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Old 22-05-2006, 12:21   #1
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newbie has questions about heeling

Hi all,
so I'm new to this whole sailing thing - my sweetie just bought a boat so I've been out a few times now. About five times total. I've read a bunch and understand some of the basics about points of sail & such.

Fred (the sweetie) admits he's a lazy sailor and doesn't change sail as much as would be optimally efficient. We were out last weekend with his sailing buddy and they discussed reefing, but decided against it. Mostly out of laziness. So we're heeling over 30-40 degrees, which makes me really uncomfortable. It's not the up and down of plowing into waves that bothers me, not even the sliding over the waves so much, it's looking DOWN at my friend across the cockpit and feeling like if I move at all, I'll fall out of the damn boat. Also, while I understand *intellectually* that the boat won't capsize with the next four-foot wave, it still *feels* like it will when that wave hits, and I just Don't Like It.

So am I being overly sensitive? Do people get over this aversion to living at right angles to gravity? We had a discussion about it afterwards and he's agreed to reef if things get past 30 degrees. I've never been out with a reefed main, so I don't know what effect it'll actually have - though I understand it'll give us a more upright ride. He admits he "likes a wild ride", which is also why he doesn't bother to reef. I just find it uncomfortable.

Thoughts on the situation? Helpful explanation of sailing mechanics? Thanks.
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Old 22-05-2006, 12:38   #2
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Hi Ann, You didn't mention what kind of boat you are sailing but I assume it is fixed keel? Little boats, i.e. Lasers, Sunfish, 420s sail fastest and most efficient when sailed flat on all points of sail. It is hard to sail larger boats flat while beating (close hauled or close reaching) but the rule of thumb should be that it is time to take a reef when you are constantly at 15 degrees or more. With a reef you're boat will sail faster because it is more well balanced and you won't be wrestling with the tiller (or wheel) so much. Whenever you have a hard pull on the tiller your rudder is acting as a brake and slowing you down. Sailing at 30 to 45 degrees may even lift your rudder out of the water in a fin keeler so you'll have no control and continually round up. If you were at 30 degrees while on a beam reach then all you needed to do is ease sheets on the sails to be more upright and flatter. Hope this helps a little. I'm certain you'll get more responses and please ask more questions. Regards, --John--
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Old 22-05-2006, 13:01   #3
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I would look for a better sailor if I were you. He is obviously not sensitive to your feelings.

Good luck,
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Old 22-05-2006, 14:11   #4
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I can't tell you if the "sweetie" was sailing stupid or smart (although 30-40 degrees of heel is certainly on the stupid side), but there is a way you can find out (and maybe get comfortable on this boat with this skipper). The answer is to learn to sail yourself, without the "sweetie". There are many sailing schools that will teach you the skills necessary (maybe some the "sweetie" lacks). That way you will have an informed opinion as to whether the "sweetie" is a good sailor or someone you should only see ashore. Or you may discover you have an apitude for this sport that he doesn't have and you don't need him to go sailing in the first place.

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Old 22-05-2006, 14:32   #5
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Listen to John (both of 'em) and Phil -- this is not "lazy" sailing. 30-40 degrees of heel is not efficient, puts many boats on the bleeding edge of control, and is stressful on the boat and crew. Now, having said that, I also have to (gently) say that since you are new to this, you may also be feeling that the heel is more than it really is -- it can be a bit unnerving to the beginner. Look for a heel indicator on the boat, that will tell you the actual degree of heel.

Whether it is 15 or 35, though, the skipper has a responsibility to the crew not to make them unnecessarily uncomfortable. If the 'sweetie" wants to keep on having a warm bed, he should pay more attention to your discomfort and talk to you about what he's doing and why.

John's suggestion about the sailing school is a good one. In many places, you can also find ones specifically for women. You might find that having the testosterone out of the boat makes for a more comfortable sail.

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Old 22-05-2006, 14:39   #6
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The boat probably should be sailed with some heel. 5 - 15 degrees is good. If you are constantly sailing with more than 15 degrees you should be either easing sheet (letting the sails out more), or going to smaller sails - i.e. putting on a smaller headsail and/or reefing. Keeping more sail up than you need does'nt do anything for your boat speed, plus it wears out gear and risks breaking things.
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Old 22-05-2006, 15:04   #7
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Thanks for the responses...

the boat's a Catalina 27. I was looking at the heel-o-meter (tilt-o-meter?), and that's what was saying 30-40 degrees. Some error may be involved due to the angle I was reading it from, but we were definitely way over 15 degrees. I have no idea what point of sail we were on at the time, though I do know they eased the main a bit to make things a little easier on me.

Fred's said the boat has a lot of weather helm and though he's got a good amount of experience (including a sail from San Francisco to Mazatlan), perhaps he doesn't realize the relationship between heeling and force on the tiller...? I'll mention it. He knows this degree of heel isn't efficient. He doesn't mind it and he's lazy, so he does it anyway. Extra stress on the boat would be an argument he'd listen to, though, so I'll try that, heh.

