Shrimp Kabobs on Narragansett Bay

Captain Shel Miller


During the month of June I had the pleasure of doing private sailing instruction on Narragansett Bay (within sight of Newport, RI). ‘Here And Now’ is a Catalina 27 owned by Anton & Amy, we enjoyed 4 days of very good weather while completing the first 2 (101 & 103) ASA courses we offer.

We anchored or picked up a mooring at a different spot each night, did docking practice at the public dock in Dutch Harbor, and ate like kings and queens.

Shrimp kabobs on the bay:
Learning how to sail down wind:
Anton & Amy:

Off to Bimini (part II)

Captain Shel Miller

Four sailing students and I departed our dock in Ft. Lauderdale on March 31st, 2013 aboard the 51′ sailing vessel Gitana and headed south to Fisher Island in Miami. This would be the start of two advanced ASA sailing courses offered at Blue Water Sailing School. After successfully anchoring, we had a dinner of grilled salmon, rice, and broccoli.

3 sailing students and myself:


We tried to get some sleep early because we wanted to depart at 11 pm for Bimini. Two reasons: It’s about a 12 hour sail and we wanted to arrive in good light and, negotiating an unknown harbor at night is one of the requirements for the ASA Advanced Coastal Cruising Class.

After spending about 12 hours in lumpy seas, on April 1st, 2013 we arrived at the docks in Bimini, Bahamas. Bimini lies some 50 nautical miles to the east of Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Below is a photo of the Bimini Blue Water Resort and our sailboat docked. We stayed here for the night and left the next day:




Arriving in Bimini we needed to clear Customs and Immigration. The Immigration building is shown below:



Once cleared into the country we were free to wander around the pretty little town of Bimini (sometimes called Alice Town). Here are some photos of what we found:


BiminiWalkway BiminiBeach


Sunrise the next day from our boat at the dock:



Late morning the next day we departed and left for some of the islands further south.



Leaving the channel with students Chuck at the helm and Bob overseeing the operations:



After spending 3 days in the Bahamas we made our return voyage to Ft. Lauderdale. With favorable wind and current the trip back was only 7 hours. All four of my students did an excellent job and easily passed their exams.

Best Sailing,
Captain Shel

Off to Bimini (Part 1)

Crossing the Gulf Stream to Paradise

Captain Shel Miller

Let’s have some fun and cross over to Bimini from Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Ernest Hemingway wrote about the Bimini chain of islands, in The Bahamas, in his ‘Islands in the Stream’. There was even a small museum dedicated to him, his work, and his fishing in the heart of Bimini at the Compleat Angler until it burned down a few years ago. ‘Compleat’ is the British spelling for the American ‘Complete’; The Bahamas were a possession of the U.K. until gaining their independence in 1973.

Come along and we can celebrate our arrival at the ‘End of the World’ bar also known as the ‘Sand Bar’. ‘Sand Bar’ because the floor is literally sand. Hey, it’s easy to keep clean. See below for a view from the back deck:


Or, we might relax on the beach below just a few footsteps from where we’ll dock our boat:


In both of the above photos no attempt was made to enhance the color, this is actually what the waters of The Bahamas look like.

Planning our course:

Because the Gulf Stream flows north at up to 3.5 knots in places we’ll have to take that into account as we cross it from west to east. The course we’ll actually steer will be pointing further south to compensate for the current. Check out the large area chart below (not to be used for navigation!):


Bimini is about 50 nautical miles in a straight line from Ft. Lauderdale so if our boat speed is 6-8 knots that will take a few hours. We want to arrive in good daylight, one strategy might be to leave during the late evening hours so we arrive around mid-day with good light. There are only a few aids to navigation to help us find our way, to a large extent it will be our eyes that guide us, that’s why we want to arrive during the daytime. Use the following quick guide for navigating in these waters; green water is good and deep enough, white means shallow, and if it’s brown go around as it may be rocks or coral.

For a much more thorough and detailed approach to figuring out the correct course to steer see: Currents.

In part II we’ll talk about various anchorages, fishing, and underwater attractions in the Bimini area. We’ll also discover what customs and immigration has in store for us.

Best Sailing,
Captain Shel

What’s the difference; Rope, Line, or Sheets?

Know what to call that thingy over there.

