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Old 13-08-2009, 23:23   #1
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Sailing Steel

My friend and I finally hooked up for a sail on his 36 foot steel boat. It was my first time to sail steel but I have known the boat since before he owned it.

The boat is either plans built or self designed. Laid up in New Zealand and sailed to Asia years ago. It carries a 3 cylinder donk and has been fitted with some nice goodies including full wind/speed/depth, autopilot, radar and so on.

First impressions are, big, heavy, solid, tank. Boy this thing is gonna go slow... We fire up the engine and start to back down off the mooring. The stern jumps to port immediately and the boat makes zero sternway. Reduce throttle and "coax" her backwards like a skittish horse. A big giant draught horse - LOL. Eventually 13 tonnes of steel starts to move backwards and we clear the pennant.

Forward gear and wait for the behemoth to stop going backwards and start going forward. The nose continues to head to starboard and liberal wheel is used. It apparently has a smallish rudder for her size and a full keel. The steering is hydraulic. Another first for me and I am surprised by how many "winds" of the wheel it takes to make a correction.

However, I overcorrect and the bow is headed to port. I correct back. Soon we are getting 3-4 knots under the boat and I start to get the hang of the steering - Input a lot, as soon as she racts, take the input out - wait to see what happens next.

We motor a bit while our volunteers remove sail covers and get lines and sheets sorted. I am still getting the hang of steering and starting to settle down. The beneteau 40 I sail on is like a go cart compared to this monster. But she is very stable underfoot.

The weather bodes well and it has been breezy all morning. We settle into what will become a close haul and the main gets winched up. It is pretty massive. I only notice later that it has 5 reef points in it - wow!

The main gets up and I am motor sailing and starting to feel effects of weather helm. The genny is on a furling unit and the genny rolls out nicely. The owner doesn't have a ton of time in the boat, predominantly because this boat probably needs 3 people to sail properly and I am respecting him as the skipper but being cautious.

The bowl at the end of our channel is big and roomy and the wind direction wll allow us to head on a reach for Malaysia. I see some occasional white caps and the wind gauge is showing 17g20. We get a bit of heel and based on the rudder responsiveness I'd prefer less power than more. We take in the (probably) 130 genny to about 100% and while I helm the skipper and a helper take in the first reef in the main. He hadn't reefed the main before and while they got the tack down, it's a 2 line reefing system and the clew is not set. Additionally the first reef point is only about 4 inches of sail.

I don't like to butt in but I ask our helper to helm and talk to the skipper about getting a "full reef" in and taking a look at the reefing system. He's OK with it so we take the second reef in, get the clew nice and tight which was being hindered by the topping lift and vang being still on, which we release and reset. He sail turns from a bag into a foil and we are in much better shape.

During this we have allowed a fair amount of leeway and we are in an area of the channel that I know to be quite shallow if we hold our course. We decide to tack. I lay in about 5 turns on the wheel and eventually the nose starts to swing to starboard. I hold the input too long and after the sails pull through we are on a broad reach. Good thing we have lot's of room.

I get correction in and we eventually are close hauled on port tack. We got back to the right side of the channel and call for another tack. This time I start taking the input out as soon as the nose starts shifting and I manage to end up on a nice close hauled starboard tack.

We clear the channel, are in safe deep water so I bear away to a reach and we can settle on this heading for the next hour or so. The two tack and the bearing away impress me how momentum plays a huge part of sailing heavy boats. It takes a while to make something happen and then it keeps happening until you stop it. Acceleration is freight-train-like. Eventually however with the genny furled and two reefs in we are showing 6+ knots and the deck angle is only like 5-8 degrees. Chop and waves from passing ferries and tugs are gobbled up like they don't exist. Walking around the decks at 7 knots in 17 knots of wind is like walking around my living room - almost - but very stable.

There are a couple of tows in the bowl. Heading opposite directions. On my boat I would have crossed between them. On this big machine we decide to duck the one heading out and parallel the one coming in. This works out beautifully passing astern of one and "racing" away and eventually crossing the incoming one.

After an hour and a half we turn to head back. Another broad reach turning into close hauled as we maintain sea room to the shallow bits. We clear the channel marks and head into the club. Crew busy dousing sails, and stowing lines as we fire up the engine. Mooring is a breeze. Just go real slow, remember that 13 tonnes takes a while to stop. But when you stop at the pennant she just sits there, like a barge.

Actually under sail with stiff winds, it was a real pleasure to sail. The more water running past the "arguably" undersized rudder, the more responsive she got.

Good fun!
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Old 14-08-2009, 00:15   #2
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Sailing a slow pile of bricks...

Now you'll understand why we haven't sailed Boracay yet. Inexperienced wife + sails not set up for being short handed = hassle.

What we do have is what you're missing. Big (80hp continuous) engine and (almost) correct prop translates to good acceleration and OK brakes. Nice when there are expensive things round to hit. The good acceleration also helps to minimise prop walk. We don't have enough to be useful.

And a big, barn door rudder with cable steering ('bout 4 turns stop to stop). The cable takes out the feedback and the barn door steers the boat (but not going backwards until we hit 6 knots!). The fin keel helps at close quarters.

Don't tell the cat people 'bout the stability. They'll all want steel monos...
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Old 14-08-2009, 04:15   #3
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We’ve sailed shorthanded our 13 ton 40 feet steel ketch for two seasons now. This year we made 1200 miles in three weeks including four days with over 40 knot winds. On that weather and sea, there is no substitute for a rigid steel hull and ketch rig for us.

