Sailing alone (some questions, and some warning)

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DrV
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Sailing alone (some questions, and some warning)

Post by DrV » Sun Aug 26, 2012 4:31 pm

Hi!

Finally, I've done some sailing alone, and I must admit I have more questions than answers. And some piece of advice.

1. How do you hoist the mainsail when alone and sailing singlehanded? OK, forget hoising - how do you take it down? For me, it was PITA situation. When alone (and no autopilot), there is nobody at the helm to turn into wind. And hoisting is kind of not easy, but possible... Tricky, but possible. But unhoisting - was a huge challenge to me. To undo the trucker's hitch - in a good wind I had to use pliers to pull the top of the rope, and still I don't think I want to do it again. There were 3-feet waves, and not easy at all. I tried to anchor, and it made it only worse, because there is strong current along the shore, so the boat is in angle to wind and current, and it rocks that hard, so not safe to crawl to mast, let alone mainsail hoisting/taking down. And later when I was fighting to pull back the anchor, it was so hard, even considered to cut it... The sea current was so strong that I couldn't pull the anchor with my bare hands (only few days later I remembered that I have winches, and in theory could have tried to use them... but still doesn't look safe to me). HOW DO YOU GUYS HOIST/UNHOIST THE MAINSAIL, ALONE IN THE WIND?

2. When sailing, wind is coming at right angle, and both Mainsail and Genoa are hoisted, I have trouble to keep the boat at the course. 90% of the time, I have to apply strong pressure to the steering wheel! (When wind is from starboard, I have to push the wheel anti-clockwise, really hard! And as soon as I decrease my pressure - boat goes right... I wouldn't consider to offer my Admiral to be at the wheel, as her both hands (and all her weight?) wouldn't be enough for holding the Mac on course.
(Worth mentioning that when installing the Mercury engine, there was some Mercury black rubber-coated steering wheel as a gift from Merc, so the guys installed it without asking me. It is around 4 inches smaller than original wheel at :macm: . I am sure that these guys never saw :macm: before, and I wouldn't be surprised much if it turned out they never worked on a sailboat before...)

So, there are two questions:

- Shall I put back the original steering wheel from :macm: ?

- Is the need to apply such force to the wheel the clear indication that I am doing something wrong? (During my sailing training, I was on 43' boat, and I have never experienced anything like this. Of course, the wheel there was 3 times bigger, and experienced skipper to ask advice, but...)


3. The daggerboard! Am I right, that when wind is at 90 degrees right angle, then there is biggest drag, so I have to take the daggerboard all the way down! Correct? (And when sailing against wind, half down. When saining alone wind, no need in daggerboard at all?) Can this (daggerboard) be connected with previous issue when I need to apply too much power to steering wheel?



AND SOME WARNING.
When sailing in hot weather, be careful about opening the companionway hatch. The temperature was around 100F (39C?) and sun was shining. I wanted to reef the mainsail, and that wasn't easy, alone. After few tries to undo the trucker's hitch, I decided to go to galley to get pliers. I started to push the top hatch - and it wasn't moving. Some plastic parts ("rails") became too hot in the sun, and kind of "melted", blocking the sliding hatch. I saw them blocking the hatch, and I pushed harder, and harder, without any luck ... until bigger wave arrived, at very wrong time, and hatch started to slide , and next second I was flying head down, inside. That was painful, guys. Luckily, I haven't lost my consciousness. Thank God, one of cushions fell on the floor, and that saved my nose and face. Still, wasn't pleasant at all. And dangerous.

Yes, I know, I know. It is one of the stories that "would never happen to me, it can happen only to other silly people". That's what I could have thought... Just be careful even about such small issues.

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yukonbob
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Re: Sailing alone (some questions, and some warning)

Post by yukonbob » Sun Aug 26, 2012 4:51 pm

Sounds like you need to lube the sail track. I've had trouble getting my mail up the last two feet or so, but never enough to warrant putting that much pressure on it. Give yourself enough room turn into the wind and release your main halyard, It should drop at least half way down the mast without any help and all but completely de-power the sail. beam reach and close hauled I leave the DB all the way down (nothing to do with drag) On a broad reach or a run half up to all the way up depending on wind and how much side slippage I'm going for. You can run without having to go wing on wing :P And lastly you have the main to far in OR disconnecting the motor while sailing; one the other or both should help steering. The wheel size would make a difference too, but not what you're talking about by the sounds of it. Good luck

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Re: Sailing alone (some questions, and some warning)

Post by NiceAft » Sun Aug 26, 2012 5:34 pm

Do you have a topping lift.

