How Does She Sail?

September 27, 2014 at 12:41 pm

Chris sent me a lovely email yesterday:

“Hello, I discovered your blog whilst searching for information on the Hurley 22.  I’m looking for my first cruiser, single handled mainly, Irish sea and the west coast of Scotland. How have you found Duet? Not quite a long keel, but as near as damn it. How does she sail?”

Great question Chris, I thought it deserved a post:

As some background, this season was really my first proper season in Duet and we did a touch over 500 coastal miles in a range of conditions, some of which were actually pretty challenging for us.  As some background to my own sailing experience, I have done some miles but in a rather narrow range of boats.  I have done a little school stuff in Jeanneau’s, and a Greek flotilla in a Jaguar 28 but most of my formative sailing was done in a Trapper 500 which is a 28 foot 1970s cruiser racer, a lot lighter displacement with a deep fin keel. Duet is my first boat, my first time skippering, and first experience single handing.

So with this context, I found that Duet actually sails really well, and she clearly loves to be sailed. There is a point somewhere around a force 4 that she definitely feels like she picks her skirts up and skips on.  (But I did have her bilges full of tins and tools this summer and the Hurley 22 is pretty heavy displacement for her size anyway.) Being heavier she feels like a much bigger boat in a chop, and I was surprised to find she actually felt bigger and often safer than the Trapper 500! I’ve never had Duet slam, which I have experienced on the Trapper and the Jeanneau’s too, and I definitely felt like she was able to look after me.  I will admit on a couple of occasions it was all getting a bit much for me and I dropped the sails and just lay ahull where she sat quietly beam on to the waves and I collected my thoughts, took a deep breath and put in a reef or had a cup of tea or whatever.  She also heaves to quite nicely.

Duet’s a fin, and although I’m not totally happy with her rig setup and tuning, I was happy enough how high she would point, and didn’t observe much of a problem with leeway all things considered.  I didn’t measure this scientifically, but I did notice she wouldn’t point as high with a reefed genoa as full sail, but that will be the roller reefing. I’ve averaged out my passage times and we averaged something like 3.5 knots over the 500 miles which I don’t think is too bad for a 22 foot boat on passage.  It sounds obvious but the biggest negative is her length.  Once the sea gets up to “moderate” she does struggle upwind, but then to be fair often so do bigger boats… The sea looks bigger and scarier from a little boat too. I found it best to reef early, by about 14 knots the first reef was usually in the main and the second in well before 20 knots, with the Genoa reefed in between. I found her quite easy to balance, but she definitely lets you know if she’s over canvassed as she becomes difficult to steer and feels out of control!  But Duet’s set up for easy single handing, with the main halyard and topping lift led back to the cockpit. As she’s little I found I could also reef the main standing on the quarter berths in the hatchway so I didn’t need to go on deck.  From the hatchway I can reach the mast, which is much safer than going on deck.

The outboard engine has taken a little getting used to as I’m used to an inboard really, but it’s much, much better in the well rather than transom hung like it was last season.  In the well it doesn’t lift clear of the water in a chop like it does on the transom.  However, on a couple of occasions I had a problem with it not staying central in the well but motion of the sea was pivoting it to one side, which affected steering and sounded awful and I ended up turning it off and sailing a bit more off the wind.  But to be fair this was at the top of a force 5, with over 4 foot (?) of short swell. I need to put a bar in the lazarette locker to fix the outboard to stop it being able to turn like this. Not having an inboard that (hopefully) starts at the push of a button or turn of a key might also need some consideration, as it’s a bit of a process to turn round, open the locker, prime the bulb, set the choke and the gear, and pull the chord (a few times) and you need some room for this, but singlehanded it’s ideally best to plan ahead and not leave action to the last minute. I have a 4 stroke Mercury 5hp sail pro which pushes her comfortably along at about 3.5 knots without sounding like you are hammering the engine (to my ears) but I did find that I was better off sailing if at all possible, which is no bad thing… There are some Hurley 22s out there with inboards though, if you have stricter time constraints or less patience ;o)

One of the biggest issues that I had when I first got her was getting in and out of a marina berth.  With the outboard in the well behind the prop she just won’t prop walk like a yacht with an inboard, and with the long(ish)keel putting her in reverse is very unpredictable – you are never quite sure which way the stern will go. So I’m afraid you need to ignore most of the stuff in books, yachting magazine articles and from the RYA on ‘close quarters manoeuvring”.  However, as she is small she’s actually very easy to (wo)manhandle: I warp her round if there is the room (and this can be done easily in a standard marina berth if there is not a boat next to you, either between or around the finger pontoons).  Alternatively I have walked her out backwards with the engine out of gear and then used the boat hook to turn her and keep her clear of other boats.  Once the boat is clear and pointing in the right general direction I return to the cockpit and put her in gear.  Obviously every situation with wind, tide and surrounding boat overhangs needs to be considered but damage is caused by boats under way usually, rather than just adrift. Some might see this as unseamanlike but I believe you have to work with what you’ve got!  Springs can be useful in a tide, and I have found stopping is often a bit of an, ahem, issue (as I need to turn round and rummage in the lazarette locker at the last vital moment to find reverse on the outboard) but then you have to learn to use the tide and wind to your advantage if at all possible, and to do things as slowly as possible, just keeping enough way on to keep steerage.  I always put lots of fenders out and there’s definitely a learning curve to this…

