Monday, August 29, 2016

Driving to Windward...

... With a Cat with Low Aspect Keels

Those of you that learned the sport racing Hobies and Prindles probably know this stuff, but for the rest of you cruising cat sailors....

No Back Stay. This means that the forestay cannot be kept tight unless you want to turn your boat into a banana and over stress the shrouds. Although swept back, they are only designed for the side force and a trace of forward pull. Real tension on the forestay comes from mainsheet tension.

Why must the forestay stay tight? Sag allows the genoa to become more full, since a sagging forestay has the effect of injecting more sailcloth into the sail. The draft moves aft, the slot is pinched, drag increases, and lift does not. This is OK off the wind, but not to windward, since heeling and leeway (sideslip) increase, which also increases drag. Going to windward is about lift:drag, not just power.

How do you keep from easing the mainsheet in strong winds? Ease the traveler a little, being certain to keep the main outhaul tight (a full main pinches the slot). Reef; it's better to keep a smaller sail tight than a larger sail loose. You will see monos with the main twisted off in a blow. Ignore them, they are not cats. Use the traveler instead. It is also physically much easier to play the traveler than the main sheet.

Sheeting Angles. Depending on whether you have stock keels, you may or may not have enough area to support large headsails or have them positioned correctly for balance (the keel mod was written up in Practical Sailor). Either way, the genoa lead angles must be in the appropriate range. Too tight, you sail sideways. Too loose and you can't point. I covered it pretty well in the link below. The goal is be able to crank the jib in tight and flat without pinching the slot.

Sheeting Angles and Keels

In general, 7-10 degrees is discussed for monos that want to pinch up to 40 degrees true, but 14-16 degrees makes more sense for cruising cats that will sail at 50 degrees true. Try to match narrow angles and you are kidding yourself, just like the folks that believe tacking down wind is faster than wing-and-wing. It isn't, just look at the polar and watch the racers.Before you go making changes or getting sheet envy, set up some temporary barber haulers and experiment. I did.

Again, you are not a mono, you have less keel, and slightly wider tacking angles will be faster for you. You also do not have a hull speed limit; let that work for you. Just don't get tempted off onto a reach.

Watch the fore/aft lead as well. You want the jib to twist off to match the main. Typically it should be right on the spreaders, but that depends on the spreaders. If you have aft swept shrouds, you may need to roll up a little genoa, 105% max.

Leach Tell Tales. On the jib there can be ribbons all over, but on the main the only ones that count are on the leach. Keep them streaming, all but the top one. Any telltales on the body of the main are confused by either mast turbulence or jib flow and won't tell you much. If they suck around to leeward, you are over sheeted.

Clean Bottom. It's not just speed, it's also pointing angle. Anything that robs speed makes you go sideways, since there is less flow over the foils. I like a good 2-year paint, but I'm too lazy to scrub. West Marine's PCA Gold has been working well. Micron 66 is excellent in saltwater.

Push Hard, but reef when you need to. You will have the most lift vs. windage when you are driving hard. That said, I reef at about 20 knots apparent. It's not about speed, it's about pointing. If you don't want to push hard, then reef earlier, but keep the sails in tight (traveler down a little). The boat will also be more controllable than with twisted full sails.

Pointing Angles. Pinching doesn't work for cats. Get them moving, let the helm get a little lighter, the result of good flow, and then head up until the feel begins to falter. How do you know when it's right? Experiment with tacking angles (GPS not compass) and speed until the pair feel optimized. With a genoa and full main trimmed in well, inside tracks and modified keels, and relatively smooth water, I can tack through 100 degrees GPS with the boat on autopilot. Hand steering I can do a little better, though it's not actually faster to windward. If I reef or use the self-tacking jib, that might open up to 110-115 degrees, depending on wave conditions. Reefing the main works better than rolling up jib.

Advanced tip: If the actual upwind goal is to one side, you may want to pinch on one tack and foot on the other. The Speed Polar will give you tips on this. You still want to tack through the same angle, but the target is to one side. Some folks call this wallying, particularly when done in shifting winds.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Reasons To Go On Deck...

