Get Currents In Your Inbox!

The Official Magazine of the Bluewater Cruising Association

Handy Hints

Ken Buckley

November 18th, 2023

I thought I’d share some of the little things we’ve set up on the boat, just before we left, or over the last couple of years.

Above Deck

Naida came with a chain gripper plate: a U-shaped plate with a slot for the chain, and two holes for connecting snubber lines. We used this for several years, while pondering what we really wanted for the snubber attachment. Our concern with the gripper plate was, would it come loose if the boat was heaving? Following Sailing Totem’s lead, we now simply use a long length (~12m) of 3/4″ three-strand nylon that we tie to the chain with a rolling hitch, and then a second rolling hitch for backup. This has worked very well for us, in the conditions we’ve experienced so far. Once or twice when pulling anchor, we’ve found the backup rolling hitch has come undone, likely because it is not under load. This makes us wonder how useful the backup is. We’ve yet to put out the full-length snubber, typically we have about half out. We bring the single line over the bow roller with the anchor chain and put it through a 1m length of oversize hose for chafe protection. We’ve been in the La Cruz anchorage, where it often blows 25 knots during the afternoon thermal, with wind waves in the order of a 1/2 to 1m, causing the boat to bounce quite a bit. We have found similar conditions in Taiohae Bay on Nuku Hiva, where the trades blow consistently 20 knots and bring the swell into the bay. So far we are quite happy with this arrangement.

We do not have a chain brake on Naida, nor a convenient location to put one, as the windlass was installed too far forward. Our solution is to use a Dyneema pendant on one of the bow cleats and loop the pendant through the chain. We use this first, to set the anchor so the load is not on the windlass, then again later after the snubber is in place. We leave the gypsy unlocked, so if the snubber comes loose the load will be taken by the Dyneema pendant. An improvement to this would be to add a rubber snubber to one leg of the pendant to help absorb what would be an enormous shock load if the chain snubber failed in a storm.

Left: Snubber line coming over bow roller and secured on deck. Right: Dyneema pendant used as an alternate to a chain brake.

Our preventer on the boom again follows Sailing Totem’s approach. We have a Dyneema pendant secured at the end of the boom and led forward on the boom where it is readily accessible on the cabin top. Port and starboard preventers of 1/2″ double braid (stretchy) are kept at the ready on the lifelines, led forward to turning blocks at the bow, back through low friction rings mid-ship, and finally through turning blocks at the cockpit. Since we only have the Genoa winch on the cockpit coaming, we get creative with how we secure the preventer, depending on the sail plan. It is either on the Genoa winch if available, or the cabin top winch (not ideal) or simply on the aft cleat. If using the aft cleat, we let the boom out farther, secure the preventer, then bring in the boom to tension the preventer.

Boom pendant stored on side of boom with short bungee cord. Note: that it comes well forward to allow access on deck even when the boom is out.

Boom pendant tied to preventer line; when underway I can sit securely on the cabin top to tie the preventer on.

In anticipation of hot and rainy weather in French Polynesia, we purchased and installed PortVisors from Seaworthy Goods. The cabin top sides on Naida are sloped and the ports angled such that rain water collects on the lower ledge and spills inside the boat; hence, the ports needed to be closed during any rain. We worried the PortVisors would limit airflow and be ankle biters, but neither is an issue. The sloped cabin top means the visors do not encroach on the walking space of the side decks. The visors have been wonderful. The ports still need to be closed if the rain is very heavy (as the drops bouncing on the deck still come in), or if it is very windy, but mostly the ports can stay open and provide ventilation.

One of the eight PortVisors that allow ventilation even when it is raining.

We replaced the mainsheet fiddle block on the traveler after our first season in Mexico, because the old fiddle block swivel pin failed one day when we were setting out on a day sail. Fortunately it was a non-event but losing control of the boom can result in losing the rig as Niniwahuni experienced this past spring when they attempted to cross from Mexico to French Polynesia. On inspection we discovered that the swivel pin in our old fiddle block had cracked some time ago and corroded. Since this sort of damage is not detectable I’d recommend replacing older critical blocks.

