Testing the Parasailor

in France / Sailing the World
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parasailor cheeky monkey turf to surf

Ryan and I are both visibly stressed when we arrive to Pierre’s office at Uchimata Sailing Services. We’ve been running through everything that needs to get done on Cheeky Monkey before Pierre’s team of workers finish at noon tomorrow to go on vacation for a month, along with the rest of France. I am holding a scrawled list of outstanding work items and Ryan is glancing at his watch every few minutes because we also have to get to the chandlery before it closes.

“Don’t worry,” says Pierre. “We are on schedule. We have the sea trials in the morning and that’s it. Everything else is done.”

Ryan is shaking his head. “But when are we getting our training with the Parasailor?”

Pierre shrugs. “We can do it during the sea trial tomorrow.”

Ryan rolls his eyes and sighs. “Pierre, your guys are finishing for the day at twelve o’clock tomorrow. When we talked about buying the Parasailor from you I was promised a day of training. Not half an hour.”

Pierre looks surprised. “But this is not a problem. This is easy. A 70-year-old woman hoisted her Parasailor for the first time last week all by herself. There is nothing to learn.”

I can see the look of irritation on Ryan’s face and I know he’s thinking we should have bought our Istec Parasailor directly from the vendor, as they guaranteed a full day of training with the sail purchase. Neither Ryan nor I have ever used a symmetrical spinnaker before and the spinnakers we used on the Clipper Race were asymmetrical, not to mention they required much more than two sets of hands to hoist and drop. I knew it wouldn’t be as complicated as wooling (tying little strings every foot or so for the length of the rolled-up sail) and packing this spinnaker like we did on the race, but I still had no idea how to use this thing.

 

Parasailor in the bag turf to surfOur Parasailor isn’t much good in this bag; we need to learn to use it.

The last thing we want, after spending thousands of dollars on this amazing new piece of sail technology, is to find we lack the confidence we need to use it. Hence why we are keen to get proper training with the sail and not just be told, “It’s easy, no problem.”

We did a lot of research on the German-made Parasailor before we bought it and talked to cruisers who used them. One guy told us he crossed the Atlantic single-handed on his catamaran and the Parasailor was the best thing he’d bought other than his extra large freezer (understandable, as he was a chef). Apparently, he hoisted the sail a few days into his trip and didn’t touch the sheets again for two solid weeks.

Unlike other symmetrical spinnakers, which are temperamental and tricky to use short-handed, the set-up of the Parasailor and the “snuffer,” the sock-like tube used to bring the sail down, makes it really easy to operate. Also, it can be used as a symmetrical or an asymmetrical spinnaker, giving it a huge range; it can sail between 70 and 180 degrees to the wind and in wind speeds of up to 25-30 knots.

The design of the “wing” in the middle of the Parasailor is the thing that really sets this downwind sail apart from other spinnakers. The shape of the wing, which is the flap-like opening in the sail, and the angle at which the air flows through it means, just like an airplane wing, the air on the surface of the wing accelerates faster than the air beneath it. The pressure created by these aerodynamics literally sucks the wing upwards and stabilizes the whole sail, making it difficult to collapse by mistake.

There are also a few other effects of the genius engineering behind the Parasailor wing, which apparently increase propulsion and efficiency, despite the fact that there is a big hole in the sail, letting airflow escape. But I would be lying if I claimed to understand aerodynamics enough to explain it. Let’s just say this thing makes us go faster in a tailwind than with a normal spinnaker, and leave it at that.

Basically, everything we’ve read about this sail tells us it has the potential to be our favorite piece of kit for a round-the-world journey with the tradewinds. But that still doesn’t change the fact that we don’t know how to use the thing.

“We’ll put the Parasailor up tomorrow and you will see,” says Pierre. “It’s really easy even with just one person.”

Ryan looks doubtful but he shrugs. We don’t have a choice at this stage. France is literally shutting down for a month and whatever doesn’t get done before tomorrow will have to be taken care of later on down the line. This is it. Cheeky Monkey is as ready as she’ll ever be to leave France.

