Radio Fear

Morgan’s Cloud was anchored in a snug cove in Maine. We had tied everything down on deck and stripped the headsails from the furlers. Hurricane Kyle was bearing down on the coast with forecast 60 knot winds, gusting higher; no worse than we have ridden out many times before in high latitude anchorages, so we were watchful but certainly not fearful.

I turned the VHF radio to what used to be NOAA (National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration) Weather Radio for the latest forecast. (Prior to coming out to the anchorage we had been tracking the storm on the internet.) But instead of the forecast we got a series of warnings telling us that hurricanes are dangerous and advising us to stock up on emergency supplies. As I listened my stomach knotted involuntarily in response to the litany of potential death and destruction, even though I knew that Kyle was only a category one storm at the end of its life.

After ten minutes the litany started again with no intervening marine forecast. I ask you, what bureaucrat decided that it is more important for us to be told that we should have spare batteries for our flashlights than to hear the forecast prepared by the meteorologists at NOAA—in my experience, some of the best in the business? (A forecast that would have told us that Kyle had veered off toward Nova Scotia and would give us winds of less than 15 knots.)

The missing forecast was bad enough, but I think there is a bigger issue here: we are being taught to fear nature, rather than to just respect it. NOAA All Hazards Radio, as the same bureaucrat has re-named NOAA Weather Radio, now makes a simple summer cold front with embedded thunder storms sound like impending Armageddon. Anyone listening to this rubbish is going to be afraid to go out of his or her front door, never mind go offshore sailing.

We will now return to our regular programming.

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Meet the Author

John

John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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