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Old 01-04-2010, 11:46   #1
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Singlehanded Advice

I have sailed for years on cats and monos up to 19'. I feel very comfortable sailing them singlehanded (and most often did), but now I have moved into a larger boat - a 27' Catalina. I have been sailing her for about a year, but I still cant figure how to sail it single handed. Everything from getting out of the slip to raising/furling sails, and back to the slip, seems to require help. Granted my helper is 10y/o, but I still need her help.

What am i missing? A third arm would be all I need. Any advice would be appreciated.

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Old 01-04-2010, 12:02   #2
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Best advice I could give to such and open-ended request for advice, is to purchase a second/third crew member, buy an autopilot.

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Old 01-04-2010, 12:18   #3
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I used to often Singlehand a Catalina 27. Here are my suggestions:

1) Most important, know how to "park" before you single hand. That means know how to heave-to and know how to forereach. As long as you know you can always park and take a breather, you will have much more confidence.
2) Do not get over canvassed. Consider single-handing with just the main at first until you are comfortable.
3) Think out everything in advance. Before leaving the dock, think through all the steps. Same with returning, raising sail, tacking, etc.
4) Learn how to balance your boat with the sails. Almost any boat will sail itself for quite a while with the wheel locked as long are you are headed generally upwind. Once the boat is steering itself, it gives you more time for other things.
5) Turn slowly. When you come about on the Catalina 27, there is at least 2-3 seconds you cannot steer anyway. You can use this time to bring the Jib over.
6) Raising sails: Pick a spot out of traffic. Head nose to the wind. Sheet the boom over the centerline. Put the engine in neutral. Lock the helm center. Once you you raise the main part way, it will keep you pointed nose to wind.
7) Dropping sails: Start the engine first but leave in neutral. Head nose to wind. Sheet the boom over the center line. This will keep you nose to wind as long as the main is up. Furl the jib first. After that drop the main. You will now be adrift, but that does not really matter as long as you chose an out of the way spot. Once you finish with the main (quicker if you have lazy jacks), motor home.
8) Leaving slip should be pretty easy with one, but a dock mate will always help if needed. Run a line from a mid-ship cleat to a mid-dock cleat. Undo the rest of your lines. Have motor running. Last thing, detach this one line and push the boat off, jumping aboard as you do.
9) Returning to slip. Call a dock mate on the cell to help. If alone, I attach a line to a mid-ship cleat. As soon as I pull up to the dock, I wrap this around a mid-dock cleat and pull the boat in. This will keep the boat in place until you can make the rest of your dock lines.

No matter what, the first time you go it will be scary, but once you are out there the elation will take over and you will be glad you did. Just take the plunge!
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Old 01-04-2010, 12:25   #4
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The key is............planning ahead and being organised / having a set procedure for all the tricky matters you have identified. and always taking into account that you are singlehanded, with no 3rd hand . oh, and an autopilot makes life easier.........but failing that a 10 yo child will more than suffice

Raising the sails? As much as possible set up beforehand (mainsail cover off, halyard hooked on and only a couple of sail ties). Roller forsesail easy enuf - hanked on get, hanked on , in advance and sail tied to the rail.......I wouldn't start raising until I had a bit of searoom (just in case something gets hung up), in practice probably means sails raised far later than you would do with a crew

Lowering the sails? - Idealy not in the shipping lanes / fairway but somewhere that gives you a bit of sea room / thinking room / going around in circles room Again, in practice will probably mean sails lowered far earlier than you would with a crew. I also only roughly stow the mainsail secured (securely!) with a couple of sail ties so that I can sort things out properly when berthed.........I would also say get used to things not being as quick / tidy / polished as with a crew.

The "secret" for leaving and entering the dock is simply practice. and fenders and if on a very tricky berth knowing when it is not possible or not worth risking and having a plan B (for getting ashore )..........and also accepting that not every entrance or exit will be textbook, it's the results that count not the style!.........everyone makes a horlicks now and again .......relax, it's normal

With practice you will become an "expert" which means that you will gradually push your luck.................

