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.
As we are expecting Hurricane Earl tomorrow, we just reviewed this list and did all the items on the 46-60 knot list. I also added removing the spinnaker pole from the front face of the mast and stowing it on deck. Not only does this reduce the overall windage, cutting down on windage forward reduces the amount the boat surges around in the gusts.
Great ideas…Here is one more: if your boat like mine shears around in high winds try anchoring from the stern. My Rival 32 just sits exactly stern to the wind and all shearing stops. In 50 knots the stress on the anchor line is 1/2 or less as when anchored from the bow. Donald Jordan is correct! The boat sits so quietly it is amazing.
In winds up to 45 to 50 I usually use a spitfire jib (25 sq feet) hoisted on the back stay. That reduces the swing around by 50% but in winds over that I don’t know if the spitfire jib would be a good idea. All I do is attach a 50 foot length of 3 strand via rolling hitch to the anchor line (or chain) and when the boat swings the right way I just let out the main anchor cable and the boat swings until it is riding from the stern.
This would be my choice for anchoring in a real storm or hurricane provided the waves won’t be over 5 or 6 feet. Yea, it will be hard to open the companion way due to all the rain but if keeping the boat from being driven onto the shore it is my first choice.
I have long though that Don Jordan’s idea of mooring stern to in very heavy winds to cut down shearing made a lot of sense. Its great to have confirmation from someone who has actually tried it.
I also think you make a really good point in saying that it might not be a good plan in large waves.
Anchored “stern to” in a storm I would worry about the rudder slamming from side to side with the force of the current, and the ability to tie it down to the centerline. In my boat there is no way to secure the rudder with a mechanical device, only tying it up. Even if I had some sort of prisoner screw there is the play in the transmission from wheel to rudder, in my case it is an all steel rod Mamba steering system with several Universal joints and rack and pinion transmissions (no cables) that have significant play when added up.
Yes, there are definitely practicality issues with anchoring by the stern, that’s why, although we have discussed the theory from time to time, I don’t specifically advocate for it. That said, I guess one could argue that since the boat would not be surging around nearly as much the loads might even be less that bow moored. Only experimentation would tell as for sure.
Anyway, given your situation, probably better to anchor by the bow and use a riding sail to stop surging back and forth, if required.
We should always learn from experience! The first real “storm anchoring” I ever had after some…years sailing was in 2010 in Baia Buen Successo, on west side of the Strait of Lemaire where we anchored after a very fast trip from Puerto Deseado, and some time before the storm.
At first we came to the big armada(navy) buoy (which could have obviously suffer much more than our 12,5t!) but the buoy was covered with a thick lay of guano and no one of the crew was ready to foul its beautiful Mu… sailing gears with guano, as one have to jump upon the buoy to tie the boat. We eventually came closer to the beach and I anchored in 8 m with 20kg Delta and some 70m of 10mm of chain.
The start building up, and by 10 oclock in the evening was blowing a steady 50knts with gusts close to 70knts. To late to tie the boat to the Armada Buoy.
We spent the whole night, the all crew on watch…a video with the engine running in case of…Until now nobody among the four of us could remain what we watched…
Hello John, I was reviewing this and had a couple questions if I may trouble you.
1. “Remove mainsail.” Would you still remove the mainsail if you didn’t also have a trysail at the ready?
2. “Messenger all halyards.” Do you experience the halyard shackles banging on the mast, especially if there’s a halyard restrainer involved?
Thank you & best wishes,
1. We would not have the trysail on either if preparing for that kind of wind at the mooring or anchor. I’m guessing that you are wondering about having an alternative if we start to drag, but if it’s blowing that hard setting any sort of sail is
2. Good question. Most shackles will snug up hard against the mast and stay put if the halyard is tight, so the messenger is only there to allow retrieval. The exception can be a spinnaker halyard on a floating block. In this case it might be good to use a Spectra messenger so the halyard can be pulled really tight without fear of the messenger breaking.
Excellent, just what I was looking for — thank you John for sharing your hard-earned wisdom with us all!