When lowering the main, be certain that the topping lift is holding up the boom. In fact, before lowering the main, pull hard enough on the topping lift to actually raise the boom a little. This should reduce pressure on the luff, and allow the main to fall easier.
Next release the main sheet. this will allow the boom to go free. If you are heading into the wind, the boom will be aligned with the boat. If you are not into the wind, the boom will be at an angle to the boat, but it won't make any difference because the topping lift will not let the boom fall onto the boat. You will still be able to easily drop the main.

As to raising the main, again the topping lift should be stiffly pulled on to hold up the boom. this again will allow the main to freely travel up the mast.

Most important, after raising the main, release the topping lift so it will not interfere with the shape of the sail.

These procedures should not require anchoring, or any special efforts. It may just take practice.

Ray

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chuck
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Re: Sailing alone (some questions, and some warning)

Post by chuck » Sun Aug 26, 2012 6:47 pm

Before lowering the main sail by yourself you can Heave To:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heaving_to

On YOU TUBE:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LbjwP6F_N9s

Hope this helps you. I use it all the time. Can be used when Reefing the main by yourself also.

Here is anouther You Tube, not the best, but gives the idea:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1XU-8lk3 ... re=related

Chuck

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Re: Sailing alone (some questions, and some warning)

Post by Y.B.Normal » Sun Aug 26, 2012 7:36 pm

If you're having trouble with the steering, try tilting the motor LESS when you raise it for sailing. The motor can put a lot of stress on the steering once the motor gets
off center. Re-install the original, larger wheel.

Part of your high steering forces may be due to out-of-balance sail trim. There are many articles on the web about proper sail trim and balancing your sail forces.

Talk to your dealer about running your halyards aft to the cockpit, installing clutches, and installing a jib downhaul (or roller-furling genny).
They'll make your life MUCH easier. You'll be able to raise and drop the sails from the safety of the cockpit. Bill at Boats4Sail has these kits as well
as a bungee system on the boom for securing the main after its dropped. You may also consider a main sail downhaul. You can find more info about it by searching this board.

Happy sailing,
Dale
Y.B.NORMAL
26 :macm:

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bscott
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Re: Sailing alone (some questions, and some warning)

Post by bscott » Mon Aug 27, 2012 6:56 am

Make sure you release your boom vang--this will let your boom raise and reduce luff tension.

To ease steering, lower your engine. Install the biggest wheel that will fit.

Remove your main halyard and wash with woolite to soften the braid so it goes over the block at the top of the mast--dirty halyards are stiff and difficult to handle.

Good advice on heaving (hoving) to and using the topping lift.

Bob

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Ixneigh
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Re: Sailing alone (some questions, and some warning)

Post by Ixneigh » Mon Aug 27, 2012 8:07 am

Hi.
I single hand all the time. IMHO it's almost obscenely dangerous. That being said, like some People with auto racing I will continue to do it until I can't.

My suggestions.
Put the old wheel back on.
Make some way to lock the rotation of the wheel. This is handy for working the sails but never use it under power.
I have a simple one on my boat I made in a day. Search for wheel lock macgregor 26 on YouTube. Mine or others equally good will come up. Make one.
Install topping lift. That's cheap and easy. Should be against the law to sell a sailboat this size without one.
I would highly recommend the plastic sail slides for your main. But it's a slight chore to install. Otherwise lube the mast groove and the parts of the sail that slide up the groove.

