What to do if a storm hits you at sea
Denis Korablev
  • 01.10.2021
  • 283

What to do if a storm hits you at sea

A yachtsman should always be ready for any surprises, including bad weather. You can learn about the approach of a storm in advance, thanks to forecasts and personal observations. If it is possible to weather out the storm in a secure marina, an experienced skipper will choose this option. Those who find themselves in a storm on the high seas pass the real test of their sailing skills, the well-coordinated work of the crew and the manifestation of fortitude. It is very important to know in advance about the approach of bad weather, because a lot depends on the preparation for the approach of an extreme situation.

If the approach of a storm overtook the yacht on the high seas, it is necessary to act quickly and harmoniously, because usually the squall is approaching rapidly. A yacht storm is not the deadliest but dangerous test. No matter how strange it may seem, the small and seemingly fragile wooden shell of a sailboat has a multiple advantage over huge motor ships in the chances of surviving a storm. It is in such a situation that the real character of each and the team as a whole manifests itself.

If the yacht is small and the crew is minimal, using a checklist is an excellent solution. For those who get into a storm for the first time, such a sheet is a must. The pre-filled checklist includes step-by-step instructions for dealing with an emergency, the checklist contains notes on the location of the necessary things. Such a detailed list - instructing, fulfilling the role of a comrade who gives a hint at the right time, will not let the inexperienced skipper get confused. The first item on such a sheet should be sails and rigging. Preparing the rig for a storm begins with replacing a regular staysail with a storm one. In a fresh wind, the staysail standing on the inner staysail is easier to remove than the jib farther from the mast, especially if the crew is minimal. Small yachts are easier to handle with a storm sail on the staysail rather than a jib rail. Then the mainsail is lowered and fixed on the boom. If there is only one rail on the mast for raising the sail, the trisel is installed only when the mainsail is completely removed. When the trissel sheets are secured, it is lifted and aligned with the wind.

Next, you should pay attention to the condition of the deck. Safety lines and handrails are carefully checked, all deck openings must be plugged, hatches and portholes are sealed. There should be duplication of the fastening of canisters, anchors, other equipment located on the deck. The brine motor is brought into the interior, the brine itself is deflated and firmly fixed on the deck. All loose items are removed from the cockpit, the cockpit awning and bimini are folded in and out. The lids of boxes and lockers are closed and fixed, the liferaft is checked.

Next comes the turn of the underdecks. Any objects that can slip or fall when rolling are removed and tied, the doors of cabinets and drawers are fixed as reliably as possible. The bunks are filled in and the fixing nets are tightened. Checking of emergency packing, operability of bilge pumps, emergency buoys, checking of equipment (AIS, radar). A trial, test start of the engine is done. And the most important thing is safety! Storm gear, life jackets and harnesses are retrieved and checked.

If a storm overtook a yacht with a manned crew far from the coast, the pre-storm preparation is carried out almost according to the same schedule as on smaller yachts, however, with some peculiarities, because the captain's responsibility for the lives of people increases significantly. The captain of the yacht, especially on chartered yacht, takes responsibility for making key and final decisions. His presence in the most dangerous and difficult situations raises the morale of the crew.

Demonstrating an example of perseverance and courage, the captain gives commands clearly and confidently, encouraging the actions of the crew, and pointing out mistakes. And let the profanity sometimes slip through - later they will remember this with a smile. After assessing the situation, the captain, taking into account the strength of the approaching storm, the technical condition and type of the yacht, the experience and teamwork, chooses the tactics of dealing with the elements. The logbook is being filled in and the coordinates are marked on the map. White signal flares, designed to warn another ship of an approach in the dark, are placed in a waterproof bag or bag. The running lights are checked, the anchor and masthead light must work properly.

Working with the crew, first of all for the captain. Orders must be clear and logical. The captain is obliged to follow the preparatory emergency work on the deck, check the reliability of fixation of the anchor, bucket, ladder, raft. The cockpit drain holes must be open, the exhaust pipe, on the contrary, must be closed. The floating anchor and towing lines should be prepared in advance and be on hand.

The necessary work is being carried out in the hold, all things, items, and the cargo being transported are securely fastened. All hatches and portholes must be hermetically sealed. Storm sails are prepared and moved to a location where they can be easily retrieved if required. The work of bilge pumps for pumping water is checked.

A test start of the engine is in progress. During a storm, you should not rely solely on the autopilot or engine, as statistics show, they can fail at the most inopportune moment. While sailing in a beydewind course in a storm, the captain should try to help the helmsman with advice and deed.

Not only the preservation of the course depends on the skill of the helmsman, but also the survivability of the vessel, the inability to meet the wave or the submission of the boat's side to too large a wave - all these miscalculations of the helmsman can end in disaster. In a stormy situation, the helmsman should be the embodiment of attention, calculating each of his maneuvers, tacking correctly, while keeping an eye on the direction of the wind. If the captain notices that the helmsman can barely cope with the steering wheel, the ship is heeling more than 30 °, the leeward side touches the water and the boat is increasingly beating against the wave - then it's time to take the reefs.

The main and main action of the team is to reef the sails, since the sail (if there is no engine) is the main driving force of the yacht. To remain without sails during a storm (and, most likely, without a mast) means to become a toy of the raging elements, putting people and the ship in mortal danger. Sailing skills should be practiced to the point of automaticity. It is necessary to replace regular sails with storm sails. Having completed the work with the sails, you can go into a drift.

You can drift under sails or under a spar. To return to the desired course, a forewind is performed using a storm jib. Anchor drifting, used when the storm reaches 10 on the Beaufort scale. The floating anchor is used as a brake to maintain control of the yacht.

Drifting is not the only storm technique. If the situation worsens, the captain, by his decision, applies the "storm escape" technique. At the same time, the yacht lays down on a safer course, moving along with the wave, using a floating anchor to drop the speed to 5 - 6 knots. This speed is the most optimal, lower or higher speed will lead to loss of control of the yacht. If the floating anchor cannot effectively brake the vessel to the required level, tow ropes are used. Of course, the yacht can get damaged or even capsize, but the design of the sailboat, which has a heavy keel, allows it to return to its previous position. The task of the crew in a storm is to make every effort to preserve the boat's hull, spars and steering gear. If each member of the crew clearly knows and understands their actions in advance, the ship will emerge victorious in the battle with the elements.

According to the experts 2yachts, there are many known cases when yachtsmen got out of the water in the most would, hopeless situations. The sea does not forgive indiscretion and sloppiness, such an attitude towards it will be severely punished. Over time, a good yachtsman gains experience, he begins to feel and love his ship, he has the ability to quickly and accurately make important and timely decisions. Marine science does not require academic knowledge. Experience, knowledge, intuition, self-discipline and self-confidence will help to withstand the most severe storm.