Safety

Which Tack Will Produce a Change in the Wind?

There is a simple method to find the center of a low pressure system. Face the wind and hold your right arm straight out to your side, then point. You are now pointing at the center of the low pressure system that is causing the wind you are experiencing. Inversely, perpendicularly and to your left is the center of the high pressure system in your immediate area. This simple trick works in the Northern Hemisphere thanks to the Coriolis Effect. If you are in the Southern Hemisphere, this trick would work with, just using the opposite arms for the low and high.

To answer the original question, which tack will produce a change in the wind? The answer is either tack!

You can not sail directly into the wind, so you need to choose starboard tack or port tack. Port tack will have your bow facing the low pressure system that is causing the present wind, and therefore would eventually lead to more wind.

Starboard tack will have the bow facing the high pressure system that is opposing the low, eventually leading to calmer winds.

There is a way, however, to stay in exactly the same conditions, and that is to sail on an absolute dead run. Here you will simply spiral around the highs and lows without ever moving closer or farther from any of them.

When you are crossing an ocean, just remember the effects that your tack will have in a few days. Starboard tack will produce more wind, port tack will produce calmer conditions.

The giant flaw in this theory is that weather systems move, so if you sail in a straight line towards a low, it might not be there by the time you reach the spot where the center was. So, keep this in mind and be sure to keep an eye on the weather!

​Tip-toeing Around Monsters

When you picture a cloud, you probably see the white puffy part hovering high in the sky. The base is clearly visible above the horizon and the top of the cloud is also in view. These are happy clouds that grace you with shade on a hot ocean day!

Monster clouds are the ones that rise up over the horizon with no visible base. These clouds are so massive that they are located somewhere beyond the curvature of the Earth yet they still take up almost half of the visible sky! These are pressure systems, so massive that they have a different air pressure than their surroundings.

If you are in a high pressure with clear blue skies, these low pressure monsters will look like massive white hazes in the distance. If they are far enough they will look like a white dome, if they are closer, just a hazy white horizon. The winds in these creatures can be quite powerful, so it is best to avoid them.

To do this, you choose your course based on where they are going and stay out of their way. You are a literal ant in a room full of elephants when you are sailing the ocean blue. Don't get stepped on!

Hurricane Hole

As Hurricane Jose passes by us in the Chesapeake Bay, we need to find ourselves a safe anchorage. The hurricane is passing by offshore, but the effects of its massive low pressure system can be felt for miles! 

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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. 

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Finding this perfect place while out cruising can be challenging. Sometimes you will need to make a compromise and anchor in a less than ideal location.  

We were lucky to find this place as it offered all the needed criteria and was completely empty! The depth in the entire basin is 16 feet deep and made out of soft mud over hard sand!

While this anchorage may seem like a dream come true, the truth is we were very fortunate to find it and get into it in a timely manner. 

We were safely anchored in another river, but decided that it might be fun to go sailing today since the winds in the river (where we were very protected) were rather light. A friend of ours who was sailing further north in the bay told us that the winds were rather light today and the seas were only 1 foot tall.  The thing is, we were much closer to the passing storm, so our winds were amplified, as was the sea state!

This brings us to our thrid option, "Sail It!" The bay is rather small, so heaving to for the entire storm isn't very practically as you will probably drift into an obstacle before the storm passes. If the winds are blowing you in the direction of travel that you wish to take, you could always run before the storm to get to safe harbor and wait for it to pass.  

We went out in what we expected to be rather light conditions, only to have ourselves beaten into submission! We had a reeked sailplan up, just in case the winds would be stronger than expected, and then we met the full fury of the storm. The winds were a steady 27 knots with gusts into the 30s and waves that required us to look up at the crests! Our original destination was slightly to windward and we quickly changed our minds and ran downwind as we searched for a new place to stop. 

Luckily, all this wind gave us an incredible boost of speed! We cruised along at around 6 and 7 knots the entire way, making a 20 mile away destination seem much closer. From anchor up to anchor down, we were only moving for 6 hours, and only 2 of them were very intense as we ran before the storm. On our run, we searched the upcoming rivers for a place that was deep, protected, and the right kind of bottom.  

