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Old 07-23-2019, 06:01 PM   #1
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Going Solo

Have seen a couple of you refer to voyaging solo. Will soon start moving the boat from Lake Michigan to New England and wife will be coming along...at least for part of it. I expect at some point she'll have enough of being aboard and want a break, and if I can't shanghai some help may be doing at least part of the trip solo.

Interested in any particular issues/problems you solo voyagers have experienced in your travels, docking, locking, watchstanding on longer legs, etc.
Joe
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Old 07-23-2019, 07:03 PM   #2
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I do a lot of solo on a 41+ foot trawler. About half of last year's 5-month cruise to Prince William Sound. This summer i've had wife and friends for two weeks, now setting off for a solo month.


1. Autopilot, absolute necessity. Doesnt relieve you from duty tp conn the vessel, but makes it possible to brew coffee, tweak radar, etc.


2. Good helm chair


3. Short duty days. If a long passage is necessary (one of my legs was 56 hours offshore), get help. Fly in some guy from your yacht club, neighbor, brother-in-law, etc. I imposed on a colleague who owed me a favor; she sent her husband.


4. Provision with the mission in mind, i e., cooking breakfast or dinner is okay, and i do enjoy cooking a full meal, but some days being solo means ramen or a Clif bar for lunch.
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Old 07-23-2019, 07:07 PM   #3
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Haven't experienced any significant difficulty in docking single-handed on my boat. (Have port and starboard pilot house doors at deck level only a foot or so above floating docks.) Have you practiced such on your boat? Being single-handed, you need to take care when responding to nature's call, and obtaining sustenance on board. Take port before fatigue takes over, and avoid a night passage when a lookout could assist the helmsman.
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Old 07-23-2019, 07:09 PM   #4
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Agree, Item #2 is important. My lower back has seen better days. I upgraded to a Stidd chair with good lumbar support And is has been worth the money for the longer runs.
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Old 07-23-2019, 07:09 PM   #5
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I'm solo almost always. There are some challenges. Most are relative to circumstance or conditions. Simply, many of the problems you will face can be overcome by not going that day or going to plan B. As an example, most any competent captain should be able to dock their boat in most slips, during daylight hours, without current, wind or boat traffic. When you start adding these challenges, it becomes more difficult and maybe impossible. So, you don't go on days when weather is expected to be bad or deteriorate. You have to be able to say no I'm not going to try docking now because of the tidal currents, the wind or boat traffic in the fairways. You have to be able to refuse a slip assignment because it's beyond your ability to get the boat safely in it. You need to have plan B that says if the marina doesn't work out, I can drop a hook over here, and be safe for the night. The last one speaks to having alternatives before you start in the morning.

There are some things that will require practice solo, or changing technique. Locking and docking are two of these things that will only be mastered with lots of practice. Develop your techniques and practice them solo while your wife is there to catch you when you're still learning.

If you have specific questions, don't hesitate to ask. I did the Great Loop solo, so much of what you will face, I have some experience with.

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Old 07-23-2019, 07:28 PM   #6
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I'll volunteer to help, I'm interested in buying a trawler and looking to get some experience on one.
I have sailing experience offshore, Caribbean, ICW
Mate charter fishing lake O, on 40ft lurhs.
Deck hand on mega yachts.
I own 3 boats now, 2 runabouts, small sailboat.
I'm near Toronto.
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Old 07-23-2019, 07:37 PM   #7
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I often hear people concerned about docking a large boat. I donít get it. I run boats from 13í whaler to 90í head boats. I have never ever asked for docking help. And if some one thinks of helping by pushing against a pole of pier they get an ear full . Unless the person is in full sync with the Captain they are of no help and may just get hurt.
As far as solo transit, it is far more important to have your navigation, weather, and breaks in order before you set out. Those are distractions and you are the only eyes.
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Old 07-23-2019, 07:38 PM   #8
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ALMOST FORGOT: Maybe most important point re: docking My boat has a lot of fine old deck hardware, bronze hawse holes with integrated cleat lugs, etc. BUT they are ill-situated for single handing: I would have to set long dock lines which reached my boarding gate from stern and 1/4 aft of the bow and step ashore trying to tie the bow without letting the stern blow into the boat in the next slip, or worse.


