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Thread: Single Handed Sailing

  1. #1
    Contributing Partner
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    Cool Single Handed Sailing

    I don't know about you guys, but it's not unusual for my 'crew' to not be as interested as me in sailing. I'm of the opinion that it's time to single hand, heck I darn near do it anyway, why not go all the way?

    It's weird, there aren't any books on it, an occasional article, maybe it's just confidence, boat set-up, and simply doing it is all there is to it?

    So...what would you guys consider essential skills and equipment?

    a) Leaving dock

    b) raising and dousing sail

    c) returning to the dock

    d) anchoring

    Not talking about passage making necessarily, just a good day or an overnight including anchoring out.

    What d'ya think?

    Jay
    E 38-200
    SF Bay

  2. #2
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    I have no crew problems, plenty of people that want to go for a sail, but the moments notice trips are problematic. Get out of work early, no one about, etc. I sail off a mooring so its a bit different, docking there is always help when I need it. I can pickup and drop the mooring pretty easily by myself. Raising and dousing sail is also easy IF you have a good autopilot. I've commented before on how much I love my Simrad setup and this is the reason why. I use and enjoy the boat more now. Day sailing singlehanded is great. I will also say that alone on the boat I have the Mustang on. I don't do jacklines in the Bay but they are probably a good idea. I have never anchored single handed and I am not sure I would try it with my E38. Its a lot of boat. Dropping the hook is easy enough. Getting it back would be the difficult part, IMHO. Since I don't have a windlass I would have to find a way to motor ahead, run forward pull up rode, run back to helm, motor ahead, etc. etc. Even with a windlass they are not supposed to be used to pull the weight of the boat so it would still be a trick. And that is with good conditions and no problems. Ratchet up the crappy weather and then get the hook good and stuck, lee shore, etc. and it gets really exciting. A 25ft/5000lb boat, sure, no sweat, but not the 38. My back has its limits. RT
    Last edited by rwthomas1; 06-30-2009 at 05:59 PM.
    Rob Thomas
    Wakefield, RI
    1983 Ericson E38 "Ruby"
    "I purchased a boat because setting fire to $100 bills was not an efficient enough way to dispose of them...."

  3. #3
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    The number one thing I need for single-handing is a good autohelm. Other than that, like you I do most of the sailing myself.
    Docking is next, depending on your docks. At my home port, Brickyard Cove, we have single slips and it's no big deal, just get the pointy end in first. However, we frequently overnight at South Beach with double slips and sometimes a crosswind blowing us of the finger; there, a crew is nice.
    Anchoring in a light breeze or a small current is best, but when it's blowing and Wiggle Room wants to dance, someone else at the helm is nice.
    Raising and lowering the main with the autohelm is ok, though I take the halyard forward around the dodger and tail for myself, though I could raise it from the cockpit, it's easier to jump it at the mast.
    I run the mainsheet to an extra winch near the helm which saves some trouble.

    Don Wigle
    Wiggle Room
    E38 #8
    Pt. Richmond, CA

  4. #4
    Principal Partner Mindscape's Avatar
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    Single handing

    I single hand a lot, and really enjoy it. A few things I've done to make it easier are; lines led aft, and I often do this without the autopilot, althoutgh the autopilot makes it a lot easier. I installed self tailing winchs on the cabin top for both my mainsheet and main halyard so it only takes one hand to make adjustments. I also replaced all the orginal easylock clutchs with lewmars (pick your brand, lots of discussion on this other places) which make line control safe and easy, you can ease lines and/or release them under load with no problem. I already had self tailing primaries. I also fly my asymetrical single handed without a lot of trouble, I would say that autopilot is almost required for this. Just make sure you have everything rigged properly and tested before hand, getting these big sails hung up when you're alone is not good, and they can often overpower the autopilot.
    (rambling a bit here) I also replaced all the blocks and sheaves with ball bearing blocks and sheaves to reduce the effort needed to on any of the lines, including the topping lift and outhaul, all this makes things work quickly and easily.
    Docking is not that hard (i'm in a slip), it's practice, paractice, practice. Often there is someone at the pier but I put a bunch of fenders out and practiced on a not too windy day until I found a routine that works for me. One thing here, my dock lines that I take with me are long enough to tie off the bow and stern (seperate lines) and use the remaining line as springs to a midship cleat until I can get my normal springs on. Interestingly enough I find docking much easier than anchoring for all the reasons previously mentioned. I don't have a windlass do I have to spend a fair amount of time getting the anchor up and stowed, more time than I like to be drifting around an anchorage, add some wind and/or current and it just gets worse.

    I say go for it, small steps, in different conditions, and when you finally get caught in some bad weather and conditions, don't panic, you've got a great boat, designed well and it will help out, then think thru the steps to get yourself into a position that makes it safe. Reef early etc and you'll be in good shape.

    Alone at night, stars overhead.....ghosting along....it doesn't get much better...

