Soloing the X in gusty conditions

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Starscream
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Soloing the X in gusty conditions

Post by Starscream » Sun Sep 26, 2021 5:34 pm

I had a nice outing today in 15 gusting 20 knots. Not measured, just from the AccuWeather at my location. Felt like more, being out in it. Almost every wave was whitecapping.

Thoughts:
There's a lot going in in those conditions. No time to figure out what you forgot.
Note to self: buy sailing gloves. Some things have to be learned the hard way.
The Autopilot was great when raising or dousing the sails. It's also great when the wind is relatively constant. Not so great in big gusts, and really not great in round-up conditions. The autopilot also makes one want to sit behind the wheel, which isn't the best place to control the sheets from. Better from a side bench.

I've never actually reefed a mainsail. Never needed to. Usually lack of wind is the problem. Heading out into the waves, it occurred to me that I probably wanted to be reefed today. Oh well, not gonna happen. Note to self...figure out reefing for next time.

I really sailed the boat hard. Full main and jib. You can really see which of your sidestays is taking the load on a day like today. Note to self: tighten port lower.

6.8 mph on a port tack close reach (with both motors in the water freewheeling). Hit about 40 degrees heel and let the autopilot round up in the gusts a bunch of times to see how it would handle. Tbh hand steering is better in these conditions, you can feel things happening a lot better when steering yourself. A crew member would be even better.

With the autopilot clutch lever on the wheel, the controller on the bulkhead under the winch, and the sheets to control, the cockpit setup isn't ideal for single-handing. There's always something to do just out of reach. At one point after a tack, I had the jib backwinded for a while, and when I worked out the jibsheets I found myself with the mainsheet AND the active jibsheet in my hand and no easy way to cleat the jibsheet off. It was wrapped on the winch, of course, but with steering and working the gusts I was in the wrong position and ended up with the active sheet uncleated in my hand for maybe 30 seconds before things stabilized and I could get it cleated off. Would have been better if I hadn't been sitting behind the wheel at that point, I think.

I ran the kicker motor for a while at the dock to refresh the gas in the carbs and forgot to raise it back up. I noticed at about 6.5 mph because of the sound it made dragging through the water. There was a crazy wake behind the boat. When I noticed I kinda wanted to bring both motors up, but being alone in those winds and waves made that impossible. I coulda raised the big motor but I wanted it to be ready if things went bad.

With the autopilot on, and the main halyard and downhaul led to the cockpit, I never had to leave the safety of the cockpit. That system worked perfectly. When dropping the main I wrap a long strip of double-sided velcro around the aft end of the sail and boom, then open the hatch as far as possible, stand one foot on the aft dinette seat and one on the top rung of the ladder, and wrap another velcro loop around the more forward part of the sail and boom.

Later on, heading on a broad reach, I easily kept up with another sailboat that was just flying a genoa,and actually inched past them. Lol. Now they have to live with the ignominy of being passed by Bear Hunt under sail. Lol. When it was clear that I was pulling ahead they headed up and left the race with their tails between their legs. Or so I like to think.

My hands are killing me. Bandaids and polysporin everywhere.

No photos. Not only did I not even think about it, I didn't have enough hands anyway.

There were a bunch of times, with my foot braced on the aft cleat so that I wouldn't slide off the seat, that I wanted to chicken out and let the sheets go. I just told myself to trust the boat and let it do its thing. She took care of me.

I have a topping lift with two clips at different locations: one about two feet up from the end of the lift, to raise the boom high out of the way when the sails are down, and the other on the end of the lift just to hold it in place when the mainsail is holding the boom up. Note to self: get a better system, maybe with cleats, so that the boom position can be easier adjusted. When bringing the mainsail down in higher winds, it's too hard to loosen the mainsheet while lifting the boom end to get the topping lift clip in place.

Just watching some football, coming down off the sailing high, and rambling off some thoughts.
Last edited by Starscream on Mon Sep 27, 2021 5:10 am, edited 3 times in total.

OverEasy
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Re: Soloing the X in gusty conditions

Post by OverEasy » Mon Sep 27, 2021 12:32 am

Wow!
You had an adventure! :D :D

Your wind conditions sound very much like those on Lake Champlain Sunday, except we were only out motoring about Malletts Bay and only a third of the way out into Lake Champlain proper.
Someday we can only hope to handle sails as proficiently!

