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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Learning to Sail
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Old 09-28-2007
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Sailing in stronger winds

Hi all, new to the forum. Just learning to sail, took the basic keelboat course two months ago, been out on a mentor led sail once since then. Yesterday was my first sail without a mentor on board.

When we went out, the winds were a steady 7 knots, gusting to 9. It was really smooth. The winds picked up shortly after we got out (I found out by looking at the NOAA buoy center website afterwards) to 12-13, gusting to 15. That was quite a bit of fun, lots of keel when we wanted it, easy to control by letting out the main if it was getting uncomfortable. The boat was was wanting to head into the wind a bit, but was controllable. It was a fair amount more work to keep a heading than it had been early on, but it was my first sail as skipper and I was enjoying it.

Somewhere along the way, the wind really picked up. The waves got much choppier, but I didn't really notice them as much until we got close enough to land to see them slamming against the boardwalk there. At this point the boat was becoming a nightmare to steer and the wind was blowing straight into land, so we were constantly bearing into the wind to stay out far enough. I decided I would call it a day and go in an hour early.

I headed into the wind to lower the sails, but got spun around on the first two attempts before I could do anything. Was definitely the fastest I've ever turned in a sailboat, the fact that it was involuntary made that feeling a little worse. I lowered the main first without problem once I managed to stay heading into the wind for a few seconds. The jib was a furling jib, and had become tangled up somehow in the wind. At one point I wasn't sure if we were going to be able to roll it up, and thought I was going to have to try to motor in with the jib flailing wildly in the wind. Got it down, motored in, was really hard to steer even under power and no sail, but we made it in okay.

I felt somewhat better about my difficulty when I saw on the NOAA site that the winds by then had jumped to 22-23 consistently, and gusting up to 28. Everyone else on the boat just thought it was fun. But I would have liked more control there, especially at the end and getting the sails down. So I had a few questions that lingered that I thought I'd ask for some more experienced help with.

- I had a LOT of problems turning into the wind as opposed to falling off into a jibe. The boat would start to turn and then just stall and start to fall off again without ever making it through the turn. Is that normal under the higher wind conditions?

- What speed wind is appropriate for sailing in general, and as a beginner? The numbers on a page meant nothing to me before yesterday - they mean a bit more now. Is that even considered high wind, 22-28? It sure felt high to me.

- I know looking back I should have reefed the sail, or maybe lowered it entirely and just used the jib. Is there an order of preference for cutting down on sail size, ie. reefing the main, lowering it completely, lowering/furling the jib?

- In the higher wind conditions, any tips on how to get the sails down easily? Does the main always come down first, or did I do it backwards?

In any case, I have mixed feelings about it all today. I figure that I'll probably not see that kind of wind again soon, so I'm glad for the experience. No one fell overboard and the boat didn't sink, so I suppose it's a success, but it sure felt hairy there for a bit.

Thanks in advance, and I apologize for the ridiculous length of this post.
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Old 09-28-2007
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SanderO is an unknown quantity at this point
I perfer to sail in winds between 10 and 20 knots. I don't reef and the boat moves nicely. The low end for upwind and the high end for down wind. The apparent wind being about in the middle of this range for all points of sail - 15 knots.

More than that is reef time and upwind sailing is wet and wild and down wind is roller coaster stuff.

At 30 you are really working hard and the conditions are unforgiving.

When you get to gale force winds you can get yourself into trouble if you are not prepared.

jef
sv shiva
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Old 09-28-2007
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R is you were in more than 20 knots of true wind you would have had your hands full, especialy with a full sized headsail.
Generally I would suggest taking down/rolling in the jib first, I think you will find the boat handles better with just the main up. However not all boats respond the same so a little experience will let you know.
Did you flatten/reef the main ? Again some boats will carry more sail than others but if you are having trouble maintaining a course you have too much sail up.
Sounds like your crew had fun so you did not do too badly.

Gary
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Old 09-28-2007
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Shanks - what are you sailing?
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Old 09-28-2007
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I didn't reef, I probably should have, but decided instead just to lower it and be done with it for the day. We only had an hour left anyway.

We were salling a 27' Watkins.