... Or 10 reasons why leading all of the lines to the cockpit is not my cup of tea.

  1. Friction. I can hoist my main all but the last two feet without a winch, and I can do this in less than a minute. A high mast exit point exposes the halyard high enough for me to put my full weight on it without any strain, and there is only one pulley in the system. The jammer is nice and high, and the winch is right at my chest when it is time to grind the last few feet. I keep a winch handle at the mast.
          Also less stretch because the lines are shorter. This allows
          the use of polyester line.
  1. Simpler. Cheaper. Also saves twists, tangles and stuff that can break.
  2. Clean Deck. Fewer turning blocks and line organizers. Less to trip on and more space for the feet.
  3. Less spaghetti in the Cockpit. Gotta do something with all of those line tails.
  4. Eyes out of the cockpit. There is a new disease afoot, where the helmsman stares at the instruments more than where he is going, loosing both spacial, situation, and weather awareness. Folks actually think they need instruments, in spite of the fact that none of this existed when sail was king. Folks should sail  part of the time with the instruments off or at least covered. New sailors should be allowed only a compass until they have mastered every maneuver and basic piloting without them.
  5. Practice. If you never leave the cockpit when the weather is less than perfect, will you be ready when the furler jams in a blow, the anchor works loose, the main won't come down, or that wonderful single-line reefing knots up? I've told many climbers that unless you plan on climbing at least once a week you have no business leading challenging traditional climbs. A climber needs to know exactly exactly what they can and cannot do do without falling. Same with a sailor on deck; you only become and stay skilled and comfortable on a heaving deck if you do it frequently.
  6. Tethers and practice. Same thing. Sailors who don't use them regularly get caught up in their knitting and then blame the system. The problem is they are not used to the system. Just like people who claim they can't work in gloves, invariably they have not really tried to learn. They have deigned to try. Jacklines should be permanent, and used frequently, like seat belts.
  7. Inspections. There is no better time to look at the equipment than when it is under load. You will see things that aren't visible at the dock.
  8. Trim. Get another perspective on the sails. It's surprising how often I see some thing that wasn't obvious from the cockpit. Anyone who does not want to understand trim is not a sailor.
  9. Because you can. Isn't sailing about freedom to go where you want, and why shouldn't you be free to travel the whole boat?
and finally..

    11.  Exercise. A passage spent in the cockpit is cramping. I like moving on deck.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Crowds or Isollation, What is Your Pleasure?

It's natural to crave solitude after a week of hand-to-hand combat in the rat race. Can't they all just get out of my way and leave me alone? Even if you you like your trade, perhaps it needs a rest.

But after a few weeks away and a string of blue lagoons (or even solo time up a muddy Chesapeake creek), people start to get interesting again. You wonder what they have been up to and you have your own stories to share. Sometimes I'll just dinghy over to the beach or waterfront and sit on a bench, half listen to the local talk just to learn what is different about this place or different about folks. I'm not snooping, I'm just interested.

In a few weeks most of the Chesapeake sailboats will take their last trip of the season, most likely a Labor Day trip to a locally popular spot. And then, in spite of the fact the September is the best sailing month of the year around here, the boat will be parked until it is time to winterize, and then hauled out until May at least. It won't be too cool for comfortable wading until late October, and sleeping in 50-60s is infinitely better than 80-90s.

The only down side to off-season sailing--all but the core of the winter, when cold becomes an obstacle--is that shops close up, people go away, and the waterfront gets quiet. Do they stay home because everyone else stays home, feeding a self-fulfilling prophesy? Are people so attached to crowds that they can't sail without them, no matter how vehemently they claim to seek solitude under sail?

People are weird. And I'm one of them. For me, cruising is more interesting when there are sailors around. Not so many I'm fighting for space, but folks to interact with. I'm human.

So get off the couch this Fall, Winter, and Spring. It'll be fun.