I wish I had a dollar for every critic of singlehanded sailors. These nay-sayers claim that this way of sailing is perhaps dangerous. However, a glance around the singlehanded catamaran quickly shows many of the benefits the owners of such craft have contributed to both the safety and improved construction techniques of twin-hulled yachts.
How do we define "singlehanded?" The dictionary states "unaided or working alone." Well, you may have crew, guests or family on board, but nonetheless be "working the boat (helm, sheets and navigation) alone." So, whether you sail short- or singlehanded, here are my 10 commandments:
1. When buying or refitting a boat put headsail reefing at the top of your list. Don't go larger than a 120% headsail. If you do, tacking becomes more difficult and requires more than one person. Also, have the clew (the comer of the sail that the sheets are attached to) cut a little higher so you can see under the headsail.
2. We all have a budget for mainsail reefing. Despite the hype of riggers, mast or sail makers, a fully battened mainsail with jiffy reefing and lazy jacks is still the best system (i.e. safest, cheapest, most reliable). If necessary, the halyard and reef pennants all can be run aft to the cockpit. 3. Wind vanes don't work on catamarans. Invest in a simple autopilot system such as Autohelm. It won't eat, sleep, complain, or get bored.
4. Self-tailing winches are well worth the extra cost.
5. Most builders and brokers will downplay dual steering/engine controls. I've sailed catamarans most of my life and I know twin stations are a great bonus if your wheel is well aft.
6. The bane of my life is poorly located winches and deck hardware. If a block or winch needs a woodblock to improve the lead (the angle), do it. It will stop lines from fouling or chafing.
7. Use jamming cleats so you can free a winch for another purpose.
8. Catamarans don't need poles! I disagree that a running pole is worth as much on a cruising cat as on a monohull. In fact, it prevents you from getting that headsail well out and forward.
9. Always, always, always use a preventer on the main. With fully battened mains, cap shrouds (the wire stays running from the mast head to the chain plates) are led well aft of the mast. The boom can never be pushed right out, so stop a potential jibe before it starts.
10. Tune your instruments accurately. When a catamaran is moving fast, its speed is harder to judge than on a monohull. Check your depth gauge so it is accurate within a few inches. (After all, we have an incredible shoal draft vessel. Let's use it to its fullest.)
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