LAHOWIND » Just you, me, + the dog.

When the boat’s a rockin…

(Rum Cay, Bahamas)

I have two words that are a complete game changer when it comes to crappy nights in rolly anchorages…




^^see how the bridle is going to the back of the boat.^^

We can finally say goodbye to those god awful rolly nights at anchor caused by ocean swell. You know, the ones where the darn boat will NOT stop rolling from side to side. You feel like you are on a horrible amusement park roller coaster ride that just won’t come to an end.

And try sleeping through that crap. Not fun. Ugh, those nights are the worst!

We *were* some of those lucky duck sailors who never needed to use a swell bridle until our visit to Rum Cay. Shoot, we didn’t even know what the heck it was. And actually, it was our visit to Conception Island and two super rolly nights worth of sleep (or shall I say lack of sleep) that prompted us to give just about anything a try once we arrived at Rum Cay and experienced the same darn rolly polly anchor motion.

Luckily, Jereme had literally just turned to page 133 while reading Bruce Van Sant’s Passages South and came across his notes on using a swell bridle here in Rum Cay. What are the odds?

A swell bridle is great to use in open harbors/anchorages where swell can sweep around the points. Oftentimes, that ocean swell comes barreling at the boat from a different direction than the actual wind (and you almost always anchor in the direction of the wind). So when the boat is anchored and facing into the wind, but the ocean swell is pushing against the side of the boat, it causes you to roll. And roll. And roll. Nonstop. It really stinks.

So instead of sitting miserably on the boat for another night, we followed the instructions and grabbed a boat’s length of line and tied a rolling hitch to our rode at the bow. We then cleated off the other end of the line to our stern, and let out enough scope until we were facing the swell. This technique can cause you to pitch (think boat moving up and down but from the front to the back) instead of roll (side to side). Pitching (in our opinion) is a much more comfortable feeling. It took a few “tweaks” to get the bridle length right on each side so as to point our boat in just the right direction.


^^you can see how the swell bridle is holding us on a different angle…whereas the cat in the background is facing windward.^^

And boy am I thrilled to report that it worked like a charm! Halle-freakin-lujah!

We also did a quick google search for “swell bridle” before attempting our own install based on the simple sketch and one paragraph worth of text in Van Sant’s book, and stumbled upon >>this awesome post from one of our very favorite bloggers, Brittany over at Windtraveler<<. Looks like they were in a very close spot to us (Calabash Bay, Long Island) when they first had to bust out the swell bridle. Brittany’s instructions and explanation of swell are super helpful!

The only downside to the swell bridle is boat temp. Adding the swell bridle causes you to no longer face into the wind, and therefore, you lose out on the massive airflow that typically comes in through the overhead hatches. It’s a trade off we are willing to make! We’re cranking our little boat fans on full blast instead. ;))




Jennifer - Luna SeaJune 4, 2014 - 12:31 pm

Oooh, what a great tip! I need to figure out a way to remember this – AND will go check out Windtraveler’s tips as well. Thanks!

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