Learn to Sail With Magic Shroud Telltales

If you are anything like me, you are always on the lookout for sailing tips that make sailing easier with less effort. When you first learn to sail, it can be tough to “see the wind”. You can feel the wind on your cheek or the back of your neck. But how can you see it? Check out these three simple, non-electronic type wind indicators that are available for sailors:

Types of Apparent Wind Indicators

Sail Luff Telltales

Your Genoa or mainsail may carry telltales–small strips of yarn or ribbon–attached the luff (in the case of a headsail) or the leech (on a mainsail). These telltales show the flow of apparent wind across the sail. But sail telltales can be tough to see. You have to bend down, crane your neck to see the luff of your Genoa. And when you sail short-handed or by yourself, that can be a lot of work. Plus the fact that luff telltales just show the apparent wind flow across one sail.

Masthead Fly

If you have a wind “fly” at the masthead, this miniature wind-vane shows how the wind flows across the boat. It’s just about the perfect apparent wind indicator because it’s not obstructed or blocked by another sail, mast, rigging, or blocked by land nearby. But masthead flys can be tough to see way up at the top of your mast.

Shroud Telltales

Shroud telltales are an easier alternative to the masthead fly and still give you a great picture of how the apparent wind flows across your boat. They’re easier to use than luff telltales for shorthanded sailors because you don’t need to bend down and strain to see the luff of your Genoa or headsail. Best of all, they are cheap, easy to make, and super simple to use. Follow these three easy steps to make and mount your shroud telltales in just a few minutes:

1. Find the Right Material for Shroud Telltales

Go down to your local fabric and sewing store. Find the aisle that sells yarn. Buy a roll of Angora wool yarn. Dark colors are good for daytime sailing, while brighter colors stand out better at night. Angora wool makes the best telltale because it’s light and shows direction even in those super light morning zephyrs.

2. Make and Attach Your Shroud Telltales

Cut off two 6″ to 9″ strips of wool. Attach the yarn to the upper shroud on each side, as high off the deck as possible. You want the yarn in clear air so that it’s not blocked by your cabin roof, Bimini top, or spray dodger.

3. Match Your Telltale to the Point of Sail

Use a “sail and study” method to learn to read the shroud telltale. Sail onto each point of sail, get the boat steady, and watch the telltale. Observe how it points. After a few times of doing this, you will be able to recognize just how the telltale should look when beating, reaching, or running.

How to Use Your Shroud Telltales

Concentrate on three specific points of sail: beating (close hauled), beam reaching, and running. On each point of sail, observe the angle that your shroud telltales make. This takes a bit of practice and patience.

For beating, find that “razor’s edge” between luffing and sailing. Glance at the windward side shroud telltale. Note how it makes a slight angle off the bow. Hold your course and concentrate on that angle. Fall off a bit and note how your windward shroud telltale changes its angle. Head up back to a beat (close hauled course). Again, note the shroud telltale angle. Repeat this several times until this shroud telltale angle becomes second nature to you.

Follow this same sequence with a beam reach and running course. As you can see, shroud telltales will force you to first find the point of sail and then assist you to hold that point of sail. This will make you less reliant on luff telltales and take less effort because they will always be visible while you steer from your tiller or wheel.

Use these three fast, easy steps on your journey to learn to sail better than ever before. You will increase your speed, power, and performance on any point of sail–wherever in the world you choose to sail!

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