Arwen's meanderings

Hi everyone and welcome to my dinghy cruising blog about my John Welsford designed 'navigator' named Arwen. Built over three years, Arwen was launched in August 2007. She is a standing lug yawl 14' 6" in length. This blog records our dinghy cruising voyages together around the coastal waters of SW England.
Arwen has an associated YouTube channel so visit to find our most recent cruises and click subscribe.
On this blog you will find posts about dinghy cruising locations, accounts of our voyages, maintenance tips and 'How to's' ranging from rigging standing lug sails and building galley boxes to using 'anchor buddies' and creating 'pilotage notes'. I hope you find something that inspires you to get out on the water in your boat. Drop us a comment and happy sailing.
Steve and Arwen

Thursday, 27 October 2011

I'm looking out the window and........

I think the guys on JW’s forum are taking the a very nice way. We have been suffering howling gales and heavy autumnal rain here in Plymouth for the last week........and they are running a very interesting forum thread on.......................sailing in light winds!
Ha! Ha! I say as I watch the trees around me losing leaves and bending near double....ha Ha very funny!

It's a good question: how do you sail effectively in light winds
can you have a different set of sails to cope with it?

Despite the irony of the situation which I know will be lost on them all – there has been, as always, some really interesting dialogue and thinking. I don’t want to repeat it all or the subtle variations and nuances in ideas. People should join the forum if they want that level of detail. But here are some main points.

It started when Thomas asked if there were any thoughts for light air sails for his pathfinder. Big overlapping lightweight jibs and a top sail were some suggestions which then raised questions about the need for a roller furler; the need for a forestay and a bowsprit extension. How much might the overlap on the jib be? Perhaps more roach in the main with full sized battens could be an alternative?

Some advice was proffered...set the jib flying on an extra halyard with a double halyard on a block at the head of the sail to tension up the luff; in this way the normal jib could be furled and stowed and the extra large jib could be dropped when the wind rose.

Another line of thought was about the skills needed to sail in very light winds....forget altering the boat....learn these skills and any boat will do better in light winds. Would the book by Tom Cunliffe, "Hand Reef and Steer" have any worthwhile advice and tips in it for arranging rigs and light airs sailing?
John had this to say about sailing in light winds.........

“Sailing in light weather is a skill, needs practice, and patience. The boat
does not feel "lively" or powered up no matter what you do, but in the hands of
someone who has been interested enough to learn the ways, can cover a lot more
water than those who have not and as a consequence are stuck there like a raisin
in a pudding”.

He went on to explain that patience and relaxing were vital in light winds; having the boat correctly orientated to the wind, never lower than beam on and preferably about 60 deg off the wind direction was good; running a silk wind stream from mast head or yard was a good tip too.

The trick? Ease the sails out until the leach tell tales fly and then gradually pull in the sail until they stall and then ease the sail out a fraction. No sudden movements so the boat doesn’t rock and slow......and then the boat should start moving albeit slowly.

Once moving, steer for optimum pointing angle AND DON’T PINCH or sail close to wind as speed will fall off. Watch you don’t sheet in too much which will stall the wind flow across the sails. Keep feeling for the stall point and use the leach tell tales.

With regard to sail setting John advised they should be set full, easing the outhaul and the halyard, moving the jib sheet fairlead forward and inward a little. Trim the boat – bow down and heeled slightly to leeward and the stresses ‘sit still’!

Minute tiller movements and if sailing downwind, go at 150 deg off the wind direction so there is some flow past the boat.

As John put it.........
“The objective here is to get the boat moving, keep it moving, build speed, and use that tiny breath of wind. It’s fun, can be very satisfying, especially when you are sailing with a group or another boat where the crew don’t know what you do”!

Others noted that good sailors know where to find the light airs and most wind and that some suggest the use of a GPS to judge speed and to help make these small adjustments. Avoid excessive turns on the rudder as it acts as a big brake. Hold the tiller in one direction; allow the boat to find its own way. Try using a logger too!

My thanks to Steve, JW, Robin, Anders, Thomas, George, Hajo, Osbert and others for some illuminating discourse.
Of course you could always switch on the outboard.................................I can’t believe I just said that. I go now to wash out my mouth with coal tar soap and water!



Joel Bergen said...

I'm with you, Steve. While I have the utmost respect and admiration for my motorless friends, I do not regret my decision not to join them with my Nav. The tidal currents in Puget Sound are too strong for my physical rowing capabilities. I enjoy sailing, and drifting ain't sailing, and drifting towards a rocky coastline isn't enjoyable. Neither is the thought of sailing into a crowded marina. So pass the soap, Steve!

steve said...

if i ever get over your side of the pond - we have to hook up....we are definitely same wave length

good to hear from you Joel....assume you are well?

Joel Bergen said...

Never been better! And you wouldn't be the first to jump the pond for a hookup. Do you know a fellow by the name of Richard Suter from the jwbuilders forum? He's building a Navigator in France. He's a retired policeman from London. He recently took a trip to the USA to visit some relatives and, by sheer coincidence, it turns out they live about 20 miles from me! So Richard and I enjoyed a wonderful sail aboard Ellie about a month ago while he was here. Small world eh?

steve said...

you know what they say - you are never more than six people away from who it is you want to talk to...can't remember whose theory that is......don't know Richard...but if he is a navigator builder..then he is a decent fellow straight away