GLORIOUS sport is yachting! It is, however, a pastime of recent introduction; many of those who are not considered old remember when its nucleus was no more than occasional "sailboats," owned by private parties, or let for excursions; now, from the mosquito fleet of some sheltered bay to the five-hundred-ton steam yacht, able to circumnavigate the globe, the shores of both sides of the Atlantic swarm with craft of every size and description, manned and managed by volunteer sailors.
The earth's surface is, to the extent of two-thirds, covered with water, and there has always been a proportion of the human race living upon the ocean. Yachting is, therefore, a perfectly natural development; and its possibilities are, in the future, greater rather than less. This being the case, just as the boy who enters a store looks at the European buyer, the head salesman, or the manager of some department, as the holders of po-sitio n s to which he may aspire, so from his cat-boat along shore he may see the seagoing yacht, under steam or sail, taking her departure for the broad ocean, and form for himself the resolution that by the time he can hope to have such a one, he will know all that is essential to her proper management.
Off for a Cruise.
The Concord philosopher, Emerson, tells us to fit ourselves for any position, and God will send the opportunity; ignorance is no disgrace, but it is a shame to be willing to remain ignorant; so the young man who owns a twenty-foot boat may master, and even practise, principles which will make him a better yachtsman, and, if he persevere, a thorough sailor.
Take first the mariner's compass, for it is the most essential of any of his belongings; we can cross the ocean without a chart, but not without a compass.
"When ministers try poor sailors to teach, Compass, no chart, is the figure of speech."
Off Sandy Hook.
I was once on a yacht in Salem Harbor; the skipper was a man of experience; it had been foggy, then had cleared a trifle, with a light breeze; and as night was coming on, all sail was made for home - hat is, according to the bearings relied on by the skipper. I was not just satisfied, and took the liberty, although only a guest, to ask him if he had a compass.
"Oh, yes!" he said; "there's a box-compass down in my bunk."
I hastened below, and on my return startled him with the information that he was then steering due east. The schooner was put about at once.
Now, the nautical custom is, in fair weather or foul, along shore or on the deep sea, to never lose sight of the lubber's-point of your compass; the proper place for a steering-compass is just forward of the wheel or tiller; if your yacht is roomy aft, a metallic binnacle can be fixed at the right spot; but if you have only a cat-boat, a neat box holding a small compass can be secured to the slide over the companion way, or entrance to the cuddy; thus, when you are sailing, you will naturally keep your eye on the fine black mark in line with the keel, and not fail to know the course you are steering. The mariner's compass has the needle fixed to the back of the card, so that this latter moves on its centre; the compass in use by engineers and surveyors has a fixed card, over which the needle rotates.
Then, as the Government examiners in Great Britain say, "You must be well up on the compass." "Oh! but I could always box the compass," interrupts one of my readers. To begin at one point, and name them all until you reach the same again, is pretty practice for the memory, and that is about all. You should know your compass just as you know your watch; the face of the latter is divided into hours, minutes, and often seconds; that of the former, besides the points, into degrees, minutes, and seconds. Of late, it is customary to use the latter, rather than the points, so that a vessel's course might be given as N. 45° E., instead of N. E., the one term being equal to the other. Space does not permit further illustration; but for a few cents a compass card, marked for both degrees and points, may be bought, and a little study will enable you to master this, the very a b c of nautical knowledge.
By the compass and chart, the distance of your yacht from any vessel, or any point of land, may be found; this may seem paradoxical, yet it is so simple that it can be explained in a few words. Suppose that Nahant, east point, bears due west, and at the same moment the south point of Marble-head is seen bearing due north; now, is it not perfectly clear that if you rule a line on the chart, running in the directions given from each of these points of land, at the very spot where those two lines cross, your yacht must be lying? Or again, suppose you are running past Boston Light, visible twenty miles, bound for the north shore of the bay, how far are you from it? The first bearing of it you have is W. N. W., and you rule a line from the Light running indefinitely from that direction out to sea; in about an hour it has changed its bearing, as you have sailed north, say five miles, so that it now bears W. S. W.; rule another line to correspond; now go to the edge of the chart, and extend your dividers five miles, and move each arm of the instruments along the two lines you have ruled; there will be but one place where the distance between the two ruled lines is equal to just five miles; at its northern limit is the spot where your yacht is; at its southern is the place where she was when you took the bearing.
