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35-2 Single Handing, Possible?


Member II
My 1970 hull #154 35-2 has primary and secondary winches in the cockpit (primaries are way out of reach from the wheel helm) and a rudder post head for a tiller (which I do have) though have never used while under sail. I have no turning blocks, no cabin top winches, and no cabin top cleats, just 3 winches on the mast (port, stbd, and aft) and two cleats near each mast winch.

Has anyone rigged a 35-2 for solo sailing, if so how did they do it? I would love to put a mast-stepped plate for turning blocks to attach to, but alas removing the mast is not in the cards for this season. Has anyone ever seen a mast strap / clamp that provides a way for turning blocks to be installed? Can turning blocks be fastened right to the cabin top? I really want to be able to single hand the boat and I feel I'm almost there, but I don't know if I can work the jib sheets along with the tiller or not! Comments welcome,


Curator of Broken Parts
Blogs Author
From the Alfred E Neuman school of sailing:

Admittedly, that is a a bit more boat than mine, but single-handing is certainly possible with a bit of planning. And I don't even have self-tailing winches.

I have seen turning blocks on some boats that are through-bolted to the deck, a few inches away from the mast. If it's like mine, built around the same time, there is a section of the cabin-top about two-feet wide under the mast step that is plywood-cored, instead of balsa cored. With a decent backing plate, I don't see why you couldn't bolt a block to that. But... consider not doing it. With a tiller pilot or tiller lock, it's not that difficult to step forward to the mast to handle sail-raising and reefing. And it keeps a lot of excess string out of the cockpit. The first couple of times can be daunting, of course.

It's my mainsheet traveller that's out of reach from the helm. If I can keep the sheet within reach, I can cleat & de-cleat it by "cracking the whip" but forget about adjusting the traveller, unless on autopilot.

As long as you can reach them, it's not that difficult to handle the tiller and jib sheets at the same time. A tiller-pilot with an auto-tack function makes it easy. But half the time, I just control the tiller with my knees or one hip and work the winches with my hands. Just takes a bit of practice. OK, sometimes there's that situation where the boat is on its ear and you don't dare let go of the tiller, but can't quite reach the sheet that needs to be eased. They say proper planning and set-up helps. IDK. Somehow, it all works out.

Loren Beach

O34 - Portland, OR
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
One of our site members has solo raced his 35-2 to Hawaii and back. He should be checking in.
There is a great shot of his boat in the rotation in the site splash screen, too.

Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Blogs Author
I suggest getting a Raymarine wheel pilot.

It steers, you're free to sail the boat with the setup it has. And nothing wrong with your setup.


Sustaining Member


I single hand my E36EH 90% of the time. My main traveler is on the bridge deck out of reach from the wheel and my primaries are next to it in the forward cockpit. I have a 48 inch diameter wheel that blocks easy access to the forward cockpit. The only way this all works for me is because I have an auto pilot. Mine is an older underdeck Autohelm but it works pretty well in our lighter winds. I usually sit in the cockpit ahead of the wheel when Auto is steering. I'll spin the instrument pods around to face forward so I can see the autopilot control on one and the chartplotter on the other. I usually auto-tack or auto-gybe (a 2 button 90 degree turn) using the autopilot with the main locked on center while I release and grind in the genoa from the front of the cockpit.

I wouldn't add aft led halyards for single handling if you have a roller furled headsail. My boom is short (12 feet) and I currently have full battens and slugs (no lazy jacks or sail track) and I have a solid vang, so dropping the main is pretty fast and doesn't get in the way. Even with aft led halyards, I always raise the main at the mast while motoring under autopilot. In our normal light winds, I usually drop the main sailing downwind under autopilot with the genoa pulling and the main very lightly loaded (my 150 genoa is 2x the size of the main). I can roll up the genoa, start the engine and steer from behind he wheel.

It's typically light wind on the Chesapeake so loads are small and things happen slowly. However, since my boat is optimized for 0 - 12 knots, any time it actually gets windy I have to do major adjustments up to changing roller furled headsails.

For a windy location like yours, I would recommend spending the money on a good under deck autopilot that can be trusted to steer in wind and waves. On a tiller steered boat of our size, I wouldn't want to deal with a tiller pilot. For windy sailing conditions, I would want more power than you can get with a wheel pilot. Hands down the best single sailing related feature my boat came with is the autopilot.

I did upgrade my primaries to larger self-tailers but that was for more power and convenience not for single handling.
The solid vang saves having to deal with a topping lift on fast main douses.
Having your autopilot control always in front of you when facing forward (vs looking aft like I do) helps to prevent accidental auto-turns in the wrong direction (ask me how I learned this).
I have port and stbd speed/depth readouts back at the wheel which I can not see when sitting forward in the cockpit. This data is also displayed on the rotated chartplotter but I will probably add another readout forward in the cockpit that I can see when sitting ahead of the wheel. The bulkhead location on either side of the companionway that is always blocked by someone sitting in the forward cockpit turns out to be an excellent location for readouts when you are sailing solo.


