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Sailing Single Handed, PART 2

Auto Helm

One of the most difficult thing to do is to keep the boat pointing in the wind long enough to take down the sail when it is quite windy. I usually manage to balance the boat with the genoa and let go of the main so I can take it down. I think an autohelm would be wildly useful. I have an old one that came in the boat and I will set it up. As it is now I point the boat in the wind and run on deck to drop the main. My sail shows no inclination to slide down by itself when loosened, even when pointing in the wind. It has to be gently pulled down. It is not binding and I have not figured out what do do yet. That's still a problem for me. I have no trouble raising the sail but bringing it down is harder. When I raise it I have already unfurled some genoa and the boat is quietly going upwind with the tiller bungeed in position. I can go on deck and set the sail and get down before any problem occurs.

Having an autohelm also allows you to leave the tiller for a while and just enjoy sailing without having to steer.

Tiller bungee

I have a bungee that can be set up to add some friction to the tiller. If I put a couple of turns around the tiller and clip the bungee on both side of the rudder on the stern it will add some friction to the tiller. With it I can leave the helm and go deal with something and the bungee will sort of keep the tiller in place. I don't like tying the tiller because I will likely have to quickly adjust it when I get back to it.

I have a VHF radio

The radio also has the DSC feature and is also a GPS. I can press a red button and it automatically sends a distress signal with my position.

In fact I mostly use it to check the weather report if conditions seems to be changing. I also use the gps with compass feature.

The trouble with the radio is that I have to keep reading the manual. Since it is complex, and what I don`t use regularly I struggle to remember how to use it.

My anchor is easily accessible

Being able to quickly put out the anchor and stop the boat drifting has served me well on a couple of occasions. It has been useful when the motor would not start also. I keep a couple hundred feet of line in the boat just in case.

Securing the boat

Except in the mildest of conditions I make sure my lazarette covers are fastened shut and I have the first board of the companionway in. The companionway opening is lower than the seats and in a knockdown if water gets in the cockpit it can get in the boat if the first board is not on. Drains work but will take a short while to empty the water. I've never come close but I think it is something that could easily happen, in fact it will happen someday. The boat will pop back up with no trouble but if water has come in then I'm in more trouble.

Before I set off I always check the turnbuckles that hold all the stays. I had one of the side stay come loose once and hope this never happens again. I was able to secure it before anything nasty happened but lesson learned. I check everything, wire the ones that can be wired, tape the others and check every time.

Coming in to my mooring

It's amazing how tricky it can be to nose up to my swing mooring and secure the boat when there is a lot of wind. I have added a long floating line with extra loops tied in. This streams downwind from the float and gives me a much better chance of hooking it the first time around. I am on a swing mooring and it is quite close to 3 neighbours. I come in from downwind and ease on the spot, as the boat drifts toward the mooring float, I get on the deck and catch my line with a boat hook. The extra long line gives me a wide margin of error if a gust comes in and pushes the boat off.

If the wind is really strong I let the line come to the side and hook it from the side without going on deck, and fasten the boat side way. Not very elegant but it allows me to secure the boat and then walk the line to the front. Since there is never big waves in the harbour this method works too.

I have 2 boat hooks on board just in case. I used to have 3 but I dropped one.

Radar Reflector and Drogue

I have a radar reflector in the boat. I'm not sure how helpful this is but I have it in case it gets foggy. Since I don't really sail at night it is not all that necessary. I just fancied one.

I also carry a small drogue. This drogue has only been useful while towing, to stop the boat from overtaking the towing boat and to dampen the boinging. I'm told it can be used to help stear a boat if the rudder or pintles let go. It is also said to be useful in really strong wavy conditions to slow the boat.

Over the stern line

On at least one sail I let out a long floating line behind me. Conditions were quickly turning nasty and I thought this would help me get back in the boat if I fell out. My ladder is not very good and I will improve it eventually but even then it is tricky to get in the boat when it is bouncing around. I'm still thinking about how to deal with that eventuality.

Cleating the jib lines

This is one area where I am not very competent yet. I tend to prefer cleating the lines on the high side of the boat when the boat heels. This means I have lines going across the cockpit.

Tacking is not a simple thing when the boat is moving fast. Well tacking is not hard but dealing with the jib and setting the sail properly is tricky. I often have only one hand available. Usually I secure the jib roughly, point the boat and get it going ok, then tweak the jib. This is still a work in progress and when I figure it out better I will add better cleats in the best positions. As it is I route the lines to the back by using the hindmost block and tighten using the back winches.

When I tack I often have trouble getting the jib/genoa over. It is a huge sail and overlaps the main quite a way. The lines sometimes get caught in the horn cleat I use for mooring the boat, or get caught on the guard rails. The best I've figured out so far is to actually roll up the sail using the furler before I tack and let it out after. Not a simple solution but so far this is what has worked best.

Learning to sail

I've now sailed this boat for 3+ full seasons. At first I was terrified as soon as the wind blew up. In fact I went out with my little Skerry if the wind was stronger than 8 knots. I know how to sail her and spill extra wind!

Gradually I have gained experience with the Tanzer. I am no longer as terrified when she heels over. I have learned how to spill wind and how to control the heal. It's taken that long to understand how she reacts to gusts and what happens when big waves hit. I know how it feels just before a gybe and know how much space I need to tack. I have learned how to anchor and get underway. I have also figured out how to reef the main.

What will I add

I'm planning to bring my main halyard to the cabin. I think that will be useful sometimes. The reality is that I put up and take down the main after the genoa so my boat is in control when I go on deck. I think it will be a simple thing to do. I just have to get-to-it.

I am planning to set up a reefing line so that I can do it from the cockpit but so far if the wind looks like it might blow up, I put in a reef before I go out.

I've already mentioned installing the autohelm.

I intend to install an automatic bailing pump in case water comes in when I am not on the boat. It would also help if water came in during a knockdown. Both the autohelm and the pump will have to wait till I rewire the boat this winter.

I use a bungee to tie my tiller but I think a tiller tender of some description might be nice. I also want to experiment with balancing the boat with one of the bungee tied to the boom and the tiller, that automatically stears the boat. Just for fun but also maybe useful.

Do I worry too much? Probably

I'm not as strong or fast or resilient as I used to be as I slowly drift into old farthood. Bumps hurt more and for longer. As well Lake Erie can be really sneaky. It certainly is wavy.

It doesn't help that I've always been a risk taking personality!

All this is balanced by my increasing experience.


[HOME] email me if you find mistakes, I'll fix them and we'll all benefit: Christine