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  #1  
Old 02-09-2003
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Help! How to teach someone to maintain heading

I need suggestions on how to teach someone to keep the boat, a J/40, head to wind. My partner can maintain a compass heading reasonably well, but has great difficulty keeping the boat pointed into the wind for raising and lowering the main, typically swinging +/- 60 degrees. I''ve tried different approaches but have failed and now the level of anxiety (hers and mine) is not healthy. Interestingly, my 11 year old son nails it every time; perhaps it''s because he''s not expecting it to behave like a car?

She''s an enthusiastic learner, recently completed a Power Squadron course and seems very comfortable with the boat overall. A dinghy sailing course is next and I''m sure that will help. Yes, a J/40 is a big boat to learn on but it handles beautifully, is very simple to sail short-handed, etc. Any other suggestions?
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Old 02-09-2003
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Help! How to teach someone to maintain heading

Dave,

I would suggest some practice under power with bare poles at a modest speed, say, 4 knots. If she can hold a course under usual conditions, she should be able to do OK since the rudder will have decent authority. After she is good at that speed, lower the speed a little and keep practicing.

Perhaps the more experienced sailors will disagree with me, but I see no great need to power the boat dead slow into the wind when hoisting or lowering sails. If you have a 15 knot breeze and you''re head to the wind, what''s the difference if the motor adds 1 knot or 3 to the apparent wind? If a little extra boat speed is what she needs to gain the rudder authority, that''s what I would do.

Good luck.

Duane
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Old 02-09-2003
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Help! How to teach someone to maintain heading

Ahoy dave, I always found that females respond better to cattle prods and long planks off the starboard quarter.If that dosent work send her to me for her next course in holding a stiff course and the inportance in pleasing the captain. The Pirate of Pine Island
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Old 02-10-2003
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Help! How to teach someone to maintain heading

Dave:

I found that most of my issues with my female crew were caused by my own male insecurities. On the boat, the "I am the captain and you are the galley slave" attitude gets us nowhere. If she’s good enough to be my partner ashore then she should be able to be my partner at sea. If you’re fortunate enough to find a mate who keeps going to sea with you, I’d suggest you do everything in your power to make her feel welcome. If she has a problem at the helm, then maybe you hold the course and let her put the rags up. Sure, she’ll make mistakes and you’ll get pissed but that’s your problem, not hers.

I taught my wife and my daughters how to work the helm. Every 30 seconds or so, their eyes make a circuit. They scan the waters and assess the current situation and possible action of everything around them and how it will effect us. Next they check and correct their course and trim, and make plans for any changes that may be required. Then they check the crew and the boat making sure all is in order and everyone is in a safe position. On my boat, the helms-person is in charge although, as the one with the most experience, I am ultimately responsible.

If you need to be the one at the mast, she’s most likely paying attention to you and the action going on there, but she seems to be loosing contact with the rest of her job as the helms-person. I’d suggest that you teach her to watch the tell-tails in the shrouds or at the masthead and to keep them drawing aft instead of watching you. No matter what the compass says, no matter what else is happening aboard, until you report to her that all is ready for her to fall off and barring any un-safe situations, those tell-tails will show the course.

Pi
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Old 02-10-2003
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Help! How to teach someone to maintain heading

Dave,

Newbies have a very strong tendency to oversteer the boat, oscillating back and forth across the intended course. I tell the newbie: "Watch my hand on the tiller or wheel, and notice that, for the most part, I hold it absolutely steady, without moving it at all."

If you have a tiller tamer, or can lock your wheel, set it, and show her that holding the steering absolutely steady will hold the boat on course reasonably well. When she realizes that, she will stop oversteering the boat and making it oscillate from one side to the other.

When the boat veers off its heading slightly, show her how to move the tiller or wheel just enough to bring the boat back onto its heading, and then center the steering again, and hold it steady.

