skerry jibing tactics

OK, I got into a bit of fun on my skerry yesterday.  As I was entering an anchorage w/ limited space, rocks, boats, etc. at a dead run, I got surprised by the amount of venturi effect that cranked the breeze up a lot.  I already had the lugsail reefed.  On starboard tack, dead downwind, I needed to jibe onto port (turn left a bit) to avoid rocks to starboard and reach up into the harbor. When I tried to bear off a bit and hand the sheets over to the other side, the boat accelerated wildly and developed a ton of weather helm, preventing me from getting it through the jibe (tiller hard over).  It was getting ready to drive itself under until I let go the sheet and the sail weathercocked out over the bow.

After recovering from that and using a bit of precious space to get going again, I tried to tack it around, but the wind and lack of room conspired to keep me from succeeding.  So I tried the jibe again with same results.  The problem is that the rudder just loses out to the strong weather helm with the sail out that far in a big wind.  Also, the displacement double ended hull can't plane so the boat just digs a giant hole in the water rather than popping up on plane like a planing hull might do.

There has to be a smarter tactic for less dramatic jibes in the skerry. I have the standard reef in the lugsail.  Up until I hit that venturi, a second reef would not have been called for even if I had it.  I'm wondering if I'd headed up, cinched the sheet in tight then tried to bear off quickly to get the stern through the wind with a nearly centered sail if that'd work.  Also, I just realized I did have the daggerboard down.  Might it be "tripping" on the board?

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RE: skerry jibing tactics

   I did eventually get it home by weathercocking the sail and using it to drag myself further into the anchorage until I got more space to finally get it tacked around and pointed to the dock.  I'm sure it looked a bit of a mess to onlookers.

I guess I should have just given up and dropped sail and used the oars but even that might have put me in collision with a rock or boat while trying to get things switched over.


RE: skerry jibing tactics

   Before I try to help, I want to make sure that I understand.  When you say, "When I tried to bear off a bit and hand the sheets over to the other side...", do you mean that you were pulling the boom towards the centerline while turning the boat?

RE: skerry jibing tactics

I don't have a Skerry, but I do have a 19' catboat with a 270 sq. ft. sail, a boom as long as the boat, and a four-part, flesh-eating mainsheet--plus a traditional-looking, rounded off rudder which is less effective than one might like at times.  Needless to say, there is a lot of weather helm with a snootful of wind aft and the sheets eased.  Gybing can be...exciting.

I've found the best thing in gybing from, say, starboard to port tack is to start hauling the sheet in towards the port quarter while being careful to maintain a steady course with the wind decided just on the starboard quarter so I don't catch the sail "by the lee" and have things don't get ahead of me.  After taking another look around, I'll take the sheet in hand, gingerly put the helm up, and be ready to let the sheet run quickly, but under control, after the boom zips by overhead, reversing the helm a bit so she doesn't spin around and look me in the eye.

Sheeting in before starting the turn accomplishes a couple of things.  First, it kills a surprising amount of drive (and weather helm).  Also, it helps make sure the boom doesn't lift enough during the gybe (no boom vang on a traditional-looking catboat) that it precipates a "goosewing gybe" (boom on one side, gaff on the other) disaster.  Well, okay, there's a third thing, which is, there's not enough loose sheet flying around as the boom crosses the centerline to get up to rope tricks on its own, trying to cast clove hitches over anything nearby, like your neck.

The lug sail on my Passagemaker (about the same as yours, I think) is a much more docile thing, but I use a similar procedure to gybe, with far less terror, of course, than with the catboat.  When running, I'm usually, but not always, going along with the daggerboard partly raised, especially if it's windy.  Not sure whether that affects it much, though.  Anyway, the "sheet in first, easy does it" approach seems to work well.

The Skerry's steeply angled rudder may be part of what's causing you to lose control.  Gentle helm movements are what's wanted to make sure it doesn't stall.  Slowly increase the angle of attack as the boat starts to respond, and be ready to apply back pressure as the stern crosses the eye of the wind.

Maybe that helps?


RE: skerry jibing tactics

���I'm sure the rudder geometry on the skerry is part of it and y'all are right, when it gets past a certain point you get little extra turning lift. I'm with Michael on trying to center the sail to reduce area. The trick is when you are already dead down and want to haul in the sheet before the June. I think I'll need to do it quickly because that light little boat want to accelerate fast. With the sheet out, that upper yard is twisted way off, spilling some pressure, but when I start sheeting in, i think it tensions the leech, reduces the twist and the sail gets more powerful, causing that feedback of acceleration and weather helm. I need to find a breezy day on purpose and some clear space to experiment.

