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Single handed sailing

Posted: Wed May 16, 2018 8:06 am
by Hardover
How many people actually prefer to sail on their own? For me it's what sailing is all about. Everything set up as it should, everything carefully thought over and ready in place. Just you, the yacht and the elements. I find the experience simply incredible. It can provide a deep understanding of the capabilities of both the yacht and yourself. So much more relaxing than sailing in company and so much more rewarding.

Re: Single handed sailing

Posted: Wed May 16, 2018 9:29 am
by Jolly Roger
Sailing single handed is certainly very satisfying. You have to be aware of everything going on around you all the time. Short tacking within a fleet of racing keel boats is not to be recommended!

Whilst sailing I aim to perform to 90% or more of the potential racing boat speed. So I am constantly checking the set of the sails, the course being steered and thinking what else can I do to get to my destination quicker. Even setting the spinnaker is within my normal sail plan, but only in open waters. All of this takes practice and forethought to be able to be ready for any potential problem.

To drop the spinnaker takes about 2 minutes from start to finish, with true wind speed up to 18 knots. The biggest thing to do is fit a snatch block to the sheet at the forward end of the cockpit. This holds the leech fairly tight behind the mainsail and stops it flying out. One turn of the halyard around the winch is sufficient friction to stop it dropping in the water, to date I have never got the spinnaker wet yet.

The other area that other sailers notice is handling under power. Going into a marina berth and tying up without using reverse gear is what I try and do. Not always possible, but is very well noted by others. Many less experienced sailers ask how I do it. Keep it slow and position the boat so it goes exactly where you want it. Oil tankers or container ships are never berthed at speed, it is done gently. My strategy for warps in a normal marina berth is one continuous line, approximately 3 times the length of the boat. The middle is marked with a black marker. Both ends are at the bow and stern respectively, the black marker is then just forward of the mid ship cleat. This means you have two large loops, this then provides the breast and spring to go to a single cleat near the bow and stern. The long loops are always hung over the lifelines to keep them clear of snagging anything on deck. You usually only need to fix the aft line as this stops the boat running forward and keeps the stern under control. You can then pick up the forward line and secure the boat. Forgot to mention lots of fenders also helps, I use 9. 7 cylindrical, split 4 to the berth side and 3 to the opposite side, the 2 ball fenders at each end of the fenders on the berth side. Never had a problem if the wind catches the bow before fully tied up. In a strange marina on a windy day I usually request assistance from the marina staff, also useful to identify which berth you are supposed to go into.

The final factor for successful singlehanded sailing is boat preparation. I have upgraded my winches from original. The Antal 40 self tailing genoa winches have now become the halyard winches, replacing Lewmar 16's. The genoa winches are now Lewmar 43 self tailing that have been moved from the end of the coachroof to the cockpit coaming, within easy reach of the helm. A 6 part mainsheet makes control very simple as it a double cleat, meaning I can sheet in on 3:1 and fine tune with 6:1 purchase. A good auto pilot is another essential that should be over sized.

As mentioned before, sailing singlehanded is all about preparation. In most journeys, the most dangerous times are the first and last few hundred meters.

Re: Single handed sailing

Posted: Thu May 17, 2018 2:56 pm
by TyroSailor
I've been sailing my Centaur (a fair bit smaller than Roger's Fulmar) mostly singlehanded too. I entirely agree about the first and last hundred metres or so being the most difficult - in fact the last half a metre is when you're liable to do the most damage! And I don't possess a spinnaker or - yet - the expertise to use one.

My technique for coming alongside is different from Roger's but also effective. A reliable autopilot helps of course.

Re: Single handed sailing

Posted: Thu May 17, 2018 11:12 pm
by Hillary
Steve has witnessed my docking style. It works for both crewed and single handed sailing. I spend the last few hundred meters searching lockers and cupboards, nooks and crannies for every fender i posses and arrange them at 6 inch intervals all around the boat. I then aim the boat at the largest vacant pontoon space I can find and then go below to make a cup of tea and wait for the inevitable collision.
One last point...please don't tell my insurers.

Re: Single handed sailing

Posted: Fri May 18, 2018 8:12 am
by Hardover
I've yet to use the spinnaker and/or cruising chute but intend to do so this weekend. I normally sail with my partner and that's usually where the problems start. I've lost track of the number of times everything is set up sweetly and I've gone below only to race up minutes later to discover complete and utter chaos!
As well as a tiller pilot I've fitted a Davis tiller tamer which allows me to hold the tiller in position and go forward and do what needs doing. It's brilliant for picking up a mooring. I've just about perfected single handed docking (famous last words) and as other have said its all about speed or lack of it. I usually coast up to the dock with the engine in neutral and just about making way, throw the rear mooring rope over, step off, secure the line then step aboard and move the tiller so the bow comes into the dock and repeat the procedure. If conditions are not perfect I ask for assistance.

Re: Single handed sailing

Posted: Fri May 18, 2018 1:01 pm
by Hillary
Actually apart from the method above which I would not advise, I have tried docking with a method that seems to work really well. I found it on u-Tube. You find the right balance point on the boat which is usually about a third of the way from the stern. On my centaur its just forward of where the winch is on the cockpit combing. So I have a large loop of mooring line which I can drop over a cleat on the pontoon and then around my centre cleat and I can use the winch to tighten it. I have this loop set up as I approach. Coast in engine in neutral, throw the loop over the dock cleat. Then put the boat into slow forward gear. The boat will be pulled into the dockside and just stay there. Now with the engine still in slow forward gear the boat will hold position as long as you need. So now you can secure the fore and aft lines and springers without worry. It works if there is a bit of a wind as the engine working with the mooring loop will keep you in place even if a wind is trying to push you off the dock.

Re: Single handed sailing

Posted: Fri May 18, 2018 7:25 pm
by Fulmar433
On the rare occasions I visit a marina I rig a line through the centre cleat on my Fulmar. I bring the line back to the cockpit via the spinnaker blocks and on to the coach roof sheet winches. The out board end of the line has a large snap shackle that clips to my boat hook. I come in very slowly in neutral as already suggested, reach out with the boat hook and clip on to the pontoon end cleat and adjust the line to hold the boat short of hitting the end. I then leave the boat ticking over in gear and adjust the tiller to hold the boat against the pontoon. I can then leisurely step ashore with the lines and secure the boat.

Coming away I set a single mid spring tied to the end cleat with a slip knot. I engage forward to hold the boat against the pontoon. I then release all the other lines. When ready, engage reverse and as the boat starts going backwards give a tug on the end of the spring to release the slip knot.

Sailing I tend to sail virtually all the time with the auto pilot, and with everything led back to the cockpit sailing is very easy.

Re: Single handed sailing

Posted: Sat May 19, 2018 6:35 pm
by TyroSailor
I think I taught you that one, Hillary ;)

Re: Single handed sailing

Posted: Sun May 20, 2018 1:05 pm
by Hillary
You probably did!