After I expressed my feelings, he made a new rule for himself that if I'm on board, we reef when we go over 30 degrees of heel, so judgments of him may be premature - ya can't respond to what isn't communicated, after all. But I did make the point that when the (inexperienced) crew all stop talking, they're probably not comfortable, and if he wants repeat crew he might do well to pay attention to that. He took the advice well. This is his first boat and we're both still learning lots. Mostly I wanted to get others' points of view on the safety and sanity of heeling like this, and if it was just ordinary and expected. Do folks fall out of the boat more at this degree of heel? Do y'all mind it or are you used to it?
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Old 22-05-2006, 15:06   #8
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As Weyalan noted, reefing sails is not the only tactic for dealing with higher winds and heeling angles.

When to Reef ?
Itís time to reef when you first consider it, or if you begin to feel uneasy, apprehensive, or concerned. Reef deep & reef early! Shortening sail to suit the wind gusts, and/or in anticipation of strengthening conditions (instead of reacting tto he current average wind speed).

Newbie sailors should try to prevent keel boats from heeling more than 15 - 20 degrees, which becomes more likely at wind speeds of over 12 - 15 knots.
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Old 22-05-2006, 16:38   #9
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sounds like you have things well under control with the skipper. To answer your last 3 questions: (1) no folks don't fall out of the boat at the angle of heel unless they do something stupid; (2) Yes we mind it; and (3) Don't ever get used to it.

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Old 22-05-2006, 16:55   #10
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When is the best time to reef?

Five minutes before you think about it.

All good advice given above.

I'm certainly no expert, but Aye think you should...

Try to reduce heeling by moving the mainsheet traveler downhill to the leeward rail, if equiped.

Consider signing up for classes at a nearby sailing school and bring your own boat. It's fun and you'll make some new friends.

Remember - it's always a lot easier to shake out a reef than to pull one in... and (given the general conditions in San Francisco Bay) it might be prudent to to make a habit of setting a reef while still at the dock... and then shake it out later if you like.

Encourage Capt Sweetie to invite experienced sailors to come along every time you go out. I bought my first boat 25 years ago and guests almost always show me how to sail my boat better.

Next time you raise the main - take some measurements, buy some rope, make-up proper lines for simple slab reefing and practice, practice, practice.

After you get good at reefing - learn how to heave-to.

It's a breeze and could someday save a life.

Bottom line is, with a little experience, your boat will sail faster, safer, more comfortably and everyone will have more fun... come what may.

It's a sign of bad seamanship and inconsiderate to the crew to stay over-canvased... and I just hope your Lazy Capt Sweetie changes his attitude before the rig comes down and hurts somebody.

Sea Ya Out There!

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Old 22-05-2006, 16:55   #11
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Hi anne:

I grew up sailing on SF Bay. Never sailed a Catalina 27 but won a few season titles on other similar size boats. There isa macho attitude that says not to reef on the Bay. you can point to race boats and they never reef. That is b/c they are feathering the boat. Feathering is when you keep the boat so close to the wind that the boat is actually on the fine edge of spilling the wind out of the sail. It works. I've done it but it takes a skilled crew and a lot of concentration. Two good ideas for sailing SF Bay are 1) to use as small a jib as possible (less than 100%) and 2) keep the boat reefed all summer long. meaning start your sailing trip w/ a reef in the main. I prefer #2. It is alot easier to shake out a reef when not needed then it is to put one in when you absolutely have to.

This is coming from someone who has sailed the Bay alot without a reef tucked in. It is somewhat dangerous to sail over powered at a 30 deg heel. The boat does not respond to the tiller and sometimes it has too. I would equate it to safety belts. For years we drove w/o them and your safe until you need them.
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Old 22-05-2006, 18:46   #12
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Sail trim was explained to me many years ago in very simplistic terms. They have worked for me, so I will pass them on to you.
Rule 1) never heel more than 15 degrees. If you do, you are over canvassed
Rule 2) When in doubt, ease it out. Ease the sails untill they start to luff, then pull them back in until they are just in trim.
Rule 3) Consider the boat as a wind vane pivoting at the mast. When steering, the helm should be balanced, or very close to it. If you are having to steer into the wind, the headsail is too big or sheeted in too far. If you are having to steer away from the wind, the mainsail is too big or sheeted in too far. If easing the sail that is turning the boat does not ease the lee or weather helm, it is time to reef.
If you sail by these three rules, you will always get good speed and relative comfort from the boat. Obviously there are other facits of sail trim that are much more involved, but these are the basics that will make sailing fun.
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Old 22-05-2006, 19:42   #13
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When you heel more than 15° you are probably making a lot of leeway... slidding sideway through the water. Not where you want to be going. Sounds like you are over canvassed and need to reef.

Going fast in the wrong direction is equivalent to going slow in the right direction.
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Old 23-05-2006, 06:19   #14
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I just finished a three day live aboard course for women in Annapolis and I would recommend it to everyone. I am a new sailor and had a lot to learn. I was with three other women that had all sailed before but their husbands did most of the work and they wanted to contribute more than just in the galley. Now I have taken this school I will take another one with my husband. I still have a lot to learn but I can do it with more confidence now.

"The hardest lesson in life to learn is which bridge to cross and burn
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Old 23-05-2006, 12:34   #15
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My wife and daughter hated being heeled over.

I bought a catamaran.

Now I would not go back to a half-boat.
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