No. 83 - June 1989

 

HANDLING UNDER SAIL

by JOHN CHARTERS

It will not come as a surprise to many of you to be told sailboat handling and seamanship has deteriorated noticeably.  And it is easy to understand why.  Few new sailors learn the basics on dinghies and daysailers any more.  Often the first boat is a cruiser/racer 20 to 30 feet or longer.  Even yacht clubs and marinas have recognized this, and many now require their members to motor in and out.  Which perhaps does make life easier for the Harbor Master, but most certainly does nothing for the advance­ment of handling under sail.

How often have you heard - "if I get into trouble, I can always put the engine on and motor home."  One evening a couple of years ago, I dropped into our yacht club to pick up something from my boat.  There was a sailboat, under main alone, sailing around just outside our harbor entrance.  Later I heard his story.  Seems he was about to motor into the harbor when his engine failed.  And, of course, refused to restart.  He spent over an hour sailing back and forth, trying desperately to get back in, against an off shore breeze.  Now, some boats go to weather reasonably well with only a mainsail, but not his.  Without a jib he would have never made it back.  Eventually some member took pity and towed him in. How sad!

None of the following ideas are original, nor new.  Nor even brilliant!  But they do work.  And yet, I do not see them being used very often, if ever.  Which leaves me to believe most sailors are unaware of their existence.

First a word of explanation.  I do a lot of single handed sailing, so most of what I'm about to say applies to the skipper who sails alone, or short handed.  But even if you are lucky enough to always sail with a full crew (is anyone that lucky?), you may still find a use for some of these ideas.

I suppose the biggest problem facing the single hander is how to leave the helm without having the boat sail off into the blue or, worse still, around in circles.  The traditional method, as we all know, is to heave to.  Now this works fine as long as, once adjusted, you do not alter the set of the sails.  But let's say you want to change headsails.  Or reef.  Or drop sails altogether.  Heaving to won't work, certainly not on my Tanzer 22, anyway.  So, what do we do?  The answer is to lie-a-hull, but with a difference.  Lying-a-hull in the usual sense is to lower all sails and allow the boat to more or less fend for itself, generally with the helm lashed down.  While this may be one way of lasting out a storm at sea, it is not of too much use here.  However, it is possible to lie-a-hull with the sails up, and this is very useful.

In order to do this successfully, it is most important that your boat be brought to a full stop as follows; sail close hauled on starboard tack. (We always do these things on starboard, gives us the right of way!) Gradually slow the boat down by a combination of luffing the sails and pinching up.  When you have stopped all forward motion, put the helm down.  That is, push the tiller to leeward and lash it in that position.  A length of line and a clove hitch around the tiller is one way.  Or you may prefer to install one of those patented devices such as the "Tiller Brake".  At this point, your sails should be allowed to run free, sheets fully eased.  If the wind is strong, your sails will make a fearful racket and all that fluttering may not be particularly good for them.  However, if the wind is that strong, the reason you are using this modified lying-a-hull is probably to reduce sail anyway.  So a couple of minutes of flogging around is the lesser of two evils.  Your boat will now lie, more or less at an angle to the wind, and slowly drift downwind.  But it won't be heeling much, if at all, and you will be able to leave the helm and go about whatever.  Now, this is important, so pay attention!  If you are going to lower your sails, you must lower the jib first.  To do otherwise is to invite disaster.  If the reason behind this maneuver was to change down, say to a smaller headsail, then all you need to do is; lower jib and remove - hank on new jib and raise.  If on the other hand, you wanted to lower the main, perhaps to replace a broken batten, you'll have to follow the following sequence.  1. Lower jib.  2. Lower main and replace batten.  3. Raise main.  4. Raise jib.  During all of this, it is important the sheets for both sails to be completely free and slacked off so the sails are able to run free.  When everything is under control, unlash the helm, sheet in the main and jib and you are on your way again.

 

This type of lying-a-hull is the fastest and easiest way I know when sailing alone, of lowering sails, prior to motoring into a harbor or yacht club.  You can drop the jib, lower the main and tie it to the boom and be back in the cockpit, in less time than it takes to write about it.

Next problem, how do you slow down a boat under sail?  Close hauled is no problem, just luff the main and possibly the jib.  But how about dead down wind?  Or on a reach?  If you are going directly down wind and you wish to slow down for whatever reason, try the following.  First off, if you are on a downwind run, the jib is not of too much use anyway so the first step is to lower the jib.  If you have a jib downhaul led back to the cockpit (more later) this will be easier to do.

