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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Seamanship & Navigation
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Seamanship & Navigation Forum devoted to seamanship and navigation topics, including paper and electronic charting tools.


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Old 11-25-2008
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Singlehanding a gaff ketch.

Anybody have any input on the practicality of single handing a gaff rigged Ketch with two headsails? In theory, i think it would work; One would just have to haul the throat up almost all the way, then the peak, then tension it up. headsails are easy enough to raise, but tacking them may be tricky. It seems to me that reefing would be even easier on a ketch than a sloop because all you would have to do is drop the main and jib and run under just the mizzen and staysail as a quick and dirty reef. I think it would be do-able in normal conditions, but when heavy weather came through, it seems like it would be a handful. Any suggestions?
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Old 11-25-2008
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Actually, i dont think tacking would be the hard on second thought. One would just point up on a close reach, harden up all the sheets and the only sail you would have to worry about would be the jib; the staysail (on a boom), main, and mizzen would tack themselves...then trim for course.
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Old 11-25-2008
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I think you could reef just about any boat by yourself as long as you thought it out ahead of time and had a way for the boat to steer itself while you are not in the cockpit or busy doing other things.
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Old 11-25-2008
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My last boat was a 47 ft gaff-topsail ketch. She carried 3 jibs, staysail, gaff main with fisherman topsail,main course on a yard and a marconi mizzen. When single-handing, I would tack by bringing the mizzen traveller to weather and sheet it in hard. After taking the helm to lee, I would run up the lee deck and backwind the staysail. Once through the eye of the wind, I would tack the flying jib,outer jib, and inner jib.After correcting the new course, I would bring the mizzen traveller up to the center. Topsails were left for sailing with crew. Raising sail ,I started with the mizzen and worked forward. The only sail that was an issue was the main, with it's gaff it weighed as much as my 250lb bulk.I rigged a bridle on the peak halyard which would raise the whole gaff once I got the gaff jaws higher than the peak. Once the gaff was at the crosstrees, I would two block the throat halyard and continue up with the peak to full hoist. Everything was done without winches. Balancing the rig in high winds was done by reefing the mizzen first, striking jibs [working aft from the f.j.],and lastly reefing the main and staysail.I always intended to add a horizontal windlass at the pinrail and turning blocks at the deck to more easily deal with the main, but opted for another boat instead.Having a system and reducing sail early in weather and at night made sailing manageable and enjoyable.
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Old 11-25-2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xsboats View Post
My last boat was a 47 ft gaff-topsail ketch. She carried 3 jibs, staysail, gaff main with fisherman topsail,main course on a yard and a marconi mizzen. When single-handing, I would tack by bringing the mizzen traveller to weather and sheet it in hard. After taking the helm to lee, I would run up the lee deck and backwind the staysail. Once through the eye of the wind, I would tack the flying jib,outer jib, and inner jib.After correcting the new course, I would bring the mizzen traveller up to the center. Topsails were left for sailing with crew. Raising sail ,I started with the mizzen and worked forward. The only sail that was an issue was the main, with it's gaff it weighed as much as my 250lb bulk.I rigged a bridle on the peak halyard which would raise the whole gaff once I got the gaff jaws higher than the peak. Once the gaff was at the crosstrees, I would two block the throat halyard and continue up with the peak to full hoist. Everything was done without winches. Balancing the rig in high winds was done by reefing the mizzen first, striking jibs [working aft from the f.j.],and lastly reefing the main and staysail.I always intended to add a horizontal windlass at the pinrail and turning blocks at the deck to more easily deal with the main, but opted for another boat instead.Having a system and reducing sail early in weather and at night made sailing manageable and enjoyable.
My god that sounds like a handful! wouldn't she bear hard to leeward once you tacked and had all those headsails aback? was it a race to pass them before she accidentally gybed? That is mostly what i worry about, but if you could pull it off with four headsails, then i should be able to do it with two.
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Catfish, your prospective boat is much smaller and lighter than ther 47 footer. Much easier to sail too. My recent boat is a 26' gaff yawl. The mains'l is about 255 sqft, 412 sqft total. I hauled both halyards together til near the top, then one at a time. Like yours, my stays'l is self-tending, only the jib has two sheets. I single-handed her all over the Sound, summer and winter, without an engine. Singlehanding just requires a little more forethought. But at least you never have to yell at the crew.
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Old 11-26-2008
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You never have to yell at the crew because everything is always your fault. Thank God there is no one there to point that out though. As for jibs, the more there are, the smaller and higher cut they are. That makes them much quicker to pass and sheet in. I sheeted them to course just as they pass through the eye while there was no load on them. The staysail was backed only long enough to get the bow on it's way across. Lazy jacks are a plus for reefing. I also put whippings on the halyards as reference lines so I wouldn't lower the gaff too far and have to hoist it back up.
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"Everything is your (own) fault" Amen
Like the time I grounded her with wind and current setting her onto the beach? Thus the SAT question: How far can a 40 year old man swim in 50 degree water while carrying a 12 pound anchor?
Answer: far enough.
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Old 11-26-2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WanderingStar View Post
"Everything is your (own) fault" Amen
Like the time I grounded her with wind and current setting her onto the beach? Thus the SAT question: How far can a 40 year old man swim in 50 degree water while carrying a 12 pound anchor?
Answer: far enough.
Not very far... But he can row a 35 lb anchor far enough out in his Dingy with ease.
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Old 11-26-2008
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sailingdog is just really nice sailingdog is just really nice sailingdog is just really nice sailingdog is just really nice sailingdog is just really nice
Last season, I spoke with the captain of a 50' gaff-rigged schooner... and he doesn't ever single hand the boat.
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