How to Reduce Heeling

We’re not perfect sailors, we just are sailors because we have a sailboat and we get out and go.  We don’t have any piece of paper or certificates that even tell us we can sail.  We just do, which means we sometimes do it imperfectly.  And it seems we certainly did on the way to Cuba, as we received many comments on our sail trim in response to “Heavy Heeling” video, which is great.  Most were very helpful, dead-on and worth sharing.  Particular thanks goes out to our good friends, Kevin, our broker with Edward Yacht Sales who helped us find our beloved Niagara (a match made in heaven!) and Brandon, our trusted yacht repairman with Perdido Sailor, Inc., who rightfully gave us some much-deserved ribbing after watching our last video and then some very helpful sail trim tips that I felt were definitely worthy of passing on to you all.  That way when YOU set sail on your own bada$$ voyage to Cuba or elsewhere, your sail trim will be primo!

While our sail trim in the last video wasn’t terrible (as the sails were balanced enough for auto to hold and the boat was performing very well), there is always for improvement.  Here’s what we could have done better:

1.  Flattened the Headsail


Brandon was quick to point this out.  “You have got to flatten the sail in head winds,” he said.  “The flatter the sail, the less you will heel.”  And, I’ll be the first to admit this is a little hard to do (just for me personally) because you have to really crank on the winch, until your genny sheet is as stiff as a guitar string.  The lines on the winch will scream and yelp, and you’ll think something is probably about to break, but you’ve got to make yourself do it to truly get the best sail shape.  It also helps to turn up into the wind for a short time to let some wind out of the sail while you crank her in.

2.  Moved the Genny Car Back


This definitely would have helped us pull the headsail taut and get a much flatter shape.  This also would have helped us point upwind better, too.

3. Furled the Genny More


We have a 135 genoa, so she is pretty big and comes back (when fully out) almost to the dodger, which means, we’ve got a lot of furling to do when we really want to reef her in.


We had about three wraps on the forestay during the “heavy heeling” footage from our last video, with the genny out to a point about a foot or two aft of the mast.  It probably would have served us better that first rough night and morning to have reefed her just forward of the mast (probably two or three more wraps) the evening before at sunset.  We did that later, toward the end of day two of our voyage and it was more comfortable.

4. Run Our Reefing Line on the Clew of the Main Down to the Boom


Kevin pointed this out to us and it was a definite “Aha!” moment.  If you recall, Phillip and I had dropped the main when we were preparing for this voyage to have our local sailmaker, Hunter Riddle with Schurr Sails, put a third reef in our main.  I showed footage of us in our “Heavy Weather Planning” video re-running our reefing lines when we put the main back on, and it turns out Phillip and I had done it wrong.


When Phillip and I did it, we ran the reef lines for Reef 1 and Reef 2 of our main at the clew from the end of the boom straight to the respective Reef points in the sail and secured it with a bowline, not recalling exactly how they had been run before.


As Kevin pointed out, we should have taken each reef line, gone through the grommet for the reef point and then run it down to the boom and secured it with a bowline to the boom.


That would have enabled us, when pulling our Reef 2 at the clew line in the cockpit to pull the sail both aft and down at the same time, instead of just aft.  Thanks Kevin.  We will be re-running those before we go offshore next time.  That will also alleviate the need for the additional strap that we affixed from the clew to the boom during our voyage to Cuba.

5. Pulled the Reef Down to the Boom 


“All that baggage is extra windage,” Brandon said.  And he was right.  Setting the reef in our main, because it is set with two separate reefing lines, one at the tack and one at the clew, does not always result in a perfect result.  Sometimes the tack point is lower than the clew, or vice versa, and the reef looks a little crooked.  Here, we had them level, just not down flush with the boom.  We should have continued to pull both points down until the foot of the reefed sail was sitting on the boom.  (And if you want to get real crazy you can flake and secure down the rest of the sail and lash it to the boom, if you have multiple reefing grommets in your main to really secure the sail down and prevent windage from baggage, or so goes the adage ; ).

6. Moved our Jerry Cans Aft


This one is not really a sail trim tip, but it will affect how your boat rides in the water so it is relevant.  All that effort we went to in our “Provisions and Preparations” video to move as much weight aft as we could to enable our boat to ride better in heavy seas, and then we tied two five-gallon jerry cans of fuel right at the bow.  Brandon thought this was really funny.  Our best answer?  To keep the walkway on the deck clear when we had to go to the bow to handle the sails, which I guess is a plausible answer, but probably not the best one.  It’s not very common that you have to go up to the foredeck to mess with the sails or even if it is, it’s not too much more trouble to step over some jerry cans while you’re already bobbing and bouncing and tethering in.  We should have moved them back further.  Although they definitely would have gotten in the way of this awesome photo.  I mean, if you’re going to head to the bow in some rough seas, you better be sure to get the money shot!


Hope you all have found some of these lessons helpful.  Phillip and I are both learning as we go and we definitely find a new or better way to do something each time we take our boat offshore.  We also definitely make plenty of mistakes and always try to share them.  Wait until you see our next video.  Can anyone tell me why it might not be a good idea to pour some of your jerry can fuel into the tank on starboard in seas like this?

Anyone?  Anyone?