5 Tips to Control Your Sailboat Under Power in Heavy Weather

Here’s another great tip from Capt. John of www.skippertips.com

Did know that many sailing deliveries are to upwind destinations? And on a delivery where time can be a factor, skippers often use the diesel engine a large percentage of the time. Sail and powerboat heavy weather tactics are similar.

Follow these five easy sailing tips to learn how you can ease the stress on your sailboat, deck gear, and sailing crew when you need to power against a stiff wind and sea!

In heavy weather, prepare to deal with rolling (side to side) and pitching (up and down) motion. First and foremost, know the capabilities of your crew and cruising boat. Then follow these five tips to maintain positive boat control:

1. Choose Your Best Steerer

Put your most experienced steerer on the wheel or tiller. Choose a person with a high level of concentration. Even so, rotate the helm between crew members every twenty minutes. Assist those less familiar when it’s their turn at the helm.

2. Tack on Upwind Courses

For upwind destinations, powerboats should tack across the seas like a small sailboat. Keep the sea waves 35 to 45 degrees off your bow. Don’t allow the boat to turn beam to the seas. This increases rolling. In breaking seas, the boat could broach. Use lots of helm and increase throttle to keep the bow at the correct angle.

3. Slow Down to Ease the Ride

Slamming through seas creates enormous stress on the hull; fatigues even the saltiest seaman and could cause injury. Reduce speed and you will be surprised how quickly the ride and crew morale improve!

4. Shift Weight Away from the Bow

Heavy marine anchors and ground tackle in the bow cause pitching, or up and down motion. This could cause “wave plunging”, where the bow dives into the next wave ahead. The boat shudders, the bow fills with blue water and your boat slows to a crawl. Pitching also increases the incidence of seasickness among the crew. Shift weight toward the center of the boat and keep it low to help resolve pitching problems.

5. Reduce Yawing when Running Downwind

A vessel will yaw–swing from side to side–when heading downwind. Use a triple dose of anti-yaw medicine to put this ugly motion to bed. Reduce speed, increase weight aft, and keep off the face (forward part) of breaking waves.

Small cruising sailboats sometimes tow warps (long bights of line) from the stern to help keep the stern square to the sea waves. If you choose to do this under power, attach flotation all along the warp to prevent the line from fouling the propeller.

Few small boat cruising skippers relish the thought of getting caught out in tough marine weather. But with these five tips, you will have the skills and knowledge to get through it with flying colors!

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