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jmanj39 06-19-2007 12:47 AM

First timer's experience.
I just bought a small sailboat, and went out sailing for my first time. I thought I would share my experiences for the amusement of the veterans and the education of newbies like myself. Let me start with my selection of boat. I shopped online, mostly on craigslist for something small and used. It is my first boat after all, and I didn't want to spend much money. I got real lucky with a snark sunflower 3.3. 400.00 bucks and I'm in water. It appears in good shape to.

I took it home and set it up in my back yard. I have never rigged a sailboat before so I wanted to see how it would go together. The boom, spar, and sail were already put together saving me some time. Since the previous owner had sailed it I assumed he had more experience than I and that this had been done correctly. I inserted the mast into a hole in the splash cover and through a ring at the front end of the boom. There was a line attached to the spar. I threaded it through a pulley at the top of the mast, and raised the sail. At this point things got a little fuzzy. There was no place to attach this line. I was expecting a pulley to redirect the line, and some sort of horn cleat to attach it to for quick release. The only place to attach it was an eye bolt in the bow, just above water line. I would not be able to lower the sail without getting out of the boat. This didn't seem right but hey, what do I know!!!
There was another line, with two pulleys, each with a small clip like on the end of a key chain. In the center of the boom there was a pulley. I threaded the free end of this line through the pulley in the center of the boom, attached the next pulley to the back end of the boom and the final pulley to a ring at the pivot point on the rudder ( or is it a tiller?). I could see that this set up provided excellent control over the sail. Except for the serious question I had about the line for the sail I was ready for the water.

The next morning I loaded up the boat and drove out to lake Mascupic in Tyngsborough MA.Commonly known as lake view in this area. There were lots of people putting in big power boats, and jet ski's of all kinds. I decide not to embarrass myself in front of all these boaters. Not to mention all the choppy water and skiers would provide more than enough hazard. I turned around and went to Freemen Lake in Chelmsford MA. No power boats allowed :)) The local veterans club has so far not complained about my launching from their parking lot. So I set up just like I did in the yard, I push off from shore, I slid my daggarboard in, and start fumbling between the rudder and the line on the sail. ( tack line? ). After a few minutes I stopped fumbling around and had one hand one each and had gained some control over the boat or myself, I think. I found myself zig zagging up wind( tacking ? yes). A problem I found was turning into the wind often got stuck in the middle the the sail flagging. The wind was very light and I couldn't get enough momentum to going to complete the tack.

I sailed up and down the pond a few times getting the feel of it. Finally after turning away from the wind one time I noticed the line on the back of the boom had become tangled in the rudder. The wind was picking up a lot and I didn't want to be without control of the sail so I gave it a quick yank. Suddenly and with a jerk, the sail caught the wind and turned me around. With my heart in my throat I leaned to the side, let out a little line, and steered for shore. I had no Idea that little boat could pick up speed that fast. I aimed straight for my truck, and plowed into the shore at full speed, grinding my daggarboard into the muck. I wish I had video.

By the way, I figured out the problem with raising the sail today. Hidden under the splash guard there are a couple of pulleys, and a rubber cleat that pinches the line and provides a quick release. the reason I didn't see it is that there are a couple of missing pulleys on the top of the splash guard that redirect the line. I'm just going to drill through the splash guard and put in a metal grommet so the line doesn't fray.

Any way, this is my first time posting here. I find forums like this a great way to learn new stuff. You get to pick the brains of the more experienced hands for free!! Hello, and regards,


Waymar83 06-19-2007 06:46 AM


Enjoy the little daysaylor. Sounds like you're out to have fun!

You might want to take a lesson or two. and maybe get a book (for the sailing terminology) . You will find your level of enjoyment increases as you learn more.

There is alot of experience on sailnet..and occasional humour, political debate as well as nonsense;) .

PS. I hope you had a life jacket on....

sailingdog 06-19-2007 07:30 AM


If you're ever up for going out on a bigger boat, there are alot of us sailnetters up in the Bay State.

nolatom 06-19-2007 11:11 AM

Good on ya! You're learning the "hard way", discovering everything for the first time, and enjoying it.

Terminology (especially when you sail solo so no crew to understand what you meant) is secondary to learning physically what to do. So don't sweat it, the vocab. will come in time. Even so..

Your first line? A halyard (old days, "haul yard", I'd guess)

Your second line? A sheet, or mainsheet in this case since it's the "main" (and only) sail

Those "pulleys"? They're blocks

"Pulleys that redirect the line"? Easy, they're turning blocks

The rudder hangs on the stern, connected to it is the tiller. Sounds like one of the mainsheet blocks clips on to the top of the rudder.

You're right, switching sides upwind is tacking. That series of tacks you did is called a "beat", or "beating upwind"

Now you can sound salty at the bar. But correct terminology or no, the main thing is you're learning (on a small boat, which I think is the best way to start) and enjoying it.

