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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Learning to Sail
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  #1  
Old 07-22-2008
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sailing downwind slowly...

I am learning to sail. Just wondering about sailing downwind but under some control, lets say when approaching a dock or marina.

Ok, so I know about reaching, where the sail hangs way out on a downwind sail. With only moderate winds this can get you moving along quite nicely. So now I am approaching my destination, how do I slow down? Would I tighten the main sheet to slow? Or swing the bow around into the wind? Both?

Thanks,

Eric

Last edited by AllThumbs; 07-22-2008 at 05:23 PM. Reason: typo
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Old 07-22-2008
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Even with the mainsheet pinned in you will only slow down a little, plus the boat will try to slew to windward (on some boats this effect can be quite considerable). The best way to slow down is to reduce sail area, say half drop the mainsail, the only way to stop quickly (or at all in some conditions) is to round up and face the wind.
As a beginner i wouldn't recommend a downwind approach under sail unless in a dinghy, which makes an ideal learning boat.
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When sailing downwind approaching a dock can be a little tricky, if you have room to turn around go slightly past the dock then either jibe or turn 180 degrees till the bow is head to wind and all sails are luffing and the boat stops. When you are head to wind the boat will stop within it's own lenght. If you need to get closer to the dock back wind the jib to push the bow toward the dock. You might want to practice this with a mark or buoy, not in a crowded marina. I raced J22's with no motors, so getting back to the dock when the wind was behind me I used this method, another is to drop the jib before you get there, as you get closer have a crew member drop the main, have the bow line attached, steer close to the dock have a crew member jump out and stop the boat. Using this method make sure the main halyard runs free! You may need to drop that main quickly, if it hangs up you will be crashing the pier, no pretty.

It's a wonderful sport, learn, enjoy.
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Old 07-22-2008
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I tried approaching a dock downwind exactly ONCE. Never again. It's much easier to sail off at an angle where you can approach to windward and turn into or douse with just enough speed to coast in lightly. Granted, this is an acquired skill and you will either come up short or in too hot until ya get it down. Find something besides a dock to practice this on first.
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Old 07-22-2008
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I don't recommend approaching a dock downwind. If you really have to do it... put a kedge anchor out and back the boat down to the dock with the rode. This will ensure that you'll be able to get back off the dock. Of course, if your boat has an engine....that's a bit of a moot point.
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Maybe the best approach would be to drop the sails and motor in the last bit(for me this means a paddle), or to turn windward for the last leg. I did sail in downwind once, but I turned the boat into the wind once I got close, and it was not a dock, but a beach (and quite sheltered from the wind by trees - like a little bay). Then I had my son jump in the shallow water and pull the boat in. My boat is only a 15 footer.

It seems hard to drop the sails on the fly since there seems to be so much going on sometimes while sailing. Sometimes I wish I could lock the tiller so I could free up another hand for a second.

Eric
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Locking the tiller is pretty simple to do. A tiller comb would work. You could also use two lines—one from each side of the cockpit.
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Maybe the best approach would be to drop the sails and motor in the last bit(for me this means a paddle), or to turn windward for the last leg. I did sail in downwind once, but I turned the boat into the wind once I got close, and it was not a dock, but a beach (and quite sheltered from the wind by trees - like a little bay). Then I had my son jump in the shallow water and pull the boat in. My boat is only a 15 footer.

It seems hard to drop the sails on the fly since there seems to be so much going on sometimes while sailing. Sometimes I wish I could lock the tiller so I could free up another hand for a second.

Eric
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Old 07-22-2008
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What are you sailing? How quick can you get all the sails down?
In my little boat, a dock dead down wind is not a problem if I get the sails down in plenty of time. I will still have enough windage to steer but I will come in slow enough (and my boat is light enough) to keep it from hitting the dock by pushing off and pivoting on the bowline.
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15 footer. Takes a minute to get the sails down I guess.
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Old 07-23-2008
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Okay, if you're just 15 feet, you can maneuver is a smaller space, with less inertia and momentum.

So before you get to the dock, head upwind quick and drop the main, maybe two boatlengths off, depending on wind speed. Then use the jib to get you back to a beam reach, then drop it.

Then let the wind set you broadside into the dock. Have crew fend off and use fenders if you have them. To correct your angle if the bow or stern is too far in, "scull" or pump your tiller to adjust.

It just takes some instinct, which comes with experience. You'll get there.

With a bigger boat, I would've agreed with some of the answers above about motor or kedge anchor. But 15 feet isn't going to hurt itself, or the dock, coming in sideways after dropping sail. As someone said above, it's an acquired skill since no one likes a downwind dock, but a fifteen-footer is an ideal size on which to acquire that skill.
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