Day 86 Storm Tactics 26/11/13

Question: Are you lying a-hull or hove to?

Answer: Several people have asked about storm tactics. I will explain the gear and strategies I use. There are as many ideas about storm tactics as there are boat owners. For West Wind II, I have several options. First is ‘heaving-to’. This maneuver starts by putting the helm over and leaving the jib sheet around the winch so that it is backed by the wind while the main is on the opposite tack. With the helm down and lashed in this position the boat works its way up to windward then falls back when the wind is out of the sails and eventually there is a happy spot where she lies at an angle to the waves and takes them on the chin each time coming back up until the wind is out of the sails again and she falls away. Each boat design heaves-to differently so it is something you have to experiment with until you find out what works best for you. Lying a-hull I do not recommend in gale force conditions because, with all sails down, and the boat left to its own devises, it sits parallel to the waves and is exposed to breaking waves. This is what happened to me in Kim Chow near the Falkland Islands and led to our eventual demise.

Lying to a drogue is another option if you have advance warning of a very bad storm, you can prepare your boat and deploy your drogue ahead of the storm and then wait it out. A drogue is usually attached to brackets on the stern of the boat and can take two forms. One is a series of small parachutes attached to a line of suitable length to the size of your boat with a length of chain attached on the trailing end, the other is a single large parachute also with a chain attached. I have both on West Wind and have used both in the past with a great deal of success. Deploying and retrieving a droge takes some practice and must be done very carefully as the forces on the drogue are massive and very unforgiving. For example, the breaking strength for the two brackets on WW II’s transom to take the load of the drogue is 15,000 pounds each. Once the line of the parachute or line of parachutes is in the water the forward motion of the boat makes it hard to control the speed with which the lines are deployed and if they get caught on anything, the forces are too much to pull it back so a clean deployment strategy is very important. There are several good articles and You tube videos on these subjects but there is nothing like doing it on your boat to teach you how it’s going to work for you. I hope that sheds some light on this very important subject and thank you for your questions. 

Note: To give you an idea of what lying to a drogue looks like, I did a search on Google for “deploying a drogue on a sailboat”. Then I selected “images” and this is what I found. This is a photo of Glenn in April 2008 lying on a drogue off the coast of Argentina on Kim Chow waiting to be rescued by the Argentinean navy on board the vessel Puerto Deseado. Small world.

Kim Chow in Southern Ocean


  1. Thanks for the discussion! Joining your adventure on day 89. Look forward to the rest of your adventures.

  2. Dave Traynor says

    It is a small world…wouldn’t it be nice to know what ever happened to the brave Kim Chow?

    Thanks for the excellent discussion on storm tactics.

  3. Alex Laframbosie says

    Hello MaryLou and Glenn
    I have been following your adventure since you’ve started. I have read what’s on the internet about your past voyage on the Kim Chow and don’t recall reading about her fate. My girlfriend and I have both been wondering what ever became of the Kim Chow? Was she was lost or salvaged or ? Keep strong and know you have a lot of support for you to keep going on your fantastic voyage.
    Alex and Chris

    • MaryLou Wakefield says

      Thanks Alex and Chris. Sadly, Glenn had to bid farewell to Kim Chow in the Southern Ocean, 1000 miles off the coast of Argentina when he was rescued. To this day, we haven’t had any news of her whereabouts.

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