I just finished and loved the account from Joshua Slocum about his solo circumnavigation; the worlds first:
Sailing Alone Around the World, by Joshua Slocum, 1900
It is a soulful and engaging story.
He was an exceptionally experienced master seaman. However, his repeated claim that his boat was so well balanced that he rarely stood helm, even at 8 knots, seems to me a testament to superior 19th century boat-building/rigging skills (his Spray), or (very fortunate) bad weather, which was ubiquitous throughout the journey.
Is a gale today what it was then? Are boats today less able to balance than his sloop back then? Did he indeed have a Spanish patron helmsman, or am I just too suspicious?
My best balancing of my 27', 5 ton full keel cutter is for a few hours or so in 15+ close wind, but I have to take care of my movements. Eventually an unusual swell or my moving about, or clocking wind knocks it a kilter and I scurry back to the helm.
Granted his boat was 36' on deck, carrying 46+, jib tack to mizzen clew (sprit and boomkin) and 12+ gross tons, but it wasn't very deep in its full keel. What gives?
And it's true he does, at various times in his odyssey, cut down mast, bowsprit and boom and also adds a yawl mizzen, but does none out of complaint of balance. In fact, without explanation, he modifies the sloop in these ways which, one would think, threatened its balance potential.
It seems to me that the difference between trim balance good for a few hours and trim balance good for days is either quantum mechanics, the boat/rig design, or the story teller.
Others are amazed at this steering achievement, as Slocum himself recounts.
What am I missing here?
What minuscule change does it take to make sail trim that's true and balanced for a few hours become trim able to stand up to a few days?
No B.S. please.