Today I took Scout
for our first single-handed day sail. It was a blast. Since I have two young boys and a non-sailing (but very
supportive) wife, I've been pretty much obligated to figure out how to do everything myself. So today I put it to the test.
Many of you will not be surprised to hear that what is usually my biggest challenge--putting up and taking down the sails--actually went smoother
than usual. Why? Because I thought everything through, had everything in its place, and did it by the book (point into the wind, raise the main then unfurl the jib.) When I have a crew aboard I'm generally inclined to unfurl the jib as soon as I can (not necessarily dead into the wind,) then raise the main at some point later after killing the engine. Lots more huffing and puffing involved with that routine.
I really enjoyed my first use of the Tiller Clutch (visible in the photo looking aft.) I got this specifically for the purpose of single-handing, and I can heartily recommend it. This is not
a replacement for an autopilot, but rather a very quick way to secure the tiller in any particular position so I can free up my hands or even walk around. It's roughly equivalent to having my 8-year-old on the tiller. He works at it but I still have to keep my eye on things. I can go forward if I need to, or down below for a quick head call. But I wouldn't cook a meal or take a nap. The Tiller Clutch is less than $100 shipped, including the control line that runs through it.
I even hove to. Didn't need to, but tried it anyway for the first time. Went down and used the head just to say I did.
My only buffoonery was fairly minor, and happened when I passed within hailing distance of a beautiful boat with graceful lines, lots of wood, and some sort of interesting looking rig. Maybe 50 feet long or so. I was moved to holler, loud enough to make myself heard across the Grand Canyon, "You're looking good today." The captain's response was, "Thanks, you too," --in a normal conversational tone that I could hear perfectly well. Question: is there some sort of coolness etiquette to speaking on the water, like when motorcyclists wave to each other by lifting a couple fingers but absolutely no movement above the wrist?
You professionals will be pleased to know that for many minutes I was on course to pass in front of the commercial ship in the photo. I'm sure I could have cleared her safely, but instead I decided to come about before reaching the channel, just to give them one less thing to worry about. I turned back after two or three minutes, hardly losing any time but hopefully making life easier for someone who was working while I was playing.
Oh, also got to use my marlin spike under duress for the first time. Heading into the wind with the tiller clutch engaged, but without a lot of room before hitting the shallows, I was raising the main when it stopped short. There was a hidden sail tie still on, and the knot had gotten cinched down too tight to untie with my hands. Fortunately, I had put my knife in the pocket of my life vest. This time I used bows when I put her away.
Alright, enough rambling.