We all know and understand the power of mother nature. She can offer bliss sailing and cruising conditions as a reward, and then as punishment she can construct the most brutal of storms.
Thankfully with todays technology, we are able to forecast storms fairly accurately which allows the boat owner to prepare for the worst. We highlight the damages and effects, whilst also taking a look at the precautions you can take to keep your boat safe during these storms mother nature may inflict in your areas.
How to identify local storms within your area.
If you are a seasoned navigator this section may not be valuable for you, however for the weekend sailor/cruiser, we are able to offer some advise on how best to plan your trips around weather patterns, and making sure you are ready for incoming storms or inclement weather that may be heading your way.
1. Wind forecasting apps.
As a sailor, wind is your driving force to get the yacht to your desired location. It is imperative that you have wind to travel long distances from point A to B, however too much wind is dangerous and uncomfortable. It is not recommended to take long journeys in anything more than force 6 (22kts-27kts).
As a motor cruiser, you would prefer far less wind to travel, as you may not have large stabiliser to keep your journey comfortable in high winds, which ultimately brings high seas.
With modern technology, you are able to keep up to date with current forecast which are constantly updated. Not only that, you are also able to look at live weather updates around your cruising areas.
You are able to download weather apps such as Predict Wind, Wind Guru, accuweather and NOAA Marine weather to name a few.
2. VHF and SSB radio. The Coastguard has a duty to inform maritime of inclement weather, and with this they transmit forecasts and current weather in different areas. Worldwide the channels differ on VHF, however you are always able to find a main forecast on the hour on either VHF or SSB radio. Commonly known as the shipping forecast.
3. Visual data (barometer, cloud, and sea state visuals). If you are traveling far and wide, your barometer is a great indicator of inclement weather. If you see any sharp changes with your barometric pressure, you can immediately expect a change in weather. Specifically if the barometric pressure drops significantly, you can expect a low pressure system very soon, so batten down the hatches, reef your sails and expect to have a rough time. Keep an eye on the clouds, the clouds tell a great story of what is to come. Have a look at your local chandlery for cloud publications. Further more, the sea-state never lies, and you are able to see a change in weather by a change in the sea-state.
How to prepare for storms.
In general, damages to yachts during storms are caused by lack of preparation. Regardless if you are out sailing, or your vessel is berthed or sat ashore, it is still your responsibility to prepare the yacht for storms. The below section highlights how you can prepare for a storm
1. While your yacht is sat on its berth, make sure the mooring lines are tied properly and to the correct cleats or points on your yacht.
2. Make sure the batteries have sufficient charge to operate your bilge pumps for long periods, make sure your shore power is plugged into the boat and battery charger is working.
3. While you are sailing, make sure your electronics are working, Your VHF is key to staying in touch with fellow boaters around you who may be in trouble, and on the flip side, you may rely on it to reach out to them if you have trouble.
4. Have you taken the proper precaution for forecasted storms? Provisioning takes shape in more ways than just fresh food on board. You should always be looking at having a supply of food that outlasts your anticipated trip time. On top of that, preparing your kit is equally as important. From making sure your storm sails are on board and serviceable right the way through to the waterproof and sunproof layers that you’ve packed – staying warm and protected is crucial to staying alert for your passage.
Do you understand the damages that a storm surge could cause your vessel?
If you’re unlucky enough to not be able to move your yacht out of the way of a storm, then battening down the hatches may be your only solution to avoiding serious damage. Whilst you almost certainly are taking into account the anticipated change in wind strength, very few sailors make adequate preparations for storm surge. One reason behind this, is that the storm surge differs from location to location. Certain marinas may have their pontoons pop over the top of their pilings and leave yachts completely unsecured and drifting in the storm in a worse case scenario, however most marinas would be adequately prepared and storm surge can be tackled with sufficient lines.
An area where storm surge is more difficult to gauge, is on land. If your yacht is laid up ashore, then you’ll have a difficult decision to make as to whether or not to strap her down to the cradle or to the floor. If it is the latter, and the storm surge rises enough to re-float your yacht, then you may have the same situation with a marina popping over it’s pilings… Our recommendation here is speaking with your insurance underwriters. If you’re in a storm prone area, then you’ll probably have a hurricane preparation plan which you’ll need to abide to. This will lay out exactly what you need to do in the vent of a hurricane to prepare your yacht.