The 2014 Coastal Navigation class is navigating well through the class


The ASA Coastal Navigation class of 2014 is sailing through the curriculum.  All ten students (Randy, James, Susan, Chris, Matt, Bill, Lynn, Natalie, Dwayne, and Paul) are doing well and learning a lot. In fact they have done so well that they’ve gone through the entire curriculum and will now complete all the practice exams in the book (as homework).  As promised, I’m providing a link to a coastal navigation practice exam, posted by my pal Duncan Hood.

Also as promised, the following are links to the Powerpoint presentation from the class: cn_slides_2013a and cn_slides_2013b.

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Sailing Bags and Bracelets now made at Kansas City Sailing!


We’ve been busy at Kansas City Sailing this season and doing more than just sales, repairs, and maintenance.  We’ve also been exercising our creative talents!

Inspired by Jackie, we now manufacture beautiful sailing bags.  As you can see in the photo above, they’re colorful, practical, and fun.  And Sarah has inspired a line of colorful bracelets made with real performance rope and shackles (see lower right-hand side of the photo above).

We can also custom design items for decorating your boat or home. Just let us know what you want and we’ll create it for you.  No job is too big or small!

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Coastal Navigation Class off to a great start!

The first Coastal Navigation class met today and it was a great success, thanks to our brilliant students:


And a big thanks to Pat Allen who has volunteered to assist in teaching this class.

It was decided that the next three meetings will begin at 10:00 a.m. and end at 4:00 p.m. on Sundays.  Students should prepare for next Sunday (March 10) by studying the first four chapters and Appendix B of the textbook.  Next week the group will learn about running fixes (in chapter 4), adjusting for leeway and current, tides and currents, danger bearings, and more. (I guess it wouldn’t hurt to study these topics!)

As promised the following are links to the Powerpoint presentation from the class: cn_slides_2013a and cn_slides_2013b.


Posted in Coastal Navigation | 1 Comment

Farralones sailboat tragedy highlights importance of coastal navigation skills


As the time approaches for this year’s Coastal Navigation class I think about ways to make the course interesting and relevant. The following video highlights the importance of knowing where you are and where you’re going when cruising along the coast. It reflects on a tragic accident that never should have happened. Click on the “PLAY” arrow on the screen below to see the video.

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Get your TR1210 Chart online from NOAA

Here’s a great website:  It’s the place to go for free charts, both raster (printed) and vector (electronic) charts.  You can also find other great publications like Coast Pilot, Local Notice to Mariners, Light List, and historical documents.

To find the training chart used in most coastal navigation classes (TR1210) here’s the link:

The chart is actually listed as chart 13218.  Just click on it, download, and open.

Go get it and you’ll be ready for coastal navigation class!

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News and Updates from Kansas City Sailing

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve blogged on my own website.  It’s not like I’ve been idle though.  For the past year I’ve been the Director of Communications for Perry Yacht Club where I’ve been working on that newsletter, which is in blog format.  Check it out:  Much of the content reflects PYC activities and business but there are also lots of posts that are of general sailing interest.

I just took a sailing exam and it’s only 20-degrees outside.  Fortunately I didn’t need to go outside to take the test.  It was the online American Sailing Association (ASA) course and exam for beginners.  But I found it to be fun.  Click here to check it out and let me know what you think.

Fortunately the shop’s been busy this winter.  We’ve been doing lots of fiberglass, rigging, sail, and canvas repairs, since we offer great discounts on sails and rigging over the winter.  My favorite project this winter was the repair of a soft Sonar deck.  If you’re interested in seeing how this project was completed, click on this link.  We’ve also been offering seminars and classes in fiberglass repair, rope splicing, and general sailing skills.  Over the rest of the winter we’ll be offering classes on boat painting, winch repair, navigation, and more.

Here are some other upcoming events.  I’m especially excited about heading to Strictly Sail Chicago in a couple of days:

Thurs-Sat, January 24, 25, 26 – Strictly Sail Chicago (Fiberglass and Navigation Seminars)
Fri-Sun, February 8, 9, 10 – Topeka Boat Show (Fiberglass Seminar – tentative)
Saturday, February 16 – PYC’s Sailin’ Sisters Navigation Seminar
Thursday, February 21 – Paint and Varnish Clinic
Saturday, February 23 – Winch Maintenance Clinic
Saturday, March 2 – PYC’s Sailin’ Sisters Class (topic TBA)
Sundays in March – Coastal Navigation Class
Saturday, March 30 – Kansas City Sailing Open House
Saturday, April 6 – PYC’s Sailin’ Sisters Class (topic TBA)

In thinking about my upcoming navigation classes I decided it appropriate to post the picture above.  I took it recently while Cathy and I were sailing in San Diego.  Actually, as you can see from the flaked sail, we didn’t actually sail that day until the fog lifted – just to be safe.

