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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2019
    Posts
    55

    Default Solo cruising - am I being realistic?

    So as a few of you probably won't remember, I've been around these forums asking various newbie questions. I've been doing a period of CPD (don't ask!) but soon I've got some time off from work and will do a fast-track course, hopefully buying some sort of 29ft sailing boat early next year. I'd like to live on it, but also, go sailing!

    My first plan would be to sail it back to the north-west solo, and then next summer do a circumnavigation of Ireland and maybe go back around the UK. I'd have six weeks off work. I've read a lot of stories about solo circumnavigations because ultimately that's my goal.

    That said, what would it be like sailing a yacht, say from Hamble to North Wales solo? Do solo sailors just set the course and go to sleep or must stay up all night? Or with plenty of time, might the solo sailor put in 12 hours a day and find an anchorage to call it a day? Can you anchor at sea?

    Thanks for the advice!!!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    East coast UK. Mostly. Sometimes the Philippines
    Posts
    9,778

    Default Re: Solo cruising - am I being realistic?

    Itís usual if single handing round the coast to make short hops from port to port. This is both to ensure that you keep a look out and to comply with your insurance policy which will usually have a singlehanding clause requiring you to limit your passages to 18 hours or so.

    There are customary anchorages off the coast, going back to the days of sail, which can be used in settled weather or to get a break if fighting a head wind. Dungeness East and West Roads are two.

    A useful way to look at this is to plan to use the fair tides, and be in port or at anchor during the foul tide.
    Last edited by Kukri; 12-09-19 at 09:07.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Location
    Greenwich
    Posts
    7,575

    Default Re: Solo cruising - am I being realistic?

    The hardest thing soloing is parking and unparking the boat - this is a skill which it is really worth investing in getting training on - and own boat training too once you’ve bought it.

    Otherwise at sea there is plenty of room and therefore time to sort things out yourself. An Autohelm and learning about sail balance is really useful too, but not absolutely essential for day trips. However the quality of the day is very different if you can concentrate on sails not steering and pop down to use the loo, heat up some food, or make a drink.

    One thing to factor in for a trip like that alone in a new boat is that you need to be ready to leave the boat at different places if things break and find a local person to fix what you can’t fix yourself. If you’d been sailing the boat for a season already you would have been through all that first. So it could take far longer than you originally plan. And take lots of fuel In addition to what’s in the tank.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Essex
    Posts
    22,860

    Default Re: Solo cruising - am I being realistic?

    I have little experience of single-handing but from what I can see most of the experienced ones go the extra mile to make the boat as easy to manage as possible. This means making sure the rig is easy to operate from the cockpit, with furling jib and lines to the cockpit. Alternatives are furling main on larger boats or even junk rig. Everything should operate smoothly, and don't overlook the usefulness of things like self-tailing winches, autopilot and good clutches. As said, parking is often not easy, so wear the single-handed pennant and carry lots of fenders.
    Far away is near at hand in images of elsewhere

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2018
    Location
    A Member State of the European Union
    Posts
    6,387

    Default Re: Solo cruising - am I being realistic?

    If you haven't done so already, you might enjoy reading "Down Channel" by R.T.McMullen.
    "Brexit: like watching a library being burned down by people who can't read"

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Location
    Plymouth
    Posts
    8,594

    Default Re: Solo cruising - am I being realistic?

    Hello ross. All of the stuff you mention could be done but I think you might enjoy it more and potentially take less knocks if:

    - You bought a boat nearer your intended base (where prices might be more modest anyway) or arranged the delivery with experienced crew who could help you build on your existing skills.

    - You spent all of the first season around your home base, take a month in a marina and go out a lot, take some significant time on a swinging mooring or a trot. There would be plenty of scope for longer trips without setting off around Ireland where you could well run out of time. As mentioned, six weeks can disappear faster than anticipated.
    By season two you would then be much better placed to decide the way forward.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    Bristol
    Posts
    958

    Default Re: Solo cruising - am I being realistic?

    Singlehand sailing is hard. Autopilots don't keep watch for you and while you are in the heads or whatever no end of problems can arise. Sailing for more than about 8 hours a day is tiring and that takes you only about 24 to 40 miles down coast where you must find a harbour or anchorage to stop, as others have said your insurance limits you to 18hours but if you do that you will probably need to rest all next day. Only mid ocean solo sailors sleep while their boats sail along, the rest of us need to keep an eye on commercial traffic, crabpots, fishing boats, other yachts and debris.

