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Old 28-09-2013, 02:12   #1
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Life aboard and Dealing with heavy weather on hook or mooring

Okay so we are a just a few months away from moving aboard and I was out working on our boat on its swing mooring, It's about 250m from shore.
So while I was out there I was expecting some increased winds but not as big as what happened.
The winds picked right up and the fetch was quite long making for biggish waves. With the tender along side it started to bang despite the fenders so I came up and decided to add another painter (the one I leave on is a tad tired) so I did and it was a bit hairy, I the. Let the tender ride behind the boat on a longer line where it appeared okay.
I returned to work below and when about 20l of water came through a port I knew the weather was increasing. I closed the port mopped up the water and went up top to have a look.
Yup she was getting a lot worse and now about an hour in seemed to be still building, by this time the boat was burying the stem a few times. I went forward and checked on the mooring lines since it was just serviced. As expected when she raised the lines high I could clearly see they only cleaned the tops and not the whole apparatus that they were paid for. That's another story.
Okay so by that time the winds further increased so I looked back at the tender with my Honda 4 stroke and it looked like it was going to not last too long.
I therefore decided to call it a day. I locked up and planned my escape in fact although I don't mind the motion and our Nantucket 33 rides so nice in rough weather and at anchor I did need to get back. I thought of spending the night until the weather lessened but it would have meant sacrificing the tender and motor for sure.
So I formulated a plan that definitely did not include using the port aft ladder. That was bad enough earlier before she really picked up.
I donned my life jacket and then I brought the tender along side she had a breaking wave pass underneath and became airborne she is a 3m poly double wall wide tender and not the lightest. She flew steady at about a meter above the waves for what seems like minutes but was likely several seconds. I envisioned her flipping but I pulled the painter I had in my hand already over the rail as hung to the shroud as far to the water as possible. With the painter down the boat settled onto a wave and started its former bucking. This was not goi g to be easy I thought.
Just then the boat turned and a good equal passed I sat and braced as it shook me and healed the boat over to the rail. Fortunately the tender and I were on the lee side.
After that passed I got to my feet pulled the tender higher along side gripping the painter now gathered in my hand around the shroud. I climbed over the rail waited for a wave to raise up the tender and when it did I jumped in carrying the painter with me.
Whew I landed on target and as I quickly drifted away I started the 2hp motor pointed downwind to shore and went WOT catching the first wave she was up on the plane and screaming for shore. It was a very fast ride in that little tender but she handled great I turned a bit and kept on the plane surfing the wave all the way to the beach. As I landed I jumped out before the next wave turned the boat I pulled it up on shore and wish someone as there to give a high 5 but the only person on the beach seemed unfazed.

Then I thought if you were in those sorts of conditions and had to get to shore with wife and kids how could you do it?
I have our cruising tender resting on its davits and figured launching from there would not have been that great either.

Normally I'd say just wait and don't go ashore. But when we first move I will still work 2 days a week and one of our kids will continue school for the rest if the year before we try homeschool.

If I knew poor weather was coming I can get to protected waters. But when the wind comes from this direction there is no place to hide that would allow access to these appointments. It got me thinking others must have the same obstacle so how do you overcome it. Am I missing the obvious? How can you safely get to shore in all kinds of weather?

If we end up on our mooring and not a marina to start with which is likely. We can buy another tender such as a Rib to add some safety or I can put tubes on our current tender.
With our current set up I'd say there was no way I could get out to the boat in those conditions not with 2hp.

So far I'm thinking a different boat and a deck connection that I can attach a snap shackle and a quick release pull in a protected sheath and board from the same location.

I think I would not do it with kids in those peak conditions but if it was not quite so bad it may work with an adult in tender one on shore help kids in then last adult in and pull the release.

Maybe I should be thinking something totally different.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on dealing with this sort of situation.

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Old 28-09-2013, 04:16   #2
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Re: Life aboard and Dealing with heavy weather on hook or mooring

It sounds quite dangerous. Can you swim to shore if you fall overboard trying to jump into the tender? What if you break an arm or knock your head?

I think you need a mooring with better shelter. The tender issue is not the only problem -- your gear will be subject to a lot of chafe in a place like that.

