It’s blowing. Out of the north. Late for the season. Although, I guess…not anymore. The northers, “never used to come all the way into March until this year,” I remember Bahamian Mike saying in West Palm Beach. That was last year. It’s March 18. Still too early to head north. This one, when it is said and done, will have blown for four days. Today’s the worst of it. It’s supposed to calm down. The gusts are definitely up to gale force and it’s a steady 25-30. This is exactly what NOAA has predicted, so, I’m not surprised.
I’m yacht sitting so I’ve left Vanu to fend for herself. Which of course begged the question, at least in my mind, if it was bad seamanship. She has two good anchors out, chafe gear, adequate scope, mud bottom. I did an online poll asking “Is it bad seamanship to leave your boat at anchor to fend for itself in a gale?” and mostly everyone voted it wasn’t. Not bad seamanship. I mean think about it. Most people who own boats aren’t with or on the boat when it’s blowing a gale. It’s at the dock, or on it’s mooring. Am I right? Unless they’re out cruising, or it’s the weekend, the boat is on the water and its owner is on land (or in my case on another boat).
Because most boats are at the dock more than they’re, “out there.” Am I right? Most of the boats at the very marina I’m sitting in right now don’t have people on them. Most of the boat’s at the mooring field my boat is anchored next to don’t either. That’s the only reason anyway cares about what I do and this blog anyway. People don’t pay attention because my boat and I are special, but because we’re out there doing it, (“which is more than most can say,” a friend has told me on more than one occasion when I’ve felt like a hack of a sailor).
A few people voted yes. That it is bad seamanship. But maybe they’ve just never been out there when it’s really bad. Bad enough to where you shouldn’t be out there. Or maybe they have. Maybe their entire lives are wrapped up in some boat that is simply irreplaceable, and they’d never think of leaving their boat to fend for itself when they could do a better job caring for it by being aboard. Or maybe they don’t know anything about boats at all. All I know is I’m glad I’m not on my little boat right now because I’d be all scared. I’d be checking the weather constantly to make sure it wouldn’t get worse, and probably be trying to identify strange noises, and bobbing around like a cork, and start wondering why I do this shit for fun, and eventually I’d get so tired that I’d be able to sleep with one ear open. I remember when I learned to sleep in a gale, and the many times I rode them out for several days because I couldn’t come to land during it. So I’m pretty grateful to not be on my boat right now.
What’s the worst case scenario anyway? She’d bounc off of things if she ever broke loose. That’s what pilings are for. I have liability insurance if she ends up damaging anyone’s property. I’ve got tow boat insurance if she ends up hard aground. The damage that would be caused to her would hopefully be nominal. She’s in a protected spot with mangroves and sand. She cannot be swept out to sea.
But even if it was a total loss…then what? I’d be sad but I’d be able to move on. I’d recover. Financially, emotionally. I certainly don’t want that to happen, and it’s highly unlikely, and I’ve done everything I could to prevent it other than being on the boat itself.
What would that mean anyway? Being on the boat? That I’m cold, miserable, unable to get any work done to the boat because she’s like a ghost ship heeling and walking up on her anchor and going beam to the wind every few gusts? Unable to get any work done on my computer because there’s not enough electricity or WIFI?
Here on the big boat at the marina I’ve filed my taxes, put all of my nautical miles together, made a sailing resume, written cover letters and applied to several boat jobs. I may have even landed one aboard a beautiful wooden cutter from 1935. I can almost already feel her journeys on the Pacific Ocean under my feet on her brightly varnished deck…but I digress.
The boat I’m yacht sitting is actually heeling now. Her lines are creaking. The cat is scared. She’s trying to tell me something. She exits through the open port light that functions as a cat door, but quickly comes back in traumatized. I pop my head out of the companionway. It’s still really blowing. The cat is meowing profusely. I go and get her littler box and bring it inside, since it’s too dangerous for her to go to the dock. She’s tiny and the gusts are big. Another gust comes and seems to radiate through the marina. It had to be 45 knots. I wonder how little Vanu is fairing. This is the last of it. It’s peaking, If she can just hold fast through tonight…
Good seamanship is knowing your boat is anchored securely. It’s not riding out the gale and suffering through it. The boat can take *a lot* more than you can. Be gentle on yourself. The boat is a tool for you. You are not a slave to the boat.
One of the best things I’ve done for myself is buy a piece of land on an island. It’s little more than a temporary refuge in a gale. It’s less comfortable than the boat, most of the time. But it’s a place to escape to when the weather gets unwieldy.
There is no guidebook to the life of a sailor, especially a modern one near land. You have to chart your own course. For me, I focus on my anchoring system and then I let the boat take care of herself. I love her, but I could afford to lose her. What I can’t afford is to waste days of stress trying to ride out foul weather.
You made the right choice.
Don’t stress. I don’t like bobbing around in rough weather if I have an out. I would have secured it, gone to land and had a beer and a burger.
A well anchored boat is a display of good seamanship!
I absolutely agree with the sentiments expressed in the other comments. If you prepared your boat properly with multiple anchors in a protected spot you’re practicing good seapersonship. In February 2018 we rode out many northern gales in the Lake Worth inlet. One in which we were stuck onboard for 5 days. It was what it was and if we had another option we may have taken it. By the end of the gale the little ignored daysailor that was moored next to us had disappeared- snapping its well worn mooring line! An example of poor seapersonship!
Hey, I sent you some dough for the ukelele kitty…. did you get it?
Aloha and fair winds!
Yes I got it! Thank you! Sent you an email .