Severe lee helm in light wind on Hobie One 14 - why?
I'm just beginning to learn to sail. A few weeks ago, I completed a 12 hour sailing class with mostly Sunfish sailing, which was pretty easy and confidence-inspiring. The last day, the instructor showed us how to rig a Hobie One 14 (monohull, regular mailsail+jib rigging) and we sailed it around a bit.
This afternoon, my girlfriend and I rented the same Hobie to sail on a small lake. However, our confidence was blown away when we realized we couldn't tack, and in fact had difficulty holding a beam reach. The tiller required a substantial angle just to hold a reach, and when trying to turn slightly into the wind, even holding the tiller hard over, it would just refuse to turn. So, we lamely zig-zagged a while trying to figure out what was going wrong, until we ran out of room and got stuck on the rocks on the lee of the lake. Our demise was accelerated somewhat when we accidentally popped the rudder out of its gudgeons while fiddling with it to see if there was something wrong with it.
It felt pretty bad having to concede defeat and have the park ranger tow us back to the dock; but even more so, I'm totally confused by what happened. None of the staff on duty at the lake were sailors, so they weren't able to explain it. So I thought I'd give this forum a try...
The wind was pretty light, about 6 or 7 knots, with occasional gusts. In retrospect, we may not have rigged the downhaul line correctly. We also forgot to insert the battens into our sail, but we thought it should be OK without them. Other than the roach flapping, the sails seemed to fill with air in the proper way. I'm pretty sure everything else, the rudder and the jib, was correct. One annoyance was that the drain plug was missing, so we took on a small amount of water in the cockpit. We checked the centerboard line, and it seemed to be extended correctly. We checked the rudder afterwards, and I'm pretty sure we had installed it correctly.
I'm totally at a loss about what happened. My best guess is that we had incorrectly rigged our mailsail some sort of way to introduce excessive lee helm. It also seems like low wind was a contributor, because whenever we got a good gust, things seemed to work a little better. Can anyone help explain this, or have any ideas what we might have done wrong?
.. We checked the centerboard line, and it seemed to be extended correctly. ..
Welcome to Sailnet, and welcome to sailing, too!
Sorry about the troubles you had there. Don't feel bad though -- we all have stories like that. It's part of learning to sail. Before you know it you'll be zipping around the lake having a blast with your girlfriend, and you'll look back on the tow to shore and laugh about it.
Reading your account, my hunch is that the centerboard was not down. I know you said that you checked it and it "seemed" to be extended, but were you in any way able to confirm visually that the board was down?
It could have been something else, but if the centerboard was not down or was down only slightly, it would create the exact problem you have described.
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Welcome to SailNet.
Believe it or not Hobies are not as easy to sail as a Sunfish.
I'm with John Pollard in that your description makes it sound as if one of the center boards (there should be 2, one in each ama or hull, no?) was not properly deployed. The rudders can also kick up too and you need both of them fully deployed to steer. I would also try to remember to put the battens in the main sail as without them the sail can become baggier then it really should be.
Too much main sail pressure should give you weather helm though and not lee helm. Too much jib pressure should give you lee helm. You could try furling in the jib a bit or even dropping it altogether if you feel too much lee helm. It wont be such a fast or fun ride with only the main but it should give you more weather helm and be safer.
It is not so easy to tack a Hobie-cat. These cats don't point so well into the wind to begin with and will often end up in irons in the middle of a tack. One trick is to leave the jib cleated in and let it back wind which will push the bow through the wind. Once the boat is pointed the right direction you then tack the jib. Another trick is to simply jibe instead of trying to tack although you should be able to do both.
Don't give up. Try it again but have someone look over the set up before you go out. Hobies can be a blast so have fun, learn how to set it up and sail it.
The centerboard not being down is the likely culprit as pointed above...but it was probably at least partially extended, since you were able to tack and weren't just side-slipping all the time.
