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How to Sail in Heavy Weather by Johnathon Black

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How to Sail in Heavy Weather by
Article Posted: 07/03/2013
Article Views: 144
Articles Written: 106
Word Count: 593
Article Votes: 0
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How to Sail in Heavy Weather

Travel & Tourism
Sailing in the middle of a storm could be any sailor's worst nightmare as it is one of the greatest dangers on the water. Strong winds and gigantic waves can easily cause havoc on any sailboat and can be very life threatening. Thus, anyone who takes sailing for a hobby should learn how to maneuver a boat in heavy weather in case he finds himself sailing in a middle of a storm. The best strategy to keep yourself safe from the dangers of sailing in a bad weather is to simply avoid it. But if you really can't help it and you're up for some extreme adrenaline rush, or if you ever get stuck in a terrible weather at sea unintentionally, here are some tips to help you survive it.

Wind speed, wave direction, wave height, set of sails, boat direction, length of boat all come into play during a bad weather. You need to know your limits are well as the capacity of your boat before you head out from sheltered waters. If you're on a keel boat, it can withstand strong winds but high water and strong winds combined, the risk of capsizing or rigging failure significantly increases.

Usually, when sailors encounter an unexpected storm, their first reaction is to drop sails, start the engine and head for a harbor. If you can safely return to the dock, this may be your biggest chance of avoiding the dangers of the storm. But you should know that the wind and waves can quickly make narrow channels or other shallow parts of the water into much dangerous places than the open sea. Waves are usually steeper and mostly break in shallow waters, making it increasingly difficult to control the boat. In this situation, your best option is to wait the storm out.

Create a plan and determine your current position and find the safest course to go. If the current course you're following is no longer safe, head to an alternate route that you have worked out on your sail plan. If you find yourself on a lee shore, you will experience less fetch and smoother seas. So, in this situation, it is best to drop your anchor and wait till the storm subsides. But if you can't find any shelter, you must prepare yourself to face the storm.

Reduce your sails. You should give more time for jibes, tacks and sail changes during high winds. Because boats are more difficult to maneuver when near other sailboats or docks, make sure to use smaller sails as much as possible. You don't want too much sail up when there are strong winds. Reef the mainsail before a strong gust hits. It can be very dangerous if you leave the cockpit just to reef the sail or furl the jib when the boat starts to get tossed or tipped over by strong winds and waves.

Drop your anchor or para-anchor to keep the boat pointed to one direction. This will slow the progress of the boat against the storm. You should also trail warps or drogues. Let out long ropes at the back of the boat to slow it down. The ropes need to be in a loop and can reach two wavelengths back to prevent the boat from surfing a lot faster than the waves. Small drogues will also help you achieve the same result.

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