Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: Annapolis, Md
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Re: When were you ready to single hand?
I am probably the wrong person to ask the title question of this thread since my answer adds little to the core point of the discussion. As a 12 year old I first singlehanded a small sloop that I had bought out my meager savings from allowance and odd jobs. By the time I was 15 I was able to single-hand my dad's 32 foot Vanguard. I now know that I really did not know enough to safely single-hand the Vanguard.
But I think that the more useful question that seems to underlie the title question is how do you know when you are ready to single-hand your boat? Obviously there is no one right answer. Many of the answers make the very valid suggestion to build skills by.single-handing in ideal conditions and then press your luck a bit more over time until you can single-hand safely in whatever conditions you encounter.
But I would also like to suggest a training wheels approach. Before you actually start single-handing, go sailing with a knowledgable person with the explicit agreement that that person is only an observer unless there is an emergency. This will give you a chance to get a feel for single-handing and more importantly give you the opportunity to analyze the sequence of doing tasks, whether you need to make changes to the boat, or where you store things, and what problems you may encounter, before single-handing "without a net". You will probably find that you sit in a different position when you single-hand and may need to run control lines a little differently as well. Over time you will figure out how to make the boat sail by herself, and how long you can leave the helm unattended.
Single-handing is like any other complex skill. You learn it a piece at a time, building on the lessons of the past and using past skills to build new ones. And the good news is that the process of learning can be a fun trail to follow.
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Curmudgeon at Large- and rhinestone in the rough, sailing my Farr 11.6 on the Chesapeake Bay