Single Handing a Cruising Catamaran


Last Updated on September 10, 2019 by Amy

David and I firmly believe that we should both be able to manage Starry Horizons on our own if, heaven forbid, one of us were to fall overboard or become incapacitated. Much of this requires advanced setup.

Here are some things to think about when setting up your boat for single-handing.

Run Drills

David and I are both licensed USCG captains and I used to own a marine business, where David worked as a captain. All of my staff had to go through man overboard training on a routine basis to refresh their knowledge – and David even used his man overboard skills!

Read more about Man Overboard Safety on a cruising boat.

As such, it’s important to run practices on your boat. Toss a lifejacket overboard, and then go retrieve it.

Strengthen the Weakest Link

While I may have been a badass licensed captain, mostly my job was management. When we got Starry Horizons, I was pretty nervous to dock her.

So, I kicked David out of the helm, and I drove Starry Horizons EVERY TIME WE DOCKED.

Of course, I got a hell of a lot better at it and given some assistance on the dock, I could easily dock Starry Horizons all by myself – and I still do!

All Lines to the Helm

One of the things we did when outfitting our boat was setting her up so that all the lines went to the helm. From the helm, I can raise and lower the mainsail and furl or unfurl the genoa.

Know Your Autopilot

The autopilot is more than just a turn-on/turn-off feature of your boat. When I raise the mainsail by myself, I am relying on the autopilot to keep us directly into the wind. When I’m tacking or jibing, I can just hit a button on the autopilot and leave the helm to manage the sails.

Don’t Forget the Dinghy

I can not tell you how many people (typically women, unfortunately) who are out here cruising and don’t know how to drive their dinghy. There are so many reasons why dinghy skills are important – independence being one of them – but being confident in driving the dinghy means you’ll save valuable time in an emergency.

Our dinghy davits are electric, so I can easily get the dinghy up and down by myself.

What else can you do to make single-handing easier?


  1. Amy and David, we have read ALL of your posts with great interest. It is extremely helpful to hear about the issues you have encountered and your subsequent solutions. I don’t know if you recall, but we met you at a seminar at the Miami boat show in 2014. We are from Vancouver, Canada and are planning to cruise extensively. Do you have any plans to be in Annapolis in October? P.

    1. Price we do remember you! It was a very memorable moment – we were so flattered!

      We will probably be back in Texas during the Annapolis boat show. Our plans for the end of September and early October are pretty vague right now.

  2. Good for you and David! I know Helia’s can be sailed single handed but I have not tried it…. Thanks for sharing as practicing single will also be on my now.
    Have fun!

  3. How smart of you to plan and prepare! I am not surprised you are one Smart Lady!. Seeing your smiling face made my day.!

  4. Good planning, that’s why when people ask if I worry about you guys I can honestly say “no”. You guys are careful and smart.

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