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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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  #11  
Old 07-22-2010
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Question - weather helm

Do you think your rigging / mast is correctly set up?

I know after we made adjustments to the mast, as well as being sure my kick up rudder is completely down, most of that excessive weather helm disappeared. Before it was properly adjusted, I thought I was going to snap my tiller. I'm 6'5" & 285 lbs and the tiller making some ugly sounds. I can easily use one hand now but it still has a little weather helm.
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Old 07-22-2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jaschrumpf View Post
It's a split backstay with a line and single block to control it. It was as tight as a good pull on it could make it. No clue about the forestay.

Old. No idea how old. No boltrope.

No clue. What should it be, and why is it critical? A racer or technical sailor I am not.
Your boat if properly set up should have a very neutral helm, even when substantially heeled.

That you described heavy weather helm Id be suspicious that the forestay was too slack and greatly sagged off to leeward. This will cause a skid to leeward and is erroneously thought/felt to be weather helm. Next time out in the higher windranges, look to see if the wake coming off the stern is 'straight back', if not the boat is skidding and the usual cause is a too slack forestay. A too slack forestay causes the luff of the jib to be positioned FAR off of the centerline and the draft position goes 'way' aft, powers up the jib and unecessarily hooks the jib leech to weather.

The boltrope is a 3 strand dacron rope inside a sleeve at the luff of a mainsail. Most common dacron mainsails have them ... and the problem is they SHRINK over time and cause the sail to become 'baggy', draft aft, overdrafted and the leech unnecessarily hooked to weather, all causing: .... aggressive heel, tender boat, and LOTS of 'weather helm'. The angle that the 'top' of your boom makes with the mast when 'correctly' raised (proper halyard tension) should be ~89 degrees. If you havent applied sufficient halyard strain or the boltrope has significantly shrunken that angle will be much more than 90 degrees (aft of boom will be noticeably LOWER than the gooseneck).
Next time out in 15+kts. and the boat seems to have weather helm, increase the halyard tension until the helm becomes 'dead fish' neutral when beating ... the boat will sail in a STRAIGHT LINE with no weather helm and no lee helm, then 'back off' slightly with the halyard tension until the boat s-l-o-w-l-y heads up to weather with your hands off the tiller. That should correct a lot of your 'weather helm' problems. I contend that probably 95% of all non-racing sailors dont properly raise a boltroped sail ... and that all by itself causes 'most' of the weather helm problems they experience.

Of course if that forestay is too loose and is sagging off to leeward, the boat will skid off to leeward and the helm will 'feel' like weather helm ... but a skid will be differentiated by the wake coming off the stern at a noticeably large angle (greater than ~5 degrees) ... not coming out essentially 'straight back'.

If the boltrope has severely shrunken (aged) and requires immense halyard pressure to get the sail tack angle to be ~90 deg., then take the sail to a sailmaker to get the boltrope 'eased'. Easy to check the tack angle on a windless day at the dock. Just use a large square sheet of cardboard.

hope this helps.

Last edited by RichH; 07-22-2010 at 08:50 PM.
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Old 07-22-2010
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  #14  
Old 07-23-2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smackdaddy View Post
Do you have an ez-reef set up and have your halyard marked?

Honestly, I'd be spooked to leave the cockpit in big wind if I were singlehanding. Maybe someday.

For now, give me crew. I'll send them forward in the stink.
No, I don't have enough turning blocks, organizers and line clutches/cam cleats to run all those lines aft. To put them in would mean ripping down my headliner on both sides, which is more than I want to get into during sailing season.

I do have reefing lines rigged, but I'd have to go up to the mast to engage them. One the clew line is on the boom, but forward, and the tack line is right at the mast.

The thing that really made it hard was the lack of a tiller tamer of some sort. I've played with the "redneck" version, the bungee line stretched across the cockpit with a couple of turns around the tiller, but these winds would have overpowered that. I need the real thing where you can clamp the tiller in place and it won't move.

Yeah, crew to do the dirty work -- that's the real ticket!
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  #15  
Old 07-23-2010
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On more thought I'll add is how much the three years I've owned this boat have changed me as a sailor. If this had happened in my first season, I'd have probably ended up a quivering mass of jelly, curled up in the fetal position in the cockpit. As it was, my running thought during all this was "What... a... BOTHER!", as I scrambled around trying to get hold of sheets, keep the tiller from getting away from me and plan my next move.

I won't say it was a fun time (especially when the "racer" refused to give me the right of way -- I saw her name, but I don't remember it and probably just as well), but I learned a lot about how my boat handles -- though I have to caveat that with "I won't claim I had great sail trim going at all times."

I'll definitely check out the rigging tensions, too.
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Old 07-23-2010
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The post by smackdaddy is quite pertinent. If you cant go forward to FLATTEN the main, nor reef ...... and the boat is still overpowered so that it begins to 'radically heel', it WILL begin to 'skid' off to leeward. The skid will cause force components from the water to react against the SIDE of the keel and RUDDER and the rudder will 'feel' like the boat has developed weather helm.

