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superdave 02-01-2007 01:18 AM

Question about singlehanding
I've been reading a lot lately about learning to sail, and have found myself visualizing the techniques, etc. I know many people single-hand somewhat large boats, and am very much interested in making this a focus of my learning (eventually - I'm not crazy). It seems that, during a tack or gybe, that there is a lot to do - two headsail sheets to contend with, adjusting the mainsheet to keep from smacking the boom, keeping the tiller moving smoothly through the tack, and many more depending on the circumstances. I don't want to learn singlehanding by relying on electronic systems and automatic mechanisms - I want to sail a simple boat! (Not to mention, that's what I've bought).

So I was wondering if anyone would like to describe some of these basic procedures as they manage them:confused: singlehandedly... it seems that all of the basic books want me to learn only how each crewmember would do their job, and the books I've seen on singlehanding focus more on advanced subjects. How in the world does one man slack the lee sheet, prepare the windward sheet, and manage the boom, all while still holding a tiller and paying attention to the speed/progress of the helm through the tack?

Thanks all!

'74 Coronado 23 MkII

sailingdog 02-01-2007 02:14 AM

If you're really having a problem, you can always setup your jib as a self-tending jib.. This eliminates the ability to use a genoa, but then you wouldn't have to deal with the jib during a tack at all.

The main thing that allows a single person to do all of this smoothly and easily is practice and familiarity with the boat. There is a rhythm or flow to doing a tack or gybe on every boat... and the more experience you have doing it, the better chance you have of realizing what that flow is, and how you can best keep it going smoothly.

Another problem or obstacle to single-handing on many boats is the setup of the lines on the boat. If they're setup in the wrong places, then single-handing the boat becomes much, much harder.

It helps to have the mainsheet, the jib sheets and the tiller within reach of each other, on a boat that is being single-handed... but this makes the boat a bit more complicated to sail with a crew... since you'll now tend to step on each other's toes... A good tiller extension helps a lot too...

PBzeer 02-01-2007 07:48 AM

One of the main things you need to do when singlehanding, is to think through what you're preparing to do. Have a clear vision in your mind of what you need to do, and in what order you need to do it. You won't be perfect at first, but as sailingdog says, practice, does make perfect (or at least as perfect as you get sailing a boat).

What works for me is to loosen the jib sheet and hold it in my hand, then turn into my tack. I then put my foot on the jib sheet and take up the other one in my hand. As the jib starts to backfill, I begin pulling in on it and straighten the rudder. Once the tack is complete, I then trim out the jib. Unless I have the boom way out, I don't worry about it until the tack is complete.

As I said, this is what works for me. What works for you is something you have to figure out as you do it.

Gary M 02-01-2007 08:20 AM

A Tiller Helps
Sounds like your boat has a tiller, that will make life easier. I staddle the tiller and steer with my knees, you preset the stopper for the main on your traveler so all you have to do with it it pull it over by hand at the start of the tack, then let off one jib sheet and pull in another.

It is fairly easy but if you are doing much single handing you will want a good auto pilot. You will have to go down below for a beverage every now and then. :)

When you get good at that then try sailing away from and back to your berth.


sailortjk1 02-01-2007 08:30 AM

"How in the world does one man slack the lee sheet, prepare the windward sheet, and manage the boom, all while still holding a tiller and paying attention to the speed/progress of the helm through the tack?"

Pretty much just like you said!

You'll find that first you tend to the jib, let the boom swing over, try not to over steer through the tack, set your new course, sheet in the jib on the new heading, than tend to the boom ....... all in about 5 - 10 seconds.

Pretty much just let the boom do its own thing until required you’re required to trim it.

Just like Bzeer said.

Once you get the hang of it its a piece of cake.

On a smaller (25') boat I had no problems, but on our newer boat, when I'm out in open waters with nobody around, the Robot-Pilot does the work steering the boat through the tack, and I just tend to the sheet. I have no problem with that.

Sailormon6 02-01-2007 09:21 AM

My first suggestion is that you forget about adjusting the mainsheet while tacking. As a practical matter, the mainsail is self-tending when you tack. In a well-coordinated tack, the boom doesn't "smack." As the boat comes up to windward, the mainsail luffs, and then, as it falls off onto the opposite tack, the wind fills the mainsail gradually. When you're singlehanding a sailboat, you have to think like an expert in time and motion study. In other words, you have to eliminate every unnecessary motion, and accomplish everything as efficiently as possible, because you only have two hands, and, ideally, you need three or four.

Secondly, don't make any "fine trim" adjustments while you're tacking. You'll have plenty of time to make all those adjustments after the sails are filled and the boat is on it's new course. The essential actions are to (1) put 2-3 wraps on the lazy jibsheet and take up all the slack in the line, (usually 2 is best. After the tack is complete, you might want to put a 3rd or 4th wrap on the winch) (2) release the working jib sheet, (3) steer the boat through the tack, (with practice, you can tiller-steer the boat with a knee, or you can wheel-steer it, using the wheel brake to hold it momentarily) (4) watch the jib, and, as the jib crosses the eye of the wind, start hauling in the jibsheet, and bring it in as fast as you can, (the more you can pull in by hand, the less you have to crank in under load, using the winch handle.) (5) cleat the jibsheet, and (6) make fine trim adjustments.

ccam 02-02-2007 10:47 AM

Sometimes we think things are more complicated than they really are. That said, I used the simple approach and (rent/purchased) a hobie cat and just went out and gave her hell. You will learn a lot about wind, canvas, singlehanding and what your focus needs to be during a tac or jib. Then when you get back in your Cornado you'll realize it's just bigger.

fireman181 02-03-2007 08:16 PM

Sailingdog mentioned a self tending jib, I have not heard of that one, am interested to learn??

PBzeer 02-03-2007 11:56 PM

fireman - a number of the new upscale daysailers use them. Also the Tartan 3400.

sailingdog 02-04-2007 12:07 AM

A self-tending jib is a jib that will tack itself, and has a single sheet, rather than double sheets, which are traditionally used on jibs.

One common design is to have the jib sheet running to a block on a traveler mounted on the foredeck, just forward of the mast. This design is often seen on boats, like the Sonar, but not as common on larger boats, as it prevents the use of a genoa. However, because the jib is sheeted to a traveller, it can be sheeted in tighter than a traditional setup, and may allow you to point a bit higher than a traditional rig.

Another common setup is to have the jib on a small boom, and have the boom rigged with boom-end sheeting, similar to the mainsail setup on a sailing dinghy.

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