Members' Online Book: Heavy Weather Tactics, Chapter 1 of 24

Introduction—We Need A System

Welcome to our Heavy Weather Tactics Online Book.

In the coming chapters I will write about storm survival gear, but not just gear. Just buying gear will not make us safe at sea. How we install that gear, practice using it, and how and when we deploy it, is as at least as important.

So let’s start with some thoughts on why preparation before we are offshore in a gale is so important.

The Reality of a Storm at Sea

It’s blowing like blazes and getting worse. We are seasick, exhausted, and our boat has just experienced a partial knockdown, scaring the living daylights out of us.

We need that drogue deployed and we need it now, before the next big wave makes that partial knockdown look like a gentle pat on the back. Oh yes, it is black dark too. (Why is it that scary stuff always happens in the dark?)

But the drogue is in a corner of the lazarette under all the junk that we threw on top of it in the rush to get to sea. To get it out we are going to have to move all this stuff in the dark. Worse still, the hatch will be open to the sea while we do it—seriously dangerous in this kind of weather.

With superhuman fear-driven strength, we get the drogue out and slam the hatch shut with only a few hundred gallons of water getting into the boat. Not enough to sink us, we hope.

Now, assuming the wind or a wave doesn’t tear the whole works out of our hands and wash it away, we have to figure out on which side of that vital and oh-so-fragile self-steering gear to rig the bridle legs and what to attach them to.

By now it’s even darker and, if you’re anything like me, you have to take a break to puke.

Not the Time to Be Figuring Stuff Out

Why is it all so hard? Simply because we have never done any of this before. In fact, if we are like most people, we have not even read the instructions that came with the drogue—yes, I have been guilty of this too.

The Rule of Thirds

The point of all this is that when we buy storm survival gear and lug it to the boat, we are about one third of the way to a storm survival system.

The second third is putting together and trying out a deployment system that is set up and ready to go before we even leave the wharf.

And then, don’t forget, we have to have a way to get the damned thing back aboard after the storm—the last third.

It’s All About You

In this book we will help you get ready for storms at sea. But notice I said “help”.  Being ready is mostly up to you, we can only point the way.

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Meet the Author


John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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