Questions from a first time sailor — Phantom 14

Discussion in 'Sunfish Talk' started by MarkSumner, Jul 26, 2017.

  1. MarkSumner

    MarkSumner New Member

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    I happen to live on a little 60-acre lake that doesn't allow gas motors. After picking up a canoe, kayak, and paddleboat and working them all to death (I may be the only person who has put more than 500 miles on a paddleboat), I couldn't resist a spiffy 1980 Phatom that I spotted nearby.

    Despite the age, the single owners had kept the boat in terrific shape. Stored indoors, out of the sun, without so much as faint cracks in the glass. Everything from the sails to the lines looks crisp, clean and strong.

    So now it's siting on the shore of my little lake, and I'm pondering what to do next. There are no sailing clubs nearby, and not another sailboat on the lake. I've been rigging, unrigging, rigging the boat over and over, trying to familiarize myself with how it feels and sitting in the boat on shore to fiddle with how the sail moves in a moderate breeze.

    When it comes to rigging, I do have an issue. I've been watching dozens of videos on rigging Sunfish and similar boats. Truthfully, no two are the same because you can't get one minute into one of the videos without coming across some pulley, lead, snap link, or cleat that the person making the video has seen fit to add to their boat. That doesn't help when you're just trying to make sure you're attaching line A to Traveler B correctly.

    In any case, I've got the process of putting on the mast, raising the sail, and tying off the halyard cleared up enough that it looks consistent with what I've seen. But there's a big difference as soon as I come to the mainsheet. I can tie off the stern end to the traveler well enough (there's a ring there to hitch to), but at the bow end of the footwell the Phantom has no block -- a part that appears in every Sunfish video I've seen. I'm making the assumption that, in lieu of the block, I just handle the mainsheet directly as it comes from the boom. It seems to work... on shore.

    As soon as I can get an evening or morning that's close to dead calm, I intend to de-mast the boat, put it in the water, and practice just paddling it around the bay a bit, getting a feel for sitting on the footwell, and testing the stability as much as it can be tested without the sail. Then I'll summon the gumption to put the mast on the thing and give it a go.

    Fortunately, the north end of the lake is all relatively shallow. And the water's warm.

    Oh, and while I may be a rookie, at 57 I'm no spring chicken. So ... how doomed am I?
     
  2. Webfoot1

    Webfoot1 Active Member

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    Sunfish did not come with a block. Most of what you are seeing in
    videos are add-ons by owners. Yep, can't get much simpler. You'll
    be letting the sheet out and pulling it in (a lot) to keep you balance.
    Like riding a bicycle you'll not really get a feel for stability until
    you're under way with sail. Tie a milk jug to the mast and get
    ready to go swimming, you're going to have fun. Sail at
    4:00 pm for lighter winds if you was a easier learning curve.
     
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  3. MarkSumner

    MarkSumner New Member

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    Thanks. It's a little too windy this morning (worse, gusty) for me to risk it today, but soon.

    I had never kayaked before I bought that little piece of plastic, and yet I've managed to never roll it over, though I paddle it pretty much every morning regardless of weather. I do NOT expect to continue this record with the Phantom. Went out and got myself a life jacket for that occasion when I first knock myself silly with the boom then go overboard.
     
  4. Light and Variable Winds

    Light and Variable Winds Well-Known Member

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    I like the Phantom, and borrowed their halyard positioning—within an easy reach from the cockpit—for my "retired", and worn-out racer . :cool:

    There are several USCG-approved life jacket types. (PFDs). Some are designed to keep an unconscious person's face upright in the water, but most sailors would find those types bulky. (Not suggesting that a Sunfish boom could knock you unconscious, but the feeling's not pleasant...!) :confused:

    There should always be a PFD on board every vessel, and especially handy if the weather gets chilly.

    Lake winds can moderate after 4-PM, and generally increase after 8-AM. Small sailboats do quite well in light winds, and can sail circles around much bigger sailboats. :cool:

    But even a "windless" day has enough force to take a Sunfish anywhere on the lake and, as this photograph demonstrates, a Sunfish can leave an impressive wake: :)
     

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  5. mixmkr

    mixmkr Active Member

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    I see a dragging mainsheet trail
    ;-D

    .....or actually is that off the bow??
     
  6. Webfoot1

    Webfoot1 Active Member

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    Just like learning stalls and spins first it would be a good idea to take the
    Kayak to a swimming area and spend time tipping it over. Play around
    until you know everything about what happens and trying to get back
    in the Kayak without help. You can do the same with your sailboat
    except make sure the water is 12 feet deep or more as getting the mast
    stuck in the mud can be problematic. People make the mistake of
    having a life jacket but not wearing it. Go to the deep end of the pool
    and try to put on a life jacket when the water is over your head.
     
