Head Into the Wind; Reef the Sails

Reefing Sails Around Diamond Shoals, Cape Hatteras by Winslow Homer

Reefing Sails Around Diamond Shoals, Cape Hatteras by Winslow Homer

I grew up sailing, thanks to my father, a man raised in landlocked Arkansas, who as a young boy dreamed of sailing. I learned many things from my father, but I think today, November 9, 2016 is a day I appreciate the lesson of how stay alive at sea in a storm.

When the wind gets too heavy from a storm and threatens to capsize your boat, you can do two things.

Put out a storm anchor. The anchor drags behind the boat and stabilizes it. Sometimes you need two anchors. Whatever it takes to keep you heading INTO THE WIND. You cannot try to run away from the wind, if you turn sideways, you’ll roll over. If you run from it, you’ll be driven by the winds, perhaps grounded onto rocks and crushed. Or a giant wave will roll over you and flip you over backwards.

When you “head into the wind.” The sails make a chaotic flapping sound and the boat starts lurching every which way. It feels so counter-intuitive to do this. But, when you do, as chaotic and jumble as it all feels, you can reef the sails (bring them down to 1/2 or 1/3 of their usual height) thus using less sail to access the immense power of the wind, and you can continue sailing, despite the storm, which basically means you harness the power that can destroy you to stabilize and ride it out.

I actually had to do this once when we were sailing and I had to tie myself to the boat in order to do this without being washed overboard. It takes teamwork to do these life-saving maneuvers. Life jackets mandatory.

Remember, put out your storm anchors and head into the wind. Harness the power of the storm.



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