Reaching across the Sea of the Hebrides

“To reach one of the worlds finest unspoilt cruising grounds,
we must first cross the Sea of the Hebrides”

We have to go. We think we can choose but in reality we don’t have a choice. The call out West is sometimes delayed due to lack of time, poor weather or lack of experience, but eventually it is irresistible and so we head out towards the Western Isles. As cruising yachtsmen our keels are but iron filings in relation to the magnet of the Outer Hebrides. Resistance is useless. It is our destiny. We have to go..…We just have to go….

To reach one of the worlds finest unspoilt cruising grounds, we must first cross the Sea of the Hebrides. For yachtsmen based in Scottish waters it is one of the great Rites of Passage as we put more and more miles under our keel. For many Clyde based yachtsmen rounding the Mull of Kintyre is the first great passage west. Then there are the great tidal gates in the Sound of Islay, Sound of Luing, Corryvreckan and more. For those based on the west coast the first rounding of the Ardnamurchan peninsula (the most westerly point of the British mainland) is a significant event. Then there is the enchantment of the Inner Hebrides which could occupy us for many sailing seasons but eventually and inevitably the lure of the Outer Hebrides calls us further out west.

My first crossings of the Sea of the Hebrides were made as a child on board the ferry Claymore for the annual family holiday on the Isle of Barra. It was a long drawn out affair taking some 12 hours from Oban calling at Tobermory, Coll and Tiree before crossing the Sea of the Hebrides to Barra and South Uist. I have clear memories of vehicles being craned on and off the ferry in nets with cushions around the wheels except for the Isle of Coll where a small tender met the ferry as there was no pier. Today the Calmac Ferry Clansman sails from Oban direct to Barra in 4 hours 50 minutes. Just in case you have not heard the paraphrase of the Old Testament Psalm, it goes…”The earth belongs unto the Lord and all that it contains….except the Western Islands which belong unto MacBraynes”

The stretches of water separating the Western Isles from the Inner Hebrides and mainland Scotland are called the North Minch, the Little Minch and the Sea of the Hebrides. They are known and respected by seafarers worldwide. Fiction and fantasy have no foundations in these waters for the simple fact is that real life contains more drama and adventure than any writer could invent.

In February 1941 the Politician went aground off Eriskay and spawned Television programmes about the quest for a certain golden liquid. In December 1974 the Ridgway family were returning home from the oceans of the world. In her account of this last leg (in her book “No place for a Woman”) Marie Christine Ridgway describes the passage from Barra to Ardmore as the “worst ever”. In November 1979 the Barra lifeboat and the Islay lifeboat capsised on service in the Sea of the Hebrides. Fortunately they self righted with no loss of life. All in the winter months I hear you say…but in recent years there have been severe but short lived gales in summer months. In late May 1996 Ian Weinbren and crew survived a F9/10 at anchor in Loch Skipport. In June 2000 John Anderson was singlehanded at anchor in Northbay and survived (with one anchor down) what Barra airport later told him was an hourly average of 54 knots with the highest gust recorded at 83 knots. In June 2002 the Round Britain Yacht Race took a battering while rafted up on the moorings in Castlebay in a severe southerly gale.

The first crossings I made as skipper of my own yacht illustrate just how quickly conditions can change. We were at anchor at Arnigour on the Isle of Coll waiting for a break in the weather and we ran out of patience. It’s only a SW6 which will give us a fast reach across the Sea of the Hebrides we reckoned. The yacht copes with a force 6 very well with a double reef in the main and a working jib. We have a strong crew of 4 and we might as well just go. We went. We had a comfortable run up a weather shore to the Cairns of Coll and turned left towards Castlebay on the Isle of Barra. It was a 7 hour bash in poor visibility which had half the crew incapacitated. As we closed the east coast of Barra the Decca also became incapacitated and visibility reduced even further. I had deliberately set a course to land us uptide of our destination but was not sure exactly how far north of the rumb line we were when the unmistakable appearance of the Currachan Rock appeared out of the mist on our starboard bow. With the benefit of local knowledge we were in Castlebay without delay and the sick crew made a marvellous recovery in time to eat a 3 course meal in the comfort of the Castlebay Hotel.

