Hurricanes of Data: The Tiny Craft Mapping Superstorms at Sea

By Porter Fox May 9, 2023

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The Tiny Craft Mapping Superstorms at Sea

Hurricanes of Data

By Porter Fox

Illustrations by Wesley Allsbrook

Infographics by La Tigre

Throughout history, most sea captains have tried to steer their vessels out of extreme weather, but the whole purpose of SD 1045 was to steer into it. “The goal was not just to get into the hurricane but to get to the strongest quarter,” Jenkins said as we watched a video of the storm, shot from SD 1045’s masthead camera. “The big engineering challenge was to create enough sailing power to get in front of the storm, but not so much power that the storm destroys the boat.”

Jenkins and a crew of pilots in Saildrone’s cavernous mission-control room, set in a 1930s Navy hangar on the shores of San Francisco Bay, had been using a satellite link for months to maneuver SD 1045 and four sister ships into North Atlantic hurricanes. The boats were frequently caught in doldrums and set back by powerful ocean currents skirting the East Coast of the United States. That August, a sister ship, SD 1031, successfully entered Tropical Storm Henri, but only in its early stages. With a few weeks left in the 2021 hurricane season, SD 1045 appeared to be the last opportunity to get a Saildrone inside a major hurricane, where it would try to harvest data that could help scientists develop a more sophisticated understanding of why such storms’ intensity has spiked over the last half-century.

As climate change has accelerated, warmer atmospheric and ocean temperatures have increased the likelihood of a hurricane developing into a Category 3 storm or higher by 8 percent per decade . While the total number of tropical cyclones — including “typhoons” and “cyclones” — around the world has dropped over the last century, in the North Atlantic more Category 4 and 5 hurricanes made landfall in the United States from 2017 to 2021 than from 1963 to 2016. Globally, the number of major hurricanes, including a new breed of ultraintense Category 5 storms with winds of at least 190 m.p.h. , could increase by 20 percent over the next 60 to 80 years. Once-established storm tracks are simultaneously changing as hurricanes last longer and penetrate deeper over land . According to a 2021 study by Yale University researchers, warmer waters will soon draw extreme storms north as well, threatening to inundate densely populated cities like Washington, D.C.; New York; Providence, R.I.; and Boston .

Storm surges now ride on an elevated sea level, flooding coastlines with walls of water more than 25 feet high (Hurricane Katrina, 2005). Because a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture, storms can now dump more than 60 inches of rain on a single region (Hurricane Harvey, 2017). Hurricanes over the United States have also slowed more than 15 percent since 1947 , contributing to a 25 percent increase in local rainfall. One example of how the compounding forces of climate change, like sea-level rise, and more intense storms are overwhelming coastlines, according to Kerry Emanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: If Superstorm Sandy had occurred in 1912 instead of 2012, it may not have flooded Lower Manhattan .

Humans didn’t always settle in a manner so disconnected from the planet: Overlay storm tracks from the last two centuries on a map of the world, and you’ll notice how, throughout history, most major cities were built outside their reach. As that reach and intensity grows farther and faster than any time in the last three million years, another reality becomes painfully evident: Civilization can’t relocate as it once could, leaving millions of people smack in the cross hairs of severe storms with little to no resiliency, warning or even plan.

At risk on the U.S. mainland are 60 million coastal residents from Texas to Maine . Along the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts, you will find a dozen major seaside cities, thousands of coastal towns, half of the nation’s oil-refining business and major infrastructure like highways, airports, freight-rail lines and much of the shipping industry, which is already backed up globally with supply-chain issues as it transports, by tonnage, 90 percent of all trade across the ocean. A recent N.P.R. analysis of National Hurricane Center data revealed that 720,000 residents of Miami, Washington and New York are in danger of being flooded by rising sea levels and storm surge. In the last four decades alone, hurricanes cost the United States more than $1.1 trillion and nearly 7,000 lives. By the end of the century, they could set the United States back over $100 billion annually.

Jenkins knows firsthand the ferocity of maritime storms. His windswept hair and tanned crow’s feet are more befitting a sea captain than a San Francisco tech entrepreneur. He grew up building boats in Southampton, England, then sailed yachts around Europe and the Mediterranean as a delivery captain. He prefers two-dimensional landscapes to the hustle of the city. After studying mechanical engineering at Imperial College London, he spent a decade car-camping in salt flats and dry lake beds around the world, trying to best the obscure (yet highly competitive) land-speed record for a wind-powered vehicle. When he finally broke it — and almost himself, while steering the land yacht at 126 m.p.h. across the Mojave Desert — he pivoted his design to ocean sailing and a new mission: building the first unmanned boat to sail around the world.

Jenkins found an unlikely partner in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the sprawling parent organization of all U.S. weather agencies. Hurricane research, modeling and forecasting requires many terabytes of data for every square mile the storm passes through, including vitally important sea-level data from inside a storm. This has, for obvious reasons, been nearly impossible to obtain. Several generations of automated buoys, subsurface sea gliders and dropsondes — launched from turboprop Hurricane Hunter aircraft in the middle of a storm — have been employed to measure the “planetary boundary” between sea and sky, where a hurricane gets its power. But most of the devices offer only a snapshot of conditions. Jenkins’s contribution to the endeavor is a Swiss Army knife of oceanic observation that can maneuver into a storm and measure air, surface and subsea data in real time, without the cost of fuel, provisions or human lives.

Jenkins walked me around the Saildrone factory floor that morning, speaking quickly, often without pausing for minutes or even an hour at a time. He plays the role of engineer, chief executive, inventor, climatologist, oceanographer, naval architect and captain on any given day — a corporeal C.P.U. of the company. He touched on everything from hydrodynamics to hurricane structure to electrical engineering and bathymetry — ocean mapping — as we wandered among four neat rows of gleaming Saildrone hulls. Gunmetal-gray steel racks and wheeled carts held appendages and instruments, all fabricated in-house and “ruggedized” by Saildrone and NOAA. The company is based in Alameda Point, a hub of the techno-utopianism that has swept through the Bay Area. (Jenkins occasionally commutes by motorboat from his home in Alameda.) Just down the block, researchers are developing a safer nuclear reactor. A few doors away is the former factory of Makani, a project founded by a consortium of kite-surfing inventors who added wind turbines to giant kites to create energy, à la Ben Franklin.

A half-dozen workers meandered between boats as Jenkins took me to the boardroom to watch the video of SD 1045. Wind gusts hit 120 m.p.h. in what would become one of the longest-lasting North Atlantic hurricanes on record. Hurricane Sam had recently reorganized and ratcheted up from Category 3 to the upper range of Category 4. Sea spray and rain turned the air into a foggy emulsion; breaking waves slammed the boat with the force of a tractor-trailer. Two hours later, on the edge of the eye wall, the scene on Jenkins’s screen became otherworldly, with 143-m.p.h. gusts and 89-foot waves.

Few vessels could withstand the vectors moving through the North Atlantic that day. (In 2015, Hurricane Joaquin’s monster waves severed the top two decks of the steel freighter El Faro’s superstructure, sending the 790-foot ship to the bottom of the ocean along with all 33 crew members.) But SD 1045 persevered, its gauges recording multiple knockdowns, 360-degree capsizes and a 30-m.p.h. sleigh ride down the back of a giant wave.

As the pilot managed to maneuver the ship closer to the storm’s eye — a Dantesque arena of minitornadoes, falling sheets of ice, hot tower thunderheads and torrential wind and rain bands — Jenkins and a dozen NOAA scientists across the country turned to a never-before-seen stream of data broadcast from the heart of the hurricane: air temperature, relative humidity, barometric pressure, wind speed and direction, water temperature, salinity, sea-surface temperature and wave height. Watching it was like watching transmissions from a Mars rover — columns of numbers and decimal points broadcast from an alien world gradually sketching a detailed picture of the cyclone. If this level of data could consistently be harvested from hurricanes at sea, Jenkins and his colleagues realized, it could very well change our understanding of one of the most damaging, costly and deadly forms of natural disaster in the world.

It stretches for 139 million square miles and is on average more than 10,000 feet deep. Anyone who has spent time on or near it knows that watching the sea is like watching a fire: It is always transforming, moving, reordering as it mixes and flows. It is no more a “thing” than deep space is a thing — more conceptual than it is representational. It is physis , as the ancient Greeks wrote, translated as “nature,” “creation” or “growth.”

The quest to study the sea and its storms predates Aristotle, who hypothesized that Earth’s oceans were frigid at the poles and too hot to inhabit near the Equator. Half a century before Christopher Columbus’s first voyage across the Atlantic, Prince Henry the Navigator of Portugal dispatched a series of expeditions along the coast of Africa in what was in part one of the first Western maritime data-harvesting missions in history. (Keep in mind that sea monsters were considered a navigational hazard by many at the time.) His captains returned with observations detailing sea temperature, zoological discoveries and curious and persistent winds and currents, the volta do mar , that allowed them to sail with the breeze behind them in a giant circle from Portugal down to the Canary Islands, up to the Azores and home. Over the next 400 years, these and other “trade winds” and the currents they pushed would carry human civilization around the world, along with a breed of superstorm unknown to Westerners.

Only satellite images can give a true sense of the symmetry and stunning size of a mature tropical cyclone: a vortex of wind and moisture up to a thousand miles in diameter that bends with the curvature of the planet. A single storm can blot out the coastline between Maine and Florida and generate more than 200 times the energy that the world’s power plants create in a single day. (Or the power of 240 10-megaton nuclear bombs detonated every 20 minutes; take your pick.) Over millions of years, these storms have carved coastlines and ocean basins. They have wiped out entire ecosystems and redistributed others across oceans. They can even transport their own avian community of shearwaters, frigatebirds, petrels and songbirds that may fly above or become trapped in the relatively calm eye of the storm for many miles, only to be unceremoniously dumped on the shores of a distant place.

The Gulf Coast, with its warm, shallow water and troublesome Loop Current, has seen more than three dozen major hurricanes since 1851. But it is Florida that holds the distinction of being the most hurricane-prone state in the country. More than 100 tropical cyclones have made landfall there in the same time span, making locals who experienced some of those storms wonder if the current influx of newcomers to the Sunshine State will pack up and leave after their first hurricane season.

Greg Foltz of NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (A.O.M.L.) lives on relatively high ground among the neat, terra-cotta-capped bungalows of Coral Gables. He met me at a concrete picnic pavilion on Miami’s Virginia Key, a hundred yards from the Bauhausian A.O.M.L. campus. Foltz is a willowy 46 years old, soft-spoken, with a salty nerdiness that perhaps only an oceanographer can achieve. He grew up with the thrum of nor’easters, squalls and the occasional hurricane outside Boston before joining NOAA in 2010. He is now lead principal investigator of the Prediction and Research Moored Array in the Tropical Atlantic (PIRATA) Northeast Extension and its array of red-and-white research buoys, outfitted for oceanographic observation and hurricane forecasting.

One of Foltz’s duties is finding new tech to expand and improve the observation system. After colleagues at his former lab, NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (P.M.E.L.) in Seattle, told him about Saildrones, he set up a meeting to discuss building a drone that could record the inner workings of a hurricane. Jenkins had been collaborating with NOAA for four years, fine-tuning instruments and redesigning the hull and sail plan. Foltz wrote a grant and secured SD 1045 and four other drones for the 2021 hurricane season. The morning of Sept. 30, he watched from a makeshift home office as SD 1045 sailed into Hurricane Sam.

Amid a flurry of congratulatory text messages that morning, Foltz homed in on an anomaly in the drone’s data stream. Sam had undergone rapid intensification, during which a storm’s maximum winds increase 35 m.p.h. or more in 24 hours. The phenomenon, which is difficult to forecast and often occurs just before landfall, has become a priority for U.S. weather agencies, as it often leaves coastal residents expecting a mild storm only to be walloped by a Category 3 or 4 hurricane. Rapid intensification used to spin up once a century, but studies show that in the future, it could occur more frequently — especially in waters bordering the East Coast. In 2020 alone, 10 Atlantic hurricanes underwent rapid intensification . The next year, Hurricane Ida’s winds jumped to 150 m.p.h. from 85 just before making landfall in New Orleans and Alabama, ominously on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

The readings Foltz noticed indicated that surface temperatures beneath Sam were higher than normal. Typically, evaporation and ocean mixing beneath a hurricane cools surface water near the eye. But SD 1045 indicated that the surface was not cooling. It was warming up, creating a storm with no bridle.

The readings were so off that Foltz assumed a gauge had broken. He checked SD 1045’s wind-speed figures against a nearby research buoy and saw similar numbers. He also noticed low salinity in the water and confirmed those readings with satellite data. Weeks later, after poring over the data, Foltz and his colleagues concluded that a pool of fresh water — which is less dense than salt water and floats on top of it — had likely blocked upwelling currents from cooling the surface.

The discovery provided further evidence in an area that had confounded meteorologists for decades. Two months after Hurricane Sam veered northeast and sputtered out southeast of Greenland, NOAA sent out a news release titled “Measuring Salt in the Ocean May Be Key to Predicting Hurricane Intensity.” The release outlined how the outflow of the Amazon, Orinoco and Mississippi Rivers could potentially obstruct upwelling and ocean mixing beneath storms. Further study the next spring illustrated how increased rainfall in today’s supersaturated storms could also dump enough freshwater to reduce upwelling and ocean cooling, making intensification more likely.

