going about in a very light boat

Hi, I have a skerry, balanced lug rig. I am a bit of a novice dinghy sailor, and have struggled to do two things well in the skerry. Point upwind very close, and go about with ease. I have played with moving my centre of effort back and forth over the centreboard, and got the helm pretty balanced in moderate breeze, and going about semi-OK. But last weekend sailed in 15-20 knots, with a reef in, and as the skerry is so light, every time I came up into the wind she would lose power, and I would have to fall back onto the same tack. My only recourse was to hold the boom in place with one hand, steer with the other and hold the sheet with the third (?). Not fun with strong gusts and whitecaps all aorund. Any advice on effortlessly going about in all wind strengths? 


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RE: going about in a very light boat

áááYep, you have nailed one of the challenging skills in a skerry. What I am learning, coming from the keelboat world, is in big breeze and chop, enter tacks with speed and complete quickly. That may mean bear off a bit for speed then hard over. Shift weight to help. Two people were easier because the extra mass meant momentum. Time tacks between waves or use a wave to boost the tack depending. Keep the luff very tight. And sometimes I had to jibe around. Reef for the gusts because the lug rig overpowers the skerry downwind.

RE: going about in a very light boat

The only thing I'd add is this: Stay well out from a lee shore! Nothing is worse than getting close to a lee shore in a high wind, trying to come about, and finding yourself in irons. That's when panic hits!

Like Mummichog I try to sail into those turns with lots of speed and make them quick -- almost like going from one beam reach to another.  

RE: going about in a very light boat

   Hey, at least with a skerry on a lee shore, unless it's breakers on rocks, the worst is you have is to hop out and get wet/muddy, maybe bang up your paint a bit.  Lose it w/ a 5 ton, 6' draft keelboat on a lee shore and you have a lot more of a hassle on your hands.  

But, I'll reinforce my earlier comment to reef early.  I was out in 15+ knots true, reaching upwind without much trouble, and when I bore off to go home, the skerry accelerated to hull speed in a blink.  The problem is that it isn't a planing hull, so it digs a hole for itself in the water and when you try to jibe reach to reach, it gets really unstable.  I was unable to jibe safely until I stopped, dropped the sail in my lap, got the reef in and rehoisted.  In choppy water this took a while and was not easy.  Once I had the reef, it behaved much better, and jibes and tacks were now possible.  That lug sail is well more than enough area for the skerry in winds above 10 knots.  Reef and relax.

RE: going about in a very light boat

Don't forget the "chicken jibe" option where you do a 300° tack instead of a 60° jibe when it gets "interesting".   

RE: going about in a very light boat

It may help to make sure you are keeping your weight (I'm assuming you are sailing alone here) well forward toward the middle of the boat.  A boat with fine ends like Skerry can be mighty sensitive to trim that way.  If she's down at the stern much, she won't point well, which condition will worsen as the wind picks up.  This is because the the wind will be blowing the correspondingly higher bow off, and you'll be constantly putting the helm down trying to make the rest of the boat chase downwind to catch up with the bow, so to speak.  This is obviously not good for windward work.  A bit of positive weather helm is good for upwind performance, and a perfectly normal thing as the wind picks up and the boat heels.

If you are already sitting as far forward as the boat's layout will permit and she stills feels a bit down by the stern, make sure your've got any of your heavier gear (anchor, water, food, etc.) stowed forward some to help balance out your own weight.  Mind, you don't want a ton of heavy stuff right up in the bow, as this will cause other problems, but some extra water stowed up by the mast step, if you've nothing much else to shift, will help keep her going along more happily in trim.

The suggestions of others above are good.  Make sure the boat is moving along well before you put the helm down to initiate the tack, even if you have to fall off slightly (don't get too carried away with that) just before.  The trick is to have sufficient momentum to get her head across the wind quickly and the sail drawing on the new tack before she goes dead in the water.  Obviously, this gets trickier as the wind picks up.

Practice, practice, practice....<;-)

.....Michael

 

RE: going about in a very light boat

 

   I'd say I'm in the "same boat" as a relative novice except with a sloop rigged dory. Or more like an untutored sailor for many years. Today was my second time out and this week is my first week sailing a boat with a jib. For the life of me, in 9-10 mph wind, I could not come about or even get close to wind more than once or twice. I had the tiller all the way over and still coulding keep a heading close hauled or enough momentum for the tack. I would try to pick up speed and go at it again. And yes, I ended up on the lee shore (which was fine because I decided to set up to row back across the reservoir given more pressing engagements in the afternoon (one of the reasons I got the dory: oars).

