Fly you fools! And that was the best advice I was willing to give. Ask any two sailors the same question and you will get three answers. Personally I feel that preparation trumps experience 99% of the time but for that one percent, if you have to ask, your not ready. Unfortunatly the only way any of us can become ready is by being a bonehead and getting caught up in it.
I’ve been a constant on the water front my entire adult life, It seems that there is an unlimited number of trophies when it comes to the Darwin Award. Let’s face it, you know exactly what you are capable of and what you are getting yourself into. You also do or should know the limits of your boat, engine, sails and rigging, both standing and running. I’ve seen it turn from 3 knots to 35 in the course of 5 seconds on a weather report that called for light and variable winds. But wind is just wind, it’s the seas that will get you. In my lifetime of sailing only on a handful of occasions have I seen anything meaner than I’ve witnessed in the straights of Juan de Fuca otherwise known as Juan de Puke ya and Jaun de fuck ya.
I still haven’t given up my dream of doing an engineless clockwise circumnavigation of Vancouver Island which means I’ll be putting Sookie though some bumpy conditions. Her rig is good, her turn buckles have been pulled inspected and greased. All sails are in good order including my new 38sq foot storm jib and all my running rigging has been inspected and passed. Im a fair weather sailor and will be taking my time and watching the weather but as I learned the hard way when I took my first of only two mast in the water knock downs 10 miles off the backside of Catalina, the weather can change in the blink of an eye. Minus loosing my official Captians log and everything else in the cockpit there was no damage other than maybe some mental damage to my crew. I’ve also put Sookies masthead in the water which wasnt planned but turned out to be the final step in her renaming/christening process.
The only known weakness on Sookie other than the abilities of her captian is that in anything over 40 knots of sustained wind into the wind she starts to loose the battle fast. She can reach and run just fine in those conditions and has on serveral exillerating occasions. So back to the original question I was asked, there is absolutely nothing in the world that can prepare you for your first really big storm but a well maintained boat and a very close knowledge of how to use it will get you through. When you least expect it, expect it. On the flip side, 90 percent of my sailing has been in 12 knots or less of wind and that’s my type of sailing.
“Uncertainty is a temptress. We may try our best to avoid her. But what is certain is that at some point of time, she will find us. The only question that remains is whether like Medusa, she will paralyze you, or whether like one of the nine muses of ancient Greece, she will drive you to greater things.” ― Richie Singh