Let’s Go Sailing!


OK, enough with all this talk of motorboats, let’s go sailing in a bit of breeze on Morgan’s Cloud. We made the video below a few days ago in a solid Force 7 blow (near gale, 28-33 knots).

John With Egg On Face

By the way, look for a timely reminder from Phyllis at the halfway mark in the video—I’m suitably ashamed of myself.

Environment Canada With Egg On Face

Also listen for the weather forecast wind speed at the time we were shooting and then compare it to the windspeed indicator (left-most gauge).

As I always say, “a weather forecast is only the most likely of several possible scenarios“. Or as Phyllis likes to put it, “It’s a forecast, not a prophesy”.

This is a good example of why (even if you are only out for a 25 mile daysail as we were) it’s so important to have your boat rigged to snug down easily and to have the required manoeuvers well practiced.

Please view the video and then scroll down for some more notes.

I have imbedded the video below, but you can also watch it in a larger version here.


We had two of our three deep reefs in when we took the footage. We had started out that morning with one reef and progressed to three reefs a bit after the video ended, when the wind started gusting to 35 knots.

These reductions are easy to do using our downwind reefing technique, and I didn’t even get wet. This is the key to safely handling a boat the size of Morgan’s Cloud with just two people: reef early and often. The boat’s design makes this work well since she is so easily driven that even after putting in the third reef we were still doing 8 to 9 knots.


You will also note that we didn’t tie the reef points in and that the bunt of the sail is nicely retained by our lazyjack system. If we were going to be out for the night we would have tied the points in and rigged a safety strop.

A Proper Preventer

Also, note that we have our end boom preventer rigged even though we were planning to be at anchor in a couple of hours. In this kind of breeze this is the only safe option for boom control.

It’s Great To Be Back

This was our first sail in any significant breeze after my rehab from my broken leg and it was great to find that everything still worked well, boat and crew.

Like what you just read? Get lots more:

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.

37 comments… add one
  • Svein Lamark Sep 22, 2014, 5:18 pm

    Hi MC! Nice to see you out there again!
    By some mistake I have anticipated that MC is a small boat. Now I can see that it is rather big. This explains better to me many of your comments in the past.
    And Phyllis is damned cool.
    I hope your leg can take the swell.

    • John Sep 24, 2014, 10:11 am

      Thank’s Svein, I relieved to find that my balance at sea seems to be just about back to what it was before I broke my leg. A great relief since even in May, when sailing with the guys from Boreal in France, I was still more than a bit wobbly, and that in smooth water.

  • J H Sep 22, 2014, 7:14 pm

    Congrats on getting back under sail!
    I’ve envisioned the stainless hoop at the aft end of MC’s cockpit as her boom gallows/crutch, but am struck now by how much lower than the bimini it is. Am I mistaken? Or does an additional piece mount on those short posts to reach boom height?

    • John Sep 24, 2014, 10:07 am

      Hi JH,

      Yes, you are right, an additional short crutch mounts in the sockets you mention. When sailing, we stow it in a cockpit locker.

  • ben Sep 22, 2014, 11:08 pm

    beautiful sailing!! more videos and commentary please – this is wonderful stuff to actually show your teachings in practice.

    It was hard to tell, but it looked like you might have had, what – about 1/3 of the genoa rolled up? might be wrong. curious as to the choice of headsail in this situation.

    I was out for a wee romp on Friday in 24-28 true as well, ended up with a similarly reefed down condition… but I was running a full staysail in front – admittedly I was trying to make it to weather for much of the day.

    now I am definitely putting in lazyjacks. the bunt of our sail was flopping around and bugging me until i finally tied in a few reef points.



    • John Sep 24, 2014, 9:54 am

      Hi Ben,

      Yes, we had about 40% of our 100% high cut yankee out, which works better than the staysail would with the wind aft because the sheet lead is further aft and outboard resulting in a much more open leach. This is one of the huge advantages of a cutter rig: a high cut 100% yankee jib (jib topsail) makes a much better blast reacher, even when rolled up, than the overlapping lowcut jibs that are so popular today.

      • Marc Dacey Sep 30, 2014, 2:04 pm

        John, I have found very much the same with my similar sail plan with the wind aft of the beam. I am getting closer to having a new main cut; may I ask what percentage of total sail area is reduced by each of your reefs (if known, or just approximately). I was considering a 15% first reef, and a 50% second, with no third reef, but perhaps a trysail. Clearly, you find three reefs a better number of “gears”.

        And yes, the sound of chastisement for failing to clip in is not unfamiliar!

