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 Good Planning Makes Happy Sailors!

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T O P I C    R E V I E W
Steve Milby Posted - 06/10/2019 : 06:36:35
This weekend I had an experience that some might find useful. On Saturday my friend and I motorsailed his 28', 7000 lb., full keel Pearson Triton about 5 1/2 hours to just south of Annapolis for a race. About an hour later, we raced her 20 miles, then motored for about an hour into a cove where the racers all rafted together for the night. On Sunday morning we had breakfast and motorsailed back to our marina, which took another 4 hours. That's a total of about 10 1/2 hours of motoring a 7000 lb boat with a Honda 9.9 hp outboard, starting with about 11 gallons in the fuel tank. We have made the same trip many times with no problem, but this time we had to use the motor more than usual, and we failed to keep a running tab of our fuel consumption and motoring hours.

About 10 minutes from our marina, the motor sputtered and died. We broad reached on the roller furling jib to the marina entrance, We developed a plan. Just inside the entrance there's a dock where a boat is allowed to tie up only in an emergency. We decided to try the engine, and, if it wouldn't start, we'd sail to the emergency dock on the deeply furled jib and stay there until we could get more gas. If it started, we'd see how long it ran. If it ran as far as the emergency dock, we'd continue to the boat's slip, which was off to the right and up a different fairway.

We tried the engine and it started, so we furled the jib. It ran until just past the emergency dock and quit again, about 100-125 yards from the slip. We know from experience that this boat carries without power for a very long distance. We had two boat hooks on deck, so that, if it didn't carry far enough to reach the slip, we could maneuver the boat the rest of the way by hooking pilings with the boat hooks and pulling her into the slip. She coasted until we were able to just nudge her bow between the two outer pilings of her slip, and then she stopped, so we manipulated her in the rest of the way with the boat hooks.

We certainly planned our fuel consumption poorly, but we redeemed ourselves by planning our docking much better. We developed a bottom-line plan to just get the boat to the emergency dock. Then we developed a contingency plan to get the boat to her slip. Then we developed another contingency plan, in case she didn't make it that far, to get her the rest of the way into the slip, and finally, we got the boat hooks on deck, where they would be immediately accessible if we needed them. If we had planned our fuel consumption as well, we wouldn't have been in that fix in the first place.
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Steve Milby Posted - 06/12/2019 : 14:32:42
In this instance we used the jib because it was roller furling and could be partially furled to minimize our speed, and it could be fully furled easily, and also because we were on a broad reach.

Many years ago an old sailing friend, now long deceased, taught me that the mainsail is generally better suited for sailing in this kind of situation, because it's much easier to control your speed (When you can't use your motor, you have no reverse, so it's important to minimize your speed), and because it's very difficult to sail to windward, if necessary, with a deeply furled jib.

With the mainsail, you can sail to windward, slowly. In fact, my old friend taught me a special technique that lets you control your speed under mainsail with extreme precision. If you're sailing to windward into your slip, you can use the main halyard to lower the mainsail about halfway. It instantly reduces sail area and slows the boat. The more you lower the sail, the slower you can approach the slip. You'll have to have a crew member grasp the leech of the sail and pull it back and down to the boom, as is normally done by the aft reef line.

I taught that technique to a friend, and we had to use it a few months later to sail into his slip when his engine wouldn't start. We sailed his 40' 18,000 lb boat into his slip without touching a piling on the way in, and the boat coasted to a stop in the slip without anyone having to stop it from hitting the dock. It's the only time I ever had to actually use that technique, although I saw my old friend use it a few times, because he had a small collection of classic racing boats, and none of them had motors, so he routinely sailed them in and out of their slips.
HappyNow Posted - 06/12/2019 : 10:01:56
When I was taking lessons in San Francisco Bay in the 80s, before roller furling was common, my instructor was always teaching preparedness. He insisted you leave your mainsail ready to be hoisted in an emergency, anchor ready to be deployed, etc. Frequently we would be motoring in a busy channel and he would reach over and turn off the motor, and it taught us to always be thinking about our next steps in case of engine failure no matter where you are. Roller furling now makes it a little easier to recover. Nice job!
Stinkpotter Posted - 06/10/2019 : 08:14:07
A classic case where considerably more mass, a little less windage, and a nice long keel worked to your advantage. Good job, and good planning! I've also used the roller-genny to sail into a dock when our motor suddenly lost a cooling hose--the roller is a nice tool for controlling speed and then "powering off" completely at the right moment. It's important to know how a boat behaves in situations like that, and to be able to predict the effect of wind and/or current in the final approach. I've witnessed a few cases where somebody didn't do so well, with some yelling between partners at the last moment...
Derek Crawford Posted - 06/10/2019 : 07:54:51
Nice recovery, Steve.

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