A Checklist to Avoid Hurricanes at Sea?

NEXRAD is the composite radar feed you see on your phone or on a computer. Some years ago the Sirius satellite radio company started providing a NEXRAD feed for boats and aircraft. Normally absent onboard weather radar there is no easy way for a pilot to know exactly where a storm is, so prudent aviators give them a wide berth. When NEXRAD came out, some pilots tried to use it tactically like onboard radar and fly between the storms. They didn’t realize it was not real time and the “space between the storms” they were flying through on their display was now the middle of the storm.

There are marinas near where I live in North Carolina that force boat owners to leave in advance of hurricanes. The legal issue notwithstanding, there’s also the moral issue of forcing the owners out into harm’s way for the sake of minimizing damage to their infrastructure.
It appears to be left to State law. This is the relevant Florida statute:


I can’t find anything similar in NC statutes. It would seem to be a grey area leaving it to lawyers to work out after the fact.

There is a little more to that statement. The safest place for a boat when a storm is coming is at sea getting away from the storm. The key is to leave before the storm hits and get out of harms way.

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It’s a glib statement that ignores a lot of variables. It doesn’t account for storm proximity and characteristics. It also doesn’t account for the difference between a boat and a ship as well as the condition of said vessel and crew.

For some a ship leaving port as TC avoidance might seem counter intuitive, so “safer at sea” works to some extent as an (over) simple explanation as to for example why the fast Navy ships are leaving Norfolk.

If you are anchored in an exposed anchorage that is part of a low-lying island in the path of a hurricane, escaping to sea may well be your best shot at surviving. All the boats in the anchorage will likely be destroyed and the island itself may end up underwater.
Leaving WELL in advance of the storm is of course a requirment for this to work well, as is some luck with the storm not going the opposite way you thought it would. (See the Fantome)
Some geography precludes this, anyplace between Florida and Virginia you are well trapped between the Gulf Stream and the coast and Hatteras. A car is probably the best escape vehicle for that area.

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A ship maybe but definitely not a boat you’d find in a marina.

A good comeback next time is, “Sure, but the safest place for me is well inland. My boat is insured and can be replaced, I can’t come back from the dead.”

From what I remember, if I heard someone say something like that, there might have been alcohol involved. But if the person is a single hander used to the roaring forties, maybe there is some truth to it. Maybe still another less experienced person could hear these words and one day act on them.

I am with you I would prefer to be well inland.

I’ve heard this adage before, and I agree that taken as a generality it is ludicrous at best and dangerous at worst when dealing with storms. (By storms I mean windspeeds up to a hundred knots or so).

We get in trouble when dealing in generalities with bad weather. But there’s a Golden Rule: the best place for a ship in a storm is a secure harbor. That’s why God made secure harbors, and if you think He’s wrong you can argue with him once you’re out in 40-foot seas. Of course, one needs to define a ‘secure harbor’. The best definition is the last harbor you successfully rode out a 100-knot storm in.

In 1997 the Japanese freighter Kuroshima dragged anchor in Dutch Harbor, Alaska and ran aground. Cause: Human shilly-shallying. Result: oil spill. Lots of other ships and boat of all sizes had no problem anchored in that same storm.

Result: USCG came up with guidelines for anchoring in the harbor. The guidelines called for everyone to leave anchorage and head to sea in a storm.

The boats I’m in charge of are 260’ LOA (back then, more like 200’). 2000+ HP. To send such a boat from the safety of a harbor into the calamity of 40-foot seas is koo-koo, and our captains told the USCG such, and made it known we wouldn’t be following their guidelines. (They never got back to us, so I guess both sides had their say.)

Somehow somebody in officialdom got it in their heads the old adage “the best place for a ship in a storm is out at sea”. Why such things persist I have no idea.

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Big difference between ESCAPING at sea and being IN the hurricane at sea. The latter would surely be a desperate gamble.


The water of the Atlantic Ocean is so hot - almost 30 degrees - on the course of Hurricane Dorian that the power of the monster has since grown into category 5, the heaviest category.

I wrote a set of instructions for the bridge watch several years ago to insure that the most current weather for the correct area was always posted on the bridge.

Also in my office I keep legal pad on my desk to keep track of my to do list. At the top of the new page each morning I write down two items to check: weather and navigation.

Of course I do a quick check of the weather as soon as I wake up but once any immediate tasks are done ( a cup of coffee) I take some time to have a look at the whole weather, current, forecasts etc till I have a good understanding of the situation.

Then when I go to the bridge I check that the current weather is posted etc. Once those two things are complete I check off “weather” as having been done.

On a long, busy voyage it’s easy to overlook things or make unwarranted assumptions. A methodical system is required and having two independent methods provides redundancy.


You are very thorough! What was done in my time was that Sparks’ weather reports were put on the chart table for everyone to read. If necessary the weather was usually discussed during the noon’s sextant party.

Usually the barometric pressure was followed closely and was written every hour in the ship’s log, we had no barograph. We didnot follow the water’s temperature, only in case that we were a Selected Ship for the Dutch Weather Bureau we had to measure the water’s temperature for the report. The water was fetched with a long rope with at the end a canvas, boatswain homemade, narrow bucket. Narrow because with a normal bucket you could get pulled overboard…

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There was an oddity I noticed as mate between the methods used on the Aleutian Freighter where the weather is considered a threat but navigation errors are not but the reverse is true deep-sea.

Deep-sea ships use very strict methods to navigate, track-lines, DR, fix method and frequency specified and so forth but the method for watching the weather was haphazard.

By contrast the situation on the Aleutian freighter was reversed with regards to weather and navigation. Navigation by eye but a fixed daily routine with regards to the weather.

Advantage here for sailboats. Since the wind is your engine, we all are downloading GRIBS and obsessing about the weather all the time. Also at typical 6-8 knot speeds, escaping a hurricane takes some lead time to say the least. One summer crossing strategy for the Atlantic is to go across as far south as you can and dive towards the equator if a storm is brewing.

8 posts were split to a new topic: Measuring Sea Temp

The Dutch Weather Bureau didn’t trust any of the ship’s thermometers and therefore provided a calibrated and highly accurate one. For the same reason they provided a stainless steel Portuguese mercury barometer.


And not to forget the Sling Psychrometer! That was good exercise.

This is my nostalgic brass Portuguese barometer, made by Russell in London, in my living room.

More of the same. The clock is a pretty expensive Schatz Royal Mariner ship’s bell clock with two winding mechanisms. The barometer is also a Schatz.


Got this fine addition to our home decor as a birthday present a few years ago

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As an engineer for many years I went thru some bad weather experiences and later when I became chief most captains and I had a good working relationship. When the inevitable bad weather came about I let the captain know the engine department had his back. I knew he had office pressures but if the weather caught him to please keep in mind we would be down in the bottom of the ship until the very end doing everything we could. Though his deck crew may perish jumping over the side our last minutes would be slow and horrifying. We knew this after a few months on the job and accepted it
but I’d appreciate him keeping us in mind when he decided to gamble.
I retired safely and can enjoy my grandchildren thanks to good fortune and some wise captains with courage as well as good weather sense.


Sometimes a few hurricanes will seek you out
1982-3 the picture story is here

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