Own own “Note-to-Self” list has grown while living aboard Over Easy while living aboard this past month on the Lake. Cockpit layout of where things are and what can be reached from where are important aspects ( and we’ve just been playing motor cruiser :o :? ). Things apparently are going to get more exciting once we actually start working with sails! 8) 8) .

Note to Self: Register for some serious sailing lessons!

We’ve been observing a lot of sail boats and have seen how hard it is to sail single handed in these windy conditions! It’s not easy and we tip our hats to you for getting out there! (So far we have only been out motoring and it’s always been the two of us and handling the getting-out/getting-in has required both of us, never mind something as challenging as hoisting/unfurling or furling/down-hauling canvas in serious windy conditions such as you have worked with!)

But that’s why we chose a Mac26X, to learn something new and enjoy the process! :) :)
The Mac26X gives us the capacity and flexibility to learn as we go and enjoy the process ( and so far that fortunately has been true :) :) ).
One thing we have learned this trip is it is a whole lot windier up here on Lake Champlain than what we experienced earlier this year down in SC! We would very much like to come back up here as Lake c
Champlain is over a 100 mile long and seems to have a lot of wind along its length which we assume would be good for being able to get set up on a tack and adjust things before having to turn about and do it all over again. Malletts Bay is a great place to learn on as its just a “smaller” version but still miles across in just about every direction. As soon as we can figure out how to get back here next year scheduling lessons with the International Sailing School here in VT is going to be on top of our To-Do-List!

We’ve been looking at how several boats we’ve seen out sailing and have noticed the different ways they have been set up originally and how people have modified them to suit the type of sailing they do. Many whom we have seen single-handled have some sort of autopilots though the opportunity to discuss how they use them has been somewhat limited this trip. Although many boats have substantial tie-off cleats amidship on each side and have multiple lever clamps for their control lines. Color coding of the lines seems to be a 50/50 mix between boats. It seems to make sense from a newbie perspective but warrants much more serious study by us as to how it would actually work….for us… :D :D .

You had a great day on the water and we found your description of the day inspiring!
Thank you!

Best Regards,
Over Easy 😎😎🐩🐈

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Starscream
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Re: Soloing the X in gusty conditions

Post by Starscream » Mon Sep 27, 2021 5:32 am

Lol, thanks for the complement, but I'm anything but proficient at sail handling. After 12 years with the boat, I'm still learning by trial and error. We were in the same weather pattern yesterday. Lake Champlain can be easily underestimated, and is known for gusty, changeable conditions. One good thing about it is that it's perpendicular to the prevailing wind, so you can usually sail where you want to go. The mountains bordering the southern half of the lake make the wind unpredictable, though, and can easily allow storms to creep up on you unannounced. But not at this time of the year.

Just edited some of the typos on my original post.

I have to say, that little sail really classified as "Type 2 fun". The kind of fun that you are not sure you are having, when it's happening, but is great in retrospect (after you get home relatively unscathed).

It's really, really important to set up your boat properly before going sailing. Not having to leave the cockpit when raising and dousing the sails is very important in any type of significant wind. I'd rate anything over 15 knots as significant, for the X. Not that it can't handle it, but it's a small, light boat, and not the most stable platform to operate on.

There were a few times yesterday when I consciously decided not to release the mainsheet, even though my survival instincts were screaming at me to let it go. I was ready for a knockdown, if it was gonna happen, but It's really not a simple thing to cause. Once the boat is so far over that you are standing on the aft cleat more than sitting on the seat, any more wind just makes the boat round up and pop back up. I couldn't get the cockpit coaming to the waterline, nor the cabin windows. I guess I needed another 15+ degrees or so to make that happen, but 20 knots just wouldn't get it there.

