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mrc06460 10-01-2006 11:37 AM

Single Handed Sailing

I have some sailing experience and am starting to sail single handed in a Catalina 22. I would like some basic pointers or refrerences on how to:

1) Holding the Rudder in place
2) Set the sails
3) Trimming the sails (can it be done without setting the rudder)
4) Setting a reef (I have jiffy reefing
5) Necessary hardware changes


Mike Cohen

btrayfors 10-01-2006 11:56 AM


Just sold my Catalina 22. Wonderful little boat. I sailed it a lot singlehanded over the past 10 years.

Main thing for me was a rather expensive but well-worth-it hardware upgrade: I replaced the sheet winches with a pair of Lewmar self-tailing winches. Made sailing it alone much easier, since I didn't have to tail the winches.

Great boat. Have fun.


Faster 10-01-2006 01:13 PM

Single handing a smallish boat like a C22 should be no problem.
Staying on board is job one. Find a way to secure yourself, especially in any kind of seas, and of course wear a good PFD at all times.

The biggest problem with boats this size is that if you tie off the tiller and then move to do a task your weight upsets the trim enough that the boat starts to turn.

If an autopilot is not on the shopping list, a line can be rigged from the tiller, out around the foredeck and back to the tiller. This can allow you to adjust the helm from anywhere you are likely to be on the boat. Put enough friction in the setup that you can pull it but it will stay put if let go.

Self tailers do, as described above, make trimming the headsail a one handed operation, albeit slower. In lieu of that costly fix, usually there is enough pressure on the tiller from weather helm to brace it against your leg and trim and tail the sail. Also, slow down your turns in the tacks and you will likely get the sail in almost all the way without a winch handle.

For gybes and off-the-wind tack changes, steering with the tiller between your knees and handling sheets works well.

Whether to run all the lines aft is a decision that must be made as well. Typically halyards, vangs and sometimes reef lines are led aft. Leading reeflines aft can lead to excessive friction that makes it difficult to fully put a reef in. Whichever path you take, as a singlehander make sure you can reach and secure the halyards, and the reef tack and clew lines from one location. The simplest way to do this is to leave them all on the mast and near the gooseneck. (less hardware and simpler rigging) However it requires leaving the helm for the entire operation so some effective form of self steering is required. Of course, an auto pilot will do that for you.

gsheath 10-03-2006 03:13 AM

I sail my Compass 28 single handed. The trick is to take each manouvre slow and as easy as you can. I recommend investing in a tiller pilot; makes life a whole lot easier.

The most difficult part I found in single handed work was not the sailing, but the bringing the boat back alongside the dock/finger in the marina. Practice this a number of times in different conditions; again, slow and easy is the trick.

Enjoy and stay safe.

PBzeer 10-03-2006 10:23 AM

Rule #1 is to thiink through what you are going to do, before you do it. For myself, the first money I would put into the boat would be a TillerPilot. The self-tailing winches are great, but keeping the boat on track when you have to let go of the tiller is a higher priority. With the Cat22, your jib sheets are already right at hand, so that's a plus. You don't say how this boat is setup, ie: roller furling headsail, lines led aft, tiller extentsion, but these are things that will make singlehanding easier. Another thing to think about is, when the winds are high, or expected to be, reef down before leaving the dock. It's much easier to shake out a reef than to put it in on the water.

Having started on a 21 footer, then 26, and now a 32, it's the planning ahead I find the most important part. That, and taking your time.


Surfesq 10-03-2006 10:39 AM

I had tiller steering on my Dufour 27 that I sailed about 10 years ago. I used the bungy gadget that slides back and forth to hold the tiller in place while I set sails. An autopilot is very nice but not critical if you plan to single hand locally.

I also singlehanded my Hunter 37 Cherubini extensively. I think PB is right, hit the reefs early and plan for the unexpected. When it comes to docking, again, its not difficult. Just look for the wind direction and grab the rope that will hold you in the slip first. In other words, if the wind is on the nose, grab your bow lines. (Assuming your are back into the slip). Tie them off and then work on your stern lines.

In my opinion, singlehanding in terms of difficulty is overrated. Most people singlehand their boats most of the time and just do not realize it. For example, when you sail with you friends or even your spouse, you tend to do everything anyway.

nolatom 10-03-2006 11:00 AM

An underrated trick for non-autopilot singlehanders in light to moderate air is heaving-to, with main mostly in, jib backed, and tiller tied to leeward. I don't know the Catalina 22, but most boats will jog along at minimal speed and more or less hold course.

This frees you up to go below, fix something, whatever, without having to worry as much about nearby land or traffic.

Easiest way to back the jib is to just tack without releasing the old sheet.

sailingdog 10-03-2006 11:37 AM

Also, a key thing to do is to get as much time in on the boat under varied conditions—light air, heavy air, calm seas, confused seas, etc—so you will have a good idea of how she will react in a given situation. The more familiar you are with your boat, and the more experience you have with her, the easier it will be to single-hand.

hellosailor 10-04-2006 03:38 PM

On reefing, the best advice I've ever been given was "If you're thinking that maybe you should reef...YOU SHOULD HAVE ALREADY DONE IT."

Most of us don't realize that the boat will be faster, as well as drier, by reefing before you think you need to. And, of course, reefing will be faster and safer in lower wind.

Often your polars (you can usually get polars from other owners, or from USSA) will show that you should drop from a 150 to a 100, and/or put the first reef in the main, in speeds as low as 12-14 knots. Yes, sometimes it really is that low and you can pick up speed by doing it. (I don't know about your boat, just generalizing.)

If you can't get polars, experiment. Reef and unreef, get practiced at it, and compare boat speeds and wind speeds.

sailingdog 10-04-2006 08:05 PM

BTW, if you've practiced reefing, you can get the time it takes to reef down to a few minutes. Pre-marking the halyards, for the reefing point heights helps you drop the main the right amount without having to raise the main much once you've put the reef in.

Dee Caffari was able to drop the main and make every reef on Aviva in just twenty minutes single handed.

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