With 20+ years windsurfing/surfing experience, a dozen hobbie cat days rented in Jamaica and the keys and 16 trips out in my CP16 including 3 on Lake Erie I am far from an experienced sailor! I do know how to read the wind and waves and have been out on Lake Erie on a 27' fishing boat many times once in a survival storm ( scariest 1/2 hour of my life). I have been studying heavy weather tactics and there seems to be many schools of thought about what the heck to do when heavy weather bares down on a small sailboat! I use checklists everyday on my job and like to think in orderly terms about procedures. I have come up with a checklist for heavy weather situations. Please feel free to critique. I have sold my CP16 and now am picking up a new to me CP23 in April, checklist will need to be adapted for different boat designs crewing number etc. This is very general.
***Weather/sail configuration checklist***
1. Winds below or forecast to be below 15 knots ( constant or gust) for duration of sail. (Normal main and jib set up)
2 Winds actually or forecast 15 to 20 knots. 1 reef in main normal jib.
***Above 20 knots forecast or actual, boat closed up tight ( companionway and forward hatch)
3. Winds 20-30 knots actual or forecast. 2 reefs in main and smaller jib or for roller furling rolled 1/2. All crew members in life jackets and all items on deck/cockpit stowed and double checked for security.
!!! I know all should have life jackets on all times but I have on hot sunny days taken it off , I know that is flirting with disaster!!!
***Unplanned weather greater than 30knots wind with waves building and unable to seek shelter***
4. A) Are you a reasonable distance from a lee shore for expected duration of heavy weather? If no go to B. If yes, set up boat for a Hove-To configuration then reef (if weather came suddenly). Consider deploying sea anchor/drouge if seas are breaking alert coast guard or someone of your position (Relax)!
No Lee-Way situation
B) Drop anchor (8-10 scope VERY important and have a size bigger anchor than recommended), drop all sails. Start motor and idle ( be ready for anchor to not hold) alert someone to your position. (Before dropping anchor, consider forereaching if your boat sails well into wind...NOT a CP16)
Comments (not on checklist).
Resist the temptation to get into marina in a big blow. The narrow cuts in Lake Erie harbors are much more dangerous to navigate than staying out on the lake away from shore. Learn how to get your boat in a hove to position. I have practiced this every time I have gone out in up to 25 knot winds and it is amazing how things settle down and present a calm aura about your situation. If single handing a down haul from the cockpit is essential. Most anchoring I have seen in my limited experience is woefully in adequate. You need to have at least 8x the depth of water played out and a good heavy anchor WITH some length of chain attached to get a good hold! I have never used a sea anchor but I think that since I am primarily sailing on Lake Erie it is essential. I will buy one before taking her out on the lake.
Once again add or subtract as you see fit!