Foltz took a summary of his findings to the National Hurricane Center. “Now they’re starting to appreciate that salinity can affect hurricane intensity,” he says.

A month after SD 1045 safely sailed back to port, a disturbance in the Pacific Ocean developed into a tropical depression. The storm was named Rai, and two days later it became a Category 1 typhoon. As the storm bore down on the volcanic ridgelines and montane rainforests hemming the Philippines, rapid intensification took it from the equivalent of a Category 1 Atlantic hurricane to a supertyphoon, equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 160 m.p.h.

In 48 hours, Rai decimated thousands of villages, killed more than 400 people, drove seven million from their homes and inflicted hundreds of millions of dollars in damage — including postponing a mass coronavirus vaccination effort. Rai was not the first storm to hit the Philippines in 2021. Fourteen other gales overran the islands earlier that year, sometimes just weeks apart. And four months later, Tropical Storm Megi killed more than 150, wiped out several villages with landslides and displaced more than a million people.

With their billions in damages and clever National Hurricane Center tweets — “Kate Still a Poorly Organized Depression” — Atlantic hurricanes represent just 16 percent of all annual tropical cyclones. Hurricane basins in the Pacific that border Australia, Indonesia, Fiji, Japan and the Philippines get 60 percent of the storms, while 24 percent roam the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific . Called typhoons when they originate in the Northwest Pacific and cyclones in the South Pacific and Indian Ocean, the storms are identical in all but name to hurricanes. They are also growing stronger as the ocean warms beneath them.

Nowhere is this incongruity more evident than in weather- and climate-related natural disasters — which increased fivefold globally from 1970 to 2019 , with 91 percent of associated deaths occurring in the developing world. The proportion of Category 4 and 5 typhoons making landfall in East and Southeast Asia appears to have increased, with storms lasting longer, penetrating farther inland and causing vastly more damage. A 2016 study found that the average intensity of all typhoons in the region had grown by 12 to 15 percent from 1977 to 2014. Typhoon Koppu in 2015 dumped 35 inches of rain on the Philippines, and Cyclone Freddy in February became the longest, most powerful tropical cyclone in any ocean basin in history after destroying large swaths of Madagascar and Mozambique. There is no longer respite from typhoon season in the western North Pacific, either. Storm season now essentially lasts all year .

Damage and loss of life on the low-lying, densely populated coastlines of Asia and Africa — typically with little to no resiliency or early-warning systems — is beyond compare. Some of the most infamous storms in history made landfall there: the 1970 Bhola cyclone, which pushed a 33-foot-tall storm surge across the Ganges Delta in what is now Bangladesh, with an estimated death toll as high as 500,000; Typhoon Nina in 1975 and a resulting dam failure, which took more than 150,000 lives in China’s Henan Province; and Myanmar’s Cyclone Nargis in 2008, with more than 100,000 dead or missing after a 13-foot storm surge swept across the Irrawaddy Delta.

Lack of data and accurate forecasting is largely to blame for the high casualty rate. Much of the region still uses weather balloons to gauge atmospheric conditions, and a lack of reliable electricity makes automated weather stations and data transmission difficult. About one-third of the world’s population has no access to extreme-weather early-warning systems — including a stunning 60 percent of people in Africa. A 2019 report by the Global Commission on Adaptation addressed the shortfall, outlining how an $800 million investment in forecasting could avoid up to $16 billion in weather-related damage. The United Nations took up the challenge in 2021 at its climate conference, COP26, in Glasgow. The next year it promised technology within five years that will deliver storm warnings to every region on the planet.

One presentation at COP26 addressed the scarcity of ocean-data collection vital to understanding tropical cyclones and climate change in general — not just in the developing world but everywhere. More than 80 percent of the ocean has yet to be mapped in high definition, and hardly any of it is being empirically monitored and measured regularly . Oceanographers often point out that appropriations for NASA’s deep-space exploration outpaces ocean exploration by more than 150 to 1 — to the point that scientists know more about the surface of Mars than they do about our own seas, which play an outsize role in the climate crisis and are far more important to the survival of our species. Forecasters and climate modelers, who rely heavily on ocean data, may have to use estimated numbers in their calculations, opening the door to potential large-scale errors in the planet’s carbon budget and all-important global-warming estimates.

The presenter, the NOAA oceanographer Adrienne Sutton, argued that this “black hole of data” is hampering our understanding of how the ocean is changing and how those changes affect food webs, carbon sequestration, weather and storms. To date, the world’s oceans have taken in around 90 percent of the heat trapped by greenhouse gases and more than 30 percent of carbon dioxide emitted by human activity. This role as buffer, which has most likely saved humanity from certain and swift extinction, has come with consequences, including sea-level rise, ocean acidification, coral die-offs, shifting global circulation currents and a rise in intense tropical cyclones.

“During the winter, the Southern Ocean was a carbon source — which threw the entire carbon budget into disarray,” Richard Jenkins says. “Where is that 30 percent of carbon emissions going? No one has an answer for that, which is a phenomenally poor understanding of our planetary systems. Our goal is to get enough data to get the models to reduce the margin of error so that everyone can agree on our trajectory.”

As another hurricane season approaches, much of the U.S. coast remains unprepared. Flood insurance for millions of Americans living near the ocean is still optional. Some federal disaster loans to rebuild after a storm are contingent on credit; consumer-protection laws do not rein in corrupt contractors who flock to disaster areas; and many state governments lack the funds and staffing necessary to manage recovery.

Eighteen years after Hurricane Katrina rolled over the clapboard shacks and corner stores of New Orleans’s Lower Ninth Ward, the population is still around 30 percent of what it was in 2000 — with only a handful of businesses to serve residents. Communities in the nine states that experienced Hurricane Ida’s torrential wind and rain in 2021 are still rebuilding, and parts of Long Island, Staten Island and New Jersey are still recovering from Superstorm Sandy 11 years later — all while New York City repeatedly delayed and rewrote its plans to fortify and protect Lower Manhattan from another direct hit.

On the streets of Fort Myers, Fla., where Hurricane Ian, a Category 4 storm, killed more than 150 people and caused an estimated $112.9 billion in damages in September , many residents remain displaced, and even more are still waiting on insurance checks. Full recovery could take up to a decade, disaster experts say, assuming another storm does not hit before then.

What worries tropical-cyclone modelers like Hiro Murakami, a project scientist at NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, N.J., are regions with little to no experience with major storms being drawn into tropical-cyclone territory. Warming water off the coast of Europe over the last 20 years has opened the door to storms like ex-Hurricane Ophelia in 2017, which grazed Ireland with gusts up to 119 m.p.h. The next year, Hurricane Helene followed a rare path, traveling north from Africa, instead of west, eventually affecting the United Kingdom. Other regions being drawn into cyclone territory include India’s west coast, eastern Japan, Hawaii and the sprawling agrarian-industrial coastline that wraps around northeastern China.

Storms are even hitting the Middle East with more power, Murakami says, like Cyclone Shaheen in 2021. The storm took a remarkable path from the Bay of Bengal across India and the Arabian Sea and made landfall in Oman as a severe cyclone, the first one there in recorded history. “They have no experience with it,” Murakami says. “No dikes. No defenses.”

Another concern is the overall rise of extreme weather. Just look at 2022: Extreme rainstorms flooded the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro; low rainfall in Iraq resulted in a huge dust storm that shut down most of the country; heat waves in India and Pakistan brought temperatures topping 120 degrees Fahrenheit in some places, followed by exceptionally rainy monsoon seasons; and freak tornadoes tore through New Orleans. The opening months of 2023 had a parade of atmospheric rivers — made wetter and more intense by climate change — dump more than 30 trillion gallons of water on California.

Gore-Tex-clad meteorologists clinging to seaside piers have popularized a vibrant vocabulary for our new meteorological reality: bombogenesis, polar vortex, vapor storm, wave overtopping, sting jets, megadroughts. It is a dangerous game relating all weather disasters to climate change, but when one considers the complex and interrelated nature of climate and weather systems on Earth, there’s no denying that they must be linked to some degree. Adding an estimated 0.7 watts of heat to every square meter of land and water on the planet is influencing pretty much everything in the ocean and sky, even the poofy thunderheads that glide over your backyard on a summer afternoon.

Such are the perils of disturbing the equilibrium that Earth has maintained for millions of years, Murakami says. With average atmospheric CO2 content topping 417 parts per million for the first time in more than four million years, he points out another often overlooked and underreported fact: If we stopped burning fossil fuels today, additional warming would begin to flatten within a few years, as would the escalation of tropical-cyclone intensity.

“If we can successfully constrain emissions in the middle of the 21st century, and CO2 emissions decrease afterward, hurricane activity will also go back to present-day,” he says. “Cyclone activity largely follows the path of CO2 levels.”

Colorado State University released its annual hurricane outlook in April, anticipating 13 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes in 2023. Foltz and Saildrone were already preparing a new fleet of drones. The plan was to match them with aerial drones launched from Hurricane Hunter aircraft and subsea gliders so researchers could analyze the architecture of a storm from hundreds of feet beneath the ocean’s surface to thousands of feet above it.

Foltz will watch their progress from his office in NOAA’s A.O.M.L. lab. It will most likely take each drone a month to navigate into position and then a few weeks to coordinate with the gliders and aerial drones. Then Foltz, Jenkins and a crew of NOAA scientists across the nation will wait patiently — watching the skies, monitoring the Atlantic’s ever-warming temperature and waiting for a line of thunderheads to be hooked and whirled into a perfect storm.

Porter Fox is a writer in New York and the author of a forthcoming book from Little, Brown and Company, “The Great River of the Sea,” which is based on reporting from this article.

Wesley Allsbrook is an illustrator known for bold movement, saturated palettes and a strong sense of narrative in their art.

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sailboat caught in hurricane

Multiple Agencies Assist in Rescue of Couple on Sailboat Caught in Hurricane Lee Swells

Multiple Agencies Assist in Rescue of Couple on Sailboat Caught in Hurricane Lee Swells

Lieutenant Commander Alex Martfeld of US Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod flying the helicopter that was sent out to rescue two individuals aboard a 24-foot sailboat in the waters off Westhampton Beach on Friday afternoon. COURTESY USCG AIR STATION CAPE COD

From left, Aviation Maintenance Technician (hoist operator) Second Class Gary Hardigree, Aviation Survival Technician (rescue swimmer) Third Class Gregory Gibson, Lieutenant (co-pilot) Tanner Evans, and Lieutenant Commander Alex Martfeld were the team on the scene of the search-and-rescue mission to take two individuals in distress off a sailboat that was being tossed around in swells from Hurricane Lee on Friday in the waters off Westhampton Beach. COURTESY USCG AIR STATION CAPE COD

sailboat caught in hurricane

Two individuals in distress aboard a 27-foot sailboat being tossed around in high surf from Hurricane Lee in the ocean waters off Westhampton Beach were rescued by a helicopter dispatched from the United States Coast Guard Station in Cape Cod on Friday afternoon.

Lieutenant Commander Alex Martfeld of US Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod flying the helicopter that was sent out to rescue two individuals aboard a 24-foot sailboat in the waters off Westhampton Beach on Friday afternoon. COURTESY USCG AIR STATION CAPE COD

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Surviving 24 Hours in Hurricane Julio on a Sinking Sailboat

The floundering Walkabout lost its mast, one of its hatches and its life raft.

— -- Three men who sailed into the eye of Hurricane Julio had to watch three rescue attempts turn away as their sinking boat was battered for 24 hours by towering waves and hurricane force winds.

Waves that rose 30 feet high had dismasted the sailboat and ripped away one of its hatches, allowing wave after wave to fill the boat. Winds that reached speeds of 115 mph tore away the vessel's life raft. The boat wallowed in the troughs as waves slammed into it.

“It was very intense,” Ben Nealy told ABC News affiliate KITV in Honolulu just hours after being rescued. “We were probably pretty close to the eye at the time we got stowed in.”

Nealy, 61, was en route from Stockton, California, to Honolulu along with his son Lee Nealy, 22, and Mike Vanway, 22, when their 42-foot sailboat the Walkabout began to take on water, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. The three men were 414 miles northeast of Oahu.

The distress call from the sailors came in at 7:15 a.m. on Sunday.

“We were being drawn along the storm,” Nealy told KITV. “The storm was passing, and it was also sucking us with it, so we weren’t getting out of it nearly as quick as I had hoped...We finally just ended up in front of it.”

PHOTO: Three men were stranded for 24 hours when Hurricane Julia hit parts of Hawaii, Aug. 10, 2014.

The Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Honolulu sent an airplane from the National Hurricane Center to locate and make contact with the stranded sailors. At 10:49 a.m., the air crew could hear the Mayday calls from the boat.

With Hurricane Julio in full force, winds roared at 92 to 115 mph and 30-foot waves had taken on a toll on the sailboat. One of the hatches had been ripped away and the boat was rapidly flooding. The life-raft had also been blown overboard.

“You’ve got white caps that are blown vertical,” Neely told KITV. “The white water will break, and instead of having it fall into the water, it goes horizontal.”

“Visibility is very limited and it looks like snow on the water,” Neely said. “It kind of looks like the perfect storm.”

