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Old 01-10-2011, 11:46   #1
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Singlehanded on a 49' Ketch

Just a general question.

I am going through the thought process of purchasing a 49' Ketch, and one of the main considerations that I keep coming back to is: How can I do it?Obviously it can be done once all of the lines are run back to the cockpit etc, but how practical is it, over a sloop rig with a comparable LOA?

It would be great to get feedback from those who have experience in managing a Ketch in less than optimal circumstances. I am tending towards a Ketch (amongst other reasons) for the flexibility of the sail plan, particularly when it gets to be snotty weather. I have completed reading 'Storm Tactics' which had some great advice, however after reading this book (plus True Spirit, First Lady, Fatal Storm, the full Coroners Report on the 1998 SHYR, and Joshua Slocum's 2 books) has prompted me to ask the above.

A few other notes:
1/ Will be a liveaboard for me (and a Partner if she ever appears)
2/ I dont want to start the whole Ketch vs Sloop argument, other than what is purely related to singlehanding.
3/ My waters will be S.E Coast Aus, Bass Strait, Tasmania, so I guess you could say that snotty weather might be experienced ;-)
4/ I am asking only about handling the yacht only, not the aspects of watchkeeping, fatigue etc.
5/ She has a Solent Rig, Lazyjacks on the main, has Autopilot etc etc, has circumnavigated 4 times already with the 3 previous owners.

Ok, over to you who hath greater knowledge than I :-)

Bloke
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Old 01-10-2011, 11:52   #2
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Re: Singlehanded on a 49' Ketch

good autopilot
i dont use my main much--i usually ail under jib and mizzzen--is easy to handle and if a big wind comes upo, yer ready already so isnt a big deal.
goood autopilot........

did i mention a good autopilot is a key ?????
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Old 01-10-2011, 12:24   #3
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Re: Singlehanded on a 49' Ketch

As Zee said. My 43' is easily driven and as such, very rarely use the main after winds get to 15+ kts.

Single handing just takes time to get used to.

A ketch being a lower aspect sail plan won't heel as much under a sudden gust of wind. I have 4 sheets in the cockpit, 1 main, 1 mizzen and 2 jib. A sloop would have 3, a cutter would have 5. So not mucj difference in that regard.
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Old 01-10-2011, 12:37   #4
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Re: Singlehanded on a 49' Ketch

I have just got back from sailing my 40 ft Jeanneau single handed so I will chip in my thoughts.

I felt that the size of my yacht was not too big to handle and I probably could manage bigger in some respects. However I do concede that when it came to sail handling that any bigger would start to be a struggle without adding some electric winches. Where I was sailing in Greece might not be snotty weather wise, but it was windy with plenty of force 5 & 6 and occasionally touching on 7.

I would assume that with the ketch rig on the 49, the headsail and main are probably not bigger than what I have so then it would be doable.

As Zeehag mentioned a good autopilot is the key. I found my Raymarine was pretty good at sailing my yacht so I was happy to let it work away whilst I looked after the rest of the boat. The only time it ever made life difficult for me when I was raising or lowering the main under motor. If I was near land on the lee side I did not want to motor too fast when doing the main and then it would get blown off course and I would either have to abort the raise/lower or have to pause and correct the steering before resuming.

I'm not so sure if having all lines back to the cockpit is totally necessary for SH other than saving to a trip to the mast. I think the most important thing is that the all lines are where you need them to be. For example, I have single line reefing which is led to the cockpit which is great, but if I had to hook the tack when reefing, then for SH it would be better to have the halyard and reefing lines all at the mast.
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Old 01-10-2011, 12:47   #5
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Re: Singlehanded on a 49' Ketch

Used to single hand my Transpac 49 ketch, cutter rig with few problems. If wind piped up, I preferred the fore/aft sail config because handling the main alone was too much of a hassle (besides I was getting in to my 60's). Had a solid autopilot but lines were led to cockpit except for main and cutter halyards. Had roller furling on jib.
It is all very doable IMO but I was never in anything over Force 8.
It is certainly a challenge entering slip under sail singlehanded in a vessel of that size... Capt Phil
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Old 01-10-2011, 13:06   #6
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Re: Singlehanded on a 49' Ketch

lines leading aft is irrelevant on my boat--main halyard is on main mast and main sheet is in cockpit and mizzen is IN cockpit and jib sheets and roller are there-- so is irrelevant. and i dont use main sail when alone in boat or short handed..my boom is 20 ft. lots of sail to handle, so it stays down nicely.
but the main thing is the quadrant mounted hydraulic system that steers in all kinds of weather with accuracy.
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Old 01-10-2011, 13:07   #7
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Re: Singlehanded on a 49' Ketch

I don't have a lot of time single handing under sail. I do have a lot of time commercial fishing by myself. I found a vessel that can do both so I am content with that, she is all roller furled, which makes it very easy to operate, I do have one 800 nm crossing the gulf of Alaska under the genoa and the engine. The winds went up to 35 kts with no problems, I headed her up and furled in the sail. I think you have to furl early and be weather observant to avoid getting into situations beyond what you can handle, I also echo the need for a good auto pilot. I have also been to your neighborhood Cheers!
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Old 01-10-2011, 13:31   #8
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Re: Singlehanded on a 49' Ketch

I have a 53' ketch. If you plan ahead you should have no problems sailing, just anticipate and plan for the worst.

