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jbr 07-14-2003 11:13 PM

Maintaining head to wind
I''d appreciate input on maintaining head to wind. I mostly singlehand a 17'' dinghy and would like to temporarily park head to wind while I raise or lower the mainsail, reef, and reboard following capsize recovery. I have outfitted my boat with bungees which center the rudder when I leave the helm. Difficlult raising and lowering the mainsail singlehandedly are nuisances; difficulty controlling the boat''s heading and heel while singlhandedly reefing or recovering from capsize in higher winds are saftey issues (see below).

I usually motor my boat from a dock, then drop the centerboard and rudder. When the motor is cut (before centerboard or rudder are lowered), the boat initially reaches downwind. When the centerboard is lowered it still runs downwind, but heads up somewhat closer to a beam reach. When the rudder is lowered, it falls off once again. At this point I head up as much as possible (main still flaked), run to the mast, and raise the mainsail. In windy conditions, the boat falls off fairly quickly while I make my way to the mast, making raising the main difficult. Same issue when lowering main: head up, run to mast, boat falls off quickly in higher winds making lowering main difficult. Any techniques I can use to get and stay in irons to make raising or lowering the mainsail easier? I''ve tried raising the main with the centerboard lowerd, the rudder still raised, and the boom cleated to midline to try to get the boat to act like a windvane (jib still furled) but don''t like this approach in high winds because it seems unsafe (concern a high speed windhsift will capsize me at a point I''d have no helm to work with). I''ve read about using a sea anchor to stay head to wind but would hope there are other simpler/better ways to do this.

Related issue: Reefing and capsize recovery in higher winds pose a saftey issue when singlehanding. During reefing excessive heel and capsize are issues when there''s no one at the helm to stay in irons and during capsize recovery theres the issue of the boat trying to sail away before reboarded when it won''t stay in irons. During a recent practice capsize in 12-15 kt winds (release the sheets, point bow into wind, right the boat) the boat fell off quickly once righted and tried to sail away even with the sheets released (swept back rig means boom can''t swing perpendicular to boat so mainsail cannot be completely depowered) - I was able to climb aboard (used a safety line to stay with the boat until I could swim to the stern) but it''s not easy climbing on a dingy moving at 7 kts - any way to get the boat to stay in irons once righted so one can climb aboard more easily/safely?

Insight would be very appreciated!


ddebruin 07-15-2003 06:40 AM

Maintaining head to wind
Don''t know what kind of boat you have but.. Why not leave the motor running to keep the boat headed into the wind until you raise the sail? Or maybe you are being pulled by another boat, which you could remain with the boat, head to wind while raising the sail.

When I am reefing my main, I leave the jib up which maitains headway, release the pressure on the main by sheeting out, drop the main to the reefing points, secure it and then sheet back in.

I sailed dinghy''s a long time ago but don''t know the answer to the sail away during recovery from capsizing. I remember being in the boat, using the centerboard as a step before the sail was up in the wind, and the boat always had a tendency to round up as you raised it not veer off.

Sailormon6 07-15-2003 09:54 AM

Maintaining head to wind
I usually like to raise the mainsail before leaving the dock or mooring. Situate the boat so that, if you let all docklines go except the bow line, the boat vanes with the bow into the wind. Raise the mainsail, let go the bow line, push the boom away from you and sail away under main alone.

To raise the jib, I like to put the boat on a course between a beam reach and a close reach. Then I use a tiller tamer (or a bungee cord will do) to hold her on course while I raise the jib.

