Online Book:

Heavy Weather Tactics

When you have spent some forty years going offshore in sailboats and twenty years doing the same in the high latitudes, you learn a thing or two about heavy weather tactics, whether you like it or not. In this Online Book John takes you through the options for storm survival from heaving-to to drogue deployment and then goes on to a step-by-step guide to putting together an easy to deploy and retrieve system. The book ends with a real world survival story.

Table of Contents:

Introduction—You Need A System

Many of us buy storm survival gear, throw it in a corner of the lazarette, and head off to sea congratulating ourselves on our foresight and seamanship. But when we do that, we have not really prepared for a storm at sea. In this introductory chapter I explain why having a real storm survival system is so important, not only for your safety, but also for your peace of mind.

Goals For A Heavy Weather System

Before discussing the actual nuts and bolts of our gale and storm survival gear and strategy, I’m going to write a bit about the goals that Phyllis and I keep in mind when we are putting together gear and thinking about strategy for dealing with heavy weather at sea on our own boat, Morgan’s Cloud—you can’t set a course until you know what the destination is.


Heaving-to is a technique that not only can save your bacon in a gale, but is also surprisingly comfortable and useful for taking a break from the demands of shorthanded voyaging. In this chapter we tell you how to set up just about any boat to successfully heave-to.

When Heaving-To Is Dangerous

As wonderful as heaving-to is, done wrong it can be dangerous. In this post we tell you about when heaving-to went wrong for us, and what to watch out for.

Stopping Wave Strikes While Heaved-To

In the last chapter we wrote about how to determine when heaving-to is dangerous. In this chapter we share a realworld-tested technique to solve that problem and make heaving-to safe for a wide range of boats.

Survival Storms

In the last three chapters in this book I have been writing about the techniques that have worked well for us on Morgan’s Cloud in gales and strong gales at sea. Now I’m going to write about how to handle a storm of Force 10 or above that would threaten our very survival.

Large Sea Anchors, Not Recommended

For many years large sea anchors were thought by many, including us, to be the ultimate storm survival option. In this post we detail the disadvantages of large sea anchors that we believe substantially outweigh the advantages and why we got rid of ours.

Jordan Series Drogue Launch System

You went out and bought a Jordan Series Drogue, but now you need to put together the gear and procedures to get it safely deployed when you need it and in this chapter I share exactly how to do that.

Jordan Series Drogue Retrieval System

The storm struck, you deployed your Jordan Series Drogue and rode it out without problems, but now the wind is dropping and it’s time to retrieve the drogue so you can get sailing again and head for port before the next blow hits. But you are shorthanded and tired and the task seems insurmountable. In this chapter we share our tested method for drogue retrieval.

Storm Tactics, Learning From The Best

Continuing on with the theme of learning from the best that we started in the last chapter, this chapter is about the many things we learned from Tony and Coryn Gooch about storm survival and drogue retrieval—they know what they are talking about after decades of voyaging in some of the toughest parts of the world’s oceans and Tony’s single handed non-stop circumnavigation.

Surviving A Lee Shore

In the previous chapters we have talked about heaving-to and various drag devices, but none of that is going to help us if we are caught on a lee shore. In this chapter I write about when that exact scenario happened to me and what we have done to prepare ourselves and our boat should it ever happen to us again.

Storm Survival Secret Weapon: Your Engine

One of our most useful tools in dealing with heavy weather at sea is our engine and in this chapter I relate how we used ours to good effect in a nasty lee shore situation. But the sad truth is that in many cases a yacht’s engine is disabled by heavy weather making it useless at the very time that the crew need it most, so I go on to share some solid suggestions of things you can do to storm proof your engine.

Real Life Storm Survival Story

Theory is great to learn from but real world experience is always better. In this chapter I relate an email interview we conducted with a reader who survived a killer storm south of New Zealand using some of the techniques that I have discussed in this book. It’s a long chapter, but read it carefully because doing so and acting on the information could save your life.

Jordan Series Drogue Durability Problems

There have been a couple of well-publicized cases of series drogues, based on Don Jordan’s research and design, deteriorating after as little as ten hours’ use in strong gale conditions. John investigates and shares what he intends to do to upgrade his drogue.

Battle Testing a Jordan-Designed Series Drogue—Round 1

Some of us write about extreme heavy weather survival at sea based on a few experiences accumulated over decades, combined with not a little guesswork and conjecture. And then there’s Trevor. Few offshore sailors have even one-tenth the first-hand survival storm experience that Trevor shares in this article.

Anyone who goes to sea needs to read every word in this chapter with great care and attention.

Trevor Robinson updates what he has learned about using and maintaining a series drogue built to Don Jordan’s design. This is not theory, but true testing over a gruelling circumnavigation in the Southern Ocean, including multiple deployments in gale and storm force conditions. Anyone who goes to sea in small boats will benefit from reading this.

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