Heavy weather sailing – wind

A few weeks ago I posted about how quickly and easily the Sage 17, Sage 15 and SageCat mains can be reefed. To continue that theme here I’ll discuss ways to sail efficiently and more comfortably in heavy wind.

The Sages are very capable sailboats being excellent in light AND heavy winds. I have sailed all of the Sage boats in winds above 20 knots with gusts above 25. The highest winds I’ve sailed a Sage were in the mid-30 knot range in a SageCat & Sage 17.

AirBorn7

Sage 17 AIR BORN sailing with a single reefed main and storm jib – winds blowing 25-30 knots!

On a Sage 17 the first thing to do is tighten the backstay adjuster. Besides lessening the boat’s heel you will also lessen the weather helm felt at the tiller. The S17 also allows you to depower & reduce the heeling by letting out, to leeward, the mainsheet traveler out to leeward.

Next is to adjust the outhaul on the main (this is true for the S17, Sage 15 and SageCat). By tightening the outhaul the foot of the main is pulled closer to the boom and the sail’s draft is reduced. As the sail has less power the boat heels less. Adjusting the main’s draft is the first thing to do on a Sage 15 sloop and SageCat (catboat).

After making the above adjustments you can also let out the sail. On the S17 & S15 as you let out the main also let out the jib … the two need to be in balance. Be sure to keep sail luffing to a minimum as it greatly shortens the life of the sail.

The Sage 15 is a three-stay rig and doesn’t have a backstay. Don’t be tempted to let the main luff. A little bit in the buffs is OK, and letting the sheet fly free in a strong gust is fine, but don’t allow much more than a quarter of the sail to continually luff. This is why:

As the Sage 15 have no backstay as the main luffs the mast bends forward causing the forestay to sag. This means the headsail balloons out, becoming fuller, and catching more wind. Allowing the sail to luff in a three-stay rig, and this is true for any three stay rig, not just the Sage 15, the boat will heel more! Yes MORE. The main sheet and the leech (aft edge of the main) are the backstay on a three-stay rig. Keep tension on the mainsheet! This is why, versus on the Sage 17, you need to reef sooner once you feel uncomfortable with the amount of heel.

Another thing … with a poorly shaped headsail the boat loses speed, drive (ability to power through the waves, and doesn’t go to weather as well (ie, more leeway).

 

So, on the S15 reef before you are luffing the main!

cody on the columbia river

SageCat sailing with a single reefed main.

Next, on all the Sages, you need to put in a reef when the boat is still overpowered. In general if you are luffing more a ¼ of the main (or more) in the puffs you should reef. The other ‘sailor’s rule’ is if you think about reefing you have waiting to long.

 

 

After putting in a reef the above discussed sail trimming methods still hold true. But if the boat is still uncomfortable the next step depends on the boat sailed –

On a Sage 15 and SageCat the next step is to put in a second reef (all Sage 15s & SageCats come standard with a double reef main).

Video of an SageCat owner reefing his boat –

When sailing a Sage 17 you need to evaluate the headsail v. wind strength. In general the first step is to reef the main. If you have a larger headsail up, like the 150% or 130% genoa, dropping the sail is the best step (all S17s come standard with a jib downhaul so no need for you to go forward). The Sage 17 sails very well under main alone.

For example if sailing a S17 with the 150% genoa and the wind comes up I would reef the main. If still uncomfortable my next step would be to lower the jib and decide if I wish to change the headsail. If sailing a S17 with the lapper or working jib I would tie a second reef in the main before lowering the headsail.

For better overall sailing performance it is better to go to a smaller jib than reefing the main. The example above outlines a compromise if you are out on the water and don’t wish to conduct a headsail change.

On a Sage 17 you can also de-power the headsail by by moving the jib sheet lead blocks aft. This reduce the sail’s draft down low, flattening the foot, and lets the head of the sail twist off a bit.

For others’ perspectives on this here are two recent articles on heavy weather sailing published in the October 2017 issue of Spinsheet magazine –

 

Following the above you will find your heavy weather sailing a much more enjoyable experience (and maybe even fun!).

NOTE: The above discusses only the wind speed component of heavy weather sailing. A second and very important ‘second half’ of high wind sailing is the water’s sea state – the height of and if the waves are breaking. Sea state is actually the greater safety concern when the wind speed increases. I’ll discuss waves in another post. Until then remember – the captain is ultimately responsible for the safety of the boat, passengers and crew. If the captain isn’t sure about ‘going out’ then DON’T!

Anchoring

I just love going for a cruise and finding a quiet cove away from all the other boats. These are one of many moments where a small trailer sailor like the Sage 17, Sage 15 and SageCat do what other boats can’t. Gunkholing requires an anchor. Here I’ll discuss how I store, launch and retrieve an anchor on a Sage.

When cruising I carry two anchors on the boat. Each set of ground tackle is in an anchor bag and has 200’ of rode (rope) and 10’ of chain. In addition I also carry an extra 200’ of rode. The anchors, their rodes & chains & bags and the spare rode fit easily in the Sage 17, 15 or SageCat cockpit lockers. My usual practice is to keep the ground tackle in the starboard cockpit locker.