It sounds like part of your problem is that you have to go forward to the mast to raise and lower the sails. If the halyards are led aft to the cockpit, then you will be better able to raise and lower sails without going forward.

jbr 07-17-2003 10:54 PM

Maintaining head to wind
Thanks to both of you for the good input for raising/lowering sails. Still would like to vane while on the water for reefing and following capsize recovery to make it easier/safer to reboard ...

maxcontax 07-18-2003 06:50 AM

Maintaining head to wind
singlehanding a little boat: leave the dock with centerboard and rudder down, get searoom, hoist the jib and immediately do a heave-to. When the boat settles down, tie off the tiller and go forward, mainsheet and boomvang slack, and hoist the main. Harden up and sail off. Keep the engine running in case. Heaving to is the key. Reefing: heave to again, reef the clew line first, the tack line second, do the reef ties, and motor on. Again, boomvang and mainsheet totally slack. Have you tried this?

jbr 07-22-2003 10:43 PM

Maintaining head to wind
I appreciate your input maxcontax. Regarding heave to: My experience with it has always been when all sails are already up (backed jib, eased main, tiller to leward); didn''t know you could do it only with jib up (I assume it''s just a backed jib with tiller to leward)? In my limited experience, heave to worked really well in keelboats even in high winds; its worked well for me in my dinghy in winds up to 12 kts but I''ve been afraid of using in in higher winds in a centerboard boat - is it safe to use in a dinghy in 15+ kt winds? The challenge I''ve faced when reefing and my concern with using heave to during reefing is that if I''m under full sail and winds pick up rapidly so I need to reef even with all sails fully eased the boat can capsize if I move my weight from the rail to the center in order to reef (hence my desire to be head to wind while reefing); reefing in these conditions can be a challenge if heeled; I''m afraid a backed jib/heave to will capsize me? On a related note, I have noticed in moderate winds that if the centerboard is down, rudder is up, and main is up and sheeted in/cleated that the boat vanes reasonably well but occasionally falls off to a close haul. I''ve been uncomforatable trying this in high winds because without a rudder to control feathering I might capsize in gusts if the boat falls off to close haul with a cleated main. I haven''t tried this with both centerboard up and rudder up; maybe it would vane better with both up? Your inputs are appreciated!

maxcontax 07-23-2003 08:17 AM

Maintaining head to wind
Not sure what you''re sailing there, but on most dinghies the headsail is about 1/2 the SA of the main, so heaving to should work if you leave the C/B and rudder down without resulting in a capsize. I think you have to try this and be a believer before you can go forward and reef or raise the mainsail. I did this on a Wayfarer 16 and it worked. It will lie almost abeam, but try it. If a puff hits you in this position, the boat just drifts to leeward. Do you have two-line reefing? can it be re-arranged to handle from the cockpit? That''s the ultimate solution.

jbr 07-24-2003 10:12 PM

Maintaining head to wind
I''m sailing a Hunter 170; its a nice planing dinghy but is a light boat with a lot of freeboard so it gets blown around in higher winds even with sails down. The headsail is about half the size of the main and since it has a furling jib I can partially reef it. I''ll try this approach and appreciate the suggestion; two questions though: 1) how much do you trim your jib prior to backing it?, 2) if the boat ends up almost abeam when hove to I would think the battens would still hang up on the shrouds when raising/lowering/reefing (I have swept back spreaders). I do have two line reefing but it wouldn''t be easy to reconfigure for cockpit control (would be nice...).

maxcontax 07-25-2003 09:50 AM

Maintaining head to wind
I looked at some pictures of H17''s on the www and can''t see any reason why this would not work. If you go under "seamanship" and "what is slab reefing" I posted a procedure for jiffy reefing that should work on your H17. I note that the mast is stepped in the cockpit and not on the deck, that''s in your favor when scrambling to get the reef tack secured, you''re down lower. Can''t say much more except to try it out. If you capsize and are getting ready to right it, it will be very important to grab the painter and get the bow head to wind before attempting to right it, or indeed, it will try to sail off without you. It''s a very pretty boat, I am sure you''ll get off the learning curve in a hurry and have alot of fun with her.

jbr 07-25-2003 10:58 PM

Maintaining head to wind
Thanks, maxcontax, I appreciate your taking the trouble to look up my boat and give excellent advice. I''ll try it ASAP.

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