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Old 14-09-2021, 11:12   #1
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Raising, lowering, reefing from the cockpit.

Is it feasible and practical to set up a sloop so you can do all mainsail handling from the cockpit?

Raising, lowering, reefing, stowing?

If so, can anyone summarize what must be done to achieve it and how well it works?

I'm asking about a conventional main, not roller furling.

And the reason I am asking is that I'd like to continue to sail as I get older. Climbing around the cabin top is adventurous when you are young. It is dangerous when you are old. If a young person slips it might be embarrassing or they could get a bruise. If an old person slips they can break something. That can pose the obvious immediate danger, but the physical conditioning you lose during the months of recovery you might never get back. That can lead to continued decline.

I don't want to retire to a rocker and fade away, but I also don't want to hasten my departure from this earth because of a slip.
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Old 14-09-2021, 11:20   #2
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Re: Raising, lowering, reefing from the cockpit.

Yes! It's pretty easy. Lazy jacks help ensure that you don't have to go forward when lowering the main. A topping lift can ensure that the halyard can stay on the main.

Run the reefing lines, cunningham, vang, outhaul, etc all back to the cockpit through clutches. Procedures are roughly the same, except that you're switching lines that you're loading onto the winch or winches.

Some boats work better than others due to cockpit layout / deck clutter, but it's entirely possible and most charter boats and singlehanded race boats are setup this way.
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Old 14-09-2021, 14:12   #3
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Re: Raising, lowering, reefing from the cockpit.

Would it be practical to single-hand such a setup if the mainsheet traveler is on the cabin top? (Early Cal 33)
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Old 14-09-2021, 14:24   #4
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Re: Raising, lowering, reefing from the cockpit.

My 1985 Cal 33 is setup to raise, reef, and lower the main from the cockpit. Main has 2 reefs and lines are lead to cockpit. Main has Dutchman system which makes lowering the main very easy. I prefer the Dutchman system to lazy jacks. I do have to go to the mast to connect the halyard before raising the main when and disconnecting it after lowering the main. I single hand quite often and I am 75.
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Old 14-09-2021, 14:33   #5
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Re: Raising, lowering, reefing from the cockpit.

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Would it be practical to single-hand such a setup if the mainsheet traveler is on the cabin top? (Early Cal 33)
As long as you can reach the control lines it should be fine. You can install cam cleats close to the cockpit to reduce your reach.
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Old 14-09-2021, 15:59   #6
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Re: Raising, lowering, reefing from the cockpit.

Thanks for the encouragement. JimsCAL, that is about the most directly applicable answer I've had on a forum for a long time.

I'll tell you why I'm asking. I am looking at a couple of older sailboats - one an Ericson 32 and one a Cal33. Both have dying Atomic 4 engines. I am considering buying one or the other of them and swapping out the engine for an electric setup. But I'm getting old (not 75 yet, but hope to make it there while I own this boat) and my wife is strongly opposed to me climbing around on the cabin top messing with the sails. For once I am starting to agree with her.
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Old 14-09-2021, 16:42   #7
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Re: Raising, lowering, reefing from the cockpit.

I've experienced both...

a)working from the mast.
b)working from the cockpit.

In my humble opinion, hands down, without a doubt, working from the mast is simpler, quicker, more efficient, and it puts you right there. Most of your stuff can be done by hand, with minimum winch work.

Working from the cockpit, requires a profusion of turning blocks, cam cleats, and oodles and oodles of line strewn about everywhere...and pretty much everything needs to done with a winch.

If you're properly clipped on, going to the mast is a simple affair...

If things don't go smoothly, or something jams, gets tangled up, etc, you'll be needing to climb out of the cockpit anyway. This will likely happen often.

You will also have a profusion of lines in the cockpit, they will be there all the time. You will need to color code them. They will end up hanging inside the boat, and under your feet.

If you are uncomfortable working from the mast, you could install some " granny bars" around the base of the mast. If you are not familiar with these, it's a solid handrail pulpit type of thing, that is installed around the base of the mast, that you can brace yourself against, hold on, etc.
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Old 14-09-2021, 17:08   #8
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Re: Raising, lowering, reefing from the cockpit.

One thing that hasn't been mentioned that I consider essential for single handing is an autopilot. It is the second person on the boat. Holds it into the wind while dropping sails, allows you to go below to get something, etc.
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Old 14-09-2021, 17:21   #9
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Re: Raising, lowering, reefing from the cockpit.

To be fair, there are certain tasks that must be done at the mast. I've got my Catalina 36 setup so that only needs to be done at a dock, but I'll occasionally do it while motoring in. As noted by JimsCal, having an autopilot gives you time to do things more slowly without running back to the helm. I need to go to the mast to clip on the halyard (I hate halyard slap, so it's secured to the boom at the dock), and to zip and unzip the sail cover. Otherwise, it's all from the cockpit, and easy work while there.
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Old 14-09-2021, 17:42   #10
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Re: Raising, lowering, reefing from the cockpit.

