The Catamaran Adventures of Noel and Ceu
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Tips, Tricks & Techniques

Our goal here is to discuss our thoughts on various tips, tricks and techniques that we have found to work (or not) while cruising.

Feel free to ask us about any topics we haven’t posted here!

How to Research Your Next Cruising Destination

What we want to know when we are headed to a new destination are: What places are worth visiting? i.e. what is interesting to see or do at the destination, or should we just pass by and find a different place to stop. Most of the cruising guides don’t seem to say much about (click to read more...)

How to Tie Up your Wind Generator in a Gale

A storm is about to arrive. You want to secure your wind generator so that it doesn’t blow apart in the crazy winds. But just how do you do that, when it is way up there at the top of a pole? D-400 wind generator with addition to the tail, and our not-patented device for (click to read more...)

How to Tension and Tune your Standing Rigging

A year ago we replaced all our standing rigging with Dynex Dux. Often one sees recommendations to tension the rigging to 20% of its breaking strain. With a breaking strain for Dynex that is 3x that of steel, those types of calculations don’t mean a lot. So I went back to basics – and drew (click to read more...)

Making Bread Onboard: The Ultimate Bread Recipe

After experimenting with a number of recipes, we have finally found the Holy Grail: It takes only a minute to mix, works with different types of flour, makes a nice light loaf, and even seems to be pretty resilient to getting it wrong. The original source, complete with photos, is here: One-Minute Ciabatta Bread But (click to read more...)

How to Build a Passarelle from a Ladder

In the Med there is a lot of bow-to or stern-to med mooring. That means there is a gap over which you have to jump in order to get ashore. The alternative is to have a gang-plank, otherwise known as a passarelle, across which you can nicely walk. Now, you could buy one for several (click to read more...)

How to Decant Butane from Spanish Bottle to US Propane Bottle

See also this excellent article on getting bottles filled in UK and Europe. American style propane bottles can be filled up with butane in Sao Miguel, Azores. But once you get to Portugal and Spain you will have no such luck. You can almost always use all your appliances on either butane or propane without (click to read more...)

Cover your Propeller with a Plastic Bag

When you leave your boat in a marina for an extended stay simply dive down and put two plastic bags over the propeller. Tie them in place with a piece of string around the prop shaft. When you return to your boat, don’t forget to remove them before you start the engines up! You will find the bags covered with marine growth, but your props will be weed and barnacle free – especially if you cleaned your props nicely before putting on the plastic bags.

Keep the Shade OFF Your Solar Panels

Did you know that a tiny bit of shade on your solar panel can reduce its power output considerably? Consider this: Bright sunshine mid-day in Portimao, Algarve, Portugal. Should be making heaps of power. Yet the instruments tell me that I am barely breaking even with the fridge. Why is that? The sun, and the (click to read more...)

Ultimately YOU have to be The Expert

You know the saying “If you want something to be done properly, do it yourself”? Well, it seems to me that applies more than ever when it comes to maintaining a yacht. On land, back in your home, if you have a problem with the roof, or the central heating, or a leak from the (click to read more...)

How to Fly a Spinnaker on a Cruising Catamaran

There doesn’t seem to be much written about spinnakers for cruising cats, so I thought I would put down a few insights that I have discovered from our limited experiences so far. I am by no means an expert, but perhaps that is a good thing, as these tips might be of help to other (click to read more...)

21 Responses to “How to Fly a Spinnaker on a Cruising Catamaran”

  • Heidi:

    Wow! What a lot of technical stuff. Glad I don’t have to do it. Should be useful to many people. Nice photos.

  • Joe Donnaway:

    Excellent article! My wife and I also own and cruise a Leopard 42 (hull #33) JAMU, and have been considering the addition of a cruising spinnaker. We’ve not used a spinnaker since our first sailboat, a monohull, many years ago when we had young sons to man the deck. Now as we cruise as a couple, our major concern is handling the deck operation by myself, as she has limited use of her arms and would remain at the helm. I’d appreciate (by email) if you have any additional rigging considerations or tips for shorthanded sailing.

    Safe Sailing,
    Joe Donnaway
    s/v JAMU – Leopard 42

    • Noel:

      Hi Joe,

      I guess the trick really would be to rig the boat for singlehanded sailing – which means having all the lines brought into the cockpit. Having said that, Ceu and I can manage all the deckwork with one person in the cockpit at the helm and the other on the deck. The only things we have to do forward are the reefing (we have slab reefing, and it is not brought back), and the spinnaker.

