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Old 02-01-2010, 11:31   #31
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Pretty good list John and surely arrived at from experience.

Just a couple short points to add on:
1) Hatches can use breakwaters and canvas to help with hydraulic pressures.
2) A u shaped galley is my favorite also but it should have enough room so you don't have to work directly inboard of the stove/oven.
3) Weatherly and balanced.
4) Good canvas.

My current pet peeve is going below and finding a ball room. Great for the glossy add but hell when your in the soup.

Personally I'm not sure that heavy weather has influenced what design and layout I like (you sail what you got), it seems more a matter of spending time on boats. You experience what works and what doesn't and come to design and layout conclusions from those experiences.

Wishing everyone a fun and safe 2010!

Chees, Joli

Originally Posted by ka4wja View Post
No question about it, my heavy weather experiences (especially well offshore) have influenced my boat choices.....

And, I couldn't agree more with Pelagic......
He summed-up the basics very well!!!

Of course, once you spend a few weeks, on a long passage, such as crossing an ocean......even if you're lucky enough to not encounter much heavy weather (although I've never been that lucky), you'll find yourself appreciating your vessel's design and quality of manufacture, including the hull, deck, grid, scantlings, etc....mast / rigging, hull/deck joint, keel, keel bolts, rudder, rudder post, steering system, etc. well as the aforementioned ability to keep the water out!!!!

And, once you've made the commitment to keep the water out....most of the remaining heavy weather influences, specifically regarding boat choices, are directed mostly at the vessel's design / construction.....
These are areas that are not usually owner modifiable, as opposed to those that you can add yourself to almost any boat....

{ Now, sneuman, you asked for some specifics......and I thoght in addition to my agreement with Pelagic, I'd add a few specific answers for you...and try to relate some of my personal experiences that drive my choices....
(And, while I agree completely that some boat designs do pound and are uncomfortable, while some just knuckle-down and ride smooth, when in heavy weather, MY EXPERIENCES show that does NOT correlate to "modern fin-keeled" vs. "traditional full-keeled", so let's not go there, please!!!
I'm also REAL glad this isn't a "what makes a good offshore boat" thread, since that's been done to death!!) }

1) The first rule of personal survivibilty is: "don't fall off the boat".....
And, the first two rules of boat survivibility are: "keep the water out".....and "keep it right side up"....

So, keeping the water out, by using good quality hatches and ports (properly installed), cannot be over-stated......
And, also making sure that your boat choice does NOT have large "windows" like a marina condo....

I've been offshore in many different boats, and had quite a bit of green (and blue) water rushing over the decks......including many full gales, some while crossing the Atlantic.....and even sailing thru a Tropical Storm for 3 days during another Atlantic crossing....
And I've found few boats are really built or equipped, to take this.......I've actually only sailed on 2 boats, that never leaked a drop (a 1970's Hinckley, and my current 1999 Catalina 470)....

Quite honestly, there are many discussions about what makes a good offshore boat, but high-quality hatches / ports (and their proper installation) are often overlooked.....
And, while doing a re-fit to install better hatches and ports is do-able, it is an expensive and time consuming process......
And, with my experiences in heavy weather offshore, I'd put having high-quality hatches / ports (properly installed) high on my list when choosing a boat.....

{In addition to heavy weather offshore, I've been on board during two direct hits of Cat 3 Hurricanes, just 2 miles up a river from the Atlantic....and found Lewmar Ocean hatches and Atlantic ports, properly installed to be wonderful....}

2) Although, the steering syetem could be listed with other "boat systems", my experiences have proved that it deserves a listing all to itself.....
It cannot be stressed enough that a well designed and stoutly built steering system is VERY important.....
While this includes an emergency tiller, if you choose wisely you'll never need it......

Although NOT a necessity, having redundant steering (two separate wheels, cables, etc.) is a BIG plus in my book......
But as it is not do-able on some boat designs, having a VERY stout autopilot system (including the pilot tiller arm) is an important feature influenced by my heavy weather experiences.....

And/or having windvane self-steering is also a big plus....

So, in choosing a boat, you need to consider what type of redundant steering she has now.....or what she is designed to carry......and/or what type can you add....
(whatever type of rudder she's got won't matter if you can't steer the rudder...)

{ I've had a hydraulic autopilot leak like a sive, during a Caribbean delivery of 42' sloop.......and I've had an autopilot bracket come loose during a full gale on an Atlantic crossing......and I've had a crappy center-cockpit steering system (on a high-priced 46' sloop) exhibit excess play and even dangerous steering action while sailing thru squals in the Caribbean....
And, on the good side, I've found my well designed steering sysrem to allow me to spend hours hand-steering in the middle of a Cat 3 Hurricane, with no worries....}

3) In the past 30 some years, sailing across the Atlantic a few times (as well on other long passages), I've found the galley design (and to a lesser extent, galley location) to VERY important!!!!

A U-shaped galley is my favorite.....but a small L-shaped galley is also usable.....

Being able to eat / cook well, when on longer passages, and especially in heavy weather, is VERY important.....
I've found not just for safety and physical strength reasons, but also for morale reasons.....

{ I've done a LOT of cooking on long passages and sailing across the Atlantic a few times.....and during some heavy weather, it's easier to do a "one-pot" meal, but you still need to be able to safely cook and eat it!!!Having excellent handholds / grabrail in my galley is a must....}

4) Back in the 1970's, in a truly rough night crossing of the Mona Passage, we lost one of our anchors overboard.....and towed it along on its chain/rope rode for many hours, before noticing it......

So, having secure anchor brackets / tie-downs, has become something that I'm always aware of!!!!

5) A "dry" sailing boat for normal conditions and a fast draining / self draining cockpit, for heavy weather conditions.....
You don't want a lot of water in the cockpit, and if you do take a breaking wave into the cockpit, you want it to drain instantly.....

I personally like aft cockpits with open aft ends that self-drain instantly....

6) Sizable bridgedeck in cockpit, to keep water from getting thru the companionway......

Also, well designed deck lockers, cockpit lockers, and lazarettes.....
While, you can add storm boards (aka down-flooding boards), if the boat's design / layout is done right, and the locker doors/hatches are designed right, you're way ahead of the game....

{ In all my 10,000's miles offshore, and crossing the Atlantic a few times I've never found any water pooling in my open, self-draining cockpit, (with 2 scupper drains for the helm foot wells).....and druing my 2 on-board experiences in Cat 3 Hurricanes, with 120 - 125 mph wind driven rain, and short, steep waves, I've not found any water pooling and found the cockpit to drain easily....Also never had water boarding thru the companionway, nor had any in cockpit lockers, nor lazarette...}

7) Layout of "boat systems" is my next area, where I've found my heavy weather experiences have influenced my boat choices......
While this can include just about everything on board, if you narrow it down to just the "mission critical" systems, you'll see that it is "do-able"....

Since I listed the steering system already, I'll just list a few more of the main areas here:
a) Rigging layout and design....
b) Winch placement and size....
c) Adequate deck strength and backing plates for cleats, pad eyes, rope clutches, blocks, etc.....(which allows for easy owner-modifications)
d) Deck layout / Side-deck layout....(allows you to move around on deck when in heavy weather......"crawl forward" while clipped-in to adequate jacklines, when needed.....)
e) Location and layout of the Nav Station and electrical systems....
f) Engine access, and at-sea repairability......
g) Multiple fuel and water tanks, allowing fuel and water to be used even if one tank is compromised...
h) Location and layout of berths......good sea berths are a necessity in heavy wether....
i) Cabin layout allowing ease of movement, without too much wide open space.....and as mentioned by others, rounded corners and strong joinery work.....NO sharp corners, and NO glass!!!

The list can go on and just depends on how specific you want to be.....

8) There are also many, many choices on board that are influenced by heavy weather experiences.....but most of them can be owned-installed, and/or be easy owner modifications....
So, in my opinion, they do NOT really influence boat choices, except in the way the boat's design allows for the ease of these additions / modifications....

These include (but are not limited to):

a) Handholds, both below and on deck.....(my current boat came from the factory well equipped with handrails on deck, and with a good deal of stout handholds below, along the cabin trunk and bulkheads, but I added more....)

b) Padeyes for harnesses....
Cockpit Padeye

c) Lee Boards / Lee Cloths....
Lee Boards/Cloths
Starboard Lee Cloth

d) Adequate ventilation below (fans, etc.), since in heavy weather, you'll not have hatches open, and it'll be wet on deck, so you'll need good air circulation below!!!
I've actually got twelve (12) fans below, on my 47' sloop....
12 Volt Fans

e) Ease of use of heads, while in heavy weather and/or heeled over beating into high winds.....

f) Adequate secured storage.....strong locker latches/hinges....

g) Ease of access to food, clothes, personal care items, when in heavy weather....

h) Racor filters, etc....

i) High-Quality and well maintained genoa furler......although some purists will want hanked-on sails.....the FACT is that most cruising boats have roller furler genoas, so make sure it is a high-quality and well-maintaned one!!

j) Full-battened mainsails with deep reef points.....and easy to use reefing system....
Personal preferences will dictate what type of reefing system you'll equip your boat with....but make ABSOLUTELY SURE you can easily use if you get caught off-guard by some heavy weather....(having to turn directly into the wind, with steep seas, etc.... just to put in a reef, is no fun!!!)

