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  #1  
Old 02-17-2008
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Single Handed Cruiser

I am casually looking to buy a coastal cruiser in the 32-36 ft. range that will be sailed by myself with help from my wife. When I discuss single handed sailing with some brokers and others the mantra seems to be to just make sure that all line lead to the cockpit. I am sure that there is more to it than that.

Would appreciate any thoughts on a more precise description of what I should be looking for. The boat will likely be one built from 1994 to 2002 such as a Tartan or Sabre.

Thanks.
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Old 02-17-2008
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I singlehand and agree that it makes life easier when all lines lead back to the cockpit; that way there is no need to leave the safety of the cockpit for any normal conditions including putting in up to the 3rd reef. I have in-mast furling for the mainsail and think that is beneficial.

Another important thing for a singlehander is an autopilot or wind-vane steering. This allows you to do various things away from the wheel while under sail, be it repairing something, going below to cook, or to get some sleep.

I've seen boats without self-tailing winches which would be next to impossible to singlehand easily.
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Old 02-17-2008
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In addition to having halyards and other control lines (vang, topping lift, reef lines, etc) led aft to the cockpit, I find it helpful to have the mainsheet, traveller controls lines, and genoa sheets/winches within easy reach while standing at the helm. Likewise the genoa furling line if so equipped.
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Old 02-17-2008
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To start with, while many of my ideas match many of the latest throughts on short and single-handers, I know that my take on what makes the ideal single-hander is a bit different than much of the conventional wisdom and I also believe that this is another topic where there isn't one universally right answer. My point of view has evolved over the 45 years that I have been single-handing boats, and while I have owned and single-handed boats that conventional wisdom would call nearly ideal, I know that I have evolved my own own ideas through trial and error and so admit that they may only represent one person's opinion, mine.

If you really expect to do a lot of single-handing then there are a variety of factors that can help make the boat easier to handle. As has been suggested it does make it much easier to single-hand a boat if the halyards, vang, and reef lines are lead back to the cockpit. It is very helpful if the mainsheet, traveller, backstay adjuster, and jib sheet winches are within easy reach of of the helm. I suggest that lighter weight boats with higher ballast ratios and easily driven hulls can get by with less sail area, in my opinion making them more ideal as single-handers.

The whole thing about single-handing is that the boat needs to be set up to do things reliably since you do not have extra crew to assist if something goes wrong. On that basis, I strongly believe that in-mast furling hs no place on a single-hander. Similarly, I strongly recommend a two line reefing system that can be left rigged for each reef point. Also similarly, I strongly believe that fractional rigs proportioned for minimally overlapping headsails makes an ideal rig for single-handing as they are easier to tack reliably and require fewer sail changes. I suggest that mid-boom sheeting and cabin top mounted travellers are less than ideal because of the high frictional losses and lack of convenience from the helm.

A reliable auto-pilot is extremely helpful, especially if you plan to fly spinnakers. Windvanes are great if you plan to make longer passages. On smaller boats (under 36-38 feet), tillers with tiller extensions can make it easier to single-hand because you are able to move around the cockpit and still steer.

While Tartan and Sabre build nice coastal cruisers, from my perspective most of the rig design, and deck layouts on their 32 to 36 footers make them pretty poor single-handers.

Respectfully,
Jeff
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Old 02-17-2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff_H View Post
While Tartan and Sabre build nice coastal cruisers, from my perspective most of the rig design, and deck layouts on their 32 to 36 footers make them pretty poor single-handers. Respectfully, Jeff
Jeff,
Good advice. Your point about exploring fractionally rigged boats is an especially good one. I would only add to this point that Rusty avoid any fractional rig whose design requires running backstays. Runners would add an unwelcome level of complexity for a singlehander, in my opinion. But I also would hasten to add that there are certainly plenty of fractionally rigged boats, especially of the newer variety in the age range Rusty is considering, that do not require runners. So he should be able to find a suitable candidate.

