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I single hand my 35 footer most of the time. I agree with most of the previous comments- I bought the boat because the genoa winches were near the helm and it was set up otherwise for easy single-handing. What wasn't convenient, I changed. I agree that in mast furling is not necessary or desirable. A good lazy jack (Mack Pack or Stack Pack) or Dutchman system makes the main almost as easy to handle as a furling genoa. I wanted a traveller in the cockpit at the helm station, but gave up on that one as it is rare, especially in racer/cruisers or cruisers. Not a big deal. I use the autopilot to adjust it on the coachroof, but that needs much less adjustment than a genoa. But I do want to comment on autopilots, which I consider essential for single-handing. I had an underdeck hydraulic unit on my first boat and a wheel pilot on my current boat. I now wish I had spent the extra money and gotten the underdeck hydraulic. Wheelpilots are much more finicky, less reliable and take several steps to activate/deactivate in a hurry. You have to reach through the wheel, throw the lever and then find the autopilot button to activate. With the hydraulic, you just push the button. That does not sound like much, but in practice, it makes a big difference in convenience and speed in an emergency. Plus, I have had to fix numerous problems with the wheel pilot over the years and never touched the hydraulic in the same time.
Dave
1990 C&C 34+
 

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..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.
I have a long, light, line. Cleated amidships, outside everything, back to the stern and then to a primary winch.
Holding that line in the middle with 2 coils I can throw it and generally catch something (if not the dock cleat I'm aiming for). Then pull and wind like hell, using the engine as well.
A bit of practice and its made life much easier. Mind you, getting a girlfriend has made things even easier! :)
 

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Mind you, getting a girlfriend has made things even easier!
And just like kids, are far more expensive than electronics. A full 360 maneuvering joy stick, integrated to the prop, with bow and stern thrusters seems cheap, comparatively. :)
 

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I singlehand my Catalina 30 off the Connecticut coast typically in Fishers Island Sound about once a week in season. All lines are led to the cockpit but forward of the wheel where I can’t reach them. I’m only an average sailor but agree with all above.

Firstly, my AP broke for a few weeks, which made me develop the skills to do without. The notable new skill was steering from forward of the wheel, over my shoulder that is, while tending lines and tacking. Steering is all reversed. I really missed the AP in the following two specific situations and was very happy to have it back:

1) My AP will do a 90-degree tack without me at the wheel when requested. So lots of short, quick tacks, as in a river, would be much easier when standing forward of the wheel to tend sheets during the tack, if your AP handles the initial tack course change. Look for an AP that tacks.

2) While raising and lowering sail singlehanded on a breezy day when there’s other traffic around, the AP keeps me on my pre-selected course. So hoisting and dousing are finished quicker due to less friction in the sail tracks. Safer.

Related for singlehanded dousing is having lazy jacks rigged, which I have a love/hate relationship with i.e. take them off for a season, put them back on for a season. When you’re either in trouble on a breezy day, or returning to dock, and the main needs to be doused quickly, there’s nothing like popping the clutch and having the lazy jacks handle flaking the dousing main while you remain in the cockpit.

Secondly is singlehanded returning to dock. Agree with posts above about dock fenders which I leave permanently attached to the dock, preventer (spring) line and takeoff/landing being the hard part. Previous Owner of my boat would not singlehand her for fear of returning to dock solo. My dock has finger piers with two boats per slip. Returning solo is ALWAYS a heart-in-the-mouth event, especially since at dusk on weekdays when I’m usually coming in, the dock is typically deserted and I’m on my own with no one to come over and help.

1) I leave behind a spring line attached to the outermost piling. Getting the spring line length just right is trial and error such that the boat bow cannot reach the main pier forward of the boat when attached by the spring line. My spring line is about 8 feet long with a pre-tied largeish bowline loop in the non-piling end.

2) Coming into the slip straight and slow at around 0.7 knots, when I’ve just about lost steerage, I reverse throttle to gain some prop walk over toward the piling and to slow/stop forward travel.

3) I depart the wheel to either boathook or hand grab the spring line from the piling and place it over the jib sheet winch on the coaming in the cockpit, aft of amidships. When this sometimes goes poorly, the boathook ends up on the winch too, inside the spring line. When this goes really poorly, I just hold the spring line loop by hand and pull her over to the finger pier, big heave, and then onto the winch.

4) I then jump back to the wheel and forward the throttle while quickly spinning the wheel all to way over toward the finger pier and giving a good amount of forward throttle. Better have that spring line attached! She snugs up to the finger pier in a moment. While snugged up and still throttled forward, I casually, safely jump to the dock and add more dock lines. Only then go to neutral.

Notes: a) The prop walk help in step 2 only works if you dock on the appropriate side of your double docking slip, so you might need to permanently move to the other side of your double docking slip depending on the direction of your prop walk b) getting ahold of the spring line on the piling while away from the wheel is the trickiest part and sometimes requires a couple tries with the boathook c) practice very early in the season when no one else is around watching, with a crew to assist during the learning d) I’ve done this procedure several times with a 20 knot cross wind pushing her away from the finger pier, the greater the cross wind, the more forward throttle is needed to snug up against the wind, but she’ll snug up in a moment, 20 knot cross wind wants full forward throttle! e) When this goes well, I jump off and kiss the dock. When people are watching they all cheer because once again I’ve not hit them!
 

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Leaving fenders, pre-set (however) dock lines, and so forth is something I never do because I typically sail to a different harbor each time. At least that is my goal. My theory is that I need to develop and maintain the skills to pull into any new marina with nothing but a bare slip awaiting. I have mostly single-handed a 33 footer. I even prepare my boat, prior to entering the new marina, such that I have dock lines set on both sides of the boat. I know that I can request in advance what side I will be tying up to, but last second "stuff" happens (or a miscommunication from the harbor person) and so I am always prepared for whatever. Now if one most always comes back to the same slip then..... whatever.

