Thursday, October 24, 2013

PDQ 32/34 tacks through less than 90 degrees--Or Sheeting Angles Part II

Rev. 11-16-2013

Ever since I stretch the hulls from 32' to 34' I guess I've been on a performance quest. I'm not a racer but I do like sailing efficiently and I like doing it by proper tuning, not hurling money at the problem. No Kevlar sails, tapered sheets or high-tech halyards.

In Sheeting Angles and Keels I proposed that by moving the genoa track inboard to a better sheeting angle I could get the boat to tack through about 92 degrees over ground vs 120-128 degrees with outboard leads   and see a 21% improvement in VMG. Great expectations. And that is exactly how it turned out.

Tacks through 85-90 degrees full-and-by.
VMG up 20-25%

Yup, I gave up a little boat speed, but now she points the right way and is much easier to steer to windward, not so twitchy on the edge of shaking sails and irons. With the inside lead position there is a MUCH wider bucket of acceptable VMG, from 45AW to 55AW; even 60AW is a little faster with the new lead position, since it is full sail instead of near luffing. I'm sure there are many times when higher pointing will mean fewer or no tacks, and that increases the gain further. It is helpful that the PDQ 32 actually has slightly greater draft and keel area to sail ratio than the PDQ 36. It is also similar to the sheeting on the Stiletto27 and 30, also beach cat rigged boats. Anyway, it works and this should have been the factory layout with a few tweaks. Much faster and better balanced than the self tacking jib.

Note that the outside sheet is still attached but slack; I will be putting a soft shackle on this to make it removable. I like the low-profile Garhauer snatch blocks; a great value and a lot of strength in a small package. I switched to low lead cars later; snatch blocks are too high and cause winch overrides.

A bunch of notes for those who might want to try this. First, the basics:

Do other things to make the boat fast. Anything that makes the boat move better will reduce leeway by increasing flow over the foils. 
  • Clean bottom
  • Watch the weight
  • Watch the windage
 Outhaul. Many cruisers set-and -forget, but this is wrong. A full main gives more power reaching, but a flat lower main is mandatory for pointing high. With a full lower main...
  • The jib will back wind the main and the slot is closed.
  • The mainsail leach will hook to windward (slow) when the boom is properly located near amidships (the traveler will be about 6-12" above the center line when beating, depending on the wind).
The outhaul is typically adjusted with the winch on the mast. If you have a main with an attached main (factory) you REALLY have to crank up the tension to get it flat; you're stretching cloth. With a loose foot it is easier, but the result is the same. IF you are going to set-and-forget, leave it flat. With the reefing points, make certain the foot is pulled flat with each reef; there is no good reason for a full reefed sail; you are trying to de-power and reduce drag. There is a too-small cleat on the boom for the outhaul and it is tricky (lead the line under the cleat) to cleat the line without loosing tension; I may add a jammer to the boom; I'll see how the new sail fits in a month.

Lead location. The fore-aft location is critical. There must be some provision for twist; the upper genoa leach must be able to open. If the existing location is proper, the new location will be a few inches aft. I used a 2-foot track, but in retrospect I should have used a longer track in case I get a new genoa with a different geometry. Monohulls will often use an extreme forward position reaching to limit twist when the sheet is eased, but this is seldom done on multihulls; if you take the trouble to adjust for reaching on a multihull you use your beam and move the sheeting point forward AND to the rail, nearer the midships cleat for the PDQ 32. Monohulls don't have the beam to do this, unless they use a wisker pole, which will probably drag in the water and break if reaching in  breeze.

