Would your sailing boat be able to weather a gale, storm, or worse in her slip, on a mooring, or at anchor? Will you have peace-of-mind the next time Mother Nature decides to unleash her fury in your area? Follow this handy ten-step checklist to make sure you do!
When severe weather threatens take sensible precautions
Wherever you live, you can expect to be visited by severe weather once in a while. And if you've strolled through any marina after a major storm and seen the damage, this provides a real 'wake up' call to us sailors. What else could have been done?
Read over this check-off list. Add to it. But by all means, print off a copy and add it to your storm preparations. When the heavy stuff comes your way, you'll be glad you did!
1. Double Up All Docking Lines:
If on a dock, use extra line to double up springs and bow lines. If you need to make short lines longer, join them together with a double becket bend or two bowlines tied together. Bowlines are stronger, but require more line.
Position slip lines so that they are higher up on the pilings. This will help keep the boat in place when the storm surge arrives.
2. Add Lots of Chafing Gear:
Did you know that many boats are lost in storms because their lines saw through sharp chocks?
Synthetic docking line has elasticity that--when under shock loads--can spring back and forth. This action can saw through a dock or anchor line in no time!
Use fine grit sandpaper to smooth the edges of chocks. Next, lash rags, canvas, split hose, or PVC tubing onto any line where it passes over a rub-rail or toe-rail, through a chock, or over the sharp edges of a Genoa track.
3. Put Out Horizontal and Vertical Fenders:
Hang extra horizontal fenders onto pilings and the hull where contact can be expected. This gives more area protection than vertical fenders. On the side next to finger piers, hang extra vertical fenders. If moored stern first, hang vertical fenders across the stern.
4. Shut Off all Seacocks Except This One!
Start at the bow and work your way aft. Open up every locker and compartment to check for seacocks or ball valves. Shut off each seacock. Turn the handle perpendicular (at a 90 degree angle) to the hose. This includes the head intake, sink and shower drain, engine raw water intake, and head overboard discharge seacocks. Leave both cockpit drain seacocks open to drain rain water.
5. Strip Away Canvas and Sails:
Get rid of windage that can cause the boat to 'sail' inside her slip. Strip the boat of sail covers, dodgers, Bimini tops, enclosures, and all other canvas products. Take this sailing gear home with you or stow it in a storage unit.
Remove the mainsail and headsail. Storms can shred a roller furled headsail like a grater shreds a hunk of cheese. Don't make the mistake of leaving this super expensive sail up in a blow. Remove the sail from the extrusion, bag it, and send it below or remove it from the boat.
6. Batten and Tape Hatches:
Are you sure those square hatches on your boat are watertight? Even the best production boats can leak like a screen door on a submarine from wind-driven rain in a storm. Close and dog (latch) hatches and opening ports. Tape around the inside edges of hatches and ports with strips of duct or sealing tape.
7. Remove or Sink Dinghies:
Clear the deck of inflatable dinghies. If you have a hard (rigid) dinghy, take it home with you. If cruising in a remote area, pull the boat plug and sink the hard dinghy in shallow water to protect it from damage.
8. Secure Electronics, Charge Batteries, Check Pumps:
Shut down all electronics except for the electric bilge pumps. Charge both batteries so that they will have plenty of juice to run the bilge pumps. Test the float switch on each bilge pump. Lift up the float switch tab with your hand or a boat hook. Your pump should kick on within 1-2 seconds.
9. Put Out Anchors and Increase Scope:
If at anchor, use your three largest anchors--spread out in a Y-pattern--to offer your boat the best chance of survival. Attach an extra length of chain to the bottom of each rode to increase the catenary (curve) on your anchor line to help keep the anchor dug deep into the sea bottom.
As an alternative, use two anchors chained together in tandem. Shackle a long length of hefty chain to the crown of your main anchor. Attach a second anchor to the end of the chain. The two anchors will work together (in tandem) to hold you in the worst conditions.
Increase your anchor scope to 10:1. Beef up chafing gear where the anchor rode contacts your hull. Your boat will be tossed back and forth and pitched up and down. Strong chafing gear and anchor ground tackle will help prevent catastrophic failure.
10. Lock it and Leave It:
Under no circumstances should you stay aboard during an intense storm. This could lead to serious injury or worse. Lock your boat with a stout padlock. Check everything once more and evacuate the area. If you've done things right, your boat will take care of herself.
Follow these ten sailing tips to prepare your small cruising or racing sailboat to weather storms in port. You will be rewarded with the peace-of-mind that you have done everything possible for her survival--when heavy weather comes your way.
Captain John with 25+ years experience, teaches sailing skippers the skills they need for safer sailing anywhere in the world. As a SkipperTips member, you will receive fresh articles and videos to your inbox every week about a wide range of subjects. Join his website at www.skippertips.com.