Next time I will remember the to reef earlier when I notice the increasing difficulty of maintaining course. The weather helm was pretty surprising to me.
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Old 09-28-2007
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My advice would be to always check the weather forcast before each sail. Starting out, you might want to sail in winds between 5 and 15. Practice sailing with main and/or head sail reefed. Allow plenty of room between yourself and other boats or land. Error on the side of safety. Get out there to practice and enjoy. Best of luck to you.
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Old 09-28-2007
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Rshanks-

what are you sailing. The design of the boat, as well as the sails you have up will affect its ability to make it through a tack, as will your approach to tacking—do you throw the helm over hard or tack smoothly...

Some boats will do better if you ease the mainsail a bit as you come into the wind. This is especially true of catamarans.

At what wind speed you need to reef really depends on what boat you're on. A 14' sailing dinghy is going to get blown flat by 20 knot winds... a 30' keelboat might be fine with a single reef in the main and a full jib... and a 60' racing keelboat might be fine with full sails and a #1 heavy air genny up. You don't say what you were sailing.

What sail you reef first, or what sails get dropped entirely, depends again on the specific boat. Some boats will be fine under just a double-reefed mainsail... others will require a bit of jib to balance the sail plan.

Generally, taking down the sails, you start with the forward most ones first... raising them, you start with the aftmost ones first. This will help keep the boat pointed head to wind, and makes lowering the sails easier. If you lower the main sail first, the boat will tend to blow down and sail off under the still raised headsail.

BTW, when thinking about reefing... you should generally do it every time you even think about it... if you don't—by the time you start too...the wind will be strong enough to make it a real problem. It is always easier to shake a reef out when the wind dies down than it is to put one in when the wind is getting stronger.

Also, weather helm is better than lee helm. If you let go of the sheets and tiller, the boat will head up and come to a stop head to wind... with lee helm— it will bear off and run.
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Old 09-28-2007
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As Dog said, we always raise the main first followed by the Genny and do the opposite when bringing the sails in. Start with the Genny than the main.
In High winds, That big Genny can get out of control really quickly if your not careful. If you let the sheets loose, the thing flaps away like crazy just like a flag on a pole, than your sheets end up in a tangled mess and you have to untangle the mess before you can continue to furl the sail.
Does it sound like this has happened to me before? yep, your not alone.
Just try to learn and gain experince everytime you leave the dock.
Thats the key. I'll bet if you asked most people around here, they will admit, that even after many years of sailing, there is still more to learn.
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Old 09-28-2007
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With a ketch rig - raise sail from stern to stem, furl from stem to stern. Piece of cake.
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Old 09-28-2007
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RShanks:

You did well for for your first time out as skipper, especially given that the conditions were pretty challenging toward the end. Congrats! Just my thoughts on some of your specific questions:

- What speed wind is appropriate for sailing in general, and as a beginner? The numbers on a page meant nothing to me before yesterday - they mean a bit more now. Is that even considered high wind, 22-28? It sure felt high to me.

That's a fair bit of wind. Meaning a lot for a beginner. But that is part of sailing, i.e. sometimes the wind does not behave as forecast. So this is within the range that you will often have to deal with. Just be aware that the sea state is a big factor as well. Outside of protected waters, 25 knots of wind can kick up a pretty large nasty sea, so keep that in mind if you plan to venture out of protected waters.

- I know looking back I should have reefed the sail, or maybe lowered it entirely and just used the jib. Is there an order of preference for cutting down on sail size, ie. reefing the main, lowering it completely, lowering/furling the jib?

Depending on the boat, there are different preferences for reducing sail. My hunch is that on a Watkins 27, the first step would be to tuck a reef in the main, followed by partially furling the jib/genoa. You can experiment and see if reversing this order produces more balanced results.

Be sure to reef early if you sense winds are building. Don't wait until you are feeling out of control. When you BEGIN to feel uncomfortable with the way the boat is handling, head-up into the wind and get the sails reefed. I will repeat what others have said: It's a pretty simple matter to shake out an unneeded reef, but it can be pretty tricky to get one in if you wait too long.

- In the higher wind conditions, any tips on how to get the sails down easily? Does the main always come down first, or did I do it backwards?

In higher wind conditions, by the time you drop sails to head in, the sails should already be well reefed down. This will make lowering them much easier, since the sailplan will be at a manageable size for the wind. First head up wind to furl the jib/genoa completely, making sure it is well secured and that no jib sheets or other lines are trailing overboard, then crank up the engine. Next finish lowering the mainsail (remember it is alread part-way lowered because it is reefed, right?). Secure it neatly with sail ties, compliment your crew, and putter back in.

This will all become second nature in due time. But I'd say you're off to a solid start.
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