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Old 08-13-2020, 11:19 AM   #1
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Thoughts on riding sails and rigging

Many of us here have boats that are "less than well behaved" at anchor in gusty winds. I know on my boat it's an issue of windage being too far forward, as putting the full aft canvas up helps the issue a bit.

Based on that, let's give some thought to riding sails and how to rig one in an effective location (far enough aft) and with an effective shape. Particularly for those of us without masts.

I have a feeling the answer may come to "it's just not practical", but let's see what we can come up with.

I'm thinking one option for those with davits would be a pair of sails rigged from the outer corners of the transom / rail to the davits to help the stern get pushed back in line when swinging off the wind.
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Old 08-13-2020, 12:09 PM   #2
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Many of us here have boats that are "less than well behaved" at anchor in gusty winds. I know on my boat it's an issue of windage being too far forward, as putting the full aft canvas up helps the issue a bit.
Left adrift with a breeze and absent other influences such as current, the normal attitude for most boats such as ours will be to ride perpendicular to the wind. It is not like a weather vane that will point-up into the wind. Windage forward or abaft will influence the final angle, but for the most part, the boat wants to be perpendicular to the wind. "Sailing" at anchor is the tension of the boat trying to go perpendicular and eventually having the bow snapped through the wind by the anchor. Rinse/repeat. Heavier boats that sit lower and deeper in the water are slower to 'sail' and gather less momentum.

A riding sail will help, but will not eliminate the problem. Many sailors try them. Most give up saying it's surprisingly hard to rig and not worth the effort.

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Old 08-13-2020, 12:16 PM   #3
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My boat naturally rides pointed I'd say about 100* off the wind, so the bow blows off severely. The biggest issue is in gusty winds, where it's not uncommon to sit 70 - 90* off the wind, sailing forward (I've seen better than 1.5 kts) until enough tension comes up on the anchor rode to pull the bow around. Then we tack almost 180* (rather quickly if the wind is strong enough) and go off doing the same thing in the other direction. It can't be great for anchor holding and it certainly freaks out surrounding boats, as in deeper water we can sail back and forth a couple hundred feet fairly quickly rather than just yawing in a smaller area like many do.

It also seems like boats with their windage further aft and their drag in the water further forward tend to yaw much less, as they act more like a weather vane. I don't expect it's possible (within reasonable effort) to achieve that on any of our boats, but reducing the angle of yaw should at least tame the behavior some.

On my boat, if I've got all of the canvas up (adds a bit of windage aft) and the wind isn't too gusty and the wind direction is steady, we yaw around a bit, but don't sail. Once it gets gusty or I drop the back canvas during the day, then we start sailing significantly.
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Old 08-14-2020, 06:18 AM   #4
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Some folks with sailing dinks simply stick the dinkmast aft , and flatted the sail with a down haul.
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Old 08-14-2020, 06:59 AM   #5
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Part of understanding a boat "falling off " at the bow is the lack of hull or more properly keel at the bow in the water. It's common to see Chesapeake bay waterman's boats where keel has been added all the way to the bow. Visualize traveling up wind to a crab pot. As you slow down, the bow falls off from the wind pushing it. While the added keel doesn't prevent the bow from falling off with the wind, it dramatically slows down the rate of fall off.

My boat "hunts" terribly at anchor. I've found that having a drag weight off the bow with almost zero scope slows the rate of fall off and allows the stern to catch up and the bow to change direction. While the hunting isn't eliminated, it is greatly reduced. Currently I'm using 30 pounds of scuba diving weights. Would like to try a mushroom anchor of about that size.

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Old 08-14-2020, 07:16 AM   #6
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I've also considered adding drag up forward (either dragging an anchor or a drogue from the bow). My forefoot isn't cut away like a Sea Ray, but I've got less boat in the water than I do further aft.
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Old 08-14-2020, 08:39 AM   #7
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Thinking back on hundreds of nights at anchor and at mooring fields, up and down both coasts of the USA, I cannot recall ever seeing a power boat deploy a riding sail. And only on a very few occasions, a sailboat using something like a tightly reefed main. I'm kind of an avid observer of these sort of things, so I tend to assume, "there must be a reason for that".
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Old 08-14-2020, 08:41 AM   #8
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Thinking back on hundreds of nights at anchor and at mooring fields, up and down both coasts of the USA, I cannot recall ever seeing a power boat deploy a riding sail. And only on a very few occasions, a sailboat using something like a tightly reefed main. I'm kind of an avid observer of these sort of things, so I tend to assume, "there must be a reason for that".
I've very rarely seen anyone use one either. But I'm not sure why. I kinda figure it might just be a matter of them not having a good way to deploy one that's actually effective.
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Old 08-14-2020, 09:07 AM   #9
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We have a mast, and I added a boom with a hand powered boat trailer winch and small 'bow roller' at the booms end for hauling our beast of a dinghy onto modified Weaver Snap Davits on the swimstep. The boom almost reaches the transom.