Finally, she needs to steer the boat enough to develop her hand-eye coordination, so that she instinctively knows which way to turn the helm, without thinking, to bring it back on course. That requires that you give her lots of "tiller time." Most importantly, be patient with her. She''ll get it in time.
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Old 02-10-2003
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Help! How to teach someone to maintain heading

If your partner can sail compass course reasonably well, use that. Give a compass course close to where you want the boat pointing (into the wind, or whatever) and you''re done. If the wind shifts, tell her to go 5 or 10 or however many degrees to starboard or port. After a while your partner should get the hang of what you''re trying to do. Perhaps point out the masthead fly as an aside. (Focusing on that, as a beginner, could make someone nuts!)
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Old 02-15-2003
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Help! How to teach someone to maintain heading

I''m sure you''ve already tried this, but:

Steering by chasing the compass is difficult for a beginner because it removes so much useful information from the helmsman. Better to teach them to steer by a landmark. When I have new crew I get them on the tiller right away as we''re motoring out. I coach them into getting the boat head-to-wind, then pick out a landmark in the distance that can be steered toward (in my case it''s usually a set of condos on the far shore of the bay). Beginners seem to be able to do this reasonably well. Later, developing a feel for the wind direction on their faces (like we all did) well let them add even more info to their helmsmanship.
The point here is that the whole scene changing in front of them gives them much more visual information to steer by than the compass card (a magnetic compass has a lagtime by its very nature, & only shows what has <em>already happened</em> to the boat''s bearing): they can see waves/wakes, they can even aniticpate needed corrections on-the-fly as they see immediately that they are pointing off from their landmark.
Though everyone has a different inborn instinct, I''ve enjoyed very good results with this method.
A quick comment about the dynamic of male/female crewing: it can be an issue. A practice run upwind motoring under bare poles with a landmark lined-up beyond the forestay could be a real confidence-booster for her.
Good Luck.
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Old 02-15-2003
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Help! How to teach someone to maintain heading

Thanks for the helpful hints. I''ve tried several of these, but what we have not done is to practice several times without raising the sail. We''ll keep it simple and build on success.

Thanks again.
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Old 03-09-2003
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Help! How to teach someone to maintain heading

Thought you might be interested in some feedback on what has worked. Firstly, thanks again for the helpful replies.

My original guidance was use a landmark to steer to, rather than getting overly focused on the compass. That worked for my son, but not for my wife. We''re all different, so when I finally gave up on my "guidance" and asked that she use the windex to determine when we were heading into the wind, then lock in the heading and focus only on the compass from then on, things went much better. We practiced several times motoring, with no intent to raise the main.

I''m just now seeing some of the posts-- I suspect the sailnet "view new messages since last visit" doesn''t work very well.

Duane: My thoughts exactly. Only enough way to maintain steerage is our approach.

BigRed56: Thought about cattle prod, but I''m no prize and she might take offense.

Pi: Don''t think I''ve got the attitude but I guess it''s in the eye of the beholder. She''s not strong enough to raise the main. Your description of the "visual circuit" makes sense, it''s what most of us do intuitively, but it''s worth discussing explicitly so I think I''ll introduce it once we''re at the next stage.

Sailormon6: Oversteer is still a problem. We''ve tried the "follow me while I change course" method, no major impact however. This is gradually improving and will take care of itself I think.

Paulk: That worked a treat!

JeffC_: That worked well with my son several months ago but didn''t help my wife. Everyone''s different and I should''ve realized the need for a new approach rather than coming back to this one again and again.

My partner has shown real persistence and an amazing willingness to enjoy "my" hobby. I hope that at some point her level of enjoyment becomes self-sustaining. In the meantime, I''m lucky that she cares enough to hang in there. BTW: She got a 99% on the Power Squadron test-- not bad for someone with no boating background.
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Old 03-13-2003
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Help! How to teach someone to maintain heading

I have noticed that new people at the helm tend to watch the person at the mast or foredeck instead of their heading.

Does she know how to raise the main herself? If not, let her do that job till she understands everything that is going on up there.

As she strugles with the main the first few times, you may find yourself losing your heading because you are watching her )
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