The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Gale And Storm Preparation, At Anchor Or On A Mooring

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.

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More Articles From Online Book: Anchoring Made Easy:

  1. Introduction
  2. 4 Vital Anchor Selection Criteria and a Review of SPADE
  3. SARCA Excel Anchor—A Real World Test
  4. SPADE, SARCA Excel, or Some Other Anchor?
  5. Rocna Resetting Failures and Evaluation of Vulcan and Mantus
  6. Some Thoughts On The Ultra Anchor, Roll Bars and Swivels
  7. Specifying Primary Anchor Size
  8. Kedge (Secondary Anchor)—Recommended Type and Size
  9. Third Anchors, Storm Anchors and Spare Anchors
  10. Anchor Tests—The Good, The Bad, and The Downright Silly
  11. Making Anchor Tests More Meaningful
  12. We Love The Way Our Anchor Drags 
  13. Things to Know About Anchor Chain
  14. Selecting a Chain Grade
  15. Anchor Chain Catenary, When it Matters and When it Doesn’t
  16. Anchoring—Snubbers
  17. Anchor Rode Questions and Answers
  18. Q&A: Hybrid Rope And Chain Anchor Rodes
  19. Anchor Swivels, Just Say No
  20. A Windlass That Makes The Grade
  21. The Perfect Anchor Roller
  22. Install A Wash-down Pump—And Save Money!
  23. Anchoring—Kellets
  24. Anchoring—Chain: Stoppers, Termination and Marking
  25. 20 Tips To Get Anchored and Stay Anchored
  26. Choosing an Anchorage
  27. Choosing a Spot
  28. 15 Steps To Getting Securely Anchored
  29. One Anchor or Two?
  30. Two Anchors Done Right
  31. It’s Often Better to Anchor Than Pick Up a Mooring
  32. Yawing at Anchor, The Theory and The Solution
  33. Yawing at The Anchor, an Alternative Cure
  34. How To Use An Anchor Trip Line
  35. ShoreFasts—Part 1, When to Use Them
  36. ShoreFasts—Part 2, Example Setups Plus Tips and Tricks
  37. ShoreFasts—Part 3, The Gear
  38. Gale And Storm Preparation, At Anchor Or On A Mooring
  39. Storm Preparation, All Chain On Deck
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Dennis Fechner

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.

Alberto Duhau

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.


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…

Chuck Batson

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,

Chuck Batson

Excellent, just what I was looking for — thank you John for sharing your hard-earned wisdom with us all!

Lawrence Vito

Hi John,
We are leaving our 36’, 16,000 lb boat on a mooring in Porto Escondido Mexico for 5 months. The moorings here have been redone this season with 15’ of ¾” Dyneema spliced onto thimbles on both ends. At the mooring ball it is shackled to 1” dyneema that goes to the mooring 40’ Down on the bottom.

I am going to shackle a double, 3 strand nylon bridle to the dyneema thimble and secure the bitter ends to anchor cleats on deck.

My question is: is it better to run the the bridle over the double anchor rollers or through the chocks? If it goes over the roller I can use my heavy duty Rode Rap for chafe gear. If I go through the chocks, my chafe gear will be fire hose.

Occasional hurricanes can blow through here. The Marina staff does check the boats, but no one is going to watch my boat the I would, so I am looking for the best possible solution.

Thanks for your advice John, you are my go to guy for important safety questions..



Eric Klem

Hi Lawrence,

Am I reading correctly that the everything in the mooring except your pendants is dyneema? Unless you have a way to stop surging, I would be very nervous about that. The reason is that dyneema is very low stretch and it is light so there is no catenary. As a result, the shock loading will be very high even in a very sheltered location unless you can find a way to make sure it never goes slack. Nylon pendants will help some but unless you make them really long (like 30’+ which risks a keel wrap), I think you will find that they do not stretch enough even for protected locations or that they are too thin and will fail through fatigue or chafe. John has an article on energy in anchoring and mooring and relevant pieces come up in other places too.

I make a point of observing mooring failures around here (northeast US) and by far the most common issue is chafe of the pendants. Note that our storms tend to be less severe but long duration. As a result, I do not let the nylon portion of the pendants touch the boat, instead I use a short piece of dyneema similar to what New England Ropes calls a Cyclone Mooring Pendant and what Marlow calls a Nor’easter Mooring Pendant.

To your original question, it is boat specific in my mind. Ideally, there would be a strong point that is nicely radiused with a cleat next to it at the forward most point of the boat. Since that seems to be almost impossible to find, you look for the next best option. On our boat, we go through the chocks but on others I would do the rollers.


Lawrence Vito

Thanks for your insightful comment. Yes,it’s all dyneema. I am going to use A 30’ bridal made by Mantis to the chocks and a longer line going over the anchor roller as a secondary.