Knowledge is power, by Jackie Parry

22nd March 2022 Jackie Parry

Knowledge is power, by Jackie Parry

What do you do when things turn pear-shaped? Do you freeze in fear? Or do you have  a clear idea in your mind of what to do first? Thinking straight during an emergency is not easy. Can you cope with the sails flogging or the engine screaming and focus on the water ingress?

Researching what to do in such situations and planning is crucial. Your life (and your crew’s life) may depend on it.

Fatigue is often one of the main causes of incidents on the water. Here are some tips to help manage fatigue on board.

Set Limits

What’s your limit for a pleasant day’s sail with friends? Maybe it’s 20 to 25 knots of wind. Or perhaps it’s two-metre seas. Set limits and don’t break them, so you’re always comfortable.

Be adaptable

A good skipper and crew are adaptable. You can’t set rigid watches unless they work for everyone. Watches have to be adjusted around challenges, severe weather, breakages, fear, and seasickness. Make sure everyone is rested through the day and night.



A good knowledge base is imperative for everyone on board. How can you rest sufficiently when you are off watch if you cannot 100% rely on your crew/skipper?

Ask yourself some important questions 

If I fall overboard, will the crew be able to control the boat, turn it around and find me, and then haul me out of the water? Answer honestly.

Take a rest 

Learn how to heave to. This technique isn’t just great in severe weather. It’s also useful when it’s  a bit bouncy and you haven’t slept properly. If you are exhausted and you need to rest, this may be the best way. This removes pressure on the vessel, its systems and equipment, and on you.

Turn around

Severe weather puts enormous stress on the boat and rigging. It’s exhausting for everyone on board. If you can’t turn around and head back to port, then point the boat in a different direction. Go downwind or go with the waves, if you have the sea room. Give everyone a break.


Speak up

It’s not a show of weakness to turn around, change direction, heave to, or just to tell someone on board you are tired or seasick. It is considered good seamanship amongst professional mariners. 


Learn techniques for controlling the boat in heavy weather, such ashow to you deploy your sea anchor or drogue. Make sure you practice the techniques before you actually need to implement them.

Sail in the groove 

Learn how to sail in the groove. This involves balancing the sails well (or keeping a steady speed under motor) and  maintaining a set course using minimal wheel or tiller movement. The boat rides the waves in a smoother motion; it rolls and pitches less, which allows the helmsperson and crew to relax and enjoy the experience. 



Err on the side of caution, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.


Phrases such as ‘she’ll be right’ (especially if you’ve previously voiced concerns) should raise a red flag.

Tasks at hand

If you understand a problem when it happens (an engine repair for example) and can help fix it, dealing with it will give you something to concentrate on instead of your fear. If a crew member is panicking, issue tasks.

And of course, use the Deckee App. You can download it from the App Store or Google Play.

Jackie Parry is the founder of Sistership Training, a sailing education platform that operates both online and in the real world, in Australia. Jackie organises classes and workshops with her husband and partner Noel Parry.

The Parry's and their team are holding live workshops about emergency preparedness around Australia in March and April 2022. You can register here or by calling 0458 391660.

Check out the presenters involved at this link.

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