Catalina 34

General Activities => Main Message Board => Topic started by: Jim Hardesty on January 24, 2010, 10:47:43 AM

Title: Single handing & Bull Rails
Post by: Jim Hardesty on January 24, 2010, 10:47:43 AM
I enjoy single hand sailing.  My Catalina 34 MKll is a great boat, but I find single handing a bit of a fire drill.  I do use the autopilot but that is controlled at the aft starboard, aft of the big wheel and all the sail controls are forward of the wheel. 
My question is.  What additions or changes have others done to make single handing better?
Title: Re: single handing
Post by: Stu Jackson on January 24, 2010, 02:09:10 PM
Jim, pretty much NONE.  The ONLY thing I did was to put the autopilot control head in line with the wheel so I can adjust it from either behind or in front of the wheel. I spend most of my time in front of the wheel.

However, you might recall Steve Dolling's 1500 Mile Report (,5270.0.html (,5270.0.html)) and he mentioned that he didn't even install his AP remote because they could adjust the AP by just reaching around.

Everything else on the boat is exactly where each of them needs to be.
Title: Re: single handing
Post by: Lance Jones on January 24, 2010, 05:25:51 PM
I ignore Mr. Otto and simply sit forward of the helm. I keep the wheel lock firm but usable. Everything else is as installed.
Title: Re: single handing
Post by: Ron Hill on January 24, 2010, 06:00:25 PM
Jim : If you had a MK I, I'd add one more requirement beside the autopilot - needed to single hand.  That would be "Lazy Jacks" so you can easily drop the main (and the sail stays contained) when it's time to take it down.
Don't undersell the auto pilot.  It sure is nice to be able to go below for a short time and get another cool one or relieve yourself.  I just don't trust "Lance's" wheel brake to steer as well as my auto pilot!  Maybe that's why most of the males found, that have fallen overboard, are reported to have their flys open!!

I'm sure that most (if not all) of the MK IIs have in-the-mast furling for the mainsail.  
A few thoughts.
Title: Re: single handing
Post by: Bob Kuba on January 25, 2010, 10:02:26 AM

I have a wired remote for my autohelm that is mounted on a quick release bracket on the starboard side of the companionway. I am able to stand on the top stair, protected by the dodger, and control the boat from there. It has all the same readouts as my pedestal instruments; wind speed and direction, boat speed, depthmeter, xtrack error, and even the ability to tack.

I find it useful getting the boat dead into the wind when raising the main. It's also great for staying out of the weather without losing the ability to make course corrections on days when the weather is less than ideal.

And I know this will sound crazy, but I also use it to make course adjustments when I am at the mast setting the cruising spinnaker. It has a 25 foot long cord that will easily stretch to the bow. Granted, that the conditions have to be ideal for me to singlehand the cruising spinnaker, but I find the remote very useful.

When I bought the boat from the previous owner, the connection jack was installed, but the remote was not part of the sale. I had to go and buy it myself, and now I understand why. I don't think I'll give mine up either, it would be hard to part with.

Title: Re: single handing
Post by: Lance Jones on January 25, 2010, 11:18:47 AM
When I need to use the head single handing, I lock it down tight and go down to pee. If I have to do the other, oh welllllllll.
Title: Re: single handing
Post by: Stu Jackson on January 25, 2010, 01:27:32 PM
If I have to do the other, oh welllllllll.

That's why they invented the HEAVE TO.
Title: Re: single handing
Post by: Lance Jones on January 25, 2010, 01:36:00 PM
Very good Stu!
Title: Re: single handing
Post by: Michael Shaner on January 25, 2010, 06:04:55 PM
I never thought I'd hear the words "single handing" and "spinnaker" used in the same sentence...nice Bob!!  :thumb: :thumb: I've definately been demoted to "aspiring sailor"...

