SAIL

SQUALL STRATEGIES

Our first encounter with a big squall was sailing from San Diego to Ensenada, Mexico. We left at 0200 to ensure we’d get into Ensenada before our 1300 haulout time. The National Weather Service had forecast consistent 15-20 knot winds from the northwest, which was perfect for the 60-mile run down the coast. We hoisted sails as soon as we were out of the San Diego Harbor channel, keeping a reef in the mainsail as is our policy for night sailing. The wind was exactly as predicted, and we cruised across the border under a moonless sky.

A short while later, as we were admiring the lights of Tijuana, we noticed the wind lessening, then backing to the west. “That’s weird,” I thought as I moved to trim the sails. Instantaneously, we were laid down by a 35-knot blast out of the southwest, the sails flogging wildly as the boat rounded up. Shocked we sought to get the boat under control. With our full genoa out and only one reef in the main, we were grossly over-canvassed.

After letting out the mainsheet I set about reefing the headsail as white spray flew over the bow. Once the headsail was furled to the second reef point

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