As a card-carrying coward with a well-developed fear of storms at sea, I have long taken a deep interest in accounts of heavy weather at sea, and particularly stories of storm damage and abandonment.
While reading these accounts always scares the crap out of me, I still do so on the theory that the more I know about bad stuff that happens to other sailors offshore in heavy weather, the more likely it is that Phyllis and I can equip ourselves with the knowledge and gear to avoid the same fate.
This has been a learning project that has covered some fifty years, starting with reading the first edition of Heavy Weather Sailing, on through Miles and Beryl Smeaton's account of two roll-overs while attempting to round Cape Horn, to the present day, where the internet makes educating (and scaring) myself ever easier.
A Common Theme
One thing that really jumps out at me from all this reading is that the vast majority of these storm disaster accounts have the following in common:
- The boat was rolled over or pitch-poled.
- Said roll-over almost always results in abandonment, particularly these days when calling for help is far easier than it once was.
- Pretty much every crew stated afterward that everything seemed under control, often for many hours or even days of heavy weather, until a "rogue wave" caused disaster.
A Core Problem
It's this last point that I'm going to write about in this chapter, since I think the key to avoiding the same fate lies there.