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Old 28-09-2013, 06:56   #3
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Re: Life aboard and Dealing with heavy weather on hook or mooring

There are numerous places that I would not choose as any place for anchoring other than a quiet day anchorage. Other places we might remain for several days of predicted good weather and still more that are well protected anchorages for daily life aboard. Lastly, those special "hurricane holes" to ride out a tropical storm. I do not choose to be in a situation like you describe. I just don't anchor in those places with that weather. We can do well with wind and cold and rain, but good holding with a limited fetch is essential. We spent many times anchored out with our two children from the time they were infants. I can not imaging choosing that weather and wave risk.
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Old 28-09-2013, 07:36   #4
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Re: Life aboard and Dealing with heavy weather on hook or mooring

You simply DO NOT go ashore. Is anything worth a major injury or worse? Weather like that does not happen that often.
But I would also select a different anchorage if possible.
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Old 28-09-2013, 08:01   #5
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Re: Life aboard and Dealing with heavy weather on hook or mooring

Not being able to get ashore in tender is just a fact of life when cruising. The most common limitation for us, usually landing on a beach, is breaking waves onshore.

A tender tied on the the back of the boat is not safe in strong wind they can flip reasonably easily. If there is an outboard it will be be damaged. Rib's are better, but I have still seen them flip in wind not much over 30 knots.

Fortunately we can launch our tender from the back of the boat in almost any conditions, but it is reasonably small so its a wet ride. I have even had an automatic inflatable life jacket go off. You need to consider what will happen if the outboard fails. Rowing upwind is not viable in even moderate conditions.
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Old 28-09-2013, 08:17   #6
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Re: Life aboard and Dealing with heavy weather on hook or mooring

G'day Mischief,

Welcome to the realities of living aboard! Your story illustrates why many experienced cruisers/liveaboards have fairly large RIBs with 10+ hp motors! But, even with better equipment, there are simply times that one can't get ashore, and the wise yottie makes plans for those times. That is, you let schools or employers know in advance that on rare occasions you simply will not be able to follow your normal schedule. In those events, your mobile phone is your friend... letting the affected folks know as quickly as possible helps smooth out ruffled feelings. For those of us who have no scheduled events (well, nearly none) we just hunker down with a good book and wait it out. Inflatable tenders are somewhat easier to deal with in nasty conditions, for they don't ding up the boat or your body as badly as hard dinks (even with some fendering) do, and bigger/heavier ones don't tend to fly about as readily. But, for the first time in 27 years of cruising, our 3.5 meter RIB w/15 hp Yamaha did turn turtle last season during a 60 knot blow in Port Davey, so there is a limit to everything!

If such a plan is unacceptable to school or boss, then a move to a marina seems the only viable plan in Port Stephens, for I can't think of a truly well protected anchorage there that also has good road access. The upper reaches of Fame cove are well enough protected, but not accessible. Salamander bay (where I suspect you are moored) has good access, but is exposed to some winds.

The good news is that the Met guys are pretty good in Oz. With the exception of thunderstorms, they seldom miss forecasting big blows. They may get the exact timing and strength wrong, but the expected wind direction is usually correct and that seems to be the critical factor for you. Preemptive moves can usually be made in time to escape the worst situations, but previous exploration of your hiding places is a great idea so that you know what you are getting into.

So, as we've told countless folks thinking about the live aboard life -- it is a wonderful existence but there are costs, and it ain't for everybody!


Jim and Ann
s/v Insatiable back in MBTBC marina, waiting for next eye jobs to be done
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Old 28-09-2013, 16:29   #7
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Okay that reinforces some of my thoughts.

As far as what I'd did I know it would raise some concern but as far as I'm concerned I calculated the risk and was not in fear of my safety. I could swim that easily as I swim in rough surf for hours. Plus the wind was pushing me in a clear line to shore. So if the motor didn't start I would have have made it to shore at any rate.

Now I knew there were winds coming but as the Met guys warn 50% stronger than forecasted in this case a bit more than that. I would say gusts hit 50kn maybe a tinge more. I had been expecting 25kn winds.

As mentioned in port Stephens when the wind blows from NW NNW common for strong winds here the fetch is a bit longer and can build as it compresses as it goes through middle island and then continues on straight for little Salamander bay. All the anchorages here are exposed to certain high winds with road access.

Its true if life aboard we could have just steamed to Protected waters but we would be stuck there.

Telling employers and schools could be an option but in Australia living aboard is technically, lets say not recommended and is kept on the down low.

As far as the mooring goes I had double weight put in and lines to suit a 45' vessel. Double bridal and a length of 50mm chain at the bottom for absorption. I also keep my anchor on deck connected with the chain that's lashed in a way I could easily drop it if required. But many boats go ashore because the cut their mooring lines with their anchor in these conditions.

