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Old 06-09-2014
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Problem Turning Windward

Hi,

We’ve been sailing for about 4 years now. One problem, it seems, with sailing on the Chesapeake Bay is that on weekends it seems like there are always small craft advisories or, once into July/August, no wind at all. In the past 4 years since we’ve had our 1978 Catalina 27’ we’ve only been able to sail her 6, maybe 7, times. So last week when they were calling for ideal conditions for Sunday all week, including late the night before, it was very discouraging to wake up Sunday morning to see that they updated the forecast to a small craft advisory.

However, when we sailed on 5/31 of this year, they had called for a small craft advisory for later that day and instead of getting worse the seas actually calmed and we had an absolutely beautiful sail all the way back to our marina. Therefore, yesterday we decided to reef our jib and not put up our main sail at all, to not go too far from the mouth of our creek, and to take our chances. Only 5 times did I look down and see the wind gust go to 20 knots (and that was at the very beginning of the day). For the most part, at that time, gusts ranged around 16 to 18 knots and non-gusts were around 14 to 15 knots at most. Waves ranged from 1 to 3 feet.

So we sailed around for a while and felt comfortable so decided to head for the Key Bridge towards the Baltimore Harbor. Sailing straight under the bridge we were on a broad reach on a port tack. As we were on this tack, the wind showed as 5 to 8 knots and everything was fine. After about 15 to 20 minutes we decided to head back home. And this is when we experienced something we still don’t understand.

Winds were coming out of the southeast. When heading for home we decided to remain on a port tack but close hauled. So I moved the tiller to turn the boat windward and we brought the reefed jib in as tight as she would go. But the furthest we could turn the boat is a beam reach, and unfortunately a beam reach still headed us into the Baltimore Harbor rather than back home. We dilly dallied back and forth repeatedly between a broad reach heading toward the Harbor and a beam reach – still heading toward the Harbor but unable to do a close haul and point back homeward– the boat simply seemed unable to go any further windward despite pulling her reefed jib in as far and tight as possible.

Finally we gave up and tried to go the other way, ie., to turn the boat leeward on a starboard tack. We had no problem turning leeward (clockwise) and running with the wind (still on a port tack with the reefed jib). We were then able to turn the boat further clockwise and do a broad reach on a starboard tack. No problem. Except that a broad reach still headed us into the Harbor rather than towards home. Then we tried to turn the boat even further clockwise (windward) on a starboard tack but close hauled so as to point the boat out of the Harbor and towards home. But we experienced the exact same problem that we did when on a port tack when the most we could turn the boat was to a beam reach and not being able to do a close haul (even though the reefed jib was pulled in as tight as she would go)! In other words it seemed no matter what we did, we could not get the boat to point home, and, out of the Harbor. We dilly-dallied with this for quite awhile until we finally gave up when we noticed a container ship was traversing out of the Harbor. We took down the reefed jib, and motored to the other side of the Key Bridge.

However, during our dilly-dallying we noticed all but one sailboat in our area were doing broad reaches toward the Harbor successfully as we had first done. Only one sailboat had turned around to traverse away from the Harbor. But this boat was able to accomplish what we couldn’t: while the most we could obtain was turning the boat windward for a broad reach (ie. still heading into the Harbor), the other boat’s Captain was able to turn his boat windward for a beam reach (heading out of the Harbor). This is despite us tightening our reefed jib into what should accomplish a beam reach then a close haul.

I’m scratching my head why we were unable to turn the boat windward beyond a certain point in both directions? The only difference between us and the one boat that we saw headed out of the Harbor was that she was a bigger boat (I’d say about 40’ or slightly larger), she had her full jib out and her main reefed.

QUESTION #1: Am I correct in saying that pulling in the reefed jib tight to what a sail should be for a close haul should actually help to turn the boat?

QUESTION #2: We had not put up our main at all yesterday, and our jib was reefed during this whole time. At this point in the day I saw no more wind gusts to 20 knots. The gusts seemed to be around 17 knots and regular wind around 15 knots. Waves at most were 1 to 2 feet at this point (so things were better weather wise than earlier in the day). But we thought it still safer not to put up any more sail. If we had added more jib, or put up our main, how would that have affected our situation? Would it have given us the power to turn our boat further windward, or would it have made our problem worse?

