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MC1 12-10-2008 11:52 PM

PSC-Specific Heavy Weather Tactics
I was reading through the Heavy Weather Sailing thread in the Seamanship forum. A lot of sailors apparently favor active sailing tactics (i.e., running off), which of course are recommended for modern flat bottomed / high aspect fin keel / spade rudder boats.

I'm wondering what PSC owners in particular feel about best storm tactics specific to the PSC hulls: moderate displacements, narrow beam, modified keel & skeg, etc.. I have a PSC 34, but I'd be interested in hearing opinions pertaining to any of the PSC models. I've read a lot about storm tactics in general, but I'm interested in hearing your thoughts based on experience with these boats in particular.

Assume for the sake of discussion that we're talking about PSCs properly equipped for offshore work, cutter rigged, staysail, storm sails, etc., and anywhere from 1 to 4 reasonably experienced crew.


mondofromredondo 12-11-2008 03:56 PM

I think the first obvious answer is to avoid the heavy weather.
But its safe to assume that this option does not always present itself.
Having sailed on a number of lighter production boats in heavy weather (30-40 kts) I've come to appreciate the ease of sailing my PSC34 in heavy weather. Can't say I've developed any real techniques other than to double reef my main and fly my staysail. I've sailed into the 30-40 kt winds with 20 foot seas as well as had all the weather on my beam. My technique was always the same. The only difference I've really experienced is when I'm running I've stayed behind the wheel as I don't trust the autopilot to react as fast as I'd like. I have a monitor wind vane which I believe would be more reactive than the autopilot but have not used it when running.
My boat "Charity Rose" has never let me down. She rolls hard when pushed but always comes right back up. She makes me feel like a pro. All I have to do is harness up and clip in and hang tight because she handles the weather way better than I do. Only problem is this boat can make u over confident as she makes it look easy.

1988 PSC 34

MC1 12-14-2008 10:29 PM

Good to hear you echo much of the sentiment I've heard Keith that the PSC's do a nice job of taking care of the crew. My PSC 34 is new-to-me, so I haven't tried heaving-to with her yet; have you tried this with Charity Rose, and if so, how'd she do with that?

mondofromredondo 12-15-2008 09:23 AM

Heavy Weather
Havent' tried heaving - to as I haven't found my self in the position to actually need to. But I definetly need to learn this technique. So for now the only heaving on my boat is my freinds when they get a little green around the gills

S/V Charity Rose
PSC 34'

DaveMancini 12-16-2008 07:32 PM


When you try heaving to, also try heaving to with just the main (reefed to appropriate wind speed). I have found the 34 has enough windage forward of the mast to allow it to fore reach with main alone (helm down). It won't gather enough way to tack and will actually ride higher to the wind that way. The main should be sheeted in fairly close. This also saves wear on the stays'l.

If I can keep sail on her to heave to, I will usually keep sailing, but sometimes you just need to rest (cook or whatever). If I can't get any sail up, I lay ahull. By that time there's enough wind in the top hamper to keep the boat fairly steady, although even with the helm down the boat will usually lay no closer than 70 or 80 degrees to the wind (keep the foredeck clear). I don't know whether that would be the case with roller furling (which I don't have) because of the increased drag forward when it's furled.

When the seas start throwing the boat around, it's time to think about running off. Of course these kinds of conditions are rare.

Dave Mancini
PSC34 #305 "Swan"

mondofromredondo 12-17-2008 09:44 AM

Good info. I've printed this to keep on Charity Rose to give a try.
Not sure u remember me but I met you in Ventura the night I purchased Charity Rose from Mike. I was having problems unfurling my jib and u came to my rescue. You and I exchanged a few emails in the past shortly before u set sail. At any rate she's turning out to be a great / safe companion on the water.

PSC 34
S/V Charity Rose

DaveMancini 12-17-2008 05:42 PM


Of course I remember you. Charity Rose is a beautiful boat, one of the best kept 34's I've ever seen. It's good to hear you are using and enjoying her the way PS's were meant to be.

Hope to see you again upon our return.


MC1 12-18-2008 12:16 AM

Dave, thanks for the tip regarding heaving-to with only the reefed main. I've done a lot of reading on the subject and haven't come across any mention of someone doing that, so I probably wouldn't have thought to try it. Its interesting also that you recommend running off as it gets rougher, I had wondered if the wineglass hull would permit staying hove-to, but perhaps you'd also need a para-anchor for that?

DaveMancini 12-18-2008 02:16 AM


Before I answer the running off question, I just want to mention one thing about heaving to under main alone: the technique is to sheet the main in hard, then SLOWLY put the helm down to avoid a luff. In other words, do not let the boat tack. The boat will lose way, then stall. The main will then stay full without luffing and the boat will ride steady.

Heaving to with some sail up is a tactic that only works if the boat will bear having sail up. And, like I mentioned, if I can keep sail up, I'd rather be sailing. There comes a point, though, when the boat becomes over pressed, where you just can't keep sail up anymore because it's too tough on the sail(s) and rig. Believe me, you will know when that point comes. At that time the boat will ride easier with no sail up at all (the 34 certainly does). The wind in the rig will be enough to steady the boat.

Most modern designs (excludes full keels), including the 34, will lie ahull beam on or slightly closer (helm down). It's fairly comfortable. But, if the wind and seas continue to increase, even this position can become ugly. Seas start to break heavily and the boat starts to get knocked down occasionally. That's when I usually decide to run off. This only works, of course, if you have plenty of sea room. This tactic returns control of the boat to you. If you don't have sea room, or the seas become too large to maintain control while running off, it's time for a Jordan series drogue or some other stern set means of radically slowing the boat down to prevent being overwhelmed. I'm not a fan of anything that proposes to keep the bow of a modern design into the wind, but that's only my opinion.

We lay ahull once for 12 hours in darkness with the 34 in 40+ knots of wind and 20 ft. seas. We might have been able to sail (destination was a close reach), but it would have been a battle. We were beat and we were able to get some good sleep this way. In the morning, the wind eased a bit and we resumed under reefed main and stays'l.

I have had to run off under bare poles once in another boat, but never in the 34. On that occasion, north of New Zealand, we did five knots under bare poles, plenty of speed to maintain control. I am sure the 34 would handle similarly.

Again, conditions that require running off or drogues, etc. are rare in the experience of most cruisers who don't sail routinely in high latitudes. Hope this helps.


mondofromredondo 12-18-2008 12:17 PM

This old boat
This old boat has truly changed my level of confidence in nasty weather. My previous boat was a Cal 34' which was a joy to sail but never had the solid feel that my PSC has. When I was being launched off of a swell with a hard crash in my Cal I use to hear every part of the boat creak and groan like I do when I get up in the morning. The PSC can launch and drop hard with hardly a sound coming from the boat. Dave, did u know Jim and Heather aboard a 50' Catamaran in Ventura? I just bought property from them in Mexico.

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