Now, sheet the main in hard.  That is the boom more or less centered over the cockpit.  You are now presenting a much smaller area of sail to the wind and the boat will slow down.  This maneuver will also work when reaching.  By overtrimming the main, we are removing most of the lift or forward drive from the sail.  The sail is stalled, as it were, and once again the boat will slow down.

OK, let's see how one might use this slowing down thing.  Let's assume you wish to sail into a harbor, or any area where maneuvering room is restricted.  Let us further assume the final approach to the slip or dock is upwind.  But to get there it may be necessary to sail down or across the wind and we don't want to go charging through the fleet at full hull speed.

The first step, as mentioned, is to drop the jib.  And we will do this well outside the harbor, where we have lots of room. Then with one hand on the tiller and the other on the mainsheet we head in.  If you are going too fast, haul in on the mainsheet until the boat slows down.  In order to maintain steerage, it may be necessary to periodically ease the main.  The trick is to tighten and ease the main sheet, as you go, trying to maintain as slow a speed as possible consistent with control.  At the last moment, we round up to our slip or mooring, letting the main luff by easing the main sheet.  A word of caution, practice this in open water a few times before you try it out in a crowded harbor.  Also, I don't think I'd want to try this in a force nine gale!  But in light and even medium airs, you'll find this maneuver surprisingly simple and effective.

Now let's talk about docking under sail.  How often have you read "with a crew member standing at the bow, the bow line neatly coiled ready to throw to a waiting person on the dock"?  Even when I have a crew member ready to assist, rarely is there someone waiting on the dock to grab the line.  In this situation, forget the bow line, instead fasten a line amidships and have your crew (or yourself) remain in the cockpit.  As you approach the dock, step ashore with this line in hand and belay the line around a bollard or cleat.  Even with this single line your boat will lie alongside quietly while you go about attaching the bow and stern lines.  Needless to say, fenders should have been hung overboard just prior to docking.

 

Which reminds me of something.  Please, please don't sail with all your fenders hanging out!  I suppose it is all those new sailors that don't know any better, but lately it seems I've seen more sailboats festooned with fenders than ever before.  It should be a matter of personal pride to do things in a seaman­ship fashion and dangling fenders are certainly not seamanlike.  Enough said!  By the way, bumpers are for cars - fenders are for boats!

Having said the above, one of you is bound to catch me with my fenders hanging out!  Several years ago, when I was commodore of our yacht club, I wrote something similar for our club newsletter.  And guess who was caught sailing out of the harbor with all his fenders hanging over the side? Right!

Anchoring under sail is another skill that seems to be fast disappearing.  But so much simpler and quieter.  Nothing disturbs the peace of a pleasant anchorage quite so much as a skipper at the helm, shouting over the engine noise, to his wife at the bow as she tries to get the anchor down.  Next time, why not try anchoring from the stern while under sail?  Having decided where we want our anchor to be and where we want to end up, sail upwind, drop the jib and head back downwind, using the main as discussed earlier to keep our speed reasonable.  As you approach the spot chosen for the anchor, lower the anchor allowing the rode to run out freely.  When enough rode is out, belay the anchor line around a convenient cleat to set the anchor.  Your boat will either come to a sudden stop as your anchor digs in, or keep on going if the anchor is dragging.  Assuming your anchor bites on the first try now all you need do is carry the anchor rode around to the bow, outside all shrouds, and recleat the anchor line at the bow.  If the wind is very light you can probably untie the line at the stern and take it forward.  A method is to leave the stern cleated, take the bitter end forward, cleat it, then uncleat the stern.  But please don't try anchoring like this if the wind is at all strong.  But, if winds are light and you can sail downwind at about a knot speed, this will work the very best.

Of course, if your anchor didn't grab the bottom you'll have to bring it back in and try again.  Perhaps you were using the wrong anchor for the type of bottom.  Or perhaps you snubbed the anchor line too soon before you had sufficient rode out.  Anchoring and anchoring techniques were covered in an earlier article, so I will not repeat myself (For a change!).  But I will mention one thing.  Wear a pair of gloves.  It doesn't take very much to get a rope burn while letting out the anchor line, even at slow speeds.