        • John Sep 30, 2014, 7:05 pm

          Hi Marc,

          Sorry, I don’t have the sail plan with me right now. But I can tell you that if your deepest reef is only a 50% reduction, you had better, as you say, have a trysail and be ready to set it. Even then 50% to a trysail, is a big jump.

          • Marc Dacey Oct 4, 2014, 5:15 pm

            OK, thanks for the advice. I’m cutter-rigged and will have a reef in the staysail, a relatively (as I understand it) uncommon option. That’s why I was thinking of two reefs instead of three in the main. Perhaps 25% and 60%. I’l talk to my sailmaker and other owners of relatively heavy displacement motorsailers for ideas/experiences.

          • John Oct 4, 2014, 5:26 pm

            Hi Mark,

            I would strongly discourage you from trying to have a reef in the staysail, that is if you are talking about reefing points and a separate clew and tack. One of those things that sounds great in theory, but works very poorly in practice.

            If you want to be able to shorten down the staysail, simply put it on a furler.

            By the way, I have made a note to check my sail plan for reef sizes when next it and I am in the same place. If you don’t see the answer to your question within a few weeks, rattle my cage.

          • John Oct 23, 2014, 9:18 pm

            Hi Marc,

            See my comment below in answer to Bob.

  • Ron Sep 22, 2014, 11:28 pm

    Hi John,
    Great video!!! On June 28 of this year I was involved in a motor cycle accident that shattered my right ankle. Currently going through PT and it’s coming along. We had big plans of painting the whole boat and heading south by Sept. 1st but that didn’t happen. My wife has been overwealmed by this whole ordeal and seeing your video just now has really cheered her up! Reading about your recovery and eventual return to sailing has helped us to cope. We haven’t been out since last November and I think we’re going stir crazy. But thank you again for the video and it’s nice seeing your safety practices in action. It would be great to see more video demonstrations on your sailing technics in the future.

    Thanks again, S/V Golden Echo

    • John Sep 24, 2014, 9:47 am

      Hi Ron,

      Sorry to hear about your accident. The “roller coaster of rehab” is no fun. Glad the video provided inspiration.

  • Nicolas Sep 23, 2014, 5:42 am

    Very refreshing video and article!

    Thank you very much

  • Rick Salsman Sep 23, 2014, 10:44 am

    Morgans Cloud and crew, Looking Good!

  • Ernie Reuter Sep 23, 2014, 12:07 pm

    Oh my gosh…..what a great video. This gets my adrenaline going……thanks John and Phyllis
    SV Iemanja……soon to leave Lake Champlain ( 3 weeks!)

  • Scott Flanders Sep 23, 2014, 1:24 pm

    Of course under power we have a couple similar systems. A couple months ago we had similar conditions. Instead of a lazy jack system we have a lazybutt person on watch. To prevent rock n’ roll they have to get off their lazybutt and give the stabilizer knobs a twist. So that’s our preventer. Because the breeze was off the stern quarter we increased the throttle to keep more water flow past the full length keel and the stabilizer fins. The speed was from the mid 8’s to the upper 9’s. But those speeds are rare.

    Fuel mileage exceeded 4nm/USG. Also rare.

    We all see the same things. So it’s all good.


  • Wilson Fitt Sep 23, 2014, 2:22 pm

    Hi John, Phyllis

    As you know, I was a few miles behind you the same afternoon, slightly harder on the wind. And there was plenty of it! What surprises me is how the video flattens out the waves in the same way that photos seem to do. They were pretty big with lots of breaking crests, one of which caught me neatly down the back of my neck. That will teach me to leave my hood down.

    It was the sort of sailing that is great fun for a few hours as long as all goes well, but with an unforgiving rocky shore close under our lee could lead to trouble if anything went wrong.


    • John Sep 24, 2014, 8:44 am

      Hi Wilson,

      Yes, I noticed the same thing on wave flattening. As you say, after we cleared Ironbound, and were, essentially, offshore, there were some pretty good sized waves.

      And a very good point about lee shores. We went a bit out of our way to stay well off Tancook and a couple of other islands and reefs on the way and checked everything very carefully, including thinking about our steering failure procedures, before we ran into the anchorage.

    • John Sep 24, 2014, 8:48 am

      Hi All,

      What Wilson fails to mention is that he was single handed and made it all look easy in his self built wooden 40′ cutter. A real advertisement for knowing your boat and practice, practice, practice.

