Sailing the Catalina 320 Single Handed

~~ Paul V. Hartman ~~

Part II - Sailing Alone

Once You're Away From the Docks

Once free of the docks/berth/harbor/anchorage, you need to make the boat ship-shape by bringing in any remaining fenders and dock lines, closing any open life line gates, and removing the ties from the mainsail. Consider also: 1. putting on a vest, 2. attaching a tether, and 3. Lowering the ladder into the water, just in case you fall off the boat during the next maneuvers, Because: You are alone. No one will pull you back on.

Some sailors must motor some distance after leaving their berth before they reach sailable water. Even when this is the case, raising the main once you get away from the docks should give you some additional headway as an assist to your diesel. If your C320 is relatively new, raising the main from the cockpit should be easy. If the passage of time has increased the friction of slides in the mainsail track, then you may want to raise the main from the mast. In any case, turn the boat into the wind, set the rudder straight, set the brake on the wheel, and go forward to perform the tasks above - fenders, lines, ties, and so on. (I assume the engine is running, in idle, and in neutral, if you are near any lee shore or hazard.)

Raise the main hand over hand until you need the winch. Loosen the lazy jacks (Dutchman system) if you haven't already. Set the tension on the topping lift and vang as conditions require. If you have any indication of strong wind conditions, now is the time to anticipate reefing - go to the mast and set the jiffy reefing hook into the proper cringle. Shut down the engine. Raise the ladder if you lowered it. Release the wheel brake. Begin to sail under the main.

Weather Helm/Lee Helm

The C320, with main and 135% genoa full, and 4 people in the cockpit, has a definite weather helm, as intended. When you are solo, 500 pounds (on average) is missing from the aft end, increasing weather helm, as the Center of Lateral Resistance (CLR) has moved forward. You can balance this effect using any technique that will favor lee helm, such as:
1. Moving weight aft. Other than draining the bow fresh water tank to lighten the bow, there is no practical way to accomplish this.
2. Rolling the genoa out to full size, since increasing headsail size increases lee helm. * 1
3. Reducing heel potential, by, for instance, moving the traveler leeward, since significant heeling (beyond 20 degrees) increases weather helm. * 2

Sail Adjustment

The size of the main and the weight of the boom obviously indicate that the C320 is not a daysailer of the type that would allow you to hold the tiller with one hand and the mainsheet in the other. In a brisk breeze, performing this ballet on the C320 will soon be fatiguing. You must decide how you will respond to the puffs - either bear up with the wheel, or spill wind with the mainsheet. A compromise is to set the mainsheet in the clam cleat at a desired sail position, lead the mainsheet to the wheel, respond to puffs with wheel action but in a threatened heavy heel, yank the mainsheet up and out of the clam and spill wind.

Assuming you have the 135% genoa, you should consider unfurling the headsail only to "jib size" to facilitate tacking and jibing while you develop a feel for the behavior of your boat in the early going as a single handed sailor. (Or do it to reduce lee helm.) Some sailors mark (with an indelible felt pen - not tape or anything that will get caught in the furler) the place on the furler rewind line (where it reaches the belay cleat) when the genoa is deployed to its "jib" size. An additional reason for doing this is that when rolled out to 100%, you can see under it, the advantage being that in the absence of crew there are no additional eyes looking out for possible trouble. The third reason is that you will not need the winch handle.

On a close reach, deploy your jib/genoa. Try to do this without locking the wheel again. It will be easier if you choose your initial sailing angle to allow the genoa to be sheeted in on the same side as the line which furls the headsail - which Catalina typically puts on the port side. Meaning: begin with a starboard tack - wind coming over the starboard side of your C320. While allowing the genoa drum to rotate and pay out the genoa (keeping proper tension on the line), draw in on the sheet to set the sail.

If the prop is humming because it is spinning, put the engine shifter in Reverse position.

Tacking Single Handed

If you had/were crew, you would tack by turning the bow through the wind, release the sheet of the genoa just as it begins to luff, and draw in the opposite sheet at the same time that the bow is swinging through the wind. But you are alone. You must, therefore, step forward from the wheel position, let go of the wheel, release the sheet holding the genoa, turn the wheel a-lee, move to the other winch and sheet in the genoa on that side, and return to the wheel. If you are at "jib" size, this will be a short maneuver. If you have the genoa fully deployed, you need not sheet in to get perfect sail trim right away, but get it around in mostly proper trim, and return to the wheel and make any course corrections required by conditions. Move to the winch again and make proper trim. Following a tack, if the jib is a bit baggy, it will help to maintain momentum through the tack. There is no urgency in getting the jib set exactly.

Jibing Single Handed

It is the same maneuver as a tack in the 320, since the boom passes over your head. You want to move from a broad reach on one side to a broad reach on the other. You begin by releasing the genoa, letting it flap, turning the wheel and moving the stern through the wind, sheeting in on the opposite side in a gross sort of way, returning to the wheel for any course corrections, (or guiding it from your position forward of the helm), sheeting in again for the best possible trim. The boom will of course come hard over and you must be ready to turn the wheel quickly to reduce excessive heeling if you encounter a strong puff at this moment. Indeed, you can anticipate this happening by momentarily pinching (feathering) straight up wind, half way through the jibe. In smaller boats, this is a necessity to avoid a capsize in heavy air. It is useful to know that when jibing down a wave, your actual speed will increase, but the apparent wind will decrease, and the boom will come across with less force. With practice comes near perfection in tacking and jibing single-handed.

Stopping the Boat For a Short Interval

The simplest way to stop your boat to allow a slow drift is to tack without moving the jib/genoa to the new tack side. The genoa will remain to windward, the main to leeward, and the forces will cancel each other, except for leeward drift or current drift. This is a simple "heave-to".

Stopping the Boat For a Longer Interval

If your purpose is to drop anchor, then furl the genoa (a starboard tack close hauled is easiest), start your engine, choose your anchor spot, head up into the wind, brake the wheel, (consider lowering the ladder), go forward to the anchor locker. Make sure the bitter end of your anchor line is secured to the boat! Release the separate line holding the anchor tight to the stem fitting (if that is the case), and lower the anchor. Let the wind/current drift you back while you pay out proper scope on the rode. Return to the helm, and give the boat a little engine in reverse to set the anchor. Shut down the engine. Take your hand held GPS and take note of the exact position. A different reading one half hour later may indicate you are dragging your anchor. (The GPS error is on the order of 50 feet) Whether you lower the main at this point will be determined by how long you plan to stay anchored, and whether wind and current will act to pull you from your anchorage with the sail up.

*1 By moving the Center of Effort forward.
*2 Heeling increases water line length on the lee side, causing the lee side to run faster than the weather side.

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