Tips From The Teach

Elbert "Ash" Ashbaugh
Elbert “Ash” Ashbaugh
We all have questions and it seems like a boat is a perfect place to be perplexed by a lack of knowledge even if you are a salty veteran of the sea. Not to worry, our resident expert, Elbert “Ash” Ashbaugh, can help answer your questions and help you spend more time sailing and less time thinking about those pressing issues that are keeping you up at night.

Q: Hi Ash! Can you give me some quick advice on how to adjust jib fairleads?

Ash: Moving the fairlead forward has the effect of loosening the foot of the sail and giving the lower part of the sail more “draft” or curve. At the same time, it tightens the leech all the way to the top, which pulls it inboard. The net effect is a tall rounded airfoil that provides more power and efficiency in lighter air. Conversely, moving the fairlead aft tightens the foot of the sail and loosens the leech. This has the effect of flattening the sail while adding “twist” at the top. This flatter, twisted shape is most efficient for higher wind speed.

Q: I hear talk of “luff tension.” I just raise the main and forget about it. What am I missing?

Ash: The general rule is to set the luff tension so the sail luff is not too tight or too loose. That way the sail will adapt to the shape—its depth and draft position— designed into it by the sailmakers. When hoisting the sail, tension the halyard until a vertical wrinkle begins to form along the luff. Unless the wind is very light, especially sailing downwind, this crease will disappear once the sail is full and drawing.

Once you are sailing inspect the sail again and fine tune the luff tension. If the vertical crease you put in initially is still there, the halyard is too taut. To slacken it, put the halyard on a winch and ease it gently until the luff smooths out. If horizontal wrinkles appear between the luff slides, the halyard is not taut enough. To tighten it, put the halyard on a winch, ease the sheet until the sail luffs, then crank the halyard up a little.

Q: What advice would you give to sailors who are chartering for the first time?

Ash: There are lots of things to contemplate. The great thing about bareboat chartering is all of the destination choices, but when considering where to go, think about the degree of difficulty as it pertains to your skill set. Be realistic, especially if it’s your first charter. A new boat, unfamiliar cruising grounds, and foreign customs and language may be more variables than a new skipper should take on at one time. Another piece of advice would be to plan a cruising itinerary. You want to make the most of the experience so having a solid plan will make that happen. Some sailors journey to their destination and for others the journey is the destination – it’s a good idea to decide which is which before you step on board. Because chartering can sometimes be expensive, some sailors look to get a cheaper rate in the “off-season.” Should you opt for that option, research the reason why the rates are lower. Is it hurricane season? Is it cold and wet? Protect yourself with appropriate travel insurance and be sure to read the trip cancellation clause in the charter contract.

Have a question? Post it in the comments below and we’ll answer it!

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