Single handed sailing Part One

sin·gle-hand·ed (also sin·gle·hand·ed / ˈsinggəlˈhandid/ )

• adv. & adj. 1. done without help from anyone else: [as adv.] sailing single-handed around the world | [as adj.] a single-handed crusade.

2. done or designed to be used with one hand: [as adv.] the tool is easy to use single-handed | [as adj.] a single-handed ax.


sin·gle-hand·ed·ly (or sin·gle·hand·ed·ly) adv.

sin·gle-hand·ed·ness (or sin·gle·hand·ed·ness) n.

Single handing is not some think you try on a whim. It requires careful planning and some degree of training.

I enjoy coming up to the dock, grabbing a loop of line from the dock, slinging it over a cleat and stepping off the dock with the bow line in hand. If I have witnesses to this feat, they stare in awe at what I have just done when they can't even get close to the dock in a cross wind and require crew and two hands on the dock to get in.

Probably the most difficult task in single handing is getting on the dock without ruining someone's gelcoat. On my dock I have lines slung in a loop in the position I want my boat to be in. It is positioned just at the forward part of my cockpit where I normally exit the boat. All I have to do it slowly come with about a metre of the dock and grab that loop with a boat hook. Once the loop is connected to the boat, it automatically positions itself and stops the forward motion. The second that happens I get off holding the bow line that I have run back to the cockpit. The result is what appears to be a very skillful execution of a difficult to learn skill.

If you don't have a auto pilot, and I don't, you will want to plan gathering around you what you need for the trip. Water, food, a few charts, GPS/chartplotter, cockpit cushion, extra clothes,rain gear, hat, sunscreen. All those things you ask the crew to get or go below yourself for you need within easy reach.

Planning ahead is the real key to successful single handing. I have put together a checklist to assist you. If you have comments or suggestions they are always welcome at

Single-Handed Sailing

To be honest, some of my best times are had alone on my boat. In my youth (up until I was 63) I used to stealth camp. Stealth camping for those not in the know is solo camping out of sight on land not marked for trespass, unfenced and unimproved using Leave No Trace principles.

It's not too difficult to carry that idea forward to single handed sailing. I find that once you leave the dock, you are truly alone. More alone than when I am bike touring and stealth camping.

The real key here is self reliance. Can you perform the duties of crew and captain in a safe and professional fashion?


Captain Allan Stokell