Sheeting. There are several option with an inside tack and I have played with them all. The best choice depends on what sort of sailing you are doing.
  • Use a 15-foot utility line as the inside sheet. Grind the sheet in with the outer sheet, hook on the utility line, release the outside sheet and grind the inside sheet. In fact, the 15-foot line can be left attached and allowed to flop through the tack; it's too small to matter. This is what you see in the picture above.
  • Use a spinnaker sheet. Again, it is used as a utility sheet, released for tacking. Or the outside sheet can be removed and the spinnakar sheet becomes the working sheet and tacking becomes normal. I'm going to try this, attaching the outside sheets with Amsteel soft shackles. One down side is the sheets are one size too small for this duty and there is one more turning block.
  • Dedicated inside sheet. At first I thought that would be too much mess, but today I tried a removable inside sheet (attached with strope) that was rigged continuous, like a beach cat; this shortens the line and makes for quicker tacking. Definitely a good plan for a boat that does not have a spinnaker; there is no need to install the outside track, particularly if a 120% genoa is selected.
  • Note that on starboard tack the mainsheet must be on the forward winch and that grinding is hindered; you cannot turn the handle more than 120 degrees. However, if the main is already mostly in, a rocking motion works fine for trimming. If your genoa sheets more forward the track will be further forward and the problem goes away. 
Update: I've gone to using a complete separate set of sheets, detaching the set I'm not using. This is much handier when beating to windward, which is practical with the new found pointing ability. I have also chosen to rig them as continuous, as seen on beach cats. This combination seems practical for single handing in breezy fall conditions, though it does seem to leave more rope in the cockpit. While there is more of it, however, it is easier to manage since it doesn't tangle (no ends to make knots) and can be reached from one spot for either coiling or tacking.

Furling. While it is possible to sheet a 150% genoa inside the shrouds, it is really simpler with a 120% genoa (one that ends at the shrouds). Sheets hang-up less too. Alternatively, you can do as I did during this test and furl the 150% genoa slightly. To save trial and error, it is a handy practice to mark the furling line with a thread whipping at 40%, 80%, and 120% (different colors or different number of stripes).

Tighter sheeting angles. The sheeting angle is now ~ 16 degrees vs. the 10-12 degrees found on some monohulls. While tighter angle swill work on a boat wit low windage and a deep keel, that would be a mistake on a cat with high windage, shallow keels, and better footing speed potential. Even my Stiletto with a deep board would often go up wind better (rough conditions) when I hauled the lead out to about 16 degrees. The inside positions were only for smooth water.

This has been greatest performance enhancement for the dollar I have found for the PDQ. If you have a genoa, this is a no-brainer. With Gauhauer parts it was ~ $280.


(although this is not the gear I used, it is what I should have used and what I ended up with.)
  • Garhauer 1 1/4-inch track, 2 feet long.
  • Garhauer low lead block LLC-2. (I started with Garhauer 30 SN snatch blocks on cars and got horrendous over rides.)
  • Backing plate (under the ceiling; I threaded 1" x 1/4" aluminum strip I had, but other things will work.)
This is a Garhauer LLC-3 on 1 1/4" track, but the LLC-2 would be better.

And don't forget to drill/remove core/epoxy/re-drill/butyl the track mounting holes.


I need to build a new speed polar. I'm working on it.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Falling From the Masthead: a Catalog of Methods

Many sailors are justifiably terrified of climbing the mast. Given that most have no background in climbing and roped access, they're smart. Some do have experience, take a small short cut--perhaps something they've done many times, and reason to be safe--and get the chop.

A list of ways to make the Darwin Awards:


Fell out of sling, 9-meter mast, Ontario.  Hit the deck and lived. Instead of using a harness he made a simple sling with some webbing.

  • Obviously, a proper UIAA climbing harness or harness + bosuns chair is needed.

Crewman fell to death while working aloft on the Appledore. (wooden schooner). The victim had been hoisted by a winch in a boson's chair, but he had unweighted the halyard by climbing in the rigging. When he fell, the belayer had failed to keep slack out of the line, was caught by surprise, and the turns jumped off the winch. The belayer was not wearing gloves and was unable to control the fall.

  • Belayers must pay attention.
  • Slack must be kept out of the line.
  • Belayers should strongly consider wearing gloves.
  • Belayer training was not adequate.
  • A secondary belay should be used. This is required by OSHA; given the potential for failure of rigging demonstrated in this and other examples, the precaution is warranted. The rigging is not designed for climbing (a climbing belay devise would not suffer this failure type) and is often not inspected prior to climbing.

A plastic mast head sheave crumbled and when the halyard dropped it was cut just enough to allow it to part under the shock load. Since he was not using a second halyard, he fell from the spreaders to the deck, destroying his sailors right leg and requiring years of PT, a new artificial knee, and multiple bits of titanium. "The scars on his calf looked like shark bite after the bone ripped his leg apart and from multiple surgeries. For years, that's what he told people; a shark bite." An experienced sailor.

  • Good practice and boson chair manuals always require 2 halyards. They often recommend internal halyards, because they seem more failure resistant (no swivel), but they are not failure-proof.

