Aug 052013

Taken from John Vigor’s blog article “Are you a drunken operator

A vessel, apparently, is “every description of watercraft on the water . . . capable of being used as a means of transportation on the water” with the illogical exception of seaplanes, inner tubes, air mattresses, sailboards, and small rafts or flotation devices or toys customarily used by swimmers.

Thus, in the eyes of the legislators, your dinghy is a “vessel” and if you have too many drinks in the club before rowing the dinghy back to your yacht, the cops can nab you for drunken boating.
The answer, it seems, is to paddle back to your boat on an inner tube or small raft. You can get as drunk as you like then, and the fuzz can’t touch you. At least, not under these laws.
So, it would appear that South African law enforcement values our lives as much as any first world country does….. or our legislators are just as ridiculous as everyone else out there? Your choice……!
Jul 092013

The stupidity of the system…

Instructions on how to wash your hands in the corporate washroom

A lable to warn “Don’t Drink this poison because it’s harmful”

COF’s and COC’s


It’s amazing humanity survived into the 21st century !

Jun 092013

The first real chill of winter has followed this front up to the Vaal. The NW’lies preceding the front gave way to the expected, icy SW’ly at about 10h30 this morning and the mooring field turned a little bumpy as the waves built across the open fetch from Bill’s Bay.

In this weather, Ocean Blue’s stern lies perilously close to the rocky shore. So close it feels as if I could jump ashore without even getting my jeans wet. I’m up and down the companionway steps all morning, keeping a close watch and making sure the tiny gap remains the same kind of tiny. It doesn’t change and all I achieve is to get some exercise with my step climbing.

“Sick-As-Sin” “Sieker s’n” hoists all her canvas and sets sail in a good 15-20 kt breeze. As she beats out toward Game Breeders I wish I were on board as crew rather than stuck here, cutting strips of wood, drilling through electrical cables hidden behind the headlining  and regularly checking the shoreline. She looks a grand sight as she leans to the breeze and returns to sail through the Narrows and onward toward Fish Eagle. It’s funny how a boat looks so different on the water. On the hard at Manten’s I must confess to thinking “What on earth has he done?” But now, back in her natural element and under sail, I now also see the beauty in her that her new skipper saw when others could not.

The nearby jagged shoreline jolts me back into the present. It’s a funny and irrational feeling! It makes no sense at all but yet I feel too close to the rocks. If the anchor drags, I mean if the mooring line breaks, Ocean Blue will be on the rocks before I can save her.

I don’t really want to leave her here so close to destruction and I give a last look out across the water as I pack up and head for home. She’s still there, rolling a little as the westerly swell works it’s way into the bay, nodding her mast-head instruments at me as if to say “Chill dude. I’ll still be here when you get back!”

I feel a little silly actually and I park the the thought I had to ask the club manager to move the mooring further out into the bay. I mean, logically, it make no sense. If the mooring is going to break while I’m away, then it’s going to end up just the same. The 5 minutes longer that it takes for Ocean Blue to hit the rocks is not going to make any difference when I’m an hour away. And so I hit the road, back to the cubicle nation where I slave away to fund my sailing habit.

I’ll still keep an eye on the forecast and I’ll definitely keep my insurance current but I have no doubt that next weekend will find me and Blue reunited. Perhaps no DIY next weekend. All work and no play… and all that !

I think next weekend we’ll exercise those sails!

May 252013

I’ve always thought that Good Old Boat matches the South African inland sailing scene quite nicely. While the mainstream sailing media do their thing advertising super-new, super-big, super-expensive dreams the rest of us are quietly getting on with our sailing, content with our old sailboats and just being out on the water.

While there are the new yachts out there, the majority of the sailing scene here is made up of folk sailing older, smaller boats. Boats that are relatively cheap to buy and to maintain. Also, considering the options and costs of the few available boatyards, many sailors choose to do their own maintenance work  and improvement projects.