-Doug
 

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Even as good as I've gotten at docking in my slip every once in a while everything will go to crap, usually due to an unexpected gust at the wrong moment, or I've just read the conditions wrong and started my turn too soon or too late, docking stress is a big reason that if I'm just day sailing it's more enjoyable to just take the little daysailer out, all I have to do when I return is not hit the dock too hard, boat is too little to damage anything.
 

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.....
Firstly, my AP broke for a few weeks, which made me develop the skills to do without. The notable new skill was steering from forward of the wheel, over my shoulder that is, while tending lines and tacking. Steering is all reversed. I really missed the AP in the following two specific situations and was very happy to have it back:

1) My AP will do a 90-degree tack without me at the wheel when requested. So lots of short, quick tacks, as in a river, would be much easier when standing forward of the wheel to tend sheets during the tack, if your AP handles the initial tack course change. Look for an AP that tacks.
....
Well before my AP ever crapped out... it did so a few times over the years... I made the decision to install the control panel forward to port in the cockpit. As I only helm the boat getting on and off a dock... or perhaps coming to a leaving a mooring... I don't need the AP control accessible from "behind" / "at" the heim.

I often sit on the port coaming to see over dodger and steer the AP using its rotary dial by reaching down... you don't need to look at a steering wheel to steer... you need to be observing how the vessel or vehicle moves when the wheel /rudder is turned.

When weather stinks I sit on the bridge deck legs/feet on the companionway steps... instrument displays in arms reach... and steer by reaching over to the port AP control panel. Engine instruments and key are on the opposite side (stbd).

I set this up to single hand and it works a charm. My AP is NOT driven by an AP... it uses a course dial to hold a course. I can tack standing in front of the pedestal... winches to prt and stbd...AP and mainsheet right there... and the engine throttle behind.

138423
 

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IMO, one of the most common reasons why people are intimidated by singlehanded docking is excess speed. They're afraid they'll hit the dock too hard. The only reason to fear hitting the dock too hard is if you're going in too fast. If they go in at minimum speed, they will kiss the dock lightly, if at all. When you enter the slip dead slow, everything happens in "slow motion." If you start drifting off line, you have time to react, and to move across the cockpit to fend off a piling with your hand. You have time to pick up your boat hook and grab a piling with it, to pull the boat in line. After you have one end of the boat started into the slip, you can even shut off the engine and use your boat hook to maneuver it in the rest of the way. Some sailors argue that you can't go slow because you'll lose steerageway. That's true, of course, but with this method, you aren't relying on your engine or steerageway to maneuver the boat. You're maneuvering it in by pulling it in with a boat hook. There's nothing new about this method. It's the way folks did it in the days when sailboats didn't have motors.

A strong boat hook is the singlehanded docker's best friend. Even if your engine dies before you get to your slip, you can use a boat hook to pull the boat down the fairway, from-piling-to-piling, and maneuver it into your slip, either bow first or stern first. Watch marina employees. They frequently move unpowered boats around the marina using boat hooks.

I no longer have any fear of docking, because I know that I can get the boat into my slip, even with a dead engine.

Here's a brief account I wrote of a time when we ran out of gas on a friend's sailboat. "About 10 minutes from our marina, the motor sputtered and died. We broad reached on the roller furling jib to the marina entrance, We developed a plan. Just inside the entrance there's a dock where a boat is allowed to tie up only in an emergency. We decided to try the engine, and, if it wouldn't start, we'd sail to the emergency dock on the deeply furled jib and stay there until we could get more gas. If it started, we'd see how long it ran. If it ran as far as the emergency dock, we'd continue to the boat's slip, which was off to the right and up a different fairway."

"We tried the engine and it started, so we furled the jib. It ran until just past the emergency dock and quit again, about 100-125 yards from the slip. We know from experience that this boat carries without power for a very long distance. We had two boat hooks on deck, so that, if it didn't carry far enough to reach the slip, we could maneuver the boat the rest of the way by hooking pilings with the boat hooks and pulling her into the slip. She coasted until we were able to just nudge her bow between the two outer pilings of her slip, and then she stopped, so we manipulated her in the rest of the way with the boat hooks."

"
 

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The guy I used to race with always said, "Only go as fast as you're willing to hit things." So true. I will definitely bookmark this thread and use the great <docking> suggestions found here when I make time to practice! I must admit, I've been too chicken to put it on the calendar since I got my own boat....quite awhile back. Would be funny, were it not so sad.
 

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Leaving fenders, pre-set (however) dock lines, and so forth is something I never do because I typically sail to a different harbor each time. At least that is my goal. My theory is that I need to develop and maintain the skills to pull into any new marina with nothing but a bare slip awaiting. I
Yeah, Doug, thats what I do. Every marina I go into is the first time I've been there. Its a pain in the butt.
I set my fenders and lines out both sides and have the fenders at different heights, alternating for a high dock and a low dock. so I can do both.
Also I use light mooring lines to attach and then when I'm settled I change to the heavy lines. Nothing worse than to try and chuck 40 feet of 2 inch storm line!

In an anchorage I do a 'drive past' first, but thats not normally possible in a marina.

Mark
 
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I really prefer to dock in the slip stern-in, and going too fast and hitting things isn't the problem, it's getting the stern inside the first pilings without missing. If your boat neighbors anchors and BBQ grills are hanging out in the fairway, you lose a lot of the more forgiving 'just nudge up to the pilings' and spring line yourself in options.