I finally discovered the obvious, and installed a heavy cleat (doesnt match, i'm sad to say) at the center of rotation of the boat. I put a 15' line on it, place the boat on the dock, step off and cleat it parallel, then go about setting out the lines and springs i want.


Also defeats the helpful doofus who inevitably pulls your bow line in, leaving you at a 30 degree angle to the dock.


Bill
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Old 07-23-2019, 10:13 PM   #9
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I routinely single hand. Always be thinking ahead; which side the fenders need to be out on, how to manage the wind to help you, what's going to happen when the first line is cleated, and when you're going to abort and go around.
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Old 07-23-2019, 10:23 PM   #10
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I donít single hand as much as many but I do it every chance I get. I love being on the boat solo. Unlike Art, Iím human and do occasionally have trouble docking gracefully. I always plan on doing it without any assistance from dockhands (rare around here anyway). Solo does take some planning. Like Bill, I have found that a midship line near where I get off the boat when docking, works really well. I will lay out a stern and bow line ahead of time so they are readily available to me after I get the midship line tied off.
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Old 07-23-2019, 10:33 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by O C Diver View Post
I'm solo almost always. There are some challenges. Most are relative to circumstance or conditions. Simply, many of the problems you will face can be overcome by not going that day or going to plan B. As an example, most any competent captain should be able to dock their boat in most slips, during daylight hours, without current, wind or boat traffic. When you start adding these challenges, it becomes more difficult and maybe impossible. So, you don't go on days when weather is expected to be bad or deteriorate. You have to be able to say no I'm not going to try docking now because of the tidal currents, the wind or boat traffic in the fairways. You have to be able to refuse a slip assignment because it's beyond your ability to get the boat safely in it. You need to have plan B that says if the marina doesn't work out, I can drop a hook over here, and be safe for the night. The last one speaks to having alternatives before you start in the morning.

There are some things that will require practice solo, or changing technique. Locking and docking are two of these things that will only be mastered with lots of practice. Develop your techniques and practice them solo while your wife is there to catch you when you're still learning.

If you have specific questions, don't hesitate to ask. I did the Great Loop solo, so much of what you will face, I have some experience with.

Ted

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Old 07-25-2019, 09:19 AM   #12
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What OC and dhays said. Have a plan, both for when it goes right and know when to abort. The confidence to stay committed when you should will come. Humility can be a strength.
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Old 07-25-2019, 10:23 AM   #13
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As Mark mentioned, good ergonomics make a big difference, so when choosing a boat, walk through how you would do things with and without (capable) crew. If you are stuck with a boat less well designed to accommodate single handling, note some of the things others on this thread have done to offset that.

As someone who is not naturally adept (likewise my main fellow crew member) , due to ADD, mild dyslexia, and somewhat clumsy, I need all the help from the boat I can get. Then planning, preparation, and practice to maximise that. Due to its outstanding ergonomic design, I got to where I could single hand our big tub of a Hatteras 56 Motoryacht pretty easily and enjoyably. As for docking, I have two words of essential advice: "spring line", preferably with a really big loop on one end.
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Old 07-25-2019, 07:11 PM   #14
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Number of good points, thanks guys. The boat has thrusters and with a little planning and attention to wind, current, and traffic, not too concerned about docking - done plenty of it solo on my 27' sailboat (single screw, no thruster).

Picking up on Bill's point, the Pilgrim has very high bulwarks all around with scuppers/chocks not ideally located for easy line handling. So I think that's where I'll have to be well organized ahead of time. On the good side, freeboard is minimal so should be able to step off easily once the boat is laid alongside.

