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Old 06-09-2013, 10:12   #46
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Re: Taking in the mainsail without an engine

I'm really appreciating this thread. I love the idea of raising a lowering the main in a heave-to position. We often sail on and off the hook or mooring. I much prefer to leave the engine idle, but I have many questions.

The OPs video and advice are great, but forgive me -- that's a small boat. I have a 37' full-keel cutter with a much bigger main. It's an 18' boom with lazyjacks. If I heave-to my main is loaded. I won't be able to bring it down in that position. And from the video, it looks like the OPs main is in a somewhat depowered position. I too can ease off the mainsheet, or depower the main entirely, but then I have a short window before I am brought over by the yankee or staysail. And the main is probably hanging way over the leeward beam. Even with the lazyjacks it usually requires a bit of hand-holding to keep the sail from getting out of control, especially if it takes up any load.

I really want to try this technique, b/c I hate powering into the wind (and seas!) to drop or raise the main. Any further suggestions for my boat?
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Old 06-09-2013, 10:15   #47
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Re: Taking in the mainsail without an engine

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Originally Posted by Rakuflames View Post
So which is it -- people who turn the engine on can't sail, or prudent sailors do what they need to be safe?

If the marinas in Sweden are at all crowded -- unless they ALL have straight fairways coming straight out of a major, wide channel with no shipping -- I simply do not believe that turning your engine on means you're a bad sailor.

This sailor wouldn't even want to use such a marina, because it would be too exposed to storms. Every turn you have to make to get to your slip provides more protection from waves in a storm. But it also greatly reduces your chances of safely sailing into your slip.

There are two guys in our club right now who keep their boats anchored out but don't have engines. When bad weather threatens, they sail their boats up to a transient dock -- BUT they only have one turn they have to make, and enough space afterwards to slow down enough to dock under sail safely.

They are both outstanding sailors with tremendous amounts of experience. They are also both working hard to get a functioning engine in their boats.

Engines aren't the enemy. They're another piece of equipment on the boat. There's no shame in turning the engine on. The sailor who should feel shame is the one who let pride stop him or her from doing something that would keep the boat and the crew safe.
OK. The topic is: "taking in the mainsail without an engine." NOT: "people who run their engines don't know how to sail." I prefaced my post with a description of the conditions and culture under which I was trained - a sailing culture that disliked using engines and taught techniques to survive without one. I've gone on to say that I too use my engine to navigate in constrained marinas.

The whole point of my post is to describe a technique that might be useful, and that I believe is far safer and easier than the drive-the-boat-head-to-wind-with-the-engine method.

Jeesh!

I don't believe anyone is too dependent on their engine when they use it to get in and out of a constrained marina, to move upwind through a narrow channel, or for any other purpose for which they feel it's prudent. But if they can't even take in their mainsail out on the open water without an engine, that's a real handicap because engines fail. Plus, the head-to-wind method with an engine is much more difficult and in my opinion less safe than heaving to.

But please, don't turn the thread into an engine versus enginless sailing debate. That debate is already won: in many marinas, if your engine quits inside the marina, all you can do is drop anchor and call the Harbormaster for a tow to your slip.
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Old 06-09-2013, 10:22   #48
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Re: Taking in the mainsail without an engine

I agree! A lot of aggressive posts on CF. Useless.
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Old 06-09-2013, 10:30   #49
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Re: Taking in the mainsail without an engine

I learned a lot of my sailing on my old 32' sloop. It had an outboard motor which could only be used in harbor (any swell would lift motor out of water) so learned to do sail changes without motor use being an option.

First I think that in video the OP has his little sloop in what I would call fore reaching instead of really being hove to. Note that even after main has been lowered boat still making headway. Tiller is lashed only about 30 deg to lee and the jib, although sheeted on upwind side, is almost all luffed out to the lee side and pulling boat forward.

I think this is all good. If you are de-powering your main you really need to be fore reaching to maintain bow into the wind under just the jib. You will oscillate less on and off wind when fore reaching than when hove to.