If you have an emergency, fire, rigging failure, or health problem you will find yourself short of crew, but under those conditions even a 30' boat would be a handful single handed.

Docking will require assistance unless conditions are very favorable.

Good luck and have fun, I am.
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Old 01-10-2011, 13:49   #9
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Re: Singlehanded on a 49' Ketch

Without knowing what sort of boat (I'm wondering weight, beam, Pilothouse, engine, reefing methods...) I'm guessing that the sails would be too big and heavy for you to manage.

If all goes well you could single hand a barquentine. For those times otherwise you'd need to take in the sails and start a powerful engine while hanging on in a warm pilothouse.

S.E Coast Australia, Bass Strait and Tasmania can produce some of the worst weather in the world, so I doubt if the boat being a ketch would be much help.
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Old 01-10-2011, 15:43   #10
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Re: Singlehanded on a 49' Ketch

Thanks for the answers/experiences so far!

Maybe just a bit more info on the boat. She is a mid 80's modified long keel, with a skeg hung rudder & displaces around 22'000kg, 14ft beam and draws just under 6ft, so she is not going to win any races. 1st & 2nd reef in the main is single line, but is currently performed at the mast, with the third reef a hanked on affair. Both headsails are on roller furling, with the inner headsail selftacking.

@ Boracay: I grew up in Hobart, so the weather we get is not completely unknown to me. Having said that, if I realise if I had to douse the main by hand, then I agree it would be a real handful.

This brings me to the next set of questions, as to what one would consider essential running rigging (Zeehag & her Autopilot lol).

I would like to run the reefing lines back to the cockpit, but with the third reef hanked on, then you have to go forward anyway. So does it make sense to run any control lines including the halyard for the main back to the cockpit.
What about using rail cars on the main? I have been on a yacht with this system, which makes life easier and eliminates jamming (which is my biggest fear) however they build up quite high, so to remove the halyard, to attach a trysail, things could get tricky. I guess my goal is the minimise the need to go forward unless absolutely necessary.

One of the main points I realised from the Pardey's 'Storm Tactics' book, was that to heave to, you need to have some sail area up (combined with the tiller & the deployed parachute) up to maintain the drift leeward and the flat water to windward. They seemed to say that a ketch would use only the mizzen sheeted in flat, with the windage of the bow keeping the whole yacht to approx 50deg off the wind. Anyone used this method? After reading the book Fatal Storm (1998 SHYR), I have come to an uneducated conclusion, that heaving to as described by the Pardey's would have made a big difference to the damage of the many yachts.

All the other points so far mentioned are of course very valid, such as preparation, weather interpretation, reefing early etc.

Just another question: how do you guys and gals go picking up the mooring buoy? Any tricks?

Sorry for the longwinded text...
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Old 01-10-2011, 16:08   #11
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Re: Singlehanded on a 49' Ketch

if is same buoy all the time, pickup buoy. has a long stick to pick it up with. if a new one, boat hook and be upwind from the ball and be almost dead in water, let breezes blow bow to ball and grab fast, and securely. first time i go by it to see what i have to deal with, second time to pick it up.
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Old 01-10-2011, 16:09   #12
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Re: Singlehanded on a 49' Ketch

I found picking up the mooring buoy to some extent easy (on two solo attempts) I motor to the buoy into the wind and as it was mid-ship I turned just slightly so the yacht was between the wind and the buoy. This meant that when the wind blew me, the buoy stayed next to the boat and I just had to grab the buoy and get enough slack rope by the time the bow was drifting by.

Where it did go wrong was when I had not got enough line to tie up properly and without a second person could not motor forward to get more line.
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Old 01-10-2011, 16:31   #13
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Re: Singlehanded on a 49' Ketch

Under motor I pull along portside and stop up with reverse so I prop walk into the buoy. I have a longish line already run from the bow and tied to the safety line about midships and the boathook extended, ready to go. Then I grab the ring, lift, put the line through, drop the ring and walk her to the bow. I have my own buoy so I get lots of practice.

I have sailed up to mine once and didn't get the speed right - had to quickly drop anchor.
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Old 01-10-2011, 16:57   #14
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Re: Singlehanded on a 49' Ketch

TassieBloke, lots of information on the forum on picking up buoys single handed. A search should find them.
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Old 01-10-2011, 18:20   #15
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Re: Singlehanded on a 49' Ketch

Wow, singlehanding a large ketch in big water, what is your experience to date? How old are you? Do you really need this much boat? Details please.
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