wiki <click here>
    Dramamine information from Wiki <click here>
    Even astronauts get sea sick <click here> 
    Here is what professional mariners do <click here>