  • Danny Blake Sep 23, 2014, 4:59 pm

    Hi John,Phyllis
    I am a motorboater through and through, however this sailing clip really looks exciting, I think Scott Flanders is a little jealous too, 8 or 9 knots and no diesel burnt! I must give this sailing thing a go.
    Danny Blake

    • John Sep 23, 2014, 7:36 pm

      Hi Danny,

      Touched 10.3 today! Averaging 9. Try it, you may like it.

    • John Pedersen Sep 26, 2014, 7:48 am

      Hmm, as a multihuller, I’m afraid I find the clip rather off-putting, reminding me of the rolling of mono with the wind on the quarter, and about having to clip yourself on in the cockpit, and having to brace yourself into your seat, and there you are. I recently sailed on a 40 racing mono, and was reminded that you really didn’t move about the heeling and wobbling deck without good reason. Annoying rather than exciting, though it did sail amazingly close to the wind.

      On my 30′ cat, in a force 7 with the wind on the quarter, I could put my cup of tea down anywhere and it would stay there. Up to 14 knots would be frequent and no problem at all on the Autohlem, and I could stand around in the cockpit if I wanted with my hands in my pockets. But I probably wouldn’t be standing in the cockpit, I’d be sitting in the bridgedeck on the sofa with a book, completely sheltered and comfortable, with a table for my tea and book, and able to keep a good lookout just turning my head. And I’m reminded how restful this is compared to being braced in the cockpit in a full set of waterproofs. And things rarely move on the cat – a week out into the Atlantic, I was disturbed by the sound of a crash and something rolling about on the galley floor. I went and found a wine bottle, which had simply been standing upright on the floor under the oven, and it had taken a week to find a motion strong enough to topple it. And on my whole crossing there were only a couple of times where things slid off the worktops, and that was when I screwed up and had ended up side on to the waves.

      Not to say my boat is perfect by any means. Load carrying capacity to too limited, and it get scary when the the speedo goes beyond 14 knots (22 has been the max I’ve seen – there may have been higher speeds, but I wasn’t then looking at the instruments.) And despite the high speeds easily obtainable, there always seemed long periods sailing up the back of waves, and hence few days where I’d clock even 150 miles.

      Though I certainly wouldn’t choose a cat for high latitudes (which is where I’d like to sail next) I sometimes wonder what a multi-hulled Adventure 40 would look like.

      • John Sep 26, 2014, 6:37 pm

        inHi John,

        I’m generally agnostic about the number of hulls. I like cool well designed boats whether they have one, two, or three hulls. But I think you may be a little optimistic about how steady your cat would have been in those conditions.

        Erik has already explained the physics in another thread. But the basic arithmetic is that the waves were running between two and three meters. That would give us length of about 15 meters, crest to trough), which would just about 150% the length of your boat. That means that your cats boat’s bow and stern would traveling through a distance, up and down, of about 2 meters on every wave. That’s some pretty good motion and enough to spill anyone’s tea.

        In fact it is likely that MC would be pitching less due to the damping effect of the flair and reserve buoyancy, for and aft.

        Don’t get me wrong, cats have many advantages, but we don’t help those who are trying to make boat selection decisions by make claims for them that are not supported by the physics. Cats do roll, and they do pitch, it all depends on wave period and shape. Buying a cat does not suddenly and magically make the sea flat.

        Having said all of that. I have, on many occasions, in rolly anchorages, like those in the Eastern Caribbean, envied the cats. But then again, there are many situations that I have been in on MC, where a lightly built, highly rig loaded, cat would not be my first choice. It all depends on mission, and yes, taste.

  • John Pedersen Sep 26, 2014, 2:39 pm

    Hmm, I see you’ve already discussed the possibilities for cats elsewhere… sorry to bring this up again!

  • John Pedersen Sep 27, 2014, 5:01 am


    What I’d really like is a boat that has two hulls off the wind and at anchor and in the shallow water, and a single hull beating to windward and when I need to carry a load and in storms. But I suppose this is beyond what can be provided with your KISS principle.

    I’m sorry you consider my claims to be beyond the laws of physics. I don’t mean to exaggerate. Pitching is only a problem on my cat going to windward in a short chop, though here’s a link to Richard Woods going to windward on the same model boat on his first trip, sailing at 7 knots into 24 knots of wind, as it happens, with a wine bottle on the floor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikaVMWEc9k0. Not a lot of wind, but funny he uses the wine bottle as a measure of stability.

    Rolling has been a problem just once, when the wind in an anchorage put the boat side on to the swell – very uncomfortable.

