Heavy Weather Sailing - Learn What i . . .
Heavy Weather Sailing - Learn What it Takes to Rig Your Boat Right!
Does your sailing crew or partner know how to hank-on, hoist, rig, and sail with the storm sails you carry aboard your boat? Heavy weather sailing tends to strike an apprehensive note in many sailors. But you can lower your stress with knowledge and practice. Get ready for blustery weather today with these three easy sailing tips.
Work out heavy weather sailing rigging now aboard your boat. When crewing on an offshore delivery to the Caribbean, we raised the tack of the small hank-on staysail with a 12" pendant (yellow arrow). Dual preventers were rigged (red arrow shows starboard preventer) to keep the boom in place. Note how the preventer leads back to the cockpit for easy adjustment. A snatch block (blue arrow) pulls the staysail sheet clear of deck obstructions to prevent chafe. Make chafe prevention a top goal when sailing in trying conditions.
1. Practice Rigging Heavy Weather Sails Now
Try out your storm jib or working jib or trysail in moderate winds. Learn how to rig these sails the right way. Realize that they have different tack settings, sheet leads, and idiosyncrasies. Work these out before you get into those conditions that demand them. For example:
Storm jib tacks need to be raised off the deck with a wire or fiber pendant. This might be 9" to 18". Raise the tack on these headsails to allow boarding waves to slide beneath the sail and give the helm better visibility. Mark the track sheet lead blocks for the storm jib sheets now so you will be able to do this in an instant in the future.
Trysails replace a reefed mainsail in extreme weather. If you carry a trysail aboard, work out a luff attachment point on the mast. Many boats install an external track on the aft side of the mast for the trysail. Unlike your mainsail, trysails have a loose foot and leech, and are sheeted onto one side of the boat, much like a headsail. Work out the block leads and rigging now so that you will be able to do this in minutes when the tough stuff comes your way.
2. Sail in Stiff Breezes to Prepare for Heavy Breezes
Go out in weather with stronger and stronger winds. Sunday sailing in light air will not prepare you. Watch the forecast. When you see winds at 15-25 knots, get underway and go sailing with your sailing crew or partner. Get comfortable in these wind speeds. Learn to change out sails and reef smooth and easy when sailing short-handed (or single-handed!).
Mark your halyards and reefing lines at the belay point on cleats or exit points on rope clutches. This will reduce reefing time. Label your reefing grommets along the luff of your mainsail (#1; #2; #3). That way, when you haul down the sail, even with the luff bunched up, you can tell in an instant which grommet you see. Make things "drop-dead" simple so that you can do them in trying conditions.
3. Keep Sails Bagged the Right Way
Keep your heavy weather sails ready and easy to get to. Fold your storm jib and trysail the correct way (see Related Articles below). Make your sails ready to hook on the moment they come out of the bag.
Keep the tack of the storm jib at the top of the bag. That way, when you open the bag, the first corner to be attached--the tack--will be on top, ready to grab first. Trysails are often fed into an external track head first, so keep the trysail head on top in their bag.
Take the time to practice heavy weather sailing in moderate conditions to become familiar with hoisting and rigging aboard your boat. Gain the confidence today to meet tougher conditions tomorrow--wherever in the world you choose to cruise!
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