A boat is unlike a car in that she is very individual, especially when it comes to handling. Cars are much of a likeness. They have steering wheels, accelerators and brakes. Drive one car, you can drive another. There are no brakes on sailboats, and speed is down to sail handling. Steering is by tiller or wheel. Because of their individual characteristics, boats will respond differently when experiencing identical conditions. Their helmsmen have to know how to get the best out of them.
Experience counts. Put the boat into the hands of a novice, and she will not be sailed to her maximum potential.
On parting with a boat to a new owner, I usually give him a list of tips. My suggestions are based on what I have learned when sailing and looking after her. I shall be giving ‘Sandpiper’s’ new owner the following notes:
Use of the Trailer
When the trailer is not attached to the towing vehicle place a support under the back end to stop it from tipping, especially when someone is in the cockpit.
Before launching the boat, cover the vent holes on the wheel caps with waterproof tape to prevent water entering the bearings. Remove the tape after retrieving the boat.
Use a long rope with a turn around the ball hitch to lower the trailer and boat in the water. Have a painter to hand for securing the boat while the trailer is being retrieved.
Rigging the Boat
Have a stepladder or stool handy for getting in and out of the boat.
Lay the mast and Genoa luff rod centrally on top of the boat. The top of the mast needs to be kept clear of the hatch. This can be done with a helper or by an improvised support. I use a padded stool on top of the lazarette lid.
Insert the bolt through the tabernacle and mast. Make sure the mast is placed centrally in the tabernacle. Shackle shrouds to the chainplates. Attach a line to the eye at the bottom of the forestay to which the tack strop is shackled. This line is pulled when the mast is being lifted – best done by someone standing in the cockpit. If you are on your own, the line can be passed through the forward hole of the tack plate, so that it can be pulled when the mast is being lifted. Temporarily secure the line.
Alight from the boat and pass the line under the forward crossbar of the trailer’s winch mechanism and thread it back through the eye at the tack end of the forestay. Pull down the line to tighten the forestay. If you find this difficult, tie the end to the winch crossbar and use a rod to make a tourniquet. The lower tack strop can then be shackled to the tack plate. Remove the tourniquet and line. The mast is now rigged.
Place wooden cheeks either side of the mast within the tabernacle.
Slot the boom onto the gooseneck, and pass the lower end of the fixed topping lift through the upper shackle of the fitting at the aft end of the boom. Secure the end of the topping lift by making a rolling hitch. This can be used to adjust the boom height. Shackle the mainsheet block to the boom. To raise the boom when not sailing, lift it and pass the topping lift under a cleat on the starboard side of the boom, then under the port cleat.
This is a good time to ship the rudder and the outboard - both in their fully raised positions.
The boat performs well when on her designed waterline. Therefore make sure the bow has sufficient weight to keep her trimmed correctly. Lead or water ballast forward of the forward bulkhead will do the trick. She will not go to windward efficiently unless she is trimmed correctly.
Think about reefing when at the upper end of Force 3. From thereon, reef both the Genoa and the mainsail to achieve a balance. The mainsail is easily reefed when the boat is hove to, i.e., with the foresail backed and the mainsail freed off to leeward. The tiller should be secured to leeward. In this position lower the sail while manually rolling it around the boom. You can reef to the lower batten, but in extreme conditions, you should extract it and insert a couple of towels before rolling further. This is to raise the boom while keeping the sail flat. Make sure the topping lift is slack to allow the sail to set properly. Keep the luff very taught.
Centreplate and Rudder
Before lowering the centreplate remove the securing pin. Lower the plate steadily until fully down. The support bolt passes through a curved slot, not a regular hole; therefore when the plate is being lowered it slightly moves aft. It may be necessary to push the rudder down, until it is fully down. If it is not fully down, the boat won’t sail to windward properly. When the boat is at anchor it is better to have both the plate and the rudder raised.
The tiller can be lifted to allow the lid of the lazarette to be raised. It can also be separated from the rudder by sliding it aft.
Free-off the anchor chain and flake about 6 or 7 metres of warp onto the cabin top. Have the anchor ready on the foredeck for letting go.
Ignite a match or gas lighter; hold it over the burner and turn the knob anticlockwise. The canister can be released by lifting the lever. I never did this until replacing a canister. I was vigilant not to accidentally turn the knob on.
Solar Panel and Battery
It is a good idea to periodically check the battery voltage with a voltmeter to make sure the solar panel is doing its work,. That’s because there is a possibility that the plug may not be correctly fitted into the socket. The battery is maintenance free.
If the boat is trimmed to her lines, the cockpit will drain, but if she is down at the stern she won’t fully drain. It is best to keep the plug in the cockpit drain because under certain conditions water can be siphoned into the cockpit. The plug also keeps rubbish out!
There are two tiny drains at the very aft of the cockpit that need periodic checking to ensure they are not blocked.
The lid of the lazarette can be kept open by a line under it attached to cleats on the outside of the coamings.
Well, I’m looking forward to meeting ‘Sandpiper’s’ new owner on Saturday, when he comes to collect her.