I think in video could have set tiller even a bit further to lee and let the jib pinch up a bit more. You could see the leach of the main falling off to the downwind quite a bit which could be a problem in more wind.

I have often just pinched the boat up into the wind with just the jib, sort of fore reaching the same but with jib still on downwind side. Trick there is to slow the boat down first so that you don't go an tack, but just balance between pinching up and falling off slightly with helm lashed to lee. When lowering main, kind of wait till boat points up high to let off on halyard, and pause when bow falls off. Of course your boom is hanging off to leeward during this process (often with preventer set to keep it from swinging about).

My current boat is a ketch, and if the mizzen is up, I can heave to with jib (backwinded) and mizzen, let off main sheet and do whatever I want with main. But often the case is that mizzen is already furled so go back to fore reaching method.

Agree everyone should be comfortable furling or reefing sails without using engine. Just good skills.

Don't understand how this is an American versus Swedish issue however??
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Old 06-09-2013, 10:47   #50
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Re: Taking in the mainsail without an engine

Thanks for sharing the video Cpt Pat. Great topic. You definitely know how to sail your boat.

I'll give it a try next time I'm out by myself in similar conditions and want to put a reef in the main. You never know when this technique might come in handy. No engine, no autopilot, no crew.... no problem.

If I wanted to put a reef in the main when the wave action was more intense, I would:

1. Lower the main to the reef tack while at the helm and reaching on the jib alone.

2. Cleat off the main sheet and head down to a broad reach on a ragged main.

3. Lock the wheel and run up to the mast to tie off the tack.

4. Head up again on the jib alone, raise the main, tighten up the leach tack, and sheet in the main. All of this done while steering with my back to the wheel.

Scary thought and not sure it if is doable.
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Old 06-09-2013, 13:28   #51
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Re: Taking in the mainsail without an engine

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Originally Posted by Dennis.G View Post
Don't understand how this is an American versus Swedish issue however??
I don't believe it is.

I was just prefacing my post with the observation that there are different sailing cultures - ones from which we might benefit with knowledge gained by sailing a different way.
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Old 06-09-2013, 14:10   #52
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Re: Taking in the mainsail without an engine

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Dear Rakuflames,

Mate I'm not trying to be confrontational with my post, just trying to offer my limited experiences. It sounds to me like I wouldn't attempt it either. My tapdancing sucks by the way.
As I said in my post: "Occasionally I have maneuvered in harbour under sail BUT only when I have had NO OTHER CHOICE"

I also stated: "if you are confident that you can accomplish this in your home port then give it a shot"

Maybe I was too presumptuous with my post, if so I apologize. Perhaps I should have stated the obvious that one doesn't just decide to sail into harbour and then does it straight away. These skills need to be learnt slowly over time, step by step. Start with some maneuvering around empty mooring bouys where there is plenty of room and go from there.

As Dockhead states: "it is really a thrill to do something under sail which pushes your abilities" However naturally there is a time and a place for everything.

Ask ten people what a sailor is and you will get ten different definitions as we all participate in a sport where we seek different experiences and rewards.

For me if I can finish a sail having learnt, enjoyed, challenged and (hopefully) accomplished something and where the crew feel the same and they would sail with me again then I have had a good day.

My only gripe was with the statement that 'if you turn your engine on to dock you're not a good sailor" (Not sure if you're the one who said that or not).' Sorry, but I think that's an outrageous statement. And in my marina, if I couldn't turn on the engine, sailing in simply wouldn't be an option. That's one reason I have BOAT US Towing Insurance.

A little sailing dinghy can sail in or out of here with no engine. The guy in the slip next to me has one and does it all the time. But not bigger boats.

