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Old 02-08-2009, 18:59   #1
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Whisker Pole Needed in Caribbean?

They say there are no dumb questions. I disagree, here is one.

We are trying to decide whether to bring the whisker pole. We do not fly a spinnaker so would only use as a jib preventer in a wing on wing. My thought is that limits the use to a fraction of our time in the Caribbean. What do you think?
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Old 02-08-2009, 19:13   #2
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I think it's a good idea for sailing from say Antigua downwind to St Maarten where the main will blanket the genoa. With a roller furler you can leave the pole deployed and roll it in and use the main when the winds are strong enough. The seas are still large with lighter winds and the pole does help.
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Old 06-08-2009, 05:34   #3
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If you have it and it stows ok take it along. Having said that, after 2 seasons in the Eastern Caribbean between Antigua and Trinidad I honestly can't remember the wind aft of the beam
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Old 06-08-2009, 06:31   #4
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mostly reaching up and down the Caribbean. in the virgins the sailing is either to weather or downwind(for the most part) and in the winter the wind is strong enough that unrolling the jib only for downwind works fine if you are not racing.
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Old 06-08-2009, 06:43   #5
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Sailing north and south in the eastern caribe from Antigua to Trinidad, it's unlikely under the prevailing trades you would need a pole. Courses dead downwind ie heading west you could in light air.
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Old 06-08-2009, 08:17   #6
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I've had one on the boat for 5 seasons in the Caribbean - never used it.
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Old 06-08-2009, 11:22   #7
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when I finally decided to try mine it had been so long that the fittings were frozen up and I couldnt use it. We usually just went with headsail only downwind in lieu of a pole and all the flogging as the boat rolls and main blankets the Genny... In fact sailing with the roller furling headsail alone became a favorite way to sail... easy sailing... if the wind backs off ...easy to roll er up and start the engine, if the wind was marginal ...leave it unfurled and charge the batteries at low rpm...
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Old 06-08-2009, 12:48   #8
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We had a wisker pole, but our experience was in accord with the above. In 2 1/2 years of cruising the Bahamas and eastern Caribbean we never used the pole and never missed it. In the Caribbean we pretty much had a permanent reef in the main; often we had two; and frequently we sailed on Genoa alone. We were much more interested in comfort and ease of sailing than speed.
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Old 06-08-2009, 13:08   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Janice View Post
They say there are no dumb questions. I disagree, here is one. ... What do you think?
That's not a dumb question. I suppose that's because I fall into the camp who think there are no dumb questions.

... but there are a lot of very inquisitive imbeciles.
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Old 06-08-2009, 14:33   #10
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"We were much more interested in comfort and ease of sailing than speed."
ahh yesss.... island time.... all the number crunching and sleepless nights regarding the best refrigeration system, charging system , reeefing system etc slowly fade away... all those theorhetical "best things" get proven good, or often bad... we make due with what we have, worry less and prioitize pot luck on the beach, or best fishing lures..... :>)
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Old 06-08-2009, 22:51   #11
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Sailing with a whisker pole is actually "increasing comfort & ease of sailing". They are used often in the Caribbean, just not up and down the islands in the east.

For many boats sailing west to the Venezuelan islands, ABC islands, Colombia, Panama etc. it is a standard part of setting sail. The easiest way of rigging it here (remember, there's more than enough wind) is to have no cutter stay or remove it if it's rigged for that, and adjust the pole just short of the fore stay. Now, clip it to the sail/sheet and leave it there, furling the jib with the pole on. Adjust the height at the mast so that it's at right angles with the mast, unfurl as much jib as needed, furl&unfurl while jibing (remember 25+ kts wind) and here you have a good, safe and fast sailplan for comfortable downwind sailing in the reinforced trades without the need to go on deck.

You don't need spinnakers, reachers etc. but a good whisker pole makes a lot of sense.

cheers,
Nick.
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Old 08-08-2009, 06:49   #12
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- - Going downwind - west bound - the pole can be helpful but the trade winds are normally strong enough to not need one. I used mine once in 7 years. I found that if you have both main and genoa out - you can sheet-in the mainsail nearly to amidships and it will act as a wind scoop to direct the wind into the genoa and keep it full without using a pole. Wing on wing is great and a joy to watch, but with large seas/swells it is very tiring to try to keep the boat in the tight zone necessary to keep both sails full.
- - Heading north/south in the windwards, a pole would be dangerous. It takes time to put up and take down the pole and the winds in between islands are steady and strong from the east. As you drop behind the islands the winds will vary from nothing to quite strong as you pass various mountains and volcanos. I have frequently seen the wind clock completely around the compass 360 degrees as you first get behind an island. Is is enough work moving the main and genoa back and forth every five minutes - rigging and unrigging a pole would be horrible.
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Old 08-08-2009, 07:46   #13
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Had a pole aboard my 42' sloop in the Eastern Caribbean for 11 years. Been sailing in those waters for 40 years. Never needed the pole. Finally, gave it away, along with the spinnaker. Have never missed it since.

