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Why do some sailboats, sail more than others?

Sep 30, 2008
Catalina 310 Quincy, MA
We sailed onto a mooring at Jamestown, Rhode Island, one time, although we hadn't actually planned to. As we came around the point into the marina, we rolled up the genny and started the engine, as we usually do, but I kept the gear in neutral, with the mainsail still up and pulling nicely. Soon, my girlfriend asked if we should drop the main, and I thought about it, and replied, "In a minute". As we ghosted into the marina, the dockmaster drove out and pointed to our mooring, just a little upwind of us. I turned into the mooring field, cut behind a couple of boats, and turned again, coming up between a couple more, and let the main sheet loose as my girlfriend snagged the mooring ball. Later, the dockmaster drove out in the tender to pick us up and said, "Congratulations, you're the first boat this season to sail onto the mooring". I had to be honest, and thanked him, but explained that we don't always do that, but it felt right at the time, and it sure did feel good.
Apr 4, 2016
Newport 28 Richardson Marina
My sailing threshold is when the other half starts complaining it is taking too long to get to the dock. I don't mind sailing in at 1/2 knot as long as I have steerage way. I find I learn more in these conditions than on that lovely beam reach in 10 knots of breeze.
My favorite is the guy on our lake with a M26X who does 20 knots with his sails flogging in the wind when everyone else is sailing.
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Apr 13, 2007
Catalina 27 TR Lorain, Ohio
This seems to be the place for stories so here's mine. My marina is just off a river that is about 1/2 mile up river from a Great Lake. I usually motor in and out because A) very narrow in the marina. B) there can be lots of traffic on river including Shipping (50K tons 600ft -rights of tonnage and in the river only about 50ft or less room off each sea wall) and sometimes a few motorboats that are unaware of what wake does and only dimly familiar with the rules of the road so good to at least have the motor running.
About 2 years ago I had 4 coeds as guests come out for a sail with my wife and I. They had little or no boating experience at all. It was very nice morning and we motored with the wind and out into the lake. I reached over to turn off the engine after the sails were up and the engine quite by itself. Not a good omen. We sailed about for a few hours and the young ladies took turns 'driving'. Did I mention English is a second language for them? I went to restart the engine and it cranked fine but just wouldn't start. The winds were light but favorable. However, the last 1/4 mile or so to get to the marina entrance we would be directly into the wind.
So I tried to explain to them the concept of sculling the boat by rocking it back and forth so the keel would act like a fin and propel the boat forward. They looked somewhat skeptical and I was afraid to even look at my wife. "You want us to dance up on there?" pointing to the foredeck. Not exactly. Just the four of you swaying together side to side to rock the boat so we can get in because I will have to drop the sails before we get into the dock.
So OK they did it. We silently drifted into the dock very slowly and came to a perfect stop. I jumped off and tied up the docklines and all was good. I should also mention they were in their early 20's and drop dead gorgeous. The only close call was another boater came out of the marina just as we were about to make the turn in and almost ran into the wall on the other side of the river but recovered his wits in time to avoid breaking his boat. A few weeks later I heard they were wearing bikinis. No, it wasn't all that warm that day on the lake so all were wearing jeans and sweatshirts. However, the legend persists. If they had, we would still be sculling up and down the river.
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Oct 29, 2016
Hunter 41 DS Port Huron
Joe the legend of Lake Erie, love the story, its what boating can and should be........
Mar 26, 2011
Corsair F-24 MK I Deale, MD
I think a lot of people have a "speed floor" (SF). It's my own expression so I get to define it: The SF is defined as "the slowest speed at which you sail before turning on the auxiliary engine". For any given sailor, boat, time, and place: The SF varies based on the following factors, partial list -- not in any particular order:
  1. Distance from next port
  2. Whether trying to make a destination, or just sailing out and back (daysailing)
  3. Time remaining until last daylight
  4. If inclement weather is approaching, and when
  5. Schedule imposed by reservations at a marina or restaurant, or rendezvous with others, or work obligations
  6. If the dog must be walked
  7. Normal sailing speed of boat (faster boats have a higher SF)
  8. Cruising speed of boat under power (faster boats have a higher SF)
  9. Whether it is extremely hot, cold, or raining.
  10. Wind direction and speed (probably should be #1)
11. Mood.
12. Clear wind (forest and cliffs vs. marsh).