Captain Shel Miller

Sailing terms can be confusing or, so my students tell me. Why not just call it rope and be done with it? Well, because we can convey greater meaning if we use unique terms. Line is the general term for rope that is on a boat and there can be several different named lines because they perform different functions. For instance, when we attach a line to the mainsail (usually at the end of the boom) we now call it the main sheet. Sheet is a term we use to name a line that is attached to a sail and used to control its angle relative to the wind or boat.


If we attach the line to an anchor or the anchor chain then that line becomes a part of the anchor rode. Attach a line to a dinghy so we can tow it and that line is now termed a painter. One very common use for line on boats is for dock lines. These are usually made up of 3 strand nylon because it is very stretchy and easily absorbs shock. This is the type of line in the above photo.

There are a few instances of rope on boats. To strengthen the very leading edge of a sail we use a bolt rope. And, hanging from the clapper of our ship’s bell is the bell rope.

For more definitions of sailing terms check out the Glossary.

Best Sailing,
Captain Shel

High Tide? Low Tide? All you need is a watch and the full moon.

Know the approximate time of high tide without tables.

Captain Shel Miller

Admittedly, where I do most of my sailing you can almost get by without knowing where the tide is at any given time. In southeast Florida the tidal range (difference between high and low tide) is about 24-30”. However, if I’m exploring some skinny (shallow) water area here or anywhere else I definitely want to do so at or around low tide.  That way, if I do run into a sand bar or mud bottom I can throw out an anchor and wait for the tide to come back in to raise the boat off the bottom.

In the Boston area, or other parts of coastal New England the tidal range can easily be as much or more than 12′. That’s a lot of variation between high and low tide which also means some strong tidal currents running between the times of high and low tide, a lot of water coming and going. You certainly want to know where the tide is and whether it’s ebbing or flooding at any given time.

A few ways to know when high tide will occur and whether the tidal current is ebbing or flooding:

  • Standard tide tables you might pick up at your local marina, marine store, or from a local marine publication. These are usually free of charge.
  • Online sources for tide tables including NOAA.
  • Up to date edition of a local cruising guide.
  • An app for your smartphone.
  • Calling a local marina on your cell phone or VHF radio.

If all else fails below is a handy technique I’ve used for years on the east coast of the US where there are  2 high tides and 2 low tides daily.

High tide occurs at about the same time on the full and new moon each month. Knowing that the moon rises approximately 45 minutes later each day we can easily add or subtract that to find the time of high or low tide for any given day. Granted we need to know what day the full moon falls on but this should be pretty easy information to get, or just look up into the sky at night.

Here’s an example: Time of high tide in Ft. Lauderdale, FL on the full moon is within about 30 minutes of 8 am and 8 pm every month during daylight savings (7 am and 7 pm for standard time). So, if today is 4 days after the full moon then high tide will occur at approximately 4 days x 45 minutes/day = 180 minutes or 3 hours later which would be 8 (time of high tide on the full moon) plus 3 hours later gives us 11 am and 11 pm for approximate time of high tide.

You will need to look at some tide tables to determine when the time of high tide is on the full moon for your area. Also, the only area where I have used this technique is the east coast of the US. Your area may differ. But once you know when high tide is on the day of the full moon you’ll be able to depend on this being the case no matter what month it is, just remember to adjust for daylight or standard time and you’re good to go.

Best Sailing,
Captain Shel


Anchor Light vs. Masthead Light


Captain Shel Miller

Masthead light can be a confusing term.

Let’s look up anchor and masthead lights in the Glossary:

  • Anchor light. A white light that shines so it is visible from all around the vessel required when anchored or moored between sunset and sunrise. The best place for this light is usually at the top of the highest mast; as in: Once successfully anchored we turn on the anchor light.
  • Masthead light or steaming light. A white light shinning forward through an arcof 225° indicating a vessel is under mechanical propulsion. The light is located about 2/3 of the way up the mast on a sailboat; as in: Turn on the masthead light (steaming light) when under power at night.

The masthead light may be located at the top of a short mast on a powerboat but is usually located about 2/3 of the way up the forward mast on a sailboat. The official Navigation Rules refer to this light as the masthead light which must be turned on at night when a vessel is using its engine. When a sailboat has its sails up but also uses the engine she is referred to as a power vessel and must use her masthead light (steaming light) at night. See below:



The anchor light is just that; a light, visible from all around, that is turned on at night whenever at anchor or tied up to a mooring. Boats at dock do not need this light. See below:


For much more about Navigation lights click here.