When under sail, we have nothing to complain about the steering. We have a good size unbalanced rudder with a skeg, and a rod steering. From stop-to-stop is about 1.9 turns. The keel is a long fin from main to mizzen. When we tack, the boat starts to turn immediately when turning the wheel. She keeps on turning for an extra second after the wheel is centered again. Not dinghy like precision, but good enough for us. On very heavy seas and winds the steering is heavy, that much I have to admit. However, that can be compensated by balancing the sails well.

The 50hp engine has a large fixed prop mounted to a direct axle. Going ahead under power is very straightforward and predictable as long as you can maintain at least a 1 knot of speed. “Brakes” work well both ways. What does not work for us, is going backwards. We still have not figured it all out. Turning with the prop works somehow, going the other way does not. Sometimes she starts to turn when we release the throttle, sometimes not turning the wheel all the way does the trick. Sometimes not. I am well aware, that there is nothing special on that. It can be managed, but it takes time to learn how to do it. I just have never taken the time and worked it out.

What I am trying to say, is that 13 tons of steel is pretty much guaranteed to come with some stability, however, it does not necessarily mean barge like maneuverability. On the other hand, that combined with a full keel and a small rudder sounds like something that is a bit harder to handle. Let the keel be a bit shorter, rudder a bit larger, and let there be a bit faster gearing on the wheel, the feeling can be completely something else. Unless you have to go backwards or make tight turns on slow speeds…
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Old 14-08-2009, 09:35   #4
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What I love about sailing different stuff is sailling different stuff . Tommorow I am back on the Benteteau racing and that will be cool too.

Boracay - I think you might get the cat folks po'd but that's ok. Every boat is like a different lover - they are all awesome and they all want a part of you. I am so wanting a 40+ foot cat exprience so much it's sinful. In the meantime. I will will the Beaneteau to the best of my abilities tomorrow and make her scream with joy - ooops.... I am boasting now...
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Old 14-08-2009, 12:27   #5
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So how did you like your first experience docking a work boat simulator?
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Old 14-08-2009, 12:30   #6
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Life is like a box of chocolates momma said. You just never know what you're going to get. The sweetest sailing boat I have ever been on was steel. A 55ft cat called Adventure Cat on S.F. Bay...........i2f
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Old 14-08-2009, 15:52   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by imagine2frolic View Post
Life is like a box of chocolates momma said. You just never know what you're going to get. The sweetest sailing boat I have ever been on was steel. A 55ft cat called Adventure Cat on S.F. Bay...........i2f
Cool...I never knew it was a steel hull, I just assumed it was glass. I see it frequently. There is a newer Adventure Cat 2 now. For once I would like to see them shake out that reef and watch it go like hell. I guess though that they don't want the tourists spilling their beers or getting wet.
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Old 17-08-2009, 15:31   #8
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David,

Adventure Cat had a reef in it, and that tiny headsail. On one of my birthday sails the middle of April across the bay from Pier 39 to Angel Island we were doing 18 1/2 knots with small rooster tails while I was driving. I don't think they need to shake the reef out....OMG......i2f
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Old 18-08-2009, 06:10   #9
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Originally Posted by imagine2frolic View Post
David,
... we were doing 18 1/2 knots with small rooster tails while I was driving. I don't think they need to shake the reef out....OMG......i2f
That is quite some speed. Sure enough, the boat has some size, too. However, we were pretty much proud to maintain 9.5 knots on our cruise this summer. That required more than 40 knot of wind making it a bit harder than a nice surf. I have to say that 18 1/2 knots sounds really awesome.
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Old 18-08-2009, 15:54   #10
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Heikki,

The boat has only a fabric bridgedeck. She is very bare bones, and a day charter boat. She is definately not a cruiser.....i2f
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Old 18-08-2009, 17:17   #11
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[quote=Ex-Calif; Every boat is like a different lover - they are all awesome and they all want a part of you. ...[/quote]
That is true for boats but not lovers
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Old 18-08-2009, 19:03   #12
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Ex-Calif, your first couple of paragraphs reminded me of my first sessions with Sabre Dance. She is a 20,800lb, 38x11.5 foot finkeeled steel monster. For her, full astern means go to port backwards. Immediately. I have a skeg hung rudder and it won't really answer astern til we get a couple of knots on. We solve that problem by kicking her tail out at a 45 to the dock before we go reverse to depart. But I have a nice prop so once we go ahead, she stops pretty fast and starts moving ahead quickly.

Your problem with the excessive wheel turns on the hydraulic steering may mean air in there. I had the same problem and found that the original owner (he outfitted from a bare hull n deck) had installed the piston upside down so that the hoses came in from underneath. Any air getting in had no way out. I ended up hiring a midget to get into the lazarette and we flipped the cylindar and bled it. Much improved though there is still about a 6th to 1/4 turn worth of deadspot in the helm.

Unfortunately I never got the furling system fixed in time to get any sailing last year so I can't tell you about that, but she does feel very solid in heavy weather. And as you say the rudder responds much better with a bit of speed across it.

Sabre

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Old 18-08-2009, 19:26   #13
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Thanks for the tip on the hydraulics. The gear is in the stern locker and easily accessible. I took a brief look at it and the piston seemed to respond to the helm but I will take a closer look next time I am on board.

The owner wants me to partner with him but really it is not the right boat for me. He also wants the boat sailed more and has offered me the use of it. I do plan to get some more time on her if only to let her stretch her sea legs more often.
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