    Reading paper charts while single handed is a particular challenge; bring them in the cockpit and they will get wet or blown way, study in the cabin and then you are not maintaining a proper watch - and in bad weather its worse. Thankgod for cockpit mounted chart plotters if you have them

    No fast track course fully teaches you how to sail, that's something you learn slowly on your own boat with advice from fellow club members as you go. Making a delivery run is the most challenging of tasks - you don't know the boat, and usually you don't know the area. Doing it as first venture is to risk needing RNLI assistance or even a Darwin Award

    Having said all that a 29ft boat is a good size for cruising and about to top limit for a less experienced sailor to manage.

    Cruising needs a lot of fuel unless you have forever and anyway you need to run engine regularly to charge battery or your autopilot, nav lights, gps and radio wont work, though that's not unique to single handed. And then you need all the paper charts if in an unknown area - your battery might fail, your gps chart plotter might fail, but you still need to find that safe harbour and miss that deadly rock

    Considerable passage planning is needed for a circuit of Ireland or UK. You need to go with the tidal flow and not dead into wind. Some days will be stormy so unsafe to go to sea, some will be so calm that its an engine droning all day or just stay in harbour and go shopping. You will be glued to Coastguard VHF weather reports and various internet weather sites. I think six weeks not long to get round Ireland, start smaller and good luck
    Last edited by oldmanofthehills; 12-09-19 at 11:11.
    A boat is for going places

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    On the Celtic Fringe
    Posts
    14,333

    Default Re: Solo cruising - am I being realistic?

    I'm planning an anticlockwise circumnavigation of the British Isle, with a wee hop up to the Faroe Isles, including several long hops, Plymouth - Ramsgate, Ramsgate - Edinburgh, Edinburgh - Faroe before enjoying the trip south at a slower place and taking in several distilleries. I am letting friends and relations know my plans and they are welcome to step on and off the boat at any port of call.

    Fundamentally, the boat is being setup for single handed sailing, including a Hydrovane self steerer. For me the key to the whole voyage is preparation of the boat and, more importantly me, I have plans next summer of doing several single handed trips starting with short day sails through to non stop multi-day trips.

    Make sure you have an insurance company that allow multi-day single handed sailing and talk to them about what you are planning to do. "Y" have a time limit of 18 hours (there are times I can't get from Plymouth to Roscoff in that time). Another issue I found was most insurance companies limit you to 12 miles offshore unless "on passage"; crossing Lyme Bay is OK as long as you are heading from Dartmouth to Portland, but just going to look at the Channel Light Vessel is not, unless you have an agreed limit, e.g. 40 miles offshore.
    Cynical Scottish very nearly retired engineer who sails a Gib'Sea 96.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    Solent, UK
    Posts
    4,629

    Default Re: Solo cruising - am I being realistic?

    I would endorse the advice you are getting. I sail single handed quite often. My last epic "fail" was a trip from the Solent to Lulworth Cove. After 14 hours on passage it was clear I wasn't going to make it and had to run back into the shelter of Studland Bay and anchor. This was followed by a disturbed night and in the morning I popped into Poole Harbour for a proper rest before setting off home the following day. I've been sailing my boat on my own for around 15 years. Setting off in a new boat to sail any distance when you are new to sailing is NOT a good idea.
    Grow old disgracefully, it's more fun

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Location
    SW Leicestershire
    Posts
    1,127

    Default Re: Solo cruising - am I being realistic?

    Quote Originally Posted by johnalison View Post
    I have little experience of single-handing but from what I can see most of the experienced ones go the extra mile to make the boat as easy to manage as possible. This means making sure the rig is easy to operate from the cockpit, with furling jib and lines to the cockpit. Alternatives are furling main on larger boats or even junk rig. Everything should operate smoothly, and don't overlook the usefulness of things like self-tailing winches, autopilot and good clutches. As said, parking is often not easy, so wear the single-handed pennant and carry lots of fenders.
    And from my own experience of trying to rig the boat for single-handed operation (although very little actual sh sailing) the getting everything to operate smoothly is much harder than just installing the hardware. Also, being able to operate the windlass from the cockpit is irrelevant if you have to go forward to clear chain form the hawswpipe, to give one small example.

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