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Old 18-04-2017, 19:33   #1
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Taking refuge in a port during a storm

(landlubber question) If I am coastal cruising in 40-foot trawler, a storm kicks up and I take refuge in the nearest port, what do I do next? I presume I have to find a mooring or tie up somehow, but I can't just go into some strange marina and tie up without permission. (assume it is 3am on Sunday morning, so noone is around)
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Old 18-04-2017, 19:43   #2
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Re: Taking refuge in a port during a storm

First, try to get in before the storm. Going into a harbor entrance can be hairy in high wind.

If going in late at night, find a place to drop an anchor, preferably a place well protected from the forcast winds.

You can grab a spot at a marina, usually on a face dock that might be their fuel dock. Be prepared to pay in the morning for the night you just spent there.

I wouldn't just take one of their slips without asking. With my luck the rightful owner of the slip would pull in five minutes after I tied up.
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Old 18-04-2017, 19:50   #3
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Re: Taking refuge in a port during a storm

Hopefully you've studied your route and identified a few places you can escape weather if you need to.

Ideally these are well protected anchorages. I've never picked up a mooring not knowing who it belongs to. Could be designed to hold it a 20ft cabin cruiser and you could end up on the rocks.

In a pinch, tie up at the fuel dock of a marina but be up early in the morning to talk to the dockmaster.
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Old 18-04-2017, 20:47   #4
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Re: Taking refuge in a port during a storm

I had an issue once coming up from Mexico and needed to come in at Montery Ca. really bad conditions, called the dock master, no space he said, I told him it was a weather emergency, he made space. Be nice and it should work out.
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Old 19-04-2017, 01:17   #5
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Re: Taking refuge in a port during a storm

I am like the others - we study and study the weather conditions and sail to them. In 10 years have we been caught out - yep a couple of times - but never ever at night - entering a strange port at night in really bad conditions is a recipe for disaster -
as an aside we went into a port in Romania that was very nice but to get in you went straight at a breakwater and turned 90deg to starboard and go behind another breakwater and then another 90 deg to port and then another 90 deg to port into the harbor - we did it in good conditions and I mentioned it to locals who said yes the seas get really bad and these breakwaters provide great protection and they do as we waited out a nasty there - but the locals told us that more than one boat trying to get in in the dark or really bad conditions have ended up on the breakwater - yea we knew the nasty was coming and planned it to sit it out there

but the times we have it has been downright scary and the last time was in the daylight and we surfed into an unknown port at over 8knots hoping that the charts were adequate, we did not lose steering and the engine did not fail - we found a dock where we could tie up with the bow facing the entrance and chased all the fishermen off when we approached it - thankfully they helped us tie up -
asking forgiveness is preferable to asking for permission in these cases
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Old 19-04-2017, 01:24   #6
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Re: Taking refuge in a port during a storm

If you're intent on a marina versus anchoring, tie up at the fuel dock. When the staff comes in the next morning, you can arrange for a slip, or just buy some fuel and be on your way.
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Old 19-04-2017, 01:59   #7
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Re: Taking refuge in a port during a storm

IMO, if you are going cruising, you should be prepared to anchor in most any situation. It is nearly always easier to find a reasonable spot to drop the hook than to get safely into a strange marina and then an empty berth and get tied up, all in the dark and stormy. The chances of damaging your boat,or someone else's, is significant.

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Old 19-04-2017, 04:57   #8
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Re: Taking refuge in a port during a storm

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Originally Posted by Hud3 View Post
If you're intent on a marina versus anchoring, tie up at the fuel dock. When the staff comes in the next morning, you can arrange for a slip, or just buy some fuel and be on your way.
My general rule when tying up to a dock or mooring without permission, is to stay on the boat at all times and be prepared to leave on a moments notice. Some marinas rent out their fuel docks at night. One marina I know had an agreement with the local Coast Guard station to allow them to fuel up at any time of day or night (they had their own set of keys for the pumps.) Many harbors these days are too crowded to anchor. If you can't raise anyone at a marina on the radio or by phone, ask a local boater for a suggestion. Failing that, I think tying up to a mooring would be preferred over tying up to a dock, but of course keep in mind that you don't know how heavy or how well maintained the mooring is.
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Old 19-04-2017, 05:29   #9
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Re: Taking refuge in a port during a storm

Another perspecitve:

Many boating accidents occurr when landlubbers mistakingly assume they must get inland to ride out bad weather...and take unecessary risks to run jetties etc in bad conditions...when they would have been safer offshore. Plenty of YouTube videos documenting some of these bad decisions.

