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CapnRon47 08-31-2009 10:06 PM

First Solo Sail
We were at the house in NC this past week to work on some Hurricane prep and finish installing the autopilot. Having accomplished this I finally got a chance to take the boat out for my first solo sail.

The boat is a 35' swing keel sloop, which is just the right and comfortable size for the two of us, but was not set up for singlhandling. The winches are a bit far forward from the wheel and all the main work has to be done at the mast.

This picture is from a year ago when we bought the boat, in all my excitement this past week I forgot (uncharacteristically) to take the camera along on my sail.

So as long as the admiral was aboard there were no problems, but I was reluctant to try it alone without a working autopilot. I admit to a bit of cautiousness, but I am in my early 60's and don't feel I have so many cat lives left. I have been only sailing for 10 years and this is our first boat, so I fully admit to being a newbie at this.

The S-1 wheel pilot worked very well under motor, but less when under sail, specifically in tacking. I suspect I have some tweaking to do with the parameters in its program.

The afternoon was near ideal, with the exception of thunderstorms along the south side of the river (which later provided a nice rainbow to end my sail). The winds were 15 to 20 and with the thunderstorms not too far off I opted to put the main up with a reef in. The autopilot held the boat into the wind perfectly making it easy to raise the main. I still wore a PFD and harnessed myself to the mast while there.

I set the jib and I was off on a beam reach at nearly 6 knots. With the sails trimmed (as well as I can) the autopilot would hold course and speed for as far as I wanted to go. But when tacking, either to port or starboard, it would begin the tack but not complete it and end up loosing course. Still I could find the time to manage the sails during the tack and get back to the wheel to finish it. Or I could start the tack manually, set a new course and then adjust the sails. Tacking was not efficiently accomplished (some might use the term awkward), but it got done anyway. Jibing was totally different, there the autopilot worked just fine. So I have to find the right settings to improve the tacking performance, but all in all I think it went well. (Hey I made it back to the dock!).

I am looking forward to getting back down to the boat and out on the water for more experience. I already am thinking of how to make it easier to single handle the boat. I may explore possible modifications in this or another thread.

fullkeel7 08-31-2009 10:29 PM

Well done Cap'n, that first solo is the ONE you'll always remember. And the fact you made it back to the dock without any 'rash', makes it all the sweeter. Nice looking vessel BTW! Congrats!:)

byr0n 09-01-2009 02:07 PM

Good on ya'! The first solo trip is really the best, and you did it in such a stylish boat to boot!

SecondWindNC 09-01-2009 02:14 PM

Beautiful boat, and congrats on the solo sail!

SailKing1 09-01-2009 02:20 PM

What a great experience that first solo is. The fear and adrenalin creates a great feeling especially when it turns out positive as yours was.

Even though the first is the best, the pants will still get a little bunched up before you go out by yourself for sometime.

I went through the same problem with having to make some modifications as my boat was not set up for single handed sailing either. It took me about a year to decide on and make them, but what a difference it made.

Good luck in your adventures.

imagine2frolic 09-01-2009 02:40 PM

The first time is quite a memory. I wondering how close to the wind you were when you tacked. Close enough that 90* was enough?.......i2f

Wiley1 09-01-2009 03:03 PM

Yes, indeed congratulations on the solo sail! That feeling of independence is quite a rush! Brings back memories of my first serious single handed sail. At its successful conclusion I felt nineteen feet tall, I didn't care if it meant anything to anyone else, it meant something to me. As I'm sure yours does to you.

A couple thoughts:

Although everyone does it different, for me instead of the pdf I learned to be "at home" in my harness. When alone, under sail or power, at sea or local sailing I have my harness on. And if I'm beyond the companionway I'm tethered to a wire that runs the full length of the cockpit forward to the mast where it splits to two wires, one each side of the dinghy. I don't need the PDF if I don't part company with the boat. Fine or foul weather the harness is on and I'm tethered if I'm beyond the companionway. Only once did I forget/neglect to hookup and that once almost cost me my life. A self steering boat doesn't really care if one is aboard or not.

Although the harness does make for funny tan lines.

Congrats again,

CapnRon47 09-01-2009 07:44 PM

First Solo Sail
Thanks all for your congratulations, suggestions and comments. I did enjoy it and am looking forward to doing it more.


tnc110 09-01-2009 08:11 PM


what boat is that? Looks great and congrats!

lapworth 09-01-2009 08:49 PM

Great job. I hope One day I will solo something that size and I am in my mid 30's.

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