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Old 11-11-2002
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inmotion is on a distinguished road
what can she handle

I''m new to sailing as this past summer my wife and I have purchased our 22'' bristol - little wing. From what I''ve been told and read our boat is built pretty strong. We decided on the little wing cause she was pretty, she was small enough she didn''t look overwhelming, and most of all she was cost effective! We are keeping her on Lake Michigan and had a ball with her the last half of the summer.

We mostly went out on calm days, with light winds. My wife gets nervous when the waves get bigger, but one day we were in some 3-5'' choppy stuff which after the first half an hour she got used to.

Another day a different family member and I were out in some 5 to 7 '' rollers that didn''t seem real bad, and at the same time kept me on edge. We had light winds and a great time bouncing out, and surfing back! I even experimented going at different angles to the waves to get the feeling of rolling side to side. We only did this for a little bit as we both got our own feelings (in our stomachs).

The heaviest winds I''ve been in are around 15 to 17 knots. I''ve heard that it takes this much just to get some larger boats going, but the first time I was in this kind of wind I was too nervous to put up the jib. I just used the main and boy did we move slow that day. A different time in the same winds I did put up the jib, and yes we got somewhere that day, but when she heels over it really freaks me out. I know she is not over that far, not even as far as other boats I see out there with me.

I guess my question is when she heels over and stays there until I either let out some sheet or head more up wind, is that ok? to continue on course with her laying over? How far can she safely heel? When she does heel over does this release the full force of the wind? is it like a built in relief mechanism?

All this has lead up to my worst worry and biggest question - What will happen when I get bigger winds and bigger waves, a combination that I really haven''t had yet? When she heels over and gets hit with a wave at the same time will she withstand it? I used to sail a sunfish when I was a kid and I would flip it often, sometimes just for fun. I don''t want to capsize the little wing 10 miles out on Lake Michigan. That doesn''t sound like fun. I''m looking for some advice and experience to calm my nerves as we are planning a couple week long adventures up and down the coast next year.

thanks John
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Old 11-12-2002
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what can she handle

I’ll tell you what. I think everyone has gone through the fear of healing. It seams to be some kind of “rights-of-passage” sort of thing. You’re not the only one who has asked this question, or have had these feelings!

On my first boat, a Columbia 22, Olde Blue, I use to become absolutely petrified when she healed much beyond 7 degrees! On days that the winds were up, I’d just stay on the mooring, too afraid of the prospect of rolling her over and loosing her, or myself! At the risk of sounding foolish, I talked about my predicament with some good friends at the marina and was a bit surprised when they listened, in all due seriousness!

The day came when several of us had cruised down the coast to Misery Island. It had been a civil day and we were horsing around and seeing just who could out do whom, taking pictures, trading crew and the like. That night, rafted off the island, we watched the sunset and the lights of Salem, Beverly and Marblehead over pulls off the rum bottle. Later that evening, as I settled into my bunk, the fear of healing too far over was far from my mind.

In the morning, I was awoken to the sound of the wind howling through my rigging. A Northwesterly had built through the night and after breakfast, it was up around 30 knots! Jimmy S. had the Fore-N-Aft, a 28 foot, gaff rigged plank-on-edge by Atkin. Her spars overhung her hull so far that her overall length was almost twice her waterline length!

“Today’s your day to meet Bob”, he said, referring to the bobstay chain supporting the bowsprit. “I’m gonna saw that little plastic bleach bottle of yours clean in half”! (I’ve left out the expletives) After yesterday’s stunts, I felt that Jimmy was just crazy enough to do it! “I’m giving you 20 minuets to get under way, then I’m coming after you”!

It was bad enough that I had to deal with my fears of rolling this boat over, now I had to deal with this psychotic mad man! My plan had been to fly my double reefed main, hug the weather shore and perhaps motor home when the wind got forward the beam as I turned into Gloucester harbor near Norman’s Woe. Now it seemed I would need more sail then that. I tucked the first reef and hung on the working jib, pulled the hook, crossed myself and grabbed the tiller!

The first half of the run wasn’t too bad. I did stay in the lee of the land, pretty much and the healing effect wasn’t too bad with the wind on the beam. In fact, I noticed that Jimmy wasn’t closing me and I started to relax a little. Maybe I could beat him home. All was going well until I passed Magnolia harbor and got under the high bluffs of the West Gloucester shore. Here I was almost becalmed. I turned to look and there was the Fore-N-Aft, about an 1/8th of a mile behind, laid over, with a bone in her teeth!

I knew I had to do something, quick! My only recourse was to fall off and get the heck out of there, but I knew that when I got the wind, it would be strong and on the nose the whole way home! Now, I was a bit scared of that but even more so of Jimmy, so I put the helm up and eased the sheets!

When the wind hit, it was like a wall, cold and angry. Olde Blue shivered at it’s power. With trepidation, I pulled in the sheets and rounded her up a bit, a bit more and more still until I was close reaching with my heart in my throat! I started to sail her with a bubble in the sails but I still wasn’t going to clear the breakwater like this. And there was Jimmy, waiting up to weather.

The wind, still turbulent coming off the land suddenly shifted around and filled Blue’s sails. Like getting hit by a prizefighter square on the chin, she stumbled and lay down! “Here she goes” I thought! I scrambled out under the lifeline and sat on the outside of the cockpit combing. The movie African Queen came to mind, the part in the end, where the ship rolls over and some of the crew runs around onto her bottom… But, wait a minute, she stopped rolling, and look, she’s starting to go???