Back to topic: good advice is to find an easier slip to dock in if you will be single-handing. Full dock instead of finger pier, wide instead of narrow fairway, right angle for your prop walk and preferred approach all help.
 

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I have a long, light, line. Cleated amidships, outside everything, back to the stern and then to a primary winch.
Holding that line in the middle with 2 coils I can throw it and generally catch something (if not the dock cleat I'm aiming for). Then pull and wind like hell, using the engine as well.
A bit of practice and its made life much easier. Mind you, getting a girlfriend has made things even easier! :)
Midship line is good, good girlfriend is better because , well, I just love intelligent women!
 

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OP: how do I single-hand
Single Sailnet: you can do X, Y, and Z
Coupled Sailnet: you should really try to find yourself a nice girl :)

(Obviously I'm joking I know many singlehanders have partners who just don't like to sail)
 

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I really prefer to dock in the slip stern-in, and going too fast and hitting things isn't the problem, it's getting the stern inside the first pilings without missing.
There are two ways to get the stern between the two outer pilings. You can back up fast enough to have steerageway, and just steer the boat between the pilings and into the slip. But that takes some practice and skill, and most folks fear hitting the dock at speed.

The slower, safer way is to "prop walk" the stern between the pilings. Line up your boat so that the stern is stopped and pointing directly at the piling on the starboard side of your slip. The bow of your boat should be angled slightly to the left. Then start using the back and fill maneuver. Each time you do it, prop walk will kick the stern slightly to port. When you have moved the stern over enough so that the stern will fit between the pilings, shift into reverse and give it a small shot of throttle to get the boat moving slowly backwards into the slip. Once the stern is between the pilings, you can use your hand to gently fend off of pilings, or you can use the boat hook to maneuver it in the rest of the way.
 

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No one has mentioned this there is a great little online book called "Thought, Tips, Techniques & Tactics For Singlehanded Sailing:" that was written by Andrew Evans with a Foreword by Bruce Schwab. Last time I looked this book is only available as a free download from The Singlehanded Sailing Society at:
www.sfbaysss.org/tipsbook.

I also figured that I would post some of my own articles that I have written on short-handed sailing over the years. This one was in Spinsheet:

STARTING TO SOLO

For most of us, one of the joys of sailing is spending quality time with family, friends and crewmates, so, it is easy to think, ‘Why would I want to single-hand my boat?’ That is until ‘that day’. You know ‘that day’. It’s the day that you go down to the boat, the temperature and winds are perfect for a sail, but you are alone and can’t find anyone to play with. And suddenly the idea of soloing does not seem so unappealing except you have never done it, and it seems impossible as your boat is set-up.

While there are boats which are more ideally set-up to single-hand and boats that harder to sail short-handed, there are very few boats, which cannot be sailed single-handed with some careful thinking, a bit of preparation and a little practice.

The process of starting to single-hand begins at the dock with sails not set, but with the traveler control lines, mainsheet and jib sheets run to their normal positions and all of the sail control lines run normally. Standing near the helm, with a notepad in hand, think through and list each step of doing the more common maneuvers; leaving the dock, raising sails, tacking, jibing and coming back into the dock. List each step in each maneuver in the order that they would normally be performed when there is crew onboard.

In doing so, it may seem like there will be tasks that appear to need to be performed almost simultaneously and as such, will require you to be in multiple distant places at once. Think about which of those tasks may performed slightly ahead of the other, how much time can lapse between one task and the next, and what could be done to allow those tasks to occur more rapidly, and then at the dock, walk through them a step at a time

For example, when practicing leaving the dock in a cross breeze you can try releasing all of the leeward lines and only have a windward, bow, spring and stern line attached. Then experiment, perhaps removing the spring line and pulling the boat up to the windward side of the slip with the bowline. With the bowline still cleated, let go of the bowline, walk aft to stern line perhaps stowing the spring line as you go and to see whether you can get the stern line off the cleat before the bow line snugs up. This will provide a sense of how long you have to do that task.

If you find that there is adequate time, you have figured out a plausible process to safely get out of the slip. If there is not adequate time, then more preparation will be important. Lines should be rigged with eyes on the boat end so that they can be quickly be removed or dropped onto cleats. If you are of the mindset that a boat should be tied up so that line length can be adjusted from onboard, then these might only be light weight 3-strand lines that are only used when leaving and arriving at the dock until the permanent lines are reattached.

Rigging a taut line between the slips, might provide a way to pull the boat back up to windward or control the longitudinal position of the boat as you walk aft to the stern line. Hanging a short loop of line on the line between the slip gives a line that can be quickly dropped over a cleat or winch to buy a little time by preventing the boat from falling off to leeward on the way into the slip.

Similarly, while still in the slip, walk through sailing maneuvers. Look at how you move during that maneuver and how you might change where you position your body or the sequence of the maneuver. You might try standing between the helm, and the control lines during a maneuver rather than your more typical position at the helm. It may mean adjusting the traveler for the next tack before putting the helm down to start the tack and then breaking the leeward jib sheet early to provide time to move to the new working sheet. It means coiling lines with figure 8’s to make sure that they are free to run reliably.

Preparation may include adding locking winch handles so that the handle can be placed in the winch before the tack taking one more step out of the tack. On a tiller boat it may mean adding a length of heavy shockchord that is run across the cockpit at the end of the tiller and which can be looped several times around the end of the tiller to hold it in a chosen position. The loops can be rotated around the end of the tiller to make fine adjustments and shockchord allows a quick adjustment in course without releasing it.