The thing is, you always have other choices. You can put the hook down right there in the harbor and notify the dockmaster that you're really in a pickle. In no time someone will be out with a motored dinghy to hip-tow you to a safe place. you can lay your boat across the two end pilings of a slip where the boat doesn't stick out beyond them. You can call Boat US for help. If it's after hours you can put the hook down and blast your horn, and find someone in the marina with a dinghy that can help maneuver you. You can put fenders out all around your boat so if you bump, you don't damage another boat. You can holler and someone can use a dinghy to get another person on your boat to help you. As someone recently described here, you can scull.

There are always multiple choices, and some will be better than others. But sailing within the marina would be a truly poor choice in any of the four marinas where I have kept boats, and yes, I've been in the marina finding myself without power. It was a small enough boat that I sculled with the rudder and laid her across the end of a slip so other boats could get by.

In the marina I'm at now, I would radio ahead and call Boat US. Period. Too much risk of me damaging my boat in the narrow, blind entrance before even worrying about other boats. If I were by myself I could not possibly scull and control this boat adequately at the same time.

Dockhead is right: every time you stretch yourself it's a thrill, but one still has to be realistic about the limits both of themselves and of their boats.

As I said, the thing I strongly disagree with is the notion that "good" sailors never turn on the engine.
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Old 06-09-2013, 15:16   #53
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Re: Taking in the mainsail without an engine

MikeOReilly and others who might be interested,

We have a still larger boat, and fin keeled, to boot--and we have lazy jacks, too. The mainsail measures 16m on the luff x 5.6 m on the foot x 16.8 m on the leech; the size in feet for the sail is about 561 sq. ft. The boat is fractionally rigged and has swept back spreaders, so if you tried the maneuver that CptPat describes, it would be impossible to get the main down, it'd be blown back and fouled on the shrouds with a huge amount of friction, possibly breaking a batten or two. So, how we do it under sail is to pinch up to about 40 deg apparent, on the headsail, and de-power the main, let the sheet run after it is luffing, the boat will slow down a lot, and one may need to trim in the headsail a bit to come up a bit more, so she really slows down, but can still keep her head well up into the seas.

By now the motion has eased, we're loafing along slowly, and one can lock the helm, or adjust A/P. We have double preventers always ready to use, and so the boom can be lightly prevented in its position to leeward. Now it's time to sashay forward and either drop it or reef it depending on what you want to do, and the lazy jacks help it flake as it comes down. Jim also has rigged a line plus tensioner bungee to the head of the sail from the tack of the 3rd reef tack so that we can downhaul the top of the sail if need be.

In stronger winds, we follow the same practice, but using the staysail, rolled up as much as necessary. I would not expect your boat to point quite as high, but I think the method would work for you as an alternate for heaving to.

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Old 06-09-2013, 15:49   #54
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Re: Taking in the mainsail without an engine

It's prudent to have an auxiliary running if planning to sail into or from a tight anchorage with other boats nearby. No matter if on moorings or anchored. Also entering or leaving a marina. Otherwise, best to avoid using the engine unless absolutely necessary. This way, when the engine is unavailable you'll already be experienced at doing what's necessary without an engine.

Now, in regard to the subject of this thread Taking in the mainsail without an engine. If one can reef the mainsail without an engine, they can 'take in' the entire mainsail one reef at a time. After throwing in the third reef, what remains is easy to get down. Rarely have I approached destinations 'on the wind', and by bringing the mainsail amidship going downwind to reduce the amount of wind filling the sail, I apply one reef at a time. The same can be done sailing on the wind as well, using reef lines greatly simplify the process. Tying reef points as you go keeps the sail organized and things under control. Heaving to or 'forereaching' may or may not be necessary. Depends on conditions.
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Old 06-09-2013, 16:15   #55
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Re: Taking in the mainsail without an engine

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Originally Posted by Ann T. Cate View Post
So, how we do it under sail is to pinch up to about 40 deg apparent, on the headsail, and de-power the main, let the sheet run after it is luffing, the boat will slow down a lot, and one may need to trim in the headsail a bit to come up a bit more, so she really slows down, but can still keep her head well up into the seas.
Thanks Ann/Wrong. We pinch to depower both main and fore sails when reefing or furling. I've never raised or lowered the main using this technique. I will definitely give it a try. I really hate powering into the wind just to drop the main. Not sure why we've never tried it ... must be our "American" training .
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Old 06-09-2013, 17:57   #56
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Re: Taking in the mainsail without an engine

