In terms of a sailboat's design, layout and gear--what are the most important things a boat needs to have to be easily singlehanded?
MUST have vs. nice to have?
A good skipper.
All the best,
Do you want to singlehand on a lake in Wisconsin, a bay like the Chesapeake, a crossing to the Bahamas, or go around the Horn?
All lines leading to the cockpit helps.
Autopilot can be helpful.
Not only does it depend on what kind of sailing and where, but also what you consider MUST have.
After 3 months out, from Texas to North Carolina, here's what I woudn't be without.
2. Furling headsail
3. Lines led to cockpit
4. Handheld VHF
5. Good binoculars
6. Lazy jacks or some other mainsail flaking system.
How big is the boat?
I didn't need anything to single hand my Catalina 22. Tie off the tiller straight ahead, climb on the cabin, raise the main, unfurl the genoa on roller furling, and sail away.
The mainsheet was at the end of the cockpit, easily within reach, the genoa winches were also easy to reach.
My Newport 28 had all lines led aft, wheel steering, mainsheet mounted on top of the companionway, and genoa winches out of reach from behind the wheel. With an autopilot and a furling genoa that boat was easier to single hand than the Catalina. I was able to raise sail and turn off the engine without ever leaving the cockpit. The biggest challenge was lowering the main. I had to stand on top of the cabin to lower and flake the main.
My current boat is an Oday 35. It has wheel steering with autopilot, selftailing genoa winches, self tailing winches for the main sheet, halyards, reef, etc. Lazy jacks, and, of course, genoa furling. This boat is also easy to singlehand. The lazy jacks allow me to just release the main, throw a sail tie around the middle of the boom, and be done until I get back to my mooring.
So, IMHO, for a boat over 25' you need
Some form of mainsail lowering control, like lazy jacks, furling main, something like that would be very nice.
Glad to see you mentioned self-tailing winches Barry. I forgot those in my list. A definite should have.
Ground tackle and docking tackle: Docking or anchoring a boat without crew is difficult enough if the boat is properly equipped, and a nightmare if not properly equipped.
A good anchor windlass,
a good anchor,
a midships cleat for spring lines,
dock lines long enough to double the distance between the dock and the boat, so you can release them without having someone on the dock
larger than standard fenders—make docking single handed a bit less nerve wracking
Sail and boat handling setup: These will vary a bit depending on the design and size of your boat...but apply to most
Autopilot and/or windvane
locking winch handles
Lazy jacks and slab reefing. :D
The following lines led aft to the cockpit:
Main halyard, reefing lines, topping lift, boom vang, outhaul, cunningham, boom brake line, furling drum control lines.
I don't generally include the spinnaker or genoa halyards, since many people won't use one a spinnaker single-handing, and if you have a roller-furled asym and genoa, then all you really need back in the cockpit are the sheets and the furling drum line. I also prefer a two-line reefing system, rather than a one-line reefing system.
Safety and Navigation equipment: Pretty universal for singlehanding... unless you're on a really small lake.
Handheld VHF for boat to bridge/boat/marina comms
Good 1 liter or larger thermos for keeping coffee warm in the cockpit
Good binoculars—7x50 waterproof are about right
Waterproof chartbooks, since you'll often be using them in the cockpit singlehanding.
A good flashlight and a LED headlamp.
A comfortable automatic inflatable PFD with integrated harness and the accompanying jacklines and tether.
A good digital timer... great for setting up wake up alarms when napping during the daytime... also good to set as a reminder for doing various things....
A good radar reflector... basically this is for any boat, especially ones that have fog as a common local event.
Autopilot or reliable self steering
Self tailing winches
roller furling head sail
gybe preventer or boom brake
hand held VHF
control lines led aft
slab or simple mainsail reefing system done from the cockpit
For single handed cruising
anchor windlass - electic reversing
all chain rode
SSB (handy not required)
There are many other things that make cruising "better", like heat or refrigeration, or a ife raft, but they do not apply especially to single handed sailing.
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