Reefing the main sail

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Reefing the main sail

Postby Fly4rfun » Sat Apr 17, 2021 10:36 pm

as sailing season is coming upon us I want to be prepared to reef the main in case i get into heavier winds than i am comfortable with. My boom has the ability to be rolled to reef the main. only problem with this is that doing that i loose the mount for the block for the main sheeting. I read somewhere to use a loop of line that rolls up in the sail when sheeting. are there other options that will work better. I will be sailing solo for the most part. How do most put in reefs? again I appreciate the help I receive here to improve my sailing.
"Sail Aweigh" 1966 DS1 #2675
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Re: Reefing the main sail

Postby tomodda » Sun Apr 18, 2021 10:20 am

G:

You've asked a few questions in one, so I'll answer by parts and then give you my not-at-all-humble opinion. We've spoken, so I think I understand where you are in your sailing "journey," but please excuse me any presumptions.

-Roller Reefing sucks! As you noted, you need something to attach your block to, most people use an additional piece of gear - "Reefing Claw". Good luck finding one, they're no longer made. But worse yet, imagine rolling your boom (without a handle, bigger boats had a winch handle for this), working the halyard and topping lift, and detaching and re-rigging your mainsheet, while in a rapidly rising wind?). ***CORRECTION***You'll have to heave to, not hard to do, but everything else involved in roller-reefing is a real bear single-handed***END CORRECTION****Works better in theory than practice, where it doesn't work at all. And the aerodynamics are terrible and it quickly ruins your sails. No thankyou.

-Dunno about setting up a loop for your mainsheet block up on the boom. How do you keep it short enough when you're NOT reefed? How do you keep it from wearing a groove into your sail when you ARE reefed? See above for why roller-reefing sucks. Don't do it.

-Most people slab-reef or jiffy-reef. Look up the details on google and on this forum. You can put in your own reef points (sailrite kit) or get a sailmaker to do it ($100ish per set), but remember to also budget cheek blocks, eye straps, cleats, and additional line. Don't do "single line reefing", too much friction, way overkill for our little boats, and hard to set up right.

-My unasked-for opinion :) - Once again, Crawl, Walk, Run. Reefing is "nice to have," not "need to have." I myself finally got a slab-reefing setup this year, haven't used it yet.

Up to now my #1 reefing tool has been windfinder.com - the spot weather forecast. If it's gonna blow too much for my comfort zone, then I stay home. Here's your closest measuring station:

https://www.windfinder.com/forecast/cla ... um_airport

You'll see that there are two forecasts, the "regular" one for 10 days and the "superforecast" for next 48 hours. The 48 hour one is more accurate (and hourly). Both forecasts are actually for about 50' off the ground, so subtract a few mph for your reality. And don't rely just on a forecast, learn to predict the wind yourself (google, youtube, plenty of resources to teach you). Strong winds don't just blow up out of the blue, you can predict it. Bottom line, even when I am not sailing, I'm watching the wind, checking the forecasts, comparing against what I see, what I feel, clouds, how the trees are moving, what the birds are doing, contrails on passing planes, how it all changes during the day, what happens as fronts move in, thunderstorms brew up, etc. For instance, right before most storm fronts, the wind blows strongly TOWARDS the front, counter-intuitive but that's what happens. Birds get awfully quiet before a big storm and head for shelter. Forecasts won't show that. Anyway, I strive to "Always Be Learning," even when I'm not sailing, I'm sailing.

There's two situations for winds that are "too strong" (I use quotes because there's actually no such thing, right?) - strong gusts and strong sustained winds. For a strong gust aka puff, learn how to deal with them - ease, hike, trim. Worst case, luff up. It's part of sailing. Learn to see them coming on the water (and, for us lake sailors, in the trees). But they pass. The strong sustained wind, too much to handle for the day? Well, you should have predicted them (see above), but let's talk worst case. You're caught out in a sudden squall.... Drop all sail and run for shore, remember to pull up your board at last moment and let her beach. Wait it out. I haven't had to run under bare poles on a DS yet, but a few times on other boats. Scary, but you'll be fine. If you can get your engine started, drop all sail and head slowly upwind. Is any of this going to happen on an inland lake? I doubt it. Otherwise, drop your jib and head back to the ramp under main. Tacking can be hard, but not impossible.. this is why I usually head upwind FIRST when I go on a daysail.. I can always run home. Beware the tendency to underestimate the true wind when you are on a run (since your apparent wind is now LESS than than the true wind). Do some practice sails on "edge of your comfort zone" days to get used to it all.