I am sure others will add their own methods.........
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Old 01-04-2010, 12:40   #5
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I'm facing the same problems sooner or later. Sailing is comparatively easy compared to docking. I've considered a hook on a long pole with rope tied on or threaded through a hollow shaft to catch a pontoon cleat. Once you've got a rope secure ashore it becomes a bit less stressful.
Often on my pontoon the wind and tide are opposite, the wind blows the bows away while the tide pushes the boat on. Or act together to make approaching the pontoon bows on impossible, and stern on leaves the rudders vulnerable. A helping hand on the pontoon is always much appreciated even two handed. I can't see the port bows from the helm and judging the gap is near impossible. We've added little walky talkies to help. I am able to carry an inflated dinghy and that's my last option. Drop the anchor, row a long line to the pontoon, then back to the boat and pull hard and whatever else it takes.
I'd like to reverse up to pontoon and get a line from a mid point cleat on the boat. Once I'm broadside on and in the right place I should be able to haul her in from there.
Don't get off until you are sure it's secure. Don't leave the prop turning while you go to pull on ropes.
My thoughts go with you.
Takes an hour or two to get back to sleep once I start going over various scenarios.
Ex Prout 31 Sailor, Now it's a 22ft Jaguar called 'Arfur' here in sunny Southampton, UK.
A few places left in Quayside Marina and Kemps Marina.
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Old 01-04-2010, 13:19   #6
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Hoisting/lowering sails when shorthanded

For hoisting/lowering sails, I often use a method different from the one proposed by RainDog, especially in a seaway.

I begin with hoisting the jib or genoa because it can be done on any point of sailing. Then, I stop the engine and steer the boat close hauled. Only at this moment, I hoist the mainsail. For lowering sails, I reverse the process: steer the boat close hauled (not head to wind), lower the mainsail first, then start the engine and finally drop the jib on whatever heading the boat happens to be.

IMO, the advantages of this methods are:
- the jib reduces the rolling motion, making it easier to hoist/stow the mainsail
- when hoisting/lowering the mainsail, the boom isn't over the cockpit (my boom is fairly low)

It works perfectly on my boat (30', 3.5t) with my sister at the helm: she has arthritis and has trouble handling ropes.

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Old 01-04-2010, 13:40   #7
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If you have a tiller tie a line to the end of the tiller and run it through the bases of your stantions, around the bow, back to the tiller and make it fast. You can now steer from anywhere on the boat!
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Old 01-04-2010, 13:55   #8
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Having the running rigging led to the cockpit helps. Roller furling? Or sail changes?
Go outside and PLAY!
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Old 01-04-2010, 14:28   #9
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Single handing

If you have sea room making and striking sail single handed simply takes more time. I use the autopilot and a low power setting ahead and take my time. Don't forget to keep an eye out for obstructions, traffic and shallows.

For leaving the dock and recovering to your slip, consider warping when in tight quarters. It slows the process and gets you pointed in the correct direction. If you bump something it will be at a much slower speed.

One of the nice things about single handing? You get to go when you want and come back when your ready. Be aware of the weather, some conditions just demand more hands.

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Old 01-04-2010, 15:25   #10
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Although I mentioned fenders............just remembered, really useful is a big round fender hung over the forward 1/4 where you are going to hit.....errrr, I mean berth ..........the idea being that you have the option of deliberately touching the dock / other boat either to then steer / pivot yourself alongside under power or simply so you have a plan B (to a crunch ) if using a bit more power to maintain steerage than you would ideally like......and progress is more robust than hoped for............

If you rig the big round fender from the top of the stanchion / guardwire (on the forward 1/4) odds on it will normally be hanging free over the sheerline so you can see the fender line move as it touches something solid (it's not all about feeling the thump!) ........when berthing the bigger this fender is the better, but stowage at sea becomes a PITA in direct inverse proportion to docking usefulness............... Oh, and keep a roving fender handy - for those places that unexpectedly need fendering off, bigger the better.........