Two days later we motored from Northbay to Tobermory in a flat calm. Alfred the autohelm did the work as we sunbathed on deck. Half way across the Sea of the Hebrides a pair of dolphins played with us for a while. It was a day when you could have navigated west without a compass as each Island could be identified by the size and shape of the fair weather cumulus clouds which capped them perfectly.

This may be a good illustration of how quickly conditions change but it is also a good illustration of how not to plan a visit to the Outer Hebrides. Assuming that your starting point is on the west coast of Scotland, you want at least a week to explore Barra Head to the sound of Harris and another week for the top half. Two weeks for each half of the Western Isles would be ideal, especially if you plan some Atlantic Adventures. If pressed for time, prior weekend “positioning passages” to springboard harbours should be considered. Assuming a free wind, a crossing of the Sea of the Hebrides can be made within daylight hours in the summer if departing from Tiree, Coll, Tobermory, Arisaig or Mallaig. If the wind is westerly it is common practice to reach up to Rhum or Canna for a good overnight anchorage. If the wind is still in the west the following day it is possible to tack across the remaining 30 miles in daylight hours or alter your destination in the Outer Hebrides to reduce the number of tacks!

Those skippers with confidence in their night pilotage should have no hesitation in entering the well lit harbours of Castlebay, Northbay, Loch Boisdale, Loch Maddy or Stornoway at night. I would not recommend a night entry into Eriskay for your first visit in spite of the fact that it is well lit. It is a tight entry with small margins for error. Make your first entry to this excellent harbour by day if possible.

Those with sufficient crew can of course plan longer passages to the Outer Hebrides. If sailing from the Clyde or Ireland direct to the Outer Hebrides be sure to be well west of Islay unless the tide is favourable. I remember getting it wrong and making 0-5 miles over the ground in a 2 hour period just west of Islay. (It wasn’t the planning that went wrong it was the alarm clock in Ballycastle Marina.) Passage planning to catch the tide at the Mull of Kintyre and the Sound of Islay is an interesting exercise often given to candidates sitting their Yachtmaster exam.

The number of foreign yachts visiting the Outer Hebrides is increasing each year and the task is made easier by the availability of 2 excellent sets of Sailing Directions. One is published by Imray and the other by the Clyde Cruising Club. A couple of years ago, while in Stromness Harbour in the Orkney Isles, I rushed on deck to take the mooring lines from a single handed yachtsman tacking his 23 foot cruising yacht into the inner harbour. “Where from” asked I. “Oslo” was his reply. “Engine failure” asked I. “Don’t have one to fail” was his reply. A few hours and a few drams later I asked “Where to” He unrolled an obsolete chart of the Outer Hebrides with depths in fathoms. “I am told these are the finest cruising grounds in the world and so I think I shall visit them on my way to the Mediterranean”

A few years ago I was walking along the road in Northbay, Isle of Barra, when a couple stopped me and asked if there was a bank on the Island. I asked them where they were staying and they pointed to a well equipped 36 foot yacht at anchor a short distance away. “Where from” asked I. “Newfoundland” was their reply!

Where were you at the start of the Millennium? I am a city dweller but persuaded my family that a special event should be celebrated in a special place. We got the last ferry of the old millennium from Oban to Barra. A few hours before the new millennium the rain stopped and the skies opened to reveal a magnificent milky way of stars untainted by background city light. At the appointed time flares appeared on the horizon from all parts of the Inner and Outer Hebrides. Then the celebrations began. A few days later the first ferry of the new millennium left Loch Boisdale in South Uist and headed into the teeth of a southerly gale. Unable to make headway towards Barra it turned east and ran towards Oban. That was the good news. The really bad news was that Calmac sent a relief ferry 2 days later.

If you are a cruising yachtsman in Scottish waters, stop dithering, and reach across the Sea of the Hebrides. You will be rewarded.

Basic Moves for Anchoring

As this article is designed to encourage those reluctant to drop the hook, I am going to assume for present purposes that suitable kit is on board. I am also going to assume that a suitable anchorage has been chosen in relation to the overnight weather forecast. As this is your first overnight at anchor you have wisely chosen a night with a forecast of light to moderate winds. I suggest there are 5 basic moves:

  • Prepare
  • Stop
  • Drop
  • Stretch
  • Secure

There is no one ‘correct’ method for any of the above moves. I am not going to be dogmatic about how to make these moves but I would suggest that the whole process should take some 15 to 20 minutes if all goes well.


