Now it gets interesting! Working your way through waves is what separates the good from the really good sailors. In general, you head up in the flat spots, and foot off a few degrees when the waves are larger.
How you attack individual waves depends on boat speed at that moment and wave shape. Usually you head off a bit to help keep up boat speed as you encounter the wave, and then allow the bow to feather into the wind as you break through the crest. This is followed by an immediate change in course back to leeward to get the boat moving again before the next wave comes along.
Short of getting out there and practicing, it is difficult to convey the actual technique for steering a boat quickly and comfortably up hill. But keep in mind that the same thing which works in little waves also applies to big ones, just the finessing is different.
We want to close this chapter with a series of photos showing a variety of yachts beating in different wave situations. While many of these are racing boats, the techniques described work for short-handed cruisers, too!
Working waves upwind requires constant awareness of what the boat is doing at present, and what waves are coming at you in the next few seconds. In the top photo we have a boat driving through the crest of a medium-sized wave. Assuming good speed a few seconds prior, the helmsman will pinch up a few degrees as the wave starts to impact the bow. Then as the boat begins to work its way through the crest (below) the helm is put down and the boat eased off the wind a hair to speed her up (and keep good flow over the keel and rudder).
In the upper photo the boat has broken through the crest and pulled off to leeward. Speed is increased. At this point begin to bring the boat back higher on the wind until speed starts to drop to the optimum level for beating (target boat speed if you are sailing to polars). Below shows a similar situation. The boat is going fast, footing off after a wave, and is now about to be headed higher to convert some of the footing boat speed into height to windward.
A relative flat spot (above) compared to the majority of the seas on this windy afternoon. Smooth spots like this occur from time to time allowing you to pinch up to weather five degrees or more. Once the bigger seas come back, the boat needs to head back off the wind a few degrees to keep up speed.
The boat in the lower photo has been caught by two waves close together (and it is blowing a gale). They have been slowed down by the sea they'vejust crossed, and now another wave is about to further slow progress. The only solution is to head off to get speed up and the keel/rudder working again. If you have sufficient crew aboard, the sheets would be eased at the same time the boat is headed off, and then trimmed again as speed is built and the boat headed back onto a close hauled course.
As wind and seas build you will find it necessary to point lower so as to maintain good speed for the keel and rudder. Pinching in these conditions is counterproductive as it leads to stalled fins and excess leeway.
A cutter stay slows down your tacking procedure as the sail wraps around the wire. It will double or triple the time that is required to complete the tack. In addition, the act of the sail wrapping around the wire causes the sail fabric to break down. On old style "soft" Dacron fabrics, with little or no resin, this was not a big issue. But modern laminated fabrics have a very short life span if forced to slide by a cutter stay. We always remove our cutter stay before short-tacking.
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Lets start by identifying what exactly certain boats are. Sometimes the terminology can get lost on beginners, so well look at some of the most common boats and what theyre called. These boats are exactly what the name implies. They are meant to be used for fishing. Most fishing boats are powered by outboard motors, and many also have a trolling motor mounted on the bow. Bass boats can be made of aluminium or fibreglass.