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Sails – Getting Familiar with a Charter Boat

sails We’re pretty certain here that you know how to operate sails on a sailboat,  however – chances are that you’re chartering a boat much bigger than you’re normally used to. Therefore contained in this section are just a few tricks to operating these sails. Forces are potentially twice to three times larger than you’re used to so extra precautions must be taken like teaching your crew to always wrap lines around winches before cleat clutches are released. So please read on and try to pick out a few gems from the following.

Modern charter sailing vessels are equipped with a roller-furling jib or genoa and often a roller-furling mainsail. These sails make deploying and stowing the sail much easier than hoisting and hauling down hanked-on sails.  Roller furling systems allow us to deploy the sail by releasing the in-haul furling line from its clutch and pulling the sail out with the appropriate jib sheet for the jib or main out-haul for the main. When the sailing is over, roll the jib/genoa sail in by removing the jib sheet from the winch, and maintain slight tension while the jib furling line is hauled in.   The sail should furl tightly around the forestay foil mechanism.  Continue furling until the jib sheet wraps twice around the forestay, and then close the line clutch on the furling line, and stow the sheets.

Caution: The jib sheets when loosened will whip wildly and dangerously. First, ensure no crew are on the foredeck and secondly keep enough tension on the jib sheet to reduce the whipping.

stacpac For the mainsail, sail in an upwind direction, release the main out-haul line, and pull on the main in-haul line. It is VERY IMPORTANT to keep a slight tension on the out-haul line so that the mainsail rolls up tight inside the mast. This can be achieved by having one wrap around a winch bollard. The reason that it is so important to maintain slight tension is that the sail can not be loosely wrapped inside the mast. In this case, it will be extremely difficult to pull back out. If this ever happens you can free it with a bit of patience. Carefully and alternately pull the in-haul and out-haul lines but never with high tension. In this manner you’ll slowly be able to ease the sail out a little, then in a little, out a bit more, and in a little, etc.

Traditional mainsails are rigged on about 60-70% of most charter boats and are most commonly flaked along the boom when not in use.  Lazy Jacks are lines extending from about 1/3rd or 1/2 way up the mast down to various positions along the boom. These are a great invention. They automatically envelop the sail side to side as it comes down into a Stac-Pac. This is a giant sail cover already positioned on top of the boom. This makes lowering the mainsail quite simple. With the boat pointing in an upwind direction and two wraps of the halyard around the winch just release the halyard clutch and let the mainsail lower into the Stac-Pac. Here’s a trick that we always do for safety. With a sudden and unexpected high wind, the sail can be blown out of the Stac-Pac. This is potentially dangerous and could pull you off the anchorage etc. To prevent this you can either zip up the stac pac to prevent the sail from deploying (this is difficult and time-consuming) or you can reach up and grab the halyard close to the head of the sail and then pull it down to wrap under the halyard winch or a mast mounted cleat then close the halyard clutch and tighten the halyard. This serves to pull the sail down and lock it down. halyard

To hoist the traditional main sail, first, open the Stac-Pac or unhook the halyard from the winch (as above).  Now remember how I said lazy jacks are a great invention? This is where you might have a sailor’s mouth. Lazy Jacks always snag the battens at the leech of the sail. Always – every time – without fail! So don’t just keep winching the halyard up, the lazy jacks ARE going to snag. A couple of tricks we’ve learned here. Have a good helmsman to steer the boat constantly and accurately into the wind. Have one person hoisting the sail while keeping a watch on the lazy jacks and battens and have one more person maneuvering the boom to port or starboard to prevent the snagging and at the same time calling to the hoister to go up or let down. This problem is especially prevalent in catamarans. If you have lazy jacks on your own boat, attach bungee cords from the spreaders to the lazy jacks. This tends to pull the lazy jacks out wider and reduce the chance of snagging.

One more thing that tends to get snagged on the way up is the reefing lines. Inside the boom at the front of the boom are clutches that grab the reefing lines. Ensure that these don’t lock as you hoist the main.

NOW HEAR THIS:- We once saved a boat from running up onto Prickly Pear Reef just outside the entrance to the North Sound of Virgin Gorda. The captain and crew were so intent on getting the sail up around the lazy jacks that no one was watching where they were going. They were all looking up. We were able to attract their attention about 100 feet (30m) before disaster. Keep a watch out for where you are going while hoisting the main sail.

The topping lift should not support the main sail after it is hoisted, but it must be tight enough to support the boom as the sail goes up. (Reminder – the topping lift is the line from the back of the boom to the top of the mast. It holds the boom up when the sail is stowed).

Determine whether the main sail should be reefed before it is deployed. Reefing is most easily done before raising the sail. Reefing lines on charter boats are typically colored and already set up. Most commonly you’ll pull in the appropriate reefing line and lock it with the clutch inside the front of the boom. This acts to pull down the leech (trailing edge) of the sail to the boom. Then simply hoist the main halyard as normal. (Watch out for those batten-catching lazy jacks).

The sail is hoisted according to wind conditions and the intended point of sail; more luff tension when sailing upwind (close-hauled or close reaching) or with higher wind strengths and less luff tension in light airs or sailing downwind.  A convenient gauge is to look for either vertical ripples in the sail (too much halyard tension) or horizontal ripples in the sail (insufficient luff tension) along the luff area of the sail. See NauticEd Sail Trim clinic.

Once the sail is hoisted, be sure the line clutch is closed, coil the remaining halyard into a neat roll, and stow it out of the way.  The main sheet is now tensioned appropriately, the sail is adjusted along the traveler, and the sheet is tweaked for optimum sailing efficiency.

A final safety trick to share in this department. As you know – sailing downwind has the dangerous potential of the accidental gybe. This can be quite a common occurrence if you have an inexperienced crew at the helm or perhaps with a major wind shift when sailing close to an island and … well… with the added distractions of vacation, an accidental gybe is probably going to happen. Please teach your crew to only walk to the front of the boat on the boom side of the boat when sailing downwind. In this manner, the boom is only traveling at a bruising 20 miles per hour when slamming across instead of the fatal 100 miles per hour when it reaches the other side.

You can learn more in the Bareboat Charter Online Course....

The Bareboat Charter online sailing course is your go-to resource for planning an unforgettable sailing vacation. This comprehensive online course equips you with all the necessary skills and knowledge to successfully charter a yacht. Upgrade to the Bareboat Charter Master bundle of courses to fully prepare for near-coastal sailing and sailing charters.

Source: Bareboat Charter
Topic: Bareboat Chartering
Authors: Ed Mapes, USCG Captain Master Mariner. Grant Headifen, NauticEd Global Director of Education
NauticEd is a fully recognized education and certification platform for sailing students combining online and on-the-water real instruction (and now VR). NauticEd offers +24 online courses, a free sailor's toolkit that includes 2 free courses, and six ranks of certification – all integrated into NauticEd’s proprietary platform. The USCG and NASBLA recognize NauticEd as having met the established American National Standards.