Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Ask the Tillerman

It's been a few weeks now since the last post in our Ask the Tillerman series where the apocryphal Tillerman gives unhelpful advice to imaginary questions from fictional sailors. So here is your chance to ask that question about sailing that's been bugging you. Could be boat-handling, tactics, strategy, preparation, racing rules, anything ... Remember there's no such thing as a stupid question, only a stupid questioner. No, wait, that's not right. You know what I mean.

To recap the questions so far...

In early January, Tangled and Wet, a novice Laser sailor, wanted some advice on how not to get his mainsheet hooked around the transom every time he gybes. The Tillerman replied with an erudite but irrelevant lecture on the physics involved and a tip on how to screw up a gybe in an even more spectacular manner.

A couple of weeks later, in response to another post, Litoralis made the mistake of begging for another Ask the Tillerman post. Tillerman responded by publishing a long letter from a writer named Without a Clew asking for advice on whether a young man with many non-sailing commitments and various fitness issues should accept the offer of a free Laser and start racing it. I guess only a couple of readers knew that Without a Clew bore more than a passing resemblance to Litoralis himself. Litoralis secured his revenge for Tillerman's sarcasm by taking the Laser, restoring it, and then whupping Tillerman in a regatta last weekend.

At the end of January, Tillerman ventured into the field of sports medicine by dispensing a potentially dangerous prescription for Pained in Peoria who had a question on how to treat
chrondomalatia patella and spondylolisthesis. The legal disclaimer appended by Tillerman's lawyer was longer than the answer itself. Then in February Ask the Tillerman expanded its reach even further with an answer for Water Girlie on a fashion question. The man is a veritable polymath!

In March, Tillerman was explaining some of the bizarre reasons why Laser sailors own hiking benches. Then the sixth in this series in April returned to a more mainstream sailboat racing subject with some unconventional advice in an answer to a question from Hi Lilli Hi Lo on whether to go high or low on a reach.

So let your creative juices flow. What subject should Ask the Tillerman tackle next?

18 comments:

the seeker said...

Teflon being a Non-stick surface, why do they not coat the bottom of boats with it?

Fuff said...

They do. Sorry, not a question and certainly not my place to answer.

Adrift At Sea said...

Hey Tillerman, do you want some Advil for the sprain you're gonna get patting yourself on the back so hard. And why did you let your whippersnapper thrash you sailing???

Ward said...

Here's one I would sincerely like to have answered by anyone whose children are safely past adolescence: How many years' hiatus from sailing with his father does the average teenager require? For the first season ever, mine apparently just wants to play (1) World of Warcraft online and (2) his guitar in his free time. Is the lure of a crew of naked women my only current hope, or is this the part where I am supposed to lean back and not let on that I miss his company?

Charles N. Cox said...

Tillerman, after getting back from Swiftsure, I've got a million questions, but one really plagues me.

After a day of racking on those winches, the inside part of my elbow (you know, the part that bends in, not out) is throbbing. Aspirin helped a little. Am I a wuss, and just need to eat more spinach, or have I got tennis elbow? Nobody else complained, but I secretly suspect they were all too macho to say anything. This was nine guys on a boat, after all.

Litoralis said...

To answer the question from "the seeker": the boat that I used to wup Tillerman last weekend was coated with Teflon...but there is actually an ongoing debate on whether you want the water to bead up or "sheet" on the hull of the boat.
Maybe this IS a good "Ask the Tillerman" question! It could turn into another geekfest though since it has a lot to do with fluid dynamics and boundary layers...kinda like Tillerman's earlier "How Sails Work" posts.

Cardinal Martini said...

Here's my question: Tillerman, how does a sail work? (I've been told that it's like an airplane's wing; is this an uncontested and generally agreed upon fact?)

Tillerman said...

Geeze. What a bunch of comments. I already a post tomorrow answering seeker's question. Then fuff and litoralis beat me to it.