I thought the most difficult aspect of single handing was docking. Departure...arrival...didn't matter...just docking. And there always seemed to be a crowd... :donno: :D :D

...but then a while back I bought this this 34 foot boat with no windlass and put a Manson Supreme on the bow... :think

Title: Re: single handing
Post by: Stu Jackson on January 25, 2010, 06:21:05 PM
Good point about docking.

The trick, assuming you have any kind of finger pier/dock on at least one side of the boat, is the midship spring line.

Here are some examples of what other skippers have done:  Midship Spring Line Cleats:,4921.0.html (,4921.0.html)

Title: Re: single handing
Post by: Tom Glennon on January 26, 2010, 09:05:42 AM
I just had to add my two cents regarding the handling of the 34 with fin keel....
I find this boat to handle like a dinghy!! The responsiveness is fantastic, and I have had no problems singlehandedly putting her between two large stink pots at the gas dock, much to the anxiety of their Capt'ns!!   :clap
Title: Re: single handing
Post by: Michael Shaner on January 26, 2010, 11:25:46 AM
...but can you get the hook off the bottom?

windlass on the way... :santa
Title: Re: single handing
Post by: Ken Juul on January 26, 2010, 11:26:57 AM
two days and 10 posts, I can't believe someone hasn't given him the answer.

Add a drink holder to your pedestal guard....then you will have two hands instead of one :D

Sorry Jim, I know that's not what you were looking for....couldn't help myself.
Title: Re: single handing
Post by: Ron Hill on January 26, 2010, 02:57:11 PM
Michael : I find "setting" the anchor when you are single handing is more difficult than getting it "retrieved".
Docking : I find is about the same.  
There's always someone to catch the bow line and seldom anyone there to catch the stern line.  So the person at the wheel has to steer, throttle, shift and secure the stern line.  
That's why you'll learn to use the midships line when ever you can - especially if there is current and/or wind.
Title: Re: single handing
Post by: Joe and Carol on January 27, 2010, 06:03:03 PM
The key to my single handing is organization.  I prepare a mental checklist based on the outing and place everything possible needed where I can either reach it or see it.  This includes all sail lines reaching the helm station, tools which may be needed, safety items, etc. ( a Handheld VHF is a must ). I include a line trailing the sailboat and comfort items such as food and drink.  Once while single handing I had to untangle a bundled line on a winch.  But I had planned for such a happening.  Leaving and returning to the dock must be well planned so you can do it by yourself.  The days spent single handing our 34 have been some of the most rewarding sailing experienced.
Title: Re: single handing
Post by: Stu Jackson on January 31, 2010, 04:38:52 PM
Some additional thoughts on this subject

I have heard and read of many skippers who "complain" about the location of the mainsheet (if they're "slaves behind the wheel") and that they can't "dump" it in puffs.  Having sailed here on San Francisco Bay for a looong time, we get many puffs!  My technique is simply to feather up into the wind and then back off, and reef early.  And the traveler is a LOT better thing to dump than a mainsheet, and lots easier to readjust. 

Our boats are stable platforms.  When you're single handing, you're most of the time not in a position to make those kind of fine tuning sail adjustments one would normally and instinctively do with crew. 

Reef early, get rid of those horribly over sized 155 genoas (130 to 140 MAX is a very good compromise), double your dock lines back so you don't have to get off the boat to leave a dock, and learn a fisherman's reef. 

I have read and reread two very good "Single Handed Sailing" books by Frank Mulville and Richard Henderson.  Sail trim is important, but sail trim is the least of the things you should even deal with when by yourself, because an early reef or a fisherman's reef takes care of those issues.  Planning, preparation, a good reliable autopilot and midships spring lines are what you really need to know.

