If you enjoy sailing, it is likely that you will have to deal with heavy weather at one point or another. It’s not as if you can avoid heavy winds and bad sea conditions forever. Knowing what to do in such situations is one of the most important things that you need to learn as a sailor. Sailing in rough seas is dangerous, but it could also be fun especially if both you and your boat are capable enough to handle tough tides. Whether you deliberately set sail in bad weather or you’re already out in the open when the nasty winds hit, your only option is to keep sailing. Read on to know some helpful tips on how to survive heavy weather conditions while sailing.
1. Check your boat- Before you leave the dock, you need to ensure that your boat can handle strong winds and huge waves. If you are having doubts on the capacity of your boat, then don’t dare leave the port. Make sure that all your boat’s fittings are securely mounted and in the condition to take a great amount of strain. Check if the rigging and bailing equipment are fully functional.
2. Prepare the sails for reefing– Reefing the mainsail involves reducing the sail of the mainsail by lowering it partway. Mark your boat’s mainsail halyard in advance to reveal the setting for the 1st and 2nd luff reefing points. This will allow you to know how far you need to lower the halyard. Head into the wind then, start luffing your sails. If you’re a one-man crew and you don’t have a one line reef system, place the boat into a heave and then reef your sails.
3. Furl the Genoa– Furl the Genoa or the overlapping jib by blocking the wind with the mainsail. This will allow you to reduce the tension from the furling line and easily roll the Genoa to the right size.
4. Reduce your speed- Huge waves put the hull on a lot of strain, and may injure even the saltiest seaman. Reducing your boat’s speed will help you ease the ride. If you see a big set of waves coming your way, try to avoid the set by slowing down (spill more air), changing your direction or by doing both.
5. Reduce weight at the bow- Weighty anchors and ground typically tackle in the bow which causes pitching or an up and down movement. This in turn causes the bow to dive into the wave ahead or what sailors call “wave plunging”. When this happens, the boat shudders, filling the bow with water. Pitching also escalates the occurrence of seasickness among the people on board. Shift the weight toward the middle of the boat to reduce pitching problems.