Loren Beach

O34 - Portland, OR
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
Traveler out of reach....

Addressing single handing and the bridge deck traveler, I lead the free end of the main sheet back to the back of the cockpit and drape it over the binnacle.
Our Harken traveler (main sheet system) has one of their ball-bearing cam cleats and it works easily enough that I can "pop" the sheet in and out of it from aft (at least in light and medium air).
That still leaves the traveler controls out of reach, but as others have noted engaging the AP is a good solution too.

We sail on a river that is often crowded with powerboats of all sizes, horsepowers, and skill levels and also high-tonnage barge traffic, so it's good to stay behind the wheel for quick course changes. :rolleyes:

FWIW our tall rig is about a 50-50 proportion (E vs J) in contrast to an IOR-based rig, so our main is good sized, if that makes any difference.
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Leslie Newman

Member III
It is really easiest with an autopilot involved. I do like having an auto-pilot for when I tack I can complete my turn and then press the autopilot to hold a course while I adjust the head sail. I always get my main set (traveler) like I want just before I tack, so when the boat swings around the main is fairly close to where I want it. Then I just need to attend to the head sail.
I have rigged boom preventer lines to manage jibes or wing on wing. I have blocks tied to the bow cleats and run lines through them from rope clutches, up to blocks and back around the shrouds to mid-boom. Works fine for me.
You'd need to have a way to lock your tiller while you attend to your sails. Tiller autopilot is my vote.
I single hand my E-380 often and autopilot is what makes it easy. Of course my boat has all the lines run to the cockpit, so I can take care of everything more easily. I do need to go up to the mast to reef the main.


Member II
You should be able to single hand your 35-2. I single hand about 90% of the time and although a Autopilot makes it easier, I still sail sometimes without it on. You are more limited on trimming your sails without the Autopilot on and you must reef much earlier when you single hand, at least I do which provides me with more control and less weather helm as balancing the sails is critical and minimum weather helm.

Practice different methods, dropping your main sheet towards the helm, make sure your sails are balance (unless they were out of balance prior, if you pull in the genoa a bit... you should adjust the main), keep your lines to the cockpit organize so when you grab a control line, it is NOT tied up with another line, like your boom vang or cunningham, so that your actions are smooth and precise not delayed, and if you have a wheel, (Ericson's has a good size wheel), don't sail behind the wheel but to the side of your wheel so that you have access to the lines, sheets, view of the your sails / trim and so on. Like Leslie stated, I also set up the traveler on my main and mainsheet so my immediate focus while tacking is my headsail, I trim it accordingly and then I re-address my mainsail trim.

Anyways, I think it's something you get use to. I am 50 yrs old (damn... getting old) and been sailing since I was 12 and I would say that majority of my sailing is solo. Even now, my kids have much better things to do in their teenage years than sailing and my wife only prefers sailing at 10 knots of wind or less.
My previous sailboat had a tiller and I installed a Simrad autopilot but most of the time I tacked with the tiller between my legs. Also with a tiller, you can set up a bungee cord self steering and it helps keep the tiller from moving as much but you still have to tend to it.

Good luck.
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Alan Gomes

Sustaining Member
If you decided to make use of that rudder head and fit the boat with a tiller (whether in addition to or in place of the wheel), you might want to consider getting a Pelagic tiller pilot. Very robust, and it will steer the boat in conditions that an ST4000 or EV100 Raymarine wheel pilot won't touch. The price is also very reasonable. www.pelagicautopilot.com.


Member III
The E35-2 is a joy to singlehand (in protected waters. I do not have experience offshore).

In moderate conditions, handles very easily with working sails (main + 110% jib) . For heavier air, shorten the main and combined with the 110% jib and you are ok into the 20kt apparent range. For light conditions (under 10kts apparent) I have a nylon 150% genny set flying.

I use the wheel, sitting forward of it, usually on the low side. Also sails fine with a tiller. Then go back and use the wheel when under power.
There are a number of other things you can do to make it easier to solo, but in general this design is very forgiving and easy to manage alone.


Phil MacFarlane

Member III
Hello Farlander,

I have sailed my E35MKII across the Pacific single handed 5 times and once double handed. The first two times with just a wind vane. The next four times with an Alpha auto pilot. I had a ray marine wheel pilot that the MKII eat in short time. Good below deck auto pilots are expensive but worth it. Three of my crossings were in the SSS Single Handed TransPac Race. I won my division twice and overall once. So yes it is very possible to single hand these boats. I recommend you join the SSS Single Handed Sailing Society since you are here in the Bay Area. It's how I learned everything about "how to do it". I was commodore for two years.

I would invite you over to checkout my boat but she live in La Paz Mexico now. If you are on face book I have a few thousand photos of "Sail a Vie" in albums on my wall. My settings are private so if you want to do that send me a PM and we will work it out.



Member II
Hey Guys,

So great to hear all the advice and stories. Phil you are welcome to come sailing with me on Betty anytime!

