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Old 20-02-2011, 16:26   #1
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Short-Handing a Big Boat

I need advice from a single handed sailor. I was shopping for a used 37 ft blue water cruiser and instead Iíve found a 41 ft, 23,000 lb. yacht that meets my criteria in almost every respect except size. I know Iím going to have to single-hand this boat at times, and probably in less than ideal conditions. Iím wondering if other singlehanders are able to manage this size vessel in difficult weather at sea and while docking. Iíve shorthanded 45 ft Hunter in ideal conditions and found her as easy to handle as my San Juan 21, but I know wind and current could make for a different story. If anyone has done this, tell me what you think. Thanks, Tom
ps. lines lead to cockpit, autopilot, but no in-mast furling and no bow thruster.
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Old 20-02-2011, 16:31   #2
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Yes.... you should be fine... you just have to have everything set up right for coming alongside the way the charter boatboys do... everything leading to the centre and a short line for the centre cleat.. its just down to learning how she handles and being rehearsed and ready...
At sea you should be just fine as well...
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Old 20-02-2011, 16:37   #3
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I singlehand a 50 foot 18,000lb sloop. No problem. I think it is easier, in most ways, than singlehanding the previous 36 foot 16,000lb sloop. I feel this is because the bigger boat is more stable and offers more room to work. Docking in adverse conditions is bad in any large-ish boat. Wrestling with the main is the only thing that is more difficult ... but it's keeping me in shape.

Nothing led to cockpit from mast. No thrusters. No main furling. Autopilot, certainly.

The trick to docking in adverse weather is to either choose a different dock or wait until conditions improve, even if it's hours or days. Patience is a virtue.
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Old 20-02-2011, 16:39   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by daddle View Post
The trick to docking in adverse weather is to either choose a different dock or wait until conditions improve, even if it's hours or days. Patience is a virtue.
Wot he Sed......^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
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Old 20-02-2011, 16:56   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by daddle View Post
I singlehand a 50 foot 18,000lb sloop. No problem. I think it is easier, in most ways, than singlehanding the previous 36 foot 16,000lb sloop. I feel this is because the bigger boat is more stable and offers more room to work. Docking in adverse conditions is bad in any large-ish boat. Wrestling with the main is the only thing that is more difficult ... but it's keeping me in shape.

Nothing led to cockpit from mast. No thrusters. No main furling. Autopilot, certainly.

The trick to docking in adverse weather is to either choose a different dock or wait until conditions improve, even if it's hours or days. Patience is a virtue.
I single-hand my steel 41 footer sometimes: 16 tons o' fun. The sailing part is pretty straightforward; less so is docking because while I have a throttle at the pilothouse helm, I haven't installed a throttle at the aft "outside" helm. So I had to learn to throw the motor into neutral, carefully bleed off speed with sharp turns, and then jump off amidships with a breast line and a boathook.

Yeah, it took a bit of practice. You need to do things like have the bow and stern lines carefully "draped" so you can pull them into your hands rapidly, but there is no chance of them dropping into the water.

Old-style techniques like warping on and off can be helpful. Practicing with buoys (coming alongside closely and consistantly) and moorings (or switching to a mooring) is also good.

I would far rather learn to sail the right boat than to have a lesser boat because I didn't think I could learn to handle it. But that is just me.
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Old 20-02-2011, 17:24   #6
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All excellent advice

I started on a Challenger 40 sloop and moved up to a Spencer 53 Ketch. Very rarely do I have help.

Usually when you have help, it all goes to hell!

Patience is the key. Pick your times to enter a marina or anchorage. Windage is a major factor, so be prepared for the idiot about to pull out in front of you, stopping your momentum, which eliminates steerage.

At sea, sail handling is no different than a smaller vessel if your boat is equipped with proper hardware.

Go for size, it will save you an upgrade and cash down the road.
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Old 20-02-2011, 18:06   #7
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Learn how she handles in wind.... if you've bow/stern to pontoon use the wind to your advantage.. bow into the wind can be tricky so drift just past close in and kick into reverse and let the wind swing the bow round as you line up... and your in.... wind opposite.. go in bow first... slow n steady..
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Old 20-02-2011, 18:30   #8
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As others have said, practice is the key thing. Remember that the pro's dock slowly and never go faster inside a marina than you wish to hit something.

