RE: Four questions from a novice's first harbor solo

Eric Johnson (
Thu, 19 Aug 1999 09:13:17 -0700

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West Wight Potter Website at URL
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> 1) When "heaving to" why is it suddenly okay to cleat the main, when
> all the other times that is the BIG no-no ?? I tried this yesterday,
> and I held the main sheet, just in case, while I watched the boat to
> see what she would do. She sort of weaved back and forth, one
> sail filling, and then the other... didn't go anywhere,
> didn't tip... so
> finally when I felt it was stable, I climbed into the hatch... I don't
> mean
> inside, I just stood there to fix a line on the mast... and
> THEN a puff
> made it tip ! I was still clutching the mainsheet, and I wasn't about
> to wait around to SEE how far it would tip... so I yanked it out and
> it righted.... so what's the scoop? Do YOU cleat the main when
> "hove to" ? Talk to me !

I do, but i have a P19. I have hove in some obscenely strong winds without
incident or excessive heeling. I don't usually trim the main in tightly when
hove. But on the 19 with all its ballast you can usually get away with
cleating the main anyways.

> 2) Is downwind running a dangerous point of sail? I feel so vulnerable
> when the main sheet is all the way out to the little knot keeping it
> from going through the block... usually I find security in
> knowing that
> if anything happens (tipping) I can let out the main... but at this
> point
> the main IS out !! What happens THEN if a gust comes? Yes, I have
> a boom vang, which I keep tight. What is the worst that
> will happen to
> me if a gust comes and I'm running downwind?

It is dangerous, but not specifically for the reason to describe. Its
dangerous because a wind shift can cause an unexpected gybe, which is hard
on your head and the rig. When overpowered from behind, you don't get
knocked over because you're not tripping over the centerboard. There's two
likely things than could happen: You'll start to plane, which would be a way
cool ride... the other thing is you could broach, which i don't think would
be very fun in a 15. You broach when the wind overpowers you enough to
actually lift the stern from the water. Then you suddenly have no rudder
control because little of the rudder is in the water. With the boom
presumably wide out, you'll have tremendous weather helm and get spun
around. I think this might then be a potential knockdown situation for a 15.
I've broached many times in high winds in Saratgoa Passage in my 19, and
she's always landed on her feet, nose-to-the-wind.

But it takes a LOT of wind to do that, and since you're heading downwind,
the apparent wind (which is what your boat sees) is less than the true wind.
What gets spooky is to go on a long downwind run, hit a waypoint or whatever
and get back on the wind, and be shocked by the amount of true wind.

But downwind sailing in a blow is a LOT of fun...

> 3) As I motored out, I was under the impression that if I slow the motor
> down to lowest speed (no idle on Honda 2hp 4stroke), that the boat
> would face into the wind, due to the pointy end of the boat,
> and I could
> safely raise my sails, get situated, then trim and sail away ! But
> that's
> not what happened ! The boat, if I let go the tiller, would instantly
> be
> pushed by the wind, and start to turn around,... it wanted to go
> downwind!
> Methinks that is NOT the position to raise the main !!! Finally I got
> the
> tiller lashed in the center, and the wind lightened, and it held for
> long
> enough to leap up and raise the main and get back down there before
> it turned around. Please advise !

I don't know where you got that idea :) You'll get weather helm with sails
up... all bets are off under motor power. In heavy winds when singlehanding
I wrestle the main up as high as I can - then it acts as a weatherwave and
points the rig into the wind. Eventually i can get the main all the way up
and only then do i mess with headsails.

> 4) When ready to go, and when sitting on the windward side of the dock,
> with no idle position to one's motor, how in the heck does
> "one" prepare
> the tiller to drive you away, not into, the dock, watch the
> pilings that
> are
> fifty feet away, maybe less, to windward, (I think that's how you say
> that)
> and the wind wants to push one back up the very shallow ramp and into
> the dock, and how does one turn around, and pull their motor
> starter 3 to
> five times (that's what it takes me) AND shove off so the running prop
> isn't
> banging into the dock.... HELP !!!

experience :) Chapman's and the Annapolis book of seamanship give a lot of
tricks for dealing with docking situations with various wind conditions.
Getting to the lee side of the dock buys you a lot of options.

> I am SO eager for any input y'all feel like sharing with this very novice
> sailor.
> My father is an experienced San Juan 21 sailor, and I will
> certainly ask him
> these things too, as well as have him go out with me and continue my
> learning
> with him at my side... but YOU guys are the experienced POTTER sailors.

well I'm getting >experience<, thats for sure, though that does not really
imply I'm any good at any of this!

We gotta get the NW crowd together for a sail now that there's so many new
potterers in the area. Maybe we should all just go up and take over Sucia
for a weekend... :)