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Docked for Storms- Newbie sailors

By March 16, 2019 No Comments

Awake at 3:18 am, I haven’t slept in hours. There is a windstorm happening. The noise is making it impossible to sleep.


The howls and whistling are relentless, punctuated by strong gusts that make every part of the boat creek. In the bow, where my berth is, I can hear the bowlines tightening on the cleats with every gust. Imagining the force of our 15-tonne vessel on these “strong points” really makes me hope they are indeed strong. Our family and our home rely on it. My imagination creates mind movies about a cleat popping off and I run scenarios of what we could do if our boat broke free. What would I secure first? Could we jump ashore in such a situation? Could I shore up a hull breach/ and how fast? Peering out the window to starboard with discontent, I am looking down on the neighbour’s deck, out the window on the port side I am looking up at a wall of freeboard. This presentation is caused by all the boats leaning together in the gale.

As I said, I’m not sleeping. Not with all these intrusions to my rest.

On land, I have never been so viscerally aware of a storm. The cruising lifestyle and living aboard brings the weather sharply into focus. Back home I could easily go through major weather events and never even care to check the forecast. Though trees came down, roads washed out, the ferry got cancelled and the power or phone service was temporarily interrupted; it never had the thrilling quality that weathering a storm either on anchor, at sea or in a marina can have while living aboard. Surely, being separated by a thin shell of fiberglass has much to do with that. At home, in a well-protected community weather events are easier to fortify against. Aboard, we know coming weather with great detail, preparations must be made. Lines doubled, deck items secured and tied down, looking for chafe. During a weather event, everything feels intimate, like the wind has come for tea and decided to have a rant at your table. Then rain, hail and thunder and lightning come and make it a brawl across the table. All the while your thinking “Bitches!, Go Home!” Go back to the sea, go back to the sky, and let me be.

In the big picture, this is my first year sailing but time and time again I am hearing from seasoned sailors the weather patterns that in the past could be relied on are now shifting in substantial and unexpected ways. It should come as no surprise to anyone that the changing weather is the result of globally ignoring the causes of climate change and treating our earth as a resource where no debt must ever be repaid. If you disagree with this previous statement, you need to go home and unpack why you are in denial. No seriously, go unpack that… Now.

Payment is coming due. Current news is alive with concern after the publishing of reports that go beyond alarming and basically state, scientists now all agree that we can panic. This should come as no surprise, I’ve been aware of the issues since I was in elementary school more than 25 years ago. The issues have not changed, only the urgency.  Each of us has a responsibility to stop passing the buck and to start pushing for all the changes needed. Pushing our governments to lead the way. ‘Business as usual’ is becoming a thing of the past

To get back to my point, living aboard boats makes you feel exposed and present to the weather whatever it is; whether it is strong winds like tonight, or if it is scorching unabated heat in the middle of summer, or the unpredictable weather windows.

It unequivocally reminds us of our human vulnerability.

Daily we are trying to navigate so as not to get stuck out in something that you simply are not prepared for; cruising reminds you of how susceptible to catastrophe all we are when we are unprepared. Nothing to date has ever made me feel so alive and engaged with my present and so certain that preparing for an unpredictable future is going to be key to weathering the coming storms.

Originally written October 2018

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