Sooner or later you'll find yourself in the uncomfortable position of being
stuck somewhere during a big blow. Hopefully you'll see it coming but often
times you won't.
Here are a few tips we've learned from our experiences over the past two and
half years of cruising North American and South Pacific waters.
Stay on top of the weather.
Move to a better protected area of the harbor if necessary - or move to a
different harbor altogether if you have time. If I've been through winds greater
than 25 kts in one spot I'm inclined to stay put, however as I think the anchor
is well set. You know your anchor did its duty when you can barely get it back
when it's time to go and you have to break it out with the engine.
Don't listen too much to everyone else, focus on what's right for your
Tie everything down.
Have an emergency evacuation plan. This includes how to get the boat into
open water and also how to get yourselve's off to shore if necessary.
Ready your second anchor - and flake out necessary scope on deck so it
will run smoothly.
Take some relative bearings to sights on land with the hand bearing
compass - in addition to the anchor drag alarm on the GPS this will help you
know when you're dragging.
Review the re-anchoring plan with your crew.
Identify the hazards, natural and otherwise, in the anchorage.
During the Storm
Watch the barograph - the edge of a cold front will bring the strongest
winds generally. By keeping a barograph log you can track the passing of
Turn-off the VHF - when things are really bad you won't be able to help
your neighbors. Having the radio on and hearing the constant sit-reps and
mayday calls will only serve to stress you out. That said if someone's
really in trouble and you can help them then you must. You can operate a
rubber duck dink in forty knots of wind - with a good bailing system.
Take turns keeping a watch if necessary.
Keep an eye on chafe of the snubber - this is a critical item. If you
lose the snubber you'll need to be able to replace it quickly. Much of your
holding power is due to the elastic nature of the nylon if your primary rode
is all chain.
Watch out for boats around you - especially upwind of your position.
Remember: every nasty weather situation you encounter is a learning
experience and another good story for cocktail
hour down the road!
What to avoid - a yacht dragging down on everyone else near Port Vila, Vanuatu