Not having the battens in the sail would have added to the problem, as it causes the main sail to effectively lose sail area from the roach, shifting the Center of Effort forward, while the centerboard not being all the way down is shifting the Center of Lateral Resistance aft... both contributing to the lee helm.
Other issues could be the way the boat was rigged—was the mast raked properly or not; where you and your GF were sitting—if both of you were too far aft, it would change the balance of the boat by again shifting the CLR aft a bit more.
Just ignore CalebD who missed that you were on a Hobie 14 MONOHULL sailboat, not a beach cat.
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Forgive me if I'm wrong, but I've seen this happen. When the wind was coming from the starboard side of the boat, which line were you using to control the jib, the starboard jib sheet or the port jib sheet? If you were using the starboard jib sheet when the boat is on starboard tack this could have caused your problems.
First of all, please do not feel badly that you ran into a few minor glitches the first time out solo. I suspect that everyone of us have encountered similar bumps in the road in the process of learning to sail. It is one of the reasons that most sailing schools try to teach on small boats, where any damage will be minimal, and mostly to one's ego.
As to your problem with lee helm, I am in agreement with SailingDog, that while it is possible that your centerboard was not all the way down, the more likely culprit was the lack of battens. My recollection is that the small Hobies have a lot of roach in their sails and without battens the center of effort would be shifted very far foward which would give the boat a lee helm even if the centerboard was all the way down.
I would talk to an instructer before going out again, but I can only hope that you don't feel so disheartened or embarrassed that you won't get out there again soon.
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You mentioned that the tiller requied a substancial angle to hold a beam reach... did it require much force or was it really light?
These boats have kick-up rudders... Perhaps the rudder was not in the down position (sticking straight down about 2 feet into the water)? When the ruder is up (horizontal), I think it is still partially submerged, and might result in the behavior you described. Also, the rudder can be raised or lowered by quickly snapping up on the end of the tiller, so it is possible to accidentally kick up the rudder. (Raising and lowering are accomplished by an identical motion)
Good luck to you! I think its a great boat to learn to sail on (I learned the fundamentals on a Hobie 12).
I really appreciate the encouragement and advice, the latter of which got me thinking about the right things and fueled my research. Here's my current thinking:
Likely contributors to lee helm:
1) Fore-aft weighting: My position at the stern at ~200 lbs with my girlfriend only midship probably shifted the weight too far stern...
2) Lack of drain plug: ...which helped us take on more water, which made the weighting worse
3) Lack of battens
4) Heeling/windward weighting: I think we spent most of the time on a port tack, with me sitting on the windward side, so it's likely we were actually not heeling or heeling into the wind
5) Insufficiently trimmed main: I was so distracted by the difficulty in steering that I may not have been doing a good job keeping the mainsail trimmed.
6) Overtrimming of jib: It's possible we just had this in too far; sheeting it in definitely seemed to worsen the condition
Not sure about these:
7) Centerboard: Given that this is a public rental, it's possible the centerboard is damaged somehow, perhaps by some previous user who smashed it into the rocks. What is the proper way to inspect the centerboard at the dock?
8) Mast raking: This seems like a more difficult adjustment to make, and it didn't look obviously-wrong, so I'm not really sure about this.
I've ruled out these:
9) Rudder: It was locked in the downward position, and until things got crazy, properly attached, so unless there's some fine adjustment that could be messed up, I think it was OK.
10) Using jib sheet: Responding to FSMike, I think we were using the correct sheet, but perhaps just giving it too much trim.
So I think there's plenty of room for improvement. I think my next step is to try to get in touch with our instructor (whose hours conflicts with my day job, unfortunately) and also find out if they actually have drain plugs and battens. We also started out later in the day, when there were more time constraints; it might be worth starting early next time, to make sure all of the rigging is correct before we leave the dock.
It also occurred to me that we could probably just bring two paddles, and if things go badly again, we could drop sail and paddle back.