Next week is the official start of hurricane season in the northern hemisphere.
It’s time to start thinking about what we will do if a hurricane churns and burns up the Sea of Cortez.
The standard answer is to head north to Puerto Don Juan which is a hurricane hole where boats can safely anchor and ride out storms.
Hurricanes in this area have a long history of blowing themselves out by the time they get to the northern reaches of the Sea of Cortez. The farther you move north, the better the odds you survive unscathed.
Insurance companies agree, and they cover hurricanes if you are above latitude 27 degrees North which is half way up the Sea of Cortez.
While it’s great to have insurance, that’s no reason to not do everything you can to protect your boat in the event of a hurricane.
Hurricane and Tropical Storm management in the Sea of Cortez focus on three things.
1. How far north will you go in the event of a hurricane?
2. Will you anchor or have your boat hauled out of the water?
3. If you decide to anchor, what anchoring system will you use?
In the event of a hurricane we will head 200 miles north to the hurricane hole at Puerto Don Juan where we will drop anchor.
Once we arrive at Puerto San Juan, the fun begins. We have to set our anchors in a fashion that makes it possible for Exit Only to ride out the storm.
If we feel that an oncoming storm is exceptionally severe, we may sail another hundred miles further north to be hauled out of the water at Puerto Peñasco at Cabrales boatyard.
When it comes to anchoring in storms, Exit Only has lots of options.
We have a 66 pound Bugelanker, a 70 pound Bugelanker, and a 69 pound Fx-125 Fortress anchor at our disposal. We have to choose which type of anchors will function best in the seabed of Puerto San Juan.
The Bugelankers perform well in all bottoms with the exception of grassy bottoms and rocky seabeds. (the same is true for all types of anchors) Grass and rocks are the bain of anchoring because they prevent the anchor from penetrating the bottom and setting deep in the seabed. If you are anchoring in rocks or grass, it’s wise to dive on your anchor to be 100% sure it is securely buried in the seabed rather than hooked on a rock or fouled by sea grass.
Sand and mud bottoms are easier for anchors to set and to not come out under load.
When you put down an anchor, you are placing a bet as to the best type of anchor suited for the seabed in your location.
You also have to decide wether you will set your anchors in tandem, angled at 45 degrees, or in a hammerlock configuration.
Whenever I faced tropical storms or hurricanes in Puerto Rico, I set two anchors angled 45 degrees from each other in the direction of greatest fetch. That reduces the loading each anchor sustains, and if one anchor fails, there is a second one that may save the boat. That system worked well on my monohull Westsail 32.
The situation is different now because I have a catamaran, and I use a bridle when anchoring. That effectively means it’s difficult to set two anchors spread 45 degrees in front of the boat. The geometry is wrong.
Setting two anchors on a catamaran means I will either set the anchors in tandem or do a hammerlock rig.
Tandem anchors are joined to each other by a chain with one anchor in front of the other. The separation between the anchors is determined by the amount of room you have in the anchorage and how much chain you have on board to join the anchors together.
In the hammerlock configuration, I anchor as usual with my 66 pound Bugelanker attached to the bows by a bridle. I take my second 66 pound Bugelanker or my 69 pound Fortress FX-125, and I drop it off my starboard bow with plenty of chain and nylon rode with the idea being that if the main anchor fails, the second anchor off the starboard bow may save the boat.
I did the hammerlock configuration in Fiji, but it was never tested because the hurricane missed us by 200 miles.
I feel that the hammerlock configuration is not as good as the tandem anchors as long as I can be sure that both tandem anchors are properly set. That means diving down to take a look, and manually setting the anchors into the seabed to make sure they are secure.
The tandem anchors have the added benefit that you have a greater catenary in the system, and for the forward anchor to be pulled out, you would have to lift the aft anchor out of the sea bed to put major strain on the forward anchor.
If I decide to go with a tandem anchor system, I have to decide what I will use for the forward anchor.
The aft anchor will be my 66 pound WASI Bugelanker because it is already attached to my anchor rode. The forward anchor will either be a 70 pound Bugelanker or a 69 pound Fortress Fx-125.
It makes sense to use the Fx-125 as the forward anchor because it interacts with the seabed differently than the 66 pound Bugelanker. If the Bugelanker drags, the different configuration of the Fx-125 may hold just fine.
The Fx-125 is an excellent anchor in mud and sand. It has broad flukes for good holding in sand, and I can put mud palms on the anchor to increase its effectiveness on a muddy bottom.
