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Go Back   SailNet Community > Out There > Cruising & Liveaboard Forum > Living Aboard
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  #11  
Old 11-07-2009
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Tanny,

Mine is a relatively inexperienced point of view, but I thought I would post anyway.

I don't want furling anything on my next boat, but I am not sure I will have a choice about it because most boats I go and look at have roller furling head sails. If a boat had anything but reefing on the main I'd spend the money to remove it, or not buy the boat, and with furling on the head sail I have a feeling I would keep it until it broke and then simply not replace it.

My boat also only has a single hand, so it is to her benefit to be easy to handle so that the hand survives intact, and most would argue that rolling furling head sails help with that because you don't have to leave the cockpit. I wonder, however, about failures. I have asked before if you can remove roller furling sails easily and if you can put up a real storm jib, etc, in a blow, and I have gotten contradictory information about this. It has lead me to believe that there are simply people out there who use these convenient sails who have never actually been in a blow and really don't have any idea what they would do if the winds were blowing enough to put up storm sails, they don't even have storm sails! Most, it seems, would simply roll their head sail up to the point that only a bath towel sized piece was out and hope that it didn't get blown out.

I believe it would be very difficult to go out in a real blow with the deck pitching all around and make sail changes, I bet you'd have to have nerves of steel and a physique to match to do that - but at least you can actually change the sails, you aren't stuck with whatever is rolled up. I also believe that the shape of the sails suffer with roller furling, but that's only a theory, I really don't know. I would bet that the racing boats don't use roller furling, not because it is against the rules (is it ?) but because they would suffer a performance hit for using it. Don't your sails have to be cut very flat to use roller furling ? I really don't know, never having had it.

I find it comforting to go up and put a sail on and know that if it was torn or some of the hardware was destroyed that short of the stay coming down I could fix it given reasonable conditions. I just don't think that's true of roller furling, I think if it gets messed up I'd have to essentially take it apart and try to rig something up and scurry back to port and have it fixed ($$$).
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wind_magic,

Your concerns about roller furling are legitimate and it is something to consider. Generally speaking, a roller furling sail will be more effective (in terms of power) than a hanked on sail assuming it is completely unrolled. This is because the foil gives better shape to the leading edge than a hanked on sail would get. However, the minute you start rolling it up at all even good roller furling sails get terrible shape.

One of the questions in this thread regarded what rig is appropriate and I feel that one of the best rigs discussed is the cutter. The beauty of the cutter is that you can have a roller furling yankee and the minute it gets rough, you can roll it up and just use the staysail(you will have to reef the main as well). If it gets really bad, you can take down your staysail and hank on a storm sail.

It is interesting to look at ocean racing boats and how they are set up differently for single handed racing and crewed boats. The single handers do use roller furling headsails but they have a couple always there.

Regarding roller furling on the main, I am not a fan. If you have in mast furling, you add a lot of windage and weight aloft and can't have proper battens. Slab reefing gives better sail shape and is more reliable so that is what I choose.
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Great comments about sailplans and furlings - thanks guys!

How about some other issues regarding single-handing a 34-40 foot cruising sailboat?

Such as autopilots vrs wind vanes?

From what I've been able to find, cockpit mounted autopilots although common are prone to failure and below-deck autopilots are recommended. I really don't know the difference, beyond 'where' they are on the boat. But wind vanes sound less likely to disappoint, and simple is better, right?

Any comments from the old salts here?
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tanny View Post
Great comments about sailplans and furlings - thanks guys!

How about some other issues regarding single-handing a 34-40 foot cruising sailboat?

Such as autopilots vrs wind vanes?

From what I've been able to find, cockpit mounted autopilots although common are prone to failure and below-deck autopilots are recommended. I really don't know the difference, beyond 'where' they are on the boat. But wind vanes sound less likely to disappoint, and simple is better, right?

Any comments from the old salts here?
Again, I really don't have that much experience, so you should not take any of what I am writing very seriously. That said ....

In terms of self-steering I think the most important thing, first, is to think of it in terms of a skill rather than a piece of gear that you buy. The goal is to make the boat go in a particular direction relatively to the wind. Some headings are harder to keep than others and some are harder or easier depending on sea state.

Self-steering is easily divided into upwind and downwind.

Upwind, to weather, self-steering is relatively easy. Lashing the helm seems to work on most boats and it the first thing you'll want to learn if you don't already know how to do it. Here you are lashing the helm so that the rudder has a set angle, then the boat does the rest, if it wanders too far away from the wind it'll naturally turn itself back into the wind, and if it wanders too far into the wind it'll naturally fall away.