Another area I was nervous about was weighing anchor single handed, but I have found that her keel holds her in the water and there is surprisingly little windage.  By the time I’ve sorted the anchor, closed the lid and got back to the cockpit I’m surprised how little she moves, even in a good breeze.  I know that in some of the situations we’ve been in, I’m pretty sure the Trapper would have skidded off and been on the rocks!

Accommodation wise, she’s a 22 foot boat with 4’9″ headroom which is what it is… But the forepeak berth is massive and I’ve also had a few comfortable nights in the quarter berth. With the paraffin lamp on in the evening she is cosy and snug, and after living aboard for 9 weeks this summer I thought the lack of space would annoy me but it honestly didn’t (and I’m 5’9″ and not exactly a midget).  I have a boom tent to cover the cockpit which effectively doubles your living space, and also gives you somewhere to hang wet oilies.  I would definitely recommend this.  The cockpit is quite spacious, and deep.  It would be comfortable to day sail her with crew, but as for staying over I think you’d have to get on very, very well. Great for one though!  After all, if you put 2 people on a 28 foot boat and there’s not really *that* much space each…

So, bottom line is I found she sails very well, better than I hoped if I’m honest.  You have to pick your weather ideally, and found that the sea state and direction of the waves was as important, if not more, than the wind speed for making progress in the direction you want.  But she did feel safe, and I felt she looked after me in some tricky situations with too much sea and too much wind and she was really good for my confidence. At one point though, after the 11 hour passage from Salcombe to Plymouth dead into a force 5-6, making 1.5 knots motor sailing against a significant swell, I did think I wanted a bigger boat.  But then the wind direction changed to more Easterly and we had some fabulous sails further West and you know, I think I’ll keep her for another year after all… She’s a lot of fun and adventure for her size, and certainly for the money!

If I’ve missed anything or you’ve got any questions or comments then I’d love to hear them below :-)

Hurley 22



Rounding The Bill – In Practice

August 13, 2014 at 5:44 pm

This was the forecast on the morning of the 30th of July, the morning that I finally felt ready for The Bill.

North 3 or 4 backing West 4 or 5, veering NW 3 or 4 later.
Smooth or Slight.

I was coming to the conclusion that the sea state is more of a deciding factor for 22 foot Duet, rather than wind speed, and we’d been out in a f5 a couple of times so I was confident that well reefed she’d behave.  I had already decided that I would take the outside passage and planned waypoints to take me to The East Shambles buoy and then a position 6 miles South of Portland Bill which would hopefully keep me well clear of any race or overfalls, and the predicted force 5 confirmed my decision more. And we were near a Spring tide.

Looking at the tides, I worked out that I would need to be at the East Shambles buoy just before High Water (HW) Dover in order for me to catch the strong tide that would whoosh me quickly, and safely clear round The Bill.  I calculated that to get there would take 2 hours, so I would need to slip my mooring in Portland 2 hours before HW Dover which was to be 14:00 that day.

My passage plan was to leave at midday and head out to round the East Shambles buoy which is 7 miles from the harbour mouth.  I calculated that there would be half to 1 knot of tide with us so I should arrive at the buoy at 13:30 just in time for the current to turn west at 14:00 (which was HW Dover, remember?).

It would then be 7.5 miles to the next waypoint, set 6 miles south of The Bill.  On this leg I would have a 2-3 knot tide lift which would help me alot. I estimated then that I would reach my offshore waypoint at 15:00 and turn northerly to travel the 20 miles to my Bridport waypoint.  Once I was back in the lee of Portland Island (ie 6 miles North again) the tide would still be with us, but not so westerly and it would gradually weaken to turn against us at 19:00. I estimated arrival at Bridport to be 20:00 (probably at the earliest).  HW Bridport was due to be 21:30 so we would have plenty of water to enter the harbour on a rising tide, and it should still be daylight when we got there.

portland routes

Image courtesy of (great website for reference, but double check against your own expected speeds and a tidal atlas!)