Midships Spring Lines

A thread some time ago had some good info and other good links: (

Included in that link is something I wrote this for Latitude 38 in April 2008, in case you choose not to read that entire link:


In the April issue, Mark Johnston asked about dealing with aging knees and boat docking in “Senior Sailors and High Freeboard.”  He expressed his concern about docking (his Catalina 34!!!) with a potential future bigger boat, noting “…it’s not so easy…for my wife and me to jump down to the dock with lines in our hands.”  We’ve had our Catalina 34 for the past 10 years, with a C22 for two and a C25 for twelve before that, sailing all over the Bay, the Delta and up & down the coast.  We employ what we believe is the most useful and safe technique for docking that still seems to be a mystery to most sailors.  It’s called the midships spring line.  Our older Catalina 34s did not come with a midships cleat, so we added one on each side at the forward end of the jib fairlead track.  Many newer boats come with them.  There really is no reason to ever have to jump off a boat to dock it properly.  I recommend that Mark Google “midships springline” – there is a wealth of information available, one of which is: ( 

The maneuver is simple: attach the springline to the midships cleat, run it fair outside the lifelines, as you approach the dock loop the springline over the aft dock cleat and bring it back to the winch.  Snug it up and keep the boat in low throttle forward and the boat will sidle right up to the dock, no jumping is EVER required.  A friend developed an enhanced springline arrangement with a prefixed length of line with a hose holding a lower loop of line open to assure that it catches the cleat on the dock, so that no line needs to be returned to the winch. ***

I do a lot of single-handed sailing and have found this invaluable in docking in all conditions.  I’m sure that once this “trick” is learned and mastered it can be used in a wide variety of docking situations with all manner of wind and currents. 

It’s not only safer, it’s a sure knee and back saver.  The only drawback is when docks don’t have cleats, but have those nutty rings or the wooden raised runners so prevalent in the Pacific Northwest.  I think that’s one reason they invented grapnel hooks!

***  Nautiduck, Randy Kolb's, "Dock A Matic" is described in the C25 Forum here: ( I am sure it could be applied to our boats as well if you tried; I've thought about it, but am still using our 40 foot long 1/2 inch dockline for that purpose without the nifty "loop in hose" idea.  Whatever works for you.
Title: Re: single handing
Post by: John Langford on January 31, 2010, 10:49:54 PM
As a long time single hander, let me see if I have this right. You are approaching the dock under power ALONE. While steering your boat in a bit of a cross wind which is pushing you off the dock you leave the wheel, step on to the side deck and handily use the spring line to lasso the cleat on the way by, get the line around the winch and cinch it up before the boat hits the end of the dock and all is well. That's too scary for me! I think I will stick with bringing the boat smartly to the dock, giving it a burst in reverse to bring it to a complete stop and step off to attach my short breast line from the midship cleat on my outside genoa track to the mid-dock cleat or "wooden raised runner" which we have in the Pacific Northwest. Then I can do the bow and stern line at my leisure knowing the boat isn't going anywhere.

Here is my best single handed trick. When sailing downwind alone in conditions such that I can't trust the autopilot I take one turn of the mainsheet around the cabin top winch and then lead the bitter end of the sheet back through the cockpit and  through a Harken ratchet block with cam cleat attached to the base of the starboard pushpit stanchion closest to the helm. Then I can manage a jibe or control an accidental one while still staying at the helm. In winds above 20 knots it is hard to make adjustments with this limited purchase but you can still control a jibe.
Title: Re: single handing
Post by: Ken Juul on February 01, 2010, 06:22:30 AM
This only applies to your home dock.  I've got a fixed midship line attached to the stern dock piling. Hang it on a long gutter nail on the piling as I pull out.  On return it is easy to grab and place on the boat's midship cleat as the boat slowly glides into the slip.   The admiral says it is one of the best improvements I've done, takes the scary out of docking.

