Boat Handling Under Adverse Conditions (Part II)

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Some of the most challenging conditions you may encounter as a skipper are the adverse conditions of heavy weather. The size of your boat does not have much to do with its seaworthiness. How it will handle adverse conditions is more or less built in during the design and construction. You should never use your boat for anything other than for what it was designed and intended. Don’t venture into waters or weather conditions which are beyond your boat’s design capabilities.

What may seem like heavy weather to an inexperienced boater may not bother a seasoned and weather-wise skipper at all. The body of water on which you operate has a lot to do with how severe the conditions may get. While operating on deep and large bodies of water, wave action tends to build more slowly than on large waters that are shallower. In deep waters, wind action may only cause moderate seas with slow, rolling swells, while in shallower waters that same wind force may make steep, breaking seas.

Know Your Boat
A boat may perform very differently in heavy weather from another boat the same size and the skipper will have to know his vessel well to navigate rough waters successfully. No two boats reacts exactly the same in similar sea conditions. Each hull design reacts differently to the sea variables – and even two boats with the same design may act differently depending on their load and trim. Every skipper must learn the idiosyncrasies of his own boat and know how it will react as conditions change.

Meeting Head Seas
In moderate seas you should be able to slow your speed in order to ride up and over the waves rather than driving the bow into them. You also don’t want to get to the top of the wave and fall off the back side burying the bow. If conditions get worse, slow down until you are making bare steerage way and hold your boat at an angle of 45 degrees to the swells..

The more you reduce speed, the less strain will be put on the hull and superstructure. Continued pounding can pop out or break ports and windows. You really don’t want to find out how much water can rush in through a 12” porthole.


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