Newbie solo sailing question.... - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 16 Old 08-02-2008 Thread Starter
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Newbie solo sailing question....

I have recently completed basic keel boat sailing class on top of having many years of sunfish sailing experience back as a kid in summer camp...

Anyway, I will be purchasing a used but not too abused 30' boat soon. I am concerned that my sailing friends will not be available to sail every time i want to sail and that i more often than not will be taking her out on my own.

What are the tricks to sailing solo? Im not talking 'round the horn cruising... just daysailing.

With more than one person, it is easy for one person to keep the boat pointed into the wind with the other person raising the sails. How is it done solo?

Are there any special tricks to make make tacking and jibing easier? Of course this was easy with a single sail sunfish, but what about with a jib?
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post #2 of 16 Old 08-02-2008
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I would suggest that you not try solo sailing on a 30 foot boat until you are a bit more accomplished keel boat sailor and your are quite familar with your boat. When you are ready to single hand, two things that would be very helpful will be rolling furling headsail and some type of auto pilot to hold the boat into the wind while you raise the main - you can lock the wheel or tie off the tiller, either will work, but an auto pilot makes life much easier.

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Slipped in Bahia Marina, easy access to Corpus Christi Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
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post #3 of 16 Old 08-02-2008
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Single handle sailing, Romeo Style

Johnshasteen is completely right. A rolling furling and An autopilot is definately excellent for keeping boating simple. Especially, for single handling. OR, you might consider my husband's old tactic of asking every woman he ran into, to join him for a daysail. You might be suprised how many ladies you can get to sail with you on a pleasant day. My Romeo husband (who is now off the market) always offered to take the ladies for a day sail on the weekend. All they ever did was hold the wheel as he set the sail. Of course, he filled them with booze to loosen them up! If you know what I mean!
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post #4 of 16 Old 08-02-2008
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The sailing itself (steering and trimming/easing while underway) you can do alone, most of the time. Pick your weather, and start in moderate conditions once you have a little experience.

It's the sailhandling (raising, lowering, furling, reefing/unreefing and mooring/unmooring that are going to make you wish for a second crew, or even a third if conditions get messy. But eventually you'll work down to doing this all yourself, just ease into it gradually.

I've seen a totally self-taught sailor work his way up to a Rhodes-41 foot sloop, singlehanding under sail through crowded anchorages the whole time. So you can do it on your 30'. Just don't try to do it instantly..
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post #5 of 16 Old 08-02-2008
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Where is your boat Wenie? Maybe we can find some crew for you. There are a lot of people that watch this forum but never post. We can all use more friends. Even if you are good at singlehanding a second set of hands makes things a lot easier and safer.
It just gives you more options.
For example if you are in a not so perfect place and your engine dies you can't go below and bleed the engine and keep a look out at the same time.
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post #6 of 16 Old 08-02-2008 Thread Starter
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it will be... if i buy it, will be south shore, long island.
Not the optimal place for sailing... but better than no sailing.
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post #7 of 16 Old 08-03-2008
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I'll go along with everything said above. Getting your sails deployed and down again is the biggest headache when you're alone, and an autopilot is the best way to do that.

I know I'll hear a bunch of screaming about this, but if you're going to do a lot of single handed stuff, get the halyards into the cockpit. The less time you spend on deck, the better you'll be. That includes the lines for a 'jiffy reef' in the main.

Next point I'm going put in is to wear a combination harness/life vest (like SOSpenders) and clip yourself to the boat via a nice, heavy jackline. Even on those beautiful days when nothing can go wrong. Because it will. Guaranteed. And if you fall overboard with the autopilot in control, the boat is going to leave you behind. I know I'll hear about this, too, but when I'm single handing, I alway stream a 100' piece of polypropylene line with a spliced-in loop at the bitter end. Something to hang on to if you do happen to go over the side, which I had happen once many, many years ago. I was lucky. I was towing a little 8' pram on a very long painter, and that painter saved me from drowning, since the boat was happily leaving me behind in her wake. That was on a beautiful day, sunny, 10 knots of wind and 2 foot seas. Something made the boat lurch, and over the side I went. When I got back from my weekend at 'The Island', I purchased what was probably the first SOSpenders that the BoatUS store ever sold.

