Heavy Weather

Storm Preparation

Gear adrift (items not in their homes) should be stowed. Cupboards should be secure. Bilges should be emptied. Electronics should be double checked for operability and the latest weather faxes printed out for review. Dewatering, damage conrtrol, and personal emergency gear and equipment should be readied and in serviceable condition. On deck lifelines should be checked and additional lifelines led fore-and-aft for clipping a safety harness into for deck work forward. If operating a sailing vessel, now is a good time to place additional reefs, ready storm sails, or complete deck work ahead of time to minimize exposure under less tenable future conditions.


Large ships typically run before the wind, placing the weather at their back and doing their best to match the speed of the waves to present a calm sailing motion as long as there is sea room.


Power vessels are said to be hove-to when they jog slowly close-hauled to the wind a couple points off of either side of the bow. This is also called “quartering.”

They may “run weather patterns” and slowly jog in a back and forth manner attempting to reduce unfavorable motion while keeping the wind off the beam to avoid breaching seas. Breaching is dangerous because ships have less ability to resist rolling compared with their ability to resist pitching.

Sailing vessels heave-to by adjusting their sails in a manner (such as by having their jib sheeted to windward, trysail amidships, and rudder to windward) and allowed to drift. The wind hits these conflicting surfaces which does a great deal to ease the conditions aboard the sailboat.

Lying Ahull

Some vessels react more favorably to simply lying ahull. That is, allowing the vessel to do as she wishes, taking off all powered way, reducing all sail to “bare poles,” and simply waiting out the weather.

Crew Considerations

It has often been said that the ship can take more punishment than the crew. This is often the case. A well found vessel can generally take good care of herself to a greater extent than a seasick crew can feed and rest themselves, while keeping warm, dry, and hydrated. Seasickness can lead to malnutrition, over time, and dehydration, almost instantly. Keep close watch on members of the crew both for physical fitness as well as emotional durability. A storm can be a harrowing experience for both, the uninitiated, as well as the shellback.