As for the Tartans and Sabres, I wonder if you would extend your comment above to the new CCR rigs available on some of the Tartans? The T3400 has this rig as an option, with a fractional, self-tending jib inboard and a larger off-wind headsail further forward on a furler. I can't recall the exact date of introduction, but I believe it may have been within the years Rusty is looking, i.e. early 2000's.
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Old 02-17-2008
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You may consider that from the point of view of effort, simplicity and access to lines, a tiller offers many advantages over a wheel when single-handing. It is easy to steer with the knees (or the crack of one's rear!) while freeing both hands for winch work. Another aspect is physically reaching around a cockpit to make sure that you can reach everything easily...which argues for a fairly narrow, longer cockpit with a narrow bridgedeck. A strong set of long arms is the single-hander's friend. Also, of course, with a tiller you can use a simple extender and can sit on the high side coaming, greatly improving visibility and frankly, fun...as well as making checking the sail set a snap.

I would also suggest that the most effective foresail is a 100% blade decksweeper jib. With halyards led back and with a downhaul led the same way, a jib can be doused onto the deck quicker than it can be furled. This gives you the ability to tack cleanly but with an efficient sail shape. I can't tell you how much fun I have with my "blade-cut" No. 3 decksweeper...it's a great sail up to the 25 knot mark.

Does this mean going forward to put it away or to reef it to a jib tack hook? Yes, but I think on a 35 foot boat the ideal of "never leaving the cockpit" is both unnecessary and presents too many compromises in most situations.

I feel particularly for the single-hander, ease of access and function trumps issues like how the cockpit table deploys or will eight people fit under the bimini.
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Old 02-17-2008
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All these points are good. Keep in mind having all the controls led back to the cockpit is one way of doing it, the other is having all controls led to the mast. Many singlehanders do it each way and both have their attributes and loyal following. The biggest reason(s) for running controls to the mast are: minimizing cockpit clutter, decreasing friction in the lines as they pass through blocks and change direction, a lot of times you need to go forward at some point in the process anyway. My point is that you don't need to have all the controls led back to the cockpit to begin singlehanding. If you like a boat that has its controls at the mast sail it for a while and run things back to the cockpit later if you find that is the style that suits you.
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Excellent advice from all! Just a couple other thoughts .

Windlass. The fewer times you have to go out on deck the better!

Safety harness and jackline. You do not want to go overboard! My harness is incorporated into the inflatable life vest I always wear while singlehanding. I am always clipped on while on deck on in the cockpit.

Egg timer. It is very easy to fall asleep during a long crossing. A egg timer set to go off every 10 minutes or so allows you to take brief naps, but wakes you up so you can check on your course, approaching vessels, etc.

Auto-pilot!!! I will no longer sail without one.

Enjoy yourself and your new boat.
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If you had a jib boom, you could rig that up so you could reef the jib from the cockpit, just like reefing the main. Though it's nice to have lines led aft, it's not necessary. You can heave to and go forward to reef the main or reef/change the headsil at your leisure. It is important to have main sheet & jib sheet winches at hand as said before.
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Old 02-17-2008
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One thing that is very convenient for a single-handing sailor, especially in crowded harbor situation where short tacking may be necessary, is a self-tacking jib. Most boats don't have this, but can be retrofitted with it fairly easily.

There are pros and cons to leading the lines aft to the cockpit or leaving them at the mast. Singlehanding, having the lines lead aft, provided the winches are large enough to compensate for the additional friction in the system, is probably a better choice.

A windlass and a good primary anchor are key to single-handing if you're cruising. Having a badly designed anchor that requires it be raised and reset is a losing proposition when singlehanding a boat. Makes for an uneasy night on the hook too.

I can't emphasize how important the safety harness, jacklines and tether are to the singlehander. You have to stay on the boat.

An autopilot is a very good idea... one of my friend's has defined hell as a long voyage, singlehanded without any form of selfsteering.

Lazy jacks or some other system of containing the mainsail when dousing it are a must. I would also agree that in-mast or in-boom furling really has no place on a boat for a singlehanded sailor.

A roller furling headsail is a good thing... but having something like the ATN GaleSail is probably wise, for when the weather gets really bad.

I'd also agree that a tiller, especially on a smaller boat, say less than 35', would make far better sense than a wheel. Rigging a line to hold a tiller in position or using lines to create self-steering is much simpler with a tiller. You can also steer a tiller without using your hands to some degree. A tiller also gives you more feedback and that can help you know if the boat is overpowered or badly trimmed.
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