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Apr 05 2018

LeBlanc: Sailboats, the crafts that require no batteries

In today’s world of electronic and throwaway everything I wonder how many have thought about what happens when we run out of materials to make more throwaways or when the batteries run out, or when a baseball size piece of trash that we put in space to start with collides with and wipes out a communication satellite and our phones quit working. Also no one wants to hear about how fragile our power grids are that provide us with electricity. There was a time that you could never have convinced me that I would have needed a battery in order to operate my outboard motor and go fishing. I guess if the SJRA had to close the lake when it got two feet above pool this past weekend in order to protect us from ourselves many will continue to be unaware of reality.

The desire for more plastic and electronic throwaways has permeated everything in our world and our recreational activities are no exceptions. When you get a minute Google Afghanistan, lithium, and put that into perspective with our service men.

Batteries brings me to sailboats, because they require no batteries to operate, and only requires a breeze to move them from point A to point B. An operator can get the craft moving and maintain the desired direction without any assistance from electronics. I am writing of pure sailing. We are all aware sailboats are available with as many electronic gadgets as most power boats. BUT, if all of the electronic gadgets quit working, a sailboat can still be easily sailed.

Sailboats have been around for some time. There are records of sailboats being used as far back as 4000 BC in Samaria, so that should be a strong indication that they can be operated without batteries.

As one motors around the lake in a conventional motor driven craft, there is one important point of which I am convinced many are not aware. Sailboats under sail always have the right of way. They do not have the maneuverability of a power boat, and their direction is strongly influenced by the wind direction. So when a sailboat, of any size, is encountered on the lake don’t expect them to simply change directions and go around you, or even get out of your way because it may not be practical for them to do so.

The most popular sailboat rig, and the most seen in boats under forty feet long, is the sloop rig. This is a boat with one center mast, usually forward of the center of the boat. There are two sails; the larger sail behind the mast, called the mainsail; and the forward sail in front of the mast, called the jib.

Now I would like to throw a little sailboat terminology at you, and try to interpret some of the terms, so the next time you are at the marina or in a boat shop and hear sailing being discussed, you will have an idea what is going on.

The first item I would like to mention is; a sail is a sail and a sheet is a sheet. The two are not the same thing. A sail, we can all guess at; it is the big triangular shaped cloth affixed to the mast (the pole sticking up out of the center of the boat). A sheet is really a line (rope, for the nautically impaired). The sheet is affixed to the main sail by way of the boom; and to the jib, through an eye at the clew. With these sheets the sailor can change the shape of the sail to take full advantage of the wind to move the sailboat in the desired direction.

Another component of a sailboat that seems to cause questioning looks when discussed is the purpose of the keel. The keel is the backbone of any vessel, but on a sailboat it will also take the form of a daggerboard, centerboard, swing keel, or fixed keel. One of these will be on a sailboat. The purpose of all of these devises is to physically extend beneath the sailboat, and create a sideward drag, which will help force the boat forward from the energy of the wind on the sails, and slow the sideward drift.

For a simple demonstration to show how a keel works, take any sailboat with a movable keel, position the boat so the wind is blowing directly across the side or beam of the boat, you will be on what is called a beam reach. Raise the keel. You will immediately notice that the sailboat will start to slide sideways in the water, and you will also see a definite loss of some forward motion.

I trust this bit of information concerning sailboats will offer an enticement for some to try sailing. Be warned, however, that one trip out on a sailboat may cause absolute discontent with all other water craft and lead to the almost overwhelming need to run out and purchase one. If you do succumb to the call of the sail boat, remember they really don’t need batteries, except to run the lights.

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