When I come into an anchorage I take out the anchor I’ll be using and set it and its bag of chain & rode on the cockpit floor. Once the anchoring location I like is found I lower the anchor off the aft starboard over the cleat. Why here? Well this keeps the rode away from the outboard’s prop and single handing keeps me at the helm v. going forward to the bow.

I use the motor to set the anchor and tie off the rode to the aft starboard cleat. Now, this is important, it is not safe to anchor off the transom. Why? If the sea comes up the waves crashing into the transom can also fill the cockpit! There are also higher stresses put on the boat and anchor as the waves hit the transom. Finally … it is really uncomfortable!

After watching how the boat swings and assuring the anchor is set, leaving the rode tied to the starboard stern cleat, I go forward with the anchor bag and rode and tie to the bow cleat. For added safety I tie the bitter end of the rode around one of the bow pulpit stanchions. I then return to the cockpit and release the rode at the stern cleat (adding about 15-20’ of scope to my anchor set).

The boat will now swing bow to the wind and all is ready for a wonderful evening ‘on the hook’.

happy_sailor

Sage 17 AIR BORN ‘on the hook’ in Blind Bay, Shaw Island, San Juan Islands, Salish Sea, Washington State.

When i’m ready to retrieve the anchor I go forward and retrieve the rode from the bow cleat and re-secure to the starboard stern cleat. I then pull the anchor rode into the cockpit floor until the rode is almost vertical. I now get the boat ready to leave (ie, take off the sail covers, lay out the sheets, collect the anchor bag from the bow, start the outboard, etc). As the boat rocks it will loosen the anchor making it much easier to raise … especially if it was very well set it deep sticky mud!

I raise the anchor and lay it and the rode on the cockpit sole to drain excess water. Once I have left the anchorage I then stow the anchor, chain, rode & bag back into the starboard cockpit locker.

As part of a longer video of me cruising on a Sage 17 you can watch me using the above system. Here is a link –

SKIP AHEAD to to 5 minutes, if the link above doesn’t do that automatically, to see the anchoring system being used!

Let me know what you think.

– Dave

Busy at Sage Marine!

We are busy busy and even busier here at Sage Marine! Some photos of owners and their new Sage 17’s Sage 15s and SageCats –

 

We also had a great time at the Annapolis Sailboat Show –

annapolis 17

Looking ahead we are making plans for a big announcements on a boat & events for this upcoming first quarter of 2018. Watch this space!

One week until the 2017 October Annapolis show!

Starting on 5 October Sage Marine will be at our usual place, Land Sites 80 & 81, at the Annapolis Sailboat Show.  The show runs until 9 October 2017.

Sage Marine Annapolis Show location

A Sage 17 and SageCat will be attending.  Let us know if you wish to see the boats!

Following the show, 10 & 11 October, by appointment, there will be SageCat demo sails.  If you want to sail a SageCat let us know by sending an email to info@sagemarine.com

See all’ya’all in Annapolis!

Cody Reviews his 10-day cruise in a SageCat

Cody summaries his thoughts on sailing the San Juan Islands, SageCat and provides a couple of packing lists –

This trip through the San Juan Islands really opened my eyes to how much more there is to explore in this beautiful archipelago.  My wife and her friend both raved about how great and relaxing of a time they had, and we are already planning for a trip to visit the northern San Juan Islands such as Stuart, Patos, Sucia, and Orcas.

Sweet Potato [my Sage Marine SageCat] performed flawlessly under a multitude of conditions and provided a very comfortable home for the three of us and our pup.  I can’t speak highly enough of the merits of a small, seaworthy, easy to rig and easy to handle boat.  I know Sagecat is not the only choice out there to fit these requirements, but she does them as well or better than any boat her size that I know of.

The bottom line is, get out there and sail, wherever you are and in whatever boat you have.  There are so many beautiful places to be visited and experiences to be had by boat.  Especially by small boat!

 

Below is a list of some of the gear I took along:

Cooking:

  • Single burner GasOne butane stove
  • 3 bottles of butane
  • Primus Stainless Steel Campfire Cookset   
  • 3 sets of plastic camping plates, bowls, silverware

 

Boat Gear:

  • 10’6” Jimmy Styks Inflatable Paddleboard, two piece paddle and pump
  • 3 gallon bucket and WagBags for legal and odor free waste management
  • 3 quality life vests and one dog life vest
  • Navisafe portable LED navigation lights
  • Honda 2.3 hp long shaft outboard
  • 5 Gallons of ethanol free gasoline (we burned less than two gallons on the entire trip)
  • 13 lb Mantus anchor, Mantus swivel, 30’ of 1/4” high test galvanized chain, 150’ of 1/2” rode
  • 4.4 lb Lewmar Bruce anchor, 15’ of 3/16” galvanized chain, 50’ of 3/8” rode
  • Handheld VHF
  • Suntactics 14v solar panel
  • Anker PowerCore 26800 Portable Battery charger
  • Flares, fire extinguisher, first aid kit, 3 gallon collapsable canvas bucket for bailing and various other safety items
  • Yeti Hopper 30 soft cooler
  • 3 boat fenders
  • Extensive tool kit
  • Seadog telescoping boat hook
  • Bushnell Marine Binoculars
  • Ocean Rodeo Soul Drysuit
  • 3 sleeping bags and pillows
  • Multiple charts, current table books and a cruising guide book for the San Juan Islands
  • JBL Flip 4 Waterproof portable Bluetooth speaker
  • Spyderco Atlantic Salt knife (lashed to my PFD)