Best Sailing,
Captain Shel

Anchor Successfully For a Good Night’s Sleep (part 2)

Captain Shel Miller

Secrets of anchoring:

In part 1 (previous post) we talked about the basics of anchoring, in part 2 we’ll discover some unique solutions to situations you may encounter. Any words you are not familiar with will be found in the Glossary.

  • If you own your boat make sure your anchor is up to the task, best to use an anchor of the size recommended or even larger. And, while you’re at it, make sure to have all chain anchor rode if possible. Not only does this increase the holding power of the anchor but makes retrieving it a simple task with an electric windlass.
  • Also, there are several new anchors on the market that set and hold better than previous models. Take a look at the Ultra, Spade, Kobra, Sarca Excel, and Manson Supreme.
  • If you are on a charter, or otherwise confined to the anchor on the boat, then look for an anchorage with plenty of swing room available and use lots of scope (10 to 1, or more) . This is my own technique of choice. Anchor scope is free as long as you have plenty of rode available; when in doubt, let it out.
  • You can always use two anchors, instead of just one, in any of several different arrangements none of which are particularly easy to use and have other drawbacks: If your anchor rode is part line you will run the risk of wrapping it around the prop when you place or retrieve the second anchor. Also, the anchor rodes, whether part or all chain, may very well get tangled together when they are both off the bow, which is prone to happen when the wind goes light and the boat drifts around.
  • A technique that I’ve used quite successfully is to find a sand bar or upslope on which to anchor, this has the same effect as using more scope. This is best used when the wind will remain from a given general direction. Using this technique you probably won’t need the 10 to 1 scope in the illustration below:


  • It can be handy to know when your boat is dragging anchor. Before going below for the night look around to see if you can set up an anchor range (a couple of lights, not other boats, that more or less line up) then you can check this any time during the night to see if you have moved. Also, I have found that if a boat is successfully anchored there will most always be some amount of back and forth movement or, sailing at anchor when the wind is blowing. If you notice that your boat is holding at a given angle to the wind, for more than several seconds, check to see if you are dragging. One sure-fire way to tell if your boat is dragging anchor is to place your hand on the rode (chain or line) and feel for any telltale vibration.

Hopefully, this gives you more tools in your bag helping you to anchor successfully for a good night’s sleep. For more in depth info check out Anchoring and follow the various links.

Best Sailing,
Captain Shel Miller


Anchor Successfully For a Good Night’s Sleep (part 1)

Captain Shel Miller

Secrets of Anchoring (part 1):

Like most things in life the more you do something the better you get at it, this is also called skill. Words don’t teach, only real life experience teaches. But, I will offer some words here to hopefully give you some clues and insights around the subject of anchoring and how this can be accomplished easily and successfully.

Here are four requirements for an anchorage:

  • Shelter from wind and waves (weather).
  • Good holding ground.
  • Enough room to swing around the anchor.
  • Sufficient depth of water.

You will often times run into the term ‘scope’ when anchoring. From the Glossary here is the definition: The ratio of anchor rode paid out to the depth of the water plus the height of the deck above water; as in: Many recommend a scope of 7:1 for secure overnight anchoring.


If you do not understand any of the terms here please refer to the Glossary, or look here:

Also consider that anchoring may not always be the best choice: If you are in an area of coral bottom and there are mooring buoys provided; going with the mooring, even though it costs a few dollars, is an excellent choice as it provides great security for you and your boat, and will not damage the bottom.

Parts of a typical mooring assembly:




And, when you do get anchored or moored successfully turn on the anchor light, you know, that white light at the top of the mast visible from all-around (not to be confused with the masthead (steaming) light.

Much more can be found here or by clicking ‘Anchoring’ in the top menu. In Part 2 we’ll discuss more tips and techniques.

Best Sailing,
Captain Shel

Starting Over

Starting the blog over again after a complete failure when the hosting server was changed… Oh well. Should be back to blogging by the beginning of February. Thanks for your patience! Let me know any ideas you have by contacting me by clicking Contact Us above or:

Captain Shel