As the winter storms roll in across the Atlantic we sit through the season watching the weather closely. I am often asked what it is like on the boat in strong winds. I usually simply answer 'rocky' but actually there is far more to it than that and this is my attempt at a fuller answer to the question.
|Stormy weather battering the coastline|
- it never looks as dramatic in photos as it does in real life!
There is usually lots of noise, not just the wind itself but also the high pitched whistle of ropes and the deeper, mournful wailing of masts. One night we were woken up by the sound of the cling film launching itself across the galley. Mostly it is squeaking fenders, banging ropes and a general feeling of unease, just like when you keep peeking out the window to see if your fence has blown down.
The children are amazingly resilient and often take very little notice of a rocking boat. Mainly they can sleep through most storms but the most severe weather – such as Imogen which hit us recently - can make life harder. Doing homework is one thing which can be affected sometimes. Whilst we were doing boat school we would arrange work around the weather, obviously this is harder now that they are in ‘normal’ schools. Doing your neatest writing on a table which is moving can be a challenge, fortunately they have very understanding teachers.
|This pontoon has been 'munched' by the bridge |
thanks to all the movement during this years winter storms
The constant motion during strong winds makes moving around hard and just doing everyday things can be more difficult. We have lots of handholds around the boat but balancing uses all your muscles which gets tiring. Although we are normally fine, particularly rough weather can have crew (me especially) feeling land sick off of the boat too, feeling that everything is still swaying even on dry land.
The ropes have to work very hard during strong winds. As the boats move around there is constant wear on them which can lead to fraying and breakage. On top of this the forces known as snatch loads. Every time the vessel moves and is stopped at the end of the ropes length it will be stopped quickly, this increases the pressure. Springs and weights are used to reduce the effects of this but it still takes its toll on the fittings. A fairlead was ripped out of our deck one night making a noise like a small cannon as the gale force winds wrenched the fixings out of the wood.
|A spring in our mooring ropes which helps to absorb the snatch load|
pressure, reducing damage to the fittings
All boats behave differently depending on their weight, size and shape. Some are more affected by the wind blowing their sides, others are more affected their shape under the water. Some boats have been bouncing and nodding all over the place; pulling at their ropes moorings like wild animals. Being a heavy catamaran we are quite a good shape for windy weather and rock less than many of our neighbours. We also make sure that we are faced into the prevailing winds over winter which is less unpleasant than the wind coming from behind.
Stormy weather especially when combined with high tides also brings lots of rubbish into the water. As well as seaweed and empty plastic bottles, a lot of logs and branches can be washed down the river. This brings a whole new dimension to the storms as large bits of wood bounce off of the hull making lots of noise and potentially causing damage.
|This log is 5 foot long and took 3 people and a hefty rope to get it out |
from beside our neighbours boat where it had become wedged
Generally we are used to stormy weather and although it may give us some sleepless nights we trust Tarquilla (and the Skipper!) to keep us safe.