Before investing in reefing ability, I invested in sail controls - good vang, outhaul, cunningham (actually boom downhaul), and just because I'm anal, a jib halyard tensioning system. Being able to de-power your sails by flattening them (with the above controls) is your 'first line of defense" and really all you need for most conditions. Also, a second body on the boat REALLY helps. Even if they don't sail, just having self-moving ballast considerably changes the boats handling in higher winds (just don't call them that! self-moving ballast...). Absent compliant friends, try a sandbag or two, strapped to the trunk. There are days where my go or no-go decision relies purely on me getting my favorite crew off his lazy butt... it's a real BLAST when we're both in sync on a nice howler of a day. Bottom line again, for us daysailers, you don't NEED reefing for storms or sudden strong winds, you WANT it to extend your "comfort zone," days that you can go out sailing.

Anyway, hope this is helpful. As in all things, work your way up slowly. And the motto once you do have well-set up reefing - reef early!
Last edited by tomodda on Mon Apr 19, 2021 5:27 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Reefing the main sail

Postby Fly4rfun » Sun Apr 18, 2021 12:01 pm

Thanks Tom

makes sense to me. being a ex pilot I do have some basic knowledge of the wind.

G.
"Sail Aweigh" 1966 DS1 #2675
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Re: Reefing the main sail

Postby tomodda » Sun Apr 18, 2021 2:54 pm

Yes, you've flown, sorry I forgot. Senioritus catching up with me. Windfinder "Superforecast" is the NWS RPM model, a good baseline forecast in my humble opinion. There are two public domain rapid-refresh models (14 hours), but they're based on the same 2 daily weather balloons from the local NWS stations that the RPS is based on, and I have a hard time consistently finding those forecasts. Overall, local knowledge and observation is best.

Anyway, enough minutiae about weather. Don't sweat reefing too much until you start consistently saying to yourself "Dammit, such a good wind day, but more than I want to deal with single-handed." If you can't reliably get a buddy to help you hold the boat down, then get some reef lines.
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Re: Reefing the main sail

Postby GreenLake » Mon Apr 19, 2021 2:30 am

I installed slab reefing first, vang second. Just the way it happened and reflects the order in which I mastered various sailing/rigging topigs. But in retrospect I think Tom's reverse order is spot on. I sailed long enough without a reef . . .

Anyway, one thing that doesn't happen with me is "head to wind" for reefing --- that is just too unstable a position. Instead, heave to.

Look for the topics on Heaving To under Seamanship&Boat Handling - or read up in it in the "Basic Concepts" thread in the same section.

The discussion of wind forecasts should really be there, under it's own thread, instead of an afterthought on a topic in Rigging...
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Re: Reefing the main sail

Postby tomodda » Mon Apr 19, 2021 5:43 am

Thank you for the correction re: heaving-to to reef, of course you're right. Backwind the jib, put the helm a-Lee, and skid sideways downwind. Never done it for a storm in a DS or a catamaran, but often enough in a keel boat. I've hove my DS to for practice and for lunch a few times, but that's different than doing it in a storm (no big gusts, for one thing) Question, would you leave the CB all the way down? Ordinarily, yes, I leave it down, limit leeway, steady the boat. But in bigger wind, do you risk tripping on it?

This may also be best for separate topic. And, as a lake sailor (in my DS anyhow), I've just never been "caught out" in a squall, I check the weather before heading out.
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Re: Reefing the main sail

Postby GreenLake » Mon Apr 19, 2021 5:07 pm

In conditions where you want to set a first reef, heaving to is fine. And gives you a stable boat with a depowered main to put in your reef. Would I weather a "storm" with it? That's a different question and unlike the first one, not something I have personal experience with.
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Re: Reefing the main sail

Postby tomodda » Mon Apr 19, 2021 6:36 pm

Yeah, I 've been in a some hair-raising Chesapeake storms, but always in a keelboat (lead miner). Heave to and enjoy falling off 5-6 foot chop. Can't imagine that in a DS. As I wrote above, the best defense is not getting into those situations in the first place, especially nowadays with better weather forecasting and live radar pics available online. Yes.. contrary to what I wrote above, I've seen bad weather brew up "out of nowhere," but that's been on hot, windless days, the kind where I don't sail and convective cells turn into monster thunderstorms due to all the heat/energy. Anyway, maybe you want to add a "Basic Weather for inland sailors" section to your guides? I'm curious as to how other areas of the country are different from the East Coast patterns that I'm used to.
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Re: Reefing the main sail

Postby GreenLake » Tue Apr 20, 2021 6:46 pm

Yeah, we should thing about doing a bit on weather. Will have to think about it.