An aircrew launched at 11:10 a.m. to deliver a life raft and pumping equipment, but the fierce winds blew it off into the sea. The aircrew was forced to return to base due to a shortage of fuel.

Hours later, at 5:15 p.m., another aircrew attempted to deliver the survival supplies, but severe conditions once again thwarted any attempts at assisting the three stranded men.

“We were dealing with an 800 foot ceiling,” Lt. Mike Koeher, the Aircraft Commander of the second rescue plane, told ABC News. “The winds were between 30 and 40 knots it was getting pretty dark.”

“By the time we got on scene, the sailboat captain, [Ben Nealy], said they had about 300 gallons of sea water on board,” said Kohler.

PHOTO: A U.S. Coast Guard crew poses for a photo at the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point in Kapolei, Hawaii, Aug. 11, 2014.

With the second rescue aircraft still flying over the stranded vessel, the Coast Guard directed a container ship named the Manukai that was in the area to heard towards Nealy's boat. The ship found the floundering sailboat at 10 p.m.

"We arrived on scene, the situation was dire. It was far from ideal conditions," 1st Capt. John Bloomingdale told ABC News affiliate KITV.

Attempts to bring the men aboard were considered to dangerous to try in the dark and still stormy seas.

“They tried to get us aboard, but it was too dangerous. Visibility was really down,” Ben Nealy told KITV. “So, we called it off at about midnight and they sat there all night long using their fuel, and their time, and their equipment to wait until they could take us aboard in the morning."

Finally, at 7:52 a.m. on Monday, a 661-foot rescue ship pulled alongside the battered sailboat, reeling it in and dropping a ladder to the three men, who had finally been saved.

The three men had been successfully rescued after more than 24 hours stranded at sea, with no serious injuries reported.

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Sailboat Caught In Rare Hurricane Near Hawaii

sailboat caught in hurricane

The U.S. Coast Guard is rescuing a sailboat 400 miles off shore caught in Hurricane Julio, one of two rare storms for Hawaii.

The U.S. Coast Guard is working to rescue a sailboat about 400 miles off the coast of Oahu after it got caught in Hurricane Julio, one of two rare tropical cyclones affecting Hawaii over the weekend.

Hurricane Julio never actually hit the islands, instead diverting north. The National Weather Service also downgraded the storm to a category 1 hurricane over the weekend after wind speeds decreased. (Video via KGMB )

But the U.S. Coast Guard says  it received a distress signal from a sailboat with three people aboard drifting off shore Sunday. The boat's lifeboat and hatch cover were blown away by the hurricane winds.

Accuweather says the Guard sent a plane to deliver a pump to aid in flooding within the boat. Attempts to drop off life rafts failed due to the rough conditions, forcing the crew will remain with the boat until a rescue ship arrives.

According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser , that boat was expected to arrive on scene Sunday night. As of early Monday morning there were no updates on the status of that rescue mission or the condition of the passengers.

Again, Hurricane Julio was just one of two storms to threatened Hawaii within the past week.

Thousands are still without power after tropical storm    ​Iselle, initially classified as a hurricane, blew through the main island Friday, knocking over trees and destroying homes. (Video via KHNL )

The storms prompted residents to prepare for the kind of weather they rarely ever face , as the last hurricane to hit Hawaii was 22 years ago. The Scientific American explains high pressure during hurricane season usually causes storms to steer clear of the islands.

One death has been reported due to the recent storms. A High Surf Warning remains in effect until Monday morning.

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What sailboats could survive a full blown hurricane at sea?

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What sailboats are the most seaworthy? Boats that can withstand 30+ foot ocean waves?  

Does "full blown" mean Category1? Or Category5? Read "Fastnet, Force 10" to get some idea how boats do at sea.  


The Westsail 32 in the book/movie The Perfect Storm survived. But, survival also depends on how well the boat was maintained. That same Westsail in poor condition may have had a different ending.  


A 30 foot wave at sea and and a thirty foot wave on your local beach are not the same thing. A thirty foot wave at sea only occasionally breaks and when it does, only a portion of it becomes white water. Don't get me wrong, the energy in that portion is still formidable and can do damage but it isn't like the breaking wave that hits land. Mostly you sail over thirty foot waves at sea without incident. Another thing to consider is surfing. In my opinion allowing you boat to surf swells of 30 feet is playing Russian Roulette - eventually one will kill you. I won't elaborate here. We sailed through a storm with 80kn and 30+ feet. We got knocked down twice by breaking waves as described above but we safely "sailed" over hundreds more. We sustained more damage from the wind than from the sea. We have a 44ft GRP sloop. Was that a "full blown hurricane"? No because it only lasted two days. But in terms of wind speed and wave size, yes it probably equaled a Cat 1. Would you survive a Cat 5? I don't think so.  

I presume you are looking for a neat list. Do you want that in alphabetical order or by LOA? Color?  


Big ships often fair worse than a small sailboat in extreme conditions. Whereas a large ship may span a few waves and beak her back, a strong, small sailboat would be much like a cork, if watertight. I have survived 2 hurricanes at sea in sailboats. The first was just west of Fiji, probably a high cat 1, but it was before satellites so it may not be a "full blown" storm in your mind. We were capsized 3 times and sustained a lot of damage, but she got us back to a safe anchorage, so I guess she was a pretty good boat, considering she was 65 when she went through it. The second storm was in the western Indian ocean and because we were beating, we escaped the full force of the storm, but it was still 45 to 60 knots for 10 very difficult days as the darn thing chased us across the ocean. That boat was Brown 37' trimaran, which handled quite a few "heavy weather" experiences very well, including 1200 miles up the Red Sea in northerlies. Once again, it would very much depend on the choices made by and the experience of the captain (certainly NOT the case in the hurricane (cyclone if you prefer) off Fiji, as I made some very bad choices, but as they say, "hindsight is 20/20"); good choices increase the survivability in any situation, especially at sea, in heavy weather.  

In general, and your sea miles may vary: NO sailboat is guaranteed to survive a hurricane. There are no guarantees at sea, except that the sea has a good chance of finding its way through weaknesses in either boat or crew. Any small boat skipper who intentionally challenges a hurricane would seem likely to be either a fool, harboring a death wish, under terrible pressure, seriously unlucky, or extraordinarily delusionally over-confident. Theoretically, a boat could be designed for having a maximum probability of surviving hurricanes, but it might have to be so over-built that it would be a pig in normal conditions. (glossing over some discussion of Westsails and such like) There are boats built to sail in heavy conditions, and one could do a lot with flotation, water tight compartments, over-built rigs, high-strength impact-resistant hulls, more-or-less bulletproof steering systems, control lines led to sheltered locations, etc. If one were wealthy. But, a thirty-foot breaking wave can simply overpower most smaller craft, depending on how it catches a boat and how well the crew is able to anticipate and respond. With good voyage planning and weather routing and an efficient boat, a smart and not-too-unlucky crew can avoid most of the really heavy weather. What's sometimes harder to avoid and to manage is the really light stuff.  


What sailboat could survive a full-blown hurricane at sea? A fortunate one.  

Read God Forsaken Sea by Derek Lundy. Be prepared for some terrible gut wrenching descriptions.  

Me too. I cant remember ever hearing about a battleship or an aircraft carrier going down due to rough weather. And, the food is good.  


maybe not breaking it's back.. but my father rememebers seeing the intrepid with her flightdeck even with the water... and he was on an LST. The carrier sailors joked that people on his ship should have gotten Submarine pay as they spent most of the time under the waves. From what he tells of the story, they were taking 50 degree rolls.. LSTs are only supposed to take 40 before the capsize. I know of the Westsail that survived the perfect storm.. and a few Alberg 37s that survived some serious weather. Two that went through the Fast Net Gale with minimal damage and one that wound up beached with only scratches from a hurricane  


The USN would disagree with the idea that warships are safe in a typhoon. In 1944 a number of ships were capsized and lost in Typhoon Cobra. Typhoon Cobra (1944) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia There are too many variables to say which boats would survive a hurricane. In a class 5 hurricane in the dangerous quadrant, essentially NO sailboat would be likely to survive. Currents, types of wave action, proficiency of the captain and crew, equipment on board, strategies for dealing with big seas, and whether you've pissed off Neptune...all variables making huge differences in ability to handle bad weather. It's not just the boat. An Alberg 35 survived the Fastnet storm by just taking sails down and going below with bare poles.  

smurphny said: The USN would disagree with the idea that warships are safe in a typhoon. In 1944 a number of ships were capsized and lost in Typhoon Cobra. Typhoon Cobra (1944) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia ... Click to expand...


Read "Rescue in the Pacific". Great book, not a hurricane, but a nasty storm none-the-less. All but one of the 'boats' survived it. It was the people that didn't.  

OK, fine. Then I won't go to sea in a warship. That settles it.  

I think it was one of Michner's books, maybe Tales of the South Pacific , that has a great fictional/historical account of this storm and what it must have been like to come upon the tragic sight of the wrong side of a destroyer from the deck of a sister ship.  


Might have been. Will have to search around and find where that section came from. It was a really haunting description, in the middle of a raging storm, of one warship looking out ahead and coming upon one that had capsized. Really presented a vivid and disturbing scene that has stuck with me.  


Make all the boat lists you want , but the thing that most makes a boat seaworthy is the person sailing her. There's no magic pill to get you through 30 foot seas. The best regarded blue water vessel ill managed at sea isn't worth spit . Conversely , a lessor boat skillfully handled might make a miracle .  

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How To Sail Safely Through a Storm

How to sail safely through a storm, tips and tricks to help you get home safe.

sailboat caught in hurricane

Compared to the quick response and sudden nature of a squall , sailing through a storm in open water is an endurance contest. In addition to big wind, you’ll have to deal with big waves and crew fatigue.

Sailing in Waves

Sailing in big waves is a test of seamanship and steering, which is why you should put your best driver on the helm. Experienced dinghy sailors often are very good at heavy air steering, because they see “survival” weather more often than most cruisers.

Avoid sailing on a reach across tall breaking waves; they can roll a boat over. When sailing close-hauled in waves, aim toward flat spots while keeping speed up so you can steer. To reduce the chance of a wave washing across the deck, tack in relatively smooth water. A cubic foot of water weighs 64 pounds, so a wave can bring many hundreds of pounds of water across the deck.

Sailing on a run or broad reach in big waves is exhilarating, but be careful not to broach and bring the boat beam-to a breaker. Rig a preventer to hold the boom out.

sailboat caught in hurricane

Storm Sails

If reefing isn’t enough to reduce power, it’s time to dig out your storm sails — the storm trysail and storm jib. They may seem tiny, but since wind force rises exponentially, they’re the right size for a really big blow. Storm trysails are usually trimmed to the rail, but some modern ones are set on the boom. The storm jib should be set just forward of the mast to keep the sail plan’s center of effort near the boat’s center of lateral resistance. This helps keep the boat in balance.

Storm Strategy

The first decision before an approaching storm is the toughest: Run for cover, or head out to open water for sea room? With modern forecasting, a true storm will rarely arrive unannounced, but as you venture further offshore the chances of being caught out increase. While running for cover would seem the preferred choice, the danger lies in being caught in the storm, close to shore, with no room to maneuver or run off.

Two classic storm strategies are to try to keep away from land so you’re not blown up on shore, and to sail away from the storm’s path — especially its “dangerous semicircle,” which is its right side as it advances.

Storm Tactics

Storm tactics help you handle a storm once you’re in it. There are several proven choices, all of which aim to reduce the strain and motion by pointing one of the boat’s ends (either bow or stern) toward the waves. No one tactic will work best for all boats in all conditions.

Sail under storm jib and deeply reefed mainsail or storm trysail. This approach provides the most control. Sails give you the power to steer and control your boat in the waves.

Run before the storm with the stern toward the waves, perhaps towing a drogue to slow the boat. This tactic requires a lot of sea room, and the boat must be steered actively. Another concern is that you will remain in front of an approaching storm, rather than sailing out of its path.

Heave-to on a close reach with the jib trimmed to windward. Heaving-to can be an excellent heavy weather tactic, though some boats fare better than others.

Deploy a sea anchor while hove-to or under bare poles. A sea anchor is a small parachute set at the end of a line off the bow. A sea anchor helps keep the bow up into the waves so the boat won’t end up beam to the seas. One concern is the load on the rudder as waves push the boat aft.

Another alternative is lying ahull, simply sitting with sails down. This passive alternative is less reliable than the other tactics, as you lose the ability to control your angle to the waves and may end up beam to the seas. Furthermore, the motion of the boat rolling in the waves without the benefit of sails can be debilitating.

Want to order a storm trysail or storm jib for your boat? Contact a North Sails Expert here .

How to Heave-To

Wouldn’t it be great if, during a heavy air sail, you could just take a break, and relax for a bit? Imagine a short respite from the relentless pitching and pounding: a chance to rest, take a meal, or check over the boat in relative tranquility. Well, you can. The lost art of heaving-to allows you to “park” in open water.

To heave-to, trim the jib aback (i.e., to the wrong side), trim the main in hard, and lash the helm so the boat will head up once it gains steerageway. As the jib tries to push the bow down, the bow turns off the wind and the main fills, moving the boat forward. Once the boat begins to make headway, the lashed helm turns the boat toward the wind again. As the main goes soft the jib once again takes over, pushing the bow down. The main refills, and the rudder pushes the bow into the wind again.

