How we handle our Lagoon 440 in heavy weather

Soon we will have been sailing full time for 8 years on our Lagoon 440 Impi.  Triggered by some recent questions from people only just embarking on a circumnavigation we thought we’d share some of the ways we handle rough seas with the Lagoon 440.

Different seas and conditions call for different measures.

However, generally speaking our rule is that we never ‘heave to’ in breaking seas.   Whereas this may be a good storm technique for mono-hulls as seen below, it’s a complete ‘no no’ for us. 

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Cats can easily go bow over stern in severe seas.  We lost two friends and a crew member they had onboard a catamaran that hove to in a storm – capsized!

We never go ‘bare poles’ – we always want to take control of the sea and not have the sea take control of us.  This may not always be possible but it’s our rule to try.

Our rule is always to place the stern to weather in uncontrollable seas and to always keep the boat in motion i.e. never deploy anything that wants to ‘anchor the boat ‘ at sea.

When we cannot hold the boat straight down wave faces, or the bows are digging in dangerously, it is time we deploy warps that we trail behind us. In severe seas one can tie old trampoline netting to the end of the warps and slow the boat down that way. Of course one can buy drogues like the Jordan but we just use long decent sized warps.   We let out length enough to where the boat feels more manageable. Dragging a net also helps to collapse and reduce waves as energy is released at the net’s position instead of at the boat.

We don’t consider 40 knot winds to be severe, in fact we regularly find ourselves in 40 knot winds even though we try and avoid them!  Here in Indonesia in particular, it has proven difficult to predict the strength of the winds as the weather is majorly affected by local geography.  Our passage from Raja Ampat to Hoga Island a few weeks ago had us in 52 knot winds which was not nice but the 440 handles it well if the skipper keeps his head!

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In that sea we sailed into a field of debris and a slick of oil miles long. Ana contacted the Indonesian Search and Rescue people by sat phone, a cargo ship had just been lost there. Apparently the ore they were carrying must have shed its moisture from the rough passage and formed a water slick between the hull and ore resulting in a motion that capsized the ship. We felt sick hearing that 25 souls were lost and it was desperate for us knowing we were right there. No survivors were found.

Our return trip from Tasmania in the Bass Straits saw us being hit by unpredicted 40 plus winds and whilst one is exercising the sphincter muscles the boat gets through it. The thing I thank myself for time and time again is having rigged our reefing lines, in particular reef 3, for easy use.

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So on the 440 we have the standard reef line on the leech but usually the luff has a ring or other means to secure it. This is dangerous if one leaves the 3rd reef too late, so we actually have a reef line for reef 3 going up the luff too and also to it’s own jammer.

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We never point our boat into the weather to reef:  we reef the main in motion because we’ve practiced how to do this year in and year out.  It’s a huge benefit if one’s boat is set up to allow for reefing whilst under sail with wind on the beam or broad stern.

There is nothing worse than being caught in a storm and having to bring the bows around in a breaking sea and then struggle with reefing – it’s very dangerous.

We found the 440 is great in severe weather and the high back to the cockpit is a life saver. We have never used our storm sail because usually it’s too late to rig it – we just bring out enough genoa to keep drive on the boat.

We always dump much of our fresh water in breaking seas and make the bows light.

Autopilot is a ‘no no’, hand steering is everything in the storms we’ve been in. 

Before it’s necessary for warps we always turn on the engines and keep the propellers turning – sometimes we use the engines to keep drive on the boat to reduce shock loads on the rig: Dropping down a wave in strong winds and digging into the back of a following wave exerts a lot of load on the rig and the motors help to drive it through.

The advantage of running warps astern is not only for slowing the boat down but also to keep the rudders in the water.

We could write a lot about sever weather passages we’ve encountered and as mentioned in the beginning different seas and situations demand different techniques but this is the platform from which we work.

One thing is true that we’ve seen over the years of sailing though – what may be a storm for one sailor can be nowhere close to being a storm for the next, so it really depends at what level one considers oneself to be in survival mode.

It makes a huge difference if one has rigged the boat properly to deal with adverse weather conditions. Having a jammer for each line for example, is a huge help.

We also always keep the boat neat and tidy on passages at sea with minimal clutter – it’s a safety thing for us to sail with a clean and tidy boat! In storms problems have a tendency to multiply:  one issue leads to the next and can suddenly cause panic and lack of control.

The last thing one needs is to be dealing with all this in a messy environment and with lines that are not neatly secured in jammers. Not to bore one here, but these are some of the things I really think has helped us along the way and may be useful for those starting out on this journey.

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12 Comments

  1. Excellent advice! Contradicts what I have beeen taught but makes absolute sense, especially motoring through the next wave to reduce the load shock on the rig.

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  2. Rėcit peu comprėhensible de part sa traduction imparfaite. quant au danger de la navigation par gros temps, ce rėcit parle de force de vent ce qui å mon sens n’est pas le plus important. 55 nds sous le vents d’une cõte n’est pas un problęme. IL en va tout autrement par une mer dėmontėe. Quand aux trainard, il faut avoir de l’eau å courrir et l’arrięre d’un cata n’est pas la partie la mieux dėfendue. Pour cojclure, j’aimerai bien avoir les certitudes confortables de ce navigateur.

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    1. Desole de ne pas écrire en français Andre. Comme vous dites: ce n’est pas le vent qui est un problème mais plutôt la mer démontée. Notre bateau se comporte très bien avec les vagues en arrière comme le bateau que nous avions avant notre lagoon, un catamaran Catana. Rien n’est certain en mer, n’oublie jamais cela, mais jusqu’a present les techniques expliques nous ont rendu service. Il faut toujours rester veillant pour changer de technique si on voit que le bateau commence a souffrir. Néanmoins nous croyons que si on var avec le le vent et les vagues plutôt que de mettre le devant du bateau dans le vent c’est mieux comme sinon on risque de chavirer le catamaran. Merci pour lire notre blog.

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  3. What a thoughtful and comprehensive explanation! Thanks Brett, for what must be an eye-opener for most people schooled in the theory that becoming a stationary sitting duck is suitable for catamarans.

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  4. Great article Brent! Having not sailed our 2007 440 Lagoon in heavy seas yet, I am absorbing as much as I can before I can get some practice. Thanks for sharing.
    Billy and Micka on Lucy in Abu Dhabi.

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