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post #4 of Old 06-07-2009
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I'm surprised that no one has mentioned decent downhaul and reefing gear. I haven't been in Florida in the summer, but there's plenty of heavy weather in the late afternoons in July and August on Lake Ontario due to heating over land. They are called "pop-up" thunderstorms and they sound similar to the "2 o'clock specials" I hear about in Florida. Ours contain squall lines with 30 to 50 and even 60 knot winds, but they can fizzle out very quickly. The point is that you can't usually get in before they are on top of you, so you might as well ride them out and keep sailing in the cooler and generally steady air behind them.

Now, I understand if we are talking westerlies and Tampa that Florida's one big lee shore (if a generally squishy one), but if possible I would always choose with a known transitory (half-hour or less) weather event simply "riding it out" under reduced sail, and secondly anchoring if the area allows it and if you have no close quarters if you unexpectedly break out.

But one thing I strongly discourage, because I've had to do it a few times, is to try to "beat the storm" to the dock. In situations where the wind can go from gerbil farts to gale in 30 seconds, the last place you want to be is five boat lengths from your slip, particularly if all your sails are not yet properly stowed.

Attempting to dock or being partway through a docking when a squall hits is to be avoided, because you can very quickly end up with reduced or no control, with damage to dock, your boats, or other boats, or injuries from crushing limbs, missing your suddenly broadened jump or falling in the water or being thrown onto a winch.

I have found that many sailors have trouble with the counter-intuitive suggestion that you are safest the farthest from land in most heavy weather, and that the most fraught part of the voyage is departure and arrival.

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