Having a tandem anchoring system in which each anchor interacts with the seabed differently increases the probability that at least one of the anchors will hold.
When I anchored in hurricanes and tropical storms in the Caribbean, I created a saying that has stuck with me for more than thirty years. The saying is, “He who anchors last anchors best.”
This principle has probably saved my boat more than once.
When I go into an anchorage and prepare for the storm’s onslaught, I let everyone else anchor before I put my anchor/anchors down.
I carefully watch the size, weight, and design of the anchors being put in the water. I look at how much chain they are putting out, and the overall condition of their gear. If their anchor gear is light and in shoddy condition, I don’t want to anchor anywhere near them. Their anchor will drag, and in the height of the storm, their boat may strike mine.
In particular, I don’t want other yachts to anchor in front of me because when they drag their anchor, their anchor may hook my anchor rode and dislodge my anchor from the bottom causing my anchor to fail.
That’s why I wait till other people have set their anchors and placed their bets. Then I place my anchor/anchors in a location where I have the least risk of being hit by another yacht when their anchor drags.
Hurricane season is nearly upon us, and tropical depressions are spinning up in the monsoon troughs to the south. It’s only a matter of time before we have storm warnings in the Sea of Cortez, and we have a plan on what we are going to do when it happens.
That’s my plan and I’m sticking with it.
Awesome music video that captures the essence of what it's like to sail offshore in a catamaran around the world when conditions are less than perfect. David Abbott from Too Many Drummers sings the vocals, and he also edited the footage from our Red Sea adventures. This is the theme song from the Red Sea Chronicles.
Sailing up the Red Sea is not for the faint of heart. From the Bab al Mandeb to the Suez Canal, adventures and adversity are in abundance. If you take things too seriously, you just might get the Red Sea Blues.
If you like drum beats, and you like adventure, then have a listen to the Red Sea Chronicles Trailer.
Flying fish assault Exit Only in the middle of the night as we sail through the Arabian Gulf from the Maldives to Oman. And so begins our Red Sea adventures.
Sailing through Pirate Alley between Yemen and Somalia involves calculated risk. It may not be Russian Roulette, but it is a bit of a worry. Follow Team Maxing Out as they navigate through Pirate Alley.
Stopping in Yemen was just what the doctor ordered. We refueled, repaired our alternator, and we made friends with our gracious Yemeni hosts. We also went to Baskins Robbins as a reward for surviving Pirate Alley.
After you survive Pirate Alley, you must sail through the Gate of Sorrows (Bab Al Mandab) at the southern entrance to the Red Sea. The Gate of Sorrows lived up to its name with fifty knots of wind and a sandstorm that pummeled Exit Only for two days. Life is good.
Captain Dave and his family spent eleven years sailing around the world on their Privilege 39 catamaran, Exit Only. During the trip, the crew shot 200 hours of video with professional cameras to show people what it's like to sail on a small boat around the world.
The Red Sea Chronicles is a one hour and twenty-two minute feature film showing their adventures as Exit Only sails through Pirate Alley in the Gulf of Aden and up the Red Sea. The professional footage documents their experiences in Oman, Yemen, Eritrea, Sudan, Egypt, and the Suez Canal. It chronicles the rigors of traveling in a remote section of the world rarely visited by cruisers. Exit Only dodges Yemeni pirates, fights a gale and sand storms in the Bab al Mandeb at the southern entrance to the Red Sea. The crew explores deserted islands on the western shores of the Red Sea, and learns to check the cruising guides for land mines before venturing ashore.
The Red Sea Chronicles also has outstanding Special Features including an Instructional Video on Storm Management that tells sailors how to deal with storms at sea.
The Red Sea Chronicles is a first class adventure that stokes the sailing dreams of both experienced and wannabe sailors alike.
Join Team Maxingout as they sail through Pirate Alley and up the Red Sea
See what it's like to cruise on a catamaran before you spend a bazillion dollars purchasing one
After watching the Red Sea Chronicles you will be able to see yourself sailing on the ocean of your dreams
Although I like the feel of a paper book in my hand, I love trees even more. When people purchase an eBook, they actually save trees and save money as well. Ebooks are less expensive and have no negative impact on the environment. All of Dr. Dave's books are available at Save A Tree Bookstore. Visit the bookstore today and start putting good things into your mind. It's easy to fill your mind with positive things using eBooks. No matter where you are or what you are doing, you can pull out your smart phone or tablet and start reading. You can even use electronic highlighters and make annotations in your eBooks just like paper books.