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Online Book Table of Contents:

Heavy Weather Tactics


When you have spent some 45 years going offshore in sailboats and 25 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 drogue deployment to heaving-to including step-by-step guides to putting together an easy to deploy and retrieve storm survival system system. The book also includes real world storm survival advice from some of the most experienced heavy weather sailors of our time.

Introduction—We 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.

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.

Rogue Waves Are Not Bad Luck

The most common reason for yacht abandonment at sea is being capsized by a rogue wave. But is rogue a good description of these boat-killing waves? And are there things we can do to reduce roll-over risk?

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.

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.

Battle Testing a Jordan-Designed Series Drogue—Round 2

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.

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.

Series Drogues: Learning From Tony Gooch

Continuing on with the theme of learning from the best, 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.

Series Drogues: Learning From Randall Reeves

We strongly believe that the series drogue designed by Don Jordan is the best storm survival option. A belief based on good science and interviewing some of the best offshore sailors of our time about their experiences. John continues that learning and data gathering process in this article.


As we have shared in earlier chapters in this Online Book, we now believe that for extreme weather where large breaking waves may be present, a Series Drogue, as designed by Don Jordan, is the best survival strategy. That said, heaving-to is still 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.

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.

Storm Survival FAQ

Several questions have repeatedly surfaced within the hundreds of comments on our Heavy Weather Tactics Online Book. So I have pulled those together in this chapter and added my thoughts.

Companionway Integrity In A Storm

It’s a sad fact that most production boat companionways are potential boat-sinkers. But it does not have to be that way. In this chapter I provide solid suggestions on how to stormproof your companionway.