Underway, points on helm comfort and autopilot well taken. The A/P worked during the sea trial; hopefully it will hang in there for the trip.
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Old 07-25-2019, 08:19 PM   #15
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Number of good points, thanks guys. The boat has thrusters and with a little planning and attention to wind, current, and traffic, not too concerned about docking - done plenty of it solo on my 27' sailboat (single screw, no thruster).



Picking up on Bill's point, the Pilgrim has very high bulwarks all around with scuppers/chocks not ideally located for easy line handling. So I think that's where I'll have to be well organized ahead of time. On the good side, freeboard is minimal so should be able to step off easily once the boat is laid alongside.



Underway, points on helm comfort and autopilot well taken. The A/P worked during the sea trial; hopefully it will hang in there for the trip.

Joe

I canít picture what you mean by high bulwarks but low freeboard. My boat has a very nice cockpit door on the starboard side. That is great for a crew member to step off in the stern. Provided there is a crew member and provided we have a starboard tie.

I can exit the boat amidships out the PH door, but the freeboard there is very high. I found a Fender Step works great. I have long legs and it is still a big step but doable.

My last boat was a 40í sailboat with spade keel and rudder, no thruster. While there were plenty of times that a thruster would have been nice, in general I found the sailboat easier to dock than my single screw Trawler with bow and stern thrusters. Nothing beats a big rudder!
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Old 07-25-2019, 08:46 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by caltexflanc View Post
AAs for docking, I have two words of essential advice: "spring line", preferably with a really big loop on one end.
+1.

Agree totally. Your spring line will be your first mate.


As for access to the dock in a hurry - Never step off the boat until it is secured to the dock, especially when solo.
Secure the boat with a spring line and use the boat engine & rudder to hold it in place. Then you have all the time in the world. Casually disembark and tie off the other cleats.

Scrambling onto a dock when the boat is usecured is a recipe for disaster.
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Old 07-25-2019, 09:08 PM   #17
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+1.



Agree totally. Your spring line will be your first mate.





As for access to the dock in a hurry - Never step off the boat until it is secured to the dock, especially when solo.

Secure the boat with a spring line and use the boat engine & rudder to hold it in place. Then you have all the time in the world. Casually disembark and tie off the other cleats.



Scrambling onto a dock when the boat is usecured is a recipe for disaster.

That works when the docking situation allows. That is rarely the case in the PNW, particularly when coming into a new marina. Last night, we stayed at the dock that had bull bars. There is no way to get a spring line on that without stepping off the boat onto the dock.

I would agree that you should only step off the boat when the boat is next to the dock and not moving.
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Old 07-25-2019, 09:44 PM   #18
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Solo most of the time in the PNW. My usual move is to get a short line on the stern without leaving the boat. I can do bull rails this way from the swimstep while not leaving the boat. The. Kick the boat in gear to get the bow alongside the dock. At that point I can safely get a midship line on.
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Old 07-25-2019, 09:57 PM   #19
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Solo most of the time in the PNW. My usual move is to get a short line on the stern without leaving the boat. I can do bull rails this way from the swimstep while not leaving the boat. The. Kick the boat in gear to get the bow alongside the dock. At that point I can safely get a midship line on.

Iím impressed. I couldnít move from the helm to the swim step quickly enough if current or wind were moving the boat off the dock.

Goes to show that everything is boat dependent. The OP will figure out what works for him regardless of what boat he ends up with. Some may be easier than others, but I think that most boats can be workable with needed accommodations.
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Old 07-26-2019, 02:20 AM   #20
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I liveaboard an 83' boat with twins. I solo most of the time. But I've been handling ships and boats for about 60 years. Docking requires a plan and preparation. Sometimes the wind and current will make solo docking too risky. Be prepared to anchor and wait out bad conditions. Carry a boat so you can go ashore.

I usually break my trips into one day jumps between anchorages. The only long jump I make is crossing the Gulf of Alaska, about 500 miles and 50 hours. Usually I have someone with me, but if not I either shutdown and drift or if sea conditions are bad, idle into the swells and cat nap. If you are on a long run and tired, don't use a chair. Too many people have fallen asleep with the boat on autopilot and later made the news.
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