QUESTION #3: After we had taken down the jib and motored back toward home on the other side of the Key Bridge (ie. away from the Harbor), the winds became calmer and the waves to only about a foot. The most the wind got to at this point was around 10 to 14 knots so we put up the jib and turned off the motor. Since the waves had calmed down immeasurably, and the winds had lessened, when we put the jib up we did not reef it this time because it was obvious the small craft advisory was over (despite the forecast saying it should have gotten worse as the day went on). So we tried to do the EXACT same maneuvers we had unsuccessfully attempted to do on the Harbor side of the Key Bridge. And we were REPEATEDLY SUCCESSFUL. And we have no idea why.

Can anyone offer any advice as to why, when we were on the Harbor side of the Key Bridge, we were unable to turn the boat further windward -- first counter-clockwise, and then clockwise, -- so we could head out of the Harbor? The first picture below indicates first the attempt to turn the boat counter-clockwise (Scenario #2) and then clockwise (Scenario #3). The second picture below indicates the points of sail: the horizontal red line is the Key Bridge, and on the bottom left is the direction of Home. The red numbers inside of each of the sailboats correlates to the same red numbers inside of each of the sailboats in the first picture.






Last edited by Charrob; 06-09-2014 at 10:42 PM.
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Old 06-09-2014
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Re: Problem Turning Windward

I think you answered your own question.

The other guy had a reefed main and jib out. That worked, probably will for you too.

As for the reason?
Think about the forces.
Your reefed jib is at the front of your boat. It it forcing the bow down. You can counter act a little with the rudder but the main would have potentially counter acted that force and balanced the boat better.

Next time try it with the main.

The problem with trying to go upwind is that you need enough sail area to create drive. But with too much wind you have to shorten sail other wise you heal too much. Then you don't have enough drive.

You will find that the more the wind the more important it is to balance the rig.

That is why ocean going sailors often rig a deep third reef in the main and a storm sail set on an inner stay. Smaller sail area suitable for higher winds but still balanced.

If you have only been out a few time and usually with light wind 20 knots is going to be scary. It is amazing how quickly you get used to it however. If you have a third reef in your main that C27 can take quite a bit.
If you have the normal roller furling jib that gets baggy and high as you roll it up the boat will not perform as well as it could and may even do better with no jib in some circumstances.

As to why it worked on one side of the bridge and not the other I would say it is because of two things.
The most important is that when it worked the wind was lower.
Also when it worked the jib had a good shape as it was not rolled up.

With lower wind and better shape the boat did not heel too much and the rudder could handle the unbalanced rig. As the wind picked up you rolled up the jib making it higher and poorly shaped putting so much load on the rudder you were actually driving the boat sideways through the water.

Sometimes what will work in that configuration is to leave only a couple feet of jib out with the main reefed. The main gives the drive, the jib has no drive but helps prevent the main from rounding up the boat during gusts.

A proper storm jib low and flat would be the best but since you don't have that you can try the above configuration. Not ideal but sometimes will work somewhat.
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Last edited by davidpm; 06-09-2014 at 10:38 PM.
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Old 06-09-2014
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Re: Problem Turning Windward

What about currents? Couldn't that have been a factor?
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Old 06-09-2014
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Re: Problem Turning Windward

Davidpm:

Thank you so much for your thoughtful response. It had not occurred to me that the boat would not be balanced without the main. Awhile back I heard one person saying when windy and rough, it's better to use the jib than the main because the jib allows the ability to turn and maneuver the boat better than the main. It had occurred to me that, possibly, more sail was needed to make that turn, but I wasn't sure. But it had never occurred to me that the boat would not be properly balanced without the main. But you explained it so well and your explanation totally makes sense.

And you are right: our jib has roller furling! And particularly on starboard tack, when reefed, it seemed misshapen since it was on the exterior side of the roll where the wind was hitting.

The next time we go out where gusts go to 18 to 20 knots and waves 1 to 3 feet, we will reef the main to keep her balanced and let out the jib a couple feet as you have suggested.

Many many thanks for your thoughtful response. Not knowing was driving me crazy, so am so thankful for your response.
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Re: Problem Turning Windward

The problem was that you had no mainsail. Next time, sail only with the main. Balance, man, balance!


I don't like the advice to sail only with a jib for exactly the reason you encountered. Sailing is typically first taught with only a mainsail for good reason. Students never start sailing jib/genoa only. See also boats with no jibs, e.g., Lasers, Sunfish, cat rigs.

