The eye of the storm is only 4*W of our current position, and at our latitude, that comes out to be roughly 206nm away. This is by no means the equivalent of getting slammed by the hurricane, but the winds in the area surrounding it will be significant. We need to seek safe harbor to wait out this massive storm!
Our options as cruisers are the following:
1. Tie up in a marina
2. Anchor in a protected anchorage
3. Sail it!
Tying up in a marina may be the preferred choice for most boaters, as you have the security of tying up to a fixed object. The problem with this is we would be arriving new to the marina and tying up blindly to the structure we encounter. We would be considered a transient yacht, and placed in whatever slip is available. This may entail being in a narrow slip that will bang up your top sides as the storm rages over, or being set on a Tee-Head where the side of your yacht will be pummeled into the pier!
The worst thing about a new marina is you don't know the condition of the marina. The wooden piling you tie to might look find from the outside, but they could be completely eaten away by worms. As your yacht puts pressure on the wooden structure, the piling could snap off! If you have been in a marina for a long time, you would have come to learn its tricks and know how to safely tie up for a storm.
The next problem with marinas during severe storms is that they are subjected to the tides. If the storm floods the waterway you are in, the marina could go underwater! You would need to let your docklines out at the water rises to avoid them getting too tight. If the water is sucked away by the approaching storm, you could find yourself stuck on the bottom for days until the water flows back in.
Back in 2012 when Hurricane Sandy came through, I hauled out Wisdom at the only marina that had space left to haul out. The travel lift slip was 10 feet deep and we drew 6.5 feet. Getting out of the water was no problem, the real dilemma came after the storm! As Hurricane Sandy passed by, she drained the bay of its water, lowering the depth in the travel lift slip do 4 feet! It took nearly 2 weeks for the water to flow back into the creek where the marina was located so that I could be launched again.
As cruisers on a budget, getting stuck on the bottom in a marina slip for days after the storm has passed means we would need to pay for all of those days. Every day that passes could be anywhere from $45 to $90 a day, depending on the transient rate at the marina.
The second option is to anchor in a protected area. This is certainly cheaper than tying up in a marina, but a bit of a gamble. Anchorages can either save or destroy your boat, and the outcome depends completely upon your preparation and selection.
The first thing you want is an empty anchorage. If there are other boats around you, especially upwind from you, you may have to deal with unwanted situations.
The second thing you want to look for is the right water depth. Too deep will require too much anchor rode just to reach the bottom. Too shallow and you may hit bottom in the troughs of the waves. I prefer an anchorage that is 16 feet deep, because that gives us 10 feet under our keel.
The third thing you want is a good bottom that the anchor can dig deeply into. The ideal bottom condition depends on the anchor you are carrying. We have a Mantus anchor, which works best in sand and mud. If you have the option available to you, try to find a bottom that is soft mud covering hard mud. What happens is the anchor will sink deep under the soft mud, giving it plenty of holding power. As it gets to the bottom of the soft layer, it will be perfectly oriented to penetrate the hard bottom below. Soft bottoms can hold well, but they can also allow the anchor to creep through it. A hard bottom will lock the anchor in place and stop it from dragging. Having a soft layer above the hard layer ensures that the anchor will not slide along the surface of the hard layer, causing you to drag anchor as you careen onto a lee shore!
The fourth thing you want is plenty of room to swing. This requires a large open area where you can swing around as the wind shifts. If there is a wreck, landmass, or other boat in the way of a full circle swing, you may encounter that obstacle during the storm so it would behoove you to move to a different anchorage.
The last thing you want to find is 360* land coverage, and preferably tall land. High land, especially cliffs will shield you from the wind, as the land itself shields you from waves. If you have any exposure to a larger body of water, huge waves can come in created by the greater fetch. Obviously, having enough swing room means that the area will be wide open, so you will still experience some wind-related issues.