Weather is critical to sailors, who depend on wind for propulsion but for whom the “wrong” strength or direction of wind can make sailing slow or even dangerous. Today, weather information based on advanced computer models and satellite information is available from a range of providers, giving mariners a level of detail that would previously have been though impossible. Use as many sources of information as possible to build a good picture of the weather you can expect.
The definition of rough weather depends less on the wind strength than it does on the experience of the crew, the type of boat, the state of the sea, and the course you are sailing. Every skipper must know the strengths and weaknesses of the boat, its gear, and its crew, and must have tactics for dealing with heavy weather. In this blog post, you’ll learn essential tips for preparing for rough weather while sailing abroad.
Preparing for Rough Weather:
- Hatches – Make sure all hatches are closed and secured. Check with the skipper before opening a hatch in rough water.
- Life jackets – In rough weather, always wear life jackets on deck and in the cockpit.
- Harness – Use safety harnesses and lifelines in rough weather to ensure the safety of the crew on deck and in the cockpit.
- Comfort – Adjust life jacket and harness straps so that they are snug but comfortable.
- Secure – Clip the lifeline only to strong fittings or to the dedicated jackstays.
Managing Sails and Coping With Rough Seas:
- Reefing – Reef early when you first think it might be necessary.
- Balance – Reef the mainsail and jib in proportion to keep the boat balanced without excessive weather or lee helm.
- Rough seas – In heavy weather, rough seas are usually more of a problem than the wind strength.
- Shelter – Head for shelter before bad weather hits but beware trying to enter a harbor on a lee shore, where seas will build up.
Using Storm Sails:
- Storm sails – Practice using storm sails such as a storm jib and trysail (instead of a mainsail).
- Change early If you think that you need to use storm sails, change to them before conditions get too dangerous to work on deck.
Source: Sleight, S. (2013). Sailing essentials. New York. N.Y.: DK Pub.