Steering yacht by sails

Steering yacht by sailsYou cannot sail a boat properly to windward by looking at any marks ahead.

When we told a novice to fix a mark ahead he was sailing the yacht a little off the wind for the purpose of learning, in the first instance, the idea of "feeling her helm." Marks ahead for steering purposes now become a wash-out.

We are going to steer to windward now by the sails. We are going to help the novice to try to steer his boat the most weatherly course she will go "full and by". This phrase means with the sails full of wind, not shivering or trembling, but, at the same time, the direction of the course as near by, or as close to, the direction of the wind as is possible.

Now we have distinctly laid down that in sailing "full and by" all idea of the helmsman steering by a mark is a "wash-out".

He must, however, remember that steering by "feeling" is not "a wash-out". That is why we let him first begin by sailing his boat well full to get the feel of her. We want him to get the feel her and get used to the feel of her, and when he now begins to steer by the sails to still keep the feel of her.

Thus when he is steering by the sails he will still at the same time be steering by feeling. Some hypercritical scientific gentleman may tell us that the perfectly balanced boat, when sailing full and by, should sail her-self, and her rudder, being straight fore and aft, she has no "feeling" because there is no pressure upon the helm.

This is not so in most vessels. It occurs occasionally in some yachts even in very large yachts but this state of affairs does not prevail for very long periods, and even during such periods the gifted helmsman has such perfect hands that he can feel with one finger what the vessel is, doing when there is plenty of speed.

Now what is meant by steering by the sails ?

We first pointed out that the beginner should sit in a com fortable position to windward of his tiller. In this position he can always see the mainsail.

He can sometimes see the luff of his jib. Whether he can see his headsails or jib obviously depends upon the type and size of his boat and her beam, or the breadth of the cockpit, or how far to windward he can conveniently sit and still hold and feel his tiller without being awkwardly placed.

In a vessel of some size the helmsman uses tiller lines and holds these ropes, by which, with a turn round the end of the tiller, he can, with a little practice, feel his helm as well as when holding the tiller in his hand; indeed, in a fairly big yacht he can feel the helm better with the " tiller lines," because their use requires less physical strength.

Remember that the continued use of too much physical force takes one's attention off the job. The tiller lines also enable the helmsman to get further out to windward, and thus watch his head-sails. So again, in some cases helmsmen choose a position to leeward of the tiller, and thus get as far to leeward as possible to watch their head-sails when sailing to windward.