Our latest installment in our Rigging for Beginners” video series includes some safety tips for moving around on deck while reefing a mainsail. As promised, below are some slides which can be downloaded and saved for future use.

Sending a crew member on deck during adverse conditions cannot always be avoided, but there are steps which can be taken to minimise potential accidents.

It’s better to be reefed and not need it, than to need it and not be reefed. By staying updated on weather forecasts will help you prepare for weather systems which might test you and your vessel. Ocean passage guides and almanacs could also give you information regarding prevailing wind speeds and direction. This can eliminate late-night reefing maneuvers which are potentially dangerous and extremely uncomfortable. Keep an eye on barometer readings, warning signs in the sky and changing seas.

Most sailing schools and authors on the subject, as well as most safety-oriented sailors will tell you the same thing… As soon as it enters your mind, then do it. So what if the wind doesn’t blow as forecast, if the decision is made with safety in mind, it will never be the wrong decision.

Reefing is an action that sometimes needs to be completed as quickly as possible. This action will also require good communication skills and teamwork. Attempting to reef in a pressure situation without the necessary skills or planning could put you and your crew into a high-risk environment, and will seriously test your marriage/relationship and affect your future sailing plans. Not only should you and your crew be ready to reef at short notice, your vessel should be ready too. Don’t find out too late that your dingy restricts access to your reef hook or nobody remembers where the reef ties are packed.

Remember, this is usually done in rough conditions and should not be attempted without a lifejacket and harness. Finding someone who has gone overboard in such conditions is extremely difficult and will require serious advanced sailing skills by those left on board. In extreme conditions use two harness hooks so you can always be clipped in, even when moving around certain areas. Stay on the windward side of the boat and always have at least one hand on the boat at all times.

Can you do this alone..? When preparing for a long voyage, especially short-handed sailing where crews consist of couples, can one person take care of things if the other half of the team is ill or injured? That’s how prepared you need to be if safety is your top priority.

The full video and the series can be found at:

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