Dan - I think you need to read more carefully or perhaps I need to write more carefully. I thought this post was self-deprecating humor with a little gentle irony thrown in (polymath indeed!) rather than "patting myself on the back". Maybe it was too subtle - though accusing myself of sarcasm, irrelevance, and a dispenser of dangerous advice didn't seem exactly subtle to me. And the whippersnapper beat me because he's a better sailor than me on account of I bought him an Optimist when he was 7 and sent him to sailing lessons and he's been racing all kinds of boats for 21 years including 4 years of college sailing at that little tech college on the Charles River.

Ward raises a great subject - sailing for kids and interaction with parents. I heard a good story at sailing tonight on that theme and we can certainly hit the teenage years issue. Litoralis may chime in from the filial side of that equation.

Charles wants advice on winch elbow. Will have to think about that. Tillerwoman was the winch wench on a 12 meter once. Perhaps she can help me.

Litoralis wants a geek fest on fluid dynamics and Cardinal Martini wants one on how sails work. We started the latter a few months ago but it has been dormant for a while. Sounds like I need to to do one really nerdy post a week to keep these two happy.

Thanks for all the suggestions guys. Keep 'em coming.

Carol Anne said...

I'd second Ward's request for a discussion on dealing with teenage offspring as crew. I don't have the problem of mine losing interest in sailing (you don't need naked women; a Dutch track star in a bikini works wonders), but there are some, uh, interesting dynamics at work.

Zen said...

If nothing sticks to Teflon...
how does Teflon stick to anything?

Zen said...

or... the endless question.

which came first the chicken or the egg?

or...even better


the sailor or the boat.

Tim said...

Here is a question for you:
What is the best kind of wind direction indicator to fit to your boat? A standard burgee or one of the fancy pointy things?

Jonathan Fors said...

tim, I recommend you not to use a wind indicator, at least on the Laser. It is much better to learn to "read" the wind with your senses. Of course, on downwind tacks this is tricky, and you might need a wind indicator in strong winds, but it should always be learned first that learning to read te signs is the first step to become better.

Litoralis said...

Teflon is extremely slippery; this is because of a layer of negatively charged fluorine atoms on its exterior which try to repel materials that come in close contact. Therefore, it cannot be chemically bonded to anything. However, it can be physically bonded.

This is done by first sand-blasting and then blasting the rough surface with a powerful jet of Teflon powder. The polytetrafluoroethylene molecules get wedged in the pits of the roughened surface.

Obviously the Teflon polish I used on my Laser did not require sandblasting to apply. It is just a slowly dissolving coating that is applied just like any normal wax. If it didn't slowly come off the hull it would be illegal in the Laser class.

Adrift At Sea said...

Ahh... so the whippersnapper has better training... I guess that's partially your own fault for indulging him so much. :D

The Teflon coating probably didn't hurt him any either.

Litoralis said...

I certainly don't have better training than Tillerman...he has run two marathons in the last 2 years and sails way more than I do. I have an office job, a young daughter and not enough time for "training".

Anonymous said...

Question on the Rules: Port Starboard crossings Two boats coming towards the widward mark. S (Starboard) has overstood the mark and has his jib well against the lifelines heading on his proper course towards the mark. P (Port) is on a close hauled reach also heading towards the mark. P hits the two boat circle before S.
P crosses S with a half a boat lenght cushon. S makes the mark without evasive manuvers. Is there a foul? Please direct answers to thomas.raes@oracle.com

Cowcharge said...

My question: Two Sonars (23') on the same gybe, overlapped with spinnakers up. Leeward boat begins to head windward boat up into a huge (maybe half an acre) patch of drifting seaweed. The weed patch is definitely too thick, too long and too wide to sail through. Attempting it would require that the boat be towed out. Does that patch qualify as an obstruction, requiring leeward boat to give room to gybe? Big debate about this going on in our club... Some interpret an obstruction as having to pose a danger to the boat in order to qualify. My opinion is that any object that prevents free navigation is an obstruction. Mud flats pose no real danger to a boat, but qualify as an obstruction... What do you think?


There are Teflon bottom paints available too, VC is the only company I'm familiar with, but it workd great on my little powerboat. Expensive.

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