Tuesday, May 31, 2016

But What About the Weather?

We get ashore somewhere, we start to meet non-sailing friends through the kids, and the question inevitably comes up: what about the weather?  Haven't you been out in terrible storms?

The answer is that we have been out in some sloppy weather, but we've had to go looking for it.

Get this: we sailed Pelagic from Kodiak, Alaska to Hobart, Tasmania.  Then we sailed Galactic from San Francisco to Hobart.  And in all the sailing that entailed, maybe 25,000 nautical miles, we never had a gale at sea.

Never had average wind speeds of 34 knots or more.  Like, not once.

Even now, after we patently went looking for bad weather in Patagonia and the Southern Ocean, we've never seen storm-force winds - average (and I stress average, since that's the definition) wind speeds of 48 knots or more.

And really, any well-found, well-handled boat, with sea room and no unusual issues like wind against current, should be able to wait out a gale without any drama.

OK - confession - I did break my ribs in a gale once...so I guess I shouldn't downplay the drama part too much.

But my point is that while we watch the weather very carefully when we're looking to make a passage, and we continue to be very humble about this undertaking of sailing the world in our own boat, we also have a certain amount of confidence with the issue of bad weather, confidence that's naturally accrued over the nearly nine years that we've been out sailing.

But, when you're starting out, or when you're still in the dreaming/planning stage, the idea of bad weather at sea can be frightening enough to make you not want to go at all.

This should not be the case.  There are techniques that can keep a boat safe in poor weather, and the habits of good seamanship will give you security against the unexpected...there's a reason that "a lee shore" is the sailor's answer to what she fears most in life.

But, when you are just starting out, you don't know those techniques, and you don't have those habits of good seamanship.  So, how do you learn that stuff without going through the trouble of going out and making your own mistakes?

All this is a lead-in to mention Storm Proofing Your Boat Gear and Crew, by Fatty Goodlander.  The book is just out.  I haven't had the chance to see it myself, but Fatty has been sailing the world since before dirt was invented - if I'm not mistaken, he and Carolyn are on their third circumnavigation.  And Fatty has raised the very humble art of magazine writing to new heights in his monthly column for Cruising World.  So all that bodes well for this effort.  If you're dreaming of the life afloat, or if you're already on your boat, and wanting to pick up some cheap knowledge for dealing with "what-if's" on bigger crossings, this book might be right up your alley.

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