As she rounded herself up luffing, I pulled myself back into the cockpit. I lead her sheets to the windward rail and hooked in the hiking stick then crawled back out on my perch. “Well, here goes”, and I gave ‘er the hardwood! The breeze filled her sails, she started to roll, 20, 30, 35, 40 degrees… and GO! I trimmed her, hard on the wind, all telltales drawing aft. With one hand on a lifeline stanchion and the other on the hiking stick, Olde Blue came to life! Powering into the troths, breaching over the crests, throwing spray over half the damn Atlantic Ocean, balanced and in the groove! Sssmmmoke’in! I could just hear Jimmy’s wife, Sandy screaming “Drive ‘er”!

I got back to my mooring but it wasn’t enough. I rounded, fell off and headed back out. In fact, I sailed back down to Misery Island and rounded it again before I went back home! I think that crazy Jimmy S. damn well knew what he was doing! He cured me of that fear.

She’s NOT going to roll over on you. She has something your sunfish didn''t have: Ballast. Cast iron in the form of her keel. She’s like a Weeble. Remember: “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down”? You’ll get over it! I did.
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Old 11-12-2002
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what can she handle


While you are learning to sail, you need to stay close enough to shelter that you can easily get back into shelter within the foreseeable weather window. Sailing in heavy weather requires knowledge, skill and self-confidence, and a boat that is up to the task. A good sailor can nurse an inferior boat through bad conditions. A bad sailor can sink a seaworthy boat. I’ve had no experience with a Bristol 22, but, years ago I cruised the east coast of Lake Michigan in a Catalina 22, so I don’t have any doubt that your boat can cruise Lake Michigan in good weather, but, if the weather turns bad, stay where you are until the weather improves. In that situation, it’s better to be smart than to be bold.

You said you sail under mainsail alone when the wind gets too strong. The better choice is to raise a smaller jib, and to reef the mainsail. With that sail combination, the boat will perform better. She will be better able to point to windward, she’ll go faster, she won’t heel as much and she will have less weather helm. In order to do that, however, you need to know how to change headsails and how to tuck in a reef while underway. A lot of fairly experienced coastal cruising sailors would have a hard time doing that. Sailboats generally sail much better when they are as upright as possible. Keeping them upright in strong wind is a matter of raising the correct amount of sail area for the conditions. When you change and reef sails while underway, you usually need a second person on the boat who has enough skill and self-confidence to steer the boat, unless the boat is rigged well for singlehanding.

The wind can knock a ballasted sailboat on her side, but wind alone cannot roll her over. But, as you surmised, if a wave hits while she is on her side, the wave can roll her over. When we sailors are just out daysailing and playing, we often let the boat heel more than we should, just because it’s fun. But, when you are in heavy weather, you should reduce your sail area to prevent the boat from heeling excessively, because it will greatly reduce the danger of heeling excessively, which can enable a big wave to roll the boat over.

If you are going to cruise, you should at least have two headsails (a big 135% or 150% jib, and a smaller 90 or 110% jib), and you should be able to reef your mainsail while underway. Although you shouldn’t let yourself be caught in a storm, a storm jib would also be good to have, just in case. You also should know how to navigate the coast using charts, a compass, parallel rules, dividers and a pencil. You need to know where you are in relation to the inlets, so you can find your way in.

If you get caught out, you don''t have to stubbornly continue sailing toward your intended destination. Beating to windward makes for tough going in strong wind and big seas. If you turn around and sail downwind, the sound and fury and the motion of the boat will immediately abate. You should always keep an alternate destination in the back of your mind.

This talk of heavy weather is frightening, but if you use good planning and judgment, and sail within your own limitations, a 22’ boat can safely cruise Lake Michigan. They do it all the time.
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Old 11-17-2002
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what can she handle


Great story, and you tell it well.

To all: Truth is if a boat''s in good shape, you can dip a rail without worry as long as she''s not shipping water through the cockpit. I have a Pearson 323 and have laid over 45% without problems. The comment about the keel and ballast is true. As long as your mast stays up and your keel stays on, you''re good for some pretty severe angles. However, sail at an angle you feel comfortable and is good for the boat. Turns out that my boat is better at 25% than 45%. <grin>

BTW... grew up in Marblehead and sailed out there many times. You gotta watch the weather on a raft-up or any time, for that matter. It can help you or it can hurt you.
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Old 11-18-2002
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what can she handle


Glad you enjoyed it.

I don’t find that it’s the weather down there as much as the powerboat’s noise and wakes! It seems that more and more nitwits with big dollar jobs are investing their play moneys into go-fast boats these days. It seems too, that everybody and their monkey’s uncles has discovered the quiet beauty of the Misery Islands and have set out to destroy it… on weekends, anyway! I suppose that my thoughts on “Mis” are better left for another discussion.
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Old 11-19-2002
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what can she handle

Your boat is a lot different than a Sunfish. Keeled boats are tough to flip. You will grow into your boat so you will know what it will handle and what you will handle. The boat will take more than you will.

Next time the wind pops up, try reefing the main and flying a small jib. Stay close to shelter until you are comfortable going further out. As long as the waves aren''t breaking(round on top) there is little worry about rolling the boat. If they are tall enough to break over the boat--don''t go out.
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Old 11-30-2002
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what can she handle

Thanks for the advice everyone, and the good stories. I''ll be thinking of each reply next year when she tips more than 15 degrees!
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