The content of GOB is directly relevant to the majority of us. We mostly all sail older boats from the 70’s and 80’s. Our boats are typically between 2o and 34 footers. We all need tips and information on boat improvements, maintenance methods, navigation theory and just plain good old articles on living the good life aboard to keep us focused and motivated on the sailing lifestyle. The list goes on.

As an example….there’s a interesting article in the May/June 2001 issue entitled “They Also Sail”.

IS Sailors also sail


So, you say ” I’m convinced! But I can’t fly across the pond every 2 months to collect my copy of GOB off the news stand………”

Well, the great news is that GOB are now offering their magazine in digital format

which means we can now download right here in South Africa [or anywhere of course]. They have generously made 2 FREE issues available for download to InlandSailing readers. Totally free and with no obligations for further subscriptions.

Head on over to the Good Old Boat website and try them out.


PS: InlandSailing doesn’t earn any commission or income from Good Old Boat so we have no vested interests when we wholeheartedly endorse them. In the modern world of glitz, glamour and rampant bigger-is-better commercialism, they are a shining example that sailing life can indeed be very good, even on a budget. Try them out! You won’t be sorry you did !
PPS: Don’t try downloading the Hi-Res copies. They are huge and take forever to download and are slow to read on your PC once you have them downloaded. Stick with the standard size downloads. They’re super-detailed and of excellent quality so there’s really no need for more.
Jan 042013

Now that a new old boat has arrived in my life I’m finding myself on a serious learning curve. It’s not because it’s a bigger boat [while that does require some adjustment to approach and technique in the confines of the marina] but because it has a few more mechanical systems that the old boat never had i.e. an inboard motor. As a result, I’m feeling more like a diesel mechanic apprentice rather than a sailor at the moment.

The topics for research seem endless at the moment. For example:

  • Where are the filters?
  • How much water should there be in the bilge due to the stern gland drip?
  • What’s the technique to hand-start the motor if the battery runs down?
  • How much fuel does the tank hold?
  • Why does all that sooty black stuff exit the exhaust? Is it because the motor hasn’t run for 6 months or is it because the air filters are clogged?
  • Are the propeller and shaft properly protected by sacrificial anodes? What’s the best material for an anode in fresh water?
  • How will I stay put at anchor? Do I cave in and use the usual 5m of chain coupled to some anchor line or do I stay true to my more weight [chain] is better and go the all-chain rode route again? What size chain for a 5-ton sailboat? 6mm, 8mm or 10mm?
  • How has the previous owner sailed and rigged the boat? What’s that line for? Where are the spinnaker halyards? How does his single-line reefing work?
  • Cool, there’s a VHF on board, but why does no-one answer when I call? Oh, ok, the antennae was disconnected.
  • The navigation lights – sailing, motoring, anchor light, deck lights? Do they work? How do I select the different modes? I’ll have to label that switch panel a little better I think.
  • What about CoF’s? Who inspects the vessel? Does it need slipping to get this done or not?

And so the list of things to get my head around continues to expand as I dig into each and every corner of the boat. And I’m loving it. The previous boat, after 8 years together, fit like a glove. It was almost as if I thought and the boat responded automatically. The new one is far from that stage but will hopefully grow on me to the same extent.

That’s why a skipper should live with a boat and sail her for a good couple of years I think. It’s also one of the reasons I believe in getting my hands dirty and doing as much as possible myself in terms or maintenance and upgrades. The more hands-on you are, the better you learn the boat and the closer you get to that “hand-in-glove” relationship.

And while all the learning is happening, don’t forget to sail the boat! Take her out in calm weather, moderate weather and stormy weather. Gently probe the limits of the boat-skipper-crew team and learn the boat. After all – we own our boats to sail them, not to just work on them!!

Dec 252012

Note: This article attempts to summarise, for ease of reference, all the relevant SAS and SAMSA requirements for sailing vessels >9m in length on the Vaal. Please refer to the SAS and SAMSA websites for authoritative, current and accurate information regarding this matter since the source information may change at any time.

