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Puff On! Staying Comfortable in Big Breeze

When you take friends and family out for their first cruise, you want everyone to enjoy their time on the water. But if sailing conditions are less than ideal, you’ll want to take some extra measures to ensure everyone’s comfort. Here are tips from Quantum expert Andrew Waters for keeping your guests happy and safe on the water.

Check the Weather

Before heading out, spend time reviewing the forecasts for your location and route. Be realistic about the experience level and comfort of the guests you’re taking on board – a gusty day might not be the best choice for a group of novices. Checking the weather before you leave will help you plan for the day and set realistic expectations with your passengers. Adjust your destination or day-sailing plans according to the breeze direction and intensity. You don’t want to start off on a run only to realize that building breeze and a longer-than-anticipated fetch will make it tough to get home. 

It's important to keep an eye on the forecast as it can change quickly, especially on the water. Apps such as SailFlow give you a better understanding of what's going on out there. Here are some apps and sources we recommend for weather, but always remember to trust your eyes and what you see over what your electronics are telling you. 

Once you're on the water, keep an eye on the horizon and boats ahead of you. If you start to see whitecaps or heeling boats, it might be time to add a reef or head back. For more information read A Quick Guide to Reefing.

Prep Your Passengers

While you’re on the dock, set realistic expectations by giving everyone the rundown of what to expect on board, and make sure you know the physical abilities of each passenger. Hand out life jackets and other safety equipment as needed (there should always be more than enough safety equipment to go around whenever you leave the dock). Explain to novice crew that it is normal for the boat to be more heeled over, the deck to get wet, and that spray is a thrill of the experience. You may be a seasoned skipper, but don't press on if things are getting uncomfortable for your guests. Here are a few more tips to make sure novice sailors have a good experience.

Tune Up and Check Equipment

Make sure your rig setup is inspected annually by a rigger (always a good idea for insurance, too) so your boat is able to handle any condition you might find yourself in, particularly when conditions change quickly. While cruising boats often have limited on-the-water rig adjustments, an adjustable backstay is fairly common. Playing your backstay by having more backstay in upwind breezes and less in downwind will keep your rig ready to handle whatever comes across the water. Make sure your furling systems are working properly so you can reliably de-power when the breeze comes up. Inspect deck equipment before failure ends a fun day on the water. 

Over-Canvassed

After checking the weather, you should have a good idea of how much sail you’ll need for the conditions, but err on the side of caution. It’s easier to shake out a reef than it is to put one in when conditions pick up or get puffy. If you need help with how many reefs to use or where, read this guide. You’ll have more control if you start your sail with a conservative amount of canvas. You can always add more later if needed.
 
If you’re wondering if you’re equipped with the right sails, reach out to the Quantum team to see what else you might need. You can also explore these guides on building your inventory: headsails, mainsails, and downwind sails.

Play the Sheets

Set-it-and-forget-it won’t work on a puffy day. Mainsheet and traveler make a big difference, so learn how to quickly dump the main in puffy situations to get the boat back on its feet. In puffs, ease the sails or head up to reduce sudden heel or overpowering. If you need more headway, you can sheet-in when the puff passes. 

In puffs, you’ll be easing and trimming more than in consistent breeze, so don't forget to assign roles to your guests if they're comfortable helping. Rotate passengers on and off the sheets to keep anyone from getting too tired.

Keep Calm

The skipper’s attitude and confidence level will filter down to all those aboard. If the skipper seems concerned, the passengers will pick up on it. Know what you’re doing and direct with confidence. If you encounter an emergency, act calm (even if you don’t feel calm). Your passengers will respond in kind.

Head Up or Run

If it’s getting wild on the water, try to sail downwind, which will keep the boat flat, or head into the wind as much as possible to minimize heel. How you respond will depend on the direction of the wind and your voyage. If you’re under-canvassed, you should be able to maintain control of the boat at both points of sail as long as you maintain forward motion. 

Tend to The Sick

If building waves and breeze have your guests turning green, there’s not much you can do besides returning to shore. Find a comfortable place for seasick guests to sit, which ideally is the leeward, forward portion of the cockpit. This minimizes the chances they’ll slip and fall while woozy, and if they do get sick, they don’t have far to go. And if they’re comfortable and secure, chances are they’ll nod off until you get to the dock. Here are a few tips on seasickness from the Quantum team.

Have fun on the water with your guests, and don't hesitate to reach out to Andrew Waters with any questions.

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