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Old 07-01-2013
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Re: The Search Widens Before it Narrows

We spent the weekend in Michigan for golfing and sailing. In the interim we did a lot of harbor hopping and dock walking. We looked at a lot of boats in our size range and talked to any owners who happened to be aboard. There weren't many but those we did talk to were more than gracious to share their thoughts. One couple was so friendly they almost wouldn't let us leave.

It was educational seeing the boats and talking to the owners. Each had their own reasons for choosing their boat and each their own reasons for owning a boat. It's a very personal decision. And when doing your own search, you need to remember that so you don't buy a boat just because someone else says it's perfect.

We chartered a 2013 Jeanneau 379 for a 2-1/2 hour sail on Lake Michigan. It was more of a "fix" for me than any part of a boat search. Winds were 12-20 knots, waves 1-3 feet. We cruised at around 8 knots and topped out at 9. Even when we reefed after the winds were pushing 20, she was still holding in the 7s on a close reach. Overall, the speeds were a lot faster than I expected that boat to go.

What I absolutely loved was the way the sail controlling lines were laid out and trailed back to the cockpit. Of the boats I've sailed, this was the best design I've seen. The lines lead aft were often "buried" into the deck or cabin and there was little trip hazards when walking forward. But everything was right there and easy to access and work.

Reefing was a breeze. The main had blocks sewn into the sail at the tack and clew of each reef, like the block in the picture below:

I had never seen that before. It was obviously done by the sailmaker. This made reefing much easier than what I've experienced in the past. The first reef was led to the starboard cabin winch and the second to port.

The winches were properly sized and created no unnecessary strain on the crew. There were no electric winches but there didn't need to be. The boat we sailed two weeks ago had undersized winches. Even the men tired working them.

All in all it was well laid out. I could easily singlehand this boat, even now, at my age. Of everything I took away from that sail, what I learned about the the sail controlling lines and gear setup was invaluable. I know that burying the lines isn't possible on boats not designed for that but the rest of that layout is possible, with some good planning (and the right gear), on most any boat. No more need to worry about my age being an issue with sail handling.
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