Most articles or seminars dealing with weather talk about watching the weather for a passage or even a day sail.
It’s every bit as important when you’re at anchor, on a mooring or even at a marina.
As I write this, I’m sitting in Boot Key Harbor in Marathon, Florida in the middle of a multi-day big blow. It’s not rainy or squally, but blowing close to 30 knots. While we are in a protected harbor, we’ll still get foot-high whitecaps.
That makes for a wet dinghy ride, not to mention the potential for injury in getting loads into and out of the dinghy.
Several boats in the anchoring area have drug anchor. In the last blow, a moored boat had her bow cleats rip out and went careening across the anchorage before going aground in soft mud just feet before hitting a massive seawall.
Another boat found one of its mooring lines chafed through. I’ve lost count of how many dinghies and kayaks have gone walkabout, with owners calling on the VHF for assistance in finding and retrieving them.
This weather isn’t unexpected. All the weather services have forecast this for days and it’s been discussed on the Cruiser’s VHF Net, too.
What is unexpected is the number of people that I’ve talked to who weren’t expecting this blow and did nothing to prepare.
Since we knew of it, we did what we could to be ready before it struck:
I went and got groceries on the last “nice” day so that I didn’t have to try to transport a load in heavy winds. I did some other needed errands too, so I wouldn’t have to go ashore if conditions were just “too yucky.”
We got the dog and ourselves a good long walk ashore in case we didn’t go for a day or two.
We changed the evening for a dinner out with friends — neither couple wanted to dinghy home, get out of the dinghy and then hoist the dinghy in the dark when it’s blowing in the high 20’s. So we moved it up a night.
We checked our mooring lines (we leave extra lines on all winter because of the training northers that come through, but if we hadn’t, we would have added an extra) and chafe gear.
We took down our US flag since these high winds will quickly tear one apart.
We checked that our halyards (read Stop Clanking Halyards) and other deck gear were well secured.
We hoisted our dinghy as the winds were beginning to pick up and let it down only when we’re about to use it — then hoist again when we return to the boat. When it is tied off the back of the boat, we use two independent lines — attached to different places on the dinghy and on the “big boat.”
Were we in a marina, we’d add extra dock line, any extra fenders we had and double check our chafe gear on both the boat and the cleat and dock.
At anchor, we’d move to a protected location for the expected wind direction — and do it far enough in advance of the winds that the anchor would be well dug in before the blow.
None of this is particularly hard to do, but it requires keeping an eye on the weather forecast, even in a “safe place.” You don’t have to be obsessive, but checking the forecast at least once a day will let you know what to expect so that you can ready yourself and your boat. Daily checking is, obviously, even more important during hurricane season if you’re in hurricane waters!Learn more.