I hope to see you at the shop for any of our upcoming events.  Please contact us with questions or to sign up for classes.  And stay warm!

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Coastal Navigation Class is Underway!

For the past twelve years we have been offering Coastal Navigation classes to the sailing community and this past Sunday we kicked off this year’s class with another group of enthusiastic students.  Class began at 11 a.m. and ended at 5 p.m. at Kansas City Sailing in Lawrence.  All agreed that the six hours flew by!

During this session we covered coastal navigation publications, tools, charts, dead reckoning, taking bearings, plotting fixes, and much more.  The time was filled with lectures, discussions, practical charting experiences, laughter, new friendships, pizza, and beverages.  Three co-instructors assisted in teaching this session and thanks are due to these volunteers for time spent helping new students: Pat Allen, Matt Gatewood, and Sabrina Nichols.

As promised, the Powerpoint slides for this course are linked below. These are large files so it’s recommended you right-click these links, then select “Save as …” to download each file to your computer:

Coastal Navigation, Part I

Coastal Navigation, Part II

In addition to these resources, here’s an amazing video posted on YouTube this week that’s pertinent to our class.  Take a look and you’ll understand the importance of understanding currents, set, and drift!

An essential component of this class is homework.  We’re using Mike Pyzel’s (American Sailing Association) text but its important that you seek other resources, for example  This site and others are very informative and educational.

As you study at home please bring new insights, questions, and comments to this blog.  Your input will really enhance the course. I look forward to hearing from all students interested in Coastal Navigation – past, present, and future!

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Coastal Navigation and Epoxy/Fiberglass Seminars in Chicago

I’ve been working on three new seminars for the past month and I’m very excited about them.  I will present them for the first time later today at Kansas City Sailing and then again at the Strictly Sail Show in Chicago next weekend.  The three topics are “Epoxy/Fiberglass Sailboat Repairs,” “Introduction to Coastal Navigation,” and “Advanced Coastal Navigation.”

I’ve used some of my slides from last year’s Coastal Navigation class but most of the slides are new.  I’ve also divided the curriculum in half with the first half for “beginners” and the second half more advanced.  Each seminar is only sixty minutes so I’ve got to pack a lot into the short time.

I’ll be writing more about these seminars but for now you can download copies of my Powerpoint slides for all three presentations, below.  These are large files. It is recommended you right-click these links, then select “Save as …” to download each file to your computer:

Epoxy/Fiberglass Seminar, Strictly Sail Chicago

Introduction to Coastal Navigation Seminar, Strictly Sail Chicago

Advanced Coastal Navigation Seminar, Strictly Sail Chicago

I hope you enjoy these.  I welcome any corrections, feedback, questions, etc.  Please just ask!

Posted in Coastal Navigation, Sailboat Repair and Maintenance | Leave a comment

Dock Lines Bad Enough to Make a Grown Man Cry…

It’s January here in Kansas and the weather can be extremely unpredictable.  In just hours mild and sunny conditions can turn into a frigid wintery blizzard.  In this climate lots of sailboat owners leave their boats in the water – some out of necessity (e.g., those who don’t own trailers) and others in order to sail on those balmy 50-degree days.  Some boats are left in their slips unattended for as many as six months without a single visit from their owner.  Over that period of time lots of things can go wrong.

I recently got a call from a sailboat owner who asked me to check on his boat during my next trip to the marina.  What I found was shocking: his tattered dock lines (pictured above) were barely hanging by their last fibers and some were stiff and brittle as dead twigs.  As a result one fender (barely recognizable as a fender) was torn up while pinned between the dock and boat.  Only by a stroke of luck was the hull spared from significant damage.

After receiving this failing dock line report the owner was inspired to get his dock lines replaced.  Now his boat is safe and secure in his slip.  This got me thinking about the Do’s and Don’ts of in-water storage and dock line health.  So here it goes…

When docking your boat in a slip for extended periods:

Do check your dock lines often (at least monthly).
Do tie dock lines as tight as possible, with no slack in them, so your boat can’t gain momentum in its slip as winds blow it back and forth.
Do use high quality three-strand premium nylon rope for dock lines.  It is designed specifically to stretch and recover as nature pushes your 2,000 lb. – 20,000 lb. boat back and forth.
Do be sure to use bow lines, stern lines, and spring lines.
Do use proper cleat hitches when tying off the dock line.  Remember, your finished cleat hitch should look like “two roads under a bridge”.