The person on the helm needs to brief the person or persons on the bow. Clarify the sequence of events, commands and feedback. In an ideal world nothing is spoken and it is all done by pre arranged hand signals. This will only be achieved after much practice but in the meantime try to avoid a shouting match between bow and stern. You might want to position someone amidships to relay commands. When working at the sharp end it is futile shouting into the wind. Turn 180 degrees to the person on the helm. There is a chance that you might now be heard!

The person on the helm needs to select a suitable spot and suitable depth within the anchorage and approach this spot slowly head to wind. If it’s an unfamiliar anchorage a good practice is to have a little tour around your chosen spot to make sure that the echo sounder has no surprises in store.

The person on the bow needs to prepare the anchor and cable for the drop. Assuming there is no windlass on the foredeck, take time to secure the lid of the anchor well in the open position as it will be a real nuisance if it collapses on you. If the anchor is not already on the bow roller it needs to be lifted into position. Allow sufficient length of chain to let you to do this then cleat off the chain so that if the worst happens the anchor falls only a short distance over the side. The cable needs to be prepared for the drop. It can be flaked out along the side deck or it can come out of a well organised anchor well assuming the cable has been fed into the well with the inboard end at the bottom and outboard end at the top. Whatever method you choose the cable should be marked at 5 or 10 metre intervals. It’s helpful to have these marks written on the inside of the anchor well lid. On the final approach for the drop the anchor needs to be pushed over the bow roller and as the boat speed reduces it can be dipped into the water.


The person on the helm will be watching the boat speed and the echo sounder if these instruments are in the cockpit. If they are not in the cockpit someone else can relay the information from below. If the boat is creeping very slowly over the ground the person on the helm will probably get it right first time by stopping the boat dead in the water at the chosen depth. If the boat overshoots the chosen depth round we go again for a second approach. Sometimes the speed reads zero while the boat is still creeping forward. If there is any doubt use a visual transit ashore to check that the boat is dead in the water.

What is a good depth to drop the anchor? I wish there was a simple answer to this question but there are many variables. For present purposes let’s assume that you have a reasonably level seabed, a tidal range of 4 metres and plenty of cable. Let’s also assume that you are dropping anchor at the top of the tide and that the echo sounder has been calibrated to read depth beneath the keel. Your chosen depth will probably be something between 5 and 7 metres (on the echo sounder). If you are doing this for the first time, you have wisely selected an uncrowded anchorage!


The person at the sharp end needs to get the anchor onto the seabed fairly quickly. Don’t let the anchor go into freefall if the cable is coming out of the well. Let it out hand over hand quickly but in a controlled manner. If the cable has been flaked out on the side deck and cleated off at the required length it can be left to run out by itself. If there is wind, the bow will blow off to port or to starboard. I suggest you let out more cable by a few metres then snub it off again. Exercise the virtue of patience and observe the cable. If the anchor has bitten the bow will come head to wind in line with the cable. If there is no wind run the engine slow astern. If the bow does not line up with the cable I suggest you lift the anchor and try another spot for a second drop.

The above techniques assume that anchor and cable will be prepared and dropped manually. Until fairly recently, I believe that the length of most owner’s first cruising yacht could be measured in terms of 22-29 feet. In recent years I am told that many first time owners are purchasing cruising yachts in the order of 35-45 feet complete with anchor windlass on the foredeck. If you are anchoring for the first time with a windlass then the techniques I have suggested need to be modified and it makes sense to consult the equipment manufacturer or boat sales consultant.


The bow has lined up with the cable indicating that the anchor has got a bite on the seabed. This is not the same thing as the anchor holding on the seabed for an overnight stay. The cable should now be stretched on the seabed by slowly letting out the chosen scope and cleating off when the appropriate mark is in the water (not at the bow roller). Books have been written about anchor cables and endless formulae have been suggested. For present purposes I want to keep it simple and suggest that for an overnight anchorage in light to moderate winds use a scope of one to four for a chain cable. It says this is the RYA course notes for Day Skipper but I shall look more closely at formulae for scope next month. If you have dropped anchor at the top of the tide with 5 metres on the echo sounder (calibrated to read depth beneath the keel) you are probably in 6.5 metres of water depending on the draft of the boat. You should therefore have about 26 metres of chain in the water.