Attaching chair by incorrect fittings. Worker clipped the rope to an inspection ring (sort of like a key ring) rather than the structural tie-in point. Dead.
  • There were instructions, but he did not heed them. Read all of the instructions.

Attaching harness by incorrect fittings. Climber attached rope to elastic strap intended only for retaining belt tail. Also climber attached to anchor by accessory loops of harness. Both resulted in product recalls that involved removing harness accessories, because people were dumb enough to tie to them, in spite of warning labels. Read the warning labels. Several injured, one dead.
  • Read all of the instructions. 

Fell out of harness (harness still on rope). Several cases, two causes: did not double webbing back through buckle; did not have waist loop tight over smallest portion of waist and inverted.
  • Read the manual and ALL instruction tags. There can be design differences.
  • Harness or bosun's chair MUST fit correctly. All buckles must have adequate length, including spare length as required in instructions. Waist loop MUST be secured to the smallest part of the waist such that harness cannot be forced down under any amount of pressure; if the climber does not have a waist, they cannot climb.

Rope jammed, could not lower. In a more comical than serious incident, a man British sailor spent three and a half hours in the rain waiting for the fire brigade to work out a way to get him down when his pulley system jammed while he was at the top of his 13 metre mast. The existence of a nearby 10 metre lock allowed the fire fighters to sink the yacht, then topple the boat slightly with a rope and place a ladder against the mast to retrieve the embarrassed sailor. Quoted local Avon firefighter - 'I have never had a rescue like this before!' (should have been able to rig alternate). Boat was seriously damaged.

  • Have a rescue/lowering plan. He could have been seriously injured from circulation restriction in his legs. He was very lucky. He should have been trained in how to lower himself. There should have been a second halyard.
 Belay error. The sailor ascended to the top to do some work, climbing off line tension. For some reasons the original belayer was relieve by another. Finished, the sailor leaned back on the rope. Unfortunately, there had been a miscommunication, and the belayer was holding the wrong rope. The climber hit the deck from 50 feet, surviving, but breaking most of the bones on one side.

  • Test your weight before lowering.
  • Don't casually switch belayers.

Clipped to Spinnaker Shackle.
"30 years ago I had one on the spinnaker halyard of my half tonner (30'). I needed to go to the masthead to work on the instruments. I hitched it to my bosun's chair and asked a pal to haul me up. He, being wiser said "Don't go up on that unless you have taped it closed." We had no tape handy and I thought he was a buffoon anyway and said as much.

He hauled and I climbed. Then I began work. After about ten minutes, and feeling very confident, I kicked myself out and round the mast to get to the other side. Suddenly I was in free fall. Instantly I clutched on to the mast like a koala bear. It only slowed my descent as I watched the shrouds begin sawing through the tendons of my wrists. They were getting wider apart as I descended so were cutting deeper with every foot I slid. I had to decide whether to let go to save my wrists or to hang on even tighter in the hope that I could stop my fall before my wrists cut through and I would let go anyway. I hung on - and eventually stopped falling.

Feeling certain that my buffoon pal had not cleated the line off properly on the winch I hollered "Nigel put that line on the winch properly this time." There was no answer until I saw him a good 100 yards away out of earshot. Then I looked down and the rope was still properly on the winch. Then I looked above my head and saw the snap shackle - open.

Still wearing the bosun's chair heavily laden with tools in a bucket hung on and with a very slim mast section, I simply climbed back to the top and, hanging with one hand, re-clipped myself on. Of course that was an impossible thing for me to do, but that adrenaline is wonderful stuff!

Have I ever had one of these come open--you bet--but only once and never again! I believe the little 3" long rope tassel I had put on the toggle might have had something to do with it. Yes, these are wonderful for sail halyards, sheets and guys; but for people, never. I ran my mountain climber nephew up the stick in his mega-buck climbing harness. Verdict on why the shackle released? The lanyard was pulled into the sheave of the pulley at the masthead, and when the halyard got snug, it put enough tension on the lanyard to cause it to release.

So, no more lanyard for you! Replaced it with a smaller split ring. All good after several hoists! :-)"

(Actually, he's still an idiot. NEVER use a snap shackle to secure people overhead. Tie a figure 8 on a bight and use  locking carabiner, or tie the knot directly around the harness suspension points.)