On a 32 foot boat can usually get away with a bit of manhandling - an amidships cleat is useful for single line handling from the dock, she might not be parked straight but usually possible to tie her off one direction or another to she is not going anywhere for 5 minutes to give you time to set the bow & aft lines. BTW can get cleats which clip / run on the genoa sail track.
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Old 01-04-2010, 15:47   #11
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Originally Posted by IdoraKeeper View Post

For leaving the dock and recovering to your slip, consider warping when in tight quarters.
Please explain this technique. Thanks.
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Old 01-04-2010, 17:20   #12
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A self steering vane and/or an autopilot takes a tremendous load off. It can do the stupid work of steering while you do the important things like opening a beer. Even a way to lock the steering makes single a lot easier. Something as simple as a line to the tiller and/or bungee cords can even make rudimentary self steering on some boats.

Lazy Jacks make lowering the main just releasing the halyard. The will also keep the sail from falling all over the deck when raising it. This is an especially helpful thing if your mast uses a bolt rope on the luff of the main. You do have to be careful not to hook the battens though that usually just the first one or two that are a problem and easily avoided with a little forethought. The diagram on the graph paper on this site worked fine for me. aI used brass rings instead of blocks were apllicable and have way less than a $100 in mine.

Roller furling headsails. Nothing makes dousing a sail so easy as pulling on a string.

A dousing sleeve for your asymetric or your spinnaker. If you really have a lot of extra money and a sprit, a roller furling code zero.

Roller corners on your finger piers saves a lot of embarassment getting back into the slip. Lots of practice using prop torque in conjuction with the rudder to get into and out of tight spaces. My long keel boat is rudder challenged on a good day and the auxillary rudder self steering locks it into a straight ahead only mentaility. I spent the better part of a day out in the fairway learning all the foibles of prop torque and rudder combinations to make the boat turn where I wanted it to. You can also use spring lines and other tricks to get the boat into and out of the slip.
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Old 01-04-2010, 17:24   #13
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Before approching the slip have all docklines attached to their cleats, have a spring line from the midship cleat in side the cockpit and the cockpit safty lines detached. Fenders should be out.
Be aware of the current and any wind as you approch the slip. If making a 90* turn into the slip, aim for either the port or starboard end of the slip, ie.if you're going into the wind/current and you're going to be making a starboart turn into the slip then aim for the port side of the slip so the wind/current will push the bow of the boat into the slip.
Remember slow is pro, all you need is steerageway.
As the cockpit passes the stern dock cleat. step off the boat with the spring line and attach it to this cleat and take the stearn dockline and attach it to the same cleat. The boat will stop and shift to its side against the dock.
Walk, slowly, (because everyone is watching and you're being way to cool) to the bow and attach the bow dockline to its dock cleat.
Practice during the week when there are no crowds to give free advice.

If you want, I tell you how this singlehandler can pick up a mooring when the winds is blowing a bit and there's a slight chop.
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Old 01-04-2010, 18:07   #14
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I agree with all the autopilot comments. That's your helmsman which leaves you as second to do other things.

Even a tiller lock or good wheel lock can be of great help much of the time, but especially in a wind, there's nothing like an autopilot. Mine broke on my last cruise and I had to do the last five days without one solo. It was so much harder.

Keep at it, you'll get it all figured out.
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Old 01-04-2010, 18:45   #15
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Originally Posted by Lost Horizons View Post
Please explain this technique. Thanks.
In general, what I am refering to is either winching or driving against a line fixed to a cleat on the dock/pier. Not necessarily even on the same finger as your boat occupies. Depending on the boat motion desired, a spring line or bow or stern line or combination may be used. Idora is a full keel heavy Ingrid with a long high aspect ratio rudder that is marginally effective at slow speeds. I like to have her pointed in the correct direction.

Oh yeah and big round fenders.


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