Your problem in getting stuck upwind in mid-tack is common in light air. Try starting the tack at max speed and turning faster, and you'll probably make it. If you get stuck again, try sculling (pumping) the rudder hard over, which may help. Or, if you want to get fancy, push the boom out towards the side it used to be on, with the tiller the opposite way, and you'll "back up" like backing a car out of a driveway, onto the new tack.

So keep on, and keep on asking questions.

6string 06-19-2007 11:54 AM

When you get stuck between tacks, we call that "in irons". The best way to get out of that is to pull up your center board most of the way, leaving just a little bit in the water. Also let out the main sheet, the line that trims the sail.

Let the boat drift back wards and push the tiller away from you. This will cause you to turn with the bow (front of the boat) starting to aim away from the direction of the wind. Start trimming the sail in and simultaneously pull the rudder towards you in a sharp movement. This should cause the bow to keep moving in the same direction away from the wind. As you get moving forward you can then trim the sail more, put the center board back down into the water and steer back up onto the wind. You are now moving again.

Good luck and welcome to our addiction.


Stryker72 06-19-2007 11:57 AM

jeff, I am another newbie as well and I am learning in a similiar fashion.

I often have trouble getting caugh in irons (stalling as I am tacking). I find that as nolatom said, holding the boom over on the last side it was on and turning the tiller to back up works quite nice. I have only been out about 7 times now but it is getting easier everytime.

have fun!

CharlieCobra 06-19-2007 12:55 PM

Nice! The best way to learn is on a lake with a small boat IMHO. Lotsa good people up here willing to help. Just remember, the only stupid question is the one ya don't ask.

tenuki 06-19-2007 04:10 PM

How to not get stuck in Irons? (I'm a big fan of solving problems permanently, getting out of irons is a good skill, but not getting into them is better)

1) Build up as much steam as possible before tacking.
2) Sweep around the tack, instead of trying to turn as sharply as possible. This is number one mistake, just throwing the tiller over scrubs a lot of speed, it'st better to try to keep as much speed as possible going around the corner, experiment, try to go fast.
3) Number two mistake is taking too much time to make the turn, usually from not having a clear idea of where you should be pointing. A good rule of thumb is that before you make your tack, take a rough sighting at 90 degrees off whichever side you are going to be tacking too. Pick out a landmark there and then 'sweep' over until you are pointed at it.
4) practice, the whole timing thing with the sheets is important, you'll have to practice it, but mostly you'll have to practice it to get the rythm. The handling of the sheets, the sweep of the turn, everything works together to keep your forward momentum. Use them all, use them together.

whoohooo, sailing!

sailaway21 06-19-2007 11:00 PM

Your method of coming ashore has been duplicated by many of us, sometimes with the mast continuing it's forward travel when the rest of the boat has stopped! (g)

Do not be discouraged by tacking in "light air". The above suggestions are appropriate. Sailing in light air can be harder to learn than sailing in heavy air. You will also learn more, because you have to watch for every hint of wind. On your lake you will learn that ther will be spots where the wind will always die, probably due to trees, often far away. The fact that the wind always dies in either the area you are trying to go to, or the area where all the big-busted bikini-clad beautys beach themselves, is mere coincidence. Be sure to visit this site often for more lies explaining sailing and the meaning of life.(g)

jmanj39 06-20-2007 11:58 AM

Thanks for all the replies. I see this is a nice friendly board. I suspected it would be. I imagine saiing like most things that bring you close to nature would attract a friendly lot.
I did find a book on sailing. It's a snark sailing manual circa 1970. I found it at the Old Corner book store in Newton. It even has a parts list and assembly instructions specific to my boat. I guess the sunflower hasn't changed much since the 70's. Also I found US sailing has an online course.

Home Page

I got some nice information about points of sail there before I went out, which I promptly forgot once I launched. It seems to come to you by feel any way. Experience is the best teacher I guess.

Yes, The line used to raise the sail is the halyard. The line used to control the position of the sail is the sheet. And the salty old sailor LEFT his PORT wine on the dock. Left is port. I'm a real sailor now. One thing I don't quite get. In the snark book, it says If I am sailing close hauled and my sail is angled to the port side I am on a starboard tack. If My sail is on the port side, and I am traveling in the port direction why is it called a starboard tack? It seems to me I should be on a port tack. No? I think it would be good to get this straight in my head. I've been reading a bit about the rules of the road. Apparently who has the right of way is tied to who is on what tack, who is beating, and who is running. In my little pond it won't make much difference. I've been the only one out there so far, and common sense should suffice, but when I start sailing in more congested areas I'll have to know where I'm supposed to go. I have friends in Boston, and I may soon find myself out on the Charles. I've seen lots of sails out on that river.

Oh and by the way. Sailingdog wrote.
If you're ever up for going out on a bigger boat, there are alot of us sailnetters up in the Bay State.
If that's an invitation, I accept :)

Thank for the warm welcome guys.

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