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

   Yep, 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....<;-)



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:






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.




RE: going about in a very light boat

   What 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. 


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