Sailing in Dangerous Weather

Sailing in dangerous weather tests your skills and guts, but with the right amount of knowledge of what you’re doing, having the right boat, backed by efficient preparation, a sudden weather change won’t cause you to fret.


Be Prepared

Apart from the usual mechanical and safety checks, a turbulent weather dictates wider planning and thought. For larger boats, keep loose objects secure inside the boat, make sure internal cupboards and doors are closed and objects inside are properly packed. Put off the water to the heads, then empty the bowl. 


Remove the bags from the bunks and put them on the floor, as long as they won’t be in the way. Secure mats on the deck because they can slip if not well fastened. Also secure fold-down tables and similar fittings. Make sure that potholes and windows are closed and rig deadlights. Do a swift check for security. In terrible situations, I have witnessed clears destroyed by the wind, so you should open your clears to allow the wind easily flow through. 


If you have a tender, check again that it is properly tied. Tie the anchor down, so it doesn’t become a missile, give the fenders a doubleknot, and secure any boat hooks, lines, and life rings. The engine room also requires a check-over. Examine fluid and oil levels and test bilge pumps for adequate operation. 


Know Your Boat

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about sailboats from, it’s that they are can by fully or partially propelled by sails. As such, being able to handle your boat in turbulent weather can be as personal as the skipper himself. No two boats respond the same way given the same sea conditions. For every hull design, there’s a different reaction to the sea-variables and even boats with the same design may act differently based on their trim and load. Every skipper must be fully aware of the distinguishing characteristics of his boat and know how it will react to specific changes in conditions.


Check the forecast before going out on your sail and be smart