WHEN THE GOING GETS ROUGH
PRO CAPTAINS SHARE ADVICE ON WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU’RE UNAVOIDABLY CAUGHT IN ROUGH CONDITIONS
There are two types of boaters: Those who’ve been caught in rough weather, and those who will. Three professional captains share boathandling tips.
Capt. Todd Anderson was skippering a 55- foot Ocean from Marsh Harbour in the Bahamas across the Gulf Stream. He was heading for Hillsboro Inlet in South Florida when the squall line came his way. “It was slick calm— I mean it was bathtub calm,” he says. “We were probably about 60 or 70 miles off of Hillsboro Inlet, and we started to see the cloud tops off in the distance, and then I started hearing reports on the radio of severe weather coming. We went ahead and kept charging, trying to get to some protection.”
Anderson is no novice at the helm. He’s a professional captain who has worked for Hatteras Yachts, Jarrett Bay, HMY and Bluewater Yacht Sales, as well as for private boat owners. Even still, that storm caught him off guard. “It went from slick calm to about 12-foot right on the nose,” he says. “It was blowing 50 knots or more.” He tried tacking back and forth, so as not to go head-on into the steep seas. “This was an older boat, and there was some debris in the fuel tanks,” he says. “We lost an engine.”
About 30 minutes later, the squall line had passed and Anderson was safely in Hillsboro Inlet—with damage to be repaired and the type of story that many boaters share about unavoidably getting caught in rough conditions. Yes, it happens to the pros too, and they have tons of real-world experience behind their advice for battling those types of seas.
For starters, know what’s most likely to land you in rough seas in the first place. Trying to stick to a planned cruising itinerary, as Anderson did, or braving rough weather during a fishing tournament, are common practices among boaters who end up dealing with lousy conditions offshore.
In rough seas, speed, direction and trim become more critical.