I am afraid nothing is 'normal'. And you will not be sailing other people boats nor using their skills. You must think about your particular journey, your boat, your weather challenges and pitfalls, and your set of skills.
Heavy weather gear can range from nill to a substantial kit but would start the preparations elsewhere. If you have read the book 'Heavy Weather Sailing' (if you have not, do!) then you may have noticed that no matter what gear one carries or not a time may come that you get entangled in a wx system that is out of season, out of forecasts but unfortunately on your track. Then, if you have read this book (which I recommend ;-)), you may have noticed that in a case like this what actually saves the boat and her crew are the very basic properties of the boat: having a strong boat with adequate stability, bomb-proof hatches, small windows, well secured batteries (and fridgelids), reliable bilge
pumps ... OK, enough said, by now I am sure you got my drift: Start with getting the boat heavy-weather sail/survival -able.
Then again, to possibly avoid having to rely on your boat's seaworthiness (or its lack) the next thing that comes to mind is making sure your sailing skills, your preparation and your mental and physical stamina are up to the job (the job being surviving a major wx mishap and saving the boat and her crew from irreparable damage). Unfortunately, there is no other way to get storm sailing skills than sailing thru some storms. But this should not distract from trying to sail as many miles in as many types of weather as possible and exposing oneself to as many heavy weather challenges as one can actually pack into the preparation period. The above relates to all crew, not just the skipper
. Remember that if you are the driver then someone will have to run the business when you are trying to get some rest - a good storm can last in excess of 48 hours. Build your physical and mental strength and sail in 'strong' conditions as much as you can. Get ready for the worse.
And now that you ask about the gear ... we carried:
- deck security
lines, harnesses, lifejackets,
- ropes (from NZ replaced by seabrake drogue),
- storm jib
(fron NZ supplemented with a trysail),
- spare tiller,
I will also add that our boat has a substantial dodger
and the cockpit
is fully wrapped - this includes an "all-weather" canvas
roof which I believe immensely lessens the stress that bad weather puts on the crew.
I can recommend goretex foullies and hi-tech mid and base layers - being dry and warm thru the whole experience keeps the spirits high and the body in good condition for longer.
PS Do not draw too much confidence from Pacific cruising stories. Indian Ocean
is a way different pair of shoes with very boisterous trade
winds at times, complex landfall in RSA and then you want to sail the long stretch of Southern Atlantic and cross the dolldrums too - it IS a different adventure from sailing the Pacific pond.
Okidoki. My two cents.