A DS is not a boat that you want out in a real "storm". That said, there's this guy out in Britain who sailed a Wayfarer across the North Sea. Just a tad shorter than the DS and perhaps a little less Sail area and a bit more beam by proportion and perhaps a bit more freeboard aft. But still, pretty much the same ballpark.

When you are simply overpowered (wind just out the range that you can handle) then there are things that can be done - esp. on landlocked bodies of water.

I had an occasion where I decided it wasn't fun anymore and took the main down. I first took the jib down as well, but then realized going home was downwind. So I put the jib back up and did 4+ knots under jib alone. Luckily into a protected docking area, so no being blown onto the dock.

As mentioned in the other thread; set your reef line so the Starboard side is to windward when you are setting your reef. As you are hove to, you will be the stand-on vessel and everybody else the give-way vessel. Makes a difference on a busy lake.
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Re: Reefing the main sail

Postby Shagbark » Tue Apr 20, 2021 9:41 pm

As I write this, my main sail is at Slo Canvas and Sail getting a second set of reef points installed. I've been in conditions where the first reef made sailing so much more enjoyable. It makes it so you don't have to fight the boat the whole time. Heaving to when setting the reef is the way to go. The second set is my 'whoops, I shouldn't be out here' set. Has only happened on a couple of occasions but having some additional insurance when the weather proves the prognasticators wrong will certainly bring a piece of mind when I'm out a ways.
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Re: Reefing the main sail

Postby tomodda » Tue Apr 20, 2021 11:37 pm

Good point on starboard side reefing. Too late now on my new sail, but next time.

As it happens, I was out for my first sail of the season today (solo, 12 gusting maybe 16kts of unexpected wind) and put in one reef. Sail set great, but... Weird thing is that I was sailing close hauled and the upper 1/3 of the sail back winded and stayed that way. I'm trying to figure out why. I gave her a lot of vang, no change. I sheeted in some more, nothing. Outhaul was pulled taught, as was my boom downhaul. I tried easing the vang and then sheets, still the top 1/3 back winded. Strange.

Any ideas? The only thing I can think of is either my mainsheet bridle is too high, opening the leech, or it had something to do with my mast bend. Reefed, the head of the sail is at the "belly" of the bend, where it goes forward the most. Any thought would be appreciated.

PS, it being my first "serious sail" in quite a long time, it was a comedy of errors. I even managed to put the entire lee deck under during a misguided and mistimed attempt to roll-tack. Entire boat rolled right on top of me! If I hadn't let go the main and immediately thrown myself over the centerboard, I'd have capsized. As it was I shipped green water, enough to fill the bilges by about a foot. Big Blue Bucket Bailing to the rescue!

Oh, in case you ever wondered which would win - 10 inch galvanized dock cleat or 4 inch cutsey Daysailer deck cleat - if you tried to pull the boat on trailer up the ramp while still tied to the dock.... Well, let's just say it wasn't the 4-incher!
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Re: Reefing the main sail

Postby GreenLake » Wed Apr 21, 2021 9:18 am

Shagbark wrote:As I write this, my main sail is at Slo Canvas and Sail getting a second set of reef points installed. I've been in conditions where the first reef made sailing so much more enjoyable. It makes it so you don't have to fight the boat the whole time. Heaving to when setting the reef is the way to go. The second set is my 'whoops, I shouldn't be out here' set. Has only happened on a couple of occasions but having some additional insurance when the weather proves the prognasticators wrong will certainly bring a piece of mind when I'm out a ways.


People who go on extended cruises, like the Tx 200, will put a third reef in.
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Re: Reefing the main sail

Postby jalmeida51 » Wed Apr 21, 2021 10:19 am

When Schurr Sails made my new sails they suggested a single reef at 30% which works for me. I also had them make a jib 25% less than the class legal size. So between the 3 sails I can sail very comfortable in winds in the 15 knot range singlehanded. I did install a c/b with more ballast. Again not class legal. If the wind goes higher than 15, I am headed in.

John
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Re: Reefing the main sail

Postby tomodda » Wed Apr 21, 2021 10:22 am

John, how much ballast, did you put lead near the tip?

Tom
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Re: Reefing the main sail

Postby jalmeida51 » Wed Apr 21, 2021 1:34 pm

Tom, Total weight of the c/b is 45lbs. That is 20 more lbs. more than the old one I replaced. The old one was water soaked and it took over 2 weeks to dry out.
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