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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Seamanship & Navigation
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Seamanship & Navigation Forum devoted to seamanship and navigation topics, including paper and electronic charting tools.


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Old 04-09-2012
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Thunderstorm in Chesapeake Bay

Fairly to new to sailing in the Chesapeake. Interested in knowing what other sailors do when they see thunderstorms approaching. I sail out of Herring Bay.
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Old 04-09-2012
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Thunderstorm in Chesapeake Bay

As usual, it depends. If you sail long enough on the Bay, you'll get to experience a few of them. A couple notes:

- if anchored somewhere, let out more scope, secure all canvas, stuff on deck, etc. Take note of any boats anchored around you. Think through action plans in case you or others drag.

- if underway, shorten sail, don foul wx gear, harnesses, etc. Take note of other vessels in the area, take careful note of how much searoom you have to maneuver and plan ahead for actions as the wind hits and changes through the storm.

Most t-storms on the Bay are pretty short lived. Only time we got a little concerned was when our dinghy went airborne and started pinwheeling on the painter. Was a little disconcerting. Then the storm passed and the CGG showed up looking for a boat that had called mayday.

BTW - we're at HHN in Herring. Would love to chat more. Will be at the boat this Sat finishing up the stanchion rebed project. :-(
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Old 04-09-2012
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Re: Thunderstorm in Chesapeake Bay

My SOP is to furl all sail and start the engine the moment I hear thunder or see lightning. We also put the hand-held VHF and cell phones in the microwave to protect them if we are struck by lightning. If it is clear that I am going to be caught by the storm, I immediately head for the deepest/widest water I can. Once I was halfway through the Solomon's Island entrance when I saw a bolt of lightning on the south side of the Patuxent River. I did an immediate 180 and headed toward the center of the river - was glad I did cause the storm hit us in about five minutes and I could not even make out my bow for a while in the worst of it.

I furl the sail because you have no idea what direction or speed the wind will be under the t-head. I start the engine because 1) the sails are furled and 2) I want the engine running if we are struck by lightning. Electronics in the microwave should be safe from EMP in the event of a lightning strike.
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Old 04-09-2012
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Re: Thunderstorm in Chesapeake Bay

paperbird I am at HHN as well. Painting the bottom up K row on the hard.
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Re: Thunderstorm in Chesapeake Bay

Andre,

Will try to look you up and say hello. If you need a break from the painting, we're on C dock.

I heartily agree with JohnyQuest's advice to head for open water. If you can't get tied up or anchored, then give yourself lots of room to maneuver.

BTW - in the summer, the AM radio can give advance warning. Lightning crackles on the AM band. And if the Orioles are playing, listen to the game. Will give you about 45 mins warning from the time they roll out the tarp to when the squalls hit the Bay. Yes - personal experience on that one. :-)
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Old 04-09-2012
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Re: Thunderstorm in Chesapeake Bay

If you sail on the Chesapeake you will sooner or later be exposed to a lightning storm. The advice already given is pretty much what I do.

The only thing I can add is to realize that you are not going to be outrunning any TS you can see on your sailboat. If its in sight, you'll just have time to reef or secure the sails and maybe get your foulies on before its on top of you. It can be tempting to try to make it through that narrow entrance channel to a safe harbor, but its more likely you will get caught in high gusty winds, near zero visiblity and high adreniln from the lightning striking around you at the worst possible time. Its much safer (on the Chesapeake) to weather a summer storm in an area where you have room to manuver in any direction the storm dictates. Its also very hard to tell if the storm is going to hit you, which is likely why there are so many tales of sailors waiting too late and getting spanked. Better to take the precautions while you can and if the storm misses you, great go back to what you were doing.

I just moved from HHS to Shipwright and wouldn't be too thrilled about being caught in a TS while in the "slot" running between HHS and HHN. There is a bit of room in there but not a whole lot. I'd rather wait out the storm somewhere further out and make the run in after it had passed.

One thing not mentioned, that I do at anchor is determine a "panic azimith" which is a safe intial direction to point the boat if you have to get going in a hurry in the dark or low visiblity like a heavy downpour. I write it down and leave it at the helm so I know a compass bearing to steer immediately. I also will keep a fender at the bow in case I need to leave the anchor quickly so I can secure the rode to a floating object to retrieve later. Lastly, there have been some achorages where I felt constrained enough to don foulies and sit through a TS in the cockpit with the engine running in case the shifts broke the anchor free.
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Old 04-09-2012
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Re: Thunderstorm in Chesapeake Bay

Midlife, there is so much good information in that last paragraph. Things that I will definitely use. Thanks.
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Re: Thunderstorm in Chesapeake Bay

Coming back from the Caribbean a couple of years ago we experieced the worst weather of the trip just outside the bridge-tunnel atfter sunset. We saw it coming and furled the head sail. We had 2 reefs in the main alone when we were hit by 60+kts in a strong thunderstorm. We keep the main full and tried to get to the edge of the storm but on radar it went from side to side of the Bay. Lightning struck all around us but we were not hit. It waas scary for 15 minutes then went away completely. I only once before experinced a storm like this off the Bermuda banks in mid-summer.
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Old 04-09-2012
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Re: Thunderstorm in Chesapeake Bay

Hi there, I try to do most of my traveling from early morning to mid afternoon when possible, to avoind the ubiquitous afternoon tstorms. I'd much rather ride out a storm at anchor -- you don't have to be at the helm with all that steel in your hands. Getting below is a good idea if you have plenty of sea room, and out of the channel, and use any resources you may have to keep up with your position and insure you're not dragging. Stay alert, watch for thunderclouds forming, and you may have some more time to get in a good place and drop anchor.

If you have to keep going, I recommend the engine like JohnnyQuest. Thunderstorms are quick lived and intense....hardly worth making a big canvas change, and gusts could make your double reefed main and staysail/partially furled jib take your for a ride. I just strike it all and tie it down.

Go through a mental checklist for battening down and you're less likely to run into any problems with afternoon thunderstorms.
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Old 04-10-2012
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Re: Thunderstorm in Chesapeake Bay

Well I'll be the voice in the wilderness here. I keep sailing. Reef down heavily and keep going. I like the stability of having sail up. If the wind shifts and stays shifted I adjust sail accordingly. If it keeps moving around as it sometimes does I'm likely to heave to and wait.
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