      The problem with the spinnaker on the Leopard is that there is a shortage of winches in the cockpit, so we end up having to use one cockpit winch for the sheet, one for the lee guy, and then we take the windward guy to one of the winches on the mast. Not ideal. we have been debating putting a couple of extra winches next to the cockpit ones, sort of down the side of the coach roof, but haven’t done so yet.

      Raising the spinnaker by yourself is doable. Pull the whole sock out onto the trampoline so it is all freed up, then hoist the sausage, then make sure your sheets and guys are set up. Then drop the sock, and go back to the cockpit to trim the sheets.

      Dropping it would be a matter of letting the sheet or guy go and pulling down the sock. With no one to handle the sheet, it would involve a fair amount of sail flapping, but again is doable as one person. It is a light wind sail, so it should all be doable without too much drama. Just don’t go higher than maybe 12 kts.

      Hope that helps. It certainly makes light wind sailing a lot more fun so I would recommend giving it a go!

      Fair winds,

      Noel

      • Joe Donnaway:

        Thanks, Noel. The spinnaker is being built by Calvert Sails, and we’ll get good practice in Cancun Bay when we return to JAMU in January.

  • Joe Donnaway:

    Hi Noel,
    Now ordering my lines and hardware. With no toerail holes, where do you normally attach the block for the sheet?

    Cheers,
    Joe

    • Noel:

      Good question. Life Part 2 already had a pad eye on each bow for the guys and pretty far back on each hull for the sheets so that was pretty easy.

      I guess the options are either to install pad eyes or else drill some holes in the toe rail, provided, of course, that the toe rail is through bolted and not just screwed on, as there can be some significant forces on it.

      If you do drill through the deck to install new pad eyes, don’t forget that the correct way to do it is to drill a larger hole, then fill it with epoxy filler, and then drill a smaller hole in the epoxy. And of course use a backplate to spread the load. That way you don’t run the risk of water getting into your foam sandwich.

      As a temporary measure I guess you could attach a block to the aft mooring cleat, as they are pretty strong!

      Hmm, Cancun sounds nice. We are just about ready to leave the boat in Cartegena to go back to Canada for a winter of skiing. Have fun in the sun!

      Noel

  • Andrew and Jane Thompson:

    Noel and Ceu

    Thanks for some interesting articles. Sounds like you have really taken up the challenge. Well done.

    We are taking our R&C Leopard 4000 Catamaran off the Sunsail Fleet in BVI and sailing her to Cienfuego in Cuba this July/August 2012. Any general tips you can let us have on route, plans, obtaining charts, weather, hurricanes etc. etc. etc. would be appreciated.

    We are sailing shorthanded also and need to complete in 3 weeks (but will leave her somewhere else if all goes wrong). We have just bought a good quality but second hand symetrical spinnaker. We plan to fly her during passage from the front of each pontoon controlled just by the sheets through winding blocks attached at the clews and running back into the cockpit (no guys or pole). We think the simplicity of this set up will work and as we will be going West with the Trades behind us it will mean long hours of running or broad reaching under light airs. Any comments would be appreciated.

    Thanks

    Andrew and Jane

    • Noel:

      Hi Andrew and Jane,

      Congrats on taking the plunge!

      We never made it to Cuba, though thought about it and would like to do it in the future, so keep us informed on your adventures there!

      July and August is indeed Hurricane season, so do keep a close watch on the weather and make sure you have a good understanding of which way you should head if there is news of a storm approaching. See our Weather page for some info on getting weather updates.

      Assuming you don’t have any storms you should, as you say, have a quiet downwind sail which should be very pleasant. Our trip from USVI to the Turks and Caicos was very straightforward. A visit to Dominican Republic would probably also be very pleasant. USVI is quite cheap for getting provisions, especially compared with Tortola!

      A symmetrical spinnaker would normally want a pole, but on a run or broad reach you can probably do it by taking the windward sheet down to the windward bow, but I would think you will still want to take the leeward sheet farther aft so that you have a bit more control over it. You will have to experiment with the best position fore and aft to place the block before going to the winch. Find a nice quite day with no more than 5 kts apparent and play around with it to see what works. And make sure you have a good system for getting it down in a hurry!

      One thing I have heard about Cuba is to have a printed sheet pre-prepared that lists ALL the details of your boat and crew (and I mean eye color, hair color etc etc) so you can just hand the sheet to the countless officials that will come aboard at each port.

