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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Please share your single-handed tips and tricks which make sailing easier, more relaxing, more efficient and/or safer for those of us who enjoy the freedom of sailing alone.
I'll start things off.

**************

This isn't rocket science, but it's something I've developed out of routine and not something I heard or learned from someone else, though it may me practiced by many already.

When sailing alone in an area that requires short tacks, I've devised a way to limit scrambling from side to side, around the wheel in the cockpit.

After completing a tack, and once satisfied with the trim of the head sail, I remove the winch handle and form a "double-back" loop in the reverse direction around the winch and bring the tail back to the helm. Then I step to the high side, pre-load the empty winch and pop in the handle, again leading that tail back to the helm.

When I get to the next tack point, I simply give the sheet a quick tug to free the line from the self-tailing jaws, then hold the sheet tail high and "un-lasso" the line off one winch and haul the other sheet tight, without having to leave the helm position. Then I repeat the procedure in preparation for the next tack.

It doesn't sound like much, but prior to using the "double-back" loop on the loaded winch, I had to crawl to the low side a second time to "unwind" the sheet from the winch jaws, which was not only hard on the knees, but depending on wind strength, could get tiring on a long beat if the boat is healed hard.

I always "double-back" now. It has changed the way I sail alone.
 

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I do a fair bit of single handing.

I have several things in my pre flight check list so to speak that I make sure are done before I leave.

remove as many lines and fenders as possible while still attached to the pontoon. (most times I can survive with just a centre line and a single fender in place while I tidy everything away)

Main sail is ready to hoist, before I leave the pontoon.

safety lines are clipped onto two points near the helm.

I have a little pouch of sweets and chocolate clipped to the rail behind the helm.
I also have a 1.5liter bottle of squash clipped on to the rail.

I pull up a lea cloth so that I can make sure my dog is in a safe place and can see me from the saloon, which means he's happy and secure. this gives me peace of mind and I can get on without worrying about him.

I make sure I have some quick and easy food ready to put on the stove. no messing about with fiddly cooking.

in the cockpit my boat is designed for short handed sailing.
I use an autopilot 50% of the time.

I have single line reefing on the main. (x3)

I have a roller furling head sail (with the option of self tacking if I'm feeling really lazy)

I also use a boom brake so running downwind is less scary when cutting it fine and it give an extra element of control when gybing.

I also have music on speakers in the cockpit, which helps to keep me focussed when racing or entertained and warm in winter because I can dance while at the wheel!

I also use a kitchen timer for not just food but, to remind me to mark plots on the chart, fill in the log book and other regular things.

Oh, yes
I also removed the toilet door. saves a lot of faffing about getting snagged on a door handle and honestly, my dog doesn't mind me dropping my foulies in the saloon then reversing into the heads.
 

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Over Hill Sailing Club
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For long passages, a windvane is absolutely essential. The one best single suggestion: Plan WAY ahead for every circumstance. It is very easy to get in big trouble singlehanding by forgetting to plan the most innocuous, simplest things.
 

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Don't call me a "senior"!
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I just do things slowly.
Ditto. In particular, I let the boat sail more slowly and more comfortably by reefing far sooner than I would with a crew aboard, and opting for comfort/safety when choosing my point of sail (not trying to sail too close to the wind when sailing close-hauled, and not sailing too close to directly downwind when on a run). If I have to make an extra tack or two (or an extra gybe or two) so be it.
 

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Please share your single-handed tips and tricks which make sailing easier, more relaxing, more efficient and/or safer for those of us who enjoy the freedom of sailing alone.
I'll start things off.

**************

This isn't rocket science, but it's something I've developed out of routine and not something I heard or learned from someone else, though it may me practiced by many already.

When sailing alone in an area that requires short tacks, I've devised a way to limit scrambling from side to side, around the wheel in the cockpit.

After completing a tack, and once satisfied with the trim of the head sail, I remove the winch handle and form a "double-back" loop in the reverse direction around the winch and bring the tail back to the helm. Then I step to the high side, pre-load the empty winch and pop in the handle, again leading that tail back to the helm.

When I get to the next tack point, I simply give the sheet a quick tug to free the line from the self-tailing jaws, then hold the sheet tail high and "un-lasso" the line off one winch and haul the other sheet tight, without having to leave the helm position. Then I repeat the procedure in preparation for the next tack.

It doesn't sound like much, but prior to using the "double-back" loop on the loaded winch, I had to crawl to the low side a second time to "unwind" the sheet from the winch jaws, which was not only hard on the knees, but depending on wind strength, could get tiring on a long beat if the boat is healed hard.

I always "double-back" now. It has changed the way I sail alone.
Not sure what you mean by "Double Back"
I never leave a winch handle in the winch. it gets in the way.
Like you I take a turn or two on the windward winch and pull out the slack.
I have self tailing winches. so I leave on the winch and ring a turn back to my hand.
Tiller was easier on my old boat. with the wheel I often stand in front and use the wheel brake a lot.
When I come about I put wheel over then leave midships fter through the wind.
like to come through the wind slowly so Ican pull in as much sheet by hand as I can. Then quickly add a few turns to winch the last bit.
Il head up and luff a bit to make it easier.

Gybing I sheet the main in first and don't worry about the jib till after its eased not the most efficent but its more controled
I have been known to chicken Gybe.