Since I first posted this I have singled handed the boat three times, once with full main and jib, twice with just roller jib. It is a freaking blast and I love the challenge. I sit on the high side of the cockpit, in front of the wheel, and work my non-tailing primary winches the old fashioned way, with elbow love. I start a tack or a gybe by pushing the wheel over, set slight drag on the wheel brake and it makes a nice controlled turn. During the turn I work the sheets then get back on the wheel and release the brake. So far I have dusted a Kelly Peterson 46 (also under full sail) and a ~22' Cal Sailing Club boat under full sail with just the jib out. I also got spanked by a trimaran. I love it. I am also a CSC member ;)

For docking I usually sail into protected marina waters, usually with the engine running since the starter on my 49 year old Albin diesel doesn't always catch and I'd rather have power in case my furling line breaks or sheets foul close to the rocks.

Once I get in the marina I start putting fenders out, get my bow and stern dock lines ready, and then turn upwind and douse the main, flaking the pleats but not necessarily flaking the sail, though I am getting better at doing it alone. All of this is done with frequent trips back to the helm to adjust the wheel and reset the brake. I'll often tie up to an end dock to flake the main properly so I don't have to do it in my downwind slip.

Then I motor in, just making sure at the least the I hit both starboard fenders on the dock, jump off cleat the stern line, grab the bow line which is already run back to midships and cleat it off. Voila. My stern walks to starboard in reverse which helps me docking on the starboard side of the boat. When I come in hot and hit reverse the stern sucks up to the finger. I walk away comfortable from all landings into my downwind slip now with crew or solo. Six months ago I could barely get in and out of the slip without playing bumper boats.



Member III
Sounds like some well versed folks have chimed in, the only thing I would add is about docking. The midship line made a big difference for me when I was docking solo regularly. With a quick wrap around a shoreside cleat you suddenly have control of the boats progress for and aft.


Loren Beach

O34 - Portland, OR
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
"The Tie that Binds"

Sounds like some well versed folks have chimed in, the only thing I would add is about docking. The midship line made a big difference for me when I was docking solo regularly. With a quick wrap around a shoreside cleat you suddenly have control of the boats progress for and aft.


Oh Yes.
That advice is one of our primary bits of instruction to new members at our YC, where we cope with varying amounts of river current and often cross winds. With a good-sized fender forward and aft on the docking side, snubbing the center of the boat up tight keeps it stopped, in rough alignment with the dock, and leaves the crew/capt free to then attach bow and stern lines.

I have seen single-handers lead a short "final docking line" from mid dock thru a block at the mid girth and then back to the cockpit to a winch --- when ready to back out he/she releases the line and reverses. The short line falls into the water and can be retrieved upon returning.
Learning to tie and un-tie when short handed really builds confidence.
That, and always have good insurance! :rolleyes:

Kevin A Wright

Member III
Luckily I have my E35 in a 40' slip, which lets me throw a wrap of the stern line around the dock cleat when I come in to arrest any forward motion. Although I usually hit a bit of reverse which on my boat sucks the stern to the dock as well. I also have the bow line lead aft to the gangway so I can just pick it up as I exit.

One other little trick I use (only helpful at your own slip) is to leave the port and stbd bow lines tied off to the cleats on the dock all the time. I just have an eye splice on the end that slips over the bow cleats on the boat. These two lines are adjusted to be exactly the right length to hold the boat where I want it. So the sequence is take a quick turn with the stern line when I come in but leaving some room to pull the boat forward. Use the bow line on the boat (which will become the spring line) to pull the bow over to the dock to slip the loops from the two dock lines over the forward cleats. Then go back and tighten up the stern line to put the boat where you want her to sit. Last step is to use the bow line to become the forward spring line.

This way there isn't any messing around with having to adjust lines to get the boat where you want it.

Kevin Wright
E35 Hydro Therapy


Member II
When at my home dock, I always leave the dock lines at the dock tied to cleats ready to retrieve upon arrival. With this method I can dock my E38-200 single-handed in almost all conditions. The spring line is critical, as others have said. It has the spliced loop at the boat end and is in place and adjusted to the right length. I motor up to the dock, almost to a stop, quickly leave the helm and pick up the waiting spring line with a boat hook and drop the loop on the mid ship cleat. Then I can return to the helm with the boat completely in control with the engine in forward idle keeping tension on the spring line and holding the boat to the dock. The remaining bow and stern lines are then similarly retrieved with a boat hook and loops dropped onto cleats. Everything is done from the boat and the lines are always perfectly adjusted.
Another lesson I have learned is to use different colors for the various dock lines. With crew aboard to "help", telling them to pick up the spring line can get blank stares. Telling them to pick up the blue line, when there is only one blue line, provides much more reliable communication.



Member II
I've become quite proficient at single handing thanks to 'Rona isolation, now just trying to make life easier so I can relax more. Also, gradually prepping the boat for longer distance cruising. Looking for recommendations and setup on below deck autopilot.