Sailing: The Tall and the Short of It

This is a collection of my columns on sailing.  I have two sailboats, the first is Dad’s Boat, a 1969 version of the Sea Snark.  It’s eleven feet long, lateen rigged,  and has forty five square feet of sail.  The second is Charleston Lady, formerly September Blue, the 2005 version of the West Wight Potter 19. She’s nineteen feet long, has a fractional sloop rig, and one hundred forty six square feet of sail.



  1. Hi Bill, I enjoyed looking at your site. This is regarding the sagging Potter roof. I think you should consider building a laminated arch support for the underneath side of the roof. I’ve done this for the lateen conversion (P-15) and have seen a support made for the purpose of removing a compression post (to make cabin roomier). Basically, you will need to get some 1/4 or thinner plywood and create the shape and arch that you want, then epoxy or Gorilla glue it together. Then the arch can be jacked and bolted into place with a generous amount of adhesive/sealer between it and the fiberglass roof. The resulting roof will be solid as a rock. Good Luck! Charley P-14#729 “Sea Bug”

    • Charley –
      Really? Just a quarter in thick? You think that would be enough?

  2. […] […]

  3. RE: Your article titled Adventure. I wasn’t there, and I don’t know all the circumstances, so please take my suggestion with a grain of salt.

    I noticed when you were talking about raising the main, you were using the engine to keep you pointed into the wind. Good idea, if you have a crew member on the helm/throttle, but, if you are single-handing, it’s a good way to get knocked off the boat. With the engine running and in gear, you will never catch the boat and you will most likely freeze, and then drown.

    Buy the way, at six knots, your boat is moving at 10 feet per second. At two knots 3.3 feet per second, and at one knot 1.67 feet per second. At one knot, in one and a half seconds the boat will be 2 1/2 feet away, about the arms length of a grown man. Even if you are wearing a safety line and life jacket, imagine yourself being pulled through the cold water at 1 1/2 to 2 feet per second. That’s a lot of drag, and if the water is really cold, you will start to lose strength in your arms almost immediately.

    Ok, so much for the ugly facts; I love to single-hand my WWP-19, and I’m not promising I’ll never get knocked overboard and drowned, but here’s what I do to at least reduce the risks. In addition to always wearing a life jacket and wearing a safety harness, I always raise, lower, and if called for, reef the mainsail when I am hove-to. The WWP-19 heaves-to nicely and in 10-12 knots of wind drifts sideways in a very stable position at about one knot (that’s about 100 fpm), a little faster if the wind is up around 15-18 knots. While hove-to, with the tiller lashed to the downwind side of the boat, it takes me about two minutes to get the main up. During that time I drift down wind about 200 ft.

    If you’ve never heaved-to, I recommend it. Knowing I’m going to drift downwind at about one knot, I try to position myself at least a quarter of a mile upwind from going aground before I heave-to. That gives me 15 minutes to perform a task that usually takes about two or three minutes, maybe five if I have have a glitch. If it does take five minutes, that still leaves me 10 minutes to start the engine and execute an escape. If I’ve only got a quarter of a mile room, I’ll usually leave the engine running, but most definately in neutral. If I have lots of room, I turn the darn thing off. It’s so much more peaceful that way.

    After lashing the tiller hard over and before I leave the cockpit I lower the topping lift via a Poldo hitch, which is one of the simplest and coolest rope contraptions I’ve ever seen, then I undo the sail ties, then, I let out the main sheet. With the wind coming over the starboard side, the boom is going to swing out on the port side. Not to worry, but boat will remain crossways to the wind and it will continue to drift downwind at about one knot.

    I’m a tiny bit over six feet tall, so the next thing I do is slide the hatch full open, place my right foot on top of the center-board, and my left foot on one of the companionway steps. I do that facing towards the sail so I can see what’s happening. From that position, I can raise the main. With the mainsheet out all the way, the main will luff on the port side of the boat, but the boat will continue to stay broadside to the wind, and continue to drift sideways at about one knot, maybe one and a quarter knot.

    Then, I move into the cockpit, unlash the tiller which has been held fast on the downside of the boat, then haul in the mainsheet. With 10-15 knots of wind, when the main starts to draw and produce power, it feels like someone hit the launch button and for a second or two if feels like she’s taking off like a rocket. I love that part!

    I’ve got roller furling on my headsail, so I wait until after the main is up before I let out the headsail. If you have a hanked-on headsail, heave-to, then put that up before you raise the mainsail, but leave the headsail loose or else after it’s up, and if it’s reallly windy, unlash the tiller and do a 180 degree turn and cleat the headsail sheet so that the headsale ends up backwinded, then go back into the heave-to position.

    If you end up with the wind coming over the starboard side, your headsail will be cleated on the wrong side, the starboard side (backwinded), and your tiller will be lashed to the downwind (port) side of the boat.

    If the headsail ends up backwinded on the port side, with the wind coming over the port side, lash your tiller hard over to the starboard side.

    The WWP-19 will heave-to with the headsail up and backwinded or without the headsail up. Some boats, depending on their below water structure, require a backwinded headsail to heave-to.

    You may already know this, but if you don’t, here’s what happens when you heave-to. Once you get broadside to the wind, the bow tends to turn downwind and the boat picks up a little speed. To prevent the boat from running downwind and to make it drift sideways, all you have to do is lash the tiller to the downwind side of the boat. That way, when the bow starts to turn downwind and the boat picks up just a little speed, the rudder grab hold and force the boat to turn back into the wind. Sometimes you can feel the bow and the rudder fussing with each other. The bow says, I want to turn downwind, and the rudder says, Nope, can’t let us do that, we need to stay broadside to the wind.

    That’s a corny explanation, I know, but sometimes it feels like that’s what the bow and the rudder might be saying to each other.

    If it’s practical, I prefer to heave-to with the wind coming from the starboard side. That way, as soon as I get a hint of the mainsail up off the boom, I’m legally sailing and on starboard tack which gives me the right of way.

    My wife says I’m too long winded. Maybe she’s right.

    Anyway, I enjoyed your “Adventure”, and look forward to reading more.

    Here’s hoping for an early thaw.


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