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Old 06-07-2017, 08:33   #16
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Re: Some things that can go south in a second when sailing singlehanded

Glad you're ok!

I was single handing downwind in strong wind a few weeks ago, handling an 8 meter long pole on the foredeck.

It suddenly ocurred to me -- what the @#@# am I doing?! All it would take would be for the pole to get just slightly out of control, for it to flip me overboard, and -- RIP Dockhead. I unrigged and secured it immediately.


Single handing is fun, but requires completely different attitudes. It's easy to forget. Thanks for posting this.
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Old 06-07-2017, 08:33   #17
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Re: Some things that can go south in a second when sailing singlehanded

I carry planning to the extreme when out alone I try to visualize every step when I go forward or down below. How I am going to get there and what I am going to do when I get there. My biggest problem is to not skip any foot placement with a jump, into the cabin or cockpit. So far, so good.
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Old 06-07-2017, 08:40   #18
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Re: Some things that can go south in a second when sailing singlehanded

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Originally Posted by Intentional Drifter View Post
Glad you're OK, Don! This does remind us that the most dangerous places for our health are actually not the super-scary, but the routine, daily stuff. Last year, my wife slipped in the bathroom. Hit her head on (what we think) was the toilet and maybe bounced off the tub. Broken clavicle, but a pretty serious head injury. 7 days in the ICU, 3 before she fully woke up. To this day, she has no memory of it, at all. She's fine, now, but like your situation, it's the routine that gets us.

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When landlubbers tell me that they think sailing is dangerous, I remind them that driving a car on the highway is more dangerous and way more people die or are injured in their bathrooms. If one has to wear a helmet riding a motorcycle, one should have to wear a helmet taking a bath...
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Old 06-07-2017, 09:03   #19
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Re: Some things that can go south in a second when sailing singlehanded

With extensive single handing experience, I have learned many things the hard way as I have gotten older. A couple of simple rules to avoid problems and injury 1.) I'm always tethered, and the jack line path is unobstructed. 2.) Always wear shoes on deck and anytime you might have to go on deck witch is pretty much all the time. 3.) Do all evolutions before you have to, allowing plenty of time. 4.) Plan each step of each evolution before beginning, step by step 4.) Execute each evolution by the numbers just the way you planed it. 5.) Keep a neat boat, a place for everything and everything in it's place. The older and slower and clumsier you get, the more important these steps are.
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Old 06-07-2017, 09:20   #20
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Re: Some things that can go south in a second when sailing singlehanded

Situational awareness is critical when sailing offshore. Small incidents can rapidly spiral out of control into life threatening situations.

Some members of the crew may not be situationally aware, and the best place for them is in the cockpit or down below out of harms way if it is possible.

When we sailed across the Pacific, there was one sailboat that got into trouble again and again. Every time things went south on that yacht, it was preventable. I listened to their tale of woe, and I was amazed that they could not see the downsides of the sailing choices/decisions they made.

When I am sailing offshore, anytime I leave the cockpit, the first though that enters my mind is what could go wrong and how people could get hurt by the situation at hand.

I have one extra long genoa halyard (about twenty feet extra long) that I clip into on my safety harness, and if I or someone else goes overboard, we can step up to the mast and winch the person back on board.

When I was in New Zealand, I was in a car accident and broke both of my legs and five ribs. There was no sailing for me for more than six months because the bones were slow to heal.

Now that I have survived two broken legs and five broken ribs, I am especially careful when sailing offshore. I worship at the altar of situational awareness.
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Old 06-07-2017, 09:21   #21
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Re: Some things that can go south in a second when sailing singlehanded

In climbing we come across "Thank God Handholds"......... 3 years ago I was doing my 3rd singlehanded Atlantic crossing. I was some 500 miles SSW of Canaries when hit by a gale, which is never really any problem for Tiger Lily. Then more to the point a wave which shpuld have known better, but didn't hit me on the starboard side. Suddenly steering gone, very uncomfortable movement, rudders (on cat) banging, helm turning to no effect.

Small amount of sails which were up immediately dropped/furled and 'ye olde faithful tyre" timidly pushed along the wineard side of the yacht, secured and thrown over the bow. The movement becomes a little less violent as she slowly turns more into the wind. It's virtually dark too late for any repairs.

Next morning still bad seas but burrow down to each of the stern cabins, arms which you wish were more flexible find on each side a bolt bent and a bolt totally snapped securing each rudder.

Just prior to leaving Las Palmas I'd visited the chandler to purchase 4 bolts for in unrelated project. "Sorry, we dont have the size you require but have these which may be too big for you". I took them. Despite having plenty of spares these were the only ones big enough for the rudders. Had i bought "the correct size" for the project, that would be the end of my trip and possibly the Cat. A whole day it took to replace them by myself. Arriving in St Martins I bought 8!