Single handed, put enough friction on the wheel so it doesn't turn, as the midship cleat passes the piling, leave the helm grabbing the line off the nail as you move forward, place around the midship cleat, back to the helm.  Probably away from the helm for less than 15 seconds.
Title: Re: single handing
Post by: Stu Jackson on February 01, 2010, 08:25:11 AM
John, YIKES!, I agree with your description of the "endless possibilities" as you describe the maneuver.  Actually, most of the time we do what you suggest, a thrust in reverse and sidle up quietly to the dock.  However, at my fuel dock because of current and at a few marinas with regular heavy side winds, I find the midships spring line invaluable when single handing.  After all, maybe it's just the Mark I boats, our wheels just aren't that far away from the side of the boat. :D

Note that in my earlier post I said: The only drawback is when docks don’t have cleats, but have those nutty rings or the wooden raised runners so prevalent in the Pacific Northwest.  I think that’s one reason they invented grapnel hooks!
Title: Re: single handing
Post by: Roger Blake on February 01, 2010, 03:41:52 PM
I single hand 80% of the time. I find the spring line invaluable in bringing the boat into dock. Approach slow speed, almost bring to a stop when I'm 90 degrees off the aft piling, grab the spring line, attach to the cleat (I've marked the proper place on the line to cleat off), let the spring line stop the forward motion and create an arch into the slip, grap the boathook, run to the side of the boat which needs the next line...depending on wind and current. Now with that said, there have been times I've had to come in hot due to high winds and/or tide, then back down quickly and run like crazy to catch the right lines. Sailing is fun...ain't it? :shock:
Title: Re: single handing
Post by: tonywright on February 02, 2010, 09:34:50 AM
Roger's note about "approaching slow speed" to dock got me thinking about a challenge that I find with my MK II at least: Getting it to go slow when docking.

With the 800 minimum RPM and a 3 blade prop, the boat will do about 3 knots. But I like to slow to about 1 - 1.5 knots for docking. So I find that I have to take it out of gear to slow down. But this means that:

a) I lose prop wash over the rudder, so pretty soon I lose steerage and the cross wind takes over, (maybe especially with a wing keel?)
b) I need to pop it in and out of gear to keep up a minimum speed

Having an adjustable feathering prop, I tried gearing it down a notch last season, and this did help somewhat at low speed, but it lost me speed at higher rpm.

The other problem that I have is that between juggling the wheel, the throttle and the gear shift while backing into the slip requires a lot of focus, and one distraction or unexpected gust can cause an adrenaline moment or two. I have on more than one occasion gone from reverse into what I thought was neutral, only to find that I have put it into forward gear, or vice versa. Is it only me?

My first attempts at tight quarters maneuvering even saw me mix up the two, with hair-raising narrow escapes!

I would love to have a single lever morse control: I chartered a Jeanneau 35 (only reason- a C34 wasn't available) for a day with morse lever (single control for throttle and gearshift), Yanmar and saildrive. It made me look like a real expert docking into a slip with a foot to spare... Has anyone ever thought of modifying our controls to a single lever? Is it doable? Or maybe everyone loves our setup just as it is?


Title: Re: single handing
Post by: Ken Juul on February 02, 2010, 11:10:35 AM
Actually Tony I prefer the dual levers.  Coming down the fairway I set the rpms to 1000,  cycle between F, N, R as needed.  If additional thrust is needed apply a burst of throttle then back to 1000.  With very little practice you can get very close to 1000 by ear not needing to look at the tach.

Sometimes current/wind will require a higher speed to get into the slip.  The nice thing about the pre set spring line is that it will snug you against the finger pier as it stops forward movement, preventing smashing the bow into the dock

I've used the single lever on dockmate's Hunter with a conventional prop and dual single levers on saildrives on a chartered cat and felt like they were much more work.  In my limited experience, once the shift mechanism get a worn, it is very hard to find N.  Idle reverse, N, idle forward, all seem to be in the same position/detent.  On the chartered cat, I physically had to pull the levers out to the neutral fast idle position to ensure the drives were disengaged.
Title: Re: single handing
Post by: Ted Pounds on February 02, 2010, 11:27:21 AM
Here's a thought: as you're approaching the slip slow down more than you need to; less than a knot.  Then you can put it into forward idle.  The boat will accelerate, but slowly so you wont be going very fast as you pull in.  And you'll have the prop wash over the rudder to aid in steering.

