We sail a 44' LOA
, 20,000 lb, former racing
yacht that, when racing
, is normally served by a crew of 7. My wife is a 53 year old lady that stands 4'11" (tho' she claims 5') and weighs in at a whopping 110# soaking wet (tho' she claims 105). She suffers from moderate arthritis in her hands and fingers that, together with her size, gives her virtually zero ability to handle lines on our yacht save with our "Electric Winch
Handle" when we are not heavily burdened. Accordingly, it would be silly of me to expect her do anything but steer, which she has learned to do very well. (She is the only woman in our 650+ member
yacht club that is capable of docking
a yacht, of ANY size, and upon doing so--in a very tight and congested yacht harbor--is often complimented by envious male on-lookers, much to the chagrin of other wives/girlfriends.)
She learned her skills by first standing in front of me with her hands on the wheel
while I steered and then, gradually, became accustomed to handling the wheel
for a moment at a time while I went forward to tend a line or some such. With that, over a period of weeks, I just extended the length of time before I returned to the helm
. During the course of the foregoing she learned a few tricks that have served her--and us--well.
Firstly, that standing directly behind the wheel isn't necessary. On our boat the deck
on either side of the helm
is canted upward at an angle of 20*. By standing on either side of the helm while the yacht is heeling, she's standing "upright" and not fighting to maintain her balance as well as "drive".
Secondly, she's learned not to "chase the compass". The yacht moves with the seas and swings, rhythmically, to either side of a course. With the sails
properly trimmed--my job--it takes very little effort and only slight movement of the helm to maintain a reasonably steady course.
Next she's learned the idea of sailing "full and by"--with the sails
"full" and steering
"by" the wind
. If a wind
shift is more than a momentary oscillation, we re-trim the sails for our intended course, and she watches the tell-tales.
Lastly, there is no yelling aboard the yacht. Nothing is so critical as remaining calm and rarely is anything so important that yelling unintelligible commands is necessary or useful. I must admit that, harking back to my service
daze, I have been known to utter such things as "come right to two-six-zero" or some such, in response to which NOTHING HAPPENS--until I add a "please" (or sometimes, "PLEASE come right to two-six-zero-----
--I BEG YOU)!" upon which the helm is brought up smartly, and with a smile.
the yacht was the most difficult. We began with the idea that if one isn't bored while approaching a dock
, one is going too fast. We also used, and continue to use, wireless headsets that allow her to hear me speaking in a normal tone of voice from the bow or wherever I need be to handle lines, ground tackle or what have you. With only a modest bit of coaching she did, and continues to do, quite well. (Although the very first time I had to ask her to take the wheel for a moment and then I simply refused to come back to the helm. "You will either steer this yacht into our slip by doing as I ask or you will pile her up on the sea-wall, the choice is yours." We landed quite nicely, thank you.)
At this juncture my wife is probably a better "helms person" than I in some respects as she has a good feel for the yacht and the "groove". It took awhile but with patience, and no yelling, its been accomplished without undue distress
or difficulty and she has developed her confidence.