When you think you have it all figured out, go out and try it all with an observer on board. Go through each maneuver single-handed. (Programs like CHESSS’s Solo+one are a source of observers who are experienced single-handers www.chbaysss.org/) The observer is only there to help you if something does not go as planned and to watch each maneuver and make suggestions on how they might be performed more easily. Don’t be in a rush to solo and do not rush to make large changes to your boat. The more you practice even with people on board, the better your techniques will become and the more natural single-handing your boat will seem, so that ultimately when ‘that day’ happens again, it will only be just another day on the water.
 

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This was also in Spinsheet:
THE BIG MARK-UP- An Aid For Short-Handed Sailors

Decades ago, a cruiser friend of mine invited me to go sailing with him. He had been complaining that his boat did not sail as well as her sistership and wanted me to see if I could figure out why. We had a lovely sail during which I experimented with jib sheet leads, halyard and outhaul tension, tightened the backstay, showed him how to use the traveler more effectively and so on. By the end of the day, we had the old girl pointing higher and seeming to make a little more speed. Most of the adjustments were pretty basic for a racer, but my friend had been of the “adjust-it-once-at-the-beginning-of-the-season-and-don’t-touch-it-again” school of sail trim.

Back on the dock, my friend commented that he wanted to learn more about adjusting his sails better and so I suggested that he go out on a race boat. When he agreed I got him an invitation to go out on the competitive 40 something foot IOR boat that I was crew on at the time. More than any boat that I raced on before or since, this boat was ‘raced by the numbers’meaning every control line had a reference mark and a set of numbers marked on a surface next to the line.

In practice as the boat approached a mark-rounding, the skipper would call out the current point of sail, apparent wind, and the expected new point of sail. Then the lightest crewmember (usually the owner’s 16 year old son) would leave the rail, reach into the companionway, and pull out ‘the bible’. The bible was a neatly typed sheet that was laminated in plastic. On one side was a chart listing various apparent windspeeds in columns and points of sail in rows. This chart was needed to figure out the true wind and the apparent windspeed on the next leg,

On the flip side was a chart for each point of sail that had the columns labeled with apparent windspeeds and a row for each control line. The ‘preacher’ as the person reading the bible was jokingly called, would read off settings, “Jib Halyard 5 going to 7”, “Jib lead 4”, “Outhaul 6”, “Vang 7” and so on. After the preacher read the control line and setting, the crewperson assigned to that control would repeat back the line and setting. This allowed the boat to be very quickly trimmed to approximate ideal settings for the next leg.

Afterward, my friend commented that he was most impressed by the numbering system, but thought that it really had no place on a cruising boat being too complex to deal with when there wasn’t an 8 to 10 crew pulling the strings. I agreed that while true, cruising boats tended to have fewer control lines and so maybe a simpler system might still make sense.

As a short-handed racer and cruiser, I started using a color coded system using electrical tape. In my case, I used red tape marks at one end of the range of adjustment for heavy air and blue at the other end for light air, with a few more color marks in between used as reference for conditions in between.

To place these reference tapes, I put reference marks on the control lines and went out sailing on a windy day. After experimenting with the control line settings until I had them where I wanted them and I made pencil marks where the ‘heavy air’ red tapes would be placed. I did the same on a light air day. Back at the dock I added intermediate tape marks.

This is not a perfect system since the setting for a deep reach would be different than a beat even in the same apparent wind, as a cruiser or a short-hander, the marks give a quick point of reference to get the sails adjusted approximately correctly. While speed may not matter as much to a cruiser, properly adjusting control lines not only can improve pointing and speed, but can also reduce heel angle and weather helm making a cruiser’s day more comfortable. And that’s a good thing.

138425


Above is the backstay adjuster on ‘Synergy’ set for light air. The white reference mark can be seen on the swage and the color code for the various wind speeds are applied on the fixed part of the cascade.

138426


The control lines on Synergy’s cabin top (from top to bottom) are the vang, outhaul, spinnaker halyard, main halyard, jib halyard, and second reef clew line. They are set for roughly 12 knots apparent wind. The reference marks are contrasting color whippings so that they can be felt at night.
 

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This was in 'Sailing Tips' a few decades ago;
DOCKING SINGLE HAND IN A CROSS WIND:
Its never easy, but then there's always the Halpern Mark III Cross Wind Single-handed Docking Assistance Apparatus (The CWSHDAA Mk III for short or the MK III for real short)(Not to be mistaken for the Halpern Mk IV for the from-the-dock-bottom-scrubbing-device or the Halpern Mark II single-handed racing mainsail roller). The Mk III is comprised of an old wire/rope halyard that I run outside of everything on the windward side of the boat. Riding on that halyard is a small Harken wire block and tied through the bail of the block is a loop of line approximately equal to half the beam of the boat. To deploy the Mark III, I tie it tightly outside of the lifelines and rigging from bow cleat to stern cleat. I bring the block to the stern and back in. As the transom passes the outboard windward piling or cleat, I drop the loop over the cleat or piling. The block slides forward along the wire and when it gets to the bow it keeps the bow from dropping off to leeward. step ashore with my stern line and tie it off and at leisure make up the real bow lines. But that's another story.
 

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Short-handed Spinnaker Tips:

I single-hand a lot under spinnaker. I have for much of my life; most recently single-handing on my previous boats, a 25 foot Kirby, and 28 foot Laser, and now on my current 38 footer. All of those boats had symmetrical chutes and were set up for end for end jibbing of the pole. Only the 38 footer has an autopilot. The other boats were tiller steered and I steered with the tiller between my knees or held the tiller with shock-cord (bungie) run across the cockpit. I also have experience sailing short-handed with asymmetrical chutes and cruising asymmetrical chutes.

In discussing this topic with other experienced sailors, I have come to realize that, like so many topics that are sailing related, this topic can result in very strong opinions and that these strongly held and completely defensible opinions do not always agree. While my opinions on this may be at odds with those opinions of folks who I respect and who also have a lot of experience, that does not make either my opinion or their opinion universally right or wrong.

