Although some people have gotten frustrated with the OP for seeming not to absorb anything discussed here, I have found this to be a very interesting subject which has forced me to think through some things I haven't thought about in a long time.
So far we have worked on the theory, and I think there was a solid consensus among the more experienced sailors here, even if the OP didn't quite understand or accept it.
I decided to investigate the question from a different angle -- what do people really do? And I decided that the acid test would be what do sailors do in the English Channel
, or otherwise in UK waters -- North Sea, Irish Sea, etc. That is because this is also 90% coastal sailing, but it is coastal sailing on an entirely different level than what most coastal sailors experience. The English Channel
is one of the toughest bits of ocean in the world -- the busiest sea lane in the world by far, the biggest tides in the world but for only the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia
, tidal streams running at up to 12 knots, some tidal races like Portland
Bill capable of swallowing whole container ships, rocky desolate places like N Brittany, and on top of all that, very tough weather -- cold, stormy, with gales rolling in off the North Atlantic with the Gulf Stream. So I figured -- if any coastal sailors have real experience with storm conditions, it would be the English
. So I put up a poll
on a local English
sailing site, ybw.com, to ask people what storm tactics they actually employee.
I asked these questions:
What storm tactics do you actually use in real life?
1. Nothing: It's not hard to avoid being out in a storm in the first place
Running off, if necessary under bare poles, is enough where I sail.
3. I sometimes heave-to if it gets really nasty.
4. I have used a drogue or sea-anchor to ride out a nasty storm.
5. I have used a drogue or sea anchor
, but not in coastal waters.
As of this moment, 45 (!) sailors have responded. Their votes:
The great majority, 27 people or 60%, said that they never use any storm tactics at all -- that they simply avoid being out in storms.
10 sailors answered that they run off in a storm.
10 sailors answered that they sometimes heave to to ride out a storm.
Only one (!) sailor answered that he used a drogue or sea anchor
Two other sailors answered that they had used a drogue or sea anchor, but only in non-coastal waters.
I thought that was very interesting -- a strong confirmation in actual practice, of the theoretical conclusions of people here.
You can see the poll
here: Poll: Storm Tactics - Page 2 - Yachting and Boating World Forums
Some of the comments were interesting:
I selected heave to as the answer to the poll, as thats the only action I have taken in really bad weather, and that was only for a short time to allow me to get some food
together and get the kettle on. Then it was back on course with 3 reefs
in the main, and a partly furled staysail.
"Like the OP I have considered the option of a drag device, and was leaning heavily in favour of the Jordan Series Drogue. One downside of using that in the area's I sail is that it could foul the bottom, there are some shallow areas.
So at the moment, its on the back burner until I make longer passages.
Worst weather I encountered was 65kts of wind when heading to Liverpool. Fortunately, the wind was going roughly the same direction I wanted to go, so with a little bit of genoa
out was able to make a reasonable passage
, bit scary to start with as the boat surfed a few times, but seeing as we both coped I stopped being worried.
A drag device would have helped a bit in that situation, but you have to consider as well the need to recover the drogue. I was single
handing, and trying to recover a drogue while heading towards Queens Channel could have led to an worse situation, i.e., eye's not on where the boat is going but struggling to retrieve a drogue. By all accounts, the series drogue can be very difficult to retrieve."
Note that 65 knots (!) of wind is a hurricane
force (!) wind, and even in that, something which coastal sailors in most parts
of the world will never encounter in their lives, the poster did not do anything but sail.
"16 years ago I spent quite a lot of money
having a 3' drogue made. Very heavy duty, with a funnel of about 3'. It has stayed in the bottom of my cockpit
locker and the last time I even saw it was about 3-4 years ago.
Over the years we have sailed out many 40/50 kn gales and some 50/60 knotters but we have a heavy old Moody 42. When we were coming back from Madeira
a few years ago we spent 36 hrs with over 55kns in the gusts. The seas and the noise
were horrendous but the boat was not pressed at all. The wind was coming over the port quarter and we sailed our course the whole time.
After all that the short answer is that I don't know. It all depends on the conditions. Ocean storms kick up huge waves but they are much further apart. Med storms have shorter sharper seas, which are bloody uncomfortable. If I ever feel that my boat is uncomfortable, then I would take all or any of the above mentioned precautions but, as yet, all I have done is to put the wind on the quarter and shorten sail. Luckily I have always had the sea room to do this."
This is already not coastal sailing, but open ocean sailing in a really big storm with over 50 knots. Again, the sailor did nothing but sail. (It must be noted, however, that he has an old Moody 42, an unusually seaworthy
"Avoidance is the norm, however, if storm conditions catch us out, the only way is downwind - ish. Our motor-sailer could punch upwind but comfort is our prime concern (everything else being equal).
As to the drogue - gave it away to someone else who hasn't used it either."
So there is some more data for people interested in the subject.