The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Gales at Anchor Are Not That Scary

I don’t watch a lot of videos, in fact hardly any, but I was searching for something else when I stumbled on this video over at S/V Delos.

Now, there is no question that hurricanes are scary. You don’t have to tell a guy from Bermuda, who cruised the western North Atlantic for over 50 years, and now lives in an area of Canada sticking out into the frequent path of hurricanes, that.

And the couple on Delos were seamanlike in moving quickly to find a good place to ride the blow out, as well as being flexible in changing their plans when the storm wobbled.

All good.

But the majority of the video is about riding out the storm and is filled with drama.

For crying out loud, for most of the time it was blowing just strong breeze Force 6 (22-27 knots), and a bit of the time near gale Force 7 (28-33 knots) with a very few higher gusts, and they are experienced voyagers who were securely anchored in a snug anchorage with good ground tackle.

And yet all this part of the video is about how terrified they were.

Give me a break, those conditions are simply not that terrifying…in fact, not even scary. Any competent cruiser can handle that, or at least should be able to, with ease.

Yes, two boats went on the beach, but that’s about poor preparation, not scary conditions, and if we let the poor seamanship of others—believe me there’s plenty of that out there—be our bench mark for when to be scared, cruising will be no fun at all.

OK, I get it, this kind of drama builds audience, and that’s how the Delos folks make their living, but this kind of thing does voyaging no good at all and it’s not reality.

Phyllis and I didn’t even get concerned in a decent anchorage unless the wind was forecast to reach full gale Force 8 (sustained 34 to 40 knots). We have safely ridden out Force 10 (48-55) many times, and even on a few memorable occasions Force 11 (56-63 knots), at anchor without issues.

And keep in mind that (as Brian on Delos rightly says) Gale Force 8 is way more wind than Force 7—wind pressure scales exponentially.

So if you are getting ready to go cruising, or even already out there, don’t let this kind of thing scare you, and keep in mind that what Delos (and YouTube channels like them) do is entertainment—assuming you like that sort of thing—not cruising reality.

The key point being that if we start off by thinking that a given situation is dangerous when it really isn’t, we will ratchet down our tolerance and spend a lot of our cruising life terrified, which is no fun at all.

If we put a good anchoring system together, learn to choose anchorages properly, and prepare our boats appropriately depending on expected conditions, a blow at anchor is routine and not scary.

Here are some resources:

Terror Reduction Resources

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Matt Marsh

John, I suspect if Brian and Kazza (of Delos) were here – they might be; I don’t know if they read AAC – they’d privately agree. Brian’s mentioned a few times, when on a discussion panel or seminar, that making a living by writing, producing, starring in, editing, and promoting a streaming show is very much about entertainment, about selling the dream, rather than about reflecting reality. They “ham it up” a bit for TV. Higher highs, lower lows, a double helping of drama whenever a situation allows it.

It’s kind of unfortunate that the YouTube etc. promotion algorithms work this way. But that’s how it goes. Clickbait draws clicks, which elevates the item’s rank, which shows it to more people, which draws more clicks. Channels that don’t do this simply don’t get as many views, and when your gross income is proportional to your viewership…..

James Greenwald

Unfortunately this and many others are seen by the unsuspecting viewers as reality-based sailing in how to do it. Most of the time I find them more of an entertaining exercise in what not to do. The gloating over them in the comment sections is nauseous 🤢

TheTuber formula;T&A+TEARS&DRAMA=$

Jim Bartlett

This 100%! No question, all incentives (and therefore livelihood) demands excitement and drama to get views and Ad Revenue or Subscriptions. I do wonder, John, what the net effects the cruising community is from such content. No doubt, these creators have large audiences and get people interested in cruising. But, do they scare away some people while attracting others – and who falls into which bucket? I guess shows like The Bachelor don’t stop people from dating, but they sure suggest dating is a vicious sport instead of one of life’s great pursuits.

Matt Marsh

It’s surprisingly hard to get that balance just right. You need to show just enough skin to keep the engagement / “up next” algorithm happy, but not so much as to upset the censorship / demonetization algorithm. I wonder if a CompSci grad student working on AI video classification techniques somewhere might write a long, detailed paper on the exact mathematical relationship between bikini coverage shape and surface area, Youtube viewership, and advertising revenue, trying to optimize for the point of maximum revenue before the censorship algorithm throws up its puritanical hands and gives you the boot.

CLIVE PARRY

Hi, I understand how it might put some folk off getting out there and “doing it” but for me, it has the opposite effect. I have spent a lifetime thinking “I don’t have the knowledge/experience to to sail to…..”; now, after a scour through youtube channels I think “wow, if these people who make a drama of 30kts can do it, so can I”. So, I am off to Svalbard this year.

Bob Hodges

Totally agree with all comments. In the video, the monohull that goes aground has so much gear and windage still on deck, it’s clear they created their own disaster by not following basic preparation.

The wife in the video is a bit over the top dramatic. Watch Skip Novak’s Yachting World heavy air series where they demonstrate anchoring in 40-50 knots of wind. After they set, they go down below for a cup of tea and are all smiles and calm. Such a contrast.

