Slowing down in increasing winds

SV Perigee

Hi all,

The greatest winds we have experienced on PERIGEE have been 35 knots sustained, gusting 42, estimated 6 meter seas, all on the beam.  Even with fully reefed sails, it was a strong ride, but not uncomfortable.  It never got to the stage of thinking to go to bare poles.

But it did raise the question about how, and when, to slow down.

We carry some old 5/8ths hauling line with about 3 meters of chain, plus an old tyre, to add drag if needed.  And a Jordan Series Drogue for if things get really tough.

I have heard suggestions from other cruisers to run out line with fenders attached every 10 or so meters, with chain or an anchor at the end.  For example, at 35kts, drop the chain/anchor overboard and run out 10-15 meters of line, then attach a fender, and then run out  another 10-15 metes of line.  At 40knots, add another fender, and run out some more line.  At 45knots, heave-to.  I do not wish to be cavalier, but these wind-speeds seem a little low for a Super Maramu as, based on my experience, our boats can handle these conditions with relish.

What are your reefing points, heavy weather plans or storm tactics?  I'd be interested to hear from those with experience.  And also, at what wind-speed or sea-state would you call for the JSD, or other big-drag-device?

Thanks in anticipation of your responses.

Perigee, SM#396



When it comes to heavy weather tactics, my first rule is to take no advice from anyone who hasn't been there and done that, preferably on a boat very similar to mine.

I think you you'll get some awesome advice here from people who have spent time in weather way, way rougher than I ever want to...

As the wind picks up, I just reef deeper and deeper.  Maybe it comes from sailing in San Francisco for so long, but strong winds never really worried me.  It was always just the size of the waves that drove my concerns.  35 knots? No problem... just keep sailing!

Eventually, waves get so big that making progress in any direction except downwind gets dangerous.  Once you start to lose control of the the boat as it surfs down big waves, or the waves start to break in ways that are dangerous, it is time to go straight to the series drogue.  There are people here who have been there, done that, and know of what they speak.

My opinion:  Skip all the old fashioned ideas of dragging warps with fenders, anchors, tires, etc, etc.  Those are tactics from 75 years ago, suited for boats of that vintage.  When I have talked to people who have actually tried such things in modern boats in conditions that were really serious, they were always way less than impressed with the result.

My experience runs up to 45 knots for days crossing the North Pacific on a boat significantly smaller than a SM, although similar is general design.  Deeply reefed jib, and reefed mizzen, furled main, and the boat did fine.  One you get used to it, it is a wild ride :)  I always reefed based on boat speed.  Keeping the boat under control was the key.

So many of the storm tactics you read about are based on the premise of having a large crew who can hand steer for hours and hours.  Having a way of "stopping" when the boat gets out of control, like a series drogue, is the key to cruising safety in big weather.

Bill Kinney
SM160, Harmonie
Governors Harbour, Eleuthera, Bahamas