    My $.02
    Frank Bunker
    Mindscape
    The Journey is the Destination
    Ericson 32-3, 1985 - Hull #661
    Kenosha, WI

  5. #5
    Contributing Partner Akavishon's Avatar
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    I too single-hand quite a bit ... crew is unreliable and hard to organize on a short notice. Also, I don't have a fixed 9-5 commitment at the moment, so plenty of time for sailing mid-week (I wish the weather was a bit more cooperative though ).

    Couple of years ago I had a double slip with prevailing cross winds, which made single-handed docking pretty hard and mostly a hairy experience. I switched to a mooring since, and now I sail much more - it's easy to drop and pick up a mooring by myself, and usually with no engine help, in gentle conditions.

    My autohelm is broken and I have no lazyjacks, so I usually end up flying the genoa only, unless conditions are really gentle, or I feel very adventurous. I've never tried anchoring by myself - I can see how it can easily become a nasty adventure in a crowded space, when the wind kicks up.

    In summary, my "like-to-have" list for single-handing would be a) mooring; b) autohelm; c) lazyjacks; d) jacklines+harness; e) cold beer

    Zoran
    '86 32-3 #678 "Vesna"

  6. #6
    1984 Ericson 30+, Nanaimo, BC
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    I single-hand our 1984 E30+ occasionally. I know it's a lighter boat (9,000 lbs) than those mentioned above, so that makes it a bit easier for me to manage. However, we have a challenging docking slip--two boats per slip, a prevailing crosswind, and the dock ending a few slips down, so in backing up out of the slip, there is risk of backing into the dock.

    However, despite these challenges, I do enjoy singlehanding when my wife isn't available to join me. I double check my normal routine to ensure I haven't forgotten or overlooked anything. I add a dockline off the toe rail at the centre of the boat, so I can hold/tie the boat on my return without having to reach the bow/stern lines first. I tend to reef sails slightly earlier, and sail slightly more conservatively to ensure I don't run into trouble, but so far, so good. Singlehanding does improve sailing skills, and allow me to take advantage of those perfect days when others aren't available.

    Frank

  7. #7
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    Thanks for the input

    It sounds like a lot of what I've thought...bottom line is that you gotta stretch the rubber band and get out there and single hand it!

    LIke a couple of you mentioned, I have a crosswind slip, and it can be fierce coming back in! Backing out is fine, but when it's about 4 or 5p on the bay and it's blowin at 25knots, yahoo, get your fattest fenders out and bring 'er in hot!

    The AP is a big item. I appreciate the need for a good one. I'm just not willing to spend the money for the under the cockpit version. Maybe I'm being penny wise, but I think I'm going for the CPT.

    The anchoring may be an issue though. Weighing anchor could be a SOB!! Several years ago I had a E-35 MK-II. We anchored out by Paradise Cay, Don knows where this is (right?)...it was a 4th of July night and it was honkin. No windlass, so I went forward, the rope rode was not bad by hand, but!!!the chain was covered in bay mud bad. My buddies son came up to help as my foulies were covered from head to toe in mud. He told his dad that he heard new words that night like he hadn't heard in school...can we say cus like a sailor?

    But I came up with an idea though, I took two pieces of 3/8" round rod, bent them like meat hooks, welded T handles on them and voila,,,when the muddy chin rears its ugly head and you don't have a windlass...well I call it a poor mans windlass, works like a charm, just use a length of line and a cheap carabiner to attach them to the bow pulpit. Just my two cents.

    Never have tried that on the 38, might be a little to much boat.

    But thanks guys, great thread! Got anything else?

    So Don, I'm in Marina Bay, if I hailed Wiggle Room, that would be you? If you were to hail Celtica, tha would be me

    LTR

    Jay
    E 38-200
    SF Bay
    Last edited by celtium; 06-30-2009 at 11:06 PM.

  8. #8
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    I think we're the only Wiggle Room on the Bay (my last name is pronounced closer to y-gull, but some get it wrong). We're easy to spot, tan hull with a burgundy transom and a Monitor. We'll be gone for a while, see Great lakes and Landlocked area of the forum, but look forward to hearing from you in the fall.

    Paradise Cove can be nice, but when the wind comes over the hill, I wouldn't want to be hauling up the anchor alone. It should be sheltered, but 20 is not unheard of, and I can't pull the 38 into it. A windlass is a nice addition, but with a bow roller, a hook (OSH stuff) and a length of line, you can use the primary winches much like a windlass.

    Unfortunately, Wiggle Room came with an Autohelm 4000 installed and it's worked fine for a few runs down to Santa Cruz, so I can't justify an underdeck as much as I'd like one. It does work acceptably on the bay, and offshore the Monitor does the work. In light air, it's brought us back from Half Moon several times, so don't limit yourself on autohelms.

    By the way, at $8/ft Brickyard is on the Richmond Riviera and only a tack away from the Bay proper. We moved from Marina Bay some years ago.

    Don

  9. #9
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    Hmmmmmm

    $8 is less than what I'm paying now!! I'm jealous, do you know if there are any slips open?