I spent the morning quietly preparing myself and the boat.  As there was a f5 in the forecast I put 2 reefs in the main sail and I also gaffer taped the inside of the front hatch (the fastening’s are original and I don’t particularly trust them).  As a precaution I prepared a grab bag with the flares, the handheld VHF, my ships papers and passport, a spare set of thermals, a bottle of water and a bar of chocolate.  Perhaps a little excessive as I would never be more than about 7 miles from the shore, but it all helped emotionally. I also prepared a good packed lunch and made sure my waterproofs were within reach of the companionway and my sailing gloves, the winch handles, the binoculars and the hand-bearing compass all went into a bucket in the cockpit along with a written copy of my passage plan in a waterproof pouch.  Everything else was tidied away securely.

So, at 1215, with a dry mouth, I called the coastguard to log my passage plan half expecting him to tell me not to go (he didn’t, but wished me good passage), and then slipped the mooring in 10 knots of wind (a lovely f3). We were off!

Once clear of the moorings I raised the reefed main and rolled out a full genoa, and was able to pretty much immediately put the engine to neutral, though I didn’t actually switch it off until we cleared the harbour entrance at 12:35.

We had a fabulous sail down to the Shambles buoy, logging well in excess of 5.5 knots (helped of course with the tide).  However the wind was starting to rise, and was from the West already. At 13:30 I logged that the windvane was showing 16kts and I put 3 rolls in the genoa, and then we rounded the Shambles buoy at 13:45 and were unfortunately dead into wind so I rolled away the headsail and put the engine on to motor sail out to the offshore waypoint which was 7.5 miles away. My waterproof went on here too.

The Shambles East Cardinal Buoy

The Shambles East Cardinal Buoy

I was already glad that I’d put 2 reefs in and not settled for the one, and this was pretty much the point of no return as once West of the Shambles buoy, and HW Dover, the tide would turn to run strongly West and it would be very difficult to get back. At about this point, I took this little video:

In hindsight, that must have been still slack as although the wind is picking up the sea state is looking OK isn’t it…

Not long after this, at 14:10, the wind backed more South and I was able to put the headsail back up (with 3 rolls as it was now showing 17kts ) and turn the engine off again. We made good time to the offshore waypoint, logging around 5.5knots over the ground all the way.  However, the wind rose quite a a bit and by the time I reached the offshore waypoint at 15:45 we were seeing a sustained 22kts (f6) and also, as the tide got going westerly the sea state deteriorated and we started to experience the effects of wind over tide (or maybe race?).  As I had the wind on the starboard side I was able to bear away from my waypoint to try to get further off to what I hoped was calmer water (if it was a bit of race).  I know we passed more than 6 miles offshore.  But whatever, Duet coped pretty darn admirably and she was well reefed and we felt in control. I am always surprised by her motion in a sea. Because she’s heavy, and got a fuller keel she does feel like a much bigger boat. There was never any slamming, and she kind of plunges forward and then comes up slowly. It’s all quite controlled.

So after turning North level with, but a little way South of, the offshore the waypoint we turned to now have the sea and wind on the beam and by then were seeing pretty big waves that were breaking on the tops. If I’m honest, my friends, at this point I did briefly attempt to turn back, kinda ‘just to see’ but I was also concerned that the sea would be this big over by Bridport and I wouldn’t be able to get in (and once over there, there is literally nowhere else to go and you’re on a lee shore!).  But by this point the return journey was more intimidating than continuing on.  Turning downwind, we then had 20+kts of wind behind us, as well as a big sea, so our direction was pretty unstable and we risked an accidental gybe (as I couldn’t easily get off the tiller to get the preventer on) or even a broach.  Also, we went from a speed of nearly 6 knots to just 1.8 knots with the tide against us …So with the advice that someone had given me earlier in the week ringing in my ears to ‘push on through it’, I turned back towards Bridport and we did indeed ‘push on through it’.

Now, I’m not very good at judging wave height, and I’ve found it especially hard to judge from Duet’s cockpit where the cockpit sole is pretty much water level, so your head is a bit over 1m above the water and everything looks pretty massive. I also have no pictures so you’ll just have to trust me…

At 17:00 I recorded a position of 50° 26.817’N 02°32.074’W with a speed over the ground of 5.5kts, wind speed of 22 kts and the comment ‘BIG SEA!’. As we had the wind on the beam I had a certain amount of directional freedom and was able to weave in and out of the breaking waves. At one point I misjudged it and looking up I remember being surprised to see this big lump of flying emerald green water leaping over the hatchway to hit me right in the face.  Amazingly, I think it all missed the open hatch! However, my phone, which was in my pocket, has never since shown any sign of life…  It also gave me a mild panic as I didn’t think it was going to drain away, but I managed to tap dance the sheets, reefing lines and main halyard out the way and clear the drains.