I suspect my problem is not handling the jib correctly. Any suggestions on setting it? or rather adjusting it for current needs? When to have the jib halyard pulled taut, how to set the sheets relative to one another?

I had my main sheet pulled all the way in as I am accustomed to doing but I think the jib was undoing me?. Any resources for setting sails and reading telltales? Any good books?  Cheers!

 

RE: going about in a very light boat

Take a look over at offcenterharbor.com, they have a free get-acquainted period but even the monthly fee isn’t exhorbitant for the wealth of info or sheer entertainment value within.

Here’re several on how to sail, including setting sails for performance:

https://www.offcenterharbor.com/category/how-to-sail/?ref=1

 

 

 

 

RE: going about in a very light boat

In some boats putting the tiller all the way over is a bad idea. The rudder stalls out, loses all effectiveness as a steering force generator and produces nothing but drag. The boat then slows down to where it loses all steerage way and stops dead headed directly into the wind.

Instead, you need to be subtle and use only enough rudder to start the bow swinging and finish the turn with the sheet, trimming the sail to provide the balance of the turning force.

Long narrow boats, especially, want to keep tracking straight. My Bolger-based schooner has a deep barn door-sized balanced rudder which lets you slam it over and have the boat respond like a short dinghy. I've never been caught in irons in that one. My Faering Cruiser, on the other hand, needs to be sailed through a turn. Throwing the rudder all the way over makes it act like a brake, as described above, even when loaded to nearly 1/2 a ton of weight. The momentum is not enough to overcome the drag.

Laszlo

 

 

RE: going about in a very light boat

áááWhat Laszlo said! Also, I am relearning the nature of dinghy dagger and centerboards, that most are quite thin and need forward motion to generate lift. My old lead mine keelboats had a fat keel section that could get lift, counteracting leeway, at very low speeds. Thin daggerboards and rudder blades stall and lose lift at relatively low angles of attack. That means getting speed up on a reach then tightening up to a beat. Likewise, start turns with small rudder angles. And on all rigs, chronic overtrimming of the sails is frequent. True for both main and jib.

RE: going about in a very light boat

You might also experiment with location of your bodyweight. In my dory I found that if I sit too far forward, too much of the rudder is out of the water and the boat becomes unresponsive. I like to sail on very windy days (like today) and I am almost always seated on the stern thwart (not the sternsheets, mind you)--or the rail just above the stern thwart. That lifts weight off the bow, gives better steerage, counteracts the downward force of the mast foot, and in the very best of gusts allows the boat to plane. 

 

RE: going about in a very light boat

   Am soon approaching first launch for my Skerry, and so am now reading these helpful posts on how to sail her.  The light weight of the boat concerned me, so I'd built next to the daggerboard well two small upright channels, within which to place a 10 lb dumbbell weight on each side of the daggerboard well, for extra ballast.  I don't know if they'll make much difference but figure they can't do any harm.  I'll be sailing with the balanced lug reefable sail, and certainly do hope there are no problems tacking, and pointing high.  Will report back later this summer with results. 

RE: going about in a very light boat

I've used jugs of water for "trimming" ballast in various boats.  Not as dense as your dumbbells, but about as dense as the water with which your boat will be mostly filled if you are swamped or capsized, and therefore neutral once submerged.  "A pint's a pound, the world around," if that's fresh water, so a gallon jug of drinking water is about eight pounds.  A few of those can make a lot of difference in a small boat, especially when singlehanding.

The jug handles allow you to tie 'em to the dagerboard trunk, or wherever else you need 'em, so they don't shift around too much, and you can be a bit more casual about how firmly they're lashed down than you might with the dumbbells.  Also less likely to damage the boat if they shift or get dropped.