Our riding sail is triangular shaped, about 6' long and 3' tall tapering down to 3" near the 'roller'. It goes up really fast, being tied at only three points, does not interfere with anything, and works like a hot damn.

Our main problem isn't the wandering side to side, it's the bounce on the nylon rode. After a somewhat sideways downwind romp the boat will straighten out and stretch the rode, then the tension in the rode will actually pull our boat upwind, where it falls off the wind the other way and gains speed downwind to repeat the process.

I'd guesstimate the riding sail takes 100% of the 'bounce' out of the system and over 50% of the swing. I'm a believer!

Good luck on finding a solution
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Old 08-14-2020, 09:18 AM   #10
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The nylon rode bounce is definitely a large part of my problem. Shallower water with less nylon out does help a bit. Unfortunately, my most common close-to-home anchorage here is almost 50 feet deep, so I've typically got at least 200 feet of rode out (which means at least 110 feet of nylon).
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Old 08-14-2020, 09:34 AM   #11
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Try springing the rode. A line led to a midships cleat from the rode that causes the boat to sit at an angle to anchor pull.
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Old 08-14-2020, 09:37 AM   #12
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Try springing the rode. A line led to a midships cleat from the rode that causes the boat to sit at an angle to anchor pull.
Doesn't work well, at least not on my boat. If the winds are gusty, unless we're at least 60* off the wind, we'll at some point still get pulled through the wind and end up scuffing the spring line across the hull and bottom paint. Going to an aft cleat might be better, but I haven't tried that.
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Old 08-14-2020, 05:09 PM   #13
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We sometimes use a stay sail on our trawler. It helps keep our bow into the wind when anchored or drifting. Depends on the conditions.
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Old 08-14-2020, 05:15 PM   #14
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We sometimes use a stay sail on our trawler. It helps keep our bow into the wind when anchored or drifting. Depends on the conditions. Our vessel was pretty much rigged except for the halyard which we installed. We bought a used sail from bacon sails for $50.
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Old 08-14-2020, 06:25 PM   #15
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Never noticed the problem. Perhaps having a full keel, all chain rode, and no multiple decks has helped.
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Old 08-15-2020, 11:32 AM   #16
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Never noticed the problem. Perhaps having a full keel, all chain rode, and no multiple decks has helped.
It definitely depends on the boat. A boat with a forward pilothouse and a flybridge on top plus a cockpit aft would likely be worse than behaved than mine, assuming similar hull design.
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Old 08-15-2020, 01:19 PM   #17
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It definitely depends on the boat. A boat with a forward pilothouse and a flybridge on top plus a cockpit aft would likely be worse than behaved than mine, assuming similar hull design.
The worst behavior I've seen are by relatively low profile boats actually. Boat weight, chain and keel are the biggest helps. High windage boats like our old Hatteras are not really affected significantly if they have those three. We were usually one of the, if not the most motionless boat in the anchorage.
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Old 08-15-2020, 01:31 PM   #18
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Pretty confident its all about center of lateral resistance below the waterline and center of effort above.

Size and weight affects how much effort is needed but not the actual motion (or lack of it).
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Old 08-15-2020, 02:11 PM   #19
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Our riding sail goes from the aft end of the boom to about 1/2 to the mast, along the cable supporting the boom end from the top of the mast.

Winds shifted one day and came in our bay at about 20 knots (gusting 25) so that's when I quickly tied a small tarp in place...and...presto...bouncy yo-yo swinging problem solved.
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Old 08-15-2020, 03:55 PM   #20
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I haven’t put any real effort into reducing the sailing on Willy.

Some thoughts;
On many boats the CG being too far fwd Probably will promote the stern to swing.
Perhaps a plumb bow stem and the resultant deep fore foot promotes the stern to swing.
A large and strong eye bolt through the stem at or near the WL would help lowering significantly the pull of the rode. Dosn’t that stabilize a towed dinghy?
An anchor lowered from a stern cleat. ... or two. Or chain?
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