Technological Hints

In our Fleet weather group, we got discussing logging barometers. Sarah Hannah, Mandoyn, showed a logging barometer she made with a pressure sensor, a Teensy 4.0 microprocessor, and e-paper display. The barometer records once a second, averages the data, and updates the display every 20 minutes. Data is shown for the last 48 hours, and the scale covers a range I never want to see, 950 to 1050 mb. She made the design and code available and I made one for Naida. One downside to the Teensy 4.0 processor is that there is not a library available to implement the power saving features of the processor, so it needs to be plugged into a USB port nearly continuously. Sarah added code that saves data to allow the unit to resume at the appropriate point in time after a power interruption. I added a small battery pack that will keep it running for about 20 hours if it is unplugged. On passage, we regularly record the barometer but not at anchor, so we can lose track of the trend. I modified the code to report the trend over the last three hours. Radio nets such as the Pacific Seafarers Net like having the barometric trend reported, so this makes it easy to read off the display when participating in the net. (Sadly my ICOM M802 stopped transmitting, so anyone looking to unload one let me know.)

Logging barometer. Forty-eight hours of pressure readings at a glance; last three hour trend in text on top.

Our Fleet group also spawned a sub-group looking at the Raspberry Pi (RPi) single board computer. This is an inexpensive, compact, and low power computer that can run OpenCPN and other freely available programs (e.g. OpenPlotter. I’ve mounted the RPi in the electrical switch panel at our nav table and installed a large monitor on a swing arm. We have OpenCPN and a KIP dashboard (SignalK Instrument Package) running 24/7. We use the anchor alarm feature in OpenCPN, and the graphing of the KIP dashboard to monitor the state of the weather. CM93 charts [Ed. Note: CM93 is a set of outdated unofficial global vector charts] are quite accurate in French Polynesia and we love Bruce Balan’s satellite charts. The large monitor swings out so it can be viewed from the cockpit, but more importantly it can be positioned for viewing in the salon for movie night.

Raspberry Pi computer monitor at the nav table showing OpenCPN on the left and a KIP dashboard on the right.

The last item I want to mention is simple but very useful. With a couple of oversize clothespins and a dish towel, Anne has fashioned a pocket on the galley counter to hold water bottles or other items. The pocket is readily adjustable and surprisingly stable. It’s great to be able to tuck an open bottle in momentarily, without worry of it tipping over on an expected lurch or roll of the boat. We were close to screwing some saddles onto the counter backsplash and using some bungee cord for this task when Anne had a light-bulb moment and remembered the giant clothespins that had been a boat warming gift when we purchased Naida.

Simple and handy pocket for securing items around the galley.


  1. Rob on Avant says:

    Sweet upgrades, all well done!

  2. anne woodson says:

    Excellent suggestions and helpful tips for anyone heading offshore or coastal sailing

  3. Michael Delage - Innisfree says:

    On the snubber, we started with a similar setup, but have changed to 8 braid nylon instead of the 3 strand. Under tension , the 3 strand tends to want to untwist (even when hard set), which twists up the anchor chain, even if you have a swivel at the anchor. 8 braid avoids this. Another option I’ve heard recommended is dynamic climbing rope. Find a climbing friend whose rope is no longer good for climbing use… Still makes a great strong, abrasion proof and stretchy snubber.

    Lastly, instead of the rolling hitch, which can slip if not snug or work itself loose if you’re bouncing in swell but not much wind (where tension is coming on/off), we put an eye in the nylon snubber and now use a soft shackle to attach it to the chain. A nice large loop in the shackle, a size that fits easily through a link. Much faster on and off when anchoring and won’t ever slip or shake loose. And even after a few years of full time living at anchor, the shackle isn’t showing any problems from chafe.

    1. Ken says:

      Great suggestions. Thanks.

  4. Shawn Wright, SV Halcyon Passage says:

    Great upgrades, thanks for sharing. Interested in learning more about the logging barometer; do you have any links?

    1. Ken Buckley says:

      This is a link to the document that Sarah (SV Mandolyn) provided.!AvY4qpQnQ3WW2kY2NvYd84TR1Y_f
      It has a list of parts she used and a link to her code.

      The link below is to my code to display the three hour trend.!AvY4qpQnQ3WWhfhjO-4dCKs8joWRDA

      Have fun,

      1. Shawn Wright, SV Halcyon Passage says:

        Great, thanks!

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *