If you are anything like me, heavy weather sailing can be a challenge and make you tired fast. The more you prepare ahead of time, the more energy you will save. Follow these ten “do ahead of time” sailing tips to prepare for less fatigue and more comfort the next time the rough stuff crosses your path!
- Make Up “Zero-Prep” Energy Bags
Use small Ziplock type bags to hold high energy snacks. Combine nuts, dried fruits, tasty seeds like sesame or pumpkin, banana chips, and dried coconut for a super snack. Press the bag tight before you seal to keep air out and your energy snack will last longer when stored aboard your sailboat.
- Top Off Your Trusty Thermos
Purchase two large thermoses. Before the rough stuff arrives, fill one thermos with a hearty soup or stew. Fill the other with coffee, tea, or hot chocolate. That way, you won’t need to worry about boiling water in choppy seas for a nutritious meal or drink.
- Eat Before the Weather Arrives at Your Boat
Fix a light meal with pasta if you expect rough seas when sailing. Stay clear of greasy, fried foods. Concentrate on foods that you boil, broil, or bake. Pasta has a good reputation as a “tummy tamer” when it comes to sea sickness. It’s economical, easy to digest, nutritious, and provides good energy for sailing in rough weather.
- Lash and Stow Below
Check the galley for loose pots, plates, and silverware. Wrap silverware in towels to avoid clanging. Store pots in cabinets. Stuff towels or pieces of foam between stacks of dishes, glasses, or pots and pans to keep things in place and noise to a minimum.
- Keep a Clothes Change Handy
Pull out a full change of clothes. Fold and stow in an oversized Ziplock or waterproof bag outside of your sailing duffel bag. You want this change of clothes ready in an instant so you won’t need to hunt around for it. Include underwear and socks. If you get soaked when sailing, you will want to slide into a set of dry clothes right away. Do this now to save you time and effort later.
- Clear the Decks for Clean Decks
Studies of past heavy weather sailing races show that those racing sailboats with clean, uncluttered decks had an easier time. Take a tip from the racing crowd. Check the outside decks from bow to stern. Neaten up sheets and lines. Turn cowl vents around to face astern to prevent water intrusion below; in extreme conditions, remove the cowl vents, stow them below, and screw covers in their place. Keep decks clean for safer sailing in any weather.
- Add extra Lashings
Check all lashings on deck-stowed Jerry jugs (cans), propane bottles, life raft canister, dinghy, and anchors. Double or triple lashings with small diameter line. Seas that break aboard can break weak lashings like a knife going through butter. Make lashings strong and robust to keep deck-stowed gear in place.
- Seal Ports and Hatches
No matter what the manufactures tell you, expect ports and hatches to leak. Heavy weather or squalls can bring high winds, seas, and horizontal driving rain that will find any nook and cranny. Use strong, waterproof duct tape to seal around ports and hatches on the inside your cabin. This will keep water out and dryness in for greater crew comfort in heavy weather sailing.
- Set Up Sails Now
Hank on your storm jib or trysail now with sheets run, halyards cleared, and all ready to hoist. If you decide to delay on the hoist, stop off the sail along the deck with sail ties or next to the mast (in the case of a trysail). This way, your storm sails will be ready to set in a matter of seconds when you need them.
- Rest and Hydrate Often
Heavy weather sailing saps energy like few other activities. Get as much rest as possible between watches. Remember to keep hydrated with water or non-sugar energy drinks like Gatorade or Emergen-C. These beverages replace critical electrolytes and minerals that you will use to keep your balance, hang on when heeling, or move about when changing sails or standing watch. Remind your sailing crew to rest and hydrate for greater comfort.
Follow these ten heavy weather sailing tips to get ready before the tough stuff arrives aboard your boat. These tips will help keep your sailing crew safe and sound and provide them with more comfort–wherever in the world you choose to cruise!