Petter Mather Simonsen

My take on the youtube video is that it is more about creating “drama” and then overcoming it. Drama drives clicks and attention, i.e. read money. I guess they create drama from whatever things they have to play with during the week in question – this time it was anchoring. If everything was smooth sailing the audience would move to other channels – and the lifestyle of Delos would quickly go where the anchor is – under water.

Jim Schulz

Interesting quote from a recent interview with Philippe Delamar after his GSC win in A Caruna.

“I asked him why he took the risk, and he said he has a philosophy on the matter. If it’s impossible to proceed he will indeed back off, but if looking at the scenario he hesitates, he feels that tells him it’s still feasible and he should fight his hesitation and go for it. “I don’t like the thought of coming to the realisation I have lost needless time or worse, I would hate to lose miles and time just to have an issue anyway.””

I liken it to your idea of mindset as a habit – it can be either fearful or risk-taking, or most likely for most of us somewhere in between.

Jim Schulz

Thanks for reminding me of that article John. I think it was one of the first I read here and it’s a great one.

Alessandra Guarino

I circumnavigated as a very young child and, consequently, have mostly very hazy memories of the experience (and a couple of more legitimately traumatic recollections of a knockdown and nearly going overboard). Now, in my 30s, I’m returning to ocean sailing with my partner, with the added responsibility of eventually taking on the role as skipper.
I wanted to express my gratitude for this short article (as well as the general philosophy encapsulated in the “attainable” part of “AAC”). I’m often grateful for how much more accessible sailing is for new sailors than in pre-internet days (especially for women and other marginalized folks, given resources like Women Who Sail on FB). However, YT is a minefield of the kind of dramatic alarmism that seeks to stoke armchair viewers’ fantasies and fears, and while I still feel called back to the sea, I often find it difficult to get a bearing on how to appropriately prepare (practically and mentally) for the challenges (which are also the joys!) of bluewater sailing, and those YT videos representing other people’s (real or enacted experiences) always eventually inflect my own feelings and doubts.
In addition to remembering that – if they are real – those reactions are very individual and particular, I appreciate the reminder (from a sailor who could be in a position, like many others, to pontificate in a way that discourages people from getting into sailing, rather than the other way around) that “this kind of thing does voyaging no good at all and it’s not reality”.

Wilson Fitt

There is a nice series of You Tube videos that you can find by putting “Cruise of the Ketch Julia” in your favourite search engine. They chronicle a recent voyage down the west coast of North America and across the Pacific by an unassuming couple in a very simple, old fashioned boat. Their drama-free style will never make it to the top of the hot sailing video list but they are having fun and demonstrating quiet competence.

Wilson

Olav Thyvold

I second your recommendation of that channel. They have a really lovely low key way of presenting their videos. One of my favourites. Its called “madison boatworks”.

Another really good channel is “Sailing yacht Florence” about an English couple who have sailed around the world in an Oyster 37. Check out their videos of heavy weather sailing from Bermuda to the Azores. Beautiful cinematography during the heavy winds/waves they encounter. They have a really calm, low key approach to things.. Unlike a lot of channels they both have a lot of sailing experience and she is probably the one that is the most sanguine with the weather and the waves.

Arne Mogstad

Hi. I appreciate this article, as I have kind of the same impression. Though, being very new to sailing I don’t really have anywhere to “calibrate” myself against, and therefore YouTube videos are one of the few places to see other people and how they interpret and act on various conditions. So seeing both John and other confirming that these videos are not the right thing to judge what’s reasonable, is good.

I keep my boat on anchor almost all the time, year round, with northern Norwegian Arctic conditions. The conditions I find to be “just another day”, is blown out of proportions on YouTube. Although I like the fact that they don’t minimize the forces of heavy winds (like people tend to do in forums), I have never thought of anything less than sustained 40 knots on anchor to be an issue. You simply can’t have a boat here if that’s a problem! In fact, anchoring solo in 40-50 knots is quite normal! I have upped the anchor solo in sustained 50 knots but that’s hairy I think!

Anyway, good with a reality confirmation. Like the cool kids say: “keep it real”….

Terence Thatcher

I admit my YouTube feed always suggests lots of sailing videos. I pass on most, (though I am a sucker for classic Fife yachts under sail). I note that lots I pass up also try to lure you in with pictures of a woman in a bikini. Click-bait my son calls it. Let me add a great disappointment. Since the pandemic I have watched Adventures of an Old SeaDog. Old Barry seems like a nice guy, though his boat is always a mess. One of his videos even included some friends from Portland who had sailed to New Zealand. Then recently, on his way to Australia, Barry got caught in a blow, not a hurricane. And rather than running off or deploying a drogue or heaving to (on a long keel cutter, what a perfect boat for heaving to), he called an Australian rescue unit. They towed him to port in the wind and waves, none of which were all that bad. Hell, they towed a wallowing steel cutter for many miles. Well, that was my last time viewing old Barry. I’ll just wait for more Fife yawls or maybe an Alden Malabar schooner or two.