As an aside I used to come in at a speed that most considered "hot".  :shock:  Maybe it was because of may days flying F-111's in the USAF.  :D  Anyway I liked the control I had.  Then I would jam on the brakes (reverse), jump out and tie her up.  On a couple of occasions I, too, missed the neutral detent.  Fortunately the spring line saved my bacon.  But that was just my technique; as they say YMMV (your mileage may vary).
Title: Re: single handing
Post by: Jim Hardesty on February 03, 2010, 08:00:19 AM
As the person who started this, I thank all that contributed.  There is a lot of experience and collective wisdom here.  I see that few changes have been make to single hand.  Just use what you have.  I am going to look into a remote for my autopilot, thanks Bob.  Stu, I have been using a "fisherman's reef" without knowing the name. Had to look it up.  Now I can work it into my yarns and sound like an old salt, not just old.  I agree docking with a spring line is the best, safest, and most boring (a very good thing when docking).  I would add that it's the way I leave my dock.  Put a spring from the aft cleat, around the dock cleat or post, to the sheet winch and snub, motor slowly forward, adjust the wheel so the boat is sits against the dock, walk around and retrieve the dock lines, leaving only the spring, put the boat in neutral or reverse as conditions dictate, retrieve the spring line and go.  To give credit where it's due I think I picked up this technique at a boat show seminar given by Jack Klang.

Title: Re: single handing
Post by: tonywright on February 03, 2010, 08:48:09 AM

One change I made almost as soon as I got the boat was to get a harken ratchet block for the genoa furler and move the attachment point to the base of the pushpit. I can easily reach the furling line from the helm, and the braking effect of the ratchet is great when furling. 

Ken: I never had a problem with the morse control on my previous boat that I owned for 10 years, so I guess everyone's experience is different! I get the point though that simpler is generally better for reliability and maintenance.


Title: Re: single handing
Post by: Jim Hardesty on February 03, 2010, 09:02:02 AM
Take a look at this for single handed docking.

Title: Re: single handing
Post by: Stu Jackson on February 03, 2010, 09:02:12 AM
To give credit where it's due I think I picked up this technique at a boat show seminar given by Jack Klang.

Jim, glad we could all help.  One of the referenced links in my post at the top of this page includes the link to Klang's 'site and tutorial.  I think I got it (the whole midships spring line idea, that is) from a short clip on an old Don Street VHS sailing video, then it was reinforced by Klang's description.  I still have the earlier Klang tutorial in a PDF file which seems to have more info than is currently available on his 'site now that he wrote a book.  The PDF is too big to attach here, so if anyone would like it, email me at mraquaq att aol dott com.

That video begins to answer John's concerns about "leaving the helm."  Once you get good at it, you can even do it "hot!"

Tony,  I agree with Ted on coming in with the throttle.  We have to come down a fairway between two different marinas, and then turn left into our own marina's fairway to our slip.  I usually run at idle once into the first fairway, then simply take it out of gear leaving it at 1100 rpm as I turn into our own fairway.  Depending on wind and current (both of which we have all the way to our slip) I engage and disengage the gear to glide into our slip.  Usually the windier it is the hotter the landing.

PS - April 2017 - this description was for our old slip in San Francisco.  Things are different here on Vancouver Island.
Title: Re: single handing
Post by: Stu Jackson on April 26, 2017, 08:24:07 PM
A little update.  I've been here on Vancouver Island since September 2016, but haven't been out but four times, one at anchor, three at bull rails but in benign weather.

I contributed to this link in Reply #6.  Others seem to share my "interest."  :D (
Title: Re: Single handing & Bull Rails
Post by: Ralph Masters on April 27, 2017, 10:49:26 AM
I single hand a lot of races and the hardest thing is gibbing around the mark. Tacking is easy, but with the wind to your back you have to pull the main in and let it go and then get the head cut over and try to not over turn too. (Steer too far)