The Winner of the Race.
The compass-card has no needle affixed to its under side, but it is useful to you in this way: run a stout thread through the centre, and put a knot in one end, letting the other remain to a length of about fifteen inches; now, when you wish to know in what direction any place is from another, go to the chart, put the card plumb with the chart's projection; that is, let the north point on the card be at the exact north, etc., and keeping it thus, by moving either the east and west points on a parallel of latitude, or the north and south points on a meridian of longitude, when the string runs in a straight line between the two places, on the margin of the compass-card is the true course.
When sailing your boat as close to the wind as she will lie, if the sea is rough, look over the stern and you will notice that the wake, instead of being right aft, is to windward; slanting, as a landsman would say. This means that she is making leeway, or that the wind is pressing her away from the course to which her head points, so that although the bow is headed in a certain direction, the whole body of the boat is sagging off to leeward; if you glance at the compass as you look at the wake, you will obtain the amount of this deflection from your steered course, and allow it always away from the wind.
Every ambitious yachtsman should begin at once to learn both seamanship and navigation; there are excellent manuals, in both branches, to be bought at the nautical bookstores. It is better to know too much than too little of your craft; you thus avoid the error of the novice in the use of the compass, who nailed it down at the course he was told to make, simply saying it was the only way - "the thing bobbed round so." You are also spared the danger which attended the amateur master of a new steam yacht, which was found by the inspectors with the safety-valve strapped down; the excuse offered was. that "the hole made such a noise you couldn't talk."
Even in the management of boats, there is much to be learned. Never keep the sheet of a small boat fast when sailing on a wind, if your craft is small; always have a hand stationed at the cleat to which it is belayed, providing your boat is too large to allow you to hold a single turn with your hand. This is the very first principle of sailing a yacht with safety. For, if the breeze freshens, or a squall strikes you, and you slack the sheet of a fore-andaft sail, it becomes no more than an immense flag, blowing loosely to leeward; your boat cannot capsize, and the sail can be thus lowered or managed. Directions for fair-weather sailing are perhaps superfluous; but suppose you are caught at quite a distance from land in bad weather; then you may have an opportunity to show your seamanship, for seamen are made only by rough weather and the perils of their calling. Naturally, as a yachtsman, you would run for a harbor, and would choose such a one as would make of the gale a fair wind. But, at a time like this, accidents are likely to befall you; you may lose a rudder; you may be in a "single-sticker," and your only mast may be carried away, or the seas that follow may threaten to swamp you. Now, what can you do? The first and best thing in such cases - hat is, a rule which will apply to most of them - s to bring your boat's bow, instead of the stern, to the wind; for by its sharpness she will ride far easier, or divide the combers with less danger to herself. If she is still manageable by the helm, this should be at once done; if not, a small piece of canvas, even an open umbrella, well aft, where some boats carry a little sail called a jigger, will swing her head to the sea. To keep her there, bend a bucket or tin pail, or more than one of these common utensils, to a line, and throw it over at the bow; the more line you can pay out, the better your sea-anchor will hold, and the resistance of this drag to the water will enable you to ride the seas with perfect ease, all the time drifting, instead of running, toward the haven you have chosen. If the mast - sail and rigging attached - goes by the board, - that is, breaks off and hangs over the side, - cut it loose from your boat, but do not let it go adrift; make one end of a line fast as near the centre of gravity of the wreckage as you can reach, pay out on the line all you can, and make the other end fast at the bow of the boat; now, as you drift, the surface-drag, being to windward of your boat, will meet each sea before it approaches you, and thus you will ride safely in smooth water until you gain a place of refuge, or receive the aid of some of your companions.
An open umbrella will swing her head to the sea.
By the hints here given, I desire to inspire yachtsmen with ambition for their higher duties. By constantly learning something of one's vocation, its pleasure is enhanced and its utility increased.