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Tips and Tricks to Maximize with a Minimal Crew

With many people cruising and racing with their families or short-handed this year, it's important to adapt some of the systems on your boat to the new norm. Quantum's Carter White divulges the best tips and tricks for sailing with less than your normal or preferred crew.



“Avoid the lobster pots” is what we often hear in Maine. The pots are buoys on the water that you need to avoid as they, along with the line to the traps, can get tangled in your rudder, keel, and prop. Most of us have been sailing short-handed this season, with family, or even alone due to the pandemic. The last thing we want to do is get tangled in a lobster pot and have to dive over board and free the boat from this mess. At worst, it can be dangerous; at best, it can really ruin your day. The same can be said of running aground or getting caught in a storm. So how do we avoid getting ourselves in these situations and sail the boat effectively with fewer people onboard?

Stay Organized

All good pilots, captains, and skippers have systems that help eliminate as many unforeseen problems as possible. Having systems in place also ensure we enjoy the time we do have on the water. These systems are even more critical when operating the boat short-handed. Who packs the cooler, who charges the radio, and how much time do we need to get to the boat? The list is long, but we know what to do, and usually we just do it because it’s our routine. However, if we create a system for boat preparations, we can avoid the pitfalls of finding ourselves on the water with dead batteries, no life jackets, or not enough beer and wine. Along with boat preparations, building a routine for docking is a great place to start. This will help ensure everyone knows their job and that the trip is less stressful. Quantum’s Wally Cross has a great playbook for cruisers and short-handed sailors that helps develop a routine.

Repair or replace sails

Repair or replace your bagged-out sails. Efficient flying shapes make the boat more manageable, which is what you need with fewer people onboard. You might argue you’re not trying to win a race, but have you ever struggled to get back to the mooring in time for dinner? What about meeting the harbor master before they are gone for the day or getting to the fuel dock before it’s closed for the night? While baggy sails certainly hurt your speed, they also affect your pointing ability and righting moment. Has someone new to sailing been turned off by the boat heeling over? As sails get older and worn, they lose their designed shape. The draft gets deeper and moves aft, making it harder to depower your sails and, in turn, keep the boat flatter. 

Utilize Sail Handling Systems

New sails are great, but there are also handling systems that can make sailing easier, more efficient, and fun. These systems may also provide more affordable options over new sails. Here are a few to consider along with the problems they solve.

Roller Furlers

Roller furling has been around for a long time, and now it is applicable to almost any sail you can put on the boat. From the genoa to the mainsail and even your spinnaker, there are roller furling systems to handle each of these sails. These systems help you deploy and store your sail quicker and easier. Click here to learn more about downwind furling. 

Mainsail Track Systems

Most masts weren’t designed with the owner in mind in terms of raising and lowering their sail. Mainsail track systems are a great way to customize this to fit your style of sailing. These track systems help raise and lower the mainsail with a lot less effort. The Tides Marine Strong System is one well-known track system, but there are many other track systems, and your sailmaker and rigger can suggest the best one for your boat and needs.  

Mainsail Handling Systems

Just getting the mainsail up and down isn’t always the biggest issue when handling sails; it might be what to do with the sail once it’s down. Sometimes it’s hard to tame the beast, so there are a variety of systems to help with this, too. Quantum’s Dave Flynn covers this in his article, Taming the Mainsail: Finding the Best Handling System. Dave writes that there are many options that make putting the mainsail away easier, including lazy jacks, Park Avenue booms, integrated sail covers, Dutchman systems, and more.

These are just a few of the ways you can make your day on the water easier and more enjoyable when you’re sailing with family or a smaller crew. Schedule a consultation with your local sailmaker to discuss these systems and if there are improvements that can be made with their addition. Now is the perfect time. With your boat in the water, we are more than happy to spend time discussing how to help you maximize fun and enjoyment. And if your boat isn’t in the water, it’s never too late to start planning for next year.

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