First, I sail mostly singlehanded. On purpose. But that means the boat has to be less party boat and more easily handled.
What can you do to make a boat easier to handle by yourself? Glad you asked.
First, though, there has been in the last few years a real change in sailboat design catering to those who would use their craft as a floating porch, a vacation home, a party boat. Controls have been moved farther from the helm and they've been made harder to use - all in the name of more living space. More on that later. But now that I can fit 27 or 28 people in the cockpit, I couldn't reach the mainsheet.
The newer boats are the epitome of living space. That's not necessarily a good thing. First, in a seaway there's nothing to hold on to. There are great gaping voids below that are punctuated with corners and shin high seating. As long as the boat is level, you're cool. But pitching while heeled, that's a different issue....
Anyway, I digress.
So, the Ericson (that I will refer to from now on as 'Inertia' since that's its name) has a lovely interior - the only really wide space is where the galley is between the nav station and stove. But there are bars to hang on to. Once again, more on that later.
But outside - the mainsheet was on the cabin top - this was to get it out of the cockpit for more party room. Unfortunately, it means that a main under pressure is impossible to sheet in because the sheeting is at the center of the boom rather than the end. It requires the use of the winches unless you're way off the wind, and if you're not, you have to luff up to pull the sheet in or move the traveler to windward.
This is wholy unsatisfactory but the way I sailed the first year. The boat in it's then configuration was almost impossible to singlehand, and I was beginning to think I had made a really big mistake in buying it.
So I changed the parts on the mainsheet from 5 to 1 to 10 to 1 but that wasn't too satisfactory either - the amount of line laying about was excessive. Remember, by doubling the ratio, I halved the effort, but doubled the amount of line required to move it. Still, the traveler was an issue.
This was the way I sailed for the second year, though. Fortunately, I didn't encounter any really big winds, so I managed. But there still was some apprehension involved in going out on my own for any length of time.
At the beginning of the third year, (here comes the plug) I purchased the following gear from Garhauer Marine:
- Spring loaded boomvang, so I could get rid of the topping lift
- Genoa track cars
- New heavy duty mainsheet track and traveler car
- 2 - 2 line and 2 - 3 line breaks for the cabin roof
- Genoa furler blocks that mount on the stanchions (3)
That said, the most important thing I purchased was the mainsheet traveler. I installed it in the cockpit at the aft edge of the bridgedeck. Mmmm. Perfect. I can manage the main from the helm. What a difference!
The genoa track cars make handling the sail so much easier. Shaping can be accomplished in all conditions, especially when reefed.
The hard vang simplifies mainsail control - instead of having a pull up line (topping lift) and a pull down line (vang), it's just one. And I ran it to the coach roof. Wonderful! Also - it looks high-tech.
The next thing I did to help out was to bring the lines from the mast and boom like reefing lines and halyards aft to the cockpit roof. I used the new line brakes for that. No big deal, but they are quite fetching. And rebuildable. And all metal.
Now I can manage the sails singlehandedly with confidence and alacrity. Next up in the saga: new sails, and the plug may be for Somerset Sails. But they won't be here for a few weeks.....
See you on the water!