If the cable has been let out slowly the windage factor on the bow will have it stretched on the seabed. If there is no wind go gently astern with the engine. It will take a strong wind for the cable to come up tight fully stretched but as you are doing this for the first time you have wisely chosen an overnight weather forecast with light to moderate winds. You will therefore need to replicate a stronger wind by slowly increasing the revs astern until the cable comes up reasonably tight.

It is at this point (with engine running astern on a tight cable) that you should be looking abeam (90 degrees) for transits to check if you are holding or dragging. Don’t rush this part. Exercise the virtue of patience once again. In strong winds the stern of the yacht will be swinging about and it can take a bit of experience deciding if the boat is holding or dragging. You don’t have this problem tonight as you have chosen an overnight with light to moderate winds. If you are dragging, now is the time to lift the anchor and start again. If you are holding, put the throttle control into neutral and watch the boat surge forward and come to rest with the anchor cable hanging down from the bow roller.

Forget about anchor watches by the crew and forget about echo sounder alarms and GPS radius alarms as you don’t need them tonight. I shall look at these in a later article. You are nearly finished but before you pour the golden liquid to celebrate you need to secure some bits and pieces.


Here is a checklist: Secure lid of anchor well and secure the bow roller pin. Secure all halyards away from the mast. Secure helm amidships. Hoist the anchor black ball. Prepare the anchor light if not permanently fitted. Tidy up.

Basic Moves for Weighing Anchor and the Buoys

If there is no wind the cable can be hauled up to the point at which it is running vertically from bow roller to anchor on the seabed. The laws of physics dictate that the anchor should now break out. A glance at the echo sounder and the marks on the anchor cable will guide you if there is any doubt about how much cable remains to be hauled up.

Occasionally the anchor will defy the laws of physics and refuse to break out at this point. This can happen if you have dug the anchor in for gale force winds and it is well buried in the seabed. It now needs a little nudge or forward motion to break out. Make sure the chain is cleated off and fingers and feet are clear before asking the person on the helm for a short burst ahead on the engine and back into neutral. When the motion of the boat has stopped it should now come up from the seabed. As soon as you can see the anchor or tell by the weight or length of cable, the person on the helm needs to know that it is off the bottom. Remember to turn 180 degrees and face the helm for good communication. It’s good manners to avoid a shouting match especially if departing early while others are still asleep. Prearranged hand signals are perfect.

If there is wind when you come to lift the anchor let the boat do most of the hard work. You don’t have to be a world class weight lifter to successfully haul up the anchor but you do need to communicate effectively with the person on the helm. As the boat is driven slowly forward towards the anchor haul in the slack cable fairly quickly but be ready to snub off the cable as soon as it comes tight or whenever you need a rest. When the bow is over the anchor on a tight cable it should break out. Remember to tell the helm when the anchor is ‘off bottom’.

In practice this is seldom achieved in one move unless you have the benefit of an anchor windlass. When hauling the cable manually it usually takes several moves and the bow often overshoots the anchor with the cable running back under the boat. This is because the person on the helm is guessing where the anchor is sitting on the seabed. It can be very helpful to have a second person near the bow indicating the direction of the cable.On

On some yachts the cable can be hauled up manually while standing on the foredeck. On many yachts this method will damage the underside of the furling drum so you need to sit on the foredeck with your feet in the anchor well and haul the cable in horizontally. Whatever technique is used the cable may need to be organised inside the well for the next drop and the anchor itself secured to the bow roller or secured inside the well. It is a good practice on inshore waters to sail with the anchor secured on the bow roller but not all stemhead fittings are up to the job and so the anchor is stowed in the well.

If your boat is equipped with an anchor windlass the job is usually an easy one. You can reduce the load on the electric motor by nudging the boat forward on the engine. If you have a self stowing arrangement for the anchor the whole job can be completed without effort.

If you are lucky the anchor has come up clean. If not you have a lump of kelp (or worse) to free off. If you are very unlucky you have lots of smelly mud to clean off the chain, the anchor well and the foredeck. If mud or clay is on the anchor itself it will often come off by manual dunking or driving the boat slowly with the anchor just in the water.

Don’t forget to take down the anchor ball and return halyards to their working positions around the mast.

To buoy or not to buoy?