  • Using a snap shackle overhead is dumb. Either tie directly or use a locking carabiner.
  • Climbing on a single line is dumb.
  • Wear Atlas Fit gloves for better grip on mast.

Unknown. BAY CITY, MI — A 77-year-old Bay City man is dead after falling from the top of his sail boat.
Bay County Sheriff's deputies, Bangor Township firefighters and McLaren Bay-Region paramedics responded to a 911 call at the Bay City Yacht Club, 3315 Shady Shores Drive, at 3:53 p.m. Saturday, July 12. Witnesses placed the call after Gaitis Skabardis fell about 50 feet from the mast of his boat to the vessel's deck and landed on his right side, said Bay County Sheriff's Lt. James Chlebowski.
The boat was docked at the time.
Skabardis' brother and son witnessed the incident. "Before we got there… he made mention to his son that he couldn't breathe after he fell," Chlebowski said. Shortly thereafter, Skabardis stopped breathing and slipped into unconsciousness.
Medical personnel attempted to save Skabardis, but were unable to, Chlebowski said.
Skabardis may have had a medical event prior to the fall, the lieutenant added.
"We know that he unbuckled his safety harness from the boatswain's chair prior to him falling for an unknown reason," Chlebowski said.

  • If assistance is available, keep them around. Presuming he has a heart attack or similar, he could have been quickly lowered. 
No training, poor physical condition, poor equipment. Thames River, SV Albatros, May 2004.
A 76 year old 230-pound passenger asked to climb the ratlines on a wooden schooner. He was given minimal training and was fitted with a safety belt (not harness) attached with a non-locking carabiner, which apparently clipped itself to the ratlines.

"The deckhand recalled that, at about 1450, Mr Kneller had climbed approximately 8 metres above deck level. He recalled observing that as Mr. Kneller was about to take a step upwards, he released the karibiner clip on his lifeline from the ratline, froze for some seconds, released his grip, and fell
backwards. He landed on the ship’s side railings above the gunwale next to the deckhand, before falling overboard into the sea"
  • Lack of training...
  • Improper harness.
  • Non-locking carabiner.
  • Not in suitable physical condition.


Please note that EVERY accident was preventable and all included some operator error. It is not the climbing that is dangerous, but rather poor training and inattention to detail; some of these climbers were extremely experienced, having ascended many times. The number of serious accidents as a result of climbing the mast, when compared to the number of rock climbing accidents and the far greater number of climbers, is orders of magnitude higher. Get some training.I've known too many people to get hurt.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Oh Dear...

In order to listen to a movie without inverter hum (I've got Bose speakers but my inverter puts out square wave power) I decided to plug in. I spent the night on the boat in order to be closer to Annapolis for the morning boat show.

But all the GFIs were tripped.

Let's see...
  1. Only 4 non-water proof plugs, in addition to the 2 plugs on the box.
  2. One unrestrained hot plug that can be kicked into the water.
  3. One plug that had enough tension to pull the box off the piling (fender was rigged against it).

After unplugging the GFI-trip offender I left a note gently explaining why this is collection of cords is dangerous and non-functional. The boat has not left the dock since the new owner bought her, and I doubt if it ever will. I've not heard the engine run. He did ask me if the problem with the tap water could be that the tank was empty....

Ordinarily I rely on solar and and inverter and only plug in for a few hours when I am present. I am quite glad of that.


When I came back 10 days later...
  •  The note was still in place, unread.
  • A cord had been added, reaching to the next outlet over (2 slips, not in use).
  • The outlet was still tripped. I'm guessing it was either still wet and couldn't be reset (probably not) or didn't know how to reset it (probable). Since there was nothing plugged in, it should not have tripped even if raining. 
  • The outlet worked fine, after I reset it.
It had not rained since. Perhaps that outlet is less sensitive. Perhaps it will trip next rain.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Searching Forums and Blogs

Perhaps everyone but me knew this trick already, but here goes....

Often forums, blogs, state government sites and even many commercial sites have lame search engines. Blogger's search engine is pretty good, but even a plural (boat vs. boats) will throw it off the sent. Today I learned a very simple solution. For example, to find posts on genoa sheeting angles on Multihulls4us... genoa sheeting angle

or genoa sheeting angle

... will take you right there with much greater accuracy and fewer false leads than the search engine on the site or Google without the site: command.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013