Ok now we are ready to go sailing. Fill the water ballast. Motor the boat wsyyyyyy out at least a mile from anything to drift into. Calm water if you can. Have the wind comming over the right side of the boat so the wind blows the sail away from the mast cleat while you raise it. (mines on the right at least)
Drop the board all the way down. Leave the motor trimmed down and in neutral. Turn the wheel slightly to the right and look at the drift of the boat. She should be wanting to drift with her nose a bit into the wind. Fool with the wheel and find the sweet spot. Lock the wheel with whatever device you installed.
Adjust the topping lift so the boom will clear the lifelines. Make sure to let out the mainsheet line also, and begin hoisting the sail. The plstic slides will make this much easier. As you hoist, it should encourage the boat to move little but keep her nose pointed slightly into the wind thereby reducing pressure on the sail. It might take a few minutes to get it up past the spreaders. A batten likes to get hung up. Take your time. Once the main is up and tight, and forget that trucker hitch thing for now, go back and gently pull the mainsheet in and watch the boat. She should head right up. Be careful you don't come about inadvertently. Now pull the daggerboard up about halfway. The boat should begin to crab forward and sideways but still be pointed sort of into the wind. This is an easy way to park the boat momentarily if you have to do something. Now drop and secure both rudders all the way down. Things should change little. Now pick up the motor and disconnect. So you get the true feel of the boat. Now sail away from anything youve happened to drift near, while experimenting with the wheel lock. You should be able to make the boat steer herself briefly with it. If she wants to head up, ease the main and pick up the board a bit. Now you can play with the jib sail at this point also.
On returning, don't anchor. Especially not in any waves. Look for a calm place even if it's a mile away. At least till you get used to the motion of the boat. Raise the board halfway, Find the sweet spot,lock the wheel and slowly either furl the jib or bag it (I use a clip on jib)
You may have to adjust the wheel partway through this job but usually I don't. Put the engine down and connect. The boat should still be happily sailing herself making this easy to do. Pick up the rudders and secure. Ease the main a bit if she wants to head up too much. The boat should now be drifting sideways and forward like before. Sheet in the sail until she's at a good angle to the wind to lower it. Uncleat the main halyard and pull the sail down. Lash it with a few ties and then disconnect the topping lift and let the boom lay on the portside deck alongside the winch there. I use a beach towel as padding. If there are any waves, the mast should be rotating back and forth vigorously. Start the engine and head for home.

Caveats. I have local waters different then yours of course. Alter above procedure as needed. My boat has skegs that make her behave better while doing this but it worked before the skegs.
Look for calm waters. Once you get the system down then you can to it in tougher conditions.

Opinions. Oh I have them. Did you notice? :D
I did not add the cockpit halyards and other controls. You will still have to tie in reef lines along the boom and if you need to do it, you'll really need to do it. By hoisting and handling the halyard at the mast you'll be used going on deck. There is the inmast sail furling option, and some people do fix the slab Reefing (what the oem system is) so they can do that from the cockpit as well. I fixed mine so I can take care of both lower corners of the sail from the mast and then tie the Reefing lines onto the boom on my way back to the cockpit. Day sailors will probably just lower the sails and motor if the weather turns bad. That's find too. It's why we bought this type of boat.
I got tired of the mast slamming around and placed a control line. I need it because I do not leave the boom connected to the topping lift. I lay it out of the way on the deck. I can tie it down very securely and with the mast rotation control line set up, nothing bangs or jounces around while motoring or rolling badly which these boats will sometimes do.

Hope this helps
Ixneigh

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robbarnes1965
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Re: Sailing alone (some questions, and some warning)

Post by robbarnes1965 » Mon Aug 27, 2012 8:14 am

Just to add to and repeat the previous and useful comments:

- make sure you are sufficiently away from land and heave-to with the wheel tied hard over to windward. The main will then become basically useless which is a good thing here.

- when raising/lowering main always loosen vang, mainsheet and make sure topping lift is attached as previously suggested

- the motor is not needed at this point but I like to have it on and sure it's running well. When putting up the sails the motor will help you come about to achieve the hove-to position.

The dagger board needs to be fully deployed to help keep the hove-to position. In fact, I like it down anytime you have enough water to sail. I will only pull it up when going downwind though a known shallow area. Very small increases in speed may be achieved with it up going downwind but it's not worth the risk of not having proper steerage if you have to turn upwind. The Mac is not a dinghy and single handing makes it harder to tend to everything than in a dinghy.

I echo the advice to replace the small wheel with a bigger one.

Rob

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Re: Sailing alone (some questions, and some warning)

Post by Retcoastie » Mon Aug 27, 2012 6:47 pm

You can solve one problem by doing away with the trucker's knot. This works as well, if not better than a trucker's knot, and is certainly better if you have trouble loosening the trucker's knot.

