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While I am cruising with my wife and baby, its mostly going to be me sailing the boat and I would like to optimize my setup as much as possible to make it easier for me to sail the boat without help. We do have an autopilot which is a godsend, but what else can we do to make our boat more single hand friendly?
 

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A bunch of things, but it kinda depends on what all you have going currently that needs changing. I singlehand quite a bit and love my self-tailing winches, but that conversion can cost you if you don't already have them. Running halyards to the cockpit definitely can help, but you could leave the main halyard on the mast and raise/lower that while motoring with the autopilot on. Besides those things, I think gaining experience singlehanding and keeping things simple (no spin gear, unless you're sailing in light breeze) are your best options. One place you might read up on would be the SF singlehanded sailing society (Singlehanded Sailing Society | San Francisco Shorthanded Racing), and take a look at the book written in PDF form by Andy Evans- very comprehensive collection of stuff (much of it devoted to the Transpac).
 

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Just read some of your posts- you have a rather large boat (certainly bigger than mine). Depending on what sort of current and breeze you have coming and going from the dock, that may become your biggest source of "pucker-time" as one friend of mine with a Swan 56 puts it... Not having someone to tend lines and fenders while docking/leaving the slip can be a pain, but experience doing just that (especially in alternating currents) makes all the difference in the world.
 

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While I am cruising with my wife and baby, its mostly going to be me sailing the boat and I would like to optimize my setup as much as possible to make it easier for me to sail the boat without help. We do have an autopilot which is a godsend, but what else can we do to make our boat more single hand friendly?
It would be helpful to know what kind of boat you have, how it is currently rigged, and what sorts of conditions you sail in.

Here is one trick that works well for me if you have halyards run back to the cockpit, especially if you also have a dodger. When you are lowering the mainsail solo it is hard to keep it coming down at a controlled speed. If your main halyard runs along the cabin roof (not in some silly tunnel) you can step on it with your foot to act as a brake. This leaves you two hands to flake the sail with when standing at the mast.

I prefer doing this to using lazy jacks.
 

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Easy access to the sheets are important. I single hand a Cal33. The main sheet self tailing winch is on top of the cabin and unreachable from behind the wheel. In gusty conditions I wrap the sheet a couple times around the winch and lead it back to a cleat on the stern for easy access. One time when it wasn't rigged like that I got hit on the beam with a sudden micro-burst that put the boat on her side. As the water washed over the rails I had to struggle to get around the wheel to release the main sheet to dump the wind.
 

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Some easy stuff
Get lazy sheet ready to go as soon as you complete a tack. In light air just put one wrap on winch so I can pull it in fast then use winch for the rest.

Never cleat any working line. Use stoppers, clutches and self tailers.
Safer and easier as well as faster .

Set up mainsail reefing so it can be done on a reach. No in boom furling and if using lazy jacks have them set forward enough so roach won't catch. ( I have Dutchman which works nice). Boat will sail with just headsail and bit of rudder. Reef main first then jib.

Agree with other posters.its easy to sail the boat by yourself. It's the docking that's scary for me.
 

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Just read some of your posts- you have a rather large boat (certainly bigger than mine). Depending on what sort of current and breeze you have coming and going from the dock, that may become your biggest source of "pucker-time" as one friend of mine with a Swan 56 puts it... Not having someone to tend lines and fenders while docking/leaving the slip can be a pain, but experience doing just that (especially in alternating currents) makes all the difference in the world.
I know the feeling. But when it all comes together and she just barely touches the dock and you step off casually to tie off your lines as onlookers eyes big, wisphering to one another watching every move you make you get a sense of pride like a drug keeping you coming back for more. Isnt that right?<smile>
 

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i sail my 40-footer a lot just to test myself. It's not the easiest. I agree with the previous posts about thinking ahead and preparing your boat for the next move.

Also, try doing everything yourself with the autopilot off. You need to learn how to adapt. THIS will be an experience! You will need to know when the autopilot craps out; which it will at the worst time! High winds and large seas; trust me, been there done that all by my lonesome. Took me a second to figure out how to furl my sails.
Having everything at hand definitely helps; my boat is not a single-handers paradise. (i'm working on it, more winches) Big boat, big sails, more work.
 

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Yes, docking. I still break into a sweat when i come in and there is a 20 knot cross breeze. I'd rather sail in 15 footers all day then face the dock.
I still floor my neighbors when i come in hot; put all 50 horses in reverse and step off with two lines in hand. (little do they know i only have one shot to do it right!)
 

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First String
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I agree with you Benesailor.
I would rather deal with any conditions out there anytime rather than at the dock. The dock has a lot of hard stuff to bounce off of. I have spent a summer learning how to cost into the dock with the head sail already down and under just the main sail. I use the opposing tide on my nose to maintain steering and my lazy jack system to help me flake the main sail Just at the right second.
The second time I did this I had a crowd at the dock for a function and they all stopped and clapped. Kinda of cool. This learning process next to the dock by myself has made me pucker up more than once. Sometimes I have had to make more than one attempt. I always plan ahead and I leave myself a way out of all situations, or I don’t try the maneuver.

“I love my LAZY-JACK SYSTEM”
 

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Yes, docking. I still break into a sweat when i come in and there is a 20 knot cross breeze. I'd rather sail in 15 footers all day then face the dock.
I still floor my neighbors when i come in hot; put all 50 horses in reverse and step off with two lines in hand. (little do they know i only have one shot to do it right!)
Any videos? The 20kt cross breeze, if setting you onto the dock is one thing, but if it's blowing you off, I'm not sure that I would get off the boat with two lines in hand. It seems like a good way for the boat to get away from you.
 