Downwind self-steering with sheet-to-tiller gets to be a bit more complicated and you really have to think about it as a skill and not a device or set of gear. There is gear involved, often bits of surgical tubing, lines, and various other bits and pieces, but the big thing is that you have to learn how to handle your own boat, what it does in the wind, under various sail combinations, etc, and develop the skill of self-steering with sheet to tiller. Some of it is trial and error, but once you get it, you've got it, and it is kind of like knowing how to swim, once you know how to do it then it can save your life. Like swimming where a PFD helps but isn't always required, with sheet to tiller having the right "gear" can help, but you can usually rig something up with whatever you have around.

There are other ways besides sheet to tiller that are mechanical that I am still learning about, and with certain rigs such as yawls you seem to have a few sail options that can steer the boat as well ...

Then you get into the "gear" solutions like wind vane self-steering. These will go upwind and downwind with some courses being better than others in various sea states. I like wind vane self-steering, but again, it can fail, and I wouldn't want to depend on it with my life. Knowing how to steer the boat without wind vane self-steering to me is a necessity, and then wind vane self-steering is a nice convenience kind of like what people say about roller furling. I do not currently have wind vane self steering, but I will get it on my next boat.

Then you get into auto pilots which require electricity and that is a whole different thing, I'd never want to bet my life on that ...
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I just re-read your original post and I think you should ignore most of what I wrote in my last two posts.

The reason is that for some reason I thought that you meant you were going long distances cruising, sailing to the coast of Africa or something, but now I don't know why I thought that! You actually said you were going to the islands to live aboard, well, in that case ... why not have roller furling ? Why not depend on wind vane self-steering ? If you're hopping from one civilized place to another and can pick your weather windows, etc, then I don't see any harm in it ...

I don't think I would worry that much about storm sails or getting stuck in places where you can't get parts if it is the Bahamas.
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windmagic,

No problem - I found your post very informative.

I may not go to Africa, but I probably won't spend all of the next 10 years circumnavigating the Virgin Islands either.

I want a sturdy, solid boat about 34-40 feet, with ample fuel/water tankage, and comfortable enough to live aboard and on the hook as much as I can stand.

Beyond that I'm not likely to try to fit it with all the gadgetry that I might need if I were planning a solo sail to Africa. But I think there are probably some items, such as an autopilot (or wind vane) and self-tacking staysail that might be considered 'standard fare' for single handing such a boat - even if I were to stay in the Caribbean.

Cheers!
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Autopilots and windvanes are good at different things so it really depends on what you what it to do. Autopilots are good at steering the boat in a straight line and can sometimes do fancier stuff like tacking or following waypoints. The downside is they are expensive, not totally reliable and draw a lot of power. Wind vane units are best at reaching points of sail without too much swell and enough wind.

If you are using the unit to steer while you read a book in the cockpit and pay somewhat attention, then a windvane will work really well. However, if you are getting the unit to do things like tack for you so that you can crank in the jib sheet, an autopilot is the way to go. On boats with autopilots, I actually use the wheel lock a lot more than the autopilot. That is because the wheel lock is good enough for the quick trip to the foredeck that I need to make and once we are sailing, I much prefer to hand steer. If you are looking for a unit that can steer while you go forward to raise sails, an autopilot will be better.

One other thing to note is how both of them install. For wheels, the autopilot either goes down below on the quadrant or on the wheel itself and for tillers, it is essentially a tiller extension. Wind vanes take much more structural work back aft but they do have the advantage of having no wiring.
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Thanks klem,

I think, for how I'm likely to use the boat, a windvane would be the way to go. I know the autopilots can be power hogs - and you can always add them later.

But it seems like most used boats in the 34-40 foot range have autopliots installed by their previous skippers. I've only seen a few with vanes. Maybe your point about needing an autopilot when raising sails is something to ponder...
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I think that modern roller furling gear is pretty reliable when correctly fitted even charters come back with it intact most times. I like Profurl classic myself. As I singlehand a lot of the time I would always have a roller reefing genoa with a foam insert. No it is not great but there is no way I want to go forward and wrestle with a 400 foot genoa 4 times on a typical sail from St Lucia to Martinique.

In fact I might get three Staysail, Genoa and a roller furling CODE ZERO!

If I was heading out to cross oceans then a windvane starts to make sense but for day sailing around the Caribbean an electric autopilot is what I would want. CPT make a wheel pilot with a good rep but almost any manufacturers below deck job will do providing the actuator is sized correctly. Why, well when I am raising or lowering sail I want the engine on and the autopilot maintaing the course I set not the one that the fluky wind round the lee of most islands dictates to a windvane. Also windvanes rarely do a good job in light wind conditions on wheel steered boats.
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Why, well when I am raising or lowering sail I want the engine on and the autopilot maintaing the course I set not the one that the fluky wind round the lee of most islands dictates to a windvane.
Or let the headsail flog, sheet the main, lash the tiller, and go forward to make your sail change, no gadgets required.
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