 

Day 10 of Cody’s San Juan Islands trip in a SageCat

Day 10 – Fisherman Bay to Anacortes –

I had shared my tales of Holly B’s bakery with the girls the previous evening, so we all got up early and made a pilgrimage to this baking holy site in the morning. After again being dazzled with their confectioner’s wizardry, we spent a few more hours exploring the village shops and getting a few things at the grocery store for our afternoon sail.

Our plan was to sail back around Lopez Island and spend a few hours enjoying the beaches and views at Spencer Spit state park and then making a short hop over to James Island, another state park, which would be a good jumping off point for crossing the Rosario strait on Saturday morning to get back to Anacortes, where our truck and trailer were parked. There was not a breath of wind when we got back to the boat at around noon, so we motored the roughly eight miles with a hefty current helping us for the first half of the trip to Spencer Spit. Upon arrival, we again anchored and paddled ashore where we had a few fun filled hours of beach combing and hiking. I even got in a quick nap on the warm sand. At about 5 o’clock we got back to the boat and again began motoring toward James Island which was about four miles away, where we planned to stay for the evening.

I had been a bit stressed about crossing the Rosario Strait with the girls aboard since I had experienced some rather rough conditions and unpredicted winds a week and a half ago. The winds were forecasted to be about 10 knots from the north, which should have been fine, but the slack tide window on Saturday morning was very short, with strong currents from the south before the slack and quickly turning to strong currents from the north. The late afternoon slack tide window on Saturday had much more moderate current velocities and a longer slack period so I knew I could always wait for that time, but still I was feeling uncertain about what the conditions would turn out to look like.

As we motored up to James Island on a completely glassy sea state, I was finally able to look across the Rosario Strait. It was as flat as a board. Not a ripple to be seen all the way across to Anacortes. I pulled out my current tables and we were perfectly timed to cross the strait in a large window of slack tide with very small currents predicted on either side of the slack. I made the decision that we would be wisest to cross while the conditions were perfect and find a place to anchor near Washington Park, where the trailer was located, and then simply pull the boat out of the water in the morning and get an earlier start home. The girls both seemed happy with this plan so we enjoyed a delightfully uneventful motor across the Rosario strait.

As we approached Washington Park, I had planned to anchor just off the beach as it was protected from the direction of the light winds predicted during the night. However, I also quickly noticed a huge sign on the beach, facing toward the water, reading “DROP NO ANCHOR. ELECTRICAL CABLES UNDER WATER”, or something to that effect. The sun was getting low on the horizon and there didn’t seem to be any quick protected anchorage to get to, so I tied up to the dock, raised the dagger board, backed the trailer in the water and hauled Sweet Potato up into the parking lot. We were all famished after a long day of hiking and motoring in the sun, so we left the boat on the trailer and drove into Anacortes for a meal. We ended up at a great little Mexican place called Real Tequila and we all ate until we were about to pop. The food was fantastic and the service was equally so. Back in the campground, now nearly dark, I reconnected the truck to the trailer and we all walked down to the beach to enjoy the final colors of the sunset and the lapping of the water on the pebble beach. Now that the boat was on the trailer and had the centerboard taking up one sleeping position, I was relegated to the bed of the truck since I had the warmest sleeping bag.

Day 9 of Cody’s San Juan Islands trip

Roche Harbor to Fisherman Bay –

This hazy, smoky morning began with a shower at the marina, a quick coffee for all of us and a stop by our friend’s boat to pick up our battery before departing on our longest sail of the trip so far.  My wife had visited Lopez Village about five years ago for a brief afternoon and had fallen in love with the cute little town and laid back setting.  She was really wanting to go spend a bit more time there and show her friend Jen around, so Fisherman bay was to be revisited.  We motored out of Roche harbor in no wind at all, but after about three miles, a nice breeze from the north filled in so we killed the motor, hoisted sail and had a wonderful downwind ride for the remaining 11 miles to fisherman bay.  On two occasions much larger sail boats clearly changed course to come sail by us, say hello and comment on what a cute little boat we had.  Clearly I am biased, but Sweet Potato does have some striking lines.  Jerry Montgomery knows a thing or two about drawing a nice looking boat!  

bowl at Fishermans BayWe dropped anchor in Fisherman bay once again and, since it was such a quiet and peaceful setting, decided that we would spend the rest of the evening cooking a feast on the boat, watching the sunset, and listening to an audio book.  The cockpit was a bit crowded with three of us while trying to prepare and cook a meal, so I was ordered to the foredeck with a cold beverage.  A short while later I was handed a delightful plate full of food and a refill of my beverage.  We all enjoyed our meal as the sun set, and spent the next few hour telling stories and sharing laughs.  Days don’t get a whole lot better than this one as far as I can tell.