Thursday, October 02, 2008

Man Rides Out Ike on a Sailboat

I was talking to a fellow sailor yesterday and he recommends I make a post to share my experience riding out Ike on anchor in Galveston (Offets Bayou) so here it goes:

I decided to leave my floating dock marina in Kemah and sail south, yes, south to Galveston. Many reasons for my decision but the main one was that we were supposed to get 20+ feet of storm surge and my marina can only handle 12'. I picked Offets because the max fetch was half a mile.

I decided to try the anchoring from the stern which the designer of the Jordan Series Drogue website claims is the way to ride out a hurricane as the boat will not swing so chafe is not an issue. A friend told me it wasn't a good idea as he saw a Benny sink in doing so because the stern was pulled down and the open transom sunk the boat. I though he was just talking trash but just in case he was right, I rigged a safety release so it would swing around to the bow if needed.

Mr Jordan was right, the boat doesn't swing when anchored from the stern when using a bridal. My friend was right in that when at anchor like that, the stern is pulled down a little. In my case (Hunter 376 in 110 knots) it wasn't enough to pull it down that much, BUT it was not a good idea. The boat took way too much pounding from the waves which were a lot bigger then I thought they would be with just a third of a mile fetch (8'). Water came in through the lazarette and the companionway doors. Everything got wet down below.

I had pump problems but was very very glad I had that rule 3700 in the bildge....yes I took on a lot of water when stern to the wind but only a little as the drain of the anchor locker started to leak when bow to the wind.
I tried to turn the boat around but the lines jammed because I didn't release the bridal right. Once the eye came over, the wind dropped to 10 knots and no waves, so I turned the boat around and ran two bridals off the bow. This is the important part: half of the bridal chafe through so I was on only half of the first bridal. I didn't think shaft was going to be a problem but I forgot about the swing and the bridal rubbing on the hull (at the edge of the bow on the hull) as it swung. They say that's the reason boats don't make it on anchor or mooring because people forget about the chafe from the bow, they normally put the shaft on the toerail.

The boat did ride much more wildly when anchored from the bow but it was a much smoother ride...no pounding. HOWEVER, I now know why those people who use sea anchors loose their rudder sometimes. As you swing, it puts a ton of pressure on the rudder and keel. You can feel the pressure and maybe a little vibration. I guess with that additional backwards drift while on the sea anchor, it's just too much pressure but most comes from the swing.

I do believe I know exactly the prefect way to deal with the chafe problem as another boat near me had this setup. He had about 3' of dock lines spliced with a proper anchor splice and sleeve inside it....one for each cleat. He cleated off the loose end and then shackled the other end to about 10' of aircraft cable which went over the anchor rollers. The other end of the cables was shackled to the rode which of course had proper spliced anchor eyes and metal sleeves. I didn't see what anchors he used but he ran them straight out like I did. He didn't budge. I did a little.

I used a Bullwagga with 200' of 5/8th rode and 50' feet of chain as the primary. The secondary anchor was 300' of 3/4 rode and 20' of chain on a fortress. Both anchors were for a 50' boat so you could say I was under two storm anchors. I think it was a good combination as the bullwagga always resets with wind direction changes. The Fortress wouldn't reset but just twist in it's spot but only because the bullwagga took a lot of strain off it so it was jerked out. The bullwagga, as always, digs in deeper as the pull on it, but for it to dig in, it "drags" so I made sure to leave lots of room. I think I dragged the first half of the storm when I was stern to the wind, about 25-50 yards. Didn't drag at all the second half with it bow to the wind.

Now the addition to his setup I would make is a very big snubber connected to the cable on the rode end and the other end connected to the hook on the bow midway up the hull from the waterline. That should take a lot of pressure off the anchor rollers and hopefully take all the load. If not, you are still protected from the shafe.

One thing I learned in this storm is that the more back systems you have, the better. Take my bridal off the bow. If I rode out the whole storm with my two bridals off the bow, I bet I would have chafed both and endded up on the rocks. The fact that I did half the storm stern to, it compensated for my lack of chafe protection in an odd place. The heavy storm winds last about 6-8 hours so anything you can do to buy time, the better.
A few more advice...clean the inside of your boat, especially the bildge. Do let dirt and other little junk get washed down into the bildge where it clogs the pumps. Also, nothing is better then a full shield motorcycle helmet in a storm. Without it, I wouldn't have been able to do anything outside. With it on, it wasn't a big deal being on deck. It muffles the sound. It keeps the saltwater out of your eyes as it's blowing sideways off the top of the waves. It blocks the wind so breathing is normal. It also protects the head just in case you get thrown. As for wet weather gear, all it does is protect the skin from the pelts. You will get soaked so have a swimsuit on under it because it dries better and you can get dry quicker when you go down below. Last advice, have lots of seasickness medicine. Sturdegen worked for me. Got that when I did the race to Mexico earlier this year. These suggestions aren't just for anchoring out during a hurricane, but for anytime you are on a boat in very rough weather.

Sorry so long but I didn't want to leave any details out so you all don't make the same mistakes I did.

BTW: Yes, I know I'm nuts to ride out a hurricane on my boat so no need to say that.

1 comment:

JoeS. said...

Thanks for the writeup! Glad you survived it ok.