AN APPROACH TO MINIMIZE STORM DAMAGE TO SAILBOATS
GENE J. PAROLA
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Storms at sea often approach too swiftly for the sailor to outrun them. There is no place to hide and one must face the tempest and minimize the threat under the most adverse conditions. But the largest majority of boats lie in marinas or at moorings 98% of their lives and when threatened by storm, there is time to prepare the boat before it's in danger. And there are places to hide.
In this, as in any discussion about boats and weather, one can make no assumptions. Storm severity, particulars of the locale, overall condition of the boat (even its design and construction) and the skill and workmanship of the individual boat owner, make it difficult to generalize about any preventive measures that may be taken. However, there are some steps that a responsible owner can take in an attempt to minimize damage. And there are horror pictures and bulging files of insurance claims that testify to the results when no measures are taken. The following suggestions, properly executed, may be of some help.
Since powerboats can be moved swiftly out of danger by easily fitting under bridges for upriver escape from coastal storm surges, the following recommendations are made mostly for sailing craft that cannot be moved so promptly. However, for the powerboat that cannot be moved, some tips may be useful.
Hurricane forecasting and tracking are admirable techniques and are, for the most part, accurate. The weakness in the process is that as a storm nears with increased danger and decreased response time, it is apt to change direction. Depending on your location this either increases or decreases your particular danger. A change of a degree North or South of its route, while the storm is still a day offshore, may put your boat in the crosshairs of its landfall or make all your preparations a waste of time.
There is little new in that matrix. Boats, the sea and weather have posed those ambiguities ever since man leapt astride a log and rode it downstream the first time.
A prudent boat person always prepares the boat to meet as many unforeseen events as his/her knowledge and budget allows. The hope is that the need will never arise to test those precautions. Hurricane preparation is no different.
PLAN THE JOB
In preparing the boat for this ultimate test, one must, as in every aspect of boating, fall back on the time-tested traditional behavior of the seaman: 1) anticipate (remember the axiom-reef the first time you consider the need to reef), 2) use quality gear, 3) don't skimp on size requirements, 4) do a thorough job, 5) do a complete job.
Anticipate by doing all that you can do long before the storm season approaches. In the event of the storm, anticipate its severity, its possible track and monitor its progress. Have a plan based on that information and have an alternative.
If you have been sufficiently motivated by these words, start your preps now! Rig the boat for the eventuality, scout out a convenient 'hole' for shelter, and rehearse the anchoring procedure. Remember that in the best possible situation you will want to be able to mount your storm rigging, move and anchor the boat and be back ashore twelve hours before the predicted land-fall of the storm. You may discover something you forgot in readying the boat and it'll be a lot easier to do when you have that margin before the wind and waves of the approaching storm make remedy dangerous. Remember also that the boat will probably not be the only thing that you will have to prepare to protect, so do as much on the boat as early as possible.
Gene J. Parola
Award Winning Novelist