Reef Early … Reef Often … Reef Deep

Summer is here!!  I know, the first day of summer is officially June 21, and we aren’t there yet, however, this week the San Francisco summer weather pattern seems to have established itself over the bay.  Here are few tips to help you enjoy your summer time sailing.

Watch the water.  When you begin to see white caps, consider putting in a reef.  At this point the wind speed is probably 12 to 15 knots.  You may not need a reef, however, it’s easy to put in.  Another 5 knots of wind speed and it’s not so easily done.  I have never regretted the decision to reef.  I have regretted deciding not to on more than one occasion.  I like to roll my jib up about a third when I put the first reef in the main.

Feel the helm.  If you notice the boat wanting to force itself up into the wind (heading up), you either have the sails over trimmed or you have too much sail and need a reef.  If you have a reef in and the boat still wants to head up it’s time for a second reef.  Definitely consider rolling the jib in another third when the second reef goes in.

Sail to the comfort level of the least comfortable person an board.  Reefing early, often, and deep is a great way to keep the boat “flat.”  If you are looking for an enjoyable day sail, “flat” is typically what you want.  If you have any non-sailors or what I call “heeling timid sailors” on board, they will not enjoy seeing the rail in the water and waves crashing over the bow!  My wife used to be that way.  Anything more than about 15 degrees of heel and my wife’s heel alarm would go off … “Don! That’s enough of that!”  Over time she has gotten much more comfortable.  The last time we went out, we had a great close reach to San Francisco followed by a outstanding beam reach all the way back.  The toe rail was buried in the water the entire way and she had a great time.  All because we took it easy when she was first learning to enjoy this great sport.

It’s cold out there.  Speaking of comfort.  The wind San Francisco Bay is famous for comes straight off the cold waters of the Pacific.  It gets very cold, especially when the wind is accompanied by fog or the marine layer.  Dress in layers.  Wool “watch caps” and warm gloves help a lot.  Bring blankets.

Stop and smell the roses.  I’m talking about the rose in the centerpiece of the cockpit table.  Try this sometime.  Find a spot where you are sheltered from the wind, out of the traffic channels, with lot’s of room to leeward.  Then heave to or put out an anchor.  Bring out the rose centerpiece, wine, cheese, salami, and crackers and enjoy the fellowship of good friends in one of the most beautiful places in the world!  Some quick notes about heaving to.  You are still legally underway.  If you heave to on a starboard tack you retain right of way.  If you are going to heave to for more than a minute or two, douse the mainsail.  Leaving it up is noisy and the luffing isn’t good for it.

One final tip … go sailing … often!

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1 Response to Reef Early … Reef Often … Reef Deep

  1. Kat says:

    Great article Don!!

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