Sailing in bad weather
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How to sail in rough weather
Sailing a yacht in bad weather is a situation that all sailors are likely to encounter. Wind, rain or rough seas can play a trick on us, so being prepared, knowing how to act and keeping calm will help to minimise any danger.
So today we bring you some basic safety tips for when sailing in bad weather.
We are all aware that before setting sail we should consult the exact weather forecast for the chosen route. Even so, we may encounter a storm that begins to form and finds us in the middle of the sea.
So if you have left the port with a bad forecast or if the storm catches you in the middle of the crossing, there are different ways to manage it:
1. To cope with bad weather, all crew should ideally have a basic knowledge of all aspects of safety and rescue equipment.
2. Brief personnel with the appropriate knowledge who are trained to react to the situation.
3. All crew members should have their lifejackets on and be equipped with harnesses and radio beacon.
4. Those on deck should hold on to a lifeline and ensure that they have been properly arranged.
5. Taking sea sickness tablets can be a great help as a seasick person does not react quickly and could endanger the rest of the crew.
6. Turn on navigation lights, arrange the boat so that there are no things that can fall or break, clear the deck, and close doors and portholes.
7. Check dinghy and liferaft lines and moorings.
8. Turn on radar, if vision is reduced, it will be very useful for detecting objects or other vessels.
9. Note the exact position of the vessel in the logbook, as well as on charts and electronic devices. This information will be of great help in the event of needing to contact Maritime Rescue.
10. Remain calm and assign each person, if necessary, the corresponding task for the occasion. The skipper must be confident in everything he does and, of course, make the decision to ride out the storm or ride it out, depending on what is best for him.
Weathering or riding out the storm
Before making a decision, all the circumstances, the sea state, the type of vessel, the position of the boat, the distance to the next safe harbour and, of course, the skill and knowledge of the crew must be assessed.
Weathering and running into a gale are two completely different manoeuvres. To weather a storm is to face it from the bow and to ride it is to ride it from the stern.
It is recommended to have practice, to have prepared beforehand on days with strong but safe winds, to develop our own methods and thus have the necessary skills for when we have to face a real gale.
Wear the storm
To face a storm situation, the first thing to bear in mind is to have the appropriate sails and to reduce the sail area depending on the direction and strength of the wind and the sea that we may encounter.
If the storm is very intense, it is preferable to replace the mainsail and genoa with the mainsail and storm jib. These sails are much more resistant and are prepared for strong winds. They will bring the centre of sail closer to the centre of gravity, thus reducing the heel of the boat and considerably improving its steering. If you do not have this type of sail, you will have to reef the mainsail and furl the headsail to the minimum.
When it comes to weathering the storm, the ideal is for the boat to be stationary. This way, when the wind moves, the boat will cut the swell with its bow, thus avoiding a collision.
The idea is to stay tacked up until the weather subsides and the boat can be safely steered again.
As we go up the wave, we will go upwind as much as possible so as not to cross the sea, and once on the crest we will drop slightly to leeward, preventing the bow from dropping suddenly and staying in the air. In this way a sailboat can sail satisfactorily during bad weather.
Remember that the boat should not crash against the waves, it should only cut them, always taking care of the most vulnerable areas such as the sides of the hull.
Ride out the storm
If the sailboat cannot keep up, we will have no choice but to set course in the same direction as the wind or, in other words, to ride out the storm.
We will sail in the same direction as the waves and the wind, being very careful as we may have the coast on the leeward side. Sailing in this way is very difficult because there will always be crests of waves that will be loading water into the cockpit. But in this way we can make sailing calmer by reducing the speed of the boat and keeping the stern facing into the wind.
If we see that we are losing control of the boat and the situation becomes untenable, we can try lowering all the sails and leaving the helm to windward until the boat balances with the waves. With this manoeuvre, the boat will drift and stop fighting the waves, but with the danger of getting caught in them.
As you can see, there are several ways of dealing with storms at sea, the choice of each one will depend on where we are, the intensity, etc. and above all on the preparation of the team.
It is highly advisable to be prepared for each situation by practising the different manoeuvres beforehand so that in the event of such a situation we know how to handle ourselves on board.
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