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Big Storm Anchoring Survival Tips


Whether you're a full time cruiser or potentially becoming one, you will learn and be entertained by this post. So imagine that you're a full time cruiser in an incredible remote location that took a while to get to and you're having the time of your life. Abruptly, you've been alerted that threatening weather is soon on its way . . . what do you do? Perhaps you are out of time and ready to leave? If so, then maybe you could sail to a more protected anchorage, which could be a day or more away and still face a considerable, but lesser force of nature. But what if you want to stay put and let the good times roll once the storm's blown by? Well then, why not choose the most protected spot close by, even if it's not ideal, and ride it out as demonstrated in our last video, where we survived and learned many things, which we are going to share with you. The best thing was that after the storm passed, we were still in the location we loved, so being able to ride out the storm does have its benefits! If you haven't already, gain additional helpful insight by readIng our previous blog.


Below are our recommendations that have come from almost three years of full time cruising with 8,500 nautical miles under our belt. Note that the following information is real and unbiased experience based and that you we have no sponsorship or affiliation with any companies we mention in this blog. Please comment with additional tips along with any questions you might have. We want to hear from you!



Make Sure You Boat's Critical Systems Fully Operational And Your Skills Well Rehearsed


1. Engines / Propulsion System



Blown Away is a catamaran that has two engines which affords redundancy in case of break down; they are what will help you escape if your anchor starts dragging and you're headed towards a reef.


SPECIFICS

  • Starter is working

  • Battery is fully charged

  • Plenty of fuel in tank

  • Have any fuel system contamination issues under control which might cause fuel filters to plug, compromising power or causing engine shutdown. Check out our post on Marine Diesel Fuel System Contamination and Corrosion- Cause and Effect for detailed educational insight on this important and much misunderstood topic.

  • Carry extra primary and secondary fuel filters just in case you have to make an emergency change.

  • Props and boat bottom are clean for maximum power.

  • Rudders and steering cables are fully operational.

  • Have you checked your oil, coolant, belts etc?

  • Your sails and rigging are also move your boat. Is everything in working order and well organized?


2. Anchoring System



When stuck in bad weather, you're anchoring system and skills are either your best friend or worst enemy. You decide and remember, you MAKE your own luck.


SPECIFICS

  • Have an oversized STORM anchor. Storm Anchor Sizing Chart

  • Have at least 300' of chain for deeper anchorages and higher winds.

  • The weight and friction of chain laying on the ocean bottom holds your boat in place during big storms so put out as much chain as possible for more holding power, but make such your boat is not endangered when the chain is fully stretched.

  • Use an anchor swivel to prevent chain twisting as the boat moves around in the anchorage

  • Anchor windlass is fully operational.

  • Anchor bridle and shackles are in good condition.

  • Practice dropping and picking up anchor until proficient and communication with your anchoring partner is excellent.

  • Know how to determine a proper protected location even if it doesn't appear on your chart plotter.


3. Global Model Weather Data And Interpretive Skills



There are MANY good sailing wind and weather apps; however, most draw from the same global weather models and display it in various ways. Most are free for basic access, but require a paid subscription for added detail and interpretation. Eileen and I use PredictWind and also Windy which has free current data which PredictWind charges extra for and is often critical when crossing the Gulf Stream and on longer passages. We have subscribed to their "Standard" plan which has a lot more features that we think are worth it, but the main reason is being able to use their Offshore App on Iridium Go which allows you to download weather by satellite while you're underway or in a remote location with no data service.


SPECIFICS

  • Have 2 to 3 weather apps that you know how to use as cross reference and complement each other.

  • If necessary, subscribe to one to gain insight and functionality .

  • Be familiar with the major global weather models and know how to weight their information. In other words, know which one's data you should give greater emphasis because it provides more accuracy for where you're currently cruising. See below for our summation.

  • Having a satellite connection is essential on passages longer than two days and/or in areas with no data.


What You Need To Know About the Global Weather Models


HOW TO INTERPRET PREDICTWIND WEATHER TABLES


The forecast weather table is your friend if you know how to use it. Each weather model is indicated by circles in the left hand margin with colors corresponding to the model colors above. Each global weather model is unique in how it obtains its data and none are ever right all of the time so what you want to look for are "outliers" (data that doesn't seem to agree with the majority - indicated by red XXXs below) and look for agreement (see starfish stickers below). It's important that you understand the models are there to help you, I have summarized each below the weather table.


SPECIFICS

  • Give less weight to "outliers" and more emphasis to "agreement". Here a "herd" mentality is actually a good thing!

  • Make sure your gps location is accurate on the app so the data is as accurate as possible.

