April 23, 2014

Heaving to in violent weather

SOME OF THE WORLD’S most experienced long-distance cruisers recommend the use of a sea anchor AND a trysail to heave to in violent storms and gales. While powerboats and shallow-draft centerboard sailboats will often lie quietly to a sea anchor streamed from the bow, few deep-keeled cruising boats will stay bow-to the heavy seas in this way.

But, by deploying a parachute sea anchor on a bridle, The bow of a sailboat may be angled within 50 degrees of the wind and waves, and the boat’s forward motion will be checked. That’s important, because it means that she will stay directly to leeward of the turbulent currents caused by her sideways drift through the water.

This “slick” apparently encourages approaching waves to trip, plunge, and dissipate most of their energy before hitting the boat.

Because every hull reacts differently, and because sea conditions vary widely, the best combination of sails, and the best sea-anchor size and position, must be found by experiment.

That’s easier said than done, of course. Much easier. It involves a lot of hard work in atrocious conditions, but once you have found the right recipe it brings you great peace of mind and greater safety in really bad conditions.

Today’s Thought
He who is not prepared today, will be less so tomorrow.
— Ovid, Remediorum Amoris

“The doctor forecast I’d be on my feet in no time.”
“Was he right?”
“Yeah, I had to sell my car yesterday.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

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