"I found that you don't need a full gale to sail under bare poles. You can do it, even in moderate winds. Also, under favorable circumstances (especially in smooth water), you can even tack to windward to a certain extent, although it obviously takes patience"
Sailormon, you've piqued my interest with this one. How do I tack to windward with bare poles? I'm a *"Motor? We don't need no stinkin' motor!"* kind of guy, but even so hadn't considered the above possible. From what do you get the kind of lift to take you upwind? The mast? the hull shape?
I'm assuming it works the same way that it works when you use sails to sail to windward. Wind on the side of the hull provides the driving force, the keel provides lateral resistance, and the boat slides forward, in the direction of the least resistance. The wind pressure on the hull is fairly equally distributed fore and aft, so it's similar to having a balanced sailplan in that respect. The wind on the bow is trying to push the bow to leeward, and that is countered by the wind on the stern, which is holding the bow toward the wind. It obviously helps to have all the conditions in your favor, including smooth water and a clean, slippery bottom and keel, and it also helps if the boat has a little momentum to begin with.
I don't blame you if you're a little skeptical. I was stunned the first time I did it.