    I think you might be forgetting an aspect of physics that affects the motion of multis much more than monos, and that is the rate of acceleration and deceleration. It’s not unusual for my speed to vary, wave to wave, between 14 knots and 4-5 knots, going downwind. When there’s a wave piling up at the stern, and it looks like your tea must surely spill in a moment, what happens is that the boat accelerates down the wave. When the cup is about to tip downhill, the boat underneath it accelerates and keeps it in it’s place. I think of it like plates on a waiter’s tray – when a waiter dashes about between tables, he tilts his tray so he can take the corners faster. It seems the plates ought to fall off, but they stay on the tray.

    Watching a cat conform to the surface of the water in rough seas, you’d imagine stuff falling about. But unless you’re on it, it’s hard to appreciate what a difference the change in speed makes. The boat may tilt this way and that, but the over-riding impression is more of simply having a bumpy ride.

    Anyway, I’ll leave it at that. You’ve probably sailed a cat at some time, and I have no interest in trying to start a mono/multi debate. Horses for courses.


    • John Sep 27, 2014, 8:25 am

      Hi John,

      Nicely put, “Horses for courses” so very true.

  • Jonas Oct 1, 2014, 6:10 pm

    Great that you two are sailing again!
    I really appreciate the short video. It puts so many of your articles in context; size, equipment, handling etc really falls into place when you see it in action.

  • Bill Attwood Oct 5, 2014, 3:33 am

    Hi Marc.
    Kinsa is slutter rigged with a demountable inner forestay which can be rigged in 2 positions, aft for storm jib, forrard for no. 2 genoa. The no. 2 genoa is hanked and has one reef, reducing area from 25 to 20 sq meters. The sheeting point is the same reefed and unreefed. I copied this idea from the Pardeys and am very happy with the result. I also like the additional security of a headsail without roller furling. I’ve never had a problem with my Profurl, but several friends have.
    Hope this helps.
    Yours aye,

    • Marc Dacey Oct 23, 2014, 11:27 pm

      Bill, I had a longer post but my Bell router decided to cack out. Briefly then, thanks for the information which I find helpful. Probably for similar reasons, I have a Profurl Yankee jib and a simple, very strong staysail hanked on to a stay, the plate of which is down in my anchor well, providing me a secure place to douse and raise within a set of strong pipe rails.

  • Bob Oct 7, 2014, 3:02 pm

    I’ve just joined up on your site. Very informative I must say. I notice in some much earlier posts you recommend the Hallett loft in Falmouth Maine. Are the sails in this video from Hallett?

    • John Oct 8, 2014, 9:03 am

      Hi Bob,

      Yes they are, and we are very happy with them.

  • Bob Oct 22, 2014, 6:32 pm

    In an exchange about a month ago on this thread you were discussing your mainsail plan and number of reefs. I’m looking at a new mainsail for a Cal 39 myself and would be interested in this as well, i.e. how many reefs and how much reduction on each. Thanks.

    • John Oct 23, 2014, 9:12 pm

      Hi Bob (and Marc),

      Thanks for the reminder. This evening I went and looked up the sail plan, only to find that it shows just two reefs with the deepest one reducing the main area by almost exactly half, which is not at all what we actually have in practice, that has served us so well—three reefs with the third one much deeper than shown.

      When I saw plan, it came back to me that the second owner (first to sail the boat) specified three reefs because he was (and did) sailing around South America.

      Also, I made some changes, now lost in the dimmer parts of my memory, on each of the two mainsails that I had made for the boat.

      Anyway, what we have now seems just about perfect, including getting the amount of rocker on each reef just right. So I have emailed the sailmaker to ask for the dimensions. When I get them, I will revert, probably with a full post on the subject.

      • Marc Dacey Oct 23, 2014, 11:31 pm

        Thanks, John: Given the number of sea miles you and Phyllis have in high latitudes, I’m sure a discussion of “how many reefs and where to put them” would be of great edification to most, and certainly to me.

        I have not heard the term “rocker” before, and while I can guess the meaning, I would like to hear your definition before I dig up one of my copies of “The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea”.

        • John Oct 24, 2014, 8:04 am

          Hi Marc,

          Sorry, should have defined the term since it is a bit arcane. Sailmakers use “rocker” to denote the amount the clew of each reef is raised above the tack of said reef in relation to the boom. It’s vital to get this right, since otherwise the boom will sag with each reef.

          • Marc Dacey Oct 27, 2014, 11:43 am

            Thanks for the clarification, John. I thought that’s what you meant, but I sometimes forget that you once made sails and are perfectly right to use the sailmaker’s specialist language.

Only logged in members may comment: