Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: SF Bay area
Thanked 7 Times in 6 Posts
Rep Power: 10
Hertford - just read your thread for the first time, and I am in a somewhat similar situation to you. I bought my first boat in December and flew my spinnaker for the first time last Sunday.
I won't go rehashing all the old advice you received. Instead, I'll explain the procedure I used to get myself and my crew ready for the spinnaker.
First, I took careful account of what equipment I had, and made sure I was comfortable with all the non-spinnaker equipment before even touching the chute. The boat is a Catalina 27, and came with two symmetrical spinnakers (a 1.5 oz and a 0.75 oz) and a pole.
Second, like you, I did a lot of reading. The best guide I have found on the web is by Marlan Crosier of the Washington Yacht Club (google search will find it). I also read through some ancient sailing reference books that the PO left on the boat (he was a racer). Also watched some videos on spinnaker hoisting/jibing/dousing, for all types (right out of the bag, with a sock, even asymmetrical) as well as videos of people broaching-to.
Third, I familiarized myself with operating the pole by using it to pole my jib out to windward, and practiced sailing wing-on-wing like that. Made sure I could jibe the pole (using the end-for-end method) comfortably.
Fourth, I did a "dry run" with the spinnaker: put it in its turtle out on the bowsprit, rigged the pole, sheet, guy, and halyard, checked everything over, and then derigged all of it.
Fifth, I made sure my wife was very comfortable at the helm so that I could concentrate on everything else.
Then I did all the above things again. Every time we went through any of these steps, we talked about what was going on, and talked about what would be different with a spinnaker. Then I went out as often as possible and waited for the perfect conditions. This Sunday was excellent - we had around five knots of wind, so I went with the 0.75 oz chute, which didn't have any trouble filling. The most important thing, once I knew what was going to happen, was to communicate with my wife (only crew) to make sure she knew it as well, and was comfortable with what her role would be. She was assigned to mainsheet and helm, and was also responsible for hauling the spinnaker sheet during the hoist. Other than that, patience was our third crew member - if we didn't try to rush and do a million things at once, I was able to handle the foredeck tasks as well as trimming (but note: I have all halyards and pole control lines running aft to the cockpit).
Everything went off without a hitch. We did not attempt a jibe, but only because it was getting late. Only distraction was the dolphins who chose the exact moment of the hoist to start playing in our sad excuse for a wake. This weekend we will practice again.
So, to summarize:
1) Get to know your boat.
2) Communicate with your crew.
3) Practice as much as you can without the actual hoist.
4) Be patient and keep it simple.
Hope your first attempt went well, looking forward to hearing about your experiences!