This is one of those cases where an argument can be made for any number of possible approaches and the reader probably needs to evaluate some of the ideas being presented for themselves. In fairness, some of the disagreement on flying spinnakers short-handed results from differences in the size of the boat, the layout of the boat, its equipment and the skill level and physical condition of the skipper and crew, but others are merely a matter of personal preference.

I use the spinnaker short and single-handed both when I am cruising, but also in the CHESSS spinnaker class usually single-handed. Carefully setting up the boat in advance to fly the spinnaker short-handed can make the flying the chute easier and safer.

Due to my personal preferences, my boat is set up with all of the halyards led aft across the cabin top, including the spinnaker halyard. Similarly the pole lift and foreguy/pole downhaul is lead aft. I personally believe that this is the safest and easiest way to fly a spinnaker short-handed since it allows you to be able to reach the sheets and guys during the raise and drop. While I have heard the concerns about the increased friction of leading the halyard aft, I use low friction roller blocks and I am generally able to hand over hand the spinnaker halyard all the way to its full hoist. More on that later, except to note that my boat does not have a dodger or Bimini which potentially might impact the advisability of all lines run aft on some boats.

I personally believe that a symmetrical chute is far easier to single-hand than an asymmetrical. The asymmetrical has a narrower range of wind angles that it can tolerate and are more prone to getting a wrap when jibing. A wrap when you are single-handing can be an extremely dangerous situation because it requires so much time on the bow to clear.

I don’t use a sock as I find that socks more prone to sending the sail up with an hourglass, which again is a major issue when you are single-handing. But also in my experience, the recovery line on a sock can get fouled leaving you with a half in/half out chute and nothing that you can quickly do about it. While socks have gotten better than the last ones that I used, I found that socks were next to useless when the wind really pipes up unless you can get the chute in the lee of the mainsail. So I for myself, I have concluded that asymmetrical spinnakers and socks are fine for boats with crews but really are less than ideal for single-handing. I understand that this opinion is not consistent with the currently popular view on these issues.

A word about winch handles while I am discussing hardware. Fully crewed race boats typically use handles without locks since they are faster for the grinder to insert or remove. Short-handed I have lock-in handles for each of the winches that I use under spinnaker. I leave two handles in the winches at the aft end of the cabin-top so I can quickly adjust control lines. Upwind, I typically only use one winch handle on the sheets and carry it across the boat on each tack. But downwind I leave a handle in each of the sheet and guy winches.

Standard full length winch handles are 10” long. That is an ideal size for most people to use sitting down. Longer than that, it is much harder to move your body and maintain constant force and speed. Shorter than that, and you are giving up leverage. But for halyards and reef lines, where the loads can be larger and there is a lot of line to move, I have one ancient Barient 11” long, two-grip winch handle. Because of the configuration of my deck, I am able to stand over that winch with the handle at elbow height and use my whole body to swing that handle full circle. The extra 20% leverage of that handle allows me to crank at the high speed setting on this two-speed winch rather than switch to the power speed when trying to quickly bring in a lot of heavily loaded line. If your winches are located where you can use your whole body, then keep your eyes out for a 11” handle.

No matter what type of spinnaker you fly, prep work before the start of the race is essential to successful spinnaker work. Before the race and before each raise, I always ‘run the tapes’ no matter how carefully I think the chute was packed last time it was used. On small boats the chute can be raised from a ‘diaper’ in the companionway or forward hatch.

On a bigger boat, where a turtle is necessary and the turtle is stored below until needed, I like to store the turtle next to the companionway steps and clip the turtle to a sail tie that is tied to the grab bars at the companionway so I can easily bring the turtle on deck without going below. That said, just before the turtle is brought on deck for the raise, I typically grab a cold bottle of water from the icebox and put it by the helm. Nothing depletes fluids like a mid-summer spinnaker raise.

If you choose to use a symmetrical chute, there are some additional set up and tweaks which can make using the pole easier. Before the race, I rig the pole to the mast and raise it with the pole lift and foreguy/pole downhaul attached. I check that the leads are clear and that the bridles are not twisted. When rigging the pole, it’s important that the jib sheets are run forward of the pole downhaul/foreguy in order to allow the jib to be flown on either tack at the end of the drop. With the pole up I check that the end fittings work smoothly. A loop of shock cord around the pole will keep the end fitting retractor lines near the pole so they are less likely to get caught on anything.

Once the pole is rigged and checked, I stow the pole without removing the lift or downhaul. Depending on the boat, there are several tweaks which further allow the pole to be quickly stowed fully rigged but without fouling the jib sheets.

On a boat the size of my prior boat, a Laser 28, pole storage on the boom (AKA a pole launcher) works extremely well. On the Laser 28 this consisted of two short lengths of 4” diameter PVC pipe that was strapped with webbing to either side of the boom a little more than half the pole length aft of the gooseneck. The way this is used is that after the drop, the mast end of the pole was slid aft into the tube and when once the pole was fully slid so that the forward end of the pole was slid aft of the gooseneck, the forward end of the pole was held in place by being slid behind a loop of heavy shock-cord that was wrapped tightly around the boom. The pole lift was hooked into a plastic hook that hung from the gooseneck on piece of shock-cord. The pole lift was then tensioned which kept it against the mast and out of the way of the mainsail and jib.

A launcher is not practical on a bigger boat. On a bigger boat a series of small loops of light line secured in a number of places around the boat can provide a quick place to secure the pole. On my boat there are three sets of small loops which are located on the toerail near the bow, another set aft of the shrouds at the chainplates, and one at the base of the mast. I use these as quick places to clip the pole end in a hurry to get it out of my hands.