The boat won’t actually stop. It will lie about 60 degrees off the wind, sailing at 1 or 2 knots, and making significant leeway (sliding to leeward). The motion will be much less than under sail, and dramatically more stable and pleasant than dropping all sails and lying ahull. You will also be using up less sea room than if you run before the storm at great speed.

Achieving this balance will require some fine tuning, depending on the wind strength, your boat design, and the sails you are flying. Also, fin-keeled boats do not heave to as well as more traditional designs.

In storm seas, some boats will require a sea anchor off the bow to help hold the boat up into the waves while hove-to.

sailboat caught in hurricane

Alternate Storm Strategy: Don’t Go

If conditions are wrong, or are forecast to worsen, don’t go. If you can avoid the storm, then do so.

If you’re at home, stay there. If you’re mid-cruise, button up the boat, make sure your anchor or mooring or dock lines are secure, and then read a book or play cards. Relax. Enjoy the time with your shipmates. Study the pile of Owners’ Manuals you’ve accumulated with each piece of new gear. Tinker with boat projects.

Put some soup on the stove, and check on deck every so often to make sure the boat is secure. Shake your head as you return below, and remark, “My oh my, is it nasty out there.”

If your boat is threatened by a tropical storm or hurricane, strip all excess gear from the deck, double up all docking or mooring lines, protect those lines from chafe, and get off. Don’t risk your life to save your boat.

Misery and Danger

Although everyone will remember it differently years later, a long, wet, cold sail through a storm can be miserable. As the skipper, you need to make the best of it: watch over your crew, offer relief or help to those who need it, and speak a few words of encouragement to all. “This is miserable, but it will end.”

Take the time to marvel at the forces of nature, and at your ability to carry on in the midst of the storm. Few people get to experience the full fury of a storm. It may not be pleasant, but it is memorable.

While misery and discomfort can eventually lead to fatigue, diminished performance, and even danger, do not mistake one for the other. Distinguish in your own mind the difference between misery and danger. Don’t attempt a dangerous harbor entrance to escape misery; that would compromise the safety of the boat and crew, just to avoid a little discomfort.

Interested in a new sail quote or have questions about your sails? Fill out our Request a Quote form below and you will receive a reply from a North sail expert in your area.



27 February


Npl renew faq, flying sails 101.

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Where to Sail During Hurricane Season

Where to Sail During Hurricane Season | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

June 15, 2022

Sailing during hurricane season is possible with planning, technology, and the right location. However, many safer locations exist for summer sailing.

Hurricane season is a hazardous time for sailors in gulf and Atlantic-coast states such as Texas, Florida, and the Carolinas. Despite this, sailors still venture out during peak tropical storm season. Sailing during hurricane season is safer in northern latitudes and inland areas, such as the Great Lakes and the Pacific Coast.

Table of contents

‍ Why are Hurricanes Dangerous to Sailboats?

Hurricanes are enormous tropical storms that can stretch over 300 miles across. They develop and intensify, gaining strength and moving (most often) northeast from the Gulf of Mexico or South Atlantic to the North.

High Winds and Rough Seas

Hurricanes are dangerous to sailboats for a few reasons. The most destructive force of a hurricane is its wind, which can exceed 157 mph in major Category-5 storms. High winds and perilous seas can effortlessly founder and sink a large boat and positively erase a small sailboat .

Storm Surge

Hurricanes tend to stall and weaken over land, at which point they devolve into less intense bands of thunderstorms and rain clouds. However, docking your boat close to shore doesn't mean it's safe from the effects of a strong hurricane.

A storm surge often closely follows a hurricane. During a storm surge, large waves beat down anything along the coast that isn't bolted or cemented into bedrock.

Seawater floods inland and overflows rivers, lakes, and neighborhoods with up to 30 feet of water. Boats caught in a storm surge get washed inland and pounded to bits against buildings, cars, trees, and infrastructure.

How to Protect your Sailboat from Hurricanes

The best way to protect your sailboat from a hurricane is to get out of its way. Depending on the strength of the storm, this won't always be necessary—but it's wise to seek shelter whenever a powerful hurricane tracks towards your home port.

When is Hurricane Season?

Atlantic hurricane season officially begins on June 1st and ends on November 30th. Hurricane season is when tropical storms are most common, but cyclones occur year-round on the Atlantic ocean.

Hurricanes have occurred in March, December, and virtually every month in between. The reason why hurricane season starts during the summer is that temperature and pressure conditions are prime for storm development.

Hurricane season timing is unfortunate, as the summer months are prime sailing season in the coastal states. As a result, thousands of sailboats take to the water during hurricane season and sometimes encounter extreme conditions.

What States Should Worry about Hurricanes?

Hurricanes primarily affect the gulf coast, and Atlantic states, as tropical conditions further south produce northward-moving storms during the peak months.

Most Hazardous Hurricane States

The most hazardous states for hurricanes are Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, and North Carolina. These states take a direct broadside from hurricanes, which often make landfall on their shores wreak havoc inland.

Additional Hurricane Threat States

States further north also have hurricane-related hazards, especially on the coast. These states include Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, a tiny sliver of New Hampshire, and Maine.

Inland Hurricane Hazards

Inland states such as Arkansas and Tennessee are sometimes affected by flooding after a hurricane makes landfall, which can make river and lake conditions hazardous as well. This effect is much less significant inland.

Where are Hurricanes Dangerous to Sailboats?

Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, and North Carolina have the most dangerous hurricane activity for sailboats. This is due to storm surges, high winds, and other phenomena that can damage boats both at sea and in the marina.

The most hazardous places to be during hurricane season is the southeastern tip of Florida. This also happens to be a common starting point for boats sailing to the Bahamas during the summer months.

South Texas is a fairly rough spot during hurricane season as well, with the most dramatic storm surges occurring around the Houston and Galveston area. The southernmost coastal areas of Louisiana and Mississippi tend to experience frightening conditions as well.

Sailing in these areas (or simply mooring your sailboat) during hurricane season is precarious and risky compared to safer northern and inland areas.

Hurricane-Safe Sailing Areas

If you live in one of the hurricane-prone coastal states and want to minimize the risks, there are locations you can retreat to and still continue to sail. Here are two alternatives to bluewater sailing during hurricane season.

Lakes are an excellent option for summer sailing, especially if you have a trailerable sailboat. Inland lakes exist in almost every hurricane-prone state, and they offer protection from devastating hurricane storm surges.

Marinas are available on most larger lakes, and fees are similar to coastal yacht clubs and docking facilities. Many of these marinas are also covered, which offers additional protection from rain, hail, and other storm-related hazards.

Rivers like the Mississippi are wide and deep enough for sailboats to traverse. Rivers, while not as protected as lakes, offer some protection from the open-water hazards of hurricane season.

Rivers are a great way to relocate when storm season comes, as you can simply sail upstream and dock far away from meteorological hazards. River sailing is challenging and still prone to storm surges, but the dangers are much lower than in the immediate path of the storm.

Intracoastal Waterways

The United States Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) is one of the most useful coastal features in hurricane-prone states. It offers a unique level of protection from bluewater hazards along with ports, haulouts, and other amenities for sailors.

The Intracoastal Waterway system is a combination of coastal inlets, sounds, channels, and artificial canals that run from Boston, Massachusetts, all the way to Brownsville, Texas. The massive waterway consists of more than 3,000 miles of almost entirely protected navigable water.

Intracoastal Waterways are a fantastic way to tour the United States during hurricane season. In addition to an increased level of protection from the open sea, the ICW system runs along more than a dozen major tourist cities and cultural centers. Safe harbors and overnight stops are abundant, and provisions are never in short supply.

Gulf Intracoastal Waterway

The Intracoastal Waterway system begins in Brownsville, Texas, and runs down the western coast of Carrabelle, Florida. Along the way, the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway connects to major coastal cities such as Corpus Christie, Galveston, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Mobile, Panama City, and Pensacola.

Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway

The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway connects the Gulf ICW to the eastern United States via the southern coast of Florida. Fort Lauderdale, FL, is one of the primary southern points of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.

The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway runs all the way to Boston, but not all of the waterway is close to the open sea. During hurricane season, an additional level of safety can be found north of the Manasquan Inlet in New Jersey. The inlet connects the northern parts of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway with the inland Manasquan river.

Major port cities along the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway include Key West, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, West Palm Beach, Brunswick, Savannah, Charleston, Georgetown, Cape Fear, Wilmington, Norfolk, New York City, Albany, Cape Cod, and Boston.

Intracoastal Waterway during Hurricane Season

Few sailors would recommend sailing in the Intracoastal Waterway during an active hurricane. That said, if you must travel, it's safer to stay inland and away from the driving seat.

However, sailing and mooring in the Intracoastal Waterway during hurricane season is probably much safer than cruising in open water or anchoring in an exposed cove.

The Intracoastal Waterway offers protection from the other unpredictable weather hazards that are common during hurricane season. These include explosive thunderstorms that occur in the afternoon and the occasional low-visibility rainstorm.

Safety Benefits of the Intracoastal Waterway System

For sailors in hurricane-prone states, the Intracoastal Waterway can lay a lot of fears to rest when traveling between destinations. The Intracoastal Waterway is a heavily-traveled shipping lane, which means towing and emergency services are never far away.

Additionally, there are hundreds of marinas, restaurants, boatyards, and fueling docks dotted around the shores of the Intracoastal Waterway. In the event of storm damage, it's much easier to get repairs and find land-based shelter in the Intracoastal Waterway.

Navigation is also easier, as the channels are clearly marked, and landmarks are everywhere. The Intracoastal Waterway makes sailing between coastal states simple and direct.

Sailing out of State

If you decide to avoid hurricane-prone areas during the summer season, there are plenty of places to sail to far out of range of tropical storms. Sailing or towing your boat away from the Atlantic and Gulf states is a popular option for hurricane season, especially if there's a storm on the way.

The Great Lakes

The Great Lakes are an excellent destination for sailors during the summer. Though famous for their rough weather, the Great Lakes are calmer during the warm months. Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario are the largest lakes of their kind in the world.

St. Lawrence Seaway and Ocean Access

The St. Lawrence Seaway allows commercial vessels and private boats to access the Great Lakes from the Atlantic Ocean. Combined, the seaway and the lakes are one of the largest surface navigable waterways on the planet and features some of the largest marine locks as well.

Fresh Water, Fair Weather, and Easy Maintenance

The Great Lakes offer another hidden benefit that's great for your sailboat: freshwater. The Great Lakes are freshwater lakes, which means you'll have an entire season to avoid the corrosive qualities of saltwater and the worst kinds of marine gunk.

When to Leave the Great Lakes

The Great Lakes offer safe and interesting refuge during hurricane season, but they're not fair and friendly year-round. During the fall, conditions on the Great Lakes get stormy and hazardous.

Additionally, winter temperatures in the region frequently freeze the lakes, making them totally impassable to small boats. It's best to vacate the Great Lakes area and return home before October, which is right at the end of the Atlantic hurricane season.

Tourist Locations

Great cities like Chicago, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Buffalo, and Duluth border the lakes, and they're easily accessible from the water. If you're looking to get out of the Atlantic coast during hurricane season, consider taking a trip through the St. Lawrence Seaway and into the Great Lakes.

International Voyages

Looking to do some international travel by boat? The Great Lakes border the United States and Canada, making it easy to visit our northern neighbors and stay far from the weather during hurricane season.

Pacific Coast

The Pacific Coast is another popular option for sailors during hurricane season. There are two primary ways to get from an Atlantic state to the pacific coast: You can transit via the Panama Canal or haul your boat out and tow it to the other side of the country.

Atlantic to Pacific Sailing via the Panama Canal

Larger boats are generally too expensive to ship or haul, making the Panama Canal the most convenient option. Contrary to popular belief, it's relatively easy to transit via the Panama Canal. Private sailboats tie side-by-side and get towed through the locks.

Pacific Coast Destinations

The Pacific Coast is hurricane-free, and typhoons (Pacific hurricanes) rarely make it to the US West Coast. Unlike the Atlantic and Gulf coast, there aren't a lot of harbors on the jagged and inhospitable western coastline.

However, there are numerous destinations on the West Coast that are worth your while. San Diego and its islands are a popular spot for sailboats, along with Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay.

Further north, Portland and Seattle are accessible from the Pacific. Vancouver, Canada, is another popular sailing destination for those escaping hurricane season out west.

Sailing around Cape Horn

Sailing around Cape Horn is another way to escape to the Pacific Ocean during hurricane season. Cape horn rounds the southernmost tip of Chile and connects the two great oceans via a treacherous antarctic passage.

Cape Horn is known for rough weather that intensifies during the summer, so escaping hurricane season this way may cause more problems than it solves.

Is it Safe to Sail during Hurricane Season?

Each year, thousands of people set sail from Atlantic states during the summer. And each year, thousands of sailors return without ever encountering a problem.

Unlike many other kinds of natural disasters, hurricanes often give several days of warning before making landfall near major sailing hubs. As a result, sailors who properly prepare and monitor weather data can almost always avoid getting caught in dangerous situations.

However, the farther out from shore you sail, the greater likelihood you have of encountering an issue. Your ability to receive and react to new information is compromised if you're too far from shore to take shelter.