I'd say in a year we might get conditions like this or close to this a few times a year. But strong winds that would effect the anchorages probably 10days out of the year.

I think I will suss any little spot that could offer a bit more protection that has road access and see what it's like when the conditions are up. I also think having as big of rib we can would help with a 15hp. This may allow us to launch from protected waters and cross in the rib. Well I could cross but I would leave the kids. Okay for me getting to work though.

I guess the safest option is to live at the marina but I know others must face the same situation so I thought I would ask. Next option is to not go ashore, in those conditions which is what I would do anyway but what about when say the winds are 25-35kn which is more common? Looks like I would just have to get the best tender I can and figure the best safest way to launch and then limit going to shore in severe weather. This gives me lots to think a about.
But we are not deterred about moving aboard.
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Old 28-09-2013, 21:16   #8
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Re: Life aboard and Dealing with heavy weather on hook or mooring

When I was working on Boracay on a mooring I sometimes found that the weather did get to a point where I was concerned it would be dangerous to row ashore in a small dinghy.

My contingency plan was to wait and see if the weather improved, then to have sufficient stores on board to wait out the weather overnight. Mostly in Sydney bad weather does not last that long.

Waiting always paid off.

My last option (never taken) where I absolutely had to get ashore would be to call the water police. They may not be happy but considering they spend far too much time recovering dead bodies there would be a fair chance they'd help.
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Old 29-09-2013, 03:35   #9

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Re: Life aboard and Dealing with heavy weather on hook or mooring

Brings me back to a time anchored outside Key West when it blew gale force for almost a month around xmas. My dinghy swamped completely several times but had floatation so the powerhead was above the water and suffered no damage except losing gas can and live vests. The worst part of the whole scenario was when a 40' coronado wore thru its mooring and crashed into us at 4am. broke a couple of stance We stayed aboard for weeks without going ashore as the ride across the deep water channel had breaking crests that would have swamped the dinghy. Temps never got above 45 deg f. and there was a significant fish kill.
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Old 29-09-2013, 05:55   #10
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Re: Life aboard and Dealing with heavy weather on hook or mooring

When it gets this bad, I pull our tender onboard and tie it down. Sure, it is only a 25 kg of PCV in our case. Then I hope for the best, and if I am wrong we drop the mooring and go to another spot (if such a spot exists) or to open water.

We never ride our dinghy to the shore in bad conditions as what looks bad from the boat always turns into a nightmare surf landing when we arrive there.

Next time think of hoisting the dink, making a pot of coffee and enjoying the elements.

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Old 29-09-2013, 07:21   #11
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Re: Life aboard and Dealing with heavy weather on hook or mooring

If you only get conditions like that a few time a year, then it's just something you have to deal with a few times a year. Stay on the boat, and if you can, stow the dink. If you're living aboard on a mooring then you may well want to consider davits, as expensive and unattractive as they are. While davits are not the best place for a dinghy in bad weather they are better than leaving it in the water.

I think the bigger issue is the safety of a mooring that is in unprotected waters and is in uknown condition. Moorings, particularly ones that are maintained by a municipality, are notorious for being poorly maintained, and as you've seen you don't always get what you pay for when it comes to having them checked.
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Old 29-09-2013, 16:31   #12
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Re: Life aboard and Dealing with heavy weather on hook or mooring

One of the problems we found is if you are at work and it blows up. My wife used to get a little miffed if after picking up our daughter and a load of groceries the run out to the boat was wet and choppy and sometimes near impossible.
Your work will probably not take kindly to irregular attendance due to a little breeze.
Salamander Bay can get very windy and choppy (we once had a bottle of rum fly off the table when the wind came in ).
A more sheltered spot would be an advantage, (Lemon Tree Passage?) but maybe if you bought an old tinnie it would allow you to get back and forth better than an inflatable.

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Old 30-09-2013, 08:34   #13
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Re: Life aboard and Dealing with heavy weather on hook or mooring

Your experience and the comments are interesting. I am considering making Port Stephens my home port in a couple of years when I return to Australia. I have checked out several potential sites but none seemed to be sheltered in all conditions. They all seemed to be exposed in at least one direction.
When I last lived in Oz 90% of the weather came from the NW through to the SE. Two or three times a year only it came from the NE but it was almost always ugly weather. A black NE'ter we used to call it. It's hard to chose which sort of mooring to go for. Shelter from the general weather or shelter from that occasional rough one.
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Old 30-09-2013, 08:48   #14
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Re: Life aboard and Dealing with heavy weather on hook or mooring

Good day to read a book.


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