Friday, July 29, 2011

NKOTB - Bad Weather!

NKOTB (New Kids On The Boat) ... A Weekly Series Sharing Our Thoughts and Questions as Beginner Sailors and Future Cruisers.  NKOTB or Experienced Cruiser ... Tell Us Your Thoughts!

Being new to the cruising world, we have many thoughts (and a few concerns) of what life as a cruising liveaboard will be like.  So, I've decided to add a new series of weekly posts:  NKOTB:  New Kids On The Boat!  It will be interesting to look back at this series once we're cruising to see how our thoughts have changed.

I thought I'd start this series off with what we'd guess is one of the most common concerns for a NKOTB ...


Getting caught in strong winds, big waves and heavy rain is not something we like to think about!  Add to that a reef or some other obstacle nearby ... the imagination can go wild!  To make things even worse ...

What if the steering goes out?  I bring this up because years ago I took over the wheel for the very first time when speeding along in our power boat.  Ken wanted to check the motor and therefore was focused on that.  Wouldn't you know that as I approached the first turn and spun the wheel ... nothing!  I kept spinning the wheel and we kept going straight.  Since I never really paid attention to such things as driving a boat, I kept hitting Ken's back trying to get his attention instead of just pulling up on the boat's lever.  I didn't know what to do!  Luckily Ken realized what was going on just in time to pull up the lever.  We still ran aground and slammed into the steering column while our poor dog went flying.  Luckily we were all okay, but we had to have another boat pull us out of the muddy swamp.  Ever since then I've been a little paranoid about the steering going out!  We do, however, have a way to steer the tiller manually if needed.

What if the motor dies?  I've already gained a great respect for the wind in the short time we've owned a sailboat.  The thought of high winds and no motor  ... or what about no wind and no motor!  We plan on being coastal cruisers with our Catalina 30, so at least we'll be able to call TowBoat to pull us to shore if we're in their service area.  We need to improve our sailing skills to help in these situations.

I've read that an option during bad weather is to "heave to", basically meaning that the sails are placed in a way to keep the boat in one spot.  This allows the captain and crew to get some rest and wait out the storm.  This is something we'll need to learn, but hopefully won't need to use much, uh ... or at all!  However, this technique would be great for just taking a lunch break without dropping anchor.

And then there's lightning!  With that mast 50 feet in the air lightning is sure to find us, right?!  Do those thingies you can get to prevent lightning strikes really work?  I also remember reading something about putting the electronics in the microwave to protect them during a lightning storm.

Fortnately, most cruisers say that getting stuck in bad weather doesn't actually happen that much, which is great news.  We're gonna go with that!  I just hope the cruiser's definition of "not that bad" is the same as ours!  I've read a few stories on blogs that I follow, and although it's not real common each blog seemed to have a story that made me cringe ... hmmm.  We will take our time, watch the weather, and leave only when the timing is right.  We do realize that not all forecasts are guaranteed, however.  That's yet another reason we'll be "coastal" cruisers.

I may sound scared, but this really isn't something we choose to focus on.  It's not going to stop us, and we will learn what we can to be (somewhat) prepared.  Can you really be prepared for this?  Some folks tell us to go out and sail in a bad storm.  We figure being in a storm for practice or the "real deal" isn't going to be much different, so we'll just wait till we're forced to be in a storm ... thank you very much!  =)

Guess we need to take Nirvana out to the lake with some food and drink so we can learn to "heave to"!  After all, it's gotta be done in the name of practice right?! 

Hasta luego ... until then.  Mid-Life Cruising!


Sandee said...

Let's not forget a good anchor with lots of rode. If you in water that you can use an anchor that is. I wouldn't go anywhere without and anchor.

Have a terrific weekend. :)

Anonymous said...

We picked up our 1985 Catalina 30 two weeks ago as a boat new to us. It was storming over the weekend, and we dressed in our foulies then left the dock. It was great fun, but cold. Rain, high winds, but waves were small. It is great to do as an experience, particularly on the lake or river. If all goes bad drop anchor and ride it out on the lake.

Latitude 43 said...

What a great idea. Nice job. This will be a fun series to read.

Jessica Frye said...

Tomorrow we will be running a 70 mile thunderstorm gauntlet, I fear, so the topic is timely. A few thoughts, from a guy who has sailed for 25 years and had has butt licked in many ways:

a. Towboat US has strict limits of coverage, some based upon mileage. If you are outside of the radius, even the "unlimited plan" reverts to salvage. Read the coverage and don't assume all coastal areas have good coverage. Most do.

b. In a strong squal ALL sail comes down, since huricane-force winds are common. Heaving-to is for a gale far at sea and doesn't really apply, in my opinion, to coastal sailors.

c. Always have the anchor ready to go. That simple measure has saved my bacon many times during minor mechanical problems, such as engine failure. It seems it is not to unusual for an engine to run for just long enought to get you to the harbor entrance!

d. There is no cure for lightening. Darn.

e. Never have a schedule. It makes you sail in bad weather.

Fair winds.

Ken n Cheryl said...

Sounds like we're all in agreement that an anchor is crucial! We also wouldn't leave without one, and a larger anchor is in our future. Thanks for the great advice Sailing Gal ... I wondered how one could heave-to in really bad weather. Now we know ... you can't!We have so much to learn! Anonymous ... glad to hear you're enjoying your Catalina 30. We always love to hear from fellow Catalina owners!

OldCoastie said...

A sea anchor is another tool that can save your bacon when heaving to. A lightweight drouge type with a tripping line doesn't take up much space in the sail locker and will dramatically reduce you set when hove to.

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