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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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  #1  
Old 07-22-2010
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"I am overpressed with sail"

Went out for a solo on the Patapsco River out of Rock Creek last night. I won't call it a BFS, but it sure turned into a "Whoa Nelly!"

Winds were light out of the W at about 8 kt (and only supposed to be in the 5-10 kt range) when I started out with full main and 110 genny, heading on a port tack close reach towards the Key Bridge in Baltimore. I could see stronger wind on the water ahead, and when I hit it I picked up some strong weather helm -- strong enough to pull me off course and want to fly right up into the wind. So, with one hand on the tiller (which wasn't near enough) I let the traveler down nearly all the way, and the weather helm eased up. Didn't go completely away, but got much less.

I decided to gybe and get on a starboard tack broad reach heading back out the river, paralleling the channel, but outside of it, and did that neatly enough that I gave myself a pat on the back. On the broad reach things settled down nicely, as would be expected -- but as I went along the wind started to pick up to the point that even on this point of sail she wanted to come up into the wind.

Things went from the annoying to the ridiculous quickly after that, with the wind picking up even more to the point that the tendency to round up was pulling me toward the Rock Point Shoal -- the windward shore was becoming more dangerous than a leeward shore!

I decided to gybe again and get on a port tack beam reach just to wait out the wind. It wasn't predicted, and it was within an hour of sunset, and I figured it would blow itself out in a few minutes. It didn't. The further I went on this tack the more fetch the wind had, and while the waves were no problem there was just nothing out that way to block the wind. Time to come about again -- at least this time I could tack instead of gybe.

By this point you are all thinking "Why didn't he heave-to and put in a reef?", and rightly so. The reasons were (1) I had nothing handy to tie down the tiller, and as soon as I released it she wanted to fly right up into the wind and flog the sails to pieces, and (2) I've never practiced putting in a reef solo, and (3) I'd have to go up to the mast to do it, and -- forget it, I'm just heading in.

So to head back I'm on a starboard tack close-hauled, which is just SO FUN with the weather helm even with the traveler all the way down, and the vang on full, and the outhaul tight, and the backstay tightened, and all that stuff. The funny thing was that the genny was board-flat while the main was luffing (not badly enough to call it flogging, but very unseamanlike) -- usually it's the other way around on my boat, with the main tight on a close haul and the genny stalling.

So now's where the "insult added to injury" occurs: I'm single-handing close-hauled on a starboard tack in winds gusting to 20 kt, pinching to beat the band and trying to get back into the creek without the sails falling to pieces. Down at me from starboard and windward comes another sailboat, starboard tack broad reach and full of people... and coming... and coming... and not giving way to the leeward boat at all. I finally had to pinch up even more (giving the mainsail a good hard flogging) to let them pass in front of me, while at least seven people on the boat stared at me as I just pass behind them, missing them by about 20 feet or so. Thanks guys, I really appreciated it.

The rest of the way home was routine. The closer I got to the creek the more the winds lessened, until as I passed the White Rocks they were just a nice 10-12 kt breeze. Still had LOTS of weather helm, which surprised me, but I was so tired by then I'm sure the genny just wasn't trimmed properly and was causing most of it. The faithful ol' Atomic 4 fired right up and put me into the wind to drop sail (thank goodness for the jib downhaul I installed) and took me back into the creek without incident.

Lessons learned: get that reefing system set up better, and find a good tiller tender. All in all a very educational sail and good workout!
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  #2  
Old 07-22-2010
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Questions:
How tight was your backstay? .... and how much was the forestay sagging off to leeward when you were 'above a beam reach'?

How 'old' is the mainsail, and does it have a 'boltrope'?

Critical question: what is the angle that the topside of the boom makes with the mast when you 'raise' the mainsail?
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Old 07-22-2010
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The guys who passed you were almost certainly racing in the RCRA/NPSA Wednesday night series. I've encountered a lot of racing skippers who (falsely) believe they don't have to give way to a leisure sailor during a race. When I'm not racing I just try to avoid boats in a regatta for that reason.

I think if I had been in your situation I would have yelled "leeward boat" to the skipper of the other boat. If they didn't respond to that, words would be exchanged but I'd have tacked off to avoid going into irons as they took me up.

I was in that race last night (and I swear it wasn't me!!!) and it was quite a wild ride!
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Old 07-22-2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RichH View Post
Questions:
How tight was your backstay? .... and how much was the forestay sagging off to leeward when you were 'above a beam reach'?
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.

Quote:
How 'old' is the mainsail, and does it have a 'boltrope'?
Old. No idea how old. No boltrope.

Quote:
Critical question: what is the angle that the topside of the boom makes with the mast when you 'raise' the mainsail?
No clue. What should it be, and why is it critical? A racer or technical sailor I am not.
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Old 07-22-2010
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Wouldn't you want to release the vang to allow some twist since you were overpowered?
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Old 07-22-2010
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jas, dude, that DOES sound like a Whoa Nelly!"

Sounds like you handled it well though - especially single-handed. Though I don't know enough to help you out much, I will say that I've been amazed how much better my C27 sails with a reef in once we hit 20. I can get a lot of weather helm too on my boat - but she really chills out with that reef.

Go try it again and keep tweakin'!
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Old 07-22-2010
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Poor mans way to lock down the tiller - I screwed a cleat into the bottom of the tiller. I then run a line athwwartship to both docking cleats on the back corners of the boat. The line loops a few wraps around the cleat on the tiller. Then when I need to lock it down, I just pull the line tight. It still slips a little and can be forced when necessary, but it allows me to move around the boat to take care of stuff.

Of course the most recent problem I had, was a boat full of first timers. Thinking I could have them hold the tiller, I didn't bother with the line. Problem was, they had no idea which way to push the tiller to turn. I gave the tiller to someone and said hold us into the wind - turned my back and went to the front of the boat. The boat turned and I had to run back and take over the tiller. This happened more than once, but it never dawned on me that they didn't understand which way the tiller turned to turn the boat. This was in 20 mph winds in a 17 foot boat. Eventually I reefed the main - things were much more tame after that. My kids who were also first timers said this first experience sailing was either terrified or board, nothing in between. They are willing to go again, so I've not lost the battle.
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Old 07-22-2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sailak View Post
Wouldn't you want to release the vang to allow some twist since you were overpowered?
That's not the way I was taught in my ASA classes. Putting on the vang flattens the sail and depowers. Letting out the traveler dumps wind without losing the sail geometry (twisting).

Twisting is a bad thing, if I'm remembering my lessons correctly.
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Old 07-22-2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smackdaddy View Post
jas, dude, that DOES sound like a Whoa Nelly!"

Sounds like you handled it well though - especially single-handed. Though I don't know enough to help you out much, I will say that I've been amazed how much better my C27 sails with a reef in once we hit 20. I can get a lot of weather helm too on my boat - but she really chills out with that reef.

Go try it again and keep tweakin'!
Mine, too. The only time I've reefed so far I knew the conditions in advanced and put in the reef at the dock. I also had two crew with me. She handled great in 20+ winds with two reefs and the little Yankee-cut jib. These winds were a surprise, to say the least.
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Old 07-22-2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jaschrumpf View Post
Mine, too. The only time I've reefed so far I knew the conditions in advanced and put in the reef at the dock. I also had two crew with me. She handled great in 20+ winds with two reefs and the little Yankee-cut jib. These winds were a surprise, to say the least.
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.
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