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Old 25-02-2014, 19:09   #1
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Failing at sailing (sunfish adventure)

Hi all, this is a bit of a story as well as a question. So my stepdad picked up a sunfish from his parents that he had gotten to Sail when he was young.
It needed some repairs but I was still really excited. I had a tiny bit of experience with these, but it had been on a wide river at a summer camp, so not much. This was going to be my first time on a lake. Anyway I ordered the parts, and fixed (or so I thought) and cleaned the boat.

We decided to take the boat out to a nearby lake, which wasn't very big. So we launch the boat and out I go. It was a blast, i certainly never got going like this on a river. I tipped her a few times, but it's easy to righten.

At one point though I get, I guess I would say caught in the wind - I would start drifting backwards so the rudder would be reversed, and then my sail would catch wind and I would go right back to where I started (if this makes sense). Maybe it's something simple and I'm sounding like an idiot here, should I just use a paddle to get out of this? Is there something simple I'm not doing?

Alright back to story time. So by now I realize I'm pretty far from shore and better get this tacking thing down pretty fast and head back, when all of a sudden my sail comes flying down! After replacing pieces to the rudder and the rings to hold the sail, I hadn't replaced the rope! And what do you know, the rope snapped, so now I'm pretty far from the shore, and I'm noticing I'm starting to drift towards those now scary looking rocks sticking out on the other side of the lake. So of course I jump in to start pulling, as I realize I have quite some time to think to myself as I swim the boat (and myself) back to shore. Luckily I was very fortunate for their to be some guys who were out fishing on their pontoon, and they were nice enough to pull me to the shore (thank you for that!)

I can certainly say I learned something, and next time I'm bringing a paddle! I can't wait for it to warm up again, so I can replace this rope and head back out there : )
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Old 25-02-2014, 19:11   #2
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Re: Failing at sailing (sunfish adventure)

Yep, the paddle is key! My first boat was a sunfish and I raced that boat every summer Sunday for a good fifteen years.
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Old 25-02-2014, 20:34   #3
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Re: Failing at sailing (sunfish adventure)

Learned to sail on a Salfish kit that I built myself as a kid. The Sailfish is a slightly smaller version of your boat without a footwell. Just built it and went sailing without any experience or instruction of any kind. Picked it up pretty quick and set me in good stead for further adventures down the line. Highly recommend learning on a small boat like a Sunfish before progressing on to larger boats. They are so sensitive to the wind that you build up a feel for wind and waves that is absent on larger boats but necessary to sail to best advantage.

When the boat is in irons and moving backwards with the rudder action reversed, you have to be quick to dial opposite rudder angle as soon as the boat begins moving forward. It's a light touch and maybe just centering the rudder as the sail begins to fill and forward progress begins would be a start. Then add tiller to windward slowly as speed and heel angle builds. You'll pick it up with a little practice. Might try putting the boat in irons on purpose and figuring how to get it moving forward again.
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Old 26-02-2014, 06:56   #4
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Re: Failing at sailing (sunfish adventure)

I learned to sail on a Sunfish and they're a whole lot of fun! I still have it and enjoy sailing it on the same large lake I learned on as a kid. As a teen I always had the whole lake to myself because I wouldn't bother going unless the wind was blowing so hard that all the other boats were at the dock. Now I enjoy my Sunfish in a light breeze.

You described being "in irons" and I've been there dozens of times, especially in a very light breeze. You did the right thing in reversing the rudder and you can also push the boom into the wind to help swing the bow around. Sometimes it wants to go in the opposite direction from what you're intending and that's OK, just go with it and build a little speed and then tack again, this time a little more quickly so you don't get stuck in irons again.

I've never bothered to take a paddle with me since you need such a tiny breeze to sail them to get home. For short periods of time, the centerboard works just fine as a paddle.

Enjoy!
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Old 26-02-2014, 07:18   #5
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Re: Failing at sailing (sunfish adventure)

I learned to sail on a Sailfish when I was very small...probably five or six...starting out in the creek next to our house and venturing out farther into the cove and then the bay when my parents said it was ok (and sometimes before). It was an old boat already and soon fell apart and we got a Sunfish.

