Bluewater Lessons

In sailing there are always old lessons to be learned (or relearned) and conventional wisdom to be challenged. When I took my 57-footer offshore from Mystic, Connecticut, to Miami, Florida, I learned again that following a cold front is not always a great idea. While a forecast may be upbeat and indicate improving conditions, cold fronts—particularly those that occur when the seasons are changing—often bring nasty stuff that is best avoided, like 50 knots of wind off Cape Hatteras.

Some aspects of my boat’s layout challenge conventional sailing wisdom. She is rigged for shorthanded heavy-weather sailing with a 135 percent North triradial Spectra headsail and an in-mast-furling triradial Spectra main. The main carries no battens, and the furling systems are powered. Purists may scoff at the lost sail area, poor sail shape, and reliance on powered equipment (I do have a manual backup), but when the wind is building during a night watch, the last thing I want to do is to head up and shorten down. Whatever the purists say, it’s reassuring to be able to put some light resistance on the outhaul and then pull in the mainsail, even if it involves dragging it across the spreaders. Equipment has changed, and modern boats and gear are remarkably seaworthy and tough. The weather, however, is the same as it has always been. Bob Lally

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