Here's a true story; just wanted to share our experiences with others who are new and afraid of the heel of a sailboat.
My GF is a non-sailor; who fell in love with it. She enjoys being out on the water, seeing the wildlife (seals, sea-lions, dolphins, etc) and likes the positive eco-aspects of sailing (wind power to travel instead of fossil fuel
). She religously reads Latitude 38 (SF Bay sailing news) from cover to cover when it comes out each month. But, she has always had issues with the way a sailboat heels.
On the first day she ever sailed (the sea-trial of my Newport 41) she literally was freaking out. The boat heeled 10 deg; she turned white as a sheet; and I could tell immediately that she was hanging on for dear life. She had good reason to feel that way; the wind was heavy and the broker did not know a thing about sailing. The jackass surveyor (who had agreed to crew) was running around taking pictures of the sails and I was helming a boat I had never sailed. It was literally a waste of time except that it convinced me that if the boat sailed as well as it did with that crummy trim and feeble crew; well it would be great once sailed correctly. (I was not disappointed and was rewarded with a fantastic sail to her new home following the 3 month haulout).
The next time her and I we sailed (after the survey); it was on a fellow N41 owner's boat. He was going to go with us on the sea-trial; but we re-scheduled and he could not come. After hearing about the lousy sea trial he offered to take us out on his boat with a 3'rd N41 owner visiting from New Orleans.
So it was two N41 owners, myself, my GF and a 5'th visiting friend. We went out on SF bay and it was Gale conditions. The wind was at least 35kts, at times 45kts or more and we were sailing with a reefed main and a full +100% jib
. The boat was never heeled less than 45 degrees; except when we first left the marina. I have not been out on SF Bay since in winds so heavy as they were that day ~2 years ago. At one point when we were tacking in front of the Golden Gate Bridge; we were heeled so far over you could see water lapping mid-level in the leeward portlights. We were not bracing against the leeward cockpit side-walls; we were standing on them! I'd estimate ~60 degrees of heel; maybe more. The N41 owner from New Orleans was at the helm; having the time of his life. The owner of the boat was not concerned or bothered by the heel, he never suggested reefing further and we never reefed the main. That was the "sea-trial" I wanted while out on the boat I was going to purchase; and luckily I got the full experience before I ever sailed my boat because it gave me a sense of how much more the boat could handle than I would ever normally expect from it.
So how did my GF do? Well she was never afraid or anxious about the heeling during the whole trip. She was too busy chatting with everyone and enjoying the socializing, view, and becalming aspects (nobody else was worried) to realize that the boat was on it's ear and she -should- be afraid. I did not say a word to her about the severe heel or safety concerns that I was having while we were out that day. She knew it was challenging/windy but she had no clue that the boat was totally over-canvased and we were approaching the limits of what the boat could handle without just laying on it's side in a knockdown. In fact; I still don't know what it would take to achieve a knockdown in this boat because we just don't push the boat hard enough to even get close to what we experienced that day.
Following the "thrill ride" we took the ASA classes together through Coastal Crusing. I took the Bareboat class also; and it was a good refresher/preparation for owning my boat. For her it helped her gain confidence in sailing and become competent in handling the lines
, helming and knowing how the boat sails, windpoint, etc.
Now, here's the strange part. We've been sailing together regularly for almost 2 years; we regularly doublehand my boat and we have never had any trouble. A few months back I spent ~1.5 months re-routing deck hardware and re-bedding deck fittings. We did not sail during that time and when we finally set sail again it was a bad day. The wind was not good; it was threatening rain and when we dropped sail it was so windy we had to just gather it in a pile and lash it to the boom (usually we flake it as we drop). The next sail was good except that there was a couple of crossing situations with boats that were headed to a starting line
(I yielded right-of way but they gybed in front of us and we were starboard to begin with). This was in the middle of a channel and we could not tell they were sailing for position. 2'nd situation was with a sailboat flying a spinnaker
that was somewhat out of control (doublehanded; turning to port/starbord wildly). We managed to stay clear of them; but she was helming and backwinded the jib
when I asked her to head up and it was just bad timing (because then they then gybed in front of us). I should have been back at the helm earlier.
Anyway; she got nervous after those two sails and it has been very difficult getting her "back on the horse" so to speak. She knows how to sail; she has been out in much more severe conditions than we normally sail, yet she is having anxiety when the boat heels beyond 15 deg or if we get a gust. It's very strange because she was not paranoid about it at any time other than that first day when we sea-trialed.
We sailed with another N41 owner 2 weeks ago who I have been coaching on his purchase. We sailed with the PO who is a friend of the new owner. We had a great day; watched the Master Mariners Regatta (Lynx was awesome to see under full sail) and had a nice, easy sail aside from lots of tacking/gybing to stay clear of the race. Hopefully that day with plenty of other things to concentrate on aside from the heel of the boat will settle her back into the sailing groove (fingers tightly crossed).