We own small sailboats because a fascinating way to use the wind to move us from port to destination. Some of us make our way across on the oceans with big sailing yachts. When the weather is good and the wind is fair, there is no worry about the cruise.

We try to sail during the summer and spring to avoid the storms of winter. Of course, we try to leave port when the weather is good. But sometimes, in spite of all the forecast and planning, the weather turns worse and the sea gets angry. Then the sailing getting harder. If you’re at home, stay there.

When a storm does appear, I suggest the following five storm tactics to follow if that doesn’t handle the situation do the next.

Storm Tactic 1. Reefing the mainsail and headsail
Storm Tactic 2. Heave to
Storm Tactic 3. Lie a hull
Storm Tactic 4. Runoff
Storm Tactic 5. Employ a sea anchor

The first four actions are that you can take on the boat to keep the sailing under control. Tactic 5 involves off-boat control methods, which require special equipment and techniques.

Tactic 1. Reefing the mainsail and headsail

Reefing that is, making big sails small by reducing the area exposed to the wind. Do not forged that best for reefing when it comes first to your mind!

To reef the mainsail you need turn head into the wind. You then ease the main halyard until the desired luff reefing cringle goes down and is with its neck. Next fix the luff reefing cringle with a fastening or snap shackle. Then tighten the main halyard so that the front of the sail straight. There should be no wrinkles on the vertical luff.

Next, you pull down the leech, by pulling on a line called a pedant that runs from a pad eye near the end of the boom, up to the reefing cringle, down to a block in or near the boom end, and finally, forward to the gooseneck area (see photo). You put the mast end of the reefing pendant and tighten until the foot of the sail is straight.

Headsail can also be a reef. On most of the sailboats part of the headsail thanks to the “furling” system. The headsail can be wrapped around the furling system and the sailing area can be reduced.

mainsail reefing

Tactic 2. Heave to

In sailing, heaving and hoving is a way to slow down the forward progression of a sailboat, as well as fix the rudder and sail positions so that the sailboat does not steer. If you apply this method you can park your sailboat without anchoring. The aim when heaving-to is to create a balance between the sails, wind, and rudder that effectively stalls the boat.

Heaving to is always done on the wind, not when running. This means that it will be easy to deal with the mainsail for reefing. The rudder gives a turning force one way; the headsail pushes in the opposite direction. Note that for the rudder to be effective the sailboat must have a little forward motion. If the boat were stopped dead, the rudder would be useless.

Tactic 3. Lie a-hull

When a boat is heave-to under shortened canvas and the wind and seas increase, the balance of the boat can fail. The sails may start to shake and the sailboat’s
motion may become nervous and unsteady. Each sailboat acts differently depending on hull form, the number of masts, the amount of the sail area is adjusted.

Lying a-hull is simply to drop all the sails and fixing the rudder to a set position. So let the vessel drift slowly to downwind.

Tactic 4. Run off

When there’s too much wind for heaving-to or lying a-hull, the next tactic is to run
off downwind. You don’t need any special equipment or techniques; just steer downwind and keep the stern dead before the overtaking waves.

Tactic 5. Employ a sea anchor

The parachute sea anchor and storm drogue are a few names used to describe devices deployed to create a drag on a sailboat in stormy conditions. They are referring to one of two types, one is parachute or cone-shaped dragged from the bow (mostly called a sea anchor) and fabric cones dragged from the stern (mostly called a storm drogue). Drag reduces boat speed in following seas to prevent surfing and broaching.

The first aim to use a sea anchor is to stop the drift of a boat downwind and keep her bow windward, into the waves. Sea anchors are larger than storm drogues.

Drogues are deployed off the boat stern. A storm drogue, on the other hand, is used to slow down rather than stop a boat in stormy conditions. You would use a drogue to stay firm against the waves and prevent your boat from surfing, thereby reducing the chance of broaching. A Drogue can also be used as a steering aid in case of power or rudder problems.

sea anchor


  1. Right on the truth of these important skills and knowledge. Works on 15 ft boats and really big boats! Important to know and practice in mild conditions. Thanks!


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