Also interested in this discussion due to aging. I have lazy jacks; they have to be manually raised and lowered at the boom. Do people keep them up while the main is up? And even with lazy jacks I wrestle with flaking and keeping sail from falling to one side especially in a breeze. Makes for interesting exchanges with my wife at the helm. And I use sail ties. SO can't imagine lowering from the cockpit. What am I doing wrong?
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Old 14-09-2021, 17:45   #11
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Re: Raising, lowering, reefing from the cockpit.

I get the feeling most modern boats chase after the "convenience" factor rather than the "practical" factor....

Much is said about staying in the cockpit is "safer" and I don't dispute that, but to my mind it falls under the "convenience" label. Sails are all furling now, etc, etc.
But sailors have been working from the mast (or deck) for eons.

The only time I ever sailed on an "in-mast" furling mainsail system, with cockpit control lines, it was the nightmare from hell, as we couldn't get the thing back in when we needed it most.

My first experience with "in cockpit line" handling was on my own Beneteau. The main is enclosed in a stackpack with lazy jacks, etc. I had originally thought this would be a good thing, my wife, especially, thought it was a good thing, as like the OP, I am of advanced years, but it didn't take long for me to to develop a pronounced love/hate relationship with it as I found out, I still have to clamber out of the cockpit to do stuff, like physically pull the main down, etc...now requiring two people....one person in the cockpit to handle lines, winches, etc, and the other on deck to handle whatever the problem might be out there, and yes, a good autopilot to steer, while you deal with any problem.

With an all at mast setup, I could pretty much handle this all by myself.

I should clarify, that I've been a lifelong sailor,

I am just providing my opinion and view of the matter. There are likely proponents and on both sides of the matter, but my preference is clearly in favor of simplicity.
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Old 14-09-2021, 18:59   #12
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Re: Raising, lowering, reefing from the cockpit.

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Originally Posted by westernspirit View Post
Also interested in this discussion due to aging. I have lazy jacks; they have to be manually raised and lowered at the boom. Do people keep them up while the main is up? And even with lazy jacks I wrestle with flaking and keeping sail from falling to one side especially in a breeze. Makes for interesting exchanges with my wife at the helm. And I use sail ties. SO can't imagine lowering from the cockpit. What am I doing wrong?
Lazy jacks can be left up, but requires extra care when raising the sail if you have full battens. I lower and tuck my lazy jacks away at the dock prior to setting out/raising sail. Once main is fully raised, and while boat is in a stable tack, I’ll briefly go forward and raise the lazy jacks so I can later drop the main whenever I need or want. Mine doesn’t always flake neatly, but because it’s falling into a stack pack it doesn’t go anywhere. Your lazy jacks may not be optimally designed and might need more lines along the mast to prevent the “falling off” you are describing. There are many ways to run the “web” of the lazy jacks - giving you anywhere from 3 to 6 lines along each side of your boom to best cradle your mainsail. It’s an easy fix.
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Old 14-09-2021, 21:22   #13
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Re: Raising, lowering, reefing from the cockpit.

I've got the Dutchman system on a full batten main and the Tides sail track. The main is 300 sq ft. The main is raised, lowered, and reefed from the cockpit. Easy peasy. My previous boat had a somewhat smaller main and was operated at the mast. No thank you - I have no desire to ever go back.
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Old 15-09-2021, 06:57   #14
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Re: Raising, lowering, reefing from the cockpit.

totally agree with lazy jacks....tuck them away at the mast before raising the main...while still at dock......but this generally means leaving the cockpit to put them back up...usually before you get back to the dock.... ???

trying to hoist a full batten main while the lazy jacks are still up, will pretty much guarantee the batten will catch on the lazy jacks..doing this from the cockpit is a pain in the rear end, really needing someone on deck to untangle the mess.

personally, I don't see much value in the lazy jacks, sure, they contain the main while it's dropped, but there is no particular rhyme nor reason, how the main stacks up on the boom, when it's dropped.....especially a main with full battens...it's just a big wad of canvas, flopping around willy-nilly...and a pain to stow away after

this is where I like to pull the main down by hand, and flake it as it comes down, I can control the downward movement of the main with the halyard, whilst flaking it. this simplifies folding the sail over the boom, instead of having a big jumble of canvas to deal with...

nah, it's not my preference, having had to deal with " in-cockpit" line control...cockpit looks like someone spilled line spaghetti everywhere...

but, I freely admit, I'm an old fart, that likes to do things my way....
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Old 15-09-2021, 07:16   #15
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Re: Raising, lowering, reefing from the cockpit.

My current boat (bought 12 years ago) came with a Dutchman system. I immediately became a convert. Makes dropping the main SO much easier, and no issues with catching battens when raising it. Also contains the main on the top of the mast when reefing the main. And once you get it adjusted, no need to touch it.

Disadvantages? Cost is the big one. It's more expensive than lazy jacks due to sail and sail cover modifications. And installing the main and removing it in the fall are more complicated.

When I replaced my main a few years ago there was no question that I would have a Dutchman system installed on it.
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