I figured the sailing would be intense as I was raising anchor, but the winds were blowing the same direction we wanted to be going. What only took a few hours of sailing in the storm would have been the equivalent of 2 days of beating to windward during normal weather. The lack of anchorages between these two places meant that we would have needed to spend a night anchored out in the middle of the bay, completely exposed to the ever changing weather of the bay. 

Sailiing it might seem like a fun idea at first, but I strongly recommend against it. Going out in a gale to run before the storm is extremely tiring and taxing on the yacht and the crew. Maddie was fighting off motion sickness as I had to steer us through each massive wave that tried to broach us. This was fine for a few hours during the day, but imagine if this was your plan to ride out a storm that is supposed to last 3 days?! You would die from fatigue out there! 

Cruising means that you have to be on a sailboat when the weather is far from optimum, but it also means knowing how to prepare for severe weather in a safe manner. 

Synthetic Lifelines

Synthetic lifelines allow you to replace your questionable steel lifelines with dyneema that will provide you with a very lightweight lifeline that is immune to corrosion and easy to install yourself. The only specialty component that you need to make the conversion is a gate latch that can be spliced onto a synthetic lifeline. These latches cost around $70 each, and are readily attainable at most chandleries.

Synthetic lifelines are tensioned with lashings that attach to the pulpits. If you cut your lifelines a bit short, you don't need to worry since this will only require you to use a longer lashing.

The biggest issue with synthetic lifelines is chafe. You need to be mindful of sheets rubbing on them, as well as chafe from the stanchions that they pass through. The other issue is the spliced portion of the lifeline will not fit through the stanchion.

Chafe from the sheets can be managed by adjusting the sheet leads, but the chafe of the stanchion can not be avoided. The lifeline will rub on the stanchion because the lifeline passes through the stanchion. The trick is to polish the passage through the stanchion so that the chafe point is reduced.

As far as the splicing goes, there is a trick to work the splice around the stanchion. The splice is simply passed over the outside of the stanchion so that the bulk is bypassed. Be sure to leave enough room to scoot the spliced area over to inspect for chafe.

Making a Bed in the Cockpit: Part 3

With the epoxy all cured, it is finally time to apply the finishing touches. Drips and runs were easily sanded off, and the entire structure was painted with the same paint I used on my top sides and deck: Interlux Brightsides.

 

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Brightsides is a one part polyurethane paint that provides an acceptable result. It won't be confused for gel coat, or a factory finish, but it is easy and durable. 

You could easily spend your entire life perfecting your top sides, fairing out every last tiny imperfection until the result is the fairest and most perfect looking hull in the world! Then you could spend the rest of eternity sanding until you produce a blemish free surface that will be beautiful. When you paint this perfect surface, the paint will take on the shape of the underplaying surface, and as a result will produce the most perfect paint job the world has ever seen. 

Your yacht's top sides will be the pride and joy of your life, and then some idiot trying to dock stern into the wind drifts over and kisses your hull. All of your work is ruined as your top sides now have a very noticeable scuff! This can be repaired, but it will take a lot of hours to get it back to the perfect state it started in.

The alternative is to slap some Brightsides on there and go sailing! From a distance, it looks white and that makes your yacht look like a white hull on the horizon. If something kisses your hull and makes a scuff, all you need to do is sand it a bit and slap some more paint on there! This lets you spend less time worrying about the conditions of your top sides and more time cruising (which is the whole point).  

As far as durability, Brightsides is pretty darn strong for a one part polyurethane paint. My wife and I have lived aboard for 5 years, and we are rather abusive of our deck and top sides. We will slide heavy equipment on the paint, wear land lubber shoes on the deck, the works! The paint has held up well for the past 5 years with only small chips developing in areas where an 80 pound anchor was dragged on the paint, and where a motor mount scraped while dragging the inboard engine over the deck during removal. 

This may sound like we don't care about the condition of the deck, but this is far from the case. We use our deck, and if the paint gets bad looking, we will re-paint it! Brightsides is so easy to apply that we do not fear re-painting. We simply view it as general upkeep that we do for our yacht instead of viewing it as an expensive and time consuming chore. 

Since the top sides and deck have withstood some serious abuse over the years, this new addition to the cockpit will also receive the same paint and treatment. Thus, it was painted with Interlux Brightsides in preparation for its long life as our bed in the cockpit of the boat.