Avoid being stopped by waves.


When I was taught to sail we were told to sit well forward so that the transom does not drag in the water. But I recently found that if there are big waves, which stop the boat when they hit the bow, it is better to sit further aft, so that the bow then glides over the waves rather than slamming into them. The small amount of drag caused by the transom dragging seems negligible by comparison. I will try to put up some video showing this.

beermatt's picture

I seem to remember being taught* in light winds to sit forward to lift the stern out, and also try to heel the boat over so it has a slimmer profile in the water, both with a view of presenting as little boat to the water as possible so there is the least drag. But only in light winds. In good/strong winds I was told (or read more likely*) that it is opposite - you want to shift your weight towards the stern and keep the boat as flat as possible - presenting a wide flat surface for it to lift up and plane on.

(*Can't remember where this all came from now, possibly "The Mirror Book" by Wiley Nautical.)

This seems to work well going across or down the waves, but the issue I had with sitting too far back while charging forward into the waves is that the now very lightweight bow would bounce up erratically over each crest, finding itself with a big fall back down into the ensuing trough, and each bounce stalls the boats momentum and also send the top of the rig hurtling backwards then hurtling forwards again with each wave, which disrupted the air profile over the sails. Moving weight forward (wave direction approaching from the front still), does cause a more dramatic crash as you power through each wave, with spray and foam being furiously driven out of the boat's path, but it keeps the boat more level which seems to hold its momentum better and prevent the rig from seesawing around (which disrupts the airflow over the sails less). You may be talking of a less exagerrated weight shift than I am though, also if the boat is weighed down quite heavily with cruising gear it may dampen the bow-bouncing affect. Still, food for thought.

For large waves, bring your boat down off plane and cross the wave at idle speed at right angles to the waves. For small waves, simply slow down to what feels prudent and cross. Remember again, crossing at too parallel a course to the wave will lock you into a trough and cause your boat to swerve.

curlew's picture

I think I noticed the advantage of sitting further back in small waves, those which slow the boat down.
Another interesting situation is sailing parallel to the waves, ie waves on the beam, as may happen when on a coastal passage. We have to round up to the big ones of course, but lesser ones we just take. There is an interesting question that do we keep the boat truly flat or parallel to the sloping water? If truly flat I found the water on a typical wave slope was just licking my fingers on the gunnel but not coming over. If the slope gets any more you need let the boat heel to avoid the water coming over the gunnel.

DavidH's picture

Kayak wisdom (at least that from the South Wales Kayak Anglers Association, which is the only mildly formal kayak training I've undergone) would have you lean into a wave coming at you on the beam. Of course in a kayak we use a paddle to stabilise ourselves, like an outrigger, the main aim being to remain upright. David's suggestion of heeling the boat to parallel with a sloping wave, to reduce water ingress, makes perfect sense in a dinghy.