      What is your plan after that? Keep going west to Central America? If you are planning to return East, make sure you read The Gentleman’s Guide to Passages South otherwise you will be thrashing and bashing to windward which will be no fun at all. And allow enough time for the passage too.

      Fair winds!

      Noel & Ceu

    • Noel:

      Hi Andrew and Jane

      Just been speaking with Roger from Burned Out. He uses a symmetrical spinnaker on his cat. He does use a pole. But on a dead run, he also flies it without a pole.

      He does this by attaching two lines to each corner. One from each corner goes down to its bow below. This stops the kite from ballooning up into the sky.

      The other line from each corner goes aft as sheet.

      With the four lines like that he is able to control its shape and set pretty well.

      Hope that helps!

      Noel

  • Noel,
    Nice and complete description of spinnaker sailing. We do it exactly the same except with a bow sprit. Do you always haul your spin halyard all the way up? I usually have about 5′ of halyard out (haven’t tried it tight).

    We will be in the Adriatic next year. Where are you sailing then?

    • Noel:

      Hi David
      Yes, we hoist it to the top.

      Next year: two possibilities, haven’t decided yet.
      a) We might do the East Med Yacht Rally
      b) We might do the Adriatic – Croatia and up to Venice

      Or maybe we will do A) followed by b)

      I expect after that we will head for the Canaries and then across the pond back to the Caribbean and Central America.

      But who knows? We will find out next year. 🙂

      Noel

  • Eric:

    Noel,

    On your Leopard, you attach the guys to the clew of the sail, then through blocks on the bows back to the winches. I’m assuming you are leading these back to the jib/main sail winches on the cabin top? If so, which winch do you lead the sheet to? It seems like you are out of winches.

    Thanks,

    Eric

    • Noel:

      We are out of winches, almost. Which is why I just bought a couple more of the 40ST to put next to the big ones to make things easier.

      What we do at present is to use the two big ones on the cabin roof, plus the little one that serves the traveller. That works if we don’t have the main up. If we do, then we use the winches on the mast.

      Not ideal, which is why we are fitting some more winches.

      Noel

  • Eric:

    Noel,

    We ended up leading the guys from the blocks on the hulls back to the winches on the mast (Leopard 47). Works great!

    Thanks,

    Eric

  • Steve:

    Thanks for this primer- very helpful. Have you fitted your extra winches? If so, it would be great if you could share some pictures showing where you mounted them.

    Thanks,

    Steve

    • Noel:

      Just bought them. Planning to have them installed in the next month or two. Will indeed post pictures when we do.

  • Paul C:

    Thank you so much for the detailed instruction on flying a spinnaker .. I’m a relatively new sailor and have a FP Belize 43 which I love sailing but am now in SE ASIA with relatively low winds .. After making the passage in SE TRADES from Cairns Australia to Bali , I am now planning a northerly voyage towards Thailand . I believe I will need these great sailing tips to enjoy the kite I have .. Am looking fwd to seeing my colourful kite up and Feeling confident with trimming after following advice and practice 🙂 I hope that you are finding favour with the seas and winds , cheers , Paul

    • Noel:

      It seems to me you can’t be that new of a sailor if you are making passages like those already! Enjoy the sailing and congrats on joining the lifestyle!

      Noel

  • Thanks for the great article! Most of the stuff written on asymm spinnakers are for racing monohulls, not cruising catamarans, so this was appreciated! We are in a Leopard 48 in Gran Canaria at the moment, waiting for the trades to show up so we can do our crossing to Barbados. Maybe we’ll meet up sometime! We have a new asymmetrical spinny as well that we had designed to handle a near-run that we anticipate using a lot on the crossing. My husband likes to fly it without the main up when we broad reach. My question is: How do you manage nighttime squalls? Do you just take the asymm down every night, or do you keep it up with a plan to quickly release the guy (or sheets?)

    • Noel:

      Hi Melinda,

      We are currently in Mindelo, planning to set off for Barbados in about a week, so we might well see you here, or there! The trades seem to be well established here at the moment.

      With just two or three of us onboard we don’t fly the kite at night. It is too tricky going up to the foredeck in the dark, and especially if the reason from bringing it down is because the wind just got up! Since we are in cruising mode we are not in a rush and would rather be comfortable and safe than sailing flat out.

      Without the main up, sailing broad or on a run is dead easy – and minimal worries about accidental gybes!

      Fair winds for your crossing, and perhaps we shall meet soon!

      Noel

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