Okay, here again the list could go on and on......but I think I hit the main points....

Fair winds.


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Old 06-01-2010, 06:29   #32
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I can answer the original question with a definitive yes and no.
I've sailed through heavy weather and one really bad storm out on the Atlantic but I also had to consider the area where I was going to be sailing.

I came to the Chesapeake area in 1971 and started looking for a boat. Since I realized early on that that 80 to 90 percent of my sailing was going to be in shallow water with relatively light winds. So my first consideration was for a boat that would be good in those conditions. This meant shallow draft and lots of sail. Originally bought a wodden Dickerson ketch but maintaining a wood boat was taking too much time out of my sailing and in any case I wanted to race so my next boat was a C&C 40, a very good bay boat which was also perfectly capable of coastal cruising if I picked my weather windows.

Cut to present. Our kids are all married on have careers and we'll retire soon so we started looking for a cruising boat. After thinking about what I'd learned from my heavy wetaher sailing (aside from avoid it at all costs). I made this list (in no particular order):
Full keel
20,000 to 30,00 displacement
Solid construction (this covers a multitude of sins and John gave us such a great
list that I see no reason to go into detail)
Cutter rig
No bowsprit
Narrow beam
Small solid ports and hatches
Compact u-shaped galley
Lots of handholds on deck and below
Adequate tankage.

BTW: never thought about sharp vs rounded corners, a very good point. However, I suspect that the reason is that all the boats I've owned had everything rounded off and it never occurred toi me that it would be any other way.

Enchantress is about 46 foot long, 11 ft beam, draws 6-1 is very solidly built. She has a u-shaped galley with a grab rail in frornt of the stove and attachment points for a belt or harness at the top of the U. She also has reinforced attachment points for port and starboard jacklines, a Switlik 6-person life raft and a redundant steering system and an instantly drainign cockpit In other word she was built and used as a cruising boat. The one thing I did do was to reinforce the comopaniionway area, so I can be sure to keep water out, especially in a following sea. Before we leave I plan to replace the detachable stay sail stay with a permanent one with a rollerfurling staysail.
So while the area we sail had a primary influence on our boat choices, once we started looking for a real cruiser, ability to handle heavy weather came to the fore.


SV Enchantress
located Herrington Harbour South, Friendship MD
Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof
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Old 06-01-2010, 07:14   #33
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We made a November delivery, of a modern design 35 footer, from Boston to Puerto Rico. The trip involved a few days of heavy weather and extended calms.

We went home and bought a narrow boat with low freeboard. Our boat is safe in heavy weather and fast in calms.

The only major thing that needs modification is the companionway. It is mid-70s open to the cockpit sole. We have to improve the hatch boards.

To answer the question: You bet!
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Old 06-01-2010, 09:35   #34
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I'm a sucker for a boat with good sea berths. To add to the lists some have, I like a bridgedeck in the cockpit. Yes, it makes it a little more difficult to get below, but it reduces the chance of downflooding if a wave gets in the cockpit. I have solid dropboards that can latch in place.

I love Dorade vents so you can get air below in poor weather, but I also have plates to shut them off when it gets really bad.

My boat is very old school, with a pilot berth, lee cloths on 4 single bunks, a chefs strap in the galley, fairly narrow cabin with smallish windows and ports, well designed hatches that seal well and are nearly bombproof. We have a fairly low freeboard, and when we take water across the deck, it never gets below. Dry bunks are a thing of joy.
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Old 06-01-2010, 14:49   #35
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I am probably not sufficiently experienced to answer the question with any great authority, but I do think that coping with heavy weather is as much about preparing the boat that you have as it is about choosing the "right" boat. Where I have found myself in difficulty has been more about having the wrong sails up, or not having the right sails on board. One time, to my chagrin, I grabbed and stowed the bag with the storm sails only to find out later that it wasn't the bag with the storm sails at all, but the bag with the spare #3. Of course 99 times out of 100 this wouldn't have matttered, only this time it blew 70 knots and we experienced some engine difficulties, so had to use reefed main and #3, which is less than optimal (suffice it to say, I check the stormsails are on board religiously these days).