The key is to have the loops placed where the other end of the pole is captive and can’t slide over the side. So, for the forward loop, I make sure the after end of the pole is inboard of the shrouds, for the loop at the chainplates, the aft end needs to be inboard of the a particular stanchion, and for the loop at the mast, the aft end of the pole catches on the cabintop-mounted winch on one side and the companionway spray hood on the other side. With practice you can quickly slide the pole into place without fouling the jib sheets.

If your pole eye is on a track on the mast, and your deck configuration permits it, you may also simply leave the pole attached to the pole eye and lower the aft end of the pole to the deck and slide the forward end of the pole into the pulpit below the jib and stow the pole that way. (It gets pretty beat up that way)

No matter where the pole is stored, the pole lift is stored attached to a small plastic hook that is tied on a shock-cord lanyard near the base of the mast to keep the lift against the mast and out of the way of the mainsail and jib sheets. When everything has quieted down and I find myself near that corner of the cockpit, I tension the lift at leisure. The shock-cord allows me to release the lift from the hook without releasing the pole lift when the time comes for the next hoist.

When racing with any regularity, I strongly believe in marking the positions of general control settings for various wind speeds. The usual method on fully crewed boats is the use of numbered strips and elaborate matrixes for each wind speed. But as a single-hander there is no time for that level of precision, so I use markers made from colored electrical tape. I personally use a system of green tape for light air, black for normal breezes, yellow for a bit more breeze, and red for heavy air. At a glance, I can quickly set the control in the right general neighborhood and keep moving to the next item screaming for attention.

An example of how this works would be the row of small tape marks for quickly setting the spinnaker pole eye at the right height. I put a short strip of tape of the right color in the right spot on the mast next to the track (rather than trying to mark the track itself). It makes it quick to adjust the pole height for the wind speed before the raise. I also put the same color tape marks on the pole lift so I can quickly tell when the pole is at the correct height without having to watch the pole and guess.While a little off the topic, I also use the same system of colors to mark my backstay adjuster, outhaul (tape marks on the boom), main halyard (with a whipping on the halyard itself and the color tape stripes on the deck)

The three (obviously) hardest parts of flying the chute is the raise, jibe and drop. Being able to either have a tiller that you can steer with between your legs during the raise and drop, or a good autopilot are critical to flying a chute single-hand.

The key to these types of maneuvers is to develop and practice the sequence of events and learn how to safely and efficiently move about the boat during the sequence. Spinnaker work is an elaborate dance and doing it well is all about the choreography. As with all good choreography, it is all about timing and being in the right place at the right time. It is easy to feel like you need to rush, and with the adrenalin of a spinnaker maneuver it is easy to act in haste and repent at leisure.

With practice the speed and positioning becomes more natural. Approaching the maneuver I think through the steps in my mind. To fight the urge to move too quickly, once in position to start the maneuver, I typically stop and slow my breathing for a couple seconds before starting the maneuver. I also sometime hear the ‘Blue Danube Waltz’ playing in my head as I try to move smoothly and steadily from the one task and one position to another. (Anyone who has sailed with me knows there is nothing graceful about the way I move around the boat, but goals are helpful to have.)

Before the rounding, I begin setting up for the raise. On the tack prior to the last tack to the mark, working on the windward side, I set-up the spinnaker turtle so that it will be to leeward and forward of the shrouds and outboard (to leeward) of the foot of the jib once on the final tack for the mark. I pre-feed the guy in much the same way as any race boat, except I try to leave enough slack that when the pole is still against the forestay, the chute’s tack can sag to leeward perhaps a foot or two behind the jib. Ideally, if deck layout permits the guy is secured on a self-tailing winch within reach of the helm with a handle locked in place. I leave the sheet loose but wrapped around a winch un-cleated and again with a handle locked in place. The number of wraps on the winch varies with the wind speed; using more wraps for heavier air to create more friction and ideally keep the sail closer to the back of the mainsail and jib. Until the guy is adjusted, the chute is purposely kept collapsed behind the jib. The idea is to keep the foot of the spinnaker pretty tight against the leeward side of the mainsail and jib to keep it blanketed and empty.

As soon as I am sure I can lay the mark, I set and raise the spinnaker pole. That may be a few hundred yards out. I try to plan my last tack or jibe to the mark so that I have plenty of time to set up for the raise, but if I think I will be forced into a jibe set or tack/bear away set, traffic is light at the rounding, and I’m not using an overlapping headsail, I rig the pole between the leech of the jib and the shrouds out to leeward. It looks really ugly with the pole abeam of the boat, but the pole is all set to go once the tack or jibe is completed. All I have to do is tension the foreguy to pull the pole forward to the forestay after the tack/jibe and take the slack out of the guy.

On the rounding, I put the boat on as deep a broad reach as possible while keeping the jib solidly flying. As I am setting the autopilot, (or steering a tiller with my knees) I ease the mainsail all the way for speed but leave the jib slightly over trimmed. I catch my breath a second or two. It is only then that I raise the spinnaker halyard hand over hand as fast as I can. Once the halyard is two-blocked, I grind the guy and pole to their proper position and then adjust the sheet filling the sail. Once the chute is full, the jib is furled and I tweak the final course adjustments.

On an asymmetrical chute, I prefer to use a 2:1 on the tack line that is then lead it back to a winch aft. Similar to the raise on a symmetrical chute, I raise the chute under the foot of the jib. In the case of an asymmetrical spinnaker it is harder to avoid filling the chute before it is fully raised. One way to reduce the opportunity for the chute filling before fully hoisted is to ease the tack line enough that the tack of the chute is a couple feet after of the jib tack, and then tighten the sheet so that the foot is relatively stretched along the deck. I double wrap the sheet on a winch but do not cleat it. The friction on the winch will ideally hold the sail against the lee side of the jib and prevent it from filling. Not cleating it allows sheet to run and allows the sail to ‘flag’ in case it starts to fill before fully hoisted. Once hoisted I tension the tack line and then the sheet.