As I mentioned at the beginning, I do a lot of single handed sailing.  As a result I have tried to organize my boat to make things easier to do and, whenever possible, from the comparative safety of the cockpit.  All halyards are led aft as is a jib downhaul.  In the case of the downhaul, nothing fancy just light line 3/16 to a 1/4 inch, attached to the jib halyard shac­kle, led through a small block or fairlead at the stem head fitting, then aft to the cockpit.  When you are ready to lower the jib, luff up head to wind, quickly cast of the jib halyard and pull the jib down with its downhaul.  If you time it right, the jib will land on the deck and you will still have enough way on to fall back on your original tack.  Then when you have time you can bag or tie the jib down.

If you have jiffy reefing, you can also organize thins so you do not have to leave the cockpit.  The drawings show two suggested ways.  One is to have two separate reefing lines, one for the leach and one for the luff, both led to the cockpit.  The other is to use a single reefing line to reef both luff and leach.  You may find it necessary to use a winch in order to get the reefing line tight enough.  In this case, a sheet stopper ahead of the winch will allow you to use an existing winch.  I'm sure there are other variations, these seem the simplest.  If your main halyard is cleated at the mast (that is, not led aft) then you should stick to the standard jiffy reefing.  Then one person, standing at the mast, can lower the main, hook the luff cringle on the little hook, and pull tight the leach reefing line.  But if the main halyard is led aft, then it is nice to be able to complete the reefing process from the cockpit.

Since starting this article, I have added an Autohelm 800.  Of all the accessories available to the single handed sailor, this has got to be the greatest.  I wonder how I ever managed before.  It will steer the boat as true as an arrow, especially under power.  It never looses its concentration and never, ever talks back.  A word of warning, under sail, a sudden gust can overpower the 800.  It is at its best when motoring in fog.  One can set up the proper compass course, then leave the steering to "Auto".  This leaves the skipper free to keep a 360 degree look­out, sound fog signals and move further forward in the cockpit, away from the noise of the motor in order to hear other boats.

 

HAM RADIO

by DON STARK KA3RJC #692

Although I have a marine VHF radio aboard "Heaven's Daughter", I wanted to keep in touch while away from home, (my father is a ham radio operator), so I got an amateur radio license and installed the rig on my boat.

 

The radio is an Icom 735, a small but full featured rig.  It has 10 memories, scanning, a dual VFO which permits switching quickly between frequencies.  It has a full coverage receiver that covers from 100 KHz to 30 Mhz.  It is perfect for time fixes from CHU or WWV.  It will receive radio beacons and it is interesting to have a good radio for the AM broadcast band and international bands.

Although this is among the smallest rigs available, space on a Tanzer 22 is limited.  I settled on installing it over the table to get it out of the way but to keep it convenient.  The mounting bracket uses the screws for the track for the jib so no new holes were drilled through the cabin top.

The antenna is a Hustler mobile mast with interchangeable resonators for different bands.  Also there is an antenna tuner, necessary to get a proper match on my antenna.

A ground wire is run to the keel.  I will experiment with some improvement to the antenna.  Many operators use an insulated backstay as an antenna.

What about battery draw?  Well, at peak transmit power (200 watts - SSB or Code) it draws 20 amps!  But this is just during transmit peaks.  On receive, it draws just 2 amps.  Good radio practice dictates that you don't use any more transmitter power than necessary, so I rarely run at full power.  I have it on its own battery, which I installed under the seat near the table.  While on a two week trip from my home port of Ashtabula, OH to Sandusky, the islands of Lake Erie and along the Canadian shore, the radio was used daily without recharging, although the battery level dropped considerably.


The results have been quite good.  The 80 meter band has been very reliable for communications from 150 to 500 miles.  I get a lot of interesting comments from radio operators who have sailed or who would like to try.  In addition, there is an extra margin of safety and security knowing that although out of sight of land, you can still stay in touch.

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MAGAZINE AND CHART RACK

by DON STARK #692

Somehow any books on a Tanzer 22 always end up looking a little battle worn and a bit soggy.  And considering the cost of a chart book, cruising guides and coast pilot, better organization was called for.

I decided to design the shelf around the size of the chart book and the available space on the forward wall of the cabin bulkhead.  Construction is straight forward.  I used teak for moisture resistance.  The sides are dadoed to accept the shelf.  I used counter sunk brass screws to assemble the shelf but you may want to use stainless screws covered with teak plugs.

The shelf has worked out just right.  It is big enough to hold a lot, but it doesn't interfere with the light or cushions.  Even though at times we've had five large wet sails stuffed in the V berth, the books have never displayed any water damage.

 

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