Having said all that, of course, in the process of purchasing a boat, one would take into consideration how one might expect the boat to perform in heavy weather, but that is, to my mind, just part of the process of making sure one has a "seaworthy" vessel and preparation / equipment is probably more important than the vessel itself.
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Old 08-01-2010, 12:11   #36
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I'd have to say that previous experiences both in the North Atlantic and the Great Lakes were really critical drivers in selecting our present boat.
Skinny and deep with no flat surfaces on the underbody. (slamming into short period waves is no fun
Full keel- ours has a cutaway forefoot, but it's moderate and she still tracks in slop.
Low freeboard.
Material: Ours is a woodie but the double planking and adhesives she was constructed with made a big difference- I'm not a fan of single planking as there's too much stress concentration on the fasteners wth that mode of construction. I've posted before about bad experiences with glass so I'll just say YMMV.
Rig: Based on trying different boats over the years I'm a big proponent of a divided rig, not so much from an "ease of sail handling" aspect as from a " I can put the center of effort where I need it" aspect. Being able to drop a big main and still make tracks under a jib/stays'l and mizzen is a big plus for us. yawls seem more weatherly than ketches so that's what we went with.
Small hatches/ports, bridge deck for the cockpit, low coamings etc.

I couldn't agree more about the vastness of the salons on new boats. At a recent Strictly Sail my wife looked acroos the salon of a new 50 footer and said: "That's a long way to fall"
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Old 09-01-2010, 01:21   #37
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Unlike most people on here I havent sailed much out in the open seas but in the Great Lakes where I have sailed for years the biggest things I want on a boat other than the obvious, being a strong boat, is lots of very strong handholds both on deck and below. Here we dont get lots of warning when a squall comes sqreaming down the lake and if you need to drop a sail and reef the main you need a good wide deck, things to grab, and a very good safty line/ harness system. I have had quight a few times when it was a pretty day out when you start sailing but then a storm pops up and you fight to get home. Since here you cant just outrun a storm or run till the storm blows out because you will run out of water very fast if you try you need a boat that you can get around on and sail in just about anything. Oh ya round corners are a must and a head that you can use even if the water is running over the ports. G.
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Old 09-01-2010, 02:17   #38
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Originally Posted by sneuman View Post
I'd be interested to know if members could relate their heavy weather experience and how it did or did not affect a future choice of boat.
I have been in a lot of heavy weather when racing long offshore races.
Its always been remarkable that in heavy weather things get broken when trying to continue to rance. When hove to nothing breaks.

IMHO a nicely, gently guided boiat will go through most storms without damage.

the chance of getting into a bad storm in a tropical circumnavigation is far less than rounding Cape Horn.

consequently different types of boats can be purchase dependant on if you are going to beat the wholy crap out of it or sail it like a gentleman.,

Notes on a Circumnavigation.

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Old 09-01-2010, 02:37   #39
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Our design was more influenced by light air and upwind capability than by heavy stuff. The heavy stuff is pretty simple - you can always reef down and heave-to/forereach in pretty much any design. But only some cruising designs will go in the light, and even fewer will go upwind.
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Old 09-01-2010, 13:23   #40
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Originally Posted by estarzinger View Post
The heavy stuff is pretty simple - you can always reef down and heave-to/forereach (...)
I agree with your attitude to light winds performance / cruising boat design.

However, being ALWAYS able to heave-to/fore-reach is wishful thinking. Maybe even more so in a light upwind-optimized boat.

Luckily, many 'light-upwind' boats will have the dream heavy weather cockpit - open aft, so pooping stops being an issue.

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Old 10-01-2010, 11:58   #41
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Originally Posted by barnakiel View Post
However, being ALWAYS able to heave-to/fore-reach is wishful thinking. b.

I would have said that most any design could either heave-to or forereach. Almost all traditional boats will heave-to and almost all modern ones will forereach. Even the (really light and really thin fin keel) sydney to hobart boats forereached well in 1998.

I suppose perhaps the French flat bottom/lifting keel boats might not do either well, but they run real well.