Sometimes I sail right to the hook, sometimes the wind in close is to fluky and cut up by the trees to be either pleasant or safe.
Jun 3, 2012
Hunter 33 Bay Pointe, Quincy
Years ago we had an old Catalina 27 with a Petter diesel - what a contraption. The Petter gave up the ghost for good early in the season. My wife and I continued sailing all summer sans engine. We were at an easily accessed mooring that season and became quite adept at arriving and leaving under sail. It became second nature and I think we could still do it if gracefully if we had to. All of us acquire the skills we need when we have no other choice. Motoring up to a mooring is just too easy.
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Alden Forum Moderator
Jun 22, 2004
Alden 38' Challenger yawl Rockport Harbor
Good to read that many people enjoy sailing on and off anchors, moorings and in places many don't. Sometimes there isn't a better choice (engine problems as in the above post). And some larger boats, simply don't have engines.

I watched the Pardey's sail out of Camden Harbor years ago. It was quite a trick, but everybody knows, they had no choice (they have never had an engine in their cruising boats). They did it with ease, and the better part of an hour in the light wind. But come to think of it, the the Pardey's long ago conquered schedules that keep many from sailing, slowly. They sailed on their own time.

I remember watching (and shooting) this boat sail through inner Northeast Harbor; a very crowded, tight harbor.

I know the guy and have seen him sail in and out of harbors(he had a flukey engine last I knew). He's very good at it!

To look at this photo now - a few years later, I feel the same nervousness I felt when I took the photo. Too risky for me but he did it with no problems.

Loki sailing through Northeast.jpg
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Dec 30, 2009
jeanneau 38 gin fizz sloop Summer- Keyport Yacht Club, Raritan Bay, NJ, Winter Viking Marina Verplanck, NY
I think its the sailors comfort level also...my boat has an old type sailplanes meaning main is. Very large full baton type with a full cable halyard and winch is called a "widowmaker" I need to pull it down with a lot of effort , not to mention my furled on headsail had its own attitude,a bad one. Seriously I needed plenty of room to drop sail so I dropped sail at least a half mile out of anchorage. I finally did something bout it , I had my furled rebuilt and I raised it up about 1-1/2'up,two reasons get it off the anchor and visibility and handling. He also installed anti-twist at tto also. The boat had a dutchman lazy jack system i am going to also deploy. I also got the tides track system for my main so I'm hoping......the goal is hopefully going from fighting the sails down to them cooperating somewhat. I can't wait I've been putting up with this too long. I think I'm on the right track. Red
May 25, 2012
john alden caravelle 42 sturgeon bay, wis
mankind has been sailing boats for 6,000 ish years. sailboats have had aux. engines for only a little over 100 years. if you watch 50 ten year old sailors in prams they can show you how to maneuver in tight quarters. if you have set up your boat for reaching only it might be harder.
Dec 30, 2010
Pacific Seacraft Orion27 HP: San Diego, M: Anacortes
I've told this one here before, and others have mentioned engine problems.

Most ironic thing that happened to the J105 I crewed on for years. For years we would start out from the dock to go to a race... with the sails barely hanging on... the main still in the bag... until we had this little problem.

It started suddenly... the engine fired up just fine, pushed us off the dock, but several boat lengths from the docks, it would just putter and give us no power. The skipper would just sulk at the thought that his fine racing machine just would not go. The crew would spring into action, joking that "hey, we ARE a sail boat" and quickly haul on the mains'l.

It went on like this for months... the skipper would call someone down to the boat to look at the engine between races, and be told "everything's fine, I started and ran the engine, no problem."

Then race day would arrive, the crew would bend on the jib, but just unbag the main and tie it to the boom. Skipper would fire up the engine, let it warm up for a few minutes and proudly head out down the fairway... only to have the engine just sort of putter down. Well, we could see the pattern here, and got to the point of setting up both main and jib... having everything ready... after all, we were a sailboat... and we wanted to go racing.

So month after month, skipper would call a mechanic, but we would still have the boat fully rigged, to sail. And sail in and out we did. We were, after all, a sailing crew... and damn that engine, we're sailing.

Finally, after about 4-5 months, a mechanic announced he had found a hairline crack on one of the fuel lines... and yes, indeed the engine was fixed, and ran... but by this time, we were so used to just sailing in and out, we often just pushed off the dock and headed down the fairway... if there was any breeze at all... who needed that darn iron jenny anyway... we're a sailing crew! GRIN