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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I ask this question more philosophically than practically at this point. I'm not ready for solo sailing. Even so, it's clear to me already that my interest in sailing far outstrips wifey's.

Mine's a 30' C&C mk1. Cute little boat. Thing is, it has a steering wheel instead of a tiller. That's all well and good, but you have to climb over the seats to get behind it and, once there, you have a solid 2 sq.ft of space. The traveler sits above the companionway.

How would one single hand this setup? Even if I upgraded to all self-tailing and ran all lines all the way back, I just wouldn't have the leverage. Does one then stand in front of the wheel and sail with one hand behind your back, or is it as simple as an auto-helm?

Beej
 

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I have a Pearson 28-2 with wheel steering.

When I'm single handing I sit beside the wheel, not behind it. The jib sheets and main sheets are all in easy reach. I tend to sit in that same place until the crew gets up to 4 or 5.

I don't use the autopilot much, but it is helpful while raising or dropping sails while single handing.

If you keep the sail plan balanced the boat mostly sails itself, you don't need to be on the wheel all of the time.
 

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I looked at some photos to get an idea of what you're dealing with.

I agree with Alex. For short tacking your way up a channel or river, you'll have to stand alongside the wheel in order to operate the winches smoothly enough, while singlehanded.

An Autohelm would be helpful, but not required. A wheel lock would seem kind of necessary. Basically, the procedure would be:

Center the traveler, trim the main. (Main is self tending at this point)
Helm down 100 degrees.
Lock the wheel.
Blow the loaded jib sheet.
Trim the new jib sheet.
Unlock the wheel and adjust heading as required.

It would have been more convenient if the winches were further aft.
You don't get to sit behind the wheel "Master & Commander" style, until you're settled onto a long beat.
 

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I will second Alex's take. On our Pearson 33-2 (the slightly bigger sister of his 28-2), I also sat beside the wheel. Not only does that provide access to the jib sheet, I thought it provided a better view of and around the sails, and frankly is a more comfortable seat. On the 33-2, the main sheet is out of reach from this spot, but never a big deal to lock the wheel for a moment to go forward the couple of feet to deal with it, the traveler, or various other controls by the companionway.

I single handed this way without issue for some years before installing an autopilot, but that being said, the autopilot does make things easier.
 

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It is no problem. I sail solo almost all the time and fly a symmetrical spinnaker solo. You do not need to lead lines aft. You should have an autopilot and/or wheel brake.

Stand behind the wheel. Trim sheets to one side or the other. Hold wheel with foot if possible. Grab mainsheet and snap downward to release from jaws, pull up to tighten.

Challenges will make you a better sailor, and a better human being (pretty much the same thing, BTW)!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Great..

That's what I needed to hear. So the secret is to know your boat well, balance your sails, be quick and efficient with all your adjustments and get back to the helm in short order. :laugher

I guess I could have figured that out. I was hoping there was a secret knock or something...

Seriously though, I welcome all advise, tips and tricks.

Beej
 

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Beej, I am a noob, too. You are one season behind me, but likely to pass me in skills soon! The only time I am behind the wheel is when under motor. I am constantly checking my gauges and looking back to check to make sure the water pump is working correctly.
But when sailing, it is usually one hand on the jib sheet and one hand on the wheel. When the sails are balanced, I don't need to even steer, but on my C&C if you lean over or move just a bit, it throws the balance off. A sensitive boat.
Singlehanding isn't too bad if you get a good weather window. The most terrifying part is going forward to reef the main. Reefing from the cockpit is essential for the noob!
I practiced under main alone for quite a while before I first rolled out the jib. Do you have roller furling?
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks first C&C.

That sort of paints the picture for me.
I do have a roller jib.
So, reefing from the cockpit? How is this accomplished?
On my rig, when the main is fully up, I've got a wrap or two of wire around the winch at the base of the mast and at least three wraps of line. Do you run your main halyard to a clam cleat or something above the companionway?

If not, how do you reef without climbing up on deck?

Sensitive boat... YEAH. It turns on a dime, under power or under sail. I've practiced a few standing turns, but it basically does one on its own if you just go hard over to starboard with bare steerage.

Thanks,
Beej
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I'm afraid you're about 100 years ahead of me James. There will likely be no spinnaker deployed this year! Losing sight of land would be nice if the boat were up to it (it's not).... mostly so I could also lose sight of the chartplotter display/depth concerns and take in some scenery.
 

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Hey,

There is single handing when the wind is steady at 8 kts and there is single handing when the wind gusts from 10 to 20 (or higher) and shifts 30 degrees.

I do a lot of single handing. Usually, even when I'm sailing with my family I am, for all practical purposes, single handing since they don't like to do much, but I digress...