How to Be Safe During Hurricane Season

The best thing you can do to stay safe during hurricane season is to be informed. Modern weather prediction methods are remarkably effective at detecting and tracking hurricanes, and advanced warning can help you steer clear of a storm's path.

Monitor weather patterns and stay vigilant for weather alerts, and always check for potential meteorological hazards before setting sail. The NOAA and the National Weather Service are a great place to start, along with Weather Band (WB) radio.

Thunderstorms are also a hazard during the summer months, so use resources like the Storm Prediction Center's convective and thunderstorm outlooks to see if you're likely to encounter foul summer weather during your trip.

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I've personally had thousands of questions about sailing and sailboats over the years. As I learn and experience sailing, and the community, I share the answers that work and make sense to me, here on Life of Sailing.

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sailboat caught in hurricane

Surviving a hurricane in a sailboat: Essential things to do

In this article, I am going to explain to you what all the things you need to do for protecting yourself and your sailboat in a hurricane. Although surviving a hurricane is not that simple, but you can follow some steps to protect yourself during a hurricane in the sailboat.

Choose an area near the shore for anchoring your boat. Try to choose an area surrounded by mountains (mountains will try to decrease the wind speed). After anchoring, keep all your belongings inside the boat. During the hurricane, you just need to check the boat condition regularly.

During a hurricane, winds can exceed 100 mph and tornadoes are often associated with these storms. Mostly, try to avoid being on the boat during the hurricane.

In the center of the hurricane, the wind speed will be high compared to the outer area of the hurricane, where the wind speed will be less. Whenever you hear about the hurricane, sail away from the hurricane area if possible. If that option is not possible, then do follow these steps to defend yourself and your boat from a hurricane.

Everything has parts to deal with, in the first part you need to prepare for a hurricane, in the second part you might not have much work to do, in the third part you need to do post-hurricane work.

sailboat caught in hurricane

Preparing for the hurricane

Before doing all the pre-hurricane work, check whether you have enough resources like food, water, etc. If you don’t have them, try to get them. Check whether all the communication devices are fully charged or not and working or not? Communication plays a major role during the hurricane.

While preparing your boat for the hurricane, there are some steps everyone needs to follow to secure your boat from the hurricane winds. These are the following steps.

  • Finding a perfect area for anchoring your sailboat
  • Anchoring your sailboat in a hurricane
  • Keep your objects inside the sailboat during a hurricane

1. Finding a perfect area for anchoring your sailboat

The first essential thing you should do while preparing for a hurricane survival in a sailboat is to find a good area for anchoring your boat. And try to find the area that is close to the shore, not too far from the shore.

While searching for the area, you should consider the surroundings too. You can’t survive a hurricane on your own you need to take some help from nature. Check for these kinds of places that I mentioned on the list.

While selecting the area for anchoring your boat, be careful to check whether you are entering any other country’s waters.

  • Check for the area that is surrounded by mountains
  • Move away from the neighbor boats around you(if any)
  • Check the depth of the water

1. Check for the area that is surrounded by mountains (cove)

  • The hurricane survival depends on the area you selected for anchoring your boat. Try to look for an area that is surrounded by mountains or hills. The mountains will help in decreasing wind speed.
  • If the boat is surrounded by mountains, the mountains will decrease the wind speed by half. The mountains will act as a barrier in protecting your boat by blocking most of the winds caused by the hurricane.

2. Move away from the neighbor boats around you (if any)

  • If there are any other sailboats anchored near you, you should be careful. Have some extra dock bumpers attached to your boat. If your neighbor boat starts swinging, your boat is sitting beside to get a hit form them.
  • If there are any other boats around you, try to maintain enough distance between your boat and their boat. So, there is enough space for anchoring safely.
  • If there are so many boats near your boat, then tie some dock bumpers around your boat. Just in if case any other boat swings or came close to your boat. The dock guards will help you to avoid the damage.

3. Check the depth of the water

  • Don’t forget to check the depth of the water, because the whole anchoring process depends on the water depth. Make sure that the depth is not too high or low.

2. Anchoring your boat in a hurricane

sailboat caught in hurricane

After finding the area for anchoring your boat. Anchor your boat with 1 or 2 anchors to avoid the swing.

Now you need to do the essential step for hurricane survival that is anchoring your boat. Since you are facing a hurricane, you need to increase your anchor scope from normal 5:1 to 7:1 or 8:1 or more, depending on the hurricane strength.

Anchor as though you plan to stay for weeks, even if you intend to leave in an hour. Lee Allred

Achor scope refers to how much longer rope or chain you need to use for anchoring your boat. If it is 5:1 anchor scope, then for every 1-meter depth in the water, you should use 5-meters long length rope or chain for anchoring your boat.

Check my article on Choosing a perfect anchor for your boat (don’t worry, it will open in a new tab). In that article, I mentioned all the things you need to consider while buying an anchor for your boat based on the bottom types.

While anchoring your boat in a hurricane, follow these steps

  • Check the surroundings
  • Use hurricane anchor for anchoring in hurricanes
  • If possible, use extra anchors to avoid the swing of the boat

1. Check the surroundings

  • While anchoring your boat, make sure that your boat is far away from other boats or ophiolite (An ophiolite is a sequence of rocks that appears to represent a section through the oceanic crust) in the sea.
  • Sometimes the boat will swing around the single point (the main anchor) if you are using only one anchor. During the swing, if there are any boats or ophiolite near your boat, you may get hit them with your boat.
  • Which might damage your boat. So, try to maintain some distance between them.

2. Use hurricane anchor for anchoring in hurricanes

  • Don’t use the same anchor all the time for anchoring your boat. Dedicate one anchor for hurricanes and one for everyday use.
  • Try to maintain a separate anchor (strong anchors like Mantus, Manson Supreme, Rocna, etc) for anchoring during a hurricane, and use a normal (small) anchor for general anchoring a boat. It is good to maintain a separate anchor for different needs.
  • While buying the anchor, buy an anchor that you can dismantle the anchor into separate parts. So, you can carry big anchors in the boat.

3. If possible, use extra anchors to avoid the swing of the boat

  • Use extra anchors to avoid swing around a single point (single anchor). If you anchored your sailboat with a single anchor, it might swing around the point if the wind speed increases or changes the direction.
  • To prevent that swing around a single anchor, use an extra 1 or 2 anchors for holding the boat strongly.
  • Mostly 2 anchors are sufficient, no need to use 3 anchors.

3. Keep your objects inside the boat during a hurricane

After anchoring your boat, 50% of the work is done. Now, it’s time to pack all the objects which are outside the boat and keep them inside the boat.

Now in this step, you need to do only one thing, just pack the necessary belongings and keep it inside the boat. While doing this step, don’t pack unnecessary belongings and dump them inside the boat, because again you should unpack them after the hurricane. Then you will face difficulty.

Follow these basic steps to do that.

  • Keep your belongings which are inside the boat safely
  • Then keep the belongings inside, which are outside the boat

1. Keep your belongings which are inside the boat safely

  • Before packing up all the outside belongings, and keeping them inside the boat, make sure that the belongings inside the boat are properly packed.
  • Keep them inside the cupboard or somewhere to avoid falling off when the boat moves up and down in the waves. Avoid keeping anything in an open cupboard during the hurricane.
  • If you have an open cupboard, then remove your belongings from the open cupboard and keep them somewhere else or on the floor.
  • They might fall from the cupboard on your body or somewhere else in the boat due to the big waves.

2. Then keep the belongings inside, which are outside the boat

  • First, remove the objects that will fly off the boat due to the wind. Like a dinghy, jib sail, and mainsail, etc. So, that nothing will fly off from the boat.
  • So pack the belongings which are valuable and keep them inside. The first thing you should do is pack the mainsail and jib sail. This is the second most important thing you should do after anchoring your boat.
  • If you are having a big boat, the mainsail will be heavy, and it’s hard to remove by a single person. In that case, just take the mainsail off and tie it to the boom itself.
  • And try to remove solar panels, if you have any. Keep them inside the boat if possible, else, tie them outside the boat with extra protection. If the wind speed is around or less than 70 mph, then it is fine to leave them on the boat itself.

You can eliminate all the fears by eliminating all the dangers. Dangers like anchor failure, boat drag, etc. If you can eliminate all these things, then you can be safe inside a boat.

Waves are not measured in feet or inches, they are measured in increments of fear. Buzzy Trent

After packing everything and keeping them inside the boat, now there is nothing more to do. You just need to wait until the hurricane passes away.

Things to do during a hurricane in a sailboat

Now comes the essential part. During a hurricane, stay inside the boat, and stay calm. Most of the time, you should check the boat conditions and act accordingly. Checking the boat regularly during the hurricane is very crucial.

Eat a limited amount of food during a hurricane and try to use less power during the hurricane, because you might not know how long the hurricane will last.

Follow these steps to ensure that your boat is doing well or not?

  • Bilge pump checking
  • Mainsail checking
  • Checking the neighbor boats(if any)

1. Bilge pump checking

  • During the hurricanes, however, you locked the doors the water can come inside the boat. So, you should pump them out with the bilge pump.
  • Ensure whether your bilge pump is working properly or not, because they often fail. The boat can sink in the water if the bilge pump is not working properly.
  • Sometimes, the bilge pump might stop working due to any disturbances outside due to hurricanes. If you are using a manual bilge pump, then it is fine because every time you will check the water level, and you will turn on the pump switch.
  • If you using an automatic one, which will detect the water level and automatically turn on the bilge pump switch, to pump the water out.
  • The problem with this automatic water detection is it fails so many times. It may fail due to many reasons
  • So, every time don’t forget to check the water level in the bilge and don’t forget about the water level detector too.

2. Mainsail checking

  • If you already kept the mainsail in the boat, then there is no need to check. You need to check the mainsail if you tied it to the boom and kept it outside the boat
  • Tie the mainsail to the boom strongly so that it won’t come out or fly off in the air.

3.Checking the neighbor boats (if there is any boat near you)

  • If there are no boats near you, then no need to worry about this.
  • If there are any sailboats anchored near you, you should be careful. Have some extra dock bumpers attached to your boat. If your neighbor boat starts swinging, your boat is sitting beside to get a hit form them.
  • If there are so many boats near your boat, then tie some dock bumpers around your boat. If in case any other boat swings or came close to your boat. The dock guards will help you to avoid the damage.

Post-hurricane work in a sailboat

  • The worst part of the hurricane is over. Now you need to put all the things back on the boat and start the journey.
  • Now you need to check the boat and clean the boat if there is any waste on the boat. Then place the solar panels back on the boat to get power.
  • After that, remove the anchor and put on your mainsail and jib sail back.

That’s it, you have successfully defeated the hurricane, and now it is time to start your journey. Check this cool video on how to prepare your boat for a hurricane? She explained it very well.

Bottom line

The essential thing for sailing is to practice all the things in advance. You should be aware of what to do during a hurricane, harsh weather, etc. You should have one hurricane plan, and you should practice it regularly.

The essential work you should do when you heard about the hurricane is to move away from the hurricane area, if possible. No matter what, just sail away from the area for 50 km or 100 km. That is the best way to protect yourself and your boat from a hurricane.

Sometimes you might be stuck at someplace, in the sea, it can be due to any reason (engine failure or mainsail damage or something else), during that time, you cant sail the boat, then you need to implement the hurricane survival plan.

If you are in the middle of the hurricane, then it is very hard for survival. The wind speed will be so high, like around 200 mph. At that speed, you can’t control the boat.

So finally, follow some apps or websites like the windy app or AccuWeather website or some other websites for the broadcasting news.

Check my article on Safety tips for boating: A detailed guide (don’t worry, it will open in new tab). In that article, I mentioned all the safety tips for boating in detail.

Related questions

1. What essential things do you need to sail around the world?

There are some essential things you need to have with you, while you are sailing around the world on a sailboat.

  • An International Certificate of Competence (ICC) certificate
  • A good sailboat (that can withstand extreme weathers)
  • Source of passive income
  • Passport and visa

If you are interested in that, then check my article on Without these, you can’t sail around the world (don’t worry, it will open in new tab)

2. What is the ideal kind boat to sail around the world?

The best kind of boat for sailing around the world would be Sailboat or yacht.

My name is Mahidhar, and I am passionate about boating. Every day I learn some new things about boats and share them here on the site.

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sailboat caught in hurricane

Can A Sailboat Survive A Hurricane?

sailboat caught in hurricane

As a beginner sailor, I used to wonder a lot if one could survive a hurricane while aboard. This was the reason behind writing this article. In this post, I will try to share with you everything I found during my research on the topic.

So, Can A Sailboat Survive A Hurricane? Yes, sailboats can make it through a hurricane strike without any major issues depending on a few factors such as taking necessary precautions, the strength of the wind, boat’s location and the position of the vessel in the hurricane, etc.

Every year an average of two hurricanes makes landfalls in the US alone and causes a tremendous amount of damage.

However, boat owners can take precautions that will reduce the likelihood of damage, if you are unfortunate enough to find yourself in harm’s way.

Read on below as I go over these crucial factors that can impact the safety of you and your boat before, during and after a hurricane. I will also share with you some practical precautionary tips and tactics that can make your boat hurricane proof.

So, let us discuss the topic in more details.