Things I would recommend when soloing:
*Halyard and downhaul led to the cockpit. This is a simple add with a couple of turning blocks and a dual jam-cleat.
*Must have a way of securing the lowered sail on the boom from the cockpit. Maybe lazy jacks are the way to go. I make do with the velcro wrap and straddling the open space above the galley to reach the forward portion of the boom, for now.
*Must have a way to keep the boat pointed into the wind when raising and lowering. Either a crew member or autopilot. In gusty, wavy conditions there's just no way to keep the boat pointed without help.
* When raising or lowering the sail, look to see where your halyard block is at the top of the mast. Ours is on the starboard side, so it helps a lot to point a couple of degrees lower (wind coming slightly from starboard) so that the sail stays away from the halyard and the block. If the wind pushes the sail into the halyard, it can cause some tangles.
* Don't forget to prep the cabin. I did pretty well yesterday, but the cushions were everywhere.
* Get a floating hand-held radio and clip it on your lifejacket. If I went overboard yesterday my waterproof phone would have been no help at all, but a VHF mayday on 16 would have had one of the dozens of boats on the water heading over to me in minutes.
* Inside the cockpit, I made Sunbrella covers for the lockers, that snap in place. Besides making things look a lot cleaner, they keep the little extra bits in place while heeled (we carry propane, BBQ scraper, fuel funnel, and 2-stroke oil in those lockers beside the tanks).
* Color code your lines. Make it very obvious what is what.

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dlandersson
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Re: Soloing the X in gusty conditions

Post by dlandersson » Mon Sep 27, 2021 9:34 am

Sounds a lot like what we had on Lake Michigan. The Coast Guard posted "Hazardous Weather Conditions" - so I stayed in :wink:

pitchpolehobie
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Re: Soloing the X in gusty conditions

Post by pitchpolehobie » Mon Sep 27, 2021 12:18 pm

Go out on days with wind less than 30. Start w a furled main.

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Re: Soloing the X in gusty conditions

Post by NiceAft » Mon Sep 27, 2021 5:12 pm

Overeasy said:
Note to Self: Register for some serious sailing lessons!
Don’t wait until next year. While in S.C., take a basic Coast Guard Auxiliary safety course for sailing. When you do decide to take that sailing course in Vermont, you will already have learned not only the rules of the water, but how to read clouds and other safety information. It is a worthwhile course.


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Re: Soloing the X in gusty conditions

Post by DaveC426913 » Mon Sep 27, 2021 5:55 pm

It's good to know there are other soloists out there.
Starscream wrote:
Sun Sep 26, 2021 5:34 pm
Full main and jib.
In 15 knots, I'd be reefed and still barely able to prevent rounding up.
No amount of letting the main fly will stop it.

You are doing it without a reef?? I wonder how much heavier L. Champlain water is than L. Ontario water...
Starscream wrote:
Sun Sep 26, 2021 5:34 pm
both motors in the water freewheeling
Dumb question but just how many motors do you have?
How do you manage that??
Starscream wrote:
Sun Sep 26, 2021 5:34 pm
ended up with the active sheet uncleated in my hand for maybe 30 seconds before things stabilized and I could get it cleated off.
That's why I mounted a small cleat on either side of my pedestal. I didn't really cleat my sheets off, I just needed something to take the pressure off my hands long enough to do something else.

Now I use my EZ cleats for all soloing below about 12 knots - which allows me to stay at the helm. Above that, I need the winches.
Starscream wrote:
Sun Sep 26, 2021 5:34 pm
With the autopilot on
What's that like? (Sounds like cheating to me... :evil: )

Starscream wrote:
Sun Sep 26, 2021 5:34 pm
When dropping the main I wrap a long strip of double-sided velcro around the aft end of the sail and boom, then open the hatch as far as possible, stand one foot on the aft dinette seat and one on the top rung of the ladder, and wrap another velcro loop around the more forward part of the sail and boom.
Why not just run a bungie with hooks along the underside of your boom?
You'll never be without them.
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Re: Soloing the X in gusty conditions

Post by NiceAft » Mon Sep 27, 2021 6:19 pm

When it comes to using bungee cords to secure the main to the boom, be carful to not let go of an end; you can knock out a tooth :o :D (no personal experience), those suckers can move quickly. I use them also. I just wrap them around and move on.
Ray ~~_/)~~

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Re: Soloing the X in gusty conditions

Post by OverEasy » Mon Sep 27, 2021 10:40 pm

The auxiliary down in our area of SC doesn’t seem to have a sailing class offered but we will check more throughly when we get back down there from Lake Champlain.

Those ball bunnies are vicious creatures! :o :o
They attack with little or no warning! :? :?
Haven’t benn hit on a tooth but it’s not for want of trying on the bungee’s part!, :| :|
Handy little buggers by they do have a mean streak to them! :x :x
So far only a few wrapped knuckles to date. :cry: :cry:

Kind of like the Velcro aspect.
Secure long strips to the bottom of the boom in a couple three places and that could work!
Could work even with Lazy Jack lines!

