Experience is a great instructor - except that you only get the lesson, after the examination. I’ve become steadily more conservative in my choices, and certainly more respectful of the weather
over the decades I’ve been sailing.
We’ve been anchored in several violent storms (56-63 kt), sailed through several gales (34-40 kt), and at least two severe gales (31-47 kt).
In the mid eighties, we sailed (engineless) from the Slate Islands to Rossport (Lake Superior) in a “foggy” severe gale. The 45 kt winds bent our reaching strut, which took me over ½ hour to retrieve. Our Mirage 26 surfed a 30 nm+ broad reach in about 4 hours (well above hull-speed). It was quite odd to experience such high winds and fog
Tropical Storm Danielle (September 1992) caught us anchored at Sandy Hook (60 kt gusts), NJ. It took about an hour to lay an anchor
for a neighbouring boat - had to tack my 10' Zodiac
/w 5HP O/B into the 50 kt winds.
The Storm of the Century (March 1993) provoked an abandon-ship exercise, when we blew out the headsail & our engine
seized* as we attempted to escape Governor’s Harbour, Eleuthera. Three anchors out, and we were dragging to the rocks. The driving drain (60 kts, gusting higher) actually hurt my body, and we’ve kept a pair of speedo swimming goggles hanging at the helm
, ever since. Huge waves (15 Ft?) & breakers within the harbour.
*(engine overheated, when we picked up a stick in our raw water intake)
Nearly outran another severe gale, en route
Chub Cay to Nassau
. Departed Cat Cay (early AM), knowing there was “weather” coming off Florida
, and had a good daylight run to Chub. I decided it wouldn’t be very comfortable anchored around Chub, so turned right proceeding on to Nassau
(roughly another 35 nm). It was an exciting night, with several “scares” that we were about to be pooped. I’m normally pretty taciturn in grave situations, but (on one particularly harrowing upsurge*) I exclaimed “ohhhh shit”, and Maggie (down below) interpreted my unusual outburst to mean we were about to die.
In retrospect, I’m not certain that the determination to press on (rather than anchor) was a misjudgement; but the original decision to depart Cat Cay was certainly “impetuous” (if not downright foolish). In my defense, we had previously been caught in a major blow at Cat, and hadn’t enjoyed it one bit (Christmas of 93 or 94, when several other boats were severely damaged, and two “lost”).
*(BIG water is particularly harrowing on dark nights, when you feel the upsurge much earlier than you actually see the [breaking] wave)
I’ll agree that Lake Erie can be a very nasty “little pond”. I suspect that our 1992 crossing was more uncomfortable, for longer time, than any of the above tales. Those square 4 foot “ankle-biters” seem to slam you from all 4 directions.
force varies as the SQUARE of wind
velocity - hence doubling wind speed quadruples wind force (a doubling of force only requires a 41.4% increase in windspeed). Hence, a “Gale” is nearly twice as powerful as a “Near Gale”, and a “Severe Gale” has nearly triple the force.
Anyone who has tried handling sails
, anchor/dock lines (and the like) in a 30 kt blow (near gale) can attest to the fact that this is near their absolute limit of performance. Increasing the windspeed to 40 kts results in a totally unmanageable doubling of our workload.
Anticipate increasing winds - and act early!