Thank God for chandlers who don't always have the items you want!
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Old 06-07-2017, 09:51   #22
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Re: Some things that can go south in a second when sailing singlehanded

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Originally Posted by CaptRory View Post
With extensive single handing experience, I have learned many things the hard way as I have gotten older. A couple of simple rules to avoid problems and injury 1.) I'm always tethered, and the jack line path is unobstructed. 2.) Always wear shoes on deck and anytime you might have to go on deck witch is pretty much all the time. 3.) Do all evolutions before you have to, allowing plenty of time. 4.) Plan each step of each evolution before beginning, step by step 4.) Execute each evolution by the numbers just the way you planed it. 5.) Keep a neat boat, a place for everything and everything in it's place. The older and slower and clumsier you get, the more important these steps are.

CaptRory summed up the most important points, read his thoughts again. One other, don't tow your dinghy if there is ANY possibility of big weather or fixture failures; load her on the deck or high davits.
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Old 06-07-2017, 10:22   #23
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Re: Some things that can go south in a second when sailing singlehanded

Don, when I singlehand my wife demands that I tether and we both follow strict rules about not leaving the cockpit even both aboard without a life jacket on. Always tethering is good practice because I find I'm getting better at it and it feels less cumbersome and in the way. Do you keep deployed a boarding ladder when you are soloing?
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Old 06-07-2017, 10:32   #24
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Re: Some things that can go south in a second when sailing singlehanded

Many things can happen when single handling and o so quick. The best change I have made was not an original thought but something I read somewhere. Take a long line from a bow cleat out and around everything to a stern cleat. On the port side of course. Have about 8-10' slack, not enough to wrap around the prop. Then when you come into the dock and the wind tries to blow you off, and it will, you can step off the boat and quick wrap the line around something. Anything. Then you will have control of both ends of the boat. You can then tweak it to the position you want. Being blown off before I could secure the boat has happened to me several times before I started using this method. I still get in trouble as there are always new ways to f--- up! Remember, "The ocean was never meant to be a place where you could call for help." From, Gypsy Moth Circles the Earth. 1Sunseeker, aka
a singlehander.
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Old 06-07-2017, 10:42   #25
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Re: Some things that can go south in a second when sailing singlehanded

On a practical note, when solo or the only cre on deck I always keep a H/H radio clipped to my life vest 'just in case'
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Old 06-07-2017, 13:44   #26
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Re: Some things that can go south in a second when sailing singlehanded

I agree with doing everything slowly and deliberately. In fact, I try not to leave the cockpit, if possible, while sailing alone. Falling overboard is one of my biggest concerns, and that is less likely to happen if I'm sitting in the cockpit.

Of course I have to go forward to anchor, but by then (in an anchorage) its pretty calm.

I try to think of everything I might need, and make sure its easy to reach from the cockpit. I get snacks and drinks ready before leaving the dock, along with towels, sunblock, hats, etc. You can break a leg just as easily going down the hatch.

All this makes me appreciate having some crew. They can conn the ship while I make sandwiches below, or take a break...something I never get to do sailing solo.

My other big concern is to go swimming and forget to put the swim ladder down...how would I get back aboard?
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Old 06-07-2017, 14:54   #27
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Re: Some things that can go south in a second when sailing singlehanded

It might also help to make sure the ladder is out. I watched that movie where everyone on board went swimming without thinking about dropping the ladder. It was an extremely gross movie that ended with the last one drowning, after a bit of cannibalism. YUCK!!
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Old 06-07-2017, 14:55   #28
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Re: Some things that can go south in a second when sailing singlehanded

Oops! Missed that post above.
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Old 06-07-2017, 15:35   #29
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Re: Some things that can go south in a second when sailing singlehanded

This thread definitely strikes a chord with me. At 68 (this month) I am looking forward with a smidgen of trepidation to taking my little trawler down the NY canals and the ICW to god knows where - after retirement if I can swing retirement - but it looks as if it will be solo. So last weekend, with the help of an out of town visitor, I was affixing my big solar panel to the coach rooftop, and stumbled on the electrical cord, fell 3 or 4 feet off the foredeck onto the finger dock with a heavy thud!! (silver lining: dropped the Kawasaki drill into the lake so I get to buy one of those new small-size 18V drills! )

I'm OK, a bit sore in the arm and ribs, nothing broken, but it gets ya thinking.Thinking about scrambling around on the decks while docking or anchoring in a wind in unfamiliar waters, like that. And being a clutz. Thinking about bribing the grandkids to come along in legs? I have 3 boys in that category, one of whom who has recently taken a course on olde tyme Caribbean piracy. So that will come in handy!
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Old 06-07-2017, 17:45   #30
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Re: Some things that can go south in a second when sailing singlehanded

I suppose we can all tell tales. I know it takes a couple of days for me to get my sea legs. Taking off on a long solo journey, day 2 or 3, well off shore, I stumble and take a header into the center cockpit of our steel boat. She's on wind vane and will steer herself forever. I didn wack my head, thankfully, didn't even really hurt myself. But I was oh so close to disaster.

It was the only fall I had in three months. But could have been killer.

Another thing that scares me is a bad gout attack well offshore. If you've ever experienced one you know what I mean.

But we have to go don't we? It's either risk death living or dieing.
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