I think your question was, how do we gauge the wind? Several ways - one is our windgauge - but that only reads apparent wind - not very accurate. The more accurate measure in the big storms we've been in has been the Coast Guard's knowledge from readings from the wind bouys out in the Gulf (they are out there because of the proliferation of oil rigs - they are stationary, so the readings are true windspeed over the bouy). Same for wave height - you have no way of guesstimating the wave heights - most people guess too big, but the CG calculates them based on the windspeed. That's why when we got back in Port Isabel from the March '08 storm, we thought the waves were in the 18-20 foot range, but Coast Guard Freeport said nope! 28-30 for the areas we were in.
Sailing, not racing, offshore with a big deck sweeper is a huge mistake, we sail with a 110 working jib.
On your other point of surviving a big storm is luck, not sailing skills - I have to disagree. I attribute our coming through both Force 10 Storms (as defined by the CG), it was 75% the sailing skill of three seasoned sailors (about 125 years combined) and 25% having a strong, well-prepared bluewater boat. The only luck we had in the second storm was bad luck - we got knocked down to cabin trunk grab rails and the sails in the water, the main, heavy with water, hung up in the spreaders and wouldn't douse (it eventually shredded) and a jib sheet got loose and went over the side, tangled in the prop and stopped the engine - how much more luck to you want. We ran before that storm for 36 hours with no engine and no sails, just the stern and bimini for sail area - still making over 10mph on the GPS when skidding down the face of the seas. What kept us moving and safe was the skill of our crew.
If you want to see pictures of Paloma after that storm, go to my profile and check her out.
s/v Paloma, Bristol 29.9, #141
Slipped in Bahia Marina, easy access to Corpus Christi Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
Last edited by johnshasteen; 09-09-2009 at 07:19 PM.