We are on our mooring off our cabin in Nova Scotia with the remnants of tropical storm Danny heading our way. Last weekend it was Hurricane Bill* that passed close by giving us winds to 50 knots, even in this sheltered cove.
None of this is new to us since we have spent much of the last 18 years cruising places like Newfoundland and Greenland where riding out a gale a week at anchor is pretty much the norm and where we expect to shelter from at least one full blown storm each season. I can’t claim that we are actually organized enough to have a check list, but here is what we usually do to get ready for a blow, depending on the expected wind speed. Maybe it will be of use to others—it is the season.
30 to 45 Knots
- Check that roller furling lines are cleated off.
- Secure mainsail with several sail ties over the sailcover.
- Remove outboard and all gear from dinghy.
- Set drag alarm on GPS.
- Check deck for any loose gear and secure.
- Check fluids in engine and that key is in the ignition.
- If on mooring, check for wear on chain and swivel and that all shackles are wired (plastic wire ties are NOT acceptable) either by diving, or by using the windlass to bring the chain to the surface down to the ground chain.
- If on mooring, check chafe gear at bridle and run a light line over loop on cleat. (Actually, we always secure the bridle loop to the cleat.)
- If at anchor, load anchor at 1800 RPM in reverse. In our case with a 115 hp engine and three blade Maxprop this is more load than the boat will exert in storm force winds, assuming sheltered water. In fact, we do this test pretty much every time we anchor. Even in settled weather an unexpected thunder storm can bring gale force winds.
- Remove the locks on the security covers of the navigation equipment in the cockpit, so we are not fumbling with a combo lock if we need, say, the radar in a hurry.
- Pump up the permanent backstays, and set up the runners.
- Take the cockpit cushions below.
46 to 60 Knots, Gusting Higher (in addition to the above)
- Remove jib and staysail from roller furlers.
- Wrap entire mainsail with main sheet.
- Remove spinnaker pole from front of mast and stow on deck.
- Bring dinghy aboard and lash down on foredeck.
- If on mooring, set up a line from the cockpit winch through loop on bridle and back to windlass. (To be used to facilitate getting the loop off the cleat under load if we need to drop the mooring in a hurry.) Also remove the pick up buoy so that it won’t foul when letting go.
- If at anchor, check the rolling hitches attaching the snubber to the chain (we always use a snubber when anchored) and chafing gear.
- Remove all flags.
> 60 Knots (in addition to the above)
- If at mooring, back up bridle with chain.
- Remove mainsail.
- Messenger all halyards and run to the top of the mast.
- Deflate dinghy and store below.
- Strip deck of all movable gear and store below.
- Remove dorade vents and cap off.
One other thing: Except for our own moorings in Bermuda and Nova Scotia, which are massive, we would rather be on our anchor than at a mooring when a blow is coming. See this post for why.
*Last week for Bill we prepared using the top two check lists. This week for Danny, we are just using the top one.