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in irons

Diana Liebe

New Member
I just started sailing a Sunfish that I bought used. It sails pretty well but when I come about it points to the wind and stays in irons until I break out the paddle.
What am I doing wrong?
 

Zeppo

Member
You may be coming about a bit too slowly, and/or the wind is very light and your boat speed is too low. The slower the water is flowing past your rudder the less force will be exerted upon the rudder, therefore the harder it will be to get the boat to respond sufficiently to complete coming about. If it goes into irons try sculling the rudder rather vigourously, that should kick the stern around until your on the other tack. In light conditions push the helm down with force, this will assist the stern to respond, in heavier air you can get away with less input to the helm, you will also be able to point higher in heavy air, thus enabling you to travel fewer degrees in order to come about. Persist.
 

Webfoot

New Member
Could be technique. As you come into the wind the sail depowers and you are coasting onto the other tack. Gotta have enough speed before you start, try falling off a little before you change tack.

Gotta to do it fast, the boat will not coast for more than a couple seconds. Are you pushing the tiller over to full deflection as quick as you can?

Weather helm could be messed up, where is your gooseneck set on the boom. I got my weather helm at zero. Can change tack in a flash but will also roll tack you into the water just as fast, not recommended.

Boat could be water logged, water logged SF are easy to get into irons and don't come out well. Sort of killing the effect of the hull rocker when heavy.

Sail could be blown-out.

Should be one of the above. A dried out SF sits up on the hull rocker and is good for sailing is a small area since it changes tack so quickly.
 

scap114

Member
All the above is good advice especially about getting your speed up. Also, what point of sail are you on. If you are on a beam reach and you try to tack you will lose speed quickly . Be sure you are on a close reach with the sail trimmed in and as it has been said, go quickly. The Sunfish does not have the momentum to carry it far through a tack. I have seen people try to tack 180 degrees from beam reach to beam reach with little success. I think, generally, a tack from a close reach to a close reach is 90 degrees.
 

Wayne

Member Emeritus
I just started sailing a Sunfish that I bought used. It sails pretty well but when I come about it points to the wind and stays in irons until I break out the paddle.
What am I doing wrong?
Here's a trick you can use so you don't have to paddle out of irons.

From the quick reference guide, Learn to Sail in 3 Days

GETTING OUT OF IRONS
If you "come about" too slowly, the boat may stop pointed into the wind with the sail flapping over your head. No amount of tiller or sail adjustment will start you sailing. You are caught in irons.

The solution: You sail backwards for a moment (a) Push the tiller and the sail using the boom in opposite directions. (b) The boat will back around the rudder. Let the sail go, keeping the tiller over until the sail is out over the side of the boat. (c) Slowly trim it in and straighten the tiller. The boat will gain forward speed. And, you are in control again.

Don't rush this procedure or you may find yourself back in irons.

[this sidebar tip includes photos of each of the steps if you view the guide in its entirety]


The whole illustrated reference guide is a free download from a link in this earlier thread, here:
http://www.sunfishforum.com/showthread.php?t=30417
 

Fred P

Member
You can also just hold the boom out with your hand to get the wind to give you some forward motion and allow you to start sailing again. This is similar to what Wayne said.
But your basic problem is as described in other posts: low speed and slow turning. Get some speed before tacking. You also might let the sail out a little as you come about to the new tack.

Fred
 

lava

Member
Being self taught myself, I know that a large amount of the info given by "real" sailors just goes over my head. So many terms are used that, after trying to deceiver, I can become frustrated and just give up. I go back and repeat the same mistakes until I figure it out on my own, through trial and error. Only to find the solution was already given to me from the forum. This is in no way a criticism of the vast experience on the forum, only a reminder that "new bee's" come here to learn from you. This may explain why you end-up answering the same question, in different variations, taking up your time, over and again. Mike
 

Fred P

Member
I agree that sometimes the forum beats an issue to death, but in defense of the repetitive answers, sometimes it's good to get the same answer in different ways so when some terms are not known, another answer may use different language.
By all means, if a term is used that you are not familiar with, ask for an explanation.

Fred
 

73sunfish

New Member
"The things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them."
-Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC)

I've also read that the best way to learn something is by teaching it..

-with appropriate lesson plans of course.
 

Zeppo

Member
Speaking of terminology, most people use the term "tacking" when in reality you are "coming about" from one "tack" to another. Like other areas of language the terminology used 100 years ago has become modified and part of common usage, this don't mean it's so.
 

Wayne

Member Emeritus
Being self taught myself, I know that a large amount of the info given by "real" sailors just goes over my head. So many terms are used that, after trying to decipher, I can become frustrated and just give up.
There are more seemingly abstract “terms” surrounding the use of a cell phone than a sailboat.
. . . then again if you do something wrong texting the Twitter Ninjas don’t throw you in the nearest lake.

As Fred said, feel free to ask..., or Google. It is the 21st century, after all.
http://comminfo.rutgers.edu/~elfox/terms.html

You’re not alone…, I was watching an old movie depicting sailing ships where the captain gave the order to come about, the first mate relayed to the helmsman to steer to “Larboard” (antiquated term). The boat was shown turning to the “right”.