There is no correct answer to this question. You need to consider the pros and cons, try it out and come to your own conclusions. Most anchors have a small hole or other attachment point near the crown of the anchor. Attach a line to this with a marker buoy at the other end of the line. How long should this line be? The answer is not too short and not too long! Too short and it is submerged at high tide. Too long and it drifts downwind towards the boat. It should of course be floating on the water directly above the anchor on the seabed.

Some advantages are:

  • You see how the boat lies in relation to the anchor.
  • In a crowded anchorage you hope late arrivals will be looking out and avoid dropping their hook over your cable.
  • If your anchor becomes fouled you have a ready made tool for a pull in the opposite direction.
  • When lifting the anchor next morning the person on the helm has a target to point at.

Some disadvantages are:

  • Without a second person on the bow it can be tricky to deploy when dropping the anchor.
  • When lifting the anchor there is a risk of the tripping line fouling the keel, prop or rudder.
  • A nocturnal late arrival to a crowded anchorage might not see your marker buoy, run over it and dislodge your anchor in the process.

There are some clever solutions to some of these problems which are too detailed to mention here. You will find them in monthly sailing magazines and online boat forums.



In last month’s Anchoring Extras I described the use of an anchorwatch strain gauge device which measures the tension on the anchor cable in kilograms. I concluded that the profile obtained of Westbound Adventurer at anchor in different wind strengths allows me to calculate how hard astern I need to go to dig it in to ensure a good night’s sleep even in a rising gale.

In this article I examine the use of my Riding Sail, the occasional use of an Angel and the very occasional use of a Line Ashore.

THE RIDING SAIL Some years ago Westbound Adventurer was well anchored in the Wizard Pool of Loch Skipport, South Uist in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. There was a good blow with downdrafts coming off Hecla which rises above the Wizard Pool. I was busy comparing the behaviour of my yacht with that of a Contessa anchored nearby. Westbound Adventurer was doing a jig compared to the stately minuet of the Contessa. This is partly due to the underwater profile of the Sigma 33 (DCB of 0-5metres) and also, I believe, partly due to the fact that Westbound Adventurer is unique as a Sigma 33C because the first owner of my yacht had a Warwick Collins Tandem Wing Keel fitted.


This keel has 3 advantages for sail cruising.

  • The large delta plate on the bottom of the one piece cast iron keel reduces pitching in a seaway.
  • The lower centre of gravity contributes to the overall stiffness of the yacht.
  • The shoal draft of 4’6 allows her to go places where other fin keelers dare not go.

The tandem wing keel fitted to Westbound Adventurer

The one disadvantage of this keel is that Westbound Adventurer tends to dance about at anchor in strong winds. The riding sail however has tamed her. I have measured the arc through which the stern swings with and without the riding sail. The riding sail reduces this swinging arc by about 15 degrees but perhaps more significantly the speed at which she swings is reduced which in turn diminishes shock loads on the anchor cable. When winds are very strong my own preference is the use of 2 anchors from the bow (the fork moor) with the riding sail set.

This sail is simply hanked onto the backstay with an improvised strop on the tack to a strong point in the cockpit. The main halyard or the topping lift hoists the sail to the desired height and sheets are led forward and tensioned on a suck it and see basis.

THE ANGEL   There have been many articles written about the use of an angel and some cruising yachtsmen have strong opinions for or against them. Indeed, almost every aspect of anchoring has an army of experts with strong views. As a Sailing Instructor I try to point out the pros and cons of different techniques to help cruising yachtsmen form their own opinions.

It appears to me that some valuable and fairly convincing research has been done which concludes that an angel needs to be very heavy to have any significant effect. This raises the question of whether it would more useful to invest in a third anchor instead of 2 anchors plus an angel?

For Westbound Adventurer the chain of my third anchor cable (which weighs 35 kg.) is made up and stowed as an angel but can be converted to cable by undoing the bindings. It is stowed in the centre of the yacht so as to reduce the weight in the bow and is assisted from its locker in the saloon by a halyard through the hatch!

I am not suggesting that most cruising yachts should have 3 anchors. I have chosen to have 3 anchors with their own cables because my summer teaching cruises are spent in the Scottish Hebrides where anchoring is the norm. I use the angel very occasionally as Westbound Adventurer is seldom in a crowded anchorage where it is desirable to reduce the swinging circle.

