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Discussion Starter #1
I purchased an old/used 20 footer (Southwest Explorer) about 6 weeks ago, having never sailed anything more complicated than a Sunfish. Between my work schedule and crappy weather, I finally took her out this past weekend. It was NOT PRETTY! First, after struggling to raise the mast by myself, I realized a sizeable limb from gum-ball tree was hanging about 25 feet over the boat ramp ...just low enough that my mast couldnt pass under it. So I had to unhook the trailer from my truck, drive home, get a ladder and chain saw, return and cut down the limb. I should have realized that this was an omen.

While I understood the mechanics of raising the sail, I struggled to get it done with the boat floating in open water. Rather than point IN to the wind, as soon as I turned the motor off, it immediately turned stern to the wind. So I fired the engine back up and got my wife to tend the tiller while I attempted the mainsail. Is there supposed to be some device/method to keep the sail slugs above the slot where they enter the mast without raising the sail? The sail was flapping in the wind as I worked feverishly to insert each slug. But I got it done.

Speaking of the wind, I guess I need to say that I greatly underestimated the force of "20 MPH Gusts". ...which the weatherman nonchalantly added as an addendum to his report of 10-15 MPH westerly winds.

As soon as I had the sail up, one of those gusts caught me offguard, snapped off a couple of the sail slugs on the stern end of the boom and nearly capsized us. Did I mention that I forgot to lower the swing keel before raising the sail?! (I put that on my mental check list for next time)
...and that my halyard magically got tangled in a knot and wouldnt pass thru the block to let out the sail.

My wife says she'll ever go out with me again.!! ...so I guess it ended up being a good trip afterall!
 

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Yes their are several devices that keep the sail slugs above the slot.
On way is a separate slug with a thumbscrew that clamps in place.
There are also little brackets the attach to the mast that swing out to let the sail down and in to hold it up. Check to see if one was ever mounted.

As to your experience the pointing the boat into the wind and putting down the dagger board are now lessons learned. Wouldn't happen again.

You also now know that 5 to 10 knots is plenty of wind while you are learning.
Next time will be better.

As far as your bride goes that boat is small enough you can learn on it by yourself.
Get a piece of light line or some other way to fix the tiller so you can motor slowly while hoisting the main.

Go out a few times by yourself until you have it mastered then invite your wife.
Then let her be a passenger except for a few minutes on the helm if she wants to.

You will hook her too.
 

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Nice story! Lots of lessons learned, no serious damage - so not a bad day really. Some observations:

- Generally wives don't appreciate going out during the learning (or "oh cr*p") stage of sailing. It tends to be stressful and sometimes scary. Sometimes skippers even shout at them.

- Any loose line on a boat spontaneously tangles. Anything not carefully stowed leaps overboard, seemingly of its own volition.

- Personally I don't turn the engine off until the sails are raised and the sails are full.

- Can't help you with the slugs, as I don't know your boat...but generally on most boats I have sailed on all slugs are installed before you leave the dock, and sometimes the main held in place with sail ties to keep it there; some boats also have a helpful "flap" which closes the slot in the mast to prevent slugs from escaping.

- In gusty days, like in a Sunfish, get ready to dump (i.e. let out) the main with the gust (turning into it is also an option IF the centerboard is down). You know why :) Boats over 30' often have the mainsheet out of the jam cleat when it is gusty.

After every sail I do, I tend to reflect on what I did, and what could have done better...

Don't worry, just persevere. Nowadays things happen which, as a beginner, would have left me curled up in a fetal position wimpering...but with familiarity of sailing in a bigger boat, you just roll your eyes and put Murphy back in his box and deal with it. Fair winds!
 

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s/v Ilya
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I think I had more bonehead days in the beginning than successes, which is why I still go out alone most of the time. So long as you learned something and no one got hurt you won! And yes, 5-10 mph winds are adequate in the beginning. I came in on Saturday when the average was 12 and the gusts were around 17 -- it was enough for me, who might be an advanced beginner, especially since the winds kept building.
 

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One of None
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congrats on a good start! You are doing well better then many on the first time out.

suggestions; Get to know about your boat and rigging. Rigging is pretty much the same on boats your size unless it's cat rigged. (mast in the bow and no jib sail)
when you rig the boat with the mast and cables, the next thing to do is the running rigging. (all the lines for all the sails and sail handling) Practice raising and dropping sails before you go out there. even on the trailer if it's calm out. You will need sail track stop or pin in the track after the sail in in the track. the main sheet control should be slack when you raise the main. and also so the wind won't take the boat over when you are standing at the mast.
If you have a topping lift or boom back stay shackle holding the boom up it needs to be released when the sail is up.

TONS OF HELP ON YOUTUBE
 

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sounds like you got many of the mistakes out of the way on the first try .. .. .. good job around here I look for the 5-10 knot days. not as exciting of sailing but I tack and Jibe a lot and play with the lines and cruise around in circles and practice .. so when I take new sailers and its the same kind of wind I look like I know what Im doing

I always keep the outboard in neutral and ideling until I get a good wind in the sails and um under sail power.

outboard in drive and idleing directly into the wind to get the main up. fall off a little and neutral as soon as there is wind comeing accrost put the jib up .. go have fun .. . .or make mistakes .. or a little of both more likely.
 

