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    Re: Heath Hezzanith question
    From: Lu Abel
    Date: 2007 Oct 22, 11:56 -0700

    Full keel sailboats (such as Slocum's) track better on all points of the
    wind than fin keel boats, but fin keel boats are significantly more
    efficient, especially to windward.   That's why most current
    single-handed boats depend on an autopilot of some sort.   Most common
    (for reasons of electricity conservation) is a windvane sort of device
    either steering the boat independently (which makes for a great
    emergency rudder) or via the boat's rudder.  Larger single-handers with
    on-board electrical generating capability (even just for battery
    recharging) may use an electronic autopilot.
    My 36' fin keel boat tracks very well with the wheel locked going to
    windward.  Off the wind, though, it does not track and requires
    reasonably constant attention to the helm.  But even then the attention
    required is not so intense that one couldn't record time and sextant
    readings.  Been there, done that.
    Alex's point is well taken, though.  There was a case in New Jersey a
    couple of years ago where a 40' sport fisherman ran down a 19' open
    boat, killing the latter's three occupants.   The skipper had his boat
    on autopilot and "went below to get a cup of coffee."  Subsequent
    reconstruction of the accident proved that he was below, with nobody
    keeping watch, for at least 15 minutes.
    Lu Abel
    Peter Fogg wrote:
    >  Alex asks:
    >     Who is in charge of the helm then?
    >  A sailing boat should not need constant attention to the helm. Once the
    > appropriate sails are set and balanced the craft should hold a steady
    > course at most points of sail. My little boat certainly did.
    > I know that many boats are not so good at this. I guess this spurred the
    > invention of self-steering devices, such as those regulated by a wind
    > vane and also electronic units. Joshua Slocum had neither. His boat
    > seems to have sailed itself very nicely.
    > >
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