In the morning Pierre shows up with four guys to take Cheeky Monkey off the dock and out to sea to test the instruments, calibrate the autopilot and try the new spinnaker rigging, which was installed yesterday.

 

uchimata team preparing spinnakerPierre and his team, running the lines for our Parasailor.

For the last few days, Ryan and I have been walking around the boat, testing every switch, plug, and piece of equipment to see if they work the way they should. And we approach this day out on the water with the same test review mentality — we rig the sheets to make sure we understand the spinnaker block set-up, particularly since this sail has two sheets on either side, one active and one lazy sheet. And we watch carefully as Uchimata’s guys pull the lines on the snuffer to uncover the sail. The snuffer gets raised smoothly, with only a momentary snag, and within minutes of tying the sheets on, our beautiful yellow sail is flying.

 

parasailor sheets cheeky monkey turf to surfThere are active and lazy sheets on both the port and starboard sides.

I chose the colors for the Parasailor and the genniker, so the first thing I notice when the sail is hoisted is that there are gray stripes on the Parasailor, though it is meant to be 100% yellow. I mention it to Ryan and we both shrug — we’re so excited to see the spinnaker flying, we don’t actually care what color it is. We’re not sending this thing back.

“She’s beautiful!” I say, smiling.

 

cheeky monkey parasailor fountaine pajot helia 44You’ll see us coming for miles with this thing flying.

Pierre’s team drop the snuffer and are about to bag up the sail when Ryan steps in and tells them we need to have a little practice hoisting and dropping the sail with just two of us.

Ryan and I follow the sheets back through the blocks to understand how to set the spinnaker up and, by hand, Ryan tugs the halyard attached to the long gray snuffer sock and raises the sail easily to the top of the mast. Once the halyard is raised, I tug on the snuffer lines to raise the sock, allowing the Parasailor to billow out of the bottom of the snuffer and catch the wind. There is a slight snag when the snuffer reaches the extra folds of the wing, the small piece of sail that flies above the opening, but we get around it by dropping the snuffer a little and then pulling the lines again until the brim of the snuffer reaches the very top.

The whole process takes less than five minutes and requires no sweating, grunting, shouting or panicking. As Pierre said, it’s easy. And there really isn’t much to practice.

It’s so simple, the 10 steps go just like this:

 

Parasailor sail bag cheeky monkeyStep #1: Hoist sail bag out of locker and onto foredeck. Step #2: Tie sail bag down to trampoline.

 

parasailor halyard cheeky monkeyStep #3: Attach halyard to head of Parasailor.

 

run sheets parasailor cheeky monkeyStep #4: Run sheets through blocks back to cockpit. Step #5: Attach guys and sheets to Parasailor.

 

ryan parasailor cheeky monkeyStep #6: Raise halyard. Step #7: Raise snuffer. Step #8: Stand back and admire.

 

taking photos of parasailorStep #9: Take pictures for Facebook.

 

tasha cheeky monkey turf to surfStep #10: Stress-free sailing all the way.

 

And then dropping the sail is as simple as this:

 

easy snuffer parasailor cheeky monkey fountaine pajot heliaStep #1: Ease the sheets. Step #2: Drop the snuffer.

 

drop halyard parasailor cheeky monkeyStep #3: Drop and remove halyard.

 

bag up parasailor cheeky monkey turf to surfStep #4: Remove sheets. Step #5: Feed Parasailor into bag, leaving head on top.

 

bagging up parasailor on cheeky monkeyStep #6: Close up the bag and drop in sail locker.

It would have been nice to have a full day out on the water, playing with the Parasailor at all wind angles. But Pierre was right in that there was not much to teach in the way of hoisting and dropping the sail. The rest we can learn by just playing around with the Parasailor ourselves.

So now that we’ve seen the sail in action, we have the confidence to hoist the Parasailor as soon as we get any kind of tailwind, and that’s the important thing. The next most important thing will be keeping an eye on the weather, so we know when to drop her before we can cause any damage.

