The Australian yacht Kingurra on her way across the Bass Straits, towards Tasmania.
She's fighting her way uphill in a moderate gale—the perfect conditions to go out and test the boat and crew.
The best way to deal with storm tactics is to avoid the need for them entirely. If you keep an eye on the weather cycles and the conditions that exist in your current season, don't be rushed by schedules, and maintain your speed while on passage, the odds of encountering truly severe weather are in your favor.
Take our own experience for example. We've sailed well over 200,000 miles now including numerous trips around inhospitable places like Cape Hatteras, Cape of Good Hope and Cape Agulhas, between tropics and New Zealand (or the other way around) numerous times, with plenty of passages in warm currents like the Agulhas. In all of this time we've been in two blows that had the potential to be dangerous, although we suffered no damage in either.
Consider now that a majority of the time we spent potentially at risk to the elements were during an era when weather forecasting was far less reliable than today, faxes were rare, and satellite data almost unknown to the mariner.
What we're trying to say is that the risks of getting caught in something dangerous to a well found and properly handled yacht are minimal.
On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence of boats and people occasionally being lost to the elements.
When we were doing our research for our last book, Surviving the Storm: Coastal and Offshore Tactics, we were struck by a common theme repeated over and over. In every case where there was major damage, loss of a vessel or loss of life, the problems could have been avoided.
What we want to do now, in this section of Practical Seamanship, is review the common factors you need to understand to stay out of the trouble.
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Lets start by identifying what exactly certain boats are. Sometimes the terminology can get lost on beginners, so well look at some of the most common boats and what theyre called. These boats are exactly what the name implies. They are meant to be used for fishing. Most fishing boats are powered by outboard motors, and many also have a trolling motor mounted on the bow. Bass boats can be made of aluminium or fibreglass.