As soon as things settle down I make sure that the tails of the sheets and halyards are free to run, and are not underfoot. To keep the lines from being underfoot I have previously identified locations around the cockpit to place the various control lines so that they do not cross each other and are free to run.

As a short-hander you need to be able to count on lines running free when released. Jambs can be dangerous if they occur at the wrong time. There are a number of ways of preventing ‘hackles’ (AKA pigtails) and other jamb causing phenomena. My preferred method is to coil lines in a Figure 8. The fastest way for me to do that is to start from the working end of the line, hold one hand with palm up and the fingers curled upward, facing a winch handle that is locked into a winch. You then flake the line in a figure 8 between the winch handle in the winch and your curled fingers.

This technique is very fast and with a little practice it quickly takes the twist out of the line. Then carefully place the line on the deck so that the line is free feed from the top rather than emerging from the bottom of the flake. I use this for all halyards, sheets and longer control lines like the traveler. It is especially important on the mainsheet and traveler to prevent friction causing twists in the tackles.

I use twings with both symmetrical and asymmetrical spinnakers. In the case of a symmetrical chute, twings allow lead changes for the sheet when close reaching, but more significantly they eliminate the need for of lazy guys. Lazy guys are great on fully crewed boats and larger boats, and are critical for dip pole jibes, but do not work as well short-handed. Lazy guys are impossible to use single-handed without the equivalent of an outboard ‘bell fitting’ on the pole, since dip pole jibes require the solo-crew to simultaneously be in too many places at once and there is little advantage to a lazy guy on a boat that is small enough that the pole can be jibed end-for-end. .

The choreography for a jibe will vary with the boat, but on my boat, the sequence works like this:

To make it easier to jibe the chute single-hand, I have marked the sheets for the proper setting for the jibe. (I use either tape or a whipping so I can feel the spot as it runs through my hand at night) Before I jibe, set the boat on a course a few degrees above dead downwind and set the sheet and guy to their marks.

I then bring in the twing on the leeward side of the boat. With the twings set, the pole cannot sky, so I then release the downhaul/foreguy, to provide enough slack to allow an easy end-for-end. I walk forward along the windward side keeping a wary eye on the boom. I transfer my teather to the jackline on the old leeward/new windward. I get the old sheet-in one hand, before blowing the pole off the mast, which I do with the other hand. The end for end jibe is would be the same as on any fully crewed boat. Once the pole is made, I start back to the cockpit on old leeward/new windward. When I reach the middle of the boom I push it across the boat to start to jibe the mainsail. The boat will begin to head up on its own keeping the chute full. Once at the wheel, I blow off the twing on the new sheet and trim guy and sheet as I come to course.

I find this easier than jibing an asymmetrical because asymmetrical requires you to haul in so much more line and the timing is so critical. My one tip on jibing an asymmetrical is to let the old sheet run, feeding the line out quickly and keep an eye on the clew. Make sure that the clew floats well forward of the luff before trying to pull in the new sheet. One mistake that short-handers tend to do is to pull in the new sheet too quickly and that can cause the sheet to jamb on the luff of the sail and allow a wrap. It you are using a cruising chute with the tack close to the forestay, it can be helpful to roll the jib part way out so it prevents the bottom of the chute from wrapping around the stay.

To douse the chute set a course just above dead down wind and deploy the jib to help avoid a wrap. Starting out, on an asymmetrical I release the shackle on the tack line, or on a symmetrical chute I release the shackle on guy. The sail then ''flags'' with no load on it. I then grab the sheet and pull the chute close into the lee side of the mainsail. I gather the foot together. Only then, sitting on the house, facing to leeward and forward, with my harness attached to windward, do I release the halyard. I then haul the chute down like a rope, hand over hand, stuffing it down the companionway.

On my boat I am able to sit on the cabin op and can reach of the halyard stopper during the drop and so can lock and unlock the halyard should the sail come down too fast or start to fill. Once the chute is down, I then drop the pole lift allowing the outboard end to drop to the deck, settle the boat in on her new course and then go forward to stow the pole. Per the tips above, it is important to pick a place where the pole can be quickly stored aft of the jib sheets so the boat can be tacked quickly after the drop. On a tiller boat, I can usually do the drop within reach of the helm with the tiller between my knees.

To me, a conventional drop is a much faster and reliable operation than trying to stuff a chute in a sock and then lower the sock. I know others may differ. Safely dousing the chute gets much easier with practice. It’s only by practicing that you learn the choreography involved in making a smooth and quick drop. It can be helpful to practice with someone on board watching your moves and taking notes of the sequence of your moves, where you were on the boat and any potential glitches. I have never done this, but if you have a small video camera, a video can be very helpful.

Once you have a little confidence, as a part of your practice it is important to start the drop as you pass near some standing mark. As soon as the chute is down and boat is ready to harden up, look back at the mark and try to memorize the distance from that point back to the mark. That will allow you to approximate the distance that you need to get your chute down in a race. I typically find that my drops during a race are a little more cautious. As a result I give the drop a little more distance and I drop a little earlier when racing than cruising. When cruising sailing a short distance past the mark is no big deal. But when racing it can mean sailing in the lee of another boat or having to throw in a couple clearing tacks.

Another suggestion for a practice session is to look at your speed before a jibe, click a stop watch and start a practice jibe, and start the jibe next to a fixed mark, then see how far the boat travels to complete the jibe and how long it takes to get back to that speed again. It is surprising long. Remember that lost time and distance in weighing the decision on whether to do a series of short jibes vs sailing deep. It can be a very tough call but having a sense of the timing can help.

