Not quite 6 months ago I wrote about some scary safety stuff, big storms and lightning! Yesterday I was watching a DVD on heavy weather sailing and it inspired me to add some more here. The big thing during a storm is, as I understand it, keeping the boat under control. As the primary source of “horsepower” for a boat is the wind, we can reduce the wind’s effect on the boat by making the sails smaller, also known as reefing or shortening sail. This is fairly easy to do on our larger sail, the main, as we have what is called single-line reefing. We can reduce the size of our sail by easing the halyard and winching in one of the two reefing lines, all from the safety of the cockpit. Because our headsail is on a roller furler, reefing it is accomplished by rolling a portion of it in. Although this does work I understand that it is not perfect as the shape of the sail ends up being less than ideal. Some boats have a separate inner stay rigged onto which a special storm sail could be set instead. We unfortunately have no such stay. An alternative which is available is called a Gale Sail, produced by ATN. This special sail is designed to be rigged over the fully-furled headsail.
What if we are running downwind and reducing sail doesn’t slow us down enough? That is where towing warps or drogues comes into play. The drag created by these devices can slow the boat down, helping to maintain control. I mentioned on that previous post about the Jordan Series Drogue. This device gets excellent reviews although it both costs a fair chunk of change and is potentially difficult to manage. An alternative, for something less than the perfect storm perhaps, is the Seabrake. Strangely the manufacturers have no North American distributors. I emailed the company that makes them on Friday, inquiring about sizing and shipping costs, but have yet to hear back.