What is a hurricane?

Hurricane, also called cyclone or typhoon, is a tropical rotating storm with high winds that consistently blow 74 mph or more in the North Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, or the Gulf of Mexico.

Hurricanes only occur over warm waters in the tropics usually above 27°C or 81°F.

When Do Hurricanes Occur?

You might ask when do hurricanes occur?. It is known that in the Northern Hemisphere, hurricanes occur between the months of June and November.

In the Southern Hemisphere, on the contrary, hurricanes form prominently between December and May.

The time of the year when hurricanes occur in a particular region is considered the ‘hurricane season’ for that region.

Countries Most Vulnerable To Hurricane

Although hurricane and cyclones are a worldwide phenomenon, some areas are more susceptible to them than others.

When a hurricane hits the North Atlantic, it is likely to affect: the USA, Canada, and Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. When it occurs in the Eastern Pacific, it will affect Hawaii and the western coast of Mexico.

When typhoons originate in the western Pacific, it is likely to affect Japan, China, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia. The Southeast Asian countries including the Indian subcontinent, are regularly affected by cyclones from the Indian Ocean.

sailboat caught in hurricane

In the Southern Hemisphere, the tropical cyclones of southwestern Indian Ocean might strike Madagascar and countries along the east coast of Africa.

If cyclones originate from the southeastern Indian Ocean, they are likely to affect the northern coast of Australia.

How to avoid getting caught in a hurricane?

Ideally, the best choice you can make is to move your boat and sail away from the hurricane’s path. Bear in mind that wind blows at about 200 mph or more in center of the hurricane.

However the further you sail from the hurricane’s center the weaker the wind becomes. So, you only need to sail away about 50 to 100 miles to be in a much safer location.

One thing about the storms though, you know where it is going at least a week in advance so, you will have plenty of time to sail out before the hurricane hits. By doing this you make sure you and your boats are safe and protected.

The second and my favorite choice is staying in a hurricane hole during heavy storms.

Hurricane holes are bays and harbors or deep, narrow coves or inlets that are surrounded by trees which block the wind and surges and provide best locations to tie off your anchor lines.

The best hurricane holes are places that are not crowded and are far enough inland to avoid wind and surges but at the same time close enough to be reached easily from the land.

Places such as Guatemala or in the Caribbean, Cuba, and Haiti have well-protected hurricane holes. I highly recommend you to find protected hurricane hole in the area you are sailing ahead of time.

sailboat caught in hurricane

How to prepare for a hurricane?

Hurricanes could be extremely destructive, and they shouldn’t be taken lightly. Even advance planning cannot guarantee your vessel will survive.

However preparation and planning can improve your chance to survive and this makes all of the effort, time and money worthwhile.

let’s start with our preparation.

Create A Plan In Advance:

In this step, you will mention what protective measures you need to take when a hurricane threatens in advance. Plan, where your vessel will best survive the storm ahead of time. Have a hurricane hole in mind to moor your boat during the hurricane.

Insurance claim files have shown that the risk of damage can be minimized by choosing the most storm safe location long before the hurricane is forecasted.

Read and Understand Your Insurance Policy:

It is extremely important to understand the insurance policy and marina contracts. For instance, it is common for insurance policy providers to pay you to 50% of the cost of hauling or moving your vessel, prior to a storm or hurricane. So, it is best to read these documents once again.

Coordinate With Your Marina:

If you do plan to haul or move your boat, make sure you arrange this in advance with your Marina operator. It is well known that the boats stored on land are much safer than boats kept in the water.

Relocate Your Boat To Safe Water:

If your boat has to be left in the water, now it is the time to relocate your vessel to your ideal hurricane hole or other places with minimum hurricane hit. Canals are great places to hide out since they generally allow lines to be tightened to both sides, so the boat doesn’t move and budge.

sailboat caught in hurricane

Be An Educated Storm Tracker

As soon as a hurricane or strong storms are forecasted in your area, stay informed about it by using resources such as and Global Weather Tracker to get the updated information on the hurricane track.

Secure Your Boat At A Dock:

sailboat caught in hurricane

When fastening your lines to fixed docks and pilings that don’t float with tide or surge, you must use long lines so that your boat can float up as water height rises. Short lines can break or pull pilings out of the water which causes damage.

The pilings at the Marina must be hight enough to withstand a storm surge. Choose pilings that are 15 feet high or more as storm surges could easily reach 10 -15 feet high.

By choosing high pilings you will avoid floating off the top of the piling and ending in the harbor. Similarly, you need to reduce windage by directing the boat bow to the anticipated wind direction.

Secure Your Boat On Multiple Anchors:

Strong storms and hurricanes place an extreme force on the anchors and anchor rodes. Choose a high-quality anchor. Research by BoatUS has shown that Helix Anchors one of the best on the market as they screw into the sea surface.

Helix Anchors are much stronger that Mushroom or other types. According to BoatUS testing Helix Anchors can hold between 12,000 – 20,000 pounds of weight unable to be pulled free.

It is crucial to use multiple anchors to be protected from the powerful wind surges of the hurricane.

sailboat caught in hurricane

You might want to use either Setting Tandem Anchors or in multiple directions.

If you have 2 large anchors set them apart about 90 degrees the anticipated wind direction. 3 anchors can be set 120 degrees apart.

Your lines should be New And In Good Condition:

Hurricanes can put an enormous amount of force on your boat and especially on lines and anchor. So, you want to make sure your lines are thick, undamaged and in a good condition.

A recent test by Practical Sailor Magazine showed that old lines lost 49 to 75 percent of their strength due to lack of lubricity in addition to chafe, dirt, and salt.

Reduce Windage By All Means:

You should try to minimize windage to reduce the force put on your boat during the big storms and hurricanes. Additionally this also Basically this means that you remove everything that comes loose or fly off.

Things such as canvas, dodgers and biminis, dinghy and genoa. Mainsails should also be removed and stowed.

Start Preparation In Advance:

Prepare your vessel for the hurricane early and do not delay any of the steps I have discussed above.

Stay On the Boat or Not

It really depends on your situation, area and your option of shelter ashore. I have to admit it is a hard decision to make for any sailor.

However, my rule of thumb is: Leave your boat and find shelter somewhere safe if possible, only stay aboard if that is the safest thing to do at that moment.

If staying on the boat is the safest option for you to do, then there are certain precautionary measures that you need to take to make sure your boat alongside its passengers are safe.

What should you do when aboard during the hurricane?

If you have decided to stay aboard during a hurricane, then here are a few important things to do to keep you safe and protected.

  • Bear in mind that during the hurricane you are on your own. There is no one there to help, nor you will be able to help others.
  • The boat and the storm’s condition can change in a split of a second, make sure have everything you need at hand and ready.
  • Wear proper clothing. It’s wet, rainy and probably cold during the hurricane. Wearing your wetsuits is a must. Wear proper shoes and avoid wearing slippers and flipflops in case you have to evacuate the boat. If you find yourself on the deck, make sure you wear a life jacket and harnesses.
  • It is super practical to use your snorkel masks, as it is much easier to keep watch and breath during a heavy storm.
  • Check your anchor lines and chafe gear from time to time if it is safe. Make sure they are properly fixed and not damaged.
  • High waves and rain will fill your boat with water, be ready to run the bilge pump every now and then.
  • During the storm, keep watch on deck as well as on radar or GPS. You can not afford to neglect the storm. Ask yourself: Are we dragging or is another boat dragging towards you? If yes, then there are things you can do to keep your boat safe.

What To Do Straight After Hurricane?

When you are sure that storm has died down, make sure that the other boats’ people are safe and protected and check if anyone needs any assistance.

High waves and rain might have filled your boat with water, be ready to run the bilge pump now to dry your boat.

Examine your boat and the gear for any signs of damage and if you find any fix things straight away.

Raise your anchor: This will take anywhere from 1/2 to 4 hour to raise the anchors. This is because your anchors may be buried deep in the seabed.

Last but definitely not least, watch out for floating debris.

I hope this post has been helpful and I also hope that you never face a situation where you have to use it. However, should get a catch in a hurricane your advanced preparation and knowledge can dramatically reduce the likelihood of damage.

I am the owner of sailoradvice. I live in Birmingham, UK and love to sail with my wife and three boys throughout the year.

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Watch CBS News

Rush to reach 3 sailors caught by Hurricane Julio

August 11, 2014 / 5:55 AM EDT / AP

HONOLULU -- A rescue effort was launched Sunday to reach three people aboard a sailboat that got caught in Hurricane Julio about 400 miles northeast of Oahu.

The sailors aboard the 42-foot sailboat Walkabout sent a message around 7 a.m. requesting help after the boat became disabled and took on water in rough seas, the Coast Guard said in a statement.

One of the hatches blew away, and onboard pumps were unable to keep up with the flooding. The vessel's life raft was also blown overboard.

The sailors' message was sent to the International Emergency Response Coordination Center in Texas, which contacted the Coast Guard in Honolulu.

An aircraft sent to establish contact with the sailors detected Mayday calls from the boat.

Another aircraft that reached the sailboat dropped a life raft and pump into the water, but the sailors couldn't retrieve the equipment because of 30-foot swells and powerful winds, Coast Guard spokeswoman Petty Officer Melissa McKenzie said.

Another aircraft was sent to attempt another drop, she said. A 661-foot container ship diverted from its route to the location of the sailboat was still on its way late Sunday.

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  • Next Goal Wins
  • Not Without My Daughter
  • Old Man & the Gun, The
  • On a Wing and a Prayer
  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
  • One and Only Ivan, The
  • Only the Brave
  • Operation Finale
  • Operation Mincemeat
  • Oppenheimer
  • Ordinary Angels
  • Outlaw King
  • Outpost, The
  • Pain & Gain
  • Pain Hustlers
  • Passion of the Christ, The
  • Patch Adams
  • Patriots Day
  • Pawn Sacrifice
  • Penguin Bloom
  • People v. O.J. Simpson, The
  • Pianist, The
  • Pope's Exorcist, The
  • Prayer Before Dawn, A
  • Promise, The
  • Public Enemies
  • Pursuit of Happyness, The
  • Queen of Katwe
  • Quiet Ones, The
  • Railway Man, The
  • Remember the Titans
  • Rescued by Ruby
  • Revenant, The
  • Richard Jewell
  • Right Stuff, The
  • Rookie, The
  • Saving Mr. Banks
  • Saving Private Ryan
  • Schindler's List
  • Serpent, The
  • Slender Man
  • Social Network, The
  • Society of the Snow
  • Soul Surfer
  • Sound of Freedom
  • Staircase, The
  • Survivor, The
  • Tender Bar, The
  • Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The
  • Texas Rising
  • Theory of Everything, The
  • Thing About Pam, The
  • Thirteen Lives
  • To Write Love on Her Arms
  • Top Gun: Maverick
  • Trees of Peace
  • Trial of the Chicago 7, The
  • True Spirit
  • United Kingdom, A
  • United States vs. Billie Holiday, The
  • Upside, The
  • Victoria and Abdul
  • Walk the Line
  • Watcher, The
  • We Own This City
  • Weird: The Al Yankovic Story
  • Welcome to Marwen
  • When the Game Stands Tall
  • When They See Us
  • White Boy Rick
  • White House Plumbers
  • Wicked Little Letters
  • Wolf of Wall Street, The
  • Woman in Gold
  • Woman King, The
  • Zookeeper's Wife, The

Adrift (2018)

When did the events depicted in the adrift movie take place in real life.

In researching Tami Oldham and the Adrift true story, we discovered that the real-life events depicted in the 2018 movie spanned the months of September, October and November 1983. 23-year-old Tami Oldham and her British fiancé, Richard Sharp (34), had been pleasure sailing his 36-foot sailboat, the Mayaluga, for the previous six months. They made the decision to accept a job delivering a 44-foot yacht, the Hazana, from Tahiti to San Diego where it would be received by a new owner. They had been less than three weeks into their 4,000-mile trip when Hurricane Raymond hit. -Chicago Tribune Top: The real Tami Oldham and fiancé Richard Sharp prior to the trip.   Bottom: Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin as Oldham and Sharp in the Adrift 2018 movie.

Did they try to escape the hurricane?

Yes. Tami and Richard knew a storm was coming, but they didn't know it would be that bad. They tried to outrun Hurricane Raymond by sailing north, battling 140 knot winds and 40-foot waves as they did their best to keep the yacht afloat. The relentless category 4 hurricane showed no signs of calming. It changed direction and stayed on their tail like a predator. -Mirror Online

Did Tami Oldham's fiancé Richard Sharp survive the hurricane in real life?

