Staying Put: Ground Tackle for a Hurricane

Hurricane Marty in the Sea of Cortez caught our friends Dave & Carolyn Shearlock on s/v Que Tal at anchor in Puerto Escondido.  After the fact Carolyn wrote a great analysis of anchoring and storm preparedness techniques – what worked and what didn’t.  It was published in Cruising World, June 2005 as the feature article, Staying Put:  Ground Tackle for a Hurricane.

Luckily David & I haven’t sat through a hurricane, altho we did endure the remnants of Hurricane Mitch in Hopetown Harbor, Abacos.  That experience was enough to convince me I don’t want to be anywhere near a “real” hurricane!  But Hurricane Marty exploded so quickly that boats in the Sea of Cortez didn’t have much choice.

Read Carolyn’s intro and I’m sure you’ll want to read the rest of the article alone with specifics of anchoring techniques including chafe gear selection, problems and action taken by each boat.

“In Puerto Escondido, the hurricane hole chosen by my husband Dave and I for our Tayana 37 ¿Qué Tal?,  about 80 boats were anchored or on moorings.  When it was all over, 10 of the boats were aground and seven others had sunk after being thrown into a rock jetty.  Three more had been swept through the entrance channel – one reset its anchor in the middle of it, the other two were found several miles away, both with serious damage.   However, none of the 24 boats that had people aboard for the storm had gone aground or had serious damage. At least ten of the occupied boats had dragged as Hurricane Marty went directly overhead with sustained winds over 70 knots and gusts to 82 knots.  All but one were able to either get their primary anchor to reset, deploy a second anchor, re-anchor or motor to stop their movement.  For some boats, the eye provided a needed break to get things under control.  At the same time, those of us fighting the storm had two things in our favor – first, the hurricane moved rapidly past us, lasting only 12 hours; second, the winds began picking up shortly after 8 AM and died around 8 PM, giving us daylight to see what was happening.  Had the storm raged longer or hit during the night, more boats certainly would have gone aground.

In the days following Hurricane Marty, I talked to most of the other cruisers about their ground tackle. We all wanted to know what had – and had not – worked, from the choice of anchor and rode right up to the chafe gear and attachment points. While there can never be a definitive study determining the perfect ground tackle for all boats, all of us in Puerto Escondido felt strongly that we wanted to share our experiences with other cruisers.  We’d learned from those who had faced hurricanes before us; now it was our turn to add to the “cruising knowledge base.”  Almost all of us concluded that we would make some changes to our storm anchoring if caught in another hurricane.”


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