- Reef the main and jib together. It's tempting to just roll in a little jib, but taken too far she gets way out of balance. Lowering the traveler can help, but she'll be happier reefed.
- Keep the jib tight when the wind is up. Not over sheeted--it's hard to over the sheet the genoa because of the shroud location and chose reasonable self-tacker lead locations to avoid backwind--but not eased off and full. You are trying to keep the center of effort well forward, to keep her driving and using the keel properly for leverage.
- Keep the traveler at or below the center. Never add too much pressure aft.
- Don't over sheet the main. The leach tell tales should always stream aft; they are the important ones on this boat. Don't worry if the windward tell tales lift.
- Drop the traveler a little on every tack, particularly if single-handing. It's tough to get the genoa sheeted back in fast enough to maintain balance, particularly if a sheet hangs-up. Without the jib she will tack nicely... and then turn right back head to wind, into irons. Pull the traveler back up once she has gained some speed.
- Remove all sheets from the self-tailing jaws of winches. There is simply too much delay, while the sailor unwinds all of this in an unexpected gust. Better, leave only 2 turns on the drum and place the tail in a conveniently placed cam cleat. More than 2 turns will often snarl into a tight override if eased quickly. Three or four turns are acceptable if a crewman will actively trim and only release with a hand placed properly on the drum (read any standard text, practice the method and watch your fingers).
- Balance. With the effort forward, the boat will stay well balanced. Off the wind, the balance point of the sails moves outboard, because they are eased and also because the direction of their effort changes (less sideways and more forward). If you do not move the center of effort forward this outboard force will pull her around to windward, the helm can get heavy and she will try to round up in spite of your efforts at the wheel.
- Anticipate gusts and waves by bearing off. Gusts will move the apparent wind forward, causing the center of effort to move forward. Waves will push the transom and encourage rounding-up. Anticipate and steer off when you feel the beginning of a push. Expect that the autopilot will not do so well--it cannot anticipate or feel the rise of the boat on a wave front.
- Steer for balance. Dingy sailors learn to steer to keep the boat under the mast. The rule is unchanged when it gets wild. Always steer for balance.
- Reducing sail. Always roll-up jib by heading straight down wind first to blanket it behind the main. This will greatly reduce the chance of a jammed furler. Make certain you furler lead is fair; mine was badly misaligned by the installer. Immediately take a matching reduction in the main to keep balance. You may have to come up wind for this. Often I roll in a lot of jib, come in to the wind to reef the main, and then bear off and let some jib back out.
- If a rudder is either lifted from the water or even significantly ventilated by the passage of a wave or excessive heel, half of the grip is lost.A round up is likely.
- The main should be reefed more than the genoa, since the main is larger and tends to have more projected area. This will result in better balance.
- Rig a preventer. This will "prevent" accidental jibes.
- The wind can build without your noticing it, since the ride is typically smooth. You may need to reef before jibing out of this rig.
Heaving To: the practice of backing the jib while keeping the helm alee, for the purpose of parking the boat on a close reaching course, but with no way on. Often presented as a heavy weather management method, it is inappropriate to most multihulls; most "authorities" and most experienced cruisers will agree, although there are certainly some multihulls and some moderately poor weather circumstances where it can be just fine. Every rule has its exceptions, but they don't disprove the rule. The difficulty is that while monohulls can lay down on one side if a strong gust or wave strikes and relieve the pressure, where multihulls will at worst go over and at best give a rough ride. Heaving to places a multihull in its most vulnerable position, while running off plays to a multihulls strength by allowing the great width to provide a stable platform.
PDQ catamarans can achieve quite high speeds, even with displacement hulls. For the PDQ 32, various references predict top speeds in the 15-knot range. This speed potential leads new converts to multihulls into unreasonable expectations of cruising performance. To put things into perspective, note that the racing trimaran Steinlager has a maximum speed capability in the 30-knot range, yet she won the tough 1988 Around Australia race at an average speed of 9 knots. The fastest monohull of comparable length averaged 6 knots. Perhaps then, for planning cruises, it is best to expect an average for your PDQ no more than faster than an equivalent monohull.
Sailing in strong winds in a well-built, well-equipped boat is one of life's greatest pleasures. There is, however, a point when strong winds become excessive. A major part of good seamanship is knowing when enough is enough. It is not possible to be precise about when certain evolutions should be carried through: crew skill and attitude, the stability of
the wind and the state of the sea will all affect vour boathanding decisions. In dealing with a high or rapidly rising wind, the goal is to reduce the wind's power on your boat and, by responding to changes quickly and smoothly, maintain everyone's confidence in your collective ability to deal with the weather.
- De-power the main by flattening it with the outhaul.
- Raise the traveler and ease the sheet, so the main's upper section twists off to leeward.
- Take the first reef.
- Limit your boatspeed.
- Place a crew member on the traveler, ready to ease the main in gusts.
- Reef again to suit the gusts. (Sail loading rises with the square of the wind speed, so a 10-knot gust on top of a 25-knot wind will double the wind pressure.)
- Put a crew member on the jib sheet.
- Reduce sail to the absolute minimum.
- At 20 knots true wind: first reef in the main.
- At 25 knots true wind: second reef in the main.
- Over 40 knots: run off at 120" to 140" apparent wind angle under jib alone.
One of the key factors to surviving bad conditions offshore is to keep your boatspeed down. In a monohull, this is generally done by lying ahull or heaving to. Neither of these techniques is recommend for the catamaran. With no heel angle to reduce the weight of wind on the mast and rigging and to reduce the lateral resistance of the hull and keels, the full force of the storm bears on the boat. This puts unreasonable stresses on the boat and increases the likelihood of damage or capsize.
almost always tougher than the crew. Many have been abandoned by their crews, often with fatal results, and the yachts have been found later, afloat and intact. The infamous 1979 Fastnet Race was a good example of this phenomenon. Learn to trust your boat, and if the unthinkable happens, stay with it.
"They do turn over, don't they?" is frequently heard from sailors with no experience of multihulls.
In his book, Rod Gibbons tells us that I,iovd's of London rates are the same for production boats, monohui )r multihull. He also reports that the Catfisher (70 produced in ten years) has a 100% safety record. Catalac and Prout also have superb safety records. The similarity of insurance rates authoritatively tells us that the wrong combination of wind and sea can visit trouble on any sailboat.
than a comparable calamity with a monohull. With the monohull, there is nothing left to photograph, whereas the multihull is often recovered to sail again.
wind can capsize a catamaran, but achieving this in a PDQ would require serious negligence or foolhardiness by the crew. The theoretical danger level for the PDQ 32 is about 28 knots of wind on the beam with full sail sheeted fore and aft. Failure to notice the risk would require an absurd level of inattention and the sails would probably rip before the boat went over. Chris White's The Cruising Multihull provides a good discussion of risky situations. Waves play a substantial part in the capsize of boats, particularly if any combination of shallow water or current combines with winds of gale force and above to produce breaking waves. Such conditions are dangerous, but a sensible crew can deal
with them, as described above. If a capsize should occur, however, there is one rule and one rule only: stay with the boat. With its combination of light weight, lack of ballast, closed cell foam hull sandwich and flotation
compartments, the PDQ 32 resists sinlung even when full of water. Crews that have been living on an upturned boat are not normally very happy with their situation, but they are often in reasonable health, having had access to food and water from the boat's stores. Compare that with the various fates meted out to monohull crews...
The closest encounter with capsize experienced by a PDQ crew occurred when a PDQ 36 was running at 22 knots under spinnaker in 30 knots of wind. The boat was dancing on its bows when the crew cut the sheet. This should not be regarded as conventional cruising behavior and the company will not celebrate your attempts to produce a more lively anecdote.
Note: in 2015 I modified the keel to farther improve balance. Look for the post.