Don’t leave slack in your dock lines.
Don’t expect your dock lines to stay taut without regular adjustment.
Don’t count on rubber snubbers to keep your dock lines taut.  They are vulnerable to becoming brittle and breaking.
Don’t skimp on dock lines.  Doing so is classic “dollar-wise, penny-foolish”.
Don’t count on your bow and stern lines to keep your boat from drifting forward and back.  This is the job of your spring lines.
Don’t secure dock lines to anything but your boat’s horn cleats (e.g., stanchions, winches, pulpits, cam cleats, etc.).
Don’t tie fenders to lifelines.  If your boat gets pinned against a dock the fender may tear the lifeline and stanchions off your boat, which is obviously not cool.
Don’t wrap your dock lines around dock cleats a million times thinking it makes your boat more secure.  It just makes them harder to remove and adjust, especially in the winter when they are likely to freeze on the cleat.

Think of good dock line health as an insurance policy, designed to protect your valuable investment.  Choose the right size, design, and diameter dock line and then tend to your dock lines on a regular basis.  And each time you visit your boat take a look at your neighbor’s dock lines.  You’ll be amazed at how many boats are at high risk for certain disaster next time the weather becomes harsh.

Posted in Sailboat Repair and Maintenance | 1 Comment

The America’s Cup World Series – Even better than imagined!

Competitors heading for the start line (photo by Rich Wells)

We’re back from the America’s Cup World Series (ACWS) and there’s so much to report.  We spent five days aboard Crusader, our 38′ Catalina in San Diego, with Rich, Brandi, Barb, and Earl. As I previously reported we were one of only twelve boats marking course boundaries.  Each day we were assigned a different position and on most days we were close enough to see AC crews hard at work beating, reaching, running, rounding marks, passing other boats, being passed, and eventually winning and losing.

The 6' x 16' flag that now hangs in our shop (photo by Rich Wells)

We arrived at our positions each morning at around 11:45.  We were given a gigantic 6′ x 16′ grey America’s Cup flag that we hoisted up our backstay with our main halyard.  (This flag now proudly hangs from the north wall of our shop.)  As spectators approached the course we would politely ask them to stay behind us.  Not a single spectator argued or became hostile.  In fact most spectators were friendly and gracious.

For much of the time our closest neighbor and spectator was Larry Ellison, the owner of Team Oracle.  He was on his sailing yacht that we all guessed was well over 100′ in length. My crew continually suggested that we drop by their vessel and ask to borrow some “Grey Poupon”.  I resisted the temptation.

We watched as Sweden, New Zealand, Korea, China, Spain, France, and the U.S. competed in various events, including match races, fleet races, and time trials.  When competitors weren’t involved in a particular event they would sail right up to boats like ours, on the course boundary, just for practice and probably to have some fun.  In fact, one of these awesome 45′ catamarans sailed up to a spectator boat and lifted one of his hulls right over the deck of that boat.  It was crazy!

Jimmy Spithill flying a hull (photo by Rich Wells)

For more of Rich Wells’ awesome pictures you can click on this link.  As you can see from Rich’s photos, there were times when these boats sailed within a few yards from Crusader.

Team Oracle Coutts - Less than ten yards from us (photo by Rich Wells)

Since we didn’t need to be on the course until midday we were able to eat breakfast and get some exercise each day before heading for the race course.  On Saturday morning Cathy and I were running along the waterfront when I saw someone I recognized.  After saying good morning and asking about his plans for the day I invited Peter Harken (Founder and President of Harken, Inc.) to join us for the day’s activities.  As you can see in the photo below Peter and his friend Edit spent the afternoon aboard Crusader.  You’ll notice that I look particularly entranced.  Rich took this photo as Peter described the series of events that led to his inventing the first ball bearing marine block.  Wow!

We learn about the birth of Harken ball bearing blocks from Peter Harken (photo by Rich Wells)

Being on the course boundary was an amazing experience.  But it was made even sweeter by the fact that the U.S. team, Oracle Racing Spithill, won both the Match Racing and Fleet Racing Championships.  A detailed description of these victories can be found on the ACWS website.

We ran past the AC Harbor each day for added inspiration.

Posted in One-Design Racing, Sailing Clubs, One-Design Fleets, and Yacht Clubs, Sailing Destinations | 2 Comments