Usually, there's plenty of wind so the pole isn't needed. If the main blankets the jib, either run off on a broad reach or, better, drop the main. If you're not racing, a genny will pull you along just about as fast.

Really nice to go forward on deck and not stumble over the spinnaker pole :-)

Bill
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Old 08-08-2009, 10:28   #14
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Ah, you're all confused! ;-) A whisker pole is not a spinnaker pole. You don't need to rig and unrig a whisker pole as you can furl the jib with the pole attached.

Also, the whisker pole is not just for light winds. It is for creating stability for the jib, allowing you with a much wider angle without collapsing/gybing the jib. It also increases the life span of the jib: it's easier on rig and sails. It is also only for 140-180 deg. wind angles so not for reaching between the islands in the East Caribbean.

Sheeting in the main so that the flow off the main fills the jib isn't really a smart plan either, as the main will not generate much, if any, drive that way. Better lower it completely and use jib and whisker pole only. Remember, we are doing downwind sailing here so the sails must be completely stalled for optimal drive.

Also, remember that reefing is just as possible downwind as it is on other angles. The main rigged with preventer to leeward and the jib with pole to windward is pretty much fool proof and nothing will slam around. If wind gets to high, start with reefing the main, which allows more air to reach the jib. If your boat tends to roll or even start to oscillate (rolling gets worse and worse) you need to experiment with different ways of reefing, regardless of necessity for the current wind speed.

This is also the time to check if you can reef the main while sailing downwind. You might need lines from the luff reef points to pull/winch it down etc. If you have aft-swept spreaders, you will have more difficulty.

Boats that removed the boom vang (it was "in the way") should also re-think that decision and re-rig a vang during these down wind sails, or move the main sheet to the toe-rail.

I agree that setting sail like I describe isn't very useful for the Marin to Rodney Bay trip. But I'll list some Caribbean trips where I have seen boats getting in trouble because they sailed them like if they were still doing these East Carieb trips:

Grenada -> Los Testigos. Most boats end up motoring because of the light conditions. Preventers and poles make this a nice relaxed sail and even faster for light, easily driven hulls. The mistake made: you motor out of prickly bay, down wind. You host the main or unfurl the jib and it collapses. You decide there's not enough wind. Remedie: put engine on dead slow, hoist/unfurl working sails, set pole and preventers, kill engine, feather prop, tune sails and give it 30 minutes before deciding that there's not enough wind.

Isla Margerita to Rogues, Aves and ABC islands. Here you will get the full trades, count on 25-30 kts winds and 8' waves. Lovely sailing conditions with the wind stable in both direction and strength (as soon as you get away from land). When we are lazy, we use the main with preventer only (= balanced on a ketch) and do 10 kts that way. Friends of us have a 42' Bavaria sloop and use the jib + whisker pole setup instead. The pole is like permanently rigged, even in the anchorages with the jib furled. The furling line is like the accelerator pedal and they sail in complete comfort.

ABC islands to Colombia or Panama. This is where most trouble occurs. Ripped off deck fittings, broken booms, vangs, stays, spreaders etc. You must expect 30-40 kts wind and must not be surprised to see 45 kts. Waves can go up to 20' in spots. Sail defensively, always using preventers. Rig that small jib (100% or less), not the 140% genoa (you do have a smaller jib, right?) and use the whisker pole adjusted so that you can furl the jib without unrigging the pole. If you have a cutter stay, use that for a jib and hope your pole can be adjusted short enough to be put to use there. Put up just enough sail area to make hull speed, only exceeding that a little when surfing down a wave. Do not reduce sail too much as the trip will be rougher that way (higher apparent wind, more waves coming to you at a faster speed etc.)

You will probably have a overnight leg from Cabo de la Vela to the 5-bays area. About halfway (off the oil platforms you find on the charts) you can expect sudden changes in wind direction, resulting in unplanned gybes. You have reached the area where winds are influenced by some of the highest mountains in the America's! I remember subtle warning signs but even though a heard about a boat breaking the vang there a week earlier, the signs were not clear enough for me to connect them to the story and we had some unexpected fun there too and only quick reactions prevented damage. I would advise to change to jib only well before getting abeam of the platforms.

Many cruisers in the East Caribbean fear heading west and stay east. But if you took good care of the boat and know how to sail, there should be no reason for fear and the San Blas is really much nicer than the Tobego Keys (real Indians instead of boat boys!)!

ciao!
Nick.
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Old 12-08-2009, 17:21   #15
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Quote:
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ahh yesss.... island time.... all the number crunching and sleepless nights regarding the best refrigeration system, charging system , reeefing system etc slowly fade away... all those theorhetical "best things" get proven good, or often bad... we make due with what we have, worry less and prioitize pot luck on the beach, or best fishing lures..... :>)
Funny!

I was speaking with my darling about all sorts of boat details and plans and she commented that she wasn't sure I would ever be anything other than goal-oriented.

My response: "Sweetheart, don't worry. I'm going to be so laid back you think you married a Jamacian."
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