Well, after a day to digest it here's my take on riding out a hurricane
1. There's only a few things you can do to help yourself in this kind of storm. Most of the time you are just along for the ride. However, being on board I am pretty certain saved my boat. The very last boat in the mooring field to break free was the only one to hit me. He blew down on my bow and hit my sprit and 65 lb Mantus
right at his shrouds which then hung up on the anchor
. I saw him coming and was on the bow when he hit but there was no way I could have fended him off, not even if I had Arnold Schwartzenberger to help. What I was able to do is unhook his shroud
from where it hung on my anchor letting him blow free (with one bounce on my toe rail as he went). If I hadn't been on it immediately I think the shroud
would have hooked in tight and the two boats irretrievably locked together and certainly I would have dragged.
2. I felt this way going in and the results of the storm confirm it in giant, capital letters. Trust your own anchor and chain, not some unknown mooring no matter what the marina tells you (well maybe if you know and trust them and their competency really, really well). Even though I made it through on a mooring I think there was an element of luck. Others weren't so lucky. I would have rested much easier if I had been hanging on my own anchor.
In this situation I decided to stay on the mooring for a number of reasons. One, I was out of town and got to the boat after dark Thursday when the winds already picked up leaving me with fewer options. Also I was solo, making a move after dark in strong winds even trickier. Another, there were no really good holes close by with protection from westerly winds I would see as the eye passed to the north. Getting there late was my own fault. I had made plans months ago to spend some time with family
and initial forecasts looked like the storm would pass much farther east. So I delayed coming until almost too late. Lessons, don't get complacent and don't wait to take action.
3. Motoring against the wind
. At the peak of the storm I cranked the engine
and tried motoring powering to take some of the strain off the mooring. I'm not certain it helped or not but it did make me feel like I was going something. Very subjectively it did seem to take some of the strain off the lines but also it seemed like it made the boat sail farther out that then put more strain on the lines. This could have been because it was at the height of the storm and the boat would be sailing that much anyway.
A couple of times I gave it full throttle, wheel
hard over, to try to straighten out and point the bow back into the wind. The boat moved forward a good bit when I did this and I felt like I might have been able to motor
out against the wind if I broke free. That idea could be total nonsense and I certainly wasn't going to cast off lines to see how it went. I would be very interested in anyone else's thoughts or experience on powering against 80-100 kt winds. Is it possible? One problem, if the mooring had started dragging I would have needed a second hand forward to cast off the lines which I didn't have.
4. Like the real estate joke, the secret is preparation, preparation and preparation. Most of the boats that broke free or dragged had zero preparation. I guess at least 2/3s of the boats there were just left as they had been for weeks or months. Single
lines on over half the boats. Almost all still had sails
rigged. Several had biminis and one had a large awning. A couple of very large cats dragged early, towing the moorings with them. Their windage was just way, way too much for what was there. Of the eight that survived, most were smaller boats, 30-35' range that put much less strain on the mooring. I only saw two boats over 40' that made it through.
I know my extra lines on the mooring helped. Stripping the sails
also had to help reduce the strain but I don't know if that was a lot or a little?
5. I would not have wanted to be on board in a storm much stronger than this, at least not where I was. In a better harbor with my own anchor(s) out maybe. If something worse comes along I think hauling out is the plan.