Plus, which, if the wind goes slack and leaves you with a long row home in 95 degree heat with the sun beatin' down on you like the hammers of hell, you can drink your ballast, dump it over the side to lighten ship, or rinse yourself off with it to ease your suffering, as you see fit.  On the other hand, if it got really bad, to the point where you're halucinatin', the dumbbells might start talkin' and maybe talk you into lashin' 'em to your ankles and dumpin' yourself over the side to ease your suffering!  Wouldn't be fittin'.  <;-)

.....Michael

 

RE: going about in a very light boat

In my (limited) experience with the gunter-sloop rigged Skerry, it helps to keep your weight to the old windward side until after the boom crosses the mid-line in light airs.   

I'm having the same problem as Mummichog with running downwind.  I was out in 15+ kts a couple of weeks ago (the weekend after July 4).  Apparently, everyone was still on vacation and the lake was covered up with power boats.  I sailed successfully upwind, with main only, about four miles.  When I turned around to head back, I felt very unstable and felt like a broach or accidental jibe was a breath away the whole time.  (I've intentionally avoided bringing a windex to force myself to learn the wind.  I should have had one that day.) I realized I didn't know exactly the direction of the wind and it was constantly shifting anyway, so I avoided direct running, but the jibes were very tedious in that wind and chop. My main does not have a reefing option.  In a reach, you can quickly de-power with a "fisherman's reef" if needed.  In a run, the sail is already all the way out.  I don't know how to de-power that.  I made it a couple of miles running (very broad reaches), surfing and taking boat chop from all directions until the "seas" were literally hitting from every direction at the same time.  I think, at that moment, I was doing everything possible to control the boat, short of turning around and reaching.  Even so, the beam seas met the following seas and the chop off the bow and I experienced my first capsize.  That was a learning experience, the main lesson being a capsize isn't a big deal if you're prepared, but you need to be prepared. 

I've been in similar situations before, without the actual capsize.  I'm beginning to realize, I'm missing something about maintaining control in a run. 

Hooper 

RE: going about in a very light boat

Hooper, can you please elaborate on how to be prepared for a capsize?

I worry about capsizing. Dunno why since I've done canoe camping for years in a tandem canoes and they can't be self-righted without getting to shore first. Never tipped one of those.

RE: going about in a very light boat

 John,

I'll start a new thread:  Capsize Preparation  

Hooper

RE: going about in a very light boat

   Hooper, given that the gunter rig is even taller and more area than the lug rig, I would heartily recommend getting a set of reef points put on the sail and use them.  Any good loft can do it (I can barely patch a rip w/ needle and thread).  The only thing I would wonder is if there's an issue with peaking up the gunter yard on a shortened sail.  I'm sure John can tell you.  If you are agile and have an agile crew, you could do those jibes in 15+, but you'd better be quick across and handle the sheet quickly.  It would be a dynamic maneuver.  The cross seas are a worse problem and make it more important to be able to reef, IMO.  The Severn in front of the Naval Academy gets terrible on weekend afternoons, with big power boats roaring in and reflecting wakes off the sea wall.

RE: going about in a very light boat

   Hooper, given that the gunter rig is even taller and more area than the lug rig, I would heartily recommend getting a set of reef points put on the sail and use them.  Any good loft can do it (I can barely patch a rip w/ needle and thread).  The only thing I would wonder is if there's an issue with peaking up the gunter yard on a shortened sail.  I'm sure John can tell you.  If you are agile and have an agile crew, you could do those jibes in 15+, but you'd better be quick across and handle the sheet quickly.  It would be a dynamic maneuver.  The cross seas are a worse problem and make it more important to be able to reef, IMO.  The Severn in front of the Naval Academy gets terrible on weekend afternoons, with big power boats roaring in and reflecting wakes off the sea wall.

RE: going about in a very light boat

Hooper:

Yes, by all means, get some reef points fitted and put 'em to use before you head off downwind with a snootful of wind up her skirts and a following sea trying to make the steering more challenge than might be fun.  The faster she goes, the likelier she is to bury her bow in one wave while another grabs her stern to initiate a broach, a behavior more likely in long, narrow boats with fine ends.

Also, you might find that the mainsail needs a boom vang to control sail twist as you ease the sheet out for a broad reach or a run.  That sort of twist can contribute to starting a rythmic "death roll" which may end in capsize.  This is also particularly troublesome in long, narrow boats with fine ends.  One of the advantages of the lug rig is that the geometry of the arrangement is somewhat "self vanging", the halyard and downhaul keeping tension on both luff and leech to somewhat limit how much the peek of the yard can twist off.  Absent an effective boom vang, you may need to keep the boom sheeted in more than you might think to keep the upper part of the sail from twisting off far enough forward to cause problems.