What make of boat, the type of keel and rudder, will be key elements to consider.
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Old 21-02-2011, 09:15   #9
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Re: Short-Handing a Big Boat

Windage is also a consideration. I happen to have a "sunken" pilothouse going down from a somewhat high stern deck. Throw in a solar panel frame and the stern can be swung by the wind easier than an aft cockpit boat with more or less the same windage all around.

The Chinese character for "danger" and "opportunity" being the same is true here as well....but prop walk plays a role, too.
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Old 21-02-2011, 09:36   #10
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Re: Short-Handing a Big Boat

It's definitely doable (and enjoyable). I jumped from a Coronado 25' to a 16 ton 42' steelie and I find the larger boat easier to handle solo. The key (as mentioned) is patience and preparation. Think well in advance and always have a plan B in mind. This being said, short handing (as you mention) is not singlehandling. Practice in benign conditions at first (if possible) and always allow yourself more time for a maneuver (ie anchoring/docking) than you would if you had competent crew. Good luck!
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Old 21-02-2011, 10:02   #11
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Re: Short-Handing a Big Boat

Given a proper windlass, anchoring a big boat is probably easier than anchoring a small boat. Docking, however, is a different story, especially when freeboard increases to the point where jumping down to a dock is inadvisable.

There have been two situations where, singlehanded, I was just not able to deal with a windward side tie where strong wind was hitting me abeam without the assistance of a line handler. In both these cases, however, I was ultimately able to summon assistance from the harbormaster. Patience is key, as is the ability to dock while powering forward on a single aft spring. But I still needed someone to take the line to a cleat.

The bigger question is whether you're able to shorten sail alone in a blow. While this is partially about size, it's also very much about systems.
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Old 21-02-2011, 13:50   #12
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Re: Short-Handing a Big Boat

While I agree with Bash (been there, called the dock kid on 68), there is also the plus of "waiting it out" on a seawall, which is often high enough for you to step off your boat right at the deck level with two lines in hand.

You have to forgo pride in favour of seamanship. If you have a bigger boat and sail alone, other people won't begrudge you spending a night on the wall if it keeps you from crushing your slipmate like an egg.

By the way, the solo big-boater should invest in the better sort of fender, like "A-type" Polyforms. Everything on a bigger boat is about inertia. Little fenders and little fender lines will distort or fail, and you want big, firm balls in every aspect of your single-handing.
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Old 21-02-2011, 14:03   #13
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Thats what it comes down matey.....
Big Firm Balls......
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Old 21-02-2011, 15:03   #14
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Re: Short-Handing a Big Boat

18 tons, 42 feet and I haven't hit much single handing.

I can only reiterate what's been said. I liked to back into my slip when I was at the marina and my boat backs for crap. If there was any wind I learned the hard way it was a bad idea. The front end would take off before I could snug in. I always walked in and out of the finger about half way to gaurd against blowing down on my neighbor.

I also learned to set records for the slowest approach under which I could maintain steerage. Coming into fuel docks I'm usually stopped up before touching anything, occasionally asking some poor innocent to pull me in a little closer has been required. I overheard a fellow tell his son one day, "now that's how you bring it in" and I laughed to myself, yeah if your a timid single hander it is. at 18 tons she has a lot of momentum all her own.

I prefer my mooring ball, I carry fuel cans for diesel and haul when ever possible. It's usually cheaper that way too.
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Old 21-02-2011, 15:52   #15
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Re: Short-Handing a Big Boat

At sea with sea room you should be OK. Mooring or anchoring is only a bit more difficult. Docking can be a challenge. Getting into a slip can be a nightmare.

Try to come alongside a dock when the wind is blowing you off the dock. If not, wait for no wind. Sometimes it's better to wait. Sometimes you have no choice.

Usually the decision to come alongside can wait.
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