No. In real life, as they continued to battle Hurricane Raymond on October 12, 1983, Richard Sharp sent his fiancée Tami below deck to rest. He used a safety line to tether himself to the yacht in an attempt to ride out the storm and keep the boat afloat. The yacht capsized and Tami hit her head when she was thrown against the cabin wall. The force of the blow knocked her out, and the last thing she can remember hearing was Sharp screaming, "Oh my God!" She didn't wake up for 27 hours, and when she did, she went above deck and discovered Richard's safety line hanging off the edge of the boat. Her fiancé was lost at sea. She would never see him again. -Chicago Tribune Tami Oldham remained unconscious for 27 hours after hitting her head when the boat capsized during the hurricane. The severe head injury is visible on Shailene Woodley's character in the 2018 movie. At first, the Adrift movie seems to unfold differently than the true story. Tami wakes up and finds an injured Richard floating in the water as he clings to a small overturned lifeboat that had fallen off the yacht. She gets him back to the yacht where she cares for his broken ribs and shattered leg as he reassures her that she can get them home, despite him describing himself as being "dead weight". However, paying close attention to the movie's trailer reveals a couple other clues to the likely reality of this situation. When Tami (Shailene Woodley) and Richard (Sam Claflin) are having dinner on his boat, he talks about the challenge of sailing and says that "you're either sleep deprived or seasick, and after a few days there's the hallucinations." This clue seems to foreshadow things to come. Coupled with Tami's bad head injury sustained during the storm, it's not hard to start wondering if Richard is merely a figment of Tami's imagination. Clues to this are also found in Tami's memoir Red Sky in Mourning . The Adrift movie's ending will undoubtedly reveal the answer. Tami's memoir , originally titled Red Sky in Mourning , provided the basis for the Adrift movie.

Did she hear a voice when she was stranded on the boat?

Yes. In her book Red Sky in Mourning: A True Story of Love, Loss, and Survival at Sea , she talks about hearing a voice, but not that of her lost-at-sea fiancé Richard Sharp. Instead, she described it as an "inner voice" that was audible to her externally three times. It's certainly possible that her head injury and blood loss caused her to believe that she was hearing such a voice. Others believe it was God speaking to her. "I needed guidance and the voice was a real phenomenon," says Tami. "Three times it was audible externally. I've asked the voice to come back, but I never heard from it again. ... The voice kept me on track. I just followed it." -Mirror Online

Was the yacht badly damaged like in the Adrift movie?

Yes. The Adrift  movie true story reveals that nearly everything on the Hazana (pictured below) was broken and strewn about. The masts had snapped off, and like in the 2018 movie, the sails were waterlogged and floated nearby. The cabin was half-filled with water. The engine and radio were broken. The radio device used to indicate the boat's emergency position was down as well, and the electronic navigation system wasn't functional either. -Mirror Online Top: The real Hazana yacht in 1983 after the ordeal at sea.   Bottom: Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin on the movie's version of the yacht. The biggest noticeable difference is the ladder placement.

How long was the real Tami Oldham adrift at sea?

Fact-checking the Adrift movie reveals that after Hurricane Raymond struck and claimed the life of her fiancé Richard Sharp, Tami Oldham remained stranded at sea on the damaged yacht for 41 days. -Mirror Online

How did Tami Oldham survive being stranded for a month and a half on the yacht?

In 2003, she told the Chicago Tribune that she ate canned food and peanut butter, consuming everything from fruit cocktail to sardines.

How did Tami manage to find her way to land?

With the yacht's navigation system broken by the storm, Tami used a sextant to help her find her way home. A sextant is a navigational instrument that can be used to measure the angle of the sun (or another astronomical object) above the horizon. "It saved my life," says Tami. She was then able to work out her latitude using nautical maps. To remember what got her home, Tami wears a triangular-shaped sextant pendant encrusted with a diamond. The only navigational instrument that wasn't broken during the hurricane was a sextant, which measures the angle of the sun (or other astronomical object) above the horizon. It saved her life. Being able to successfully navigate was only part of the challenge; she also needed to keep the yacht afloat and get it moving. She fashioned a pump to prevent the cabin down below from flooding and created a makeshift sail from a broken spinnaker pole and spare storm jib. She eventually managed to get the boat into a position where she could use currents that would hopefully take her to Hawaii. -Mirror Online

Did she stitch the wound on her head?

No. In the film, we see her using sutures to self-stitch the wound shut. "There were sutures on board," Tami wrote in her book, "but I couldn’t bring myself to sew my head shut." Instead, she drew the long wound together and adhered several large butterfly bandages as pus and blood oozed out.

Did Tami consider suicide while stranded at sea?

Yes. Weak, starving, injured, and let down after mistakenly thinking she saw an island on the horizon, at one point during her journey Tami loaded a rifle that was on board and stuck it in her mouth. The internal voice she heard during her journey convinced her to stop. This intense moment is not depicted in the film. While exploring the Tami Oldham true story, we learned that it wasn't the only time her despair had led her to thoughts of suicide. -Mirror Online Tami dealt with years of grief by eventually writing her story down and penning the book Red Sky in Mourning: A True Story of Love, Loss, and Survival at Sea . She is pictured on the left more than a decade after the tragedy.

How far did Tami Oldham sail before she reached land?

Tami navigated approximately 1,500 miles over a span of 41 days before reaching Hilo, Hawaii. As she approached the harbor, she saw a large ship on its way out. She shot off several flares before the 200+ foot vessel flashed its running lights and altered course. The ship pulled up alongside the Hazana. The crew lowered down coffee and someone tossed her an apple. They towed her inside the reef and a Coast Guard Auxiliary towed her the rest of the way. Similar to the Adrift movie's ending, as she pulled into the Big Island's Hilo Harbor, she cried tears of joy. -Mirror Online The Adrift movie ends similar to the real-life story.

Did Tami Oldham suffer any lasting injuries?

Yes. When the boat capsized, she struck her head so hard that she couldn't read a book for the next six years. The words leapt off the page as she tried to focus on them. -Mirror Online

Did Tami Oldham continue sailing after surviving being stranded at sea?

Yes. The tragedy she endured didn't stop her from continuing to enjoy sailing. She got right back into it. "I just love it," Tami told the Chicago Tribune . "I'm passionate about it. I kind of parallel [the hurricane] to being in a car accident. You get back in the car or, like they say, back on the horse." She went on to become a "100-ton licensed captain with more than 50,000 offshore miles" to her credit. Tami did struggle with grief and nightmares, and she spent the first eight years after the accident unable to heal. When she was able to read again, she began to deal with some of her feelings by writing her story down, eventually penning the book Red Sky in Mourning , which inspired the movie. She self-published the book in 1998, and it was later picked up by Hyperion Press and published widely in 2002. Tami says that she never went to counseling but wishes someone would have suggested it. "I definitely had some severe post-traumatic stress syndrome," she stated. "I really wish I had taken the time to do that." -Chicago Tribune Despite the tragedy, Tami never stopped sailing and became a 100-ton licensed captain. She is pictured here prior to the Adrift movie's 2018 release.

Did Tami Oldham ever marry?

Yes. Ten years after losing fiancé Richard Sharp at sea and surviving the ordeal, Tami met a blue-eyed man at a dance. They married in 1994, had two children, and live on San Juan Island, Washington. Tragically, their 22-year-old daughter, Kelli Ashcraft, was taken from them in 2017 as the result of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.

Dive deeper into the Adrift true story by watching the Tami Oldham Ashcraft movie interview below.

  • Official Adrift Movie Website

Better Sailing

Can a Sailboat Survive a Hurricane?

Can a Sailboat Survive a Hurricane?

Are you about to set sail but you check the forecast and learn that your boat is in the path of an impending hurricane? So, what exactly do you have to do? Slack the lines, and seek for a hurricane hole where you can ride out the storm? On the other hand, if you don’t have time, you may have no choice but to tow the boat. Or perhaps you believe you’re safe on the dock and your only option is to double the dock lines and pray for the best. All sailors must be able to properly prepare for a storm, but what is the best technique? In this article, I’m going to analyze this subject as well as answer if a sailboat can survive during a hurricane. So, keep reading!

Hurricane Information

A hurricane, sometimes known as a cyclone or typhoon, is a tropical rotating storm in the North Atlantic Ocean. They also occur in the Caribbean Sea or the Gulf of Mexico with sustained winds of 74 mph or higher. Hurricanes only form over warm tropical oceans, usually above 27°C (81°F). You might also wonder when hurricanes strike. Hurricanes are known to strike the Northern Hemisphere during the months of June and November. Hurricanes, on the other hand, are more common in the Southern Hemisphere between December and May. The ‘hurricane season’ for a certain region is defined as the time of year when hurricanes strike that area.

Strong winds spiral inward and upward at speeds of 75 to 200 mph. And, they can be up to 600 miles across. Each hurricane lasts about a week and travels at 10 to 20 miles per hour over open water. Hurricanes gain energy and heat by interacting with warm ocean waters. The evaporation of seawater boosts hurricanes’ strength. In the Northern Hemisphere, hurricanes rotate counter-clockwise around an “eye,” while in the Southern Hemisphere, they rotate clockwise. The calmest area of the storm is the center, or “eye.” There are only low winds and pleasant weather in the center. Heavy rain, strong winds, and enormous waves can cause damage to buildings, trees, and automobiles when they arrive on land.

Hurricanes only form over extremely warm ocean water, at 80 degrees Fahrenheit or more. The atmosphere (air) must cool down quickly as you go higher. In order to force air upward from the water surface, the wind must also be blowing in the same direction and at the same speed. Above the storm, winds blow outward, allowing the air below to rise. Hurricanes are most common between the latitudes of 5 and 15 degrees north and south of the equator. The Coriolis Force creates the spin in a cyclone, but it is too weak near the equator to create storms.

Although hurricanes and cyclones occur all around the world, some locations are more vulnerable than others. When a hurricane strikes the North Atlantic, the United States, Canada, and Mexico, as well as the Caribbean Sea, are likely to be affected as well. Hawaii and the western coast of Mexico will be affected if it occurs in the Eastern Pacific. Typhoons that form in the western Pacific are more likely to strike Japan, China, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia. Cyclones from the Indian Ocean regularly hit Southeast Asian countries, including the Indian subcontinent. Tropical cyclones in the southern Indian Ocean might hit Madagascar and countries along Africa’s east coast in the Southern Hemisphere. Cyclones that originate in the southeastern Indian Ocean are more likely to hit Australia’s northern coast.

Plan Ahead and Know the Facts

Actually, if you receive a hurricane warning, you usually only have 72 hours to prepare. As a result, having a plan in place before a hurricane strike is crucial. One of the greatest solutions is to find a hurricane hole away from the storm. But, this requires planning and the capacity to jump on your boat and relocate it. And any time you decide to get in the water, you must rely on every boat upwind of you to stay put. And, this can be risky. You must be quite cautious about where you choose to be. And, if the wind direction does not match the forecast, you may find many boats upwind of you that you did not expect to see.

The truth is that you are completely reliant on others. While taking your boat to a hurricane hole to ride out the storm is an option for some, there are two major considerations. Firstly, you must have enough time to move your boat and place your anchors before the storm hits. And, you must trust the other boaters who are holed up with you. If these issues are a problem, you may need to consider other solutions. Hauling the boat is one apparent option. Having the boat out of the water significantly improves your chances of survival. If something goes wrong when the boat is on the hard, the damage is most likely repairable.

When a boat is damaged in the water, it usually sinks. Again, this will require planning and time. But, carrying your boat is usually easier than heading to a storm hole. Also, most boatyards will be able to help you if you get in line early enough. However, being hauled out does not guarantee your safety. You must still prepare the boat for the approaching storm. You should remove all canvas, sails, bimini tops, and other accessories, as well as everything else off the deck, and make sure the boat is watertight.

Can Sailboats Survive Hurricanes

>>Also Read: Why Do Boat Insurance Companies Require Hurricane Plans?

What to Do To Avoid Hurricanes

In an ideal situation, you should relocate your boat and sail away from the hurricane. Keep in mind that the hurricane’s center has winds of 200 mph or more. Also, note that the wind increases less the further you sail from the hurricane’s center. So, if you sail 50 to 100 miles away, you’ll be in a safer location.

One thing about storms is that you know what is their direction at least a week ahead of time, so you’ll have plenty of time to get out before the hurricane arrives. This ensures that both you and your boat are safe and secure. During severe storms, the second option is to seek shelter in a hurricane hole. Hurricane holes are bays and harbors, or deep, narrow coves or inlets covered by trees. They provide the finest spots to tie off your anchor lines and prevent the wind and waves. The finest hurricane holes are uncrowded areas that are far enough inland. They’re able to avoid wind and surges while still being close enough to be easily reached from the land. Hurricane holes exist in places like Guatemala, the Caribbean, Cuba, and Haiti. It’s of great importance to locate a protected hurricane hole in the area where you will be sailing ahead of time.

Secure the Boat with Anchors

The anchors and anchor rodes are subjected to severe forces during strong storms and hurricanes. So, you have to choose a reliable anchor. Helix Anchors are one of the best on the market, according to BoatUS, since they screw into the water surface. Note that Helix Anchors are far more powerful than Mushroom or other forms of anchors. They can hold between 12,000 and 20,000 pounds of weight that cannot be wrenched free. To have sufficient protection from the hurricane’s enormous wind surges, it’s critical to employ several anchors. You can also use Setting Tandem Anchors or anchors in several directions. If you have two large anchors, space them about 90 degrees apart in the direction of the expected wind.

Reduce Windage

Whether your boat is at anchor, moored, docked, or even hauled out, decreasing windage is critical. This is because it reduces stress on the boat and its attachment points. Even when the boat is at anchor or moored, it virtually never rests precisely head to wind. You can almost always be sure it won’t be facing directly into the wind if you’re at a dock, tied to mangroves, or in a boatyard. Note that the narrower the boat’s profile, the less surface area for the wind to hit it. Overall, the rig is less stressed, and the boat heels less. This will also reduce chafing on lines, and lower the load on the anchor, mooring, dock, or whatever else the boat is linked to. Keep in mind that you have to remove canvas, dodgers and biminis, dinghy, and the genoa as well. Remove and stow the mainsails as well.

