Heavy Weather on Charter


You see, when you look at the charter companies' gorgeous brochures, it looks like that the weather in the usual charter areas is always magnificent. It is true but only most of the time-otherwise, why would we go there in the first place? Well, fact is, you can encounter bad weather -and sometimes very bad weather - basically anywhere.

If you are a prudent mariner, you will listen to the weather forecast every morning and night and at least once a day. Depending on your skills, if you hear anything like: "wind over 25/30kts., watch out, because chances are there will be gusts over that. And if you are somewhat novice, our advice is to stay at your current anchorage and not to go out until the gale or tropical wave or whatever it is, exits your area. After all, you are in vacation, so why put your crew, yourself and your boat in danger? No reason for that. And even if this means that your pre-planned itinerary has to be rearranged, then no big deal. It is NEVER, never, a good idea to underestimate the elements of Mother Nature. Now, if you are already at sea, and the weather worsens, here are a few guidelines.

The Golden Rule: Prepare Early

I like this old rule of thumb: "If you're thinking about reefing, it's already too late". So do not wait that your boat is overpowered to reef your sails. There are 3 indications telling you that your boat is overpowered:

  • Your boat is heeling more than 25°

  • Your rudder position indicator (if the boat has one) shows more than 10°/15°of weather helm

  • If you do not have a rudder position indicator, you can feel it because you are fighting the steering wheel hard to keep the boat from going into the wind

In each case, the boat and the crew are unnecessarily suffering AND you are sailing inefficiently.

In conclusion, reef early when you feel the wind really hardening and/or when you see -in the tropics- this dark gray squall line coming at you from the horizon. And try to start by reefing the jib or genoa.


  • The wind starts to build up before the squall is on you. One more reason to prepare early.

  • Look at the squall line: the more slanted the rain curtain, the stronger the wind will be under the squall.

  • It is always much easier to shake a reef when it is not needed, than trying to reef when you need it.

  • It is imperative that you understand the reefing procedure very well, so make sure this is explained to you clearly at the boat briefing.

In Preparation for Heavy Weather

  • Close all the hatches and ports, and secure everything below, especially the heavy objects (cameras, tea pots, etc.)

  • Make sure your anchor is securely tied on the bow.

  • Depending on the strength of the weather, it might be a good idea to put in your life jackets, especially if you have waited late for your reefing and need to go on deck to do it. Definitely put the life jackets on the kids, who should stay down below

  • Double check the dinghy painter and make sure it is well cleated. If you have left stuff in it, remove it.