Scenario: you are heading north or south parallel to the coast on the east coast of the USA. Say, off S Florida.
You are still 3 hours between the nearest port like between Port Everglades and Miami/Government Cut. The day started out clear but now thunderstorms from the east are moving west. What do you do to keep your cow and boat safe? What is your 'step by step' procedure? You do not know what kinds of winds are in the storm or how long it will take to pass over you. You are in shallow coastal water, say 20-30 feet. You are not in the Gulf Stream, you are between the Stream and the Coast about 3-4 miles from shore. What is the correct procedure? Have any of you sailed through one of these Florida thunderstorms?
Rarely am I caught by surprise by the weather. Usually, I listen to the weather station channel regularly so I know what to expect. With the weather, I want to err on the side of caution. If I were caught unaware, I would take the following steps as soon as I saw the approaching thunderstorms:
1. Head boat into wind and drop main.
2. Douse jib and bungee to side of foredeck or stow belowdecks.
3. Turn on weather radio or VHF radio weather station for forecast or warning.
4. Put on foul weather gear.
5. Secure front hatch and move companionway boards to below ladder.
6. Start engine.
7. Confirm position and locate any nearby potential hazards.
Failure to douse sails timely is the reason some boats end up with shredded sails. Dropping them early is so much easier than too late, especially if you sail solo. Dousing sails while you are caught in a storm, pumped up with adrenalin, wet decks, no foul weather gear on, and the boat heeled over at extreme angles is a recipe for disaster. You can always raise sail, if desirable.
If I already know what the front will be bringing, I will skip ##1 and 2 above and sail ready for the front passage or squall line, so all I have to do is drop the sails, if necessary, like this:
My sail selection will be on the conservative side if I know what to expect. I have been caught in enough squall lines, frontal passages and thunderstorms to know I don't want to be unprepared.