Although not 'perfect' a single line reefing system run back to the cockpit for the main might be a very simple solution for your apparent need. http://www.goiot.com/pdf/p48a.pdf .... reef cringle rollers to avoid the inherent FRICTION from a single line reef system. Or, you can use 'stout' "S" hooks and small bullet blocks attached to the reef cringles.
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Old 07-23-2010
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Excess heeling was never an issue. I was spilling enough wind from the main by sheeting out that the rail never came close to the water. If I had to name one thing as the source of most of my problems, it would be that I didn't have the main reefed. The last time I was out in wind like that I had two reefs in the main and a little Yankee-cut jib, and she sailed great.

It also would have been nice to have had a tiller tamer, so that I could have let go for a few seconds and trimmed sail without her coming instantly right up into the wind. Before things got real crazy and I was on my broad reach, I did let go of the tiller and she sailed in a straight line for thirty seconds or so before beginning a slow, easy turn up into the wind. Once it started gusting 20+ though, she just wanted to put her face into it.
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Old 07-23-2010
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Rich H has got it.

Get a rigger to look at your rig tension. Or by a gauge and figure it out. Amazing that most non racers don't think rig tension is important and just "deal" with the problems. You need to be able to tighten the forestay, either from a backstay adjuster or a turnbuckle before you set out.

How much rake is in the mast? The more rake the more weather helm. Any prebend?

What is the purchase on your backstay adjuster? On my 25 footer it's 24:1 and it works well. My friend has a hunter 30 or 31 w/ an 8:1 (maybe) adjuster. On a 30 footer, no amount of wheaties in the morning is going to bend that rig w/o serious mechanical advantage.

At the dock w/ no sail up, crank on the backstay as much as you think you can w/o breaking something. Then go forward to the mast and site up the sail track or the front of the mast. Check to make sure it's straight and that the tip looks like it's bending straight aft. Use youre newly purchased gauge to check the tension.

BLOW THE VANG!!! I don't care what your ASA instructor said, go racing in breeze w/ a chute up and get overpowered ONCE. That's all it take to hear someone yell BLOW THE VANG. This twists off the leech of the sail spilling air / power. For example, take away the traveler, take away the vang. In a dingy sailor where all you have is a mainsheet, how do you keep the boat flat in a puff? EASE the mainsheet. This twists off the leech and spills power. During light air sailing the mainsheet is eased to help keep flow attached to the sail, lessen the angle of attack, and adjust for wind gradient aloft. In heavy air attachment is not an issue. There's MUCH less gradient. Vangs are used going downwind to keep the boat powered up. Or when vang sheeting upwind to control twist.

What was your outhaul position? Max? 1/2 of max? Do you adjust it?

As stated above, halyard tension is more important than what most think. It controls the depth and draft (power) of both sails. Problem is, most cruisers don't have the hardware to adjust a halyard under load (most just have a cleat at the mast).

ps - how close were the racers when you adjusted your course? We tend to get within inches if we don't think we'll make contact. Just earlier this week we missed a leeward boat by less than an inch. No contact, no foul.
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Last edited by zz4gta; 07-23-2010 at 02:00 PM.
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  #19  
Old 07-23-2010
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24:1 purchase on the backstay adjuster? What does that look like? I think of purchase being attained by the number of sheaves a line passes through; obviously my knowledge is incomplete, because I can't imagine a 24:1 in that situation.

To a racer our passage may not have looked like much, but I was not racing -- rather, I was pursuing my rather difficult course home while watching a fully-manned boat coming down on me fast and making no attempt to alter course. It's not a race if you're both not in it, and it's not like there was a course marked with buoys and I was obviously cutting through it-- he was coming straight down the river, apparently all alone, and was on a definite collision course with me. I have no doubt that one of us would have t-boned the other had I not changed course, and I wasn't the one that was supposed to change course. Especially since all I could do was go into irons, as falling off would have just put me into his path even more.

I'm not interested in racing, but I could develop a real dislike of them real fast if I run into any more of the "I don't have to follow the rules of the road with a cruiser because I'm in a race" mentality. That attitude is a lot like cyclists who demand to "share the road," yet run stop signs and traffic lights and generally ignore any lane markings that don't suit them.
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  #20  
Old 07-23-2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jaschrumpf View Post
24:1 purchase on the backstay adjuster? What does that look like? I think of purchase being attained by the number of sheaves a line passes through; obviously my knowledge is incomplete, because I can't imagine a 24:1 in that situation.

To a racer our passage may not have looked like much, but I was not racing -- rather, I was pursuing my rather difficult course home while watching a fully-manned boat coming down on me fast and making no attempt to alter course. It's not a race if you're both not in it, and it's not like there was a course marked with buoys and I was obviously cutting through it-- he was coming straight down the river, apparently all alone, and was on a definite collision course with me. I have no doubt that one of us would have t-boned the other had I not changed course, and I wasn't the one that was supposed to change course. Especially since all I could do was go into irons, as falling off would have just put me into his path even more.

I'm not interested in racing, but I could develop a real dislike of them real fast if I run into any more of the "I don't have to follow the rules of the road with a cruiser because I'm in a race" mentality. That attitude is a lot like cyclists who demand to "share the road," yet run stop signs and traffic lights and generally ignore any lane markings that don't suit them.
Having your right-of-way disputed by a jerk who does not know/care about the ColRegs has nothing to do with racing, cruising, or bicycling, or whatever....
A small percentage of boaters, power or sail, are always gonna be jerks and only occasionally is there a CG or county mountie right there to see it happen, unfortunately.
(sigh...)

Regards,
L
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