You have the Egyptians, Greeks, Italians, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, French, and most of all the British Admiralty to thank for all our nautical terminology. You’d think with that sort of mix it would fit right in with “American” english.



Speaking of terminology, most people use the term "tacking" when in reality you are "coming about" from one "tack" to another.
True, “Helm” is another with both a general and a specific meaning depending on the context.
Tack actually has a triple meaning with reference to a sailboat.
 

lava

Member
Sorry, I was just trying to spare others the trouble I had when I first came to the site. I don't know what it has to do with Aristotle or cell phones, but message received "sit down and shut up".
 

Webfoot

New Member
Speaking of terminology, most people use the term "tacking" when in reality you are "coming about" from one "tack" to another. Like other areas of language the terminology used 100 years ago has become modified and part of common usage, this don't mean it's so.

Humm. . . First sailing term taught to me was "Coming About" by good old Dad. Easy to learn since if you forgot the term, the boom hitting you in the head would refresh your memory. I use it every time I change tack when sailing with more than one person, does not everyone?:confused:
 

Wayne

Member Emeritus
Sorry, I was just trying to spare others the trouble I had when I first came to the site. I don't know what it has to do with Aristotle or cell phones, but message received "sit down and shut up".
That wasn’t my message and I don’t believe it was anyone else’s either.

The earlier point being, just like operating anything technical, take an auto for instance, learning the automobile language comes with the territory. You learn words associated with cars like "gear shift", "steering wheel", and “dashboard”. Sailing too has its own terminology. So…, stand up and speak up when things get confusing.
 

scap114

Member
I did not intend to open a can of worms with the use of sailing terms, and the use of sailing terms is just my own opinion and never meant for someone to 'sit down and shut up' as we all have our own opinions and they should be voiced. I just find it easier to say, for example, 'beam reach' rather than saying, 'sailing with the wind coming over the side of the boat at, or about a, 90 degree angle'. The great thing about a Sunfish is that when sailiing, you only have to communicate with yourself. When you sail with others the need for precise communication does enter. When my wife and I sailed our other boat and we were coming about I could never bring myself to say 'prepare to come about' and then 'hard alee'. I just said, 'were going to tack, ready?' and 'now'. Worked for us, but when it came to the diection we were going to sail we used the accepted terms more, as it helped us on how to set the jib and main.
 

Webfoot

New Member
I always took "prepare to come about" as an important signal for the other guy to "let go the jib" before starting to come about. If he missed this signal you ended up with a poor tack or in irons. Everybody using standard terms makes it much easier when you sail with someone you have not sailed with before. You also have a safety issue, the one thing I make sure the other person knows is that "coming about" mean to duck your head. Hopefully, the next person they sail with will use the same terms.

We got it so easy with the SF, just for fun make it a point to learn all the names of the sails and lines on a square rigged ship.

Arrr . . . Every true sailor knows the correct nautical terms. As for the rest of ye, set yer course for Long John Silver's. . . that be a safe harbor for ya!
 

Webfoot

New Member
I've been told being in their "fry room" is a punishment equivalent to being lowered into the Hold of a Spanish Galleon, grease dripping off the ceiling and what not. If I'm ever condemned to a "Ship of The Dammed" for all eternity I'll pick the Flying Dutchman over the Long John Silver's Frying Dutchman.
 

Wayne

Member Emeritus
I just find it easier to say, for example, 'beam reach' rather than saying, 'sailing with the wind coming over the side of the boat at, or about a, 90 degree angle'.
I have a copy of the US Naval Academy's Text Book of Seamanship - 1891.
(maybe we should call that one, Learn to Sail in 3 Years)

About 5 pages in you want to give your Sunfish a hug for its simplicity.

The couple of dozen terms that make our sailing talk less ambiguous pales compared to the thousand+ word nautical vocabulary those 1800s Cadets had to learn.

I've been told being in their "fry room" is a punishment
Ah yes, like Melville's chapter on rigging and the vivid description of the rendering vats aboard a whaling ship. :(
 

Fred P

Member
I was watching the America's Cup or some other professional sailing race and I believe I heard the helmsman say " ready to tack ... tacking." Seems short and to the point especially in a time crunch. Necessity is the mother of invention (and the corruption of language!).

Fred
 

Desultor

New Member
Hey all, as a newbie myself I just wanted to affirm the original poster, and thank everyone for the advice in their own words.
 

Flieger

Member
Could be technique. As you come into the wind the sail depowers and you are coasting onto the other tack. Gotta have enough speed before you start, try falling off a little before you change tack.

Gotta to do it fast, the boat will not coast for more than a couple seconds. Are you pushing the tiller over to full deflection as quick as you can?

Weather helm could be messed up, where is your gooseneck set on the boom. I got my weather helm at zero. Can change tack in a flash but will also roll tack you into the water just as fast, not recommended.

Boat could be water logged, water logged SF are easy to get into irons and don't come out well. Sort of killing the effect of the hull rocker when heavy.

Sail could be blown-out.

