Friday, April 11, 2014

Ode to the Sharpie

One of the most important tools for setting up your sails properly comes in a variety of colors and shapes, some big enough to grab on to, others keychain-sized for easy convenience.  I’m talking about, of course, the Sharpie magic-marker. Far too often you remember the thrill of everything working right – sails drawing, excellent sail shape, mainsail falling into the Stackpack, etc.  A good magic marker can help repeat these succeses, and we prefer the handy-dandy Sharpie because of its aerodynamic, tapered design.
Sharpie marks provide a visual reference for many of your boat’s settings so you can quickly replicate the combinations that worked in the past. When your controls are set to a position you know to be good, you can enjoy your boat more instead of fussing with the controls, or suffering with something not right.

Reefing is a great example.  When you reef, you drop your main halyard to a point that enables the tack reef ring to get hooked up, and then you hoist the sail tight again.  Don’t search for the right spot every time, put a mark on the halyard for each reef so you know how far to drop the sail.  This allows someone in the cockpit to lower the sail just enough to accommodate someone at the mast, reducing communication needed when it’s blowing the dog off the chain.  If you use a spinnaker, mark the spinnaker halyard where it exits the cleat so the person hoisting it can see it is fully raised when it goes up. Do the same with the genoa halyard for when it’s time to go upwind.

If you don’t regularly sail with the same people, Sharpie marks on sheets, too, prove useful visual references to remind the trimmer where how far in he was pulling the sail on the last beat, or allow a more knowledgeable crew member to tell the new guy “trim it about five inches past the mark.” Same with your genoa sheet leads, if they’re are adjustable and you don’t mind marks or numbers on the deck or track. On the mainsail, often on a multi-part system the tail end where the line exits the cleat is an ideal place for a reference mark, or, if the sheet travels along the boom any distance, a traveling mark on the sheet against a reference point on the boom sit at eye level where more people can see and remember it.

Keep in mind, the marks you make aren’t gospel. You halyards and sheets will stretch under load and over time in the long run. Also, your sailing will improve and you’ll learn the marks aren’t in exactly the right place – remember, they’re just a reference. But for when you don’t sail that often, or you sail with many different people every time, they’re a quick way of repeating what worked last time, improving upon it for next time, and getting better every time.



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