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Old 07-04-2013, 00:01   #1
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I was crossing the Straight of Georgia yesterday in my cal 20 and ran into some issues with reefing the main when I'm by myself.

The first time I just pointed up into the wind and managed to get the reef in before I veered off to sharply. That was in the lee of an island so the weather was to bad. Later on I got to the point where I had to reef in much bigger swell, around 8 feet. Instead of reefing the main I dropped the jib with my downhaul since I could do it while still holding the tiller.

I was nearly being over powered with my full main up, and had no idea how I could reef the main. Luckily the wind didn't increase and I managed to ride it out. Any ideas on how I could have reefed the main in?

I wanted to heave to but id never done it in a seas that big, would it be ok in my Cal 20?
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Old 07-04-2013, 00:14   #2
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Re: Single Handed Reefing

My Wayfarer (16) used to heave-to beautifully - but every boat is different so you'd need to experiment.

For reefing the main on my 31ft-er, what I do is do it while close hauled, sailing on the jib. I ease the main until it luffs. Thus I maintain way and directional control, have no worries about going into irons or doing an accidental tack, and can take my time doing the reef. If you do it right, you don't even slow down much.

Of course an autopilot helps if you're going to do it this way. I didn't on the 16, so ended up heaving-to for anything where I had to leave the tiller. Even while I had a sandwich. I had a couple of bungee cords for tying the tiller into the heave-to positions.

If you only have the main up you can still heave-to, although I think it is then termed fore-reaching.
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Old 07-04-2013, 03:03   #3
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Re: Single Handed Reefing

I find an autopilot gives an extra pair of hands. They're not expensive in a small tiller steer model.
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Old 07-04-2013, 04:11   #4
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Re: Single Handed Reefing

When I reef single handed... I always have the autopilot on and motor slowly into the eye of the wind. All my slab reefing lines lead aft to the cockpit and the Dutchman system keeps the sail on the boom.

Reef early!
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Old 07-04-2013, 05:11   #5
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pirate Re: Single Handed Reefing

The secret is reef early.. point up to the wind then using your jib to maintain momentum and TP to maintain course slacken the mainsheet till the main feathers.. wander up to the mast and drop the sail to your new reef, hook on and take up the slack and tie off.. back to the 'pit' and haul on the reefing line till taut.. job done and back on course..
If no TP heave to, lash the tiller and get it done, no big deal..
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Old 07-04-2013, 06:20   #6
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Singlehanded with no autopilot? Come up close hauled, heave to. Once she has settled down, ease the main until it luffs, tie in your reef, sheet in the main. Then top off your coffee cup, ease the jib across and start sailing again.
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Old 07-04-2013, 06:34   #7
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Singlehanded with no autopilot? Come up close hauled, heave to. Once she has settled down, ease the main until it luffs, tie in your reef, sheet in the main. Then top off your coffee cup, ease the jib across and start sailing again.
+1. My preferred technique too. Heave-to, take your time, even in heavy conditions. Then do the same to shake out the reef later.
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Old 07-04-2013, 08:02   #8
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Re: Single Handed Reefing

Certainly reef early.

Motoring with autopilot into the wind can be a great help (as long as you don't have any lines trailing overboard to wrap into the prop).

With the genoa up, as you start to lower the main, your boat may have a tendency to fall off, filling the main and making reefing difficult. Roller furling is a great help when singlehanded. Furl the genoa, then reef the main, then unfurl until you have the amount of foresail you're comfortable with.

I have a furling genoa and a Selden single line reefing boom, with all halyards and reefing lines led back to the cockpit. This makes reefing the main a piece of cake. Single line reefing systems have bad rep due to excessive friction, but the Selden system works very well, at least for my short boom.
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Old 07-04-2013, 08:25   #9
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Re: Single Handed Reefing

My first boat was a Cal24. No problem heaving-to. You should be able to do that easily with your Cal20.
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Old 07-04-2013, 08:26   #10
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Singlehanded with no autopilot? Come up close hauled, heave to. Once she has settled down, ease the main until it luffs, tie in your reef, sheet in the main. Then top off your coffee cup, ease the jib across and start sailing again.
Ding ding ding. Correct answer! But don't ease the main much, or at all. It depends. The main normally eases itself when the halyard is eased. The magically retrims itself when the new outhaul is set.
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Old 07-04-2013, 18:20   #11
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Thanks for all the tips, next time I'm in that position ill try heaving to
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Old 07-04-2013, 19:34   #12
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Re: Single Handed Reefing

I always reef with the help of the engine and autopilot directing the boat into the eye of the wind. Less work and less chance of something going wrong.
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Old 08-04-2013, 02:20   #13
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Re: Single Handed Reefing

In reasonable seas, the Tasman 20 (20') I cut my teeth on could sail to windward, with the tiller lashed, on headsail only, allowing the main to be reefed. I never had an autopilot or self-steering, and did some reasonable trips single-handed.

When the risk of being put about at an inconvenient moment meant the above procedure was not possible, (eg in big seas) the same boat hove to nicely under headsail with the main luffing, allowing the reefing job to be done quite easily if it wasn't blowing dogs off chains.


Don't assume it won't heave to in big seas if it doesn't immediately fall in your lap: I reckon experimentation in less severe conditions initially, and gaining familiarity with how it handles in bad conditions, will probably see you get on top of it if you persevere.
Make sure you ease the main so far it cannot fill, and adjust your headsail and tiller on that basis, so that when you start lowering the main, the balance is not unduly disturbed. Ignore the noise!

I say this because balance is more critical for small boats. With a big boat, it's generally fine to heave to with the main intermittenly filling, in preparation for putting in a reef...

I personally think it's undesirable to rely on the motor for any singlehanded sailing tasks, especially on a small boat where they're generally unreliable.
In any case, it's unlikely a small autopilot and a small engine will be able to keep a small boat head-to-wind when it's really blowing: it's not a trivial job even on a big boat and needs quite rapid "hard over response", and on a small boat when it's blowing hard you pretty often need to slew the outboard to 'catch' the bow when it starts to lay off the wind unwantedly.

But even on big boats, using the motor singlehanded to do sail handling jobs is asking for a rope around the prop, because when there's only one of you, you can't be everywhere at once.

[ I often throw the tail of halyards overboard, abeam of the mast exit box, when dropping sails singlehanded: this ensures they won't tangle. Can't do this sort of thing with the engine running... ]
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Old 08-04-2013, 02:28   #14
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Re: Single Handed Reefing

Single line reefing back to the cockpit, reef early reef often cause its so easy.
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Old 08-04-2013, 03:23   #15
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Re: Single Handed Reefing

If the system onboard for reefing is difficult, people tend to leave it longer than they should on the basis that perhaps they might not need to do it . Because it has been left too late, it is then more difficult, causing the person to delay even more the next time.

Thus it is important that you get a system that is easy to do.

I have just invested in a single line system which is all handled from the cockpit. I reckon this is the safest system. I have also added a new selden boom which has a special system inside the boom to eradicate the possibility of the internal balocks getting twisted up and fouling each other.
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