8) 8) 🐩🐈

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Re: Soloing the X in gusty conditions

Post by Be Free » Tue Sep 28, 2021 10:48 am

I do almost all of my sailing solo. Striking the main in high winds is the only time I've every been worried while single-handing. I've tried very hard to never have to do that again. :)

I have a main and a working (110%) hank on jib. All lines are led to the cockpit. I sometimes rig a downhaul on the jib. It's great when it works, not so great if it gets jammed. I've never tried a downhaul on the main. I'd be interested to know how yours is rigged.

Set your boat up at home or on a calm day in the water. Rig your reefing lines and practice reefing (and shaking out the reef) before you need to do it for real. It's not rocket science but it does take preparation and practice, particularly when single-handing.

You can lower the hank on jib while standing in the forward hatch and you can (usually) lower and put ties on the main standing in the companionway as you have already discovered. Try to avoid having to go over the cabin top in bad weather, particularly when sailing solo.

It's a sailing truism that best time to reef is as soon as you think about it. Putting in a reef (after you have practiced) before the weather turns bad is easy. Putting it in once you really need it is always going to be harder and often more dangerous. "Reef early and often."

Your boat is going to work better and sail faster if you can keep it under (around) 20 degrees of heel (15 or a little more is perfect for mine). You can heel a lot more but once your leeward rudder comes out of the water it's a lot more work to control the boat. Our centerboards are marginal when we are close to vertical. They get much worse at extreme angles of heel. It can be fun, but it's not efficient.

If the weather report is predicting winds over 15 knots I'll start out with one reef; two if expecting over 20 or so. It's a lot easier to shake out a reef that you don't need anymore (or never needed) than it is to put one in when conditions deteriorate. Around 30 knots I drop the sails and just use the outboard. I've sailed in those conditions back when I thought that was fun (I've also ripped the clew out of my jib doing that). It's hard on the boat and on the crew. It's good to know how to do it when you have to, but I don't go looking for it anymore.
Bill
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Honda BF40D

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Be Free
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Re: Soloing the X in gusty conditions

Post by Be Free » Tue Sep 28, 2021 10:50 am

+1 on the "ball bunnies". I like that name. :D

The ones on my boat prefer to bite me on the back of the hand when they strike. It can raise a pretty good knot.
Bill
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JeffJuneau
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Re: Soloing the X in gusty conditions

Post by JeffJuneau » Tue Sep 28, 2021 10:17 pm

I really found this series of posts on windy-day sailing helpful, and have a related question on rough water sailing that follows below. While a number of you on Sunday were experimenting with your Macs in some in some exciting wind conditions, I was also having anxious moments with the wind and sea conditions of Steven’s Passage right outside of Auke Bay, Juneau in my M26. The noaa Portland Island weather station right beside where we were sailing in my 26M hit 18 knots with gusts of 23 at about 2:45 pm, then 21 knots with gusts to 25, and finally at 4pm, 26 knots sustained with gusts to 31. Fortunately, we just ducked back into the protected waters of Auke Bay to escape the last readings. Note: none of these wind conditions were predicted by “Predict Wind” which I feel is a useless app for this area. I was lucky to be with my very experience sailing friend who just sailed up here from Seattle with his wife in their 38 ft S&S, and he felt right at home out there. Since we entered at an upwind spot from our planned destination, we decided to only sail with the 110 jib, which unreefed, still turned out to still be too much sail at one point when gusts pushed us past 35 degrees once before we dumped wind from the jib and reefed it. Of course, we couldn’t tack into the wind with that set up, and could only hit about 55 degrees to the wind. We couldn’t raise the main because it is only set up for cockpit reefing to the first reef point. It was immediately apparent, as soon as we passed into the first windy zone that we did not want to be on the deck trying to put in a 2nd reef, and the first reef point is only 4 feet up. Part of that was also due to the sea conditions, which were breaking, steep, and just plain difficult where we entered a branch of northern Stevens Passage to start sailing. We intentionally sailed with the 70p engine down but off, and still hit 6 knots on a broad reach with just the jib up. Here is my question…. How do you hold yourself in the side seat (upwind side not the helm seat) of your mac when your heeling momentarily past 35 degrees. I am not talking about staying in the boat with a safety line, but I found myself trying to hang onto the upwind gunwale of the boat to stay in the game of continuing to steer. There is really nothing to hang on to. Thanks for any insights on that dilemma.