It could be argued that in a marginal anchorage in a rising gale an angel might be better than a second anchor so that you are not faced with the possibility of buoying and dumping 2 anchors and cables. On the other hand it is possible that 2 anchors might hold longer than 1 anchor with an added angel? No text book or article can be dogmatic about what to do in a marginal anchorage which we all try to avoid in the first place!

THE LINE ASHORE   There are a few occasions when a line ashore might be considered in addition to or instead of an anchor. When the bottom is rock or known to be very poor holding it could be considered in an offshore wind. In the photo below there is a convenient ring on the rock and the line is led back to the yacht for ease of departure. The engine is running slow astern as there was no wind at the time but the yacht was not left unattended.

A variety of devices could be used for the attachment ashore but whatever the hardware selected I would suggest the following method:

  • Put your hardware in the dinghy with a floating line and fender and row (or motor) ashore.
  • Take time to select a suitable belay and set it up.
  • Send the line downwind for collection from the yacht.
  • Remain ashore until a suitable warp is attached to the messenger line in case there are snags.

An alternative is to take the warp ashore, secure it, then row it back to the yacht but I would not recommend this unless there are 2 people in the dinghy.

One concern about a line ashore is the wind changing direction overnight! Perhaps an angel astern might be a suitable precaution but on the other hand an anchor watch by the crew may be prudent if a wind shift is forecast. In a marginal situation a few hours rest for all on board can make a big difference before clearing out is essential. It may be necessary to abandon the hardware ashore if the line has been led back to the yacht or even to abandon the whole system if a single fixed line has been set up.



RYA Recognised Teaching Establishments are highly regulated. Sail Cruising Schools are subject to 3 separate pre-arranged inspections and 2 possible unannounced inspections by the RYA or MCA. Of the 3 pre-arranged inspections the annual inspection of the yacht has a check list which currently runs to 164 items.

One area in which there is surprisingly very little regulation is the choice of headsail system for a cruising yacht. It is up to each RYA Cruising School to choose between a furling, luff groove or hank on headsail system. For my own single yacht sailing school I have attempted to combine all 3 systems with a 5 piece headsail wardrope (excluding the spinnaker).

In the previous article I examined the use of my No1 genoa and No.3 furling jib and concluded that the use of both furling and non furling headsails within a 5 day RYA Course has advantages for the novice and experienced sailor alike.

In this article I drag the remaining 3 headsails from their locker and examine their uses. These are not used during every RYA Course but are kept on board for specific purposes or for post yachtmaster training.


his has a sail area of about 120% compared to my No.1 non furling 150% genoa.

I use it to demonstrate the use of my twin groove Rotostay headsail foil as an alternative to the spinnaker for long downwind passages. My No.1 genoa is hoisted with the spinnaker halyard in the leeward groove of the foil and my No.2 genoa is hoisted with the genoa halyard on the windward groove while on the same tack. With a single sheet in each headsail the lazy sheet on the No2 genoa is led through the outboard end of the spinnaker pole which has been set to windward. The pole is braced in position with an after guy in addition to the usual uphaul and downhaul. A second sheet is bent on the No1 genoa and led through the outboard end of the main boom.

When the boat is turned downwind the end result is captured in the photo right.

No.4 HEADSAIL This is a dedicated storm jib which is part of the RYA/MCA regulations.

On Westbound Adventurer the storm jib can be set in the following ways:

  1. As a furling jib and reduced in size from the cockpit. (See photo 1 and ignore the tiny orange sail.)
  2. As an unstayed jib because of the wire luff aft of the bolt rope. (See photos 2 and 3.)
  3. Loosely attached around a headsail foil or furled genoa because of the dedicated eyelets in the luff.

There is a big difference however between having a storm jib with the capability of being set in 3 ways and having a crew capable of achieving it.

In an ideal world we see the storm clouds on the horizon or feel the rising strength of the following wind. We react to this in textbook fashion by handing the present headsail and set the storm jib before conditions on the foredeck make this impractical.

In the real world we get caught out and end up doing a dangerous dance on the foredeck.

The following tips might help make method 2 a little easier, or should I say a little less difficult!