I do remember at one point asking myself if I was scared, and deciding quite coolly that I wasn’t. I had my life jacket on, was clipped on, we had 2 reefs in the main, a little scrap of headsail out, they were well trimmed, we were making over 5 knots over the ground, I had my grab bag ready, the forehatch was gaffer taped shut, I’d logged my passage with the coastguard and they knew I was out there and I also had some comfort in that I could see other boats in sight (although they were Eastbound and clearly struggling against the tide to make the next tide gate).  There really wasn’t anything more I could have done to prepare, and we were in control, and making good progress.

Sure enough, as we got into the lee of Portland, and progressed along Chesil Beach the wind slowly began to calm and the sea state definitely calmed down.  By 19:20 the wind had dropped back to 17 knots (only a f5!) and I even managed to eat my sandwiches!

By the time we reached Bridport it was a little after 21:00 and the light was starting to go.  Bridport is a small harbour, with a narrow entrance, with a long breakwater on one side and a beach and cliffs the other.  I was tired and had salt in my eyes and I found I couldn’t easily see the entrance even with binoculars as it all looked like a continuous dark line …so I held off to take the sails down and prepare the boat for mooring.  There was also still a pretty rolly sea breaking scarily on the beach so I didn’t want to get too close.

But there was a Drascombe leisurely tacking backwards and forwards, so with a certain amount of impatience I lingered waiting for him to go in first, and also muttering ‘put the lights on, put the lights on’ under my breath (meaning the harbour lights to go on and show the way).

Eventually, the leading lights went on and I followed the Drascombe in too. And the entrance was not where I thought it might be!

We tied up at 21:30 and I logged off with the coastguard feeling pretty triumphant. I also had to find someone on the quay to borrow their phone to call my shore contact (mum) who also knew I was out there, as my soggy phone would not boot up.  Thank you, again, to you.

Bridport's Outer Harbour

Bridport’s dredged outer harbour. Duet’s in the middle with the entrance behind.

Bridport's Inner Harbour

Bridport’s pretty inner harbour. This dries.






Jester Challenge 2014

May 12, 2014 at 9:17 pm

I bought Duet 2 years ago with the intention of doing a circumnavigation of the UK with her at some point. It’s something I would still like to do, but I’d like to visit some places so it’s probably not going to get done in one season as I’d planned originally…

In the meantime I’ve stumbled across the Jester Challenge guys and been kinda charmed by their ethos. I say guys, because I cannot find any evidence of any lady skippers attempting any of the Challenges. Ever. (I may be wrong though…)

If you’ve not heard of the Jester Challenge (you must not call it a race, there are no prizes) then at it’s essence is simple, single handed ocean racing in boats under 30 foot with no sponsorship (the full rules are here) – And there’s usually a Hurley 22 amongst the fleet, which is probably how I found them…

There is a Jester Challenge every year from Plymouth, either to Baltimore (in Ireland), the Azores, or as it is this year, to Newport, Rhode Island.

So they were due to start from Plymouth yesterday, and if you’re in the UK you’ll be well aware that we had a bit of stormy weather roll in from the West last week.  I was thrilled to see this SIT REP (Situation Report) from Ewen Southby-Tailyour, the organiser, published yesterday evening, and it sums up the Jester Ethos perfectly;

This year, as with last year’s Baltimore Challenge, the weather tried it’s hardest to beat us.  Force 9 from the West with driving rain was forecast and indeed on the Saturday conditions were close to that. The forecast for today was no better and so it was decided to cancel the spectator craft in good time and have the start off the Royal Western Yacht Club’s start line from where the spectators could watch in comfort while the skippers could, or could not, sail depending on their individual wishes. It is not up to the coordinator to delay the start for that would imply taking that decision to sail or not to sail away from the skipper which of course is at the very heart of the Jester ethos. So at 1255 BST our very own, tireless friend and supporter Eric (who was first into Newport in 2006) fired the five-minute gun and Norm (our gallant and equally tireless supporter in Newport) fired the start gun. As it happened there was no one afloat on the line, indeed all the skippers were watching the firing from the Club. The wind was still gusting hugely and the rain was still driving in sheets – sometimes. Nevertheless, the Jester Challenge 2014 was now ‘open’!

Based on my maxim ‘seamanship not showmanship’ it was not the time for heroics but a calm assessment when best to face the Atlantic. At 1600 Andy Lane slipped and sailed, taking advantage of one of the increasing number of lulls while the others decided that a Monday morning (very early) start would give them a full day of light to get well beyond the Lizard. The forecast from Tuesday onwards offers a vast improvement in conditions.

I believe that six boats have now started, with a further four pending a late start.

Not sure there’s a Hurley 22 this year, but bloody good luck to them I say.

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