At the price point of these Parasailors, we hope we never have to do any repairs on her. Which means the key to maintaining her is knowledge and awareness. We got the knowledge from our training. Now we need to work on a better awareness of the weather. But as far as Team Cheeky Monkey goes, we’re ready!

 

ryan tasha cheeky monkey fountaine pajot helia 44

 

post-line-divide

Update: The 30-Day Challenge

So, it’s day 10 of the 30-Day Creative Challenge I set for myself, and I have failed in my mission to publish a new post every day. BUT not all is lost, as I have been successful in writing every single day for the last 10 days.

It turns out it is pretty near impossible for me to publish a new post every day while also trying to get Cheeky Monkey built. Well, not impossible, but it would mean I could never sleep. Or eat. Or leave the boat.

But we are in our last few days of finishing up construction on Cheeky Monkey here, so I am hoping I can free up some time very soon to charge forward with this challenge at full speed.

In any case, I knew it was going to be a challenge to keep up with my own demands, but I also figured you never reach your goals by aiming too low. So, no regrets about declaring this challenge. Just a few more days of no sleep and I’ll be back on track…

Thanks for all your support! And feel free to share your challenge in the comments below. I’d love to hear about it.

Love,

Tasha

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16 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • Cheryl Geeting August 10, 2015, 11:43 am

    Glad it wasn’t so bad after all … I like the gray stripes mixed in!
    Cheryl Geeting recently posted…Hello Dominican Republic!My Profile

  • Annie BERNARD August 11, 2015, 9:22 am

    Hi Tasha,

    I’m Annie from Parasailor France, Subsidiary of ISTEC Parasailor… Pierre Menardon from Uchimata beeing one of our official retailers in France for the Parasailor. Your Parasailor came through me.

    So you can say you bought your Parasailor from ISTEC 😉

    To understand the color of your Parasailor – and I am glad you like the grey! – those grey lines are reinforcements on all our sails. I am sorry you were not presented with the design or you didn’t noticed them at right time.

    I really like your peace of writing, clear and nice… Have you been introduced yet with the Jacana Parasailor Owners Club ? You belong to it shall you wish to join… And it this case, it would really be nice of you to post this article onto it. Would you think about it ? Other members (and us) will be delighted to follow you on your blue water ways.

    I maybe am the only French working people this Summer but here I am, you shall contact me anytime on club@voileriejacana.com or +33 6 88 42 63 21.

    Do not hesitate to ask further questions if you need.

    Wishing you the very best,
    Sincerely,
    Annie

    • Tasha August 11, 2015, 2:01 pm

      Hi Annie!
      Thank you so much for your message — I DO like the grey, and hadn’t realize that was necessary reinforcement. But I’m happy with the design and the color and, especially, the performance!

      I have not yet been introduced to the Jacana Parasailors Owners Club. I would absolutely love to be in touch — do they have a Facebook group? I’m sure as we gain practice with the Parasailor, we’d love to have experienced Parasailors out there to consult with. And absolutely, I’d be happy to share the piece!

      Thank you so much for getting in touch — I’ll send you an email to see how I can get more involved 🙂

      Tasha

  • Paul Fitzgerald August 15, 2015, 7:48 pm

    Love your blog and your writing.
    Just a suggestion on the snuffer.
    If you can attach the pull line to the deck somewhere with a block on a snap hook, you pull up not down when furling the sail, and it can’t sky if you are hit by a gust.
    Makes launch and retrieval much easier

    • Tasha August 16, 2015, 6:43 pm

      Paul,
      Thank you so much! That is a great tip and we’ll try that out when we take her out next. What kind of boat do you sail the parasailor with? And what is the maximum wind you’re comffortable with her up in?
      Tasha

      • Paul Fitzgerald August 18, 2015, 2:08 am

        Don’t have a Parasailer, just an assymetrical spinnaker in a sock on a 36 footer.
        Have heard of light people being lifted off the deck in a gust pulling a sock down.
        Should be even easier to attach a symmetrical sock line to the deck, as you won’t have to jibe the kite on your new boat.

