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STARBOARD!!
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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
So I think I am ready to start trying to do this; as I am recently single and the SO was my regular double-handing crew.

I have a 41' boat and it is not specifically rigged for singlehanding. The primaries are located forward and the mainsheet is controlled at the cabin top (mid-boom). The genoa is a 105% on roller furling and I have seocndary winches that I'm sure would be adequate and closer to the helm. My mainsail is high-aspect ratio (~50' x 13.5') with a boom that is high (not a deck sweeper); but I don't have lazyjacks (the two of us could flake the sail while dropping it; but it was a two person operation with one person at the mast and one at the leech).

I am looking for advice on any and all methods to help handle the boat on my own. I have not ruled out adding a lazy-jack system but I also would like to be able to drop the main myself without making a mess of it.

In addition to these challenges I have never had the pleasure of singlehanded docking a boat this size. I'm in an upwind slip but I have not rigged the boat specifically for docking by myself. I am reasonably comfortable that I can keep the bow away from the end of the slip or hitting other boats; but when it comes to leaving an untied boat to tie off that first line I am a bit worried about losing control of the boat and heaven forbid it getting away from me and leaving me stranded on the dock.

I don't have a problem with asking people who want to come out sailing with me to join me; but I also think that I should be able to do everything myself in the event that I have a crew who for any reason is not able to carry out my instructions or becomes seasick, etc.

Any help and pointers would be very much appreciated!
 

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I singlehandel a 24' and was wondering how hard it would be to single handel a larger boat. Why not have some one go out with you but don't let them do anything? They would be last minute help, good luck and hope its not to hard.
 

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"Nevis Nice"
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Hi, KeelHaulin.

I single-hand my 38', 12 ton IP. The autopilot is a second crew member. I can set it and walk the six feet to the cabin roof where the mainsheet winch and furling lines are located, or handle the genoa sheets (the primaries are forward of the helm). The autopilot allows me to even set and douse my asymmetric spinnaker by myself. I have a 10 meter remote for it, so I can put the engine in gear at idle and go forward to bring up the anchor, guiding the boat with the remote.

If I didn't have a mast-furling main, I think I'd install a set of lazy jacks and maybe a Doyle stack-pack or equivalent. Docking just takes setting up bow, stern and spring lines in advance, plus a lot of practice. I can step off the boat with the spring and a bow line in hand, having tossed the stern line onto the dock. Getting the spring set first is usually the best thing to do. Of course there will be some conditions in which you won't be able to dock all by yourself, so there always needs to be a "Plan B".
 

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I loved single handing my O'Day 322. Got really good at it, too.

If you have plenty of room - that is you are in a very large area of water - I can see where you would have no problem. I second the motion that you get an autopilot. I didn't have one, but if anything got away from me I could handle it; not sure I could handle a loose Genny on a 41 footer without getting hurt.....
 

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I singlehand my 32 regularly. But the autopilot is essential for raising /lowering sails. Docking alone is the biggest challenge. I try to wait until the wind has died down. I back into my slip and unless the wind is right the bow blows around too much. But with light or no wind docking alone is easy. One of the guys has a bow thruster!!! That makes things easier. The biggest problem with the autopilot is that if you fall off the boat you might have a long swim.
 

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scurvy dog
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I single hand my 44 footer all the time, I don't have an autopilot, but I'm planning on installing one, all my lines are led to the cockpit, but tacking the 150 is a bit of a handfull.
I've just installed lazyjacks and it's a lot easier, but before, I just used to let the main drop to one side of the boom, then, roll it up, kind of like a newspaper and get a couple of ties on, and get back to the dock.
For docking, Pre splice a spring line that will keep my bow a couple of feet from the dock, that way I know that with this one line in place, and the boat ahead slow, I can steer the stern of the boat to either side, and attach the stern lines, without the bow moving too much. I setup the spring line from the starboard bow before I get to the slip, pulling into the slip, my prop walks the stern to starboard a little, so I almost stop the boat three quarters of the way into the slip. I put the spring onto the piling and go ahead slow. With a little practice, you can do this very slowly and controlled, no drama.
 

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Things are a lot easier for me on my 36' catamaran. With my two engines, the boat is extremely manueverable in reverse. I use a stern spring line, and the opposite side engine to hold it against the dock or piling. Then I leisurely walk around and tie on my lines. Catamarans are great for old fat guys like me to continue singlehanding well into my 70s'

Marc
 

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It isn't one trick...

* Go out with people that don't really want to crew and try to take them for a nice ride. In fact, everything is more relaxing if you can figure out how to do it alone. But master one skill at a time. Raising/lowering. Anchoring/weighting. Docking. None are hard, looked at one move at a time. The key, for a single hander, is to keep only one thing happening at a time. But honestly, the best way to learn some skills is slowly, in nice weather, alone. No distraction. Slowly think it through. Doing everything in the correct order, which many not be the order you used before.
* Docking. Put lines between your dolphin piers and the inside piers. The details of line handling depend the slip, wind direction, and the boat. A boat hook can be very useful as you get off the boat to get the bow lines - put it on the rail to make sure the boat doesn't leave! Put permanent fenders on some of the pilings, as needed. You may remove them later. If someone complains, tell the truth, that you are learning.
* Transient slips. Try side-ties at first. Getting between 4 unfamiliar wrong-size piers in a cross wind is a pickle.
* Anchoring, to me, is straight forward. To practice raising, put a float over the anchor, but not for tripping. It will help you learn how to motor up to the anchor, because you can see it. Once you learn the drill, you won't need the float.

