Re: Self introduction and question about autopilot redundancy and solo sailing

Mark Erdos

Hi Paul,


I had never sailed a ketch prior to owning an Amel and the best advice I can give you is trial and error. Now, I would never want a sloop rig again.


One of our favorite sail combinations is what is called Jib and Jigger. When properly tuned, there is almost no need for the auto pilot. The mizzen sail acts as a sort of air rudder. Steering in heavy weather is a really light touch on the wheel and the boat sails a true straight course with no pull to windward with gusts. Here’s a good read:



With best regards,





Sailing Vessel - Cream Puff - SM2K - #275

Currently cruising - Tahiti, French Polynesia


From: [] On Behalf Of Paul Harries via
Sent: Thursday, July 8, 2021 7:24 AM
To:; Justin Maguire;
Subject: Re: [AmelYachtOwners] Self introduction and question about autopilot redundancy and solo sailing


Never having sailed a ketch I was hoping someone could elaborate on how the mizzen is used to steer. 

I understand that first the other sails have to be adjusted to give slight weather helm but what is the secret with the mizzen?


On Thu, Jul 8, 2021 at 11:24, Justin Maguire

<justin_maguire@...> wrote:

What bill said 👆🏼

On Jul 8, 2021, at 12:19, Bill Kinney <cruisingconsulting@...> wrote:

I do not believe it is reasonable to expect one (or even two!) people to hand steer a boat for a thousand miles.  It just gets mentally and physically exhasuting, depending on point of sail and weather.  BUT>>> there is an alternative as Thomas of GARULFO suggests.  A well balanced sailboat (and a SM is pretty good at this) can sail on it's own for a good long time, holding a more or less constant angle to the wind.  It is very effective upwind, moderately so on a shallow reach, and is difficult to impossible as you come further downwind. You can not go anywhere you want to go, but you are not helplessly drifting either.

There are a few tricks.  To get a SM holding a steady course you must trim the sails so there is a bit of weather helm.  If there is even a bit of lee helm the boat just will not balance. In light winds, sometimes the mizzen traveler needs to be cocked to windward a bit to get the rudder turned the right way. The boat needs to head up in a gust, not bear away.  Off the wind, sheeting the jib in a bit loose, and having the mizzen just a bit tight can help.  The boat won't hold a dead straight line, but it will find its own way.  

When sailing close hauled, the rudder needs to be locked in place, as you bear away, there comes a point where the boat will usually behave better with the rudder left free to find its own angle. in both cases, if the need existed, this could be handled by the emergency tiller.

Minor course adjustments are made by tweaking the angle of the mizzen.

On our old boat (a 40 foot ketch) we broke our wind vane 1/3 of the way from California to Hawaii.  We managed 650 miles back upwind to California just trimming sails.  Once the boat was in the groove, we made course adjustments with the mizzen sheet.  We hardly touched the wheel at all until we were back in the variable coastal winds.

Each boat, and each set of sails, has its own sweet spot.  The only way to really know is to practice it. Having a powerful, reliable electric autopilot covers up a lot of sail trimming sins. Learning how to balance the boat so she can take care of herself will make anybody a better sailor.

We have the linear drive installed on our rudder, the chain drive on the wheel, either one can be driven by either of the two autopilot computers, and we have a backup linear drive that drops in place easily.  But of course all those do depend on the constant supply of electricity.

Bill Kinney
s/v Harmonie
Brunswick, GA, USA

Paul Harries
Prospective Amel Buyer

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