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Reef navigation

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What is the issue?
Sailing in reef strewn waters is very dangerous. The only safe way to operate in tight reef waters is to use eyeball navigation. To do this you need to get at least six feet above deck level to view the patterns on the water.

Why address this?
The most beautiful sailing waters are often reef strewn so pleasure sailing will take a vessel to the reefs. If you are planning to go to waters where reefs are prevalent, setting in place a system to quickly and safely get aloft is critical to the safety of your vessel.

How to address this?
Rig up a set of ratlines upon the shrouds and a comfortable standing point with a clipping-on securing point see figure 1.

To achieve this we ran a set of ratlines up between an inner and cap shroud. We set in place a solid wooden lat at both top and bottom to act as spacers and to provide a solid platform to stand upon whilst resting against the port crossbeam up top – see figure 2.

You do not need to go to the crosstrees as rising about six feet above deck level should provide enough visibility to clearly pick out reefs. However having ratlines to the crosstrees was a major maintenance convenience as seen in figure 3 repairing sails whilst underway and it presented a spectacular operational view as presented in figure 4.

The ratlines were very simple to set in place. Four millimetre rot proof line was more than adequate with a pair of clove hitches on either end fastened onto the shrouds. The secret is to bind these in place with a little insulating tape then whip over the hitches. Although the whipping is a laborious art, once complete the ratlines’ grip were rock solid and there was not a millimetre of lateral sliding in three years of use. Nor did it do any damage to the shrouds in that time. Ratlines can be very convenient boarding and unboarding in harbours with high piers also.

Walking up light ratlines is however uncomfortable bare foot so you will need deck shoes. We found the extra windage to be negligible.

With thanks to:
Michael Harpur, Yacht Obsession.

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