.....Michael

RE: going about in a very light boat

Oh, one other thing about downwind sailing with waves getting up, also especially true in long, narrow boats with fine ends....

As you ease the sheets heading off on a very broad reach or a run, the boat will begin to roll quite a bit more than she will with the wind forward of the beam, because the wind pressure on the sails no longer has a strong dampening effect.  To dampen this rolling, it is important to gently steer toward the direction toward which the boat is rolling.  This is counterintuitive, of course.

When the wind is more or less abeam or forward, a gust of wind will cause the boat to heel over.  In this case, the intuitive, and correct, response is to put the helm down a bit to allow the boat to "feather" up slightly to ease the pressure, then up helm and bear off as the gust slackens before she can lose much leeway.  With the wind aft, however, you can't really spill the gusts, and the rolling needs to be countered by "steering the boat back under her sticks" as she rolls one way or the other.  In other words, steer toward the roll, not away from it.

As you head from a broad reach more downwind, the rolling will become more evenly bilateral and more pronounced, but the principle is the same.  Steering toward the roll helps prevent a "broach" (the boat leaning over and turning across the wind suddenly), which can precipitate a capsize as the boat's inertia tries to continue carrying her downwind, sorta like what happens if you take a sudden, hard turn in a farm truck overloaded with a big stack of hay.

Imagining that big stack of hay as you start to roll when the wind is aft might be the best way to think about it--steer back under the load before it leans over too far and tips the truck over.  With a little practice, this becomes somewhat automatic and you start to anticipate it so that your steering movements are more like subtle pressure and less like working a pump handle.  <;-)

.....Michael

RE: going about in a very light boat

Fiddlesticks.  I meant to say "...to ease the pressure, then up helm and bear off as the gust slackens before she can lose much headway," not "leeway."  Where's my proofreader gotten off to, the slacker?

.....Michael

RE: going about in a very light boat

   Mummichog and Gramps,

This is exactly the kind of advice I need.  I can’t wait to start trying some of it out.

Thank you!

Hooper

RE: going about in a very light boat

Hooper:

Sounds like you are well on your way to getting through your learning curve, which curve often has some bumps in it.  Just be careful, and try to work your way up the Beaufort Scale as you gain confidence.  If you get to the launch site and things don't feel quite right...well, there is no shame in waiting for a bit to see what the wind is doing, or even leaving it for another day.  The confidence will come with time and practice.

.....Michael

RE: going about in a very light boat

   The skerry is so light and slippery, it doesn't take much pressure to accelerate it to hull speed PDQ.  Since it's really a displacement hull, any more force than that just tries to drive it under, not pop it up on a plane.  My first time w/ real breeze was a great reach, but when I tried to tack to go home, the chop and wind prevented the tack.  So, being a keelboater, I figured "wear around" by jibing and coming back up on the other reach.  But.... The skerry accelerated past hull speed in a moment as I bore off and the wind pressure went from trying to heel it to just pushing forward.  That put me in a hole and trying to jibe it through threatened to capsize.  I gave up, dropped sail to put the reef in and it was all good.

RE: going about in a very light boat

Yep.  I'm basically self-taught.  I think a big part of my problem is that most of my reading and video watching has been from sailors in the U.K.  Those people will sail in anything:

Hooper

 

   

RE: going about in a very light boat

   Yea, but at least he's reefed!

RE: going about in a very light boat

If the main is ''all the way in'' you might be trying to sail too close to the wind. That may be why others suggested falling off to gain speed.

Another thought might be to back wind the jib to bring the bow around. Or in other words leave it sheated in, cleated. Then round up and tack. The jib will back wind and push the bow through the tack. Then as it goes through release the cleat.

Note failure to release after the bow goes through the wind can result in swimming from light boats in heavy winds.    

RE: going about in a very light boat

Ditto Grumpy.  If you have a jib up, back-winding will make it a lot easier to come about.  I have not yet developed the coordination to handle the main, jib and tiller all by myself.  Of course I'm trying to do it without any cleats at all.  Some sort of cleats for the jib sheets may be in my future.

Hooper  

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