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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 08-08-2012
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Staying behind the wheel

We were about 20 miles east of Martha Vineyard Sun Night during some unsettled weather in a Pearson 365 ketch.

During my watch I found that it took a great deal of effort to just stay behind the wheel. The boat was lurching and jerking a lot, more like a double or triple snap. Steering was a workout but the real effort was just staying in position.

Has anyone heard of some kind of harness to keep one in place.
If all you had to do was steer it would be much less tiring.
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Old 08-08-2012
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Yes you should put on a harness and clip in durring very foul weather. You will need something to clip onto as well. Some mount eye bolts to the base of the steering pedestal and jack lines (webbing to attach the haress to) leading forward.
Some use them all the time when sailing at night.
Any of the marine suppliers have them.

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Old 08-08-2012
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Re: Staying behind the wheel

Hi David,

I'm assuming that you mean in addition to a regular harness to keep you on the boat,
You're asking about a harness to keep you " in place" in a bumpy sea?

I read your earlier account of the trip. Let me ask..were you sitting or standing when steering? If standing..were you locking your knees in an attempt to stay put? If so, it's best to allow the boat to move under you like a surfboard. The boat is doing what it's supposed to do, keep itself upright, just go with it. If sitting it's a little harder to adjust, so I'll tuck in to a corner, or keep a hand on the stern rail. If it's really rough, we'll keep the shifts to an hour apiece....that's just me.. I'm sure others will have some sage advice...
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Old 08-08-2012
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Re: Staying behind the wheel

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Originally Posted by Tempest View Post
If standing..were you locking your knees in an attempt to stay put? If so, it's best to allow the boat to move under you like a surfboard. The boat is doing what it's supposed to do, keep itself upright, just go with it. If sitting it's a little harder to adjust, so I'll tuck in to a corner, or keep a hand on the stern rail. If it's really rough, we'll keep the shifts to an hour apiece....that's just me.. I'm sure others will have some sage advice...

Yes standing and I know the bent knees trick, I was doing my best imitation of a jockey.

I was surprised that for such relatively mild weather the motion was so violent.
I've been in higher wind and bigger seas with green water over the bow with less boat motion.
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Old 08-09-2012
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Re: Staying behind the wheel

I haven't been on too many different boats in rocking and rolling conditions, but on the few I have been on including my own, I can typically get a wide enough stance with bent knees that my feet get wedged up against something in the cockpit. Unless it is really bad I find myself changing position quite a bit, going from directly behind the wheel to standing off to one side, to sitting behind the wheel for bit. Most often I find that I can stand off to the leeward side as that is where I end up more often than not when really rolling and place my leeward foot against the cockpit wall. On my last really rolly trip I found that sitting on three throwable BoatUS cushions actually allowed me to sit comfortably behind the wheel and steer with a good view forward. I stacked the cushions like a pyramid, two on bottom and one on top which kept me from sliding off.

Experimenting seems to be the answer to finding the right position for the conditions.
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Old 08-09-2012
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Re: Staying behind the wheel

Have you got one of those rounded arch seats?

I don't helm, much George does a better job, but when I have to I can sit and steer even when it is rough.
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Old 08-10-2012
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Re: Staying behind the wheel

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Originally Posted by davidpm View Post
I was surprised that for such relatively mild weather the motion was so violent.
I've been in higher wind and bigger seas with green water over the bow with less boat motion.
Depends on the boat, David. Some (the heavier ones) can be tame as lambs in most all conditions, whilst others can be bucking broncos.

It also depends on the angle of the wind and waves. Perhaps if you'd been going in a different direction it might not have been so bad..
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Old 08-10-2012
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Re: Staying behind the wheel

Sit to the side and one hand the helm wheel. Its harder to quickly react to heading changes, which you are clearly experiencing. However, be more tolerant and make smaller corrections and she is probably going to be kicked back anyway. You're probably tense and exhausted from fighting so much. Let it be, unless you are racing or have rocks nearby.
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Re: Staying behind the wheel

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Originally Posted by Minnewaska View Post
Sit to the side and one hand the helm wheel. Its harder to quickly react to heading changes, which you are clearly experiencing. However, be more tolerant and make smaller corrections and she is probably going to be kicked back anyway. You're probably tense and exhausted from fighting so much. Let it be, unless you are racing or have rocks nearby.
If someone has asked me the my question before last Sun I would have given exactly your answer.

Trust me when I say that on this particular boat on that particular night one hand would not do the job.
The seas were confused and big enough that large corrections were needed often.
Based on what I'm hearing those conditions must be pretty rare as I've been in much worse weather when the helm was much easier to control.
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Re: Staying behind the wheel

Quote:
Originally Posted by davidpm View Post
If someone has asked me the my question before last Sun I would have given exactly your answer.

Trust me when I say that on this particular boat on that particular night one hand would not do the job.
The seas were confused and big enough that large corrections were needed often.
Based on what I'm hearing those conditions must be pretty rare as I've been in much worse weather when the helm was much easier to control.
I completely get what you mean. One hand will never adjust enough. I'm saying to not worry about it. Fighting the rudder back and forth with large corrections is just knocking down boat speed anyway. Might as well accept a little wandering, while you are comfortably pinned to the seat.
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