I have tried going wing and wing with an asymmetrical chute and it works reasonably well for short distances such as burning off distance when on port and choosing to cross astern of a starboard tack boat. If you have a cruising chute and enough wind you can run wing in wing for longer periods but ideally need a special length whisker pole since a spin pole or a whisker pole are usually too short. I do not believe that it is legal to use a whisker pole with an assym when racing, but I could be wrong on that.

That’s about it. Your mileage may vary....
 
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ANCHORING UNDER SAIL, SHORT-HANDED EDITION

These days, one of the less frequently practiced of the sailorly arts, is anchoring under sail. But anchoring under sail is a skill that can come in handy should engine problems occur. I am a big advocate for practicing emergency maneuvers before they are needed. But I am also a big fan of voyaging under sail, by which I mean, making passages which end to end does not involve running the engine. To me this is all about a different an aesthetic experience, but it often had practical ramifications such as not adding heat from the engine into an already too warm cabin during the summer.

Anchoring under sail without cranking up the engine sounds way scarier than it is. Like any shorthanded maneuver, the key to doing this safely and easily is all about thinking ahead, taking the time to prepare while you have time and sea-room, making sure lines are clear to run, and thinking through how you will do this on your particular boat and with your particular ground tackle. (In my case,

I have a comparatively light 38 footer and use a Danforth HT with 40 feet of chain and a very long rode. This is the technique that I use based on the behavior and configuration of my boat.) As in any other method of anchoring, I suggest that starting by picking a spot where you want the anchor to end up when set, and then sailing a distorted figure 8 over where you want to anchor, basically covering the perimeter of where the boat is expected to possibly swing.

Once convinced that there is plenty of water and have fixed the constraints of the expected maneuvering room and drop points, put the boat on a beat maybe 5-6 boat lengths out from, and aimed at a point about 3-4 boat lengths dead upwind of where you want the anchor to end up setting. Once on that course, I set the autopilot or lock the helm, release the mainsheet and main halyard and furiously pull the mainsail down which in my case usually brings the sail at least 3/4 way down and the boat starting to slow. Timing is everything but at the moment that the boat is the turning radius of the boat away from being dead upwind of the anchor drop point, turn the boat dead downwind (yup that way) aimed directly toward the spot where you plan to drop the anchor and again lock the helm. (If you have a wheel mounted autopilot, often the fastest way to lock the helm is to engage the autopilot without activating it. This is also the fastest lock to disengage)
Most of the anchorages on the Bay has soft mud or sand, and consequently the anchor will drag some before setting. The amount that the anchor will drag will vary with your boat, rode and anchor type, and bottom. Experience will give you a sense of how your boat will behave, but with my boat I typically lower the anchor to the bottom about a boat length upwind from where I want to the anchor to end up. I lower the anchor slowly to the bottom, and carefully feed out the chain to make sure it is laid flat on the bottom.

After that I let the rode feed out on its own while I get the mainsail the rest of the way down and flaked on the boom. Keeping a small amount of mainsail up is not the end of the world since it will provide some of the momentum needed to ‘set the hook’. Also pulling the mainsail down when headed downwind can sometimes be easier if you pull the sail down from the leech. On my boat pulling the mainsail down, usually takes long enough that about 120-140 feet of rode feeds out which in our typical anchorages is approximately a scope of 10:1).
At that point, begin to tension the rode against the momentum of the boat. Very lightly at first, just enough to begin to stretch out the rode and chain. Once you feel that the anchor is through the soft mud and beginning to grab, greatly increase the tension on the rode feeling with your hands whether it is digging in or dragging on the bottom. If it has grabbed at that point, the boat will start to swing up into the wind. As the boat swings up into the wind and 'tacks' the rode slacks a lot so that you can quickly take in the slack until the scope is near a 7:1 scope (or whatever you are comfortable with)

When the boat falls away, keep the rode in you hand as the rode tensions, if it feels like you have a good bite on the bottom, cleat off, close the locker lid and you are done anchoring. If you have any doubt, pull the boat up to the chain and then let it fall away again and pick up speed, keeping tension on the rode and using the boat's momentum to set the anchor deeper. If still have doubts, walk the rode to the middle of the length of the boat and pull the boat sidewards through the water for all that you are worth against the resistance of the keel. This will usually give a good feel for how well the anchor is set and will also potentially set the anchor deeper. If you still have any doubts, it may be time to crank the engine and reset, but you mayt also try to do this without the engine. If you decide to reset without the engine, pull in the rode hard and fast enough to give the boat enough speed that you can get the anchor up and enough momentum to shoot upwind a boat length or two and then drop the anchor, repeating the part where the anchor is lowered to the bottom and the boat falls away and picks up speed, keeping tension on the rode and using the boat's momentum to set the anchor. Once set, in a crowded anchorage I put down a kellet and choke up on the scope some.

This is not something to do as a new sailor, or try for the first time in a crowded anchorage. It is way easier with more than one person onboard to steer, but I do it single-handed a lot. If your boat isn't too large and once you get to know your boat, it really is not too hard to do, and frankly is way easier than it sounds.
 

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Approached Port Madison, went fwd. to get the anchor ready, a 35 lbs danforth ht. Now it was hanging from the bow roller. Didn't put on the chain hook. Was still under sail. The anchor took off: all 180 ft of chain with it and anchored me in 50ft. Took me half an hour to get the sails down, get a cup of coffee and get the anchor up. Who said a Danforth doesn't set in rky? Later in Port Madison it wouldn't set where I dropped it and I did have to start the noise maker. Bummer!
 
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