I narrow Channels down wind I often sheet the main in or drop it.
 

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Ditto on standing (or sitting on the coaming) in front of the wheel instead of behind it. I also cross-sheet (running the loaded sheet to the windward winch). This allows me to sit on the windward side and do all my sail adjustments without moving around. I also pre-feed the lazy sheet/winch right after I tack. I have also installed a ratchet block on my spinnaker sock control line. It really simplifies things for single handed take-downs.
 

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Main sail is ready to hoist, before I leave the pontoon.
It is intelligent to always have the main ready to go up when leaving a slip/mooring irrespective of how many people are on board. This was demonstrated to me during a sailing exam I did thirty years ago (I had two crew with me) where the examiner waited until I was motoring out of a congested marina in a brisk breeze and he simply switched the engine off, pocketed the key and sat back to see what I would do. Since then, my boat is always ready to sail when we leave our mooring.

I use an autopilot 50% of the time.
The above two go hand-in-hand - when you're alone, hoisting a main without an autopilot is a mission. I also use mine far more than 50% when I'm sailing alone - I virtually drive using the buttons. :p
 

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Good stuff here, especially the AP. I like to just sail when I'm solo. No time pressure or destination. It's also an opportunity to sail in and out of harbors, anchorages, onto moorings(with safe space around), etc. stuff guests or family might find tedious(luckily, mine enjoy doing the same).

So as others have mentioned(do your 'work' before getting underway). Essential for me is an easy to view CP. Lately, two(an added tablet) have improved my single handing.

Easier to keep track of tight channels and hazards while under sail. Single handing, there's no time to fiddle with piloting so these tools are have made things much more enjoyable, and safer.

And Lazy jacks or similar on the main. I like to sail onto vacant moorings to take a break or have lunch. No flaking, just drop and stop. Raise and go.

One of my favorite things to do is douse the headsail and reach under main alone to improve my abilities. Main alone is the tool for precise sailing.

Add sailing up to a mooring, and you could spend an hour trying to hit it just right(I have, not always easy).

Auto pilot is gem, no matter how simple(I love my 12 year old 4000WP).
 

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Our main halyard is run aft to the cockpit, but it's a very high-drag arrangement when you try to hoist from there. When my wife is with us I jump the halyard at the mast (it exits 4 feet above deck) while she tails.. When I'm alone it's a pain to deal with it like that, but it's fixed now.

I installed a normal, open camcleat on the mast below the halyard exit. Now I can jump the halyard at the mast, and cleat it there, leaving the slack halyard on deck.. Then to the cockpit, tail all the slack out with no load, when I winch the last foot or so up the halyard jumps out of the cam cleat and the load is back on the clutch at the cockpit. Works pretty slick.. Prior to that it was a few trips back and forth to work it up, or a very tiring grind from the cockpit end.

Goes without saying that the AP is driving during this exercise...
 

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Windseeker
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Ditto on auto pilot ftw though if anything is dicey I hand steer - coming out of SD yesterday I had warships on maneuvers a cruise ship coming into the channel and kelp everywhere. Fun times....

Think steps ahead but don't take short cuts. When I started I would leave fenders on deck rather than stow properly but then sheets can get caught on them. One example among many but make sure everything is as ship shape as possible, even more than you would normally as there's no-one to take the helm and avoid the traffic when you have to go forward to fix something.

Andrew Evans has written a good book - "Singlehanded Sailing: Thoughts, Tips, Techniques & Tactics" - he also a few youtube vids too. The book is available on Amazon. From what I can tell he's a nice guy so buy it now :)

Allow extra time for everything, and build skills stage by stage.

Strap on - even in great conditions. You don't want to watch your boat sail away. Its a pain in the ass, but less embarrassing.
 

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Windseeker
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To jump the main I lead the halyard around a winch and back to the mast, jump with left hand and tail with the right. A cam cleat might be easier but this approach seems to work reasonably well.

Working with my race sails is a pain, the main has a bolt rope and requires love to get up and down, the headsails are difficult to flake on deck especially with any wind. My cruising main I can flake in a minute single handed with the lazy jacks and not much longer without. Roller furling headsail is really easy, flaking sails on deck being pretty annoying. As is maneuvering them to the dock for a proper tidy up at the end of the day. Point is that equipment can make a huge difference.
 

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Bombay Explorer 44
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I have also installed a ratchet block on my spinnaker sock control line. It really simplifies things for single handed take-downs.
BRILLIANT IDEA Why didn't I think of that.

But I have had to cleat it off a a couple of time and it has been a hassle so I will have one with a jam cleat.

OK on my shopping list.
 

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I came up with the ratchet block idea after MrsB almost went up the mast when a puff filled the lower half of the kite during a douse and another time during a very windy day when we were thinking of running all the way to Sacramento because it was too windy to douse. :D What I did was cut the stitching on one side of the control line and tread a 40mm ratchet block with a snap shackle so the ratchet works in the direction of the douse. After a spinnaker set we (I) snap the shackle to a forepeak pad-eye and tie a slip knot in the line to keep the sock from sliding down the kite. To douse, pull on the control line to release the slip knot and begin the douse. We get much better control by pulling “up” from the deck instead of “down” from the sock. The ratchet really works well to keep the sock from zippering up during a gust and keeps the douser safely on the deck.
 
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