If you've got a well prepared seaworthy boat, and know how to handle it in foul weather, you will be just fine offshore in anything shy of a hurricane.
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Old 19-04-2017, 05:33   #10
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Re: Taking refuge in a port during a storm

To second what others have suggested, you can tie up in an obviously vacant area like the fuel dock or a long open section of side tie dock etc and then sort it out in the AM. Ive done that many times when arriving late.
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Old 19-04-2017, 07:00   #11
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Re: Taking refuge in a port during a storm

If you are coastal cruising, you should have "safety valve" ports/anchorages listed, well in advance, on your cruising itinerary with the best place to anchor as your primary goal and dock space as the last resort. Dropping a hook in 50K plus winds is far safer than trying to enter a slip/T-dock where damage to your boat and other nearby boats is a real possibility. Many harbors have an inner basin prior to entering the marina where refuge behind a breakwater/pier is possible. However, if it is really bad, I would not attempt any entry but rather get some sea room and heave to or head offshore with reduced sail if on a lee shore. The only difference with your forty foot trawler in comparison to a sailboat is that I would turn 40 degrees into the waves at steerage speed(4-6 knots) if you are on a lee shore or find the most comfortable angle to wind/waves if you have an offshore wind until the storm/front dissipates. We have witnessed serious damage in marinas in these conditions and with the windage of a 40-foot trawler, you would be a disaster waiting to happen. Hope this helps.
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Old 19-04-2017, 07:22   #12
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Re: Taking refuge in a port during a storm

I was in this situation this past December when sailing north to maine. Beautiful weather coming through the cape cod canal, but once we reached the atlantic side of the canal, the wind started to pick up. Thankfully it was easterly. We sailed to Plymouth MA, but the wind was too strong to allow us to maintain good steerage through tight and winding channels so we opted to anchor outside the harbor as close to the windward shore as we could safely get. Even though the wind had less than a mile of fetch, it still picked up waves to 3 and 4 feet. It was a rough ride that evening, but at least we were safe.


It was pretty much open water so let out as much rode as we had minus a few yards to get the line to a winch if necessary (no windlass on this boat).


Sometimes no matter how well you plan you still get stuck in a storm with no where to go.
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Old 19-04-2017, 07:44   #13
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Re: Taking refuge in a port during a storm

A couple of things and may just be the way I think.
First I'm staying out until its light and I can see.
Secondly I don't trust marina's in bad weather, and I don't want to try to dock in a slip in bad weather that is so bad it has me running for shelter either.
I have way oversized my ground tackle, and trust it way more than an unknown mooring etc.
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Old 19-04-2017, 07:48   #14
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Re: Taking refuge in a port during a storm

Squalls that 'pop-up' rarely do so in the middle of the night when coastal cruising. This occurs more often during the afternoon as sun is heating the land . I assume we're not talking about a rain event with a little wind, but an actual thunderstorm or micro-burst.

Most squalls like that are short-lived and can be safely run out in a trawler. This is also a somewhat non-issue as you would know with some notice when weather is coming. You would not plan an overnight run if you knew a front was blowing through in the middle of the night.
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Old 19-04-2017, 07:53   #15
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Re: Taking refuge in a port during a storm

Quote:
Originally Posted by belizesailor View Post
If you've got a well prepared seaworthy boat, and know how to handle it in foul weather, you will be just fine offshore in anything shy of a hurricane.
Provided, of course, you have sea room.
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