Plan Wisely

Always stay informed on hurricanes and heavy storms wherever you sail. Use resources like and Global Weather Tracker to acquire the most up-to-date information on hurricanes. If you intend to haul or relocate your boat, make sure to notify your marina operator ahead of time. It is common knowledge that boats kept on land are far safer than those kept in the sea. In addition, it is important to understand the insurance policy as well as the marina contracts. For example, prior to a storm or hurricane, it is usual for insurance companies to reimburse up to 50% of the cost of carrying or transferring your vessel.

If your boat must be in the water, you have to relocate it to a hurricane hole or other location with the least amount of storm damage. Canals are ideal hiding spots since they allow you to tighten lines on both sides of the boat, preventing it from moving and wobbling. When a storm or hurricane looms, you have to take the necessary precautions ahead of time. Plan ahead of time and think of where your vessel will best survive the storm. Prepare a hurricane hole where you may dock your boat throughout the storm. You can minimize the risk of damage by picking the most storm-safe position well before the forecast predicts the hurricane, according to insurance claim files.

Bear in mind that the captain’s seamanship is the most important factor. In other words, if he or she is far from land or other hazards and knows how to steer the boat through the hurricane or storm. A large and seaworthy sailboat that is mostly for cruising rather than racing is also much better to have.

How To Prepare for Hurricanes

If you’re going to stay on a dock, you’ll want to go to a marina with large pilings. Nowadays, and especially in vulnerable hurricane areas, many marinas are working to raise piling heights. The boats are better placed where they can be contained in the marina, as compared to those on the hard who can be hoisted up and swept away by the surge. Many marinas and boatyards are implementing a new approach that is a variation of the classic method. This method refers to hauling out and tying down the boat using construction-style tow straps tied to firm points on the ground. This keeps the boats in their jack stands regardless of how high the storm surge reaches.

Many marinas now have hardpoints to which straps can be fastened. This secures down the boats when they’re on the hard. And the standard has been that boats are either stored in storm-resistant storage structures or are tied down. If the boats don’t lift off the jack stands then the water level isn’t high enough to flood the boats. For sailors hauling out their boats, this combination of hauling the boat, sealing it tight, and tying it down appears to be the best solution.

Finding a hurricane hole is one possibility, but you’ll need the time to do so and be continuously mindful of other vessels around and their capacity to hold their ground. You can keep your boat lashed to the dock at the marina, but if the storm surge becomes too high, your boat may float away. You can tow the boat, but you must ensure that it’s well-secured so that the rain doesn’t flood it. Bear in mind that you must contend with the potential of a storm surge sweeping your boat away.

Again, sailors must be aware of everything. In other words, ensuring that everything is watertight, clearing everything off the deck, and stripping all canvas. When you do that leave the boat on the hard tied down to several hardpoints and physically anchor it to the pavement. This will keep it secure and give you the best chance of making it through the storm.

Being Onboard During the Hurricane

Keep in mind that you are on your own during the hurricane. There is no one to assist you, and you will be unable to assist others. Of course, you have your crew but still, everyone has to take care of themselves before assisting others. Because the status of the boat and the storm might alter in just a second, make sure you have everything you need on hand and ready.

Note that you should wear appropriate gear. During the hurricane, it will be damp, rainy, and possibly cold. Wetsuits, waterproof shoes, or boots are a must during a storm. If you’re on the deck, make sure you’re wearing a life jacket and harness. Using your snorkel masks is quite practical because it is much easier to keep watch and breathe during a severe storm.

Don’t omit to check your anchor lines and chafe gear for safety on a regular basis. Make sure they’re in good working order and don’t have damages. High waves and rain will fill your boat with water, so keep in mind that you might need to use the bilge pump occasionally. Keep an eye on the deck as well as the radar or GPS during the storm. Lastly, consider if you’re dragging or whether another boat is dragging towards you.

Can Sailboats Survive Hurricanes? – The Bottom Line

Bear in mind that it is not just the sailor who must adapt to a hurricane, but also the infrastructure for protection that has to improve. And it’s a problem that we’ll almost certainly see more of in the future. Based on rising sea levels and storm concentration, we’re fairly confident that surges will become a more essential feature of storms. Moreover, if global warming continues at its current rate, sea levels and storm strength will grow, making this a bigger problem.

When hauling your boat and preparing for a hurricane, there are a few things you should do. Firstly, remove everything on your canvas, including sails, coverings, biminis, and seat cushions. Make sure your boat is completely watertight by closing all hatches and sealing any leaks. There is going to be a lot of rain, so you must be well-prepared. If possible, use tow-straps to secure the boat to hardpoints on the ground. Furthermore, turn off all of your boat’s electronics and disconnect the batteries. In case your boat fills up with water, you’ll want to do everything you can to avoid damages to the electronics. If you have a propane burner, turn it off and disconnect and remove the tank. And, this applies to any additional oil cans, gas cans, or other combustible items from the boat.

I hope that this article has answered your questions and provided all the adequate information you need to know about hurricanes. I wish you all safe & pleasant voyages!


Peter is the editor of Better Sailing. He has sailed for countless hours and has maintained his own boats and sailboats for years. After years of trial and error, he decided to start this website to share the knowledge.

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The palace was hoping to lay rumours about Princess Kate to rest, but only managed to bring them back to life

Analysis The palace was hoping to lay rumours about Princess Kate to rest, but only managed to bring them back to life

Image of Princess Kate and her three kids smiling into the camera.

It was a staged photo that was supposed to lay rumours around Princess Catherine's health and public disappearance to rest.

In late January, the palace revealed its star royal was undergoing planned abdominal surgery and would temporarily withdraw from public duties until after Easter on March 31.

What followed next was weeks of hysterical speculation online over the future queen's whereabouts and a stony silence from Kensington Palace.

"We've seen the madness of social media and that is not going to change our strategy," royal aides explained to The Sun newspaper.

"There has been much on social media but the princess has a right to privacy and asks the public to respect that."

That was until Kensington Palace seemingly broke its own policy by sharing a snap of the woman in question surrounded by her three young children in Windsor on Monday.

The intimate family photo, which was shared on Mother's Day in the United Kingdom, was the public's first glimpse of Catherine, Princess of Wales, since a public event on Christmas Day.

(Excluding the paparazzi shot taken last week of a woman resembling Catherine wearing sunglasses, who was seen getting into a car driven by her mother.)

The machinery around the House of Windsor may have hoped a picture of the duchess looking alive and well would be enough to silence critics, pouring cold water over heated conspiracy theories about her whereabouts.

But it did the opposite.

Within a day, reputable international media outlets were casting doubts over its quality.

Reuters, The Associated Press and AFP eventually retracted the image because at closer inspection, AP said it appeared the source had manipulated the image in a way that did not meet their photo standards.

Instead of photos of the smiling royal featuring alongside headlines about Mother's Day, UK newspapers are now running front-page stories about doctored images and editing fears.

"This is damaging for the royals. They knew there would be intense interest in any picture they released of Kate," former BBC correspondent Peter Hunt wrote on Twitter.

"Their challenge is that people will now question whether they can be trusted and believed when they next issue a health update."

The furore sent the palace scrambling, with the Princess of Wales herself taking responsibility for the editing fail on social media . 

"Like many amateur photographers, I do occasionally experiment with editing," she wrote.

"I wanted to express my apologies for any confusion the family photograph we shared yesterday caused." 

The House of Windsor has form in performing amateurish photoshop jobs, most recently over a photo of Catherine and Prince William taken around Christmas.

But at a time of increased public scrutiny, the stakes of this photo could not have been higher.

In attempting to save themselves from a media storm, the royals have now found themselves caught up in a hurricane of coverage, with no certainty about whether it will all blow over.

When photo editing goes wrong

Everyone with kids will tell you it's hard to get them to sit still for a photo.

When there's three kids under 10, the chances of them all posing together with a smile are almost zero.

So perhaps it's understandable that Kate and William have appeared to use Photoshop in the past to tweak the family snaps they release into the world.

Only in December, the Prince and Princess of Wales faced accusations that they altered their Christmas holiday card .

Whether it's a trick of the angle or a Photoshop fail, Prince Louis's middle finger is nowhere to be found.

Louis also appears to have a third leg in the picture, according to some internet sleuths.

The furore over the photo was concerning enough for sources close to William and Catherine  to tell a US gossip magazine that they were "embarrassed" by the speculation.

The sources didn't deny the image had been doctored, and it's important to remember we're talking about a five-year-old boy who might be wriggling around while his parents are just trying to get this picture taken.

They could be forgiven for taking as many photos as Louis could bear and then tweaking them later.

There's nothing the internet loves more than zooming in on a celebrity's photos and figuring out where they might have made a few adjustments with help from Facetune or the Adobe Creative Cloud.

But by the time British Mother's Day rolled around three months later, the House of Windsor was trapped in a spiralling PR crisis.

While the Duchess of Cambridge is entitled to her privacy to recover from surgery, conspiracy theories began to mushroom online almost as soon as she retreated from public view.

On January 18, Prince William was photographed leaving the London Clinic, where the Princess of Wales was hospitalised.

A photo of Prince William and a driver in a black car with tinted windows.

But when he dropped out of a family event two weeks ago at the last minute for "personal reasons", the internet went into overdrive.

A few days later, a photo was published by TMZ, appearing to show Catherine in the passenger seat of her mother's car in Windsor.

Online sleuths analysed every pixel of the image, insisting it was a body double, or Catherine's sister Pippa.

They claimed the tread on the tyres was so clear that the car must have been idle when the picture was taken, and insisted this was proof it was a set-up.

Added to this heady brew of uncertainty was the appearance of Catherine's uncle, Gary Goldsmith, on the UK's Celebrity Big Brother, where he dangled tidbits about his niece's condition.

Love Island winner Ekin-Su Culculoglu asked Goldsmith in the Celebrity Big Brother house on Wednesday: "Where's Kate?"

He replied: "Because she doesn't want to talk about… The last thing I'm going to do is… there's a kind of code of etiquette. If it's announced, I'll give you an opinion."

And so, by the time Kensington Palace decided to release an official photo of the princess, there was no room for error.

But 24 hours after its release, Catherine and William's last-ditch effort to quell the rumours turned their PR nightmare into an unmitigated disaster.

The photo that did not meet standards

Kensington Palace said the photo that sparked 1,000 theories was taken by Catherine's husband, Prince William.

The future queen has built a reputation as a budding photographer and it is not unusual for the royals to share pics she has taken of big events to their social media accounts.

Her husband, on the other hand, is usually the one in front of the lens.

While the pair switched roles for this particular photograph, the high-stakes of the shot may and any editing it required may have been better left to the hands of a professional.

A close up of Prince William standing under a spotlight.

In the past, pool photographers have been allowed behind palace walls to capture a big event.

In 2022, PA Media photographer Jane Barlow became the last person to publicly photograph the queen after she was invited into Balmoral to snap pictures of the appointment of her 15th and final prime minister, Liz Truss.

The Prince and Princess of Wales' amateur efforts, in this instance, may have done more damage to the House of Windsor than any loss of control a professional photographer would have meant. 

UK media outlets have struggled to cover the future queen's absence since Christmas, caught between the palace's desire for privacy and the public's interest in Catherine's condition.

Foreign outlets appear to have less qualms about covering public figures and when further inspection of the Mother's Day photograph raised concerns, they were quick to act.

If you zoom in closely on the image — which everyone online immediately did — you'll notice some fuzziness around the sleeve of Princess Charlotte's cardigan.

A close up of two inconsistences in a photo

Others have pointed out possible alterations to the heel of Charlotte's boot, Prince Louis' odd jumper pattern and unusual blurring in the step behind the youngest royal.

The discrepancies were enough for international agencies to suggest the photo had been manipulated, and did not meet their standards.

A screen shot of an email shows the AP branding and the kill notification details

The outlets might have followed standard protocols, but their decision shocked royal commentators, who have described the move as unprecedented , and embroiled the royals in a PR crisis that will be difficult to untangle.

A lesson in how not to handle a PR crisis

Unlike in years past, the palace appears to have forgotten that it can't control the royal narrative beyond its own shores.

The public abhors a vacuum, and in the absence of information, theories about the Windsors have run rampant.

Queen Elizabeth II  once reportedly told her children : "we must be seen to be believed". 

But in an age of AI, deepfakes and digital manipulation, seeing no longer guarantees the public's belief.

For the past few weeks, the palace has continued to stick to its communications strategy even as a mild public relations issue spiralled into a bigger problem.

Now with one poorly edited photo, the whole saga has turned into a disaster.

All Catherine wanted was to recuperate in private. 

Instead she has been briefly forced back into the spotlight to put the rumours to bed.

Prince William and Princess Kate sit to pose for a photo with a woman wearing a white blazer.

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Agencies issue 'kill' notice for 'manipulated' photo of princess kate.

Image of Princess Kate and her three kids smiling into the camera.

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Three people were rescued after a sailboat caught fire off the coast of Virginia Beach

Emergