'Til the butter melts

Pursuing the cruising dream in 32' of sailing ketch

“Heavy Weather” – the A to Z Challenge


“Aren’t you worried about storms?”

I mentioned the subject briefly back in “Emergencies”,but in fact I don’t consider “bad” weather to be an emergency, as such. Miserable, challenging, stinking, uncomfortable-as-hell; Yes. But if we’ve planned and managed the boat properly, it shouldn’t get to the point of being an emergency unless Neptune decides our time is up and makes it that way.

My dictionary defines “Worry”(n) thus:
“A state of anxiety and uncertainty over actual or potential problems.”

As above, if I’ve planned and managed effectively, there may be concern, but there really shouldn’t be worry – worry creates anxiety, and anxiety interferes with reason and management skills.

Ok, easier said than done. Yes, we worry about the approach of inclement weather, but we use that worry as a way to inspire constructive activity to manage the threat.  Contrary to what landsmen/women often assume, “sit-there-and-take-it” is not a boater’s only option.

First –      Stay in port
                 The saying goes “The most dangerous thing on a boat is a schedule.” Unless                              you’re military or a first responder, you never HAVE to go. So don’t.
Second – Return to port
                  If you’ve already  left, and can comfortably beat the foul weather back to port, do                     so.
Third –    Detour
A nasty line of thunderstorms and/or tornadoes can run your whole day, but they                     generally don’t cover a wide area. Sailing out of your way for a couple hours could                   take your vessel completely out of the risk. Do it.
Forth –    Gain sea-room and ride it out
Water doesn’t break well-found boats – LAND breaks boats. So get away from the                   land and increase your safety and options.
Fifth –     Rig the boat for it
Storm canvas (very small sails built for high winds) should be set when you can                       still manage safely on deck. Don’t wait for 50 knot winds before preparing for 50                     knot winds. You can also reduce windage (air resistance) by removing shade                             covers, extra gear that’s on deck, etc. If possible, move weight low in the boat to                     increase natural stability.
Sixth –    Work your plan
You have to practice with your boat – each boat is slightly different. Learn ahead                     of time what works. Practicing techniques gives you the confidence to allay your                     fears and avoid worry.

Oh yeah, confession time. We have yet to set our storm canvas on Sionna, or to practice heaving to – our preferred technique for really nasty stuff out there. But we will, and sooner, rather than later.

You just never know.



Author: s/v sionna

Living the dream in 32'. We left Maine on August 18th, 2016, and have gradually worked our way south until we felt warm enough. After spending the summer in Maine, working to replenish the cruising kitty, we’re back on the boat, with plans to visit the Bahamas later in the winter. Follow our blog here, and follow our progress in map form by joining www.Farkwar.com!

12 thoughts on ““Heavy Weather” – the A to Z Challenge

  1. We practiced heaving to on our old boat, just in case. We still have to practice that on our new boat. Very logical approach to dealing with heavy weather. As I’m typing this, I’ve noticed that I have the Pardey’s “Storm Tactics” in my stack of books. Probably worth another look at.

    Cheers – Ellen | http://thecynicalsailor.blogspot.com/2016/04/h-is-for-ham-radio-nancy-drew.html

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The books of the Pardeys will be coming with us, in spite of our minimal book storage space!


  3. Heaving to is very easy and makes such a difference, even if it’s just to have a few minutes to make dinner.
    We are “setting in sail” in May – so I’m glad I found your blog through the A-Z!


    • Thanks Lucy, a pleasure to have you along! Would love to know more of your plans, we’ll go check your blog!
      We have yet to practice heaving to on our current boat, Sionna, but will be this spring. It worked splendidly on our prior boat, however!


  4. Hope we do! We leave Maine via ICW in mid-August. Come to Rockland July 29-30 for the SSCA gam! We’re the host boat!


  5. Excellent advice. We always reach for the first option (staying in port) but good preparation and knowledge carry us the rest of the way if we’re out and can’t get back to port or find a safe anchorage.

    I’m glad I saw your link on “Life Afloat” and have added you to my A to Z blog list!



  6. Hey, awesome to have found another A-Z boat blog! Nice summary; our favorite is stay in port, second favorite is heave to. Last summer on the Galeon we did a long detour due to weather; friends on land were following our AIS and got really confused — why were we so far west? (Jaye from Life Afloat)


  7. We find heaving to a very useful skill, even in nice weather. It allows you to take a break and have lunch. Also the non-sailors in the bay look so confused as they pass by and stare at the boat. Probably wondering how we manage to stay basically in one spot with the sails up!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This is some of the best advice I’ve read for sailing in bad weather. Wonderful post!


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