Heavy Weather Sailing

Ken Schmidt

Ken is all dressed down and ready to coach me from the cabin.

Ken enjoys heavy weather sailing and after last weekends gale force winds, he was jonesin’ to get out on the water. Myself, I had a wonderful weekend at Watmough Bay and felt like a champ for reading the weather so well. At 8 PM on Saturday night, I checked the weather and saw NOAA was issuing a gale force warning for the next night. I quickly popped of my head out the hatch to revealed that all was calm on the water. It was still early, so I fired up my engine and headed back that night. I slept like a baby at the dock instead of bouncing around on the mooring buoy all night. That was a wake-up call that heavy weather is here and I better prepare!

This weekend was a weird weather pattern. 25 mph winds were forecasted for this area on Saturday but it is also forecasted to be calm on Friday and Sunday. Ken and I made fantastic plans for the weekend to head into the islands, get the girls settled on his boat in a protective cove, and then he and I would head out for some heaving weather sailing in my boat. He planned to teach me how to reef my main sail. One of my big goals this winter is to gain more experience sailing under heavy weather conditions, so I was super stoked!

Heavy Weather Sailing

That’s a happy sailor!

As the weekend grew closer though, the forecast changed enough that the risk of an uncomfortable, exhausting night on Friday was a big risk. I agreed with Ken’s assessment on Thursday night that it would be better to stay home and prepare for Saturday. By Thursday though, I was chompin at the bit, so badly looking forward to heading into the islands. It was disappointing, but I realized he was right. That put the emphasis of the whole weekend on Saturday. “Would it be worth it?”, I wondered on Friday night.

Warning: the audio sucks due to the wind in the microphone. Turn down you volume!

high wind sailing

The semi-protected cove of Flounder Bay, south of Anacortes, makes a great training ground for sailors.

Saturday was a great time! A previous owner had raced Solace competitively, so I knew the main sail had reef points. In fact, it turned out she has two sets of reef points, allowing a single-reef and a double-reef. Ken and I tucked into a protected cove on the east side of Burrows Island. While I held the nose into the wind, he showed me how to tie up a double-reef (the least amount of sail exposed).

Once reefed, we motor-sailed south to the natural wind tunnel created by the channel between Allan and Burrows Island. Even under steady 25 mph winds with gusts of 35-40 (I’m guessing), the boat sailed steady at 5 mph. I was so happy with her performance! She felt completely comfortable and rock steady in this weather. She could have handled that weather all day. Not me though, my clothing needs a serious upgrade. I was soaked and freezing by the time we got back to the dock. Can you say ‘foulies’?

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Fiberglassing Teak Handrails - An Experiment
Sailing the Gulf Islands, Part 2
Decatur By The Numbers
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