Over the last 40 years, I've ridden out numerous hurricanes, (> 12), but thankfully, not at sea! The "truism" about "never staying on the boat in a hurricane" is one that I don't necessarily agree with. It all depends. I have used both options, and in some cases I was safer staying on the boat.
In the case where I was staying in a house 300' away, and going down to the boat NUMEROUS times (even swimming), as the 13-15' surge came in, I would DEFINITELY have been safer on the boat, (in winds of 130, gusting to 150). As the house filled up, I had to go two blocks to high ground in the height of the storm, with water
up to my arm pits! With 21 lines on my boat, it was one of the few that made it undamaged!
Partly, the decision is based on how protected is the spot I've found, and takes into account how much I risked my life to build the boat in the first place. (and would do so again)... Can I do any good? In the case of letting mooring
lines out, so that my boat can rise with the tide/surge, there certainly IS something I can do. You can't take them IN, but you can let them OUT before they pop their lines or pull the dock
, or whatever, apart.
I have also swam extra anchors out in a storm, by holding it (Fortress 55), and the chain in a bag, just under the surface, (floated there by a large boat fender). With mask/snorkel and fins, I do the side stroke to my chosen spot, untie the bow knot
holding the anchor under the fender/float, then the chain... and swim the bitter end of the rode
back to the boat, to be set and tensioned with a winch
I have also made a really stout "portable" three anchor mooring
on occasion, in the most protected spot I could find, then pull in and "hook up" with doubled up bridles. With 3 or 4 HUGE anchors and chafe gear
, it has held when the others failed!
I have never had MY boat be the problem. It is always the OTHER guys boat that breaks free in the storm, putting my situation at risk. If the drama is happening slowly enough, this is where floating an extra anchor out is of use!
The above advice of "going south" to avoid the situation, is good. It is my first choice!
There may be reasons that this isn't feasible, or it may leave you riding it out at sea... YIKES!!! The worst position to be in, is just anchored in the lee of an island. It will be crowded with Yahoos, and in a direct hit, will become the windward side! IF this is your ONLY option, it's is no situation for staying on the boat, IF you have high ground and good shelter ashore.
I have found great "hidey holes" by going up a river, OR deep into a mangrove forest 60' high. I would have numerous 6' sections of chain and shackle them around root clusters.
I would then "spider web" in there attached to the mangrove bases. Spots like this are numerous in places like S Fl, both sides of the Caribbean
, and even a few in the Bahamas
Otherwise, there are a few canal "ghost towns" down island where a development was started 50 years ago, abandoned, and if you can chop your way in, THERE'S YOUR HIDEY HOLE!
These places are "all over" in the areas I've mentioned, Central America
, up rivers, and the Chesapeake. The thing is that they usually require local knowledge and a VERY early "staking of your spot". Like a week! At this point, the likelihood of your needing to go in there in the first place, is still an unknown. IF you do go it, and ride it out successfully, it may be weeks before you get out. The guy who came in after you, is now blocking your egress, and he may have flown home! Ya gotta get in there early, and be patient. I've never had insurance
, so it makes me willing, AND patient!
95% of the boats anchored around you in a larger harbor, bay, or cove, will drag. Given good holding, I know I can keep my boat where it is, (up to a low cat. 4), but VERY few cruisers have the equipment
or skills to do this. For this reason, I always opt for this, only because a really tight "hidey hole" is nowhere to be found.
While island hopping during hurricane season, I am constantly searching the charts
and doing dinghy
reconnoiters, looking for these spots. They're not exactly numerous, but they are in a LOT of places if you look.
Happy H season!
In his storm below, all 4 of the boats I prepared and/or fought through the storm, made it. It requires having the right equipment
, skills, and being willing to really "go for it".
Nothing succeeds like excess...