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I am going to set up my boat to single-hand largely as a safety measure but to be honest, sailing and docking a big boat by myself is more stressful than fun, so I just bought a small sailboat that is easier to handle by myself for daysailing, it is frankly a ton more fun to sail than the big boat, which I do not give up because it's basically my vacation home on the Chesapeake that moves.
 

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My experience has been very small sailboats or 30 ft with another person years ago.

Now retired and divorced I'm looking at something 30 -35 ft that can be sailed alone. I'm thinking I'd need a roller furloughing genoa, maybe also a jib and then some kind of auto pilot or what I rememberer as a tiller tamer. Raising the main is no issue if the lines come back to the coxpit but the fore sail I think is an issue especially when you bring it down and it tends to fall over the side and you have to go forward and retrieve it onto the deck. Did I get that right?

So I've been looking at boats that have an autopilot where I thought I could set it and if necessary go forward or down below to grab a sandwich. Now my sailing will probably be on the Columbia river in Oregon so the need to tack back and forth, short tacks, will be and issue.

I've looked a a few boats mainly with the furloughing genoa because of the above but I found one with the normal jib/genoa and was wondering if that could still work or would I have to purchase a furloughing genoa and some kind of autopilot etc??
I would want an auto pilot first
 

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An autopilot is certainly useful and convenient, but it's not really necessary. Lowering sails is done this way. First, furl the jib and steer the boat on a heading approximately halfway between closehauled and a beam reach, you can set the wheel brake or set a tiller tamer, and the boat will sail slowly under the mainsail, and it will continue reliably on the same heading with nobody tending the helm. Then you can lower the mainsail, furl it on the boom and cover it while the boat slowly drifts to a stop. The mainsail tends to push the boat to windward, and the rudder is set so that it holds the bow off the wind. The two forces will reach a balance so that the boat will reliably hold its heading until you take the mainsail down.

If your jib is hanked on instead of roller furling, simply steer the boat head-to-wind and drop the sail on the foredeck. Then bear off onto the heading described above and set the wheel brake or tiller tamer. When the boat is on the above course, you can walk to the foredeck and lash the jib down with a bungee.

To raise sails, you motor slowly to windward and hoist the mainsail with the halyard (which is led to the cockpit). Then steer the boat onto the same heading described above and set the wheel brake or tiller tamer. The boat will reliably hold that heading while you unfurl the jib, or raise a hanked-on jib.

What a singlehander needs is a way to reliably hold a heading while he raises and lowers the sails. You can do that with an autopilot, or you can do it in the manner described above.
 

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Freedom isn't free
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Just put the autopilot on my 32 C&C. Went nearly a whole year without it. Its definitely convenient, but not really necessary.
Also I too removed my top lift and added a boom kicker, it does eliminate a line, and for those of us who don't have a sail up, instead have our halyard at the aft end of the boom. So honestly the topping lift in my mind is unecessary.

I back my boat in. Do not have any finger dock to tie to, and have to cross tie my boat with springs to hold her in place. It makes for "interesting" docking solo, but not rocket surgery.

90+ % of my sailing is solo. You just have to plan well to solo sail as the boats get bigger.

Like Jeff I sail in all kinds of conditions, and race as well. I'm an inland lake, but honestly I don't think it would change things much for me to be in more open water.

Wheel steering is eaiser with no autopilot as it has the built in brake. Bad part with that is unless your winds are perfectly steady (and your trim good), you are at best likely to get only 30-60 seconds before you are off course. On smaller boats the weight of you moving around the boat alone is enough to upset the "balanced" trim you might get with a locked wheel. For that reason I strongly recommend at least a wheel pilot (or tiller pilot if you are tiller steered).

Roller furling for the headsail is helpful. I have no desire for a furling mainsail. Jiffy reefing is helpful (running single line reefing back to the cockpit helps). I moved my traveler, mainsheet, vang, and genoa controls to behind the wheel on my boat, so I have ALL my trim items where I can reach them and drive. Some boats are easier to setup for this than others. For me my IDEAL boat would have a traveler in the cockpit in front of the wheel, and end boom sheeting. My boat does not have that, its coach roof. But the next best thing was route the line controls back to the helm. It has worked well. The traveler has to be upgraded (but that is unrelated to how it works - the sheaves are toast).
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A wheel brake or tiller tamer won't hold a heading for long if you try to set it on a closehauled course. If you set it under mainsail alone on a heading roughly halfway between closehauled and a beam reach, the boat will stay on that heading almost indefinitely. Walking around the boat won't upset it's balance.
 

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I am going to set up my boat to single-hand largely as a safety measure but to be honest, sailing and docking a big boat by myself is more stressful than fun, so I just bought a small sailboat that is easier to handle by myself for daysailing, it is frankly a ton more fun to sail than the big boat, which I do not give up because it's basically my vacation home on the Chesapeake that moves.
Plus a smaller boat will keep your skills sharper! We also have a small sloop (Compac 16) and a larger cutter (Pacific Seacraft 31). The 31 has all lines led to the cockpit. I mostly sail single handed. We also ascribe to the 'cottage on the bay' description with the attitude that you can sleep on a boat but ya can't sail a cottage!
 

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If remote and single handed, this is done all the time. I'd be very careful, however. I've had APs randomly drop off line, even begin to strangely command a unnecessary turn. We were once motoring out of the Bay, in near zero wind, and had the AP on. Suddenly, the boat started turning notably, while I was at the helm. We had sea room, so I decided to see what it was going to do. It held the turn for a full 360 degs, before I hit standby. I hand steered for a minute and then put it back on heading and it held for the rest of the trip. Never fully trust George.
George? I thought his name was Otto. Otto Pilot
 

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George? I thought his name was Otto. Otto Pilot
I've heard both. George is probably a carry over from aviation terminology. I think the guy who first patented the airplane autopilot, was named George something.
 