Fall-off and you will die, so leave the jacklines rigged and use a harness a lot.
 

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STARBOARD!!
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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
Thanks for the pointers; keep 'em coming! LOTS of good info here already!!

Yes I have all lines coming back to the cockpit; so that's a good start. I don't have an A/P and now I wish I had bought the S1 on closeout from SailNet. When we drop the main down doublehanded I get the boat motoring into the wind slowly then lock the helm go to the cabin roof and flake the main as we drop it. Until I get a lazy jack system I think I could do the same myself; only dropping the main into a "pocket" or letting it fall to the deck and then lashing it to the side of the boom until I get in.

I agree that going in the water would likely result in a funeral at sea; so yes, jacklines and tethers will be used at all times. I have always given safety a priority and we have sailed with the understanding that even if one of the two of us went in it would be very difficult to retrieve someone singlehanded. So "don't fall overboard" has always been our first line of defense. The boat has a deep cockpit; high coamings and a wrap-around stern pulpit. The biggest worry about going over will be in going up to drop sail, deploy docklines, anchor, fenders. I'll be sailing inshore on SF Bay so I won't be in danger of getting washed overboard; but if I had a knockdown there would be potential for falling over and for that reason I will always be tethered.

On the docking issue, my boat is in a single-wide slip (walkways on both sides); no pilings on either end of the slip. The slip is upwind and I think one of my biggest difficulties is going to be in exiting safely. If the wind is up before I leave; the bow tends to blow down unless we pull it over close to the starboard side just before backing out. I engage reverse with the rudder hard to port and the boat will back out straight. Otherwise prop walk/offset will rotate the boat enough for the bow to chafe the dock as I back out. Any pointers on this? Should I walk the boat back (putting bow line at the spring line cleat) before exiting?
 

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Things are a lot easier for me on my 36' catamaran. With my two engines, the boat is extremely manueverable in reverse. I use a stern spring line, and the opposite side engine to hold it against the dock or piling. Then I leisurely walk around and tie on my lines. Catamarans are great for old fat guys like me to continue singlehanding well into my 70s'

Marc
Spring lines are the single-handers best friend when it comes to docking and departing.
Or for springing the rode to point your bow to the waves in an anchorage. :)

I would definitely think about the lazy jacks. They can allow you to sail a little longer before having to fire up the engine. As well as make everything easier and more tidy (therefore safer) as you come in.
 

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STARBOARD!!
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Discussion Starter #11
Yeah; I've been trying to decide on what kind of system. My boat is in need of a new cover for the boom and I was considering a stack-pack; but they are difficult to DIY and the purchased unit from Doyle is too expensive (Quoted $1600). I also don't like that the Doyle unit is sewn to the sail. So I was going to wait a bit on the lazy-jacks and figured that maybe I should learn how to do these things without any "help" like AP and lazyjacks in the event that one of these systems failed while out. I'm not a purist; but I would like to learn how to drop the sails without a lazy system first.

I think everything comes with practice; and all of your helpful tips here have been great. I seriously need to consider some upgrades for the long term so it will be easier and safer to sail the boat myself. I'm thinking one problem in the short term is going to be mainsail control. While I can adjust trim with the traveler; I don't know how I would turn downwind or gybe easily since helm control needs to be maintained and the sheet needs to be winched on the cabin roof.
 

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I have similar problems. Without an autopliot I was going to put lazy jacks on but the main is not huge. It helps to tie the rudder to the boom. Then get the sail down as fast as possible alternating folds to match the battens.
Unfortunately newbies although willing too often have little idea and make things worse. I am tossing between just having them keep out of the way and having a rehearsal before we leave the dock. Maybe both.
Even at a very slow speed the momentum is so great that holding a line can very near pull you in if you cant pick up the line and attach it quickly enough.
My slip is almost the same length as the boat and I can't back in because of the risk to the monitor. This means that I can't reach the stern lines until they are virtually abeam so I only have a few feet to go. There are no cleats or points to attach to on the dock other than prefixed lines.
Coming in I try to stop a little short which is difficult because I don't want to swing with prop walk to stop it with reverse. Grab a stern spring and attach it at near midline, then dash to get a bowline hoping I can get it at first try on the windward side before it blows off. I could motor slowly ahead against this spring to pin it but this seems slower.
I am thinking of running a line down the dock with a rope attached to a ring so I can walk the bow down on this until it is nearly out and pick it up as the second line on coming in so I can walk forward with it.
It certainly is not easy coming in to the prevailing wind which blows the bow off towards my neighbour and there is never anyone around to give a hand. I haven't mastered it and it is stressful but I am improving.
 