        • Tasha August 19, 2015, 9:13 am

          That’s interesting. In theory, that shouldn’t happen with the snuffer, as there’s nowhere for the sail to catch wind once the snuffer has been dropped. And then you just drop the head with the halyard, so there is really minimal pulling.

    • Tasha August 19, 2015, 9:15 am

      Thanks for the compliment and thanks for the tip. We currently run the furling line through a cleat, which we lock. It will take some playing around with the Parasailor for sure, but the thing is incredibly easy to hoist and drop. Can be done single-handed with no problems.

  • Paul Fitzgerald August 18, 2015, 2:18 am

    You can see the idea if you look up ” snap ratchet” on the ATN site, they sell a good spinnaker sock and have a lot of experience with them.

    I just use a normal block, not a ratchet block.

    • Tasha August 19, 2015, 9:12 am

      Thanks, Paul. I’ll have a look. The “snuffer” that comes with the Parasailor is pretty amazing. I don’t think it needs replacing.

  • Michelle August 30, 2015, 4:20 pm

    Tasha – I’ve been reading your blog all day and laughing/crying and definitely procrastinating. Your boat is beautiful. Your wit is hilarious. I love your boat. We just bought our Lagoon 380 and although it is not as swanky – I definitely feel out of my league as we cruised around Miami with people taking photos, etc. We have lots to learn still about how to dock better, but after reading about 30 of your posts, I feel not so alone, and decided to comment! 🙂 Enjoy your trip around the world. Hopefully we will see you out there. We launch July 2016. Fair winds!
    Michelle
    Michelle recently posted…We survived Sail School!My Profile

    • Tasha Hacker September 8, 2015, 12:03 pm

      Wow, Michelle, you have no idea what a huge compliment that is to hear you could eat up 30 of my blog posts (and they’re not short, I know, because Ryan sometimes complains) and not fall asleep!

      We also love the Lagoons — it’s hard for me to believe sometimes all the floating space on catamarans and yet they still sail! And from this last shakedown, I’d say they sail really darned well. Incredible that they don’t just mope around harbors like a tanker without an engine, these catamarans. I’m totally in love…especially with my full-length mirror and my washing machine. I mean, washing machine! How frigging gluttonous is that?! No shame, though 🙂

      Congratulations on your boat and good luck with that launch next year — I hope to see you out there!

      Tasha

  • Marco May 20, 2016, 6:06 am

    Hi.
    I’m joining next ARC 2016 with my boat (Dufour 405); do you think parasailor is a good investment?
    Enjoy your trip.
    Marco

    • Tasha May 21, 2016, 2:59 am

      I LOVE our Parasailor. As in it’s the third most important kit we have on board for happy ocean crossings, the first being our watermaker (I’m terrified whenever it makes funny noises), the second being our autopilot (it’s extremely convenient and I love when it works…which has been a total of three weeks in the life of this boat so far), and the third being our Parasailor.

      Our fastest and smoothest mode of travel is going dead downwind with the trade winds with the Parasailor up. We could have saved money by not splurging on it, but it makes us so damned happy to be moving so quickly with so little maintenance that we affectionately talk to our Parasailor like it’s another crew member 🙂

  • Caroline October 22, 2016, 6:26 pm

    Hello! We have a Fountaine Pajot Lavezzi and just went out in San Diego Bay with our new Parasailor for the first time. After traveling down the Pacific coast from Seattle with light wind always wanting to be right behind us we decided to give this sail a try. After this morning, I am in love.

    I have noticed in your videos you do not appear to have your main up when using your Parasailor; is this the case? Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you have used both your main and Parasailor?

    Thank you! We enjoy following you!

  • John August 5, 2017, 8:23 am

    Tasha, we would like to get a Parasailor for our cruising trimaran however that sail bag looks mighty big for our hatch. Would love to know what your boat is and what size Para did you get?
    Fair winds and smooth seas to you
    John

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