    Jay

  10. #10
    Contributing Partner Akavishon's Avatar
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    Here's plenty of reading material on single-handing:

    http://billdietrich.byethost8.com/SingleHand.html

    - Zoran
    '86 32-3 #678 "Vesna"

  11. #11
    Principal Partner CaptDan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by celtium View Post
    $8 is less than what I'm paying now!! I'm jealous, do you know if there are any slips open?

    Jay
    Call 'B.J.' at Brickyard: 510-236-1933

    There might just be an available slip.

    Capt Dan G>E35II "Kunu"

  12. #12
    Senior Moderator Loren Beach's Avatar
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    Talking Fear and Loathing... of Docks

    I have done a lot of single handing on our prior 26 footer and also the present 34 footer. Docking is often the most tense part of the day. Being chicken-hearted, I have not anchored out by myself.
    As others have said, first get a good reliable autopilot. Equally important is to have a reliable engine that will not suddenly die while idling into or out of a tight moorage.
    Wear a modern inflatable PFD or a good ensolite version if budget is tight.
    Have a handheld vhf at/near/reachable the helm.

    When coming in, I always drop sails first with engine in neutral, while still well out in open water. Before putting in gear, check twice to be sure that no sheets or warps are over the side.
    Unless it's my home dock, I halt the boat out where there's room to drift, and rig fenders on both sides. I set up dock lines fore 'n' aft, port and starboard, coiled on deck and ready. Last, open the gates.
    Rig a midship line as well, as sometimes that's the best "first tie" when you get along side, especially with some cross-wind.
    Be sure that you have large fenders forward and aft of midships, If you only have a fender or two right at the widest point, the boat will surely pivot either end into the dock and get scratched up.
    Fender sizing: larger is better. Lots better.

    Flying a chute (on light air days) solo, is busy work and entertaining, but still not as stressful as docking in some wind and current!

    "Just one more thing" as Steve J likes to add.... be wary of "helpers" while docking that will grab a bow line and pull it in hard. Let the eager helpers know with clear & calm instructions what they can do to help and what you do not want them to do.

    Best,
    Loren

    ps: Thanks for the link, Zoran. Good reading.
    Last edited by Loren Beach; 07-01-2009 at 11:42 AM.
    1988 Olson 34 #8
    Sail # 28400
    Fresh Air
    Portland, OR USA

  13. #13
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    Single Handing

    A few tips for sailing by self on a 38 degree lake or even an ocean:

    1) Get an inflatable PFD and wear it when topsides. Jacklines help much too. One hand for boat and the other for you...

    2) Don't get yourself into a condition where you have to hurry or near your limits.

    3) If you implement the Autopilot option and don't have jack lines then don't forget to trail a 200' line with periodic knots behind the boat should you go topside and end up going for a dunk. If you go for a dunk you have something to likely grab onto versus watching your boat sail off into the sunset or worse, another boat/dock. As a better approach, I don't mind putting the boat into the wind and raising/lowering sails and if I fall off then it's easier to get back on - don't forget the ladder .

    4) I think it would be nice for single hander to have all of the controls in the cockpit on an E27 but I also think my topsides would become a bit crowded and grab my toes more and the cost of extra winches... would set me back a really good head sail, or something else really nice. But you do what you have to do.

    5) Roller furlers are great for most sailing but remember when things really blow, they catch lots of wind.

    6) Anchors can be tossed aft and set from the cockpit using the winch and then taking the rode up to the bow for final tie down. Bringing them up, well get a good workout and pull the rode and chain up on the deck yourself. The need for concern starts when the anchor has cleared the bottom and you are drifting. Note any current and wind before you start so that you can anticipate.

    7) Docking under power is quite doable by self - remember, you are a sailboat - don't be in any big hurry. Know and use your prop/engine to it's fullest advantage.

    8) Moorings are quite doable by self. Don't be in any big hurry on approach and note where the wind is going to try to blow your boat.

    9) Practice and refine sail trim and if you have tiller invest in 2 bungee cords and some line, tie off the tiller allowing for some give, trim the sails and enjoy the ride. If you have wheel, lock it and you can do the same. Nice to steer the boat by the mainsheet for a change.

    10) Don't get in any accidents as the Coast Guard frowns on single-handed boats. Technically, you need one person on watch and another controlling the boat.

    11) Learn to Hove-to. Even single handlers have to use the head or make lunch.

    12) Enjoy the solitude.
    Last edited by stuartm80127; 07-01-2009 at 05:17 PM. Reason: typo

  14. #14
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    Thumbs up Wow

    Mucho good stuff! Trust me I'm not blowing smoke when I say this site has a lot to offer! I've been on here nary 7 years? The wealth of information always humbles me, the skill level exceptional.

    Please keep the info pumping, this could turn into very valuable info for others in the future, great resource, salute!

    LTR

    Jay
    E 38-200
    SF Bay
    Last edited by celtium; 07-01-2009 at 11:18 PM.

  15. #15
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    CaptDan

    Thanks, I will call B.J. tomorrow, as I will be over to the bay Friday.

    Jay

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