  • Have your dedicated storm jib in a special purpose bag so that tack and head can be attached before removing the bag from the sail and have a dedicated pair of sheets bent on inside this bag. (See photo 4.)
  • Capture the sheets of the existing furled headsail on the foredeck below the furling drum. (See photo 5.)
  • Turn the boat downwind and attach the halyard to the head of the storm jib from as far aft on the foredeck as the bagged storm jib will allow.
  • A fast and well co-ordinated hoist is required as the bag is removed from the storm jib.
  • Tension the halyard and sheet in as the boat is brought back into the wind.

The third method of setting the storm jib has the luff attached to your damaged headsail foil or to your furled genoa via the dedicated eyelets in the luff. The question is what kind of attachment will be least likely to snag on a hoist or drop? Sail ties? Heavy duty cable ties? Rolling beads? I don’t have much faith in this method but if anyone has found an efficient solution please let me know!


This is by far the smallest outfit in my sailing school headsail wardrobe. It was actually designed as a riding sail and is used as such when at anchor in moderate to strong winds. It is a hank on sail which is attached to the backstay and its effectiveness as a riding sail is examined in the article, �Anchoring Extras�. If it is not used at anchor during an RYA Course I bring it out and hank it on to the baby stay to demonstrate the great advantage of this system which is ease of hoist and drop.

I have obtained small luff groove converters for this hank on sail so that it could be set on the luff groove of the headsail foil (see photo No.6) but I’m sure this will never be put into practice in anger as my storm jib can be reduced in size from the cockpit! I have considered setting it on the baby stay just aft of the clew of the storm jib purely to increase visibility as my present storm jib is white. If you are thinking of investing in a storm jib, my advice is specify storm orange!

This completes an examination of my Sailing School headsails but if you are thinking of disposing of an old headsail don’t bin it until you have read the next article!


Sailing Programme 2009

Clyde Based RYA Courses                    March – April 2009

The following 5 day RYA Courses begin and end at Clyde Marina, Ardrossan and run from Sunday evening until Friday mid afternoon unless otherwise specified.  The cost is fully inclusive of all food including 4 evening meals.  There is no extra charge for fuel, gas or berthing fees.

All courses are multi level with comp crew, day skipper, coastal skipper YM preparation & sea miles on the same week.

April 19 – 24
Course cancelled unless a group of 3 or more wish to make a late booking
Split over 2 weekends: Fri eve 24 April to Sun pm 26 April

& Fri eve 1 May to Mon pm 4 May

Fully booked

April 26 – May 1
4 places left
May 4 – 10
6 day RYA Course from Ardrossan to Barra restricted to 4 persons for extra comfort
Fully booked
Westbound Adventures 2009 Summer Courses from Barra

 Getting to Barra (pdf)

May 10 – 15
5 day RYA Course starting and finishing on Barra
now taking bookings
May 17 – 22
5 day RYA Course starting and finishing on Barra
now taking bookings
May 24 – 29
5 day RYA Course starting and finishing on Barra
4 places left
May 29 – June 5
7 day RYA Course starting and finishing on Barra with the possibility of a visit to St.Kilda and restricted to 4 persons for extra comfort
Fully booked
June 7 – 12
5 day RYA Course starting and finishing on Barra
4 places left
June 14 – 19
5 day RYA Course starting and finishing on Barra
now taking bookings
June 21 – 26
5 day RYA Course starting and finishing on Barra
3 places left
June 26 – July 3
7 day RYA Course starting and finishing on Barra with the possibility of a visit to St.Kilda and restricted to 4 persons for extra comfort
3 places left
July 5 – 10
5 day RYA Course starting and finishing on Barra
now taking bookings
July 12 – 17
5 day RYA Course starting and finishing on Barra
now taking bookings
July 19 – 24
5 day RYA Course starting and finishing on Barra
now taking bookings
July 26 – 31
5 day RYA Course starting and finishing on Barra
now taking bookings
August 2 – 7
5 day RYA Course starting and finishing on Barra
now taking bookings
August 9 – 14
5 day RYA Course starting and finishing on Barra
now taking bookings
August 16 – 21
5 day RYA Course starting and finishing on Barra
now taking bookings
August 23 – 28
5 day RYA Course starting and finishing on Barra
now taking bookings
August 28 – September 4
7 day RYA Course starting on Barra and finishing at Ballachulish (north of Oban) and restricted to 4 persons for extra comfort
now taking bookings
RYA Courses from Ballachulish      September & October 2009