Should be one of the above. A dried out SF sits up on the hull rocker and is good for sailing is a small area since it changes tack so quickly.
Can you please explain a bit more about the gooseneck position?
 

wjejr

Active Member
Can you please explain a bit more about the gooseneck position?
Ideally you want the boat to be “balanced” to the point that if you let go of the tiller, the boat will continue to sail straight ahead. The first way is to simply have the main correctly sheeted. If the main is over-trimmed the bow will want to point into the wind. A second way is to control the heal of the boat. Especially upwind, flatter is better.

Another way is to adjust the gooseneck. If you slide the boom forward the wind will tend to push the bow off the wind. If you pull the boom back the wind will push the stern off the wind and the bow will head up. How far you move the boom varies on a few things, but how much wind is the biggest consideration. More wind boom goes forwards, less wind boom goes back. I usually sail with my boom about 17” forward, or looking at it the other way, gooseneck 17” back. If it blows harder, I may move it to 20” back.

Again it all comes back to balance, if the rudder isn’t pretty much straight, something is wrong and you are going slow.

Hope that helps.
 

Flieger

Member
Ideally you want the boat to be “balanced” to the point that if you let go of the tiller, the boat will continue to sail straight ahead. The first way is to simply have the main correctly sheeted. If the main is over-trimmed the bow will want to point into the wind. A second way is to control the heal of the boat. Especially upwind, flatter is better.

Another way is to adjust the gooseneck. If you slide the boom forward the wind will tend to push the bow off the wind. If you pull the boom back the wind will push the stern off the wind and the bow will head up. How far you move the boom varies on a few things, but how much wind is the biggest consideration. More wind boom goes forwards, less wind boom goes back. I usually sail with my boom about 17” forward, or looking at it the other way, gooseneck 17” back. If it blows harder, I may move it to 20” back.

Again it all comes back to balance, if the rudder isn’t pretty much straight, something is wrong and you are going slow.

Hope that helps.
Great info! Thanks.
 

mixmkr

Well-Known Member
I have always understood that having a SLIGHT weather helm was desirable.... not just for safety's sake (so you boat will round up, rather than sail away when you fall off your "cleated" Sunfish!!)… but it gives you a little "lift" that actually enhances speed and pointing. Logically it would seem a rudder not perfectly straight would create drag, but the "lift" it gives overcomes the created "drag". Someone correct me if this is totally wrong on the Sunfish.
 

Wavedancer

Upside down?
Staff member
Yes, slight weather helm is desirable.
And with respect to what wjejr wrote, many racers will have the gooseneck around 14" in light(er) winds
 

wjejr

Active Member
The beneficial “slight” weather helm that mixmkr is referring to is what I was trying to cover when I said, “pretty much”. I tried to include all angles of sailing with that one sentence, but it’s different on different points of sail. The point I was trying to make that you don’t want to be dragging the rudder through the water, so you balance the boat as best you can using sail trim, heeling, gooseneck adjustment, daggerboard depth, position of the skipper/helmsman, etc. It’s a common drill in sailing schools to learn to sail without using the rudder to learn how these factors affect the boat’s course.

I’ve tried sailing with the gooseneck further forward on the boom, as wave dancer mentions, but I never noticed much of a difference. I’m not racing against other sunfish, so likely it would be tough to tell. The other thing is that wind direction varies so much in the lake where I sail that, if their is an improvement in pointing, I wouldn’t notice.
 
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L&VW

Well-Known Member
Wikipedas got a bunch of terms. Their version of "coming about" is "ready about."

All these years and I've never realized the 'Cat-O-Nine Tails' is also called the 'Captain's Daughter." Next time the crew needs discipline . . .


Glossary of nautical terms - Wikipedia
One can feel like an ancient mariner when racing with youngsters. Even years ago, when racing an Ensign, at the helm I used "ready about", then "hard-a-lee". I think everyone knew what was happening, but no other helmsman used that phrase. :oops: (We rotated helmsmen in the same boat through five races).

'Wondering what terms they're using in the country that "ruled the waves"? :)

Here's a trick you can use so you don't have to paddle out of irons. From the quick reference guide, Learn to Sail in 3 Days
GETTING OUT OF IRONS
If you "come about" too slowly, the boat may stop pointed into the wind with the sail flapping over your head. No amount of tiller or sail adjustment will start you sailing. You are caught in irons. The solution: You sail backwards for a moment (a) Push the tiller and the sail using the boom in opposite directions. (b) The boat will back around the rudder. Let the sail go, keeping the tiller over until the sail is out over the side of the boat. (c) Slowly trim it in and straighten the tiller. The boat will gain forward speed. And, you are in control again. Don't rush this procedure or you may find yourself back in irons.
[this sidebar tip includes photos of each of the steps if you view the guide in its entirety]
The whole illustrated reference guide is a free download from a link in this earlier thread, here: http://www.sunfishforum.com/showthread.php?t=30417
Worth repeating, as this is a common ailment for a newbie. :confused:
.​
 

Dickhogg

Active Member
In the uk we say 'Lee-oh" instead of "hard-a-lee". Weirdly, even after three years of sailing single-haded I stills say it every time I tack.
¯\_(ツ)_/¯
 
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