The reason to reef both main and jib is that your boat was designed to be balanced with both sails at their maximum surface area. If you reef just one you change balance.
Now, the tricky part is that the balance of most boats is hugely influenced by heel... much more by heel than by sail area ratios. (the under-water part of the boat becomes asymmetric
when heeled). This means that you must change balance to correct that. If your boat is rounding up in gusts, try luffing the main a bit and compare that to luffing the jib a bit. It'll quickly tell you that you need to reef the main before the jib.
Also: you should think about improved reefing systems for you main. I do not mean furlers, I am talking about lazy jacks and discarding cringles. That will probably only work when you order a new sail but keep in mind that reefing the main can be much much easier than what you experience now. We have a huge main (I mean huge) and I can easily reef it without help in 50 knots of wind.
On ketches: ketches rule
when it's time to reef. First thing to try is dropping the main and checking how the boat feels on mizzen and jib. Is it balanced? If so, you can start by just reefing the main.
A second test is keeping the full main up and dropping the mizzen and jib. Is the boat balanced now? Try motor-sailing and see how high you can point that way. Just a (reefed) main is one of our storm strategies and we can sail 50 degrees to true wind (35 apparent) without using the engine
when wind is 35 knots this way. We even do this downwind sometimes (in steady trades without shifts in wind direction).
When you have a ketch and use a sail combination that only has a sail on one of the masts, you MUST check if that is allowed with your boat. Traditionally, ketches had their rigs designed so that the load was split over both masts. When you only use one mast
on such a boat, you might overload things and loose that mast
. The possible points of failure are the chainplates and/or the rigging
wire. I would upgrade that if my boat would depend on both masts sharing the load.
Best boat performance is almost always achieved when you fly each working sail, also when reefed down. But many cruisers are looking at comfort and safety
, not optimal performance. I need to go on deck
for reefing the main but not for reefing the jib or mizzen. So when conditions are bad, the main often comes down first. At night, we often lower the main even if there's no need to reef. It's because we're cooking
dinner and making ready for a comfy night, rather than clocking as many miles on the log as possible. There's only two people on the boat and work to be done tomorrow so we go as easy as possible.
I have a nice little story about it: some sailors have the urge to race us when they see us "out there". I understand that because I was like that too. At sundown, in the last light, I see them heeling in race mode behind us while I lower the main. During the squally night I see them passing us and can imagine their cries of joy and satisfaction, but also their sail changes during the squalls. The next morning I wake up at first light when Josie tells me we're just a couple miles out so we tidy up, lower the rest of the sails and motor
in. I see the other boat at anchor (they must have entered in the dark) with no life signs on deck and the dinghy
in the davits
. We anchor, rig the sun awning (no bimini
on a ketch) launch the dinghy
and go ashore for clearing in and some grocery shopping
. When we come back with fresh French bread etc. I see cushions
all over their boat in an attempt to dry them (it's salt
, will never dry) and a very exhausted couple. While enjoying our breakfast in the cockpit
we see them lowering the dinghy which they barely manage and they go off for clearing in. Just as they go ashore it starts raining and I see their hatches are open... at least it'll wash the salt
out of their cushions
. At happy hour I hear their tales of trouble with nasty officials during check in and about the bad weather and failed boat parts
during the passage
. In only a very few cases they mention passing us and I think I once noticed a glimmer of joy in their tired eyes when they tell that story ;-) ..... when we meet them years later, they changed and do it our way. When they can't change themselves, they aren't out there anymore and live ashore again.
Morale of this story: years of experience of cruising turns all of us cruisers in relaxed sailors (a bit of island time helps..) who do their passages with defensive sailing (reefing is our friend), enter port during the day, are rested, showered with a fresh set of clothes on (long trousers in most countries), friendly, smiling and shaking hands during check in.... and still get pissed off when someone passes us during a passage
, especially when we are in cooking/night-mode and they are racing