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Did I mention that I forgot to lower the swing keel before raising the sail?! (I put that on my mental check list for next time)
Nothing beats a printed, paper check list. Update it every time you learn a lesson, print 20 copies, and stuff them in your cabin binder.

Like most folks here, I like keeping the engine on while hoisting the main (and keep the bow in the wind) so that if your sails have trouble your engine is still ready to go.

I also prefer to hoist the main, fall off to port so you are on a starboard tack and kill the engine. Now you are the stand-on vessel for most situations. THEN, when you are reaching, unfurl the jib. That way it doesn't whip around in the wind. The sound of a luffing jib makes people feel tense.

Perform the same steps in reverse to go back to the marina, or wherever you need to go. Take in the jib while sailing (avoids luffing) but you'll need someone to keep tension and let out the working jib sheet while you furl. Strike up the engine, point to irons and douse the main.

I've had a few really bad days myself, as a relative n00b, but I'm having fewer and fewer these days as I learn from my mistakes.

Have fun and happy sailing!
 

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s/v Ilya
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Nothing beats a printed, paper check list. Update it every time you learn a lesson, print 20 copies, and stuff them in your cabin binder.

Like most folks here, I like keeping the engine on while hoisting the main (and keep the bow in the wind) so that if your sails have trouble your engine is still ready to go.

I also prefer to hoist the main, fall off to port so you are on a starboard tack and kill the engine. Now you are the stand-on vessel for most situations. THEN, when you are reaching, unfurl the jib. That way it doesn't whip around in the wind. The sound of a luffing jib makes people feel tense.

Perform the same steps in reverse to go back to the marina, or wherever you need to go. Take in the jib while sailing (avoids luffing) but you'll need someone to keep tension and let out the working jib sheet while you furl. Strike up the engine, point to irons and douse the main.
The printed checklist was amazingly helpful with my first sailboat, a 17 foot Whip (bySailMFG), and it's good for when you sail with people, since they may not know what to do intuitively, so even when you have the list in your head, it's good basic info for them and a backup for you.

I lower the sails a little differently when I'm alone, depending on the wind. Generally, I heave to so that I'm basically at rest, and don't have to steer. I then lower the main, then furl the jib, and I'm on my way. It really is easy.

I also second raising the mast and sails at home when there is little wind. That's how I figured out a couple of steps when raising the mast of our 17 footer that made doing it at the boat launch much more efficient.

Good luck!
 

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Chastened
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Lemon,

It's a skill. Skills take practice and repitition to hone and polish.
Sailing is not "instant gratification".

There'll be some initial frustration and as you get better, your confidence will improve and a sense of pride will accompany the confidence.

Don't give up, keep asking questions. Keep sailing.
 

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Captain Obvious
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You wont forget the swing keel ever again, LOL

+1 on the slug with a thumbscrew. I have a few on my boat. I use one to hold the boom up too, when the sail is down.

It will get better.
 

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Windseeker
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one of those gusts caught me offguard, snapped off a couple of the sail slugs on the stern end of the boom and nearly capsized us
If you have slugs along the boom you probably also need an outhaul, a length of line that pulls the clew (aft corner) of the sail out towards the end of the boom. Something probably wasn't rigged properly if the slugs are snapping.
 

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Learning the HARD way...
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RE: the wife;

Sailing reminds me a LOT of downhill snow skiing.

Assuming that you have been on skiis; remember the first time that you got off the lift. It probably wasn't pretty either. If you got to the bottom, and didn't take a ski-patrol sled, then it was a success. You were probably pretty tired/bruised too. In a short time, assuming that you stick with it, it becomes fun. Shortly after that it becomes exhilarating.
 
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Discussion Starter #15
Many thanks for all the thoughtful replies and feedback. Winds about 45 and 39 degrees. Might be a few days (weeks?..months?) before I get my next lesson. Cant wait.
 

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If you take a spare line and tie a clove hitch around the mast, this can keep the slugs in place until you get a more permanent solution. I actually prefer this method, because it holds the line handy that I use to furl the main on the boom when I take it down.
 

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All of the advise above is sound and good. But two lines from paul323 ring very true and we don't see them written enough.
Personally I don't turn the engine off until the sails are raised and the sails are full.
The same holds true for when you're done with your sail - get the motor started before lowering your sails. Never leave the boat powerless, bad things can happen fast.

After every sail I do, I tend to reflect on what I did, and what could have done better...
I think that this is one of the most powerful statements that can be made (not just with sailing, BTW). It's ok to mess up, but it's not ok to mess up the same way twice. Look for new ways to mess up.
 

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It will get better.. just takes time. :)

As for as keeping the slugs in the track, you can use a bungee cord. Wrap it a few times around the mast, with the hooks aft. I find those thumbscrew clamps fall off in the most inopportune times.
 

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As a newbie myself, I enjoyed reading your post. My dinghy is 16 feet, but it still sometimes feels pretty big when things are going wrong...and boy do they go wrong fast!

Question: I only have a trolling motor to get me out of the marina. So (most of) you guys keep it idle while hoisting the main? I would cut it, then get pushed around because I have no one on the tiller. Should I rig up a line so the tiller stays straight?

Mike
 

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Nothing beats a printed, paper check list. Update it every time you learn a lesson, print 20 copies, and stuff them in your cabin binder.
Beat me to it! Would you fly on a plane where the pilot only had a mental checklist?
 
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