Anyway, I submit that a decent (doesn't have to be great) autopilot will make single handing a lot easier and more fun. As I wrote above, when the weather is fine, it's easy to single hand and anyone can do it. Trim the sails, sit on the high or low side, and enjoy the world as you sail. Tacking is pretty easy: prepare the lazy sheet with a turn or two on the winch, hold the loaded sheet. give yourself a mental 'hard alee' then turn the wheel, release the loaded sheet when head to wind, grab lazy sheet and trim in. Self tailing winches make this easier. When the sails are timmed resume your relaxation.

When the wind picks up and you need to reef, the AP will really be worth it. Personally, I find reefing from the mast easier than from the cockpit, so I engage the AP, go forward, and do my thing. Takes about a minute to put the reef in.

The real benefit of the AP comes when it's time to drop sails. The AP can steer into the wind so I can take my time lowering the main, flaking it, and putting on a few sail ties without worrying about the boat falling off course.

Lastly, steering a boat is my least favorite activity. I much rather trim sails, enjoy a beverage, or sit on the side decks, than be stuck holding the wheel. So again, I really like having the AP around to do that 'chore' for me.

In summary, single handing is easier when you have:
-An autopilot
-Furling headsail
-Furling main, lazy jacks, dutchman, or some other device to assist in lowering the main
-self tailing winches

Then again, my friend sails a heavy cruising ketch with full keel. Once trimmed, that boat basically sails itself.

Barry
 

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On my Cal 29 (wheel) everything involved in tacking was setup so it can be reached from the helm

The roller furling main is controlled from the cabintop and with a bit of caution the boat is stable enough to furl it singlehanded without and autopilot
 

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Barry you have me drooling over autopilots now. Life stinks on a windy day singlehanded at the mast with no autopilot. The boat won't stay pointed into the wind for long.

My main halyard goes through two turning blocks and a jam cleat above the companionway. I put the excess line down in the cabin to eliminate clutter. I don't know if that is way it is supposed to be done, but it works for me.
I haven't set up my reefing line yet. Its on the list of projects! There are threads about it here, and apparently a number of ways to set it up.
Enjoy the season!
 

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BeeJ,

Come over when you see us around. I single hand both boats and can talk you through some of the considerations I have had and changes I've made. May be of limited use because our boats are so different, but we can still use it as an excuse to drink beer.
 
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Boats that can turn on a dime don't always have to turn on a dime, just use less rudder input. I tack single handed all of the time without using the autopilot.

I don't think about it much while sailing, but I think this is roughly how I do it:
* center traveler and lock off both control lines
* setup lazy sheet (will become working sheet) on winch
* turn wheel slightly into the wind. I want a tack to take 15-20 seconds
* release jib
* trim jib on new working sheet
* straighten wheel
* fix main trim

Note that I can straighten the wheel out at any point during the manuever, and slow down or speed up the tack just by reaching back. Don't overthink it, all of this happens pretty naturally and isn't different than tacking a tiller boat. I don't use the wheel brake or autopilot during tacking.

Jibing is similar but a little harder since you have two sails to contend with.

I primarily use the autopilot when hoisting or dousing sails.

I love short tacking up a channel single or double handed. Nothing makes an hour go by as quickly, especially if there is a challenging current or another boat to "race".
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Thanks First CandC and Barry.
Tommays, lucky dog with the furling main! My boom is actually set up for that, but that's not how it works presently. May be worth looking into someday.

Hpeer, I'm always on the lookout for ya whenever I'm at the marina. No sightings thus far. If this weather keeps up, I'll throw snowballs from the dock to get your attention.

Beej
 

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Beej,

Your boat is most likely setup for roller furling the main around the boom.
Don't do it. It's a horrible system, and gives the main horrible shape, and it's pretty abusive of the sail.

It's a 30 foot boat, dude. Don't be that guy that can't function without roller-furling everything, 25 lines, led back to the wheel, and all that jazz.
Some convenience is nice, and even safe but Christ, don't let this boat kick your ass.

My boat is tiller steered, hank-on jibs, and horn cleats everywhere. Lines are at the mast. I can handle everything just fine, singlehanded. I did finally install a tiller pilot just so that I don't have to jump around like a frog on a hot rock. I can function without it though.

I'm not saying you should be a Luddite, but don't try to turn the thing into a Beneteau or a Catalina 445.
 

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I spend a zillion hours racing and dragging all kinds of sails around and trying NOT to break carbon fiber









Mr and Ms Tom started out on a J24 and would NEVER go back to all that crap on are relaxing boat
 

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Plenty of good advice here but I'll disagree with the suggestion of a smaller wheel. While easier to get around, you are pulling yourself further into the cockpit, reducing sight lines forward when beating.

Like most, I straddle the wheel outboard when beating. Having a wheel large enough to allow an easy reach while sitting out against the lifelines allows you to see debris, waves and oncoming puffs clearly. This side position also puts you within reach of the sheet winches as a rule.

A cabin top traveler/main sheet set up with a cabin too winch is often problematic with wheel steering.. Going to a double-ended sheet with tails led back to the cockpit/secondary winch can address that issue (known as a "German sheeting" setup.)
 
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