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Re: Soloing the X in gusty conditions

Post by JeffJuneau » Tue Sep 28, 2021 10:17 pm

I really found this series of posts on windy-day sailing helpful, and have a related question on rough water sailing that follows below. While a number of you on Sunday were experimenting with your Macs in some in some exciting wind conditions, I was also having anxious moments with the wind and sea conditions of Steven’s Passage right outside of Auke Bay, Juneau in my M26. The noaa Portland Island weather station right beside where we were sailing in my 26M hit 18 knots with gusts of 23 at about 2:45 pm, then 21 knots with gusts to 25, and finally at 4pm, 26 knots sustained with gusts to 31. Fortunately, we just ducked back into the protected waters of Auke Bay to escape the last readings. Note: none of these wind conditions were predicted by “Predict Wind” which I feel is a useless app for this area. I was lucky to be with my very experience sailing friend who just sailed up here from Seattle with his wife in their 38 ft S&S, and he felt right at home out there. Since we entered at an upwind spot from our planned destination, we decided to only sail with the 110 jib, which unreefed, still turned out to still be too much sail at one point when gusts pushed us past 35 degrees once before we dumped wind from the jib and reefed it. Of course, we couldn’t tack into the wind with that set up, and could only hit about 55 degrees to the wind. We couldn’t raise the main because it is only set up for cockpit reefing to the first reef point. It was immediately apparent, as soon as we passed into the first windy zone that we did not want to be on the deck trying to put in a 2nd reef, and the first reef point is only 4 feet up. Part of that was also due to the sea conditions, which were breaking, steep, and just plain difficult where we entered a branch of northern Stevens Passage to start sailing. We intentionally sailed with the 70p engine down but off, and still hit 6 knots on a broad reach with just the jib up. Here is my question…. How do you hold yourself in the side seat (upwind side not the helm seat) of your mac when your heeling momentarily past 35 degrees. I am not talking about staying in the boat with a safety line, but I found myself trying to hang onto the upwind gunwale of the boat to stay in the game of continuing to steer. There is really nothing to hang on to. Thanks for any insights on that dilemma.

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Re: Soloing the X in gusty conditions

Post by Starscream » Wed Sep 29, 2021 4:43 am

JeffJuneau wrote:
Tue Sep 28, 2021 10:17 pm
How do you hold yourself in the side seat (upwind side not the helm seat) of your mac when your heeling momentarily past 35 degrees. I am not talking about staying in the boat with a safety line, but I found myself trying to hang onto the upwind gunwale of the boat to stay in the game of continuing to steer. There is really nothing to hang on to. Thanks for any insights on that dilemma.
Grippy shoes help, to begin with.

On our X, I found myself standing with one foot on the aft mooring cleat when driving from in front of the wheel at the captain's seat. I was eyeing the bimini structure and wondering how strong it really is, if I fell into it. It's not a great position to drive from when heeled way over, and a few times I have found myself just slipping down to the low side and sitting there, for a while.

When driving from the high-side bench, the X fits my body size perfectly and I can brace my feet on the verticals of the opposite cockpit bench. In the gusts I can find myself more standing than sitting, or so it feels. I think it's OK to drive from the low side, if you have to. Of course the weight sounds better if it's on the high side, but I don't think that a single person sitting on the downwind bench contributes to any noticeably instability. When the boat is over that far, the low-side bench is much closer to the waterline and maybe even the centerline of the displaced water. In the past, I have always avoided the low side because...well, I don't know, it just seemed like everyone sat on the high side. Now, I'm much more likely to be found chilling on the low side, tucked in against the coaming. I haven't noticed any real difference in the boat's behavior. Maybe try low-side driving?

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Re: Soloing the X in gusty conditions

Post by pitchpolehobie » Wed Sep 29, 2021 4:49 am

When sailing in big winds and heeled over I feel like control is better and heel is more well tolerated if I'm standing rather than sitting and I can move my body to the windward side.I'll stand on the benches then and stabilize myself w my binnacle as well. :macx:

Maybe someday I'll make a movable water ballast mod...

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