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While I am cruising with my wife and baby, its mostly going to be me sailing the boat and I would like to optimize my setup as much as possible to make it easier for me to sail the boat without help. We do have an autopilot which is a godsend, but what else can we do to make our boat more single hand friendly?
Not what you can add but what you can do (if you don't already) is use the autopilot to auto-tack which leaves hands, eyes and brain free to deal with the physics of tacking. Normal setting is 100 degrees of tack which will give you plenty of time on both winches to tack the headsail.

In quiet weather I use it to gybe as well, gives me time to haul in the mainsheet and let it out again once the main has gybed. Crash gybes have no redeeming features.

I also use it to keep the boat head-to-wind when raising and lowering sails.

It's not there to just hold a course :p
 
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Think things through such as raising and lowering of sails before doing them. Remember not to rush, do it calmly. Give yourself plenty of sea room to do such things..this way if you drift a bit.... not a problem. Just do not PANIC

I have all my lines run to cockpit and like it. Others I have sailed with prefer to go to the mast.

I found that running a downhaul helped douse the headsail.

I also have a small stern or 100ft of rode rigged incase I run into trouble....easy to deploy within about 1 min.

just a few things that have helped and eased my mind when singlehanding
 

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Kynntana (Freedom 38)
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I haven't single handed that much so just trying to think it all through like you. The other posters' comments about docking are so true. Have a Plan A and a Plan B. For me, I'm getting really good at docking stern in....when the winds are not blowing 20 knots abeam. When they are, I dock bow in and I don't mind backing out and trying again multiple times. I also have to remind myself to breath.

Recently, I just marked all my halyards and reefing lines so I know, without lifting my head outside the dodger -- a waste of time -- when the lines are just right. Many of the things you need to do will also become obvious the more times you go out sailing short handed. Have fun! It is an awesome sense of satisfaction.
 

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I am so new far be it for me to give advice. I am however in the same boat so to speak.
I was able to sweet talk my wife into going to a (Discovery) class with our club. I stayed away and on the dock. It was two nights of class and 8 hours on the water. The club gives social time both of us can enjoy. As she gets more interest she might be talked into the ASA101
What I am trying to say is you are single handing but you are putting more weight on yourself when you only have a passenger. Your wife could surprise you. She may not be able to dock the boat or do a quick stop for crew over board. She might be able to head up and just let the boat luff ? She might cast off or toss you a dock line. In time she may even become more active. Go slow and go for fun short sails even just a little dock time. You can single hand a long full sail on your own. Reel your loved ones in with the care of landing a prize fish. If you pull to hard the line will break.
I think the key to starting your adventure together is for her to spend sometime apart sailing Wile she is doing this you spend quality time on your boat. Alone or take a buddy at the dock with your child on board. You will gain insight into how you might improve child care on the boat.
Best wishes, For both of us lol , Lou
 

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Agree with above post docking is a stressfull time ,if its blowing too hard to get into my berth I just abort and anchor out no shame in that I would rather do that than take chunks out of neighbouring boats.The wind usually eases here just on dark so I go in then.Lazyjacks make handling the main easy just drop halyard and retreive,And a good chartplotter under your dodger is great when coming home in the dark,trust your eyes first though enjoy your sailing.
 

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use the autopilot to auto-tack which leaves hands, eyes and brain free to deal with the physics of tacking. Normal setting is 100 degrees of tack which will give you plenty of time on both winches to tack the headsail.
I haven't had much luck with auto-tack. Generally the autopilot doesn't turn the boat fast enough, and certainly can't do what a human can loitering when the headsail just starts to backwind.

Single-handed, I hold the active sheet and start the turn. When the headsail luffs and begins to backwind straighten the rudder while releasing the old active sheet. Tighten the wheel lock or (mostly) hold the wheel with my hip while hauling in on the new active sheet. Don't bust a gut - as long as there is room to leeward haul in as much as you can as fast as you can and then fall off until the sail fills and boat speed returns. Now you can come up as you grind the sail in, using the autopilot to come up five or ten degrees at a time as you grind.

With practice and decent wind you can often get a working jib all the way in, even single-handed, by hand. Big overlapping genoas will take some grinding.

Admittedly I've about given up on auto-tack so perhaps there is something on the market better than I have tried. Several generations of Raymarine and Simrad autopilots haven't measured up.
 

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Wandering Aimlessly
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Like in chess, you need to not only know what you're going to do, but how that effects what you do after that, and have a plan B for when A doesn't go right. Singlehanding is more mental, than physical. No matter how good your setup, it's only as good as the person using it.
 

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I singlehand almost exclusively, currently on a 57 foot sloop. As has been mentioned before, the process of docking and undocking is the most fretful time and planning is key. I will spend a good 30 minutes outside of a marina preparing for docking. I will always set out as many fenders as I have available with one as a backup for unforeseen circumstances. All lines are prepared and flaked across the lifelines, with both forward and aft spring lines as well - even if I'm just going to a fuel dock. Then I plan and visualize the process (wind, current, people, moving boats, etc.). Luckily I don't have to do this often.
Sailing singlehanded is much easier than docking singlehanded, there aren't as many things close by that can go "thump". But even there one needs to plan ahead. Unlike SV/Auspicious I use the auto-tack for tacking and the usual boat speeds and winds in the Caribbean are strong enough to let the slow-tack of the autopilot succeed.
 

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Kynntana (Freedom 38)
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I remember one that someone told me recently, so don't have any experience with this, but don't ever get so over-powered that your auto pilot can't handle it and you aren't able to leave the wheel. Be prepared to change headsails and reef early to keep everything balanced.
 
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