They are incredibly fun boats. On hot days us kids would take it out into the bay, capsize her, and lounge around in the sail in the water. It was awesome.
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Old 26-02-2014, 07:34   #6
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Re: Failing at sailing (sunfish adventure)

When going backwards push the boom against the wind. With the tiller hard over the other side you will flick the bow out of the wind and can get sailing again. Its a bit like dodgem cars, sometimes the fastest way forwards is backwards
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Old 26-02-2014, 07:56   #7
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Re: Failing at sailing (sunfish adventure)

Never had a paddle when I sailed a Fish. But if the wind died I used the rudder to scull the boat back to the dock.
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Old 26-02-2014, 08:03   #8
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Re: Failing at sailing (sunfish adventure)

We have a little old-fart sunfish fleet in our marina and seem to manage to get out on the water at least once a month in all seasons.

It is SO MUCH FUN!!! Depending on wind or current, we race out around the channel markers on the Hudson or up the canal and around a dock piling. When the wind dies, we drink beer.

A couple of the the guys have managed to pick up near prefect-condition boats in the $200-250 range on Craigslist or at estate sales. At that price, probably the most enjoyment-per-dollar boat investment you could make.
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Old 26-02-2014, 08:12   #9
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Re: Failing at sailing (sunfish adventure)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tbrad View Post
Never had a paddle when I sailed a Fish. But if the wind died I used the rudder to scull the boat back to the dock.
Paddle with the dagger board.
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Old 26-02-2014, 08:33   #10
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Re: Failing at sailing (sunfish adventure)

Horse Shoo...

As you can see from the comments.... There is no such thing as "failing at sailing" with a Sunfish.... One of the funnestest bang for your buck rides ever conceived... I learned to sail at 4 in the stuffy world of Sabots... A whole new grin came to my face when I discovered Sunfish, then later lasers, 420's and FJ's... Sounds like you got the bug....

BTW... all ropes once put to a use on a boat become "lines"... And the specific term for you sail holdy uppy line is a halyard...

Welcome to the club!
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Old 26-02-2014, 09:04   #11
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Re: Failing at sailing (sunfish adventure)

Horse Shoo,

It's a big world out there, dream far and wide! You can't be far from a river that empties into the sea. You can build a boat and sail around the world. Others have done it and you can too. Happy Sailing!

James Wharram Designs | Unique sailing catamarans, self-build and professional built boats of distinction..
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Old 28-02-2014, 06:51   #12
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Re: Failing at sailing (sunfish adventure)

Thanks everyone for the great tips and terminology!

@happy Maybe, but it sounded catchy.
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Old 28-02-2014, 07:21   #13
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Re: Failing at sailing (sunfish adventure)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Horse Shoo View Post
Thanks everyone for the great tips and terminology!

@happy Maybe, but it sounded catchy.
You betchya!

Welcome to our (and your new) world... Embrace... and enjoy!!!
Thanks for the story, and we expect to hear more from ya soon...
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Old 01-03-2014, 13:49   #14
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Re: Failing at sailing (sunfish adventure)

My love story, at 17 I borrowed 200 dollars from my sister to by my first boat it was a sunfish, I think that was 1975. I'd hoist the sail in the backyard just to help my imagination and it wasn't long after we were both in the water. Having relatives with property in the San Juan Islands most of my adventures took place around Shaw Island. The most memorable was a race around Shaw Island "the Shaw Island classic" (they still have it every year). It starts and ends at Friday Harbor on San Juan Island and you can go either direction around Shaw Is. The day of the race I needed to get myself, my boat and my soon to be ex-girlfriend to Friday Harbor via the ferry before race time. I can't remember what exactly it was that made my soon to be ex-girl friend "sooner" but I found myself, by myself, dragging my boat several 100 yards to the ferry landing to catch the ferry, oh yeah and had to drag it off at the other end too. Needless to say I drug a six inch long gash in the bottom of my sunfish. Not to be deterred I had just enough time to get to a hardware store and get some epoxy for the bottom before the start. That's when I learned about epoxies actually it was several hours later. About half way around the island I noticed that the ass end of the boat was really close to the water and my speed had dropped considerably with the light wind. By the time I made shore the deck was almost flush to the water and the boat had gained considerable weight. I never finished the race, I was in it only for the adventure and thats what it was. Only one of many.
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Old 01-03-2014, 14:32   #15
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Re: Failing at sailing (sunfish adventure)

I learned to sail on a Sunfish when I was 18, on Lake Michigan...nearly froze to death as I grew up in Miami. It was a blast, though! I do have fond memories of racing Sunfish. We all used to drag our boats up to the shore, line up on the beach, run for our boats, race around a buoy, beach the boats, and run back up the beach, across a finish line. It was tons of fun. I never won, but I had a great time, anyway. I think it is a great way to learn the basics of sailing.
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