Sunday, June 5, 2016

Sailing Questions

Are there any sailors in the audience today?  If there are, I'd like to ask some questions please.  I have my theories but sailing is not my thing and I'd like some confirmation if it is available.

We are in a sailboat that is reaching to port.  We'd like to change the attitude of the vessel so that it is reaching to starboard.  I think it is called 'through the eye of the wind.'

1.  Does this require setting the sail/boat more than once, or is it a single change to make the sailboat come about?
2.  Is this more difficult than changing from close-hauling towards port to close-hauling towards starboard?
3.  Does it require more than one adjustment when doing it with a much larger sailboat?  Do mistakes get made when passing through the eye of the wind that leaves the sailboat - I don't know the term - 'stranded' with its head to the wind?
4.  If a good crew aboard a big sailboat requires ninety seconds to tack from port to starboard, how much less time would it take to change the boat's attitude from reaching to closehauling on the same general heading or from running to reaching?

I apologize for not having the right terms or for being too vague, if that's the case.  These are questions to which I cannot find answers on the net.


Chad said...

Most of what you're going to want to look at will be tacking. This will not only explain what you're looking for, but much of the related discussion on tacking will illuminate several other, related topics.

The danger I think you're referring to is being in irons - can often cost a ship a mast; consequently can result in the ship foundering, or if tacking in battle, simply being immobile and with sails likely hanging over your gunports, you're in quite a bit of trouble.

If your local library has it, Seamanship in the Age of Sail is the essential reference for sailing ships. It might be a bit more time-forward than you're looking for, but the concepts are the same. It's a hefty investment in time to read - especially since you're likely to need to read backwards and forwards quite a bit - but reading it will save you a hundred times the effort of reading anything else and picking out the good from bad, and all the contradictory information.

Jeremiah Scott said...

I love sailing and have done so on many occasions. There may be more expert sailors who can override what I say, but I'll take a stab at the questions anyway.

Chad is correct in one aspect, what you want to do is called tacking. If you were to turn the other way--from reaching on one side to the other through a following wind--that is called a jibe. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Tacking is usually preferred as it is a less complex maneuver and mistakes are less costly (a bad jibe can capsize a boat), though it will cause speed to drop off precipitously, making your SOG when tacking upwind much slower if the boat isn't handled properly.

1. Modern boat rigs are mostly self-tacking--meaning little needs to be done at all to tack other than putting the rudder over. Certain types of jibs and spinnakers will need to be moved to the other side of the boat while passing through the wind. My understanding is that square-rigged ships were much harder to tack and required the combined effort of several seaman. I don't know whether that means they jibed more often--generally, square-rigged ships did everything better on a run whereas today's boats do everything better on a reach, so that may be the case.

2. On a modern boat it is the exact same procedure--just put the rudder over and switch your headsail if you have one. Again, older ships I'm not so sure about.

3. I don't know the answer for larger sailboats, though I suspect it is basically the same (everything just scales up, for the most part). Square rigged ships add many more sails and my understanding is that each sail requires some manual adjustment when changing points of sail, so it may add to the complexity quite a bit to tack a large square-rigger.

Modern boats have almost no danger of being caught in irons when tacking. There is plenty of momentum to carry the boat through the turn--and even if there isn't, it is quite simple to winch a boom in such a way as to manipulate a sail so that the wind swings the bow around. Square-riggers probably had an increased danger of being caught in irons (we hear about it more with them anyway), but I think it is more nuisance than anything. The name of the game when tacking is usually SOG--speed over ground. You're generally working your way upwind when tacking, not just changing courses, so any time in irons would severely reduce your SOG and maybe even make you lose progress against the wind if you are pushed downwind at all. Again though, just a nuisance.

4. Going from a reach to close hauling on the same general heading--nothing could be simpler on a modern rig. It wouldn't take much effort at all, except perhaps shaking out the sheets a bit. Square-rigged ships did not close-haul well at all. Their maximum angle into the wind was much more prohibitive than on fore-and-aft rigged ships.

Going from a run to a reach on a modern boat is one of the more difficult shifts of point of sail--especially if you are running with your sheets gull-winged, meaning flying on both sides of the keel. You will also need to reef your sails when transitioning to a reach in order to reduce your sail area. You want a lot of sail area on a run, but you want to be much more cautious with it on a reach or you can heel to much or go too fast and become unstable (depending on the skill of the sailors).

I hope this helps!