Perhaps what you meant is the weather might be hurricane force and the waves not suitable for heaving-to or forereaching. That could be true but then we are into drogue and para-anchor country and that's not really much about boat design.
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Old 11-01-2010, 04:36   #42
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If the boat you get is really a crusiser and not a racer, isn't it already something modified for heavy weather and therfore the weather influenced your boat? For me the boats ride in general influenced my boat choice and I feel this is same as addressing heavy weather without really calling it as such.
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Old 14-01-2010, 00:34   #43
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crossing the Tasman Sea I was knocked overboard and a day later in the same storm my yacht was knocked over, cruising the Indian Ocean I was finally shipwrecked in foul weather. The only two significant extras my new home has are an engine and insurance.
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Old 14-01-2010, 06:19   #44
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A fascinating report:

I post this link with some reservations about doing so. Specifically, I don't know if this sort of thing is allowed or of interest.

The link is to an interview of survivors of a 40 footer that recently rolled over and was dismasted. All survived.

PracticallySailing presents Joe Cooper

The link is run by a sailing friend but my purpose is not to promote his otherwise free site.

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Old 14-01-2010, 07:49   #45
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Originally Posted by barnakiel View Post
We have been badly knocked down in normal conditions (=F8). Boat 6.500 light, mid-dispalcement 26' design, long keel, 40pct balast ratio. I believe it was approx 130-140 degs from vertical. It could be less, much adrenaline back then, hard to judge very accurately. Some damage - broken spreader, busted electrics, mess and salt water down under, cuts and bruises (let alone the damages done to driver's self-esteem).

I believe, (aside from the driver's error of 'letting her take care about herself and the crew') that the minimum "safe weight / size" for the easiest route (Panama, Torres, RSA) is about twice the weight, and perhaps 32-34 ft. Otherwise, one has to be full ahead of events, which is not always possible in a prolonging storm.

On the rig side, I would opt for a true cutter (say sthg similar in sail layout to a typical Valiant 32, Vancouver 28/32, etc.). This is because I think it would be easier to keep the cutter hove to close to the wind, which is not quite that easy on a sloop.

Not the only option to try avoid future knock-downs, but one that matches my sailing needs/habits.

In summary:
- a longer and heavier boat,
- with a true cutter rig.


Agree. There is almost no substitute for sheer size where this is concerned. Survival conditions for a very seaworthy 32' boat can be just no big deal for an average 50' boat.

More sails is also good. Cutter rig boat gives you the choice of putting away your main foresail and sailing on staysail alone -- this will work better because it's not rolled up, and it's located further aft, which is easier to balance with your deeply reefed main. (Just be sure and tension your runners -- you can break your mast in a storm on staysail alone).

Ketch would be even better, I guess, for heavy weather, although for me that's only theory since I've never owned or sailed one.

A couple of other things to think about:

1. Relatively narrow beam with heavy keel (not necessarily full) and deep forefoot will be better in heavy weather than those fat-a**ed modern production boats which need form stability. That form stability goes away at a certain point; ruin your whole day. Not to mention pounding from their flat forefeet.

2. Obviously, deeper draft, higher ballast ratio, are all better.

3. As someone said, watertight hatches are awfully nice in heavy weather. I spent a couple of weeks last year beating into not such horrible weather -- 20 -- 25 knots of wind and 3 to 4 meter seas -- in a friend's borderline superyacht size Swan. It was awful -- water was coming in everywhere and the crew was totally preoccupied with keeping the boat pumped out and stopping leaks where possible. In really bad weather this would have been a total nightmare. One thing I love about our boat is that she is as watertight as a submarine -- that really inspires confidence.

4. As someone said, dancefloor-size salons are a hazard in heavy weather or even just when moderately heeled. Yes, there is such a thing as too much headroom in a yacht. Head height is more important than width. If the ceiling is a reasonable height you can have good handholds and brace yourself. If you can't even reach the ceiling (one boat I was on recently) you're sc***d, no matter how many lines you rig.

5. As someone said, decks which are wide and clear enough that you can actually work on them, and crawl up and down them on hands and knees if need be. Even slight bulwarks add greatly to feeling of security. Here again bigger boats are better.

6. People swear by their long-keeled boats for heavy weather. Our last boat was a long-keeler; present one has a modern bulb keel. The new boat is far better in heavy weather -- it is much faster, points much higher, and will keep moving when you can't trim your sails well like when they're deeply reefed. All of these things are big advantages in heavy weather. I don't know what the advantage of slightly better tracking is, if you can't make way or sail in the direction you need to go. Speed means if you need to get out of here, and get over there, where it is safer -- which seems to be a real situation over and over again, at least for us -- you can do that more efficiently. Add the safety factor for clawing off a lee shore and it's a no brainer. Our old boat was a hazard to life and limb anywhere near a lee shore in any kind of weather. After a certain amount of reefing, she took on the sailing qualities of a square-rigged ship -- progress to windward became impossible.

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