  • Observe weather tables daily to determine which model(s) are giving the most accurate data. Make them prove there reliability!!!!!

  • For more understanding, look at the tables and special wind etc. maps including the "Daily Briefing" as well as patterns of multiple day forecast changes.

  • Check weather AT LEAST once or twice a day. Don't get lazy and let bad or good weather sneak up on you, lessening your opportunities to prepare for bad or fully enjoy favorable weather days!



Global Weather Models Ranking & Summary


I have personally found that the ECMWF is the most accurate and one of the reasons is because it has the highest resolution (detail) at 8 kilometers. I don't have much confidence in the PWG and PWE models because they have been mostly outliers where we've been in Guatemala, Honduras and Panama. In the US, they may be the best which is why you need to be constantly testing the forecast with actual readings. Use a screen shot from previous days to help you compare with what's actually happening to form your own educated opinion. The information below is provided by PredictWind. Let us know in the comments below what your favorite model is and where you mainly use it?


#1 The ECMWF (European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts) model is highly regarded by Meteorologists and top Navigators around the world. The ECMWF HRES model consistently rates as the top global weather model from a national weather service with the highest rating scores. In March 2016 ECMWF increased the resolution of their model to a record breaking 9km resolution, which is currently the highest resolution global model available. ECMWF data has a very high acquisition cost, and this is why the data is not widely used by many weather websites, and has been traditionally used only by top yacht racing teams and meteorologists.


#2 SPIRE uses the community MPAS model: Model for Prediction Across Scales. Spire uses a unique technique of measuring the earth’s atmosphere with 3 times more radio occultation data than any other commercial entity. This gives an advantage in forecast accuracy for remote locations. The PredictWind validation report proves that the Spire model is #1 for wind speed and direction accuracy using data from offshore weather buoys. It is #2 behind the ECMWF for land-based weather stations. The Spire Model output is 12km resolution globally. Learn more about Spire Modelling here.


#3 The UKMO model, otherwise known as the “Unified Model” by the UK Meteorological Office has a long reputation as a market leader in forecast modeling. The validation study shows the UKMO has very similar accuracy to the ECMWF model offshore, and slightly behind the ECMWF & Spire models for the land-based weather stations. The UKMO model is used by many Met Offices around the world, and some of the biggest weather companies in the world. UKMO has a 15km resolution model output.


#4 The GFS (Global Forecast System) Model from NCEP is the most widely used data source as it is free of cost, and whilst it is a good model it has a lower accuracy rating score. The model is run at 13km resolution, but only output at 27km resolution globally, which is not enough resolution to predict local thermal sea breeze and geographic effects.


#5 PWG is PredictWind weather model that uses the NCEP global initial conditions for the model run.


#5 PWE is the PredictWind weather model that uses the ECMWF global initial conditions for the model run. Both the PWG and PWE are only available from PredictWind.




Discuss what your boat's weaknesses are and try and predict everything that could go wrong. Don't wait until disaster happens at 2 am. Have a plan to increase your odds for success!


SPECIFICS - Questions and Senarios to Discuss

  • What will have to happen to cause you to pull up your anchor and flee?

  • How high will the wind and swell have to get before you lay out more chain or will you wait until you start to drag and if so, how much will you more will you lay out? Do you have any extra chain available?

  • If you're engines don't work, what's plan B. Can you sail away from danger with the forecasted wind angle. Maybe just put up your head sail or add the main also?



Anchor alarms are critical as they warn you if your anchor is dragging so you can take action. They also show you detailed data of boat swing at anchor. Data is useful! We use Anchor Pro.


SPECIFICS

  • Set one or even better two anchoring apps from two different providers. Use two different phones and or iPads for added redundancy.

  • If necessary, subscribe to have access to more features such as allowable boat swing and a history of movement over the last 24 hours.



Have someone take anchor watches near the chart plotter and anchor alarms during bad weather so immediate action can be taken if the anchor drags or the boat swings into a bad position.


SPECIFICS

  • Assign anchor watch shift.

  • Make sure you you have a comfortable place to sit or sleep near the instruments.



This one is self explanatory, but important. It's too late once an emergency happens and you have to act fast.


SPECIFICS

  • Keep your boat uncluttered to prevent confusion and accidents during emergencies.

  • Make sure all emergency equipment is available and organized such as life vests, lines, etc.


Thanks for reading and please make some comments and share our blog. Until next week . . .


May your life's adventures abound!


Eileen and Brown

s/v Sailing Blown Away


"Proceed as if success is inevitable."

+1.347.461.1204 - US mobile/Whatsapp

Twitter - @svblownaway

Instagram - @sailingblownaway

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