Gale And Storm Preparation, At Anchor Or On A Mooring

Reading Time: 3 minutes

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.

  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!