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Wheel steering is eaiser with no autopilot as it has the built in brake. Bad part with that is unless your winds are perfectly steady (and your trim good), you are at best likely to get only 30-60 seconds before you are off course. On smaller boats the weight of you moving around the boat alone is enough to upset the "balanced" trim you might get with a locked wheel. For that reason I strongly recommend at least a wheel pilot (or tiller pilot if you are tiller steered).
This is my experience too. I've heard others say that you can just lock the wheel for short periods, no autopilot needed. But when I lock my wheel, the boat begins to drift off course pretty quickly, so it's something I only use if I need to free my hands for half a minute or so do something like get a positioning or a drink of water. Granted, that's still a much better outcome than letting go of the tiller for a minute, and is a big advantage of wheel steering.
 

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If remote and single handed, this is done all the time. I'd be very careful, however. I've had APs randomly drop off line, even begin to strangely command a unnecessary turn. We were once motoring out of the Bay, in near zero wind, and had the AP on. Suddenly, the boat started turning notably, while I was at the helm. We had sea room, so I decided to see what it was going to do. It held the turn for a full 360 degs, before I hit standby. I hand steered for a minute and then put it back on heading and it held for the rest of the trip. Never fully trust George.
Agreed! The trouble with autopilots is they work great 99.7% of the time, and it's that .3% that makes you look like an idiot. Still, it's way better than putting my brother-in-law at the helm.
 

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Agreed! The trouble with autopilots is they work great 99.7% of the time, and it's that .3% that makes you look like an idiot. Still, it's way better than putting my brother-in-law at the helm.
I've been surprised how many non-sailors can't steer a boat, even if you give them a course heading. If you can point to something on the horizon to steer towards, it's okay, but even just motoring under power some people quickly get disoriented steering into the horizon and will take the boat wildly off course.
 

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This is my experience too. I've heard others say that you can just lock the wheel for short periods, no autopilot needed. But when I lock my wheel, the boat begins to drift off course pretty quickly, so it's something I only use if I need to free my hands for half a minute or so do something like get a positioning or a drink of water. Granted, that's still a much better outcome than letting go of the tiller for a minute, and is a big advantage of wheel steering.
I have found if, (clearly not in adverse conditions) I can get the sails trimmed well and lock the wheel that she will hold a course for quite a while. Again, not so much with weird currents, downwind, or crazy chop/waves but then again those are the same conditions where Ray simply struggles to keep up! We have a wheel 'otto pilot' named Ray, last name Marine. 😏

Hear ya on the brother in law!
 

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I've been surprised how many non-sailors can't steer a boat, even if you give them a course heading. If you can point to something on the horizon to steer towards
Totally agree. They can generally point at something visible, such as a feature on a shoreline, but knowing which way to turn to correct for a magnetic course deviation is oddly difficult, for the uninitiated.

Try to explain the wind instrument and ask them to just keep the wind at 60 degrees. Forget it. :)
 

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Our AP has always been known as "Otto Von Helm"..... He's stubborn & opinionated, but does follow orders!
:)

Try to find a boat with a bridge deck traveler or a traveler right in front of the helm. I have been solo sailing quite a bit for almost 3 decades on our Olson 34. I would suggest the smaller Olson 911, also. A rod vang is very helpful , too.
Self tailing on all winches. Roller furling on the headsail, and find a boat that does not really need a big genny to sail fast. I have a 97%, full hoist.
 

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As is usually the case, a ton of great info in this thread.....BUT I did not see any mention of docking. I can single hand without much adieu, until the slip comes into view, then I get nervous. The people @ my marina are there to catch my line almost every time I go out, so I never get any better at doing it alone. Anchoring & mooring balls are a piece of cake in comparison, LOL. Good luck to the OP!
 

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As is usually the case, a ton of great info in this thread.....BUT I did not see any mention of docking. I can single hand without much adieu, until the slip comes into view, then I get nervous. The people @ my marina are there to catch my line almost every time I go out, so I never get any better at doing it alone. Anchoring & mooring balls are a piece of cake in comparison, LOL. Good luck to the OP!
Getting into a slip puts you terribly close to other boats.... so you need honed maneuvering skills. I hare being in a slip wedged between other boats and have until this year been on a mooring or at anchor, I am cracker jack at pulling along side and getting off... but like you I an very tentative if I have to enter or leave a slip.... which is a very very very very rare event in my 35 years with this boat.... probably less than 50 times.
edit...

my golden rule for safety... is stay as far away of anything... boats, buoys...pilings... as possible.
 

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There are really only two maneuvers that you need to learn in order to become reasonably proficient and confident at maneuvering a sailboat under power. You need to learn to rotate the boat in place (sometimes called "back and fill), and you need to learn to back into a slip. Here are links to two videos that illustrate those maneuvers fairly well.
If you have a friend who is a skilled boat handler, and who is willing to demonstrate how to do them, that would be a big help. Otherwise, there are sailing schools that will teach you.
 

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I will repeat what many others have said. An autopilot is a must for single handing, especially for the size boat you are considering. Get the best AP you can. I put a CPT on a (wheel steering) Cal 33 and can't say enough good things about it. Reliable, powerful (as in even if out of trim in a blow it would hold course), simple to install/use, self-tacking function.

Now my sailing will probably be on the Columbia river in Oregon so the need to tack back and forth, short tacks, will be and issue.
Good upwind performance may be important to you as it could reduce the number of tacks required. Do a search in this forum for "pointing ability". There are some good posts on the topic.

Also consider the depth of the water you will be sailing in because that may dictate the maximum draft you are willing to tolerate. Though in general a deeper draft will improve upwind performance so this can be a trade-off. It depends on your priorities.

-Doug
 
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