I guess I am a bit puzzled by the whole topic. To reef I don't turn the motor on OR heave-to. I can reef on essentially any point of sail in almost any wind strength. So we just continue of course and reef. And I have a large (750sq ft) full batten main with swept spreaders. We don't have any 'special' reefing system, just simple but well designed 2-line reefing (tack and clew lines).
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Old 06-09-2013, 19:18   #57
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pirate Re: Taking in the mainsail without an engine

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Originally Posted by MARC D View Post
I agree! A lot of aggressive posts on CF. Useless.
Yep.

Generally the same folks too...

Captain I fished with was an early doomsdayer. He proclaimed all too often that when the electricity went out he was heading for somewhere that had never had electricity in the first place.
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Old 06-09-2013, 19:28   #58
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Re: Taking in the mainsail without an engine

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I guess I am a bit puzzled by the whole topic. To reef I don't turn the motor on OR heave-to. I can reef on essentially any point of sail in almost any wind strength. So we just continue of course and reef. And I have a large (750sq ft) full batten main with swept spreaders. We don't have any 'special' reefing system, just simple but well designed 2-line reefing (tack and clew lines).
Ditto for me. I read the thread, however, as a way to reduce the amount the mainsail & boom flails around as it is reefed or dropped/furled. Others have mentioned alternatives to controlling this which is what I generally employ.

Cpt.Pat (or anyone else): Any thoughts on reducing the mainsail when running downwind? I was recently offshore sailing solo with 20-25 kts. of wind, running wing-n-wing with a reduced main & yankee, and pretty high seas (I'm a crummy judge of wave hgt. so would rather not guess). Anyway, as the wind increased I needed to further reduce or furl the main in completely (I have in-mast furling), but the conditions were such that I preferred not to come all the way upwind to reduce sail. Usually I can get away with backwinding the main until it is depowered enough to furl, but this time I had quite a bit of trouble pulling it off due to the wind velocity. I suppose the short answer is not to have the main up at all in these conditions . . . . Any thoughts?
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Old 06-09-2013, 19:32   #59
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Re: Taking in the mainsail without an engine

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Originally Posted by estarzinger View Post
I guess I am a bit puzzled by the whole topic. To reef I don't turn the motor on OR heave-to. I can reef on essentially any point of sail in almost any wind strength. So we just continue of course and reef. And I have a large (750sq ft) full batten main with swept spreaders. We don't have any 'special' reefing system, just simple but well designed 2-line reefing (tack and clew lines).

Ditto, and my mainsail drops like a stone into the lazy jacks on any point of sail. I don't want it to get too close to being filled because the battens can catch on the lazy jacks and that's a REAL pain. I would not want to have to deal with it in rough seas.
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Old 06-09-2013, 19:39   #60
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Re: Taking in the mainsail without an engine

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Originally Posted by estarzinger View Post
I guess I am a bit puzzled by the whole topic. To reef I don't turn the motor on OR heave-to. I can reef on essentially any point of sail in almost any wind strength. So we just continue of course and reef. And I have a large (750sq ft) full batten main with swept spreaders. We don't have any 'special' reefing system, just simple but well designed 2-line reefing (tack and clew lines).
I think OP does not have an AP, windvane, nor crew. Hence the need to do it without the boat being everywhere at once. And preferably without leaving her cockpit.

I can imagine that on your boat too it is not the easiest of tasks if you get a good puff while running. Our main is only some 200 sq ft. and running I can only reef if I do it in good time (1st reef in early).

I sail a 70' boat where you cannot reef beam/broad reaching. As soon as the main is on the spreaders, that's that and you can't haul it down. And if you ease the halyard the main does end on the spreaders.

Each boat has her own does and no-nos I think.

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