I've been debating the merits of heaving-to versus taking all the sails down and going bare poles in extremely heavy weather. What's your opinion of which is better in the scenario below?
Scenario: You're daysailing in smallish (25'-30') outboard-powered sloop about 2 or 3 miles offshore and nasty squall/front/storm rolls in with the potential for 50mph+ winds. What would you do?
A lot of this depends on the wind direction. If the wind is blowing on-shore, then the land is a lee shore, and running off under bare poles will probably get you dead fairly quickly.
Even heaving-to might not be the best option.
If you have the proper storm sails, and the storm is not expected to last all that long, you might be better off sailing through the storm.
If the wind is off-shore, then that's a different story. Running under bare poles or a storm jib is probably not a bad idea.
Heaving to may slow the boat drastically, but it really depends on the boat's design. Many fin keeled or centerboard boats will not heave-to all that well, and will forereach instead.
If the sea state is calm enough, motoring might not be a bad option... but keep the sails at the ready, just in case.
My inexperienced thoughts tell me that the boat would heave-to in those conditions, or that something would break if you tried it. However, I've read stories of vessels on bluewater passages riding out storms for days at time while hove-to. Perhaps heaving-to is better suited for taking a break from sailing or stopping the boat in an emergency rather than waiting out heavy weather?? Or perhaps you should heave-to in heavy weather when it's too dangerous to be in the cockpit and you need to stay below and know that the boat isn't going to wander too much??
The problem I see with taking all the sails down in a small outboard-powered sailboat is that you'll have no control over the boat because the wave height will likely render the outboard useless.
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