RE: skerry jibing tactics

Your remark about the upper yard being twisted far enough forward to spill some wind on a dead run suggests a couple of things to me which might help, but forgive me if I seem to be telling you stuff you already know.

First, some additional downhaul tension might be in order.  The tension between halyard and downhaul is what makes a balanced lug work.  This tension must be adjusted according to wind strength.  In light wind, too much tension will flatten the sail excessively and it won't draw well.  Too little, and the sail will become somewhat baggy, with the upper yard twisting off, and won't draw well, especially sailing close to the wind.  As the wind increases, the tension needs to be increased to maintain good sail shape and to keep the upper yard from twisting off too much as the sheets are eased, sometimes referred to as the "self vanging effect" of the balanced lug.  If you ain't careful, you'll go from being a sailor in a sailboat with sails on spars to looking more like a bozo in a bathtub with bedsheets on broomsticks! <;-)  It's a fine line; I've been that bozo my own careless self from time to time.

My experience with the Passagemaker lug in heavier wind is that the sail is pretty docile when well flattened out...and somewhat prone to turn into an angry kite when not.  This can sneak up on you, as your halyard and downhaul will stretch some as you sail along and may require a bit of setting up from time to time.  This is worse with a reef in, as there is more halyard between the cleat and the yard to exaggerate the stretch.  I've set my downhaul up to give a 2:1 purchase using a smooth SS thimble seized in a loop on the lower yard, so that the downhaul is attached to the cleat with a bowline or stopper knot, runs up through the thimble, and then back down to the pass under the cleat so I can haul aft on it.  I probably have a photo or two, if that would help.  I found it difficult to get sufficient downhaul tension taking a single part downhaul straight from the lower yard to the cleat.  It may help to bear down on the yard a little with one hand while hauling and cleating off with the other.

Secondly, running dead downwind with the sail exactly perpendicular to the wind is what square riggers are designed to do, with sheets and braces at both ends to keep things under control.  Fore'n'aft rigged boats, especially single masted rigs, are happier with their booms not quite all the way squared out and with the wind coming decidedly (maybe 5-10 degrees or so) on the opposite quarter so as to lower the chances of an accidental gybe due to wave action, wind shift, or inattention at the helm.  Sometimes there's nothing for it but to have the wind dead astern, just because of an obstruction or how your channel lies, but you need to be on your toes with the sheet hauled in part way and ready to gybe under control whippety quick so that she doesn't surprise you by gybing herself whippety quicker!  Also, if you've eased the sheets out so far that some of the after part of the sail is ahead of the mast, it will generate some pull towards the opposite side (feels like weather helm) and may start an oscillating "death roll" if it gets out of hand and there is enough wave action to make the boat roll some.

Keep the sail well flattened and sheeted in a bit, and you ought to find the whole business better behaved for you.

I hope that helps some.  Again, I'm sorry if I seem to be lecturing you about stuff you already know.  Such is not my intent.


RE: skerry jibing tactics

Glad to have found this thread.  Was out y'day in 5 to 10 G 15, maybe higher gusts at times, in my Skerry, about my 8th voyage yet.  Often I was running downwind, my heels perched on the middle thwart, go-cart style, lug sail perpendicular to boat, flying along at 5 to 6 mph.   I've never sailed a boat that accelerates from 0 to 5 as fast as this boat.    Gybing was a challenge, as stated all through this thread.  I found chicken gybes a bit less stressful.  Yes, I did manage a few non-chicken gybes, but the boom achieved light speed on its trip from one side of the boat to the other.  Lots of force on the rudder.  It didn't seem natural for the boat to be put through it.  One one run, speed between 5 and 6 mph, I was curious what would happen if I just let go of the mainsheet and rudder.  The boat gradually slowed down to about 1 mph and all became tranquil.  I was glad about that.  I can't really give you much guidance for your question Mummichog, other than I do need to get out there more myself, in similar conditions and learn more and more about the Skerry gybes under different speeds.  For the above I had no reefs set.  I installed a reefing system and I do need to practice it while the wind is piping.  One last thing - at one point I was on a beam reach and a gust of wind came in so hard against the windward side of the hull that it almost turned us over.  Letting go of the main as the instant remedy was having no effect!  I butt-shifted my position upwind real quick as the only way to keep the hull down.  That's never happened before.   Cheers

RE: skerry jibing tactics

���No offense taken. I went with 3 part downhaul mod early on and it was almost two-blocked with the reef. Maybe coulda had a bit more luff tension but it's the leech that will strongly influence that yard opening. Again, with a bit of room I would have had more time to sort out. In retrospect I should have tried to get head to wind, doused the sail and just sailed barepole until I was out of the rocks. That pointy stern is slippery as an eel rowing or sailing in light wind but a transom with more volume would be welcome in a blast.

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