Now, when I'm out alone, my rule is a harness/vest at all times, and I put the tether on if I have to go forward for anything during the day, and at night, the tether is clipped to something in the cockpit. No exceptions. No matter how calm it is, or how flat the body of water.

Next item: docking. You need to set your slip up properly. The very first thing you want to do is get a spring line on. If you're on a floating dock, make sure that when you leave, the eye of the spring is easy to snag with a boat hook. If you're on a fixed dock, you may need to rig a little piece of 1/4" line to hold your spring suspended, but quickly available so you can snag it. Once you've got that spring line on, the boat can wiggle around, but it can't ram the dock.

Never, ever approach the dock at a speed you aren't willing to hit something at. As long as it isn't blowing like H**l, or a huge current setting, dead slow is the name of the game. This is an aside: check your engine and transmission before you head in. Let it idle down and put it in reverse to make sure all is well before you get into the marina. I neglected to do this one time, and when I put the boat into neutral after a long, hard run from Rodriguez Key to Miami, the engine stalled, leaving me moving forward, committed to a turn, at about a half knot. Fortunately, my neighbor across the way was in the yard at the time, so I just let the boat drift into his slip, and I did a quick wrap around a piling with an extra dockline to get me stopped. After the engine cooled a bit (different problem) I was able to back into my slip.

Single-handing is great fun, but you need to think out each move, and practice if you can, preferably with a crew aboard. Eventually, you'll be comfortable with taking care of things when you're alone.

good luck and have fun!

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post #8 of 16 Old 08-03-2008
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I would agree with most every post that you have received so far. It all comes down to comfort level, which means preperation. I now single hand well over half of my time on the boat, and love it. Sure, it can sometimes get a little hairy when the tranquil day turns to 25-30 kt gusts, but you will learn to handle it.

If you liked your instructor in basic, and he is local, he can be a good resourse. I knew before I bought my boat that I would be single handling the boat a great deal, even with the admiral aboard, so I wanted some hints. I went back to my first instructor, who I really liked and who knew his stuff, and hired him for a day. I think at that time, 6 years ago, that he cost me $150 for a good 6 hours of sailing and docking experience...plus lunch and tip. He told me what works for him, and made me try it....solo, with him comfortable and available. When he told me he wanted me to jibe, in 15-20 kts of wind, I thought he was nuts. He walked me through it first, and I was surprised to see how easy it actually was. He was all about building confidence. Action, reaction.

We spent about a half hour in docking situations, forward and reverse. He showed me how important a spring line is, and how easy it makes controlling the boat in almost any situation. Unlike others, that spring line was on the boat, not left on the dock. If you come in and for some reason cannot get into your slip, or you are in a strange marina, you want that line on the boat. The first thing I had installed on my boat was mid ship cleats. With those I can park the boat at a dock or wall, in wind, and take my time to tie up other lines. You control the boat, it does not control you.

You will be fine. Have fun....and peace, out there.
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post #9 of 16 Old 08-03-2008
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Of course, finding someone who can go out with you, even if they're mostly a passenger, can make certain things a lot simpler.... like Docking or Raising the Main.

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post #10 of 16 Old 08-03-2008 Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the helpful suggestions...

I grew up on power boats up to 30' and am quite aware of the difficulties in docking under different conditions. (I think i am even banned from one particular waterfront drinking establishment for turning their dockspace into a bumber boat ride.)

Im looking at probably an older (1980's) 30' catalina, so im not too concerned w/ scuffing a new gel coat, nor am I too concerned (although perhaps I should be) at falling overboard. The boat i am looking at has a 150% furling genoa which should be (if it dosnt jam up) able to be raised from the cockpit. The only time I suppose I would have to step out of the cockpit would be to raise the main. However, once all is up, I think the controls are relatively easy to reach from just in front of the wheel. The steering wheel also locks to keep me into the wind if I have to go up to the bow. No autopilot.
The motor was also recently over hauled and seems to start and run fine.

Needs a bit of TLC, some teak stain, reupholster the cushions inside, and the jib sheets looks a little frayed. The sails i think are original but supposedly in good shape. The threads where the genoa is "hemmed" are missing in many places, but otherwise seems fine.

Anyother comments are greatly appreicated.
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