  7. MarkSumner

    MarkSumner New Member

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    Put the boat in the water for the first time this morning in (very) light and variable winds. I was pleased that I didn't end up mast down-- though only the fact that the wind was generally less than 5 mph was responsible.

    At one point I realized I'd crossed the bay without remembering to put in the daggerboard, reached for the daggerboard, and ended up letting go of both the mainsail and the tiller. So the boat was skidding along before the wind with the sail swinging round one way, the rudder heading the other, and me starring at both without a clue. And man, does the behavior change when that daggerboard goes down. Mostly I discovered that tacking takes a lot more momentum than I had the gumption to gather, so I ended up with the sail fluttering and the nose dead into the wind while I waited for the next next random gust to give me a little momentum.

    But I didn't hurt anything, including me, and eventually made my way back to my starting point without getting out a paddle. I dragged the Phantom back up the slope onto the grass of my backyard, feeling like I'd run a 10K just from the nerves.
     
  8. Dickhogg

    Dickhogg New Member

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    Good effort!
    Sounds like you have a nice location. I wish I could just drag my boat onto my lawn.
     
  9. Light and Variable Winds

    Light and Variable Winds Well-Known Member

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    My special paddle (actually four feet of oar) has since floated away forever on one of my capsize adventures. :(

    It was one I'd shaved thinner at the shaft to become an emergency daggerboard. (As I have been known—more than once—to leave the daggerboard on the dock whilst departing). :oops:

    .
     
  10. MarkSumner

    MarkSumner New Member

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    Just an update to say that I haven't drowned, and somehow have yet to invert the Phantom. Sailing the little lake has proven a bit frustrating as my dock is up a protected bay where the wind is usually light and gusting out of the south, but once I get around the point into the main lake, the wind turns around from the NW and is often much stronger than what I experienced to start with. I may not have capsized so far, but I've certainly had some close calls.

    Still feeling very inexperienced (and I am, since I've only been in the boat about a dozen times) and still feeling like I need a third hand to grab the tiller when switching sides during a tack. More than once I've ended up going wildly around as the tiller gets away from me to lock all the way over to the side before I could grab it.

    Oh, and one of these days I'm going to wrench my arm out of the socket trying to grab the dock as I go past. There has to be a better way.

    But the little boat is lovely and behaving itself gracefully.
     
  11. andyatos

    andyatos Active Member

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    Here's the best technique for the sequence of what to do with your hands when tacking.



    Here's another video of the same sequence, starting at 1 minute, 25 seconds in the video.



    It's a good idea to take 2 chairs, put them in your living room then use a stick (as your tiller) and a rope (as your main sheet) to repeat the sequence you see in the video and practice it so it's more automatic before trying it on the water. Another good thing to first practice is sailing in a straight line with the tiller behind your back... the exact position you'll be in when you cross to the other side of the boat when you tack... before trying the sequence on the water.

    Don't give up! Keep on sailing. It will all get better if you just keep at it.

    - Andy
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2017
  12. Webfoot1

    Webfoot1 Active Member

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    Should not be trying to grab the dock or use the dock. What you have is a beach-boat.
    I take it you probably have a paddle on board as s.o.p. Coming in to shore let go of
    the sheet about 30 yards from the beach. Coast a bit more or paddle till you are in waist
    deep water then jump out and pull the boat to shore. Wind conditions and the handling
    of the boat are never precise enough to sail up to or near the dock. You could do it in
    a light wind but when you let go of the sheet the boom will swing out and hit something.
    They don't call it a Wet-Bottom-Sailor for nothing which is why I like this type of boat.
    You're pretty much always in direct contact with the water in some form or other.

    This is the type of boat you want to learn on before you move up. Many keel boat instructors
    complain that those who start out on bigger boats don't have a sense of how
    to trim the sails or a intuitive grasp of how a sailboat handles. Search Youtube
    for Credit Card Sailors and you'll see some events that will make you do a Triple-
    Facepalm.
     
  13. mixmkr

    mixmkr Active Member

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    The idea is to approach your dock and at the right time, turn directly into the wind, so the boat stops on its own with the sail luffing....without ramming the dock of course. Different wind angles require different approaches. So there will be many versions of doing this. Remember you can let the mainsheet out to luff the sail...providing you have room to do so. Upwind docks can be the easist if you can still sail towards it. Downwind requires a little more skill. Until you feel all this mastered under your usual wind conditions, do above as suggested and jump out into waist deep water, with the bow hopefully pointing into the wind. Practice in easier situations as you continue to get better. Grabbing a dock is going to put a nail thru your hand if not cautious.
     

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