Each situation and boat (and crew) are going to present a need for different tactics. Last winter I was heading to SF on my way from Cabo on a newly purchased boat that I had little experience with. A number of factors were at play (schedule, my over-confidence etc) and as such we ended up riding out a sustained force 10 southerly for close to 24 hours. Conditions were horrific, as the current
flows from the north - plus, there was a large long period NW groundswell left over from a previous blow well to the NW. In essence, we had 15-18'+ southerly ultra short breaking windswell...just north of Conception and onward to Monterey Bay.
We ran under bare poles with the autopilot steering
as it was not safe on deck
. Every second wave looked like it was going to poop us, but due to the fact we were hitting 12 knots at times it never happened...it was scary as hell when Alsager blasted down those faces and hit the trough at the bottom....my biggest worry was broaching, which happened twice. I considered improvising some sort of droque or using warps, but it was too late for that and in short, breaking seas I think slowing the boat too much could result in taking a breaker over the stern. I did not heave to because there was no provision to securely lash the wheel
-something I have since rectified.
Through better judgement/planning I hope to avoid ever seeing something like this again, but if it happens, I will hove to as I know now my boat can take it. Or, if conditions are somewhat more moderate and my destination
is in the right direction, I will deploy some type of warp/drogue over the stern to find the right balance of speed/control for the given waves.
I do have a storm trysail on board, but there was WAY too much wind
to have even a scrap of sail up.
Of all the mistakes
I made, what saved the boat and our lives was sea room - the minute things started to get nasty we head
, some 30 - 40 miles out. Not easy to explain to a rookie crew going into shock....
Mark makes a great point about slowing movement so the weather
passes, but in the conditions I faced there is no way being bow to would work (on my boat), even with a sufficient parachute and tackle.