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I don't know how I would turn downwind or gybe easily since helm control needs to be maintained and the sheet needs to be winched on the cabin roof.
Are you saying that you can't control the mainsheet from the helm?
I don't know that I could feel completely comfortable on a boat that I couldn't steer and sail at the same time.
Even if I usually had an extra hand aboard, you never know when someone might get injured and put out of commission.
I want to be sure that I can always sail my own boat alone.
But that's just me.
 

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Spring lines and autohelm are your 2 new friends.

Others have said this, and I support them.

Auto helm is like having 1/2 a crew member on board. It will make raising sails like having crew, BUT with a limitation. Many helms are not so great at going straight into waves (the bow gets tossed this way and that), so it may be better to stay a bit to one side. You will also need to allow more sea room, because things just take a bit longer.

You may not be able to safely jibe in strong winds. Wear the ship. Alternatively, if you have enough control, center the main first. Then, you only have the jib to control. That is enough. Ease the main when you are through. Jibing even a single luff chute alone is asking for trouble. If anything hangs up it is a mess, because the helm is probably on auto-tack and won't stop and reverse.

Spring lines are more a matter of doing thing differently. Since you can't handle 4 lines at once, don't try. Handle the one that will keep you in control.
 

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I'm a big fan of the chicken jib. Instead of turning the boat 90 degrees the way you want to go, turn it 270 degrees the opposite way.

Several advantages:
  • Other boats stay clear as they assume you are out of control.
  • You extend the life of your winches.
  • Don't have to move the sun screen to find the winch handle
  • You get to use the same boom and standing rigging the next day.
:D
 
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Telstar 28
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You really needs something to help control the helm when going forward, even it if is just a wheel brake. An autopilot would be ideal, but there are less expensive options. :)
 

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I, being a pretty complete newbie, only have one idea that might help..
Bring somebody out with you that is a better sailor than you, (in my case Jerry Chris or Bill) and have them do nothing in a variety of conditions.. do it yourself and if the sh!t hits the fan, you'll be OK.. no sense in bringing someone with no sense out as a safety !!!
 

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I would love to hear from those who have either a ketch or a schooner and single-hand from time to time...
Their stories and methods would and will be interesting...
Am looking at both for my next boat with a cutter third in line for considerations.
 

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keelhauling,

I started on S.F. Bay. I would start practice gybing now. As crowded as the bay gets it could be the move that saves your booty. If you have proper reduced sail gybing is just another move. It's the timing that gets you, and I managed with a tiller between my knees for a very long time. Practice during the spring, and in the summer practice either early, or late in the day.

As far as backing out of the slip. I walked my boat back, and pushed, or pulled the bow downwind. I was in an upwind slip myself. I would also practice backing down the fairway for days when you can't get the bow downwind.

Put in a jiffy reef for at least the first reef. Most days on the bay a single reef will work with a smaller headsail. Do it from the safety of the cockpit, and sail on your headsail, or hove to.

Get an autopilot as soon as possible. It can't think, but it will serve you well. You are going to need one if you cruise, or a windvane. Remeber when alone it's all about timing.

Oh, and as far as docking. I took my dock lines with me. Midship was on the toerail, and the bow & stern in my hand when I stepped off.....i2f
 

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KH, the problems you're having with docking and departing sound similar to what I went through for a while on an admittedly much smaller boat. I found I was being either too ginger or too committed with use of power. I would either be underpowered and moving too slow, in which case like you were saying her bow would get blown around, or be overcommitted in which case her turning radius was too great for her speed and it would take other crew to fend off the boats on the other side of the berth or fairway. Of course as a result I tended to be biased towards underpowering, which didn't make things much better!

Nowadays I typically put the motor into 75% or full throttle for a couple of seconds to build up momentum and steerage, then ease it off to avoid the prop walk (which apparently affects outboards as well). Exactly how long you leave it on for will depend on your power/weight ratio -- I have 10 hp on a 6850 lb boat, and it takes about a three-one-thousand count to get up to steerage speed. I backed into the slip singlehanded the other day using this technique and it went off without a hitch -- a maneuver that would have had all of us sweating bullets a month ago.

For docking, once you're up next to your slip, all the other advice about spring lines applies. However I would definitely recommend backing in if conditions permit, since it means you can step off that much sooner and get your spring lines on the float's cleats. Like you, my berth has no pylons, but unlike you, I have something much more expensive than another walkway on the other side of the boat. If you're backing in, the first spring line to put on is the forward spring line. I run it from a midship attachment -- I have no cleat, so I use something on the toerail. This is pretty crucial, as a forward spring on the quarter cleat will cause the bow to swing out. On the other hand against a midships spring the boat's momentum will pull her towards the dock and keep her there long enough for you to get the breast lines on. Such a spring will run from the midship point forward to the outermost cleat on the dock -- another convenience, since you probably are more anxious to get the bow breast on than the stern one.

To summarize:
1) bursts of high power for steerage and control, then low power or neutral
2) back in and hop off at the first opportunity with the boat going slow and more or less straight
3) midship forward spring line (after spring if you're going bow in)

For departing, well, now you're going forward!
 
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