Safety at Sea

Most people who sail the world never get caught in a severe, life threatening ‘survival’ storm, which of course goes a long way to tell us how rare events they actually are.

Certainly no one wants to gain this kind of experience, yet it never stops bemusing me why so few seem to even think about it and make plans for how to get through an experience like that unscathed and even in relative comfort.

Today , we have access to research, like the devoted work by the retired air craft engineer Don Jordan, that actually provides a device that doesn’t cost more than one additional sail for the boat, that has saved lives and serious  boat damage for over 15 years by now.

We just bought ourselves a used heavy duty sewing machine  and intend to make ourselves a Jordan series drogue. After reading all literature I could find on heavy-weather tactics and gear, I am firmly convinced that this device is the way to go for cruising sailors who want to be prepared for the worst.

click on this link and see for your self.

picture from their website:

We have no interest in this company, other than gratitude for their tedious work of pioneering the issues of safety for world cruising boats


Check your sails regurarly and always before every longer passage. Inspect the seams for missing stitches and repair as needed. Chafe is a major cause for the thread to part since the thread is on top o the quite stiff cloth. On headsails, the area around the clew, where the sheets are attached, and the leach and also check where the hanks are attached if you have hanked on sails or otherewise the luff line/wire. On a mainsail, the slides are notorious for parting or coming off in a gust or a blow. The leach once again and perhaps most of all the batten pockets. Another problem area, depending on the rigging configuration, are the spots where the sailcloth will chafe on the lower shrouds going downwind.

Any missing stitches and chafed spots will have to be re-stitched and/or patches sewn in place.

2. The thread, given it’s poor UV-ressitance is always what will fail first on a sail. Therefore, while inspecting your sails, yoou’ll have to pry a stitch here and there, either with a needle or perhaps even your fingernail. Once the thread parts easily over larger areas (not just on chafed spots) It’s time to redo ALL the seems on that sail. Leave the job to a sailmaker if you are in an area to nd one, or do it yourself with a sewng machine or even by hand if you have to. No rocket-science here, just make new seems roguhly over where the existing ones are…. and you’re good to go another few years even in the tropics.

This might have to be repeated again over the useful life-span your sail before the time comes when the cloth itself has become UV-degraded and appears brittle at the touch. Then, there is nothing else to do than decide where to have a replacement made by a professional sailmaker.

Given, these simple, but quite time-consuming practices, a set of well made working sails should last for a crcumnavigation or about 30000 miles.

The performance-oriented sailor might say that old sails do loose their shape over time and thus reduce boat speed and increase heel. True, but only going to windward, which is avoided by most people voyaging under sail anyway. downwind, and even on a beam reach, those baggy old sails are just as good as new ones. And in very light air, the old ones outperform their new counterparts. I learned this from another friend, who is a professional racer.

3. So, what do one need to do these repairs. Like as for doing mechanical work, you’ll need a tollbox of sorts. If you can make room for it on your boat, a sewing machine (can preferrably be a simple but tough old model) should have place onboard ever cruising sailboat. It’s also so useful for makng new covers, dodger/sprayhood, lee-cloths, adn why not clothes for the crew if you so want. All the above, maybe with the exception of the full re-stitch, can be made by had though.

for this, all you need is a little collection of needles for various jobs, a sail-makers palm, (buy a good one that really fits your hand – it will last a lietime) and thread. That’s it!


I’ve read – and heard- a fair bit about lightning preoection and all that stuff but here comes the real deal. Why? -Because he had a direct hit on his current fibre glass boat! No damage at all, not even the electronics! Does that sound like good news? To me it certainly does. First hand knowledge and experience beats all theries that mostly – for obvious reasons- lacks real world prrof. After all even in this region, a direct hit from lightning is a quite rare occurrence.

So what kind of magic wound did Yann propose? Just a length of chain, the cheay stuff from the nearest hardware store will do just fine. He hangs it from one of his aft stays wheneer the black cloud is approaching and when he leaves the boat on the mooring that’s all. All that happened when the boat got hit by lightning was that the chain got ‘soldered’ to a rod of sorts. Every link was soldered to the adjacent ones by the lightning. No other damage. He’s even sailing on that same back stay today.

Of course there are different ‘strentghs’ n lightnings and it’s impossible to say that any type of ‘protection’ is 100 % , but this is clos enough to me, and if I remember the laws of physics correet from school, grounding the rigging to the ocean makes a ‘Faraday’s cage’ o the boat in the same way as a car on a road when thunder and lightning is around.

4 Responses to Safety at Sea

  1. Sergio says:

    Hi, Got a sister ship and a home made Jordan Series Drogue… just wondering where you would attach the bridle end in the cockpit… the stern cleat are not strong enough for that…maybe the main winches would be ok again they are not supported with backing plate.

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