Last edited by Law Student; 06-10-2014 at 12:32 AM.
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Old 06-10-2014
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Re: Problem Turning Windward

Chrissailorman,

Thanks for your response. We had thought that might be a possibility but:
  1. We were about the same distance from the Key Bridge when first attempting, unsuccessfully, to turn around on the Harbor side of the bridge as we were, later, when we successfully turned around on the non-Harbor side of the bridge.
  2. The direction of both the current and wind were identical on both sides of the bridge.

The only difference was that after motoring to the non-Harbor side of the Key Bridge, then putting the jib back up, the winds and the waves began to lessen -- not a huge amount -- but better.

In your opinion, since the __direction__ of both the current and wind were identical on both sides of the bridge, could a stronger current alone (from the slightly increased wind speeds and wave heights at that time) cause the problem, or, would there have needed to be a change in the direction of the wind or current in order for the problem to occur?
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Re: Problem Turning Windward

Quote:
Originally Posted by Law Student View Post
The problem was that you had no mainsail. Next time, sail only with the main. Balance, man, balance!


I don't like the advice to sail only with a jib for exactly the reason you encountered. Sailing is typically first taught with only a mainsail for good reason. Students never start sailing jib/genoa only. See also boats with no jibs, e.g., Lasers, Sunfish, cat rigs.
Law Student,

With every response Iím starting to feel better and comprehend better what happened. I had thought about single-sail boats like Sunfish, however, my erroneous thinking was that if they could sail with one sail, surely we could sail with one sail. It never occurred to me that we were sailing with the _wrong_ sail! (Especially after the advice from awhile back that rougher conditions could be better met with a jib rather than a main for maneuverability.)

Davidpm had mentioned: ďThe main gives the drive, the jib has no drive but helps prevent the main from rounding up the boat during gusts.Ē

That being said, do you also think itís best in rougher conditions to reef the main and let out the jib a couple of feet to prevent the main from rounding up the boat during gusts?
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Old 06-10-2014
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Re: Problem Turning Windward

Charrob,

Boats like a sunfish or laser only use one sail, but if you look where the mast is stepped it is far forward of the dagger board. All of the sail area in front of the board acts to push the boat off the wind, while the sail area behind it drives the boat into the wind.

These are some serious generalizations since things like center of effort no center of area are what really matters, and of course the rudder has a lot of leverage because it has a large lever arm from being so far back. But generally sail area attached forward of the keel pulls the bow off the wind, while sail area behind the keel does the opposite.
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Old 06-10-2014
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Re: Problem Turning Windward

In higher winds, I always reef the main first, then start to reduce the size of the foresail. If you are running then it can be easier without the main at all as an accidental gybe isn't a big deal then but as soon as you want to start heading upwind, you need the main there to stop the bow blowing off. Remember that your boat basically pivots around the keel, think about where the forces from the sails are going to act, so the foresail tries to pivot the boat away from the wind, whereas the main wants to try and act like a windvane and point you into wind. Balance the two and you have a nice gentle sailing day that will feel a whole lot less crazy.
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Old 06-10-2014
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Re: Problem Turning Windward

I see lots of boats sailing with jib only, but I never do it. I think the difference is that I try to never use my motor. I'm guessing the others are relying on their motors - or have special boats that can break the laws of physics that seem to constrain me. (edit: I should have put a smiley after "laws of physics", I was joking a bit. I come here to learn and don't like to sound pompous, I forgot that on the net jokes aren't clear and need to be marked as such.)

I'd like to point out that if you are sailing with jib alone going downwind, and find you need or want to go to windward, you will have great difficulty raising the main. You can't point into the wind, or tack across it to get headed into the wind. When you try to raise the main the wind is grabbing it and it will likely hang up on the standing rigging or be too loaded to raise easily.

Of course, if your motor works you can motor into the wind and raise the main, then shut down the motor.

So when sailing off the anchor or mooring, we like to raise the main first while pointed into the wind, reefing it if it looks like a good idea. Then we raise the anchor or let go of the mooring and quickly raise the prepared jib and sail off. We don't have roller furling (I have one at home, I just prefer hanked on jibs) but it would be the same idea.

On the other side of things, I found once that dropping the headsail kept me from pointing as high as we had been. So I always sail with two sails, no matter how small. I want the option to sail wherever we need or desire to go.
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Last edited by skygazer; 07-28-2014 at 08:58 AM.
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