The Merchant Shipping (National Small Vessel Safety) Regulations of 2007 as amended require that all sailing vessels >9m in length undergo an annual inspection to ensure that minimum safety requirements are maintained. Regardless of the debate [here and here] that continues to rage around this issue [why >9m only? and Why do we need regulation when the foremost nautical countries in the world have a voluntary system in place ? etc] it’s a legal requirement and if you want to stay on the right side of the law it needs doing.

So here’s a summary of what you need to do:

There are some SAMSA checklists to allow you to prepare for this inspection. Obviously, it’s in the owners best interest to ensure that the vessel meets the requirements before engaging with the surveyor/inspector, otherwise you will have to repeat the exercise, and possibly end up incurring additional costs in the process.

Once you have the vessel CoF, remember to keep the following documents on board at all times:

  • Vessel’s CoF
  • Vessel’s SAS Certificate of Listing
  • Skipper’s Certificate of Competence [eg SAS Day Skipper]
  • Skipper’s VHF operators licence [if the vessel has a VHF radio]
  • Vessel’s VHF station licence

While the debate may still rage as to whether the authorities should be enforcing this or not, the prudent skipper would, without a doubt, comply to the basic safety requirements for his craft and passengers. So, in theory, your vessel should already meet all the requirements. The only additional step is to part with some cash and have an appointed expert issue confirmation of this.

I haven’t yet done this for the new old boat but will certainly return and update this post on the practicalities and inevitable challenges encountered once I have first-hand experience……



Join the Forum discussion on this post

Mar 182009

There have been a spate of accidents and drownings off yachts of late on the Vaal. In the last year or so a PNYC member, Ron Roseveare, was reportedly knocked overboard from the yacht Royal Flush during a gybe and drowned during a club race in October 2008 [Tragedy in 6-hr race]. Before that, in July 2008 an elderly mariner fell out his dinghy, and ended up clinging to a mooring in the dead of night in winter – a close call rather than a tragedy fortunately [Can you get into you yacht from the water]. Just recently in March 2009, Cedric Wells was lost near Manten Marina [Another MOB]. In the case of both fatalities, it took the SAPS Water Wing several days to recover the bodies. The long recovery times are more than likely a direct result of the murkiness of the water. Anyone who has ever dropped anything over the side will have noticed that nothing is visible as shallow as 1/2m below the surface.

This of course raises the question of safety on board. Unfortunately this is just the kind of thing that will have some stuffy, govermental beaurocrat, who doesn’t know the bow of the boat from the head telling us all what to do.

I often sail single-handed and as a result, going overboard occupies my thoughts every now and again, especially with the latest news. At 4-5 knots with the autohelm set, there’s no way I’ll get back on board. All the safety gear in the world is not going to help me as I, treading water, watch my boat sail into the distant shore. So the questions: Is it unsafe practice to sail alone? Should I sail alone but always wear a lifejacket? Should I not sail at all? The short answer is I don’t know for sure. If I choose not to wear the lifejacket, and I land up in a situation where I need it, it’ll then be too late and guaranteed will wish I had.  All I know for sure is that I want that choice to be mine and I’m happy enough to live with the consequences and not blame anyone else for my choices.

Sailing is supposed to be fun. There are enough rules and regulations ashore. I don’t want to be told to wear a lifejacket at all times. I want to enjoy a glass of red as the sun sets over the anchorage. Otherwise, what’s the point?

I think its vital to understand how these unfortunate souls were lost. Could they swim, alcohol, medical conditions, a severe bump to the head? Or just an unovoidable accident of the “wrong place, wrong time” kind? Unfortunately, it’s not often that the real reasons are apparent from the reporting in the media. I hear the case for always wearing a life-jacket. I also value my freedom of cloice. It’s one of the resons I sail. If forced by legislation to wear one, I would feel dictated do, deprived of my freedom.

I think we all need to learn from these incidents and ensure that safety aboard is a priority. We all need to be responsible, for our own lives and those of our crew. Do the safety drills. If someone cannot swim or conditions are rough, enforce the wearing of lifejackets. Don’t fall overboard at all costs! Make sure the vessel has the appropriate safety gear for all on board. But, let’s keep the responsibility for taking our own decisions about how much safety is appropriate in any given circumstance.