When raising, as the main gets near the top of the track, take one hand (A) and wrap the halyard around the cleat, pulling upwards. With the other hand(B) grab the halyard about three feet above the cleat and pull it away from the mast while holding the halyard tight upwards with the A hand. This will raise the sail higher in the track. Then, in a quick coordinated movement allow hand B to release the halyard while pulling up with hand A, taking up the slack. Repeat as many times as you feel necessary until you have the sail where you want it. At that point, cleat off the halyard. Now to take it down, all you have to release is the windings on the cleat.

Another thing that will make lowering a lot less trouble is lazy jacks. There are several system in the mods section. With lazy jacks there is much less worry about the boom being over the boat and the sail falling on deck. The lazy Jacks will catch the sail at about any angle and when it is down you can bring the boom back to center.

Put the large wheel back on.

Lastly, get a willing mate or an autopilot. Makes the whole process better when you can just stay into the wind.

Good Luck

Ken

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Phil M
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Re: Sailing alone (some questions, and some warning)

Post by Phil M » Tue Aug 28, 2012 8:55 am

Retcoastie wrote:
Lastly, get a willing mate or an autopilot. Makes the whole process better when you can just stay into the wind.


Ken

If you think an autopilot is expensive ( and it is) try costing out a willing mate. :D
My autopilot continually produces squeaks and noises, so something a willing mate might also do. :)

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Russ
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Re: Sailing alone (some questions, and some warning)

Post by Russ » Tue Aug 28, 2012 10:09 am

1) I'm not sure what you are using the trucker's hitch for. I leave the main halyard attached most of the time when underway, attached with a shackle (see below).
To raise: Pull into the wind, let the main sheet go free and run up and pull the sail up. As mentioned above, lube the track if it sticks, but it should go up pretty quick, then tie it off and go back to the cockpit.
Dropping shouldn't take much time either. Run up and drop it. Pull the sail down and tie it off with bungies once it's down and not blowing in the wind.
I do this all the time by myself.
Lines led aft may shave off a few seconds. Lazy jacks. There are ways to make it smoother.

Image

2) More questions about this. Is the motor detached and/or tilted. If it's tilted up and attached, it will put a LOT of pressure on the steering. Not good.
Are the rudders ALL the way down? If not, sideways pressure will make them tight. Make sure they are down and tied off so they can't creep up.

3) The centerboard is most needed when close-hauled and is not needed at all when running. At points in between, the board is needed in varying degrees, like this in general:

Close-hauled: board fully down
Beam reach: board halfway to three-quarters down
Broad reach: board one-quarter down
Run: board fully raised
Image

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Saxacussionist
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Re: Sailing alone (some questions, and some warning)

Post by Saxacussionist » Tue Aug 28, 2012 10:26 am

Phil M wrote:
Retcoastie wrote:
Lastly, get a willing mate or an autopilot. Makes the whole process better when you can just stay into the wind.


Ken

If you think an autopilot is expensive ( and it is) try costing out a willing mate. :D
My autopilot continually produces squeaks and noises, so something a willing mate might also do. :)


Not to mention - EXTREMELY HIGH MAINTENANCE...!

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Re: Sailing alone (some questions, and some warning)

Post by vizwhiz » Tue Aug 28, 2012 12:28 pm

Heaven Bound wrote:
Phil M wrote:
Retcoastie wrote:
Lastly, get a willing mate or an autopilot. Makes the whole process better when you can just stay into the wind.


Ken

If you think an autopilot is expensive ( and it is) try costing out a willing mate. :D
My autopilot continually produces squeaks and noises, so something a willing mate might also do. :)


Not to mention - EXTREMELY HIGH MAINTENANCE...!
Yeah, and you can always sell the autopilot! :wink: :wink:

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Re: Sailing alone (some questions, and some warning)

Post by robbarnes1965 » Tue Aug 28, 2012 12:34 pm

Don't forget that you don't have to apologize for yelling at the autopilot :)

I'm divorced twice, the autopilot looks cheaper and cheaper all the time!!! LOL

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Re: Sailing alone (some questions, and some warning)

Post by dive4it » Tue Aug 28, 2012 1:20 pm

Where is the "like" button on this forum?

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