Single handed sailing is one of the greatest joys you can experience while boating. Control, freedom, power. It’s got it all. But there are also some risks involved. Here are our best tips for staying safe and enjoying solo sailing.
1. Get a good self-steering system
If you’re on board on your own, it stands to reason that you’ll need some help with steering if you’re going to be able to manage and sail the boat alone at the same time – some sort of autopilot makes a lot of sense.
From a simple tiller pilot to the latest gyro-stabilised, 9-axis sensor driven autopilots, there is a system out there that will suit your type of single-handed sailing.
Another less power-hungry option for less crowded waters is a wind vane system. These are available from the likes of Monitor, Hydrovane and others, steering your boat to a set wind angle while you put the kettle on.
2. Prepare food and drink
You can easily get too busy to eat and drink properly while sailing solo – but getting exhausted is a real risk. A thermos of hot water cuts the time it takes to make a brew, and a round of sandwiches or snacks means you can refuel yourself while you’re out there.
3. Give yourself a little more time
Everything takes so much longer when you’re sailing single handed. Stowing fenders, hoisting sails, even tacking and gybing can take twice as long without another willing pair of hands.
When entering and leaving harbours, it’s worth giving yourself some extra minutes, either on the mooring or underway, to prepare yourself and the boat properly.
4. Labour-saving devices
Quite apart from an autopilot, there are lots of tweaks you can make to help yourself out on the water. Roller-furling can help a lot for the headsail, and sliders on the mainsail luff – as well as a set of lazy jacks – will make handling clouds of sailcloth much easier.
5. Keep a good lookout
The ColRegs (International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea) are very clear that every vessel must keep a good lookout at all times. That can be tricky if you’re sailing on your own, so spending some time making sure you’re prepared can mean you can spend more time on deck and keeping a good lookout.
At sea, if you have a Radar, you can set a guard zone to alert you of any potential problem vessels, and AIS units can do something similar.
6. Get some rest
Single handed sailing can be tiring – and you are more likely to make mistakes when you’re sleep deprived. Try and ensure you get lots of rest before you set off on a solo trip.
7. Check your insurance!
Boat insurance is essential before you head out into the wild blue yonder. With so many things to look after on your own, worrying about an accident or breakage shouldn’t have to be one of them.
However, some boat insurance policies don’t even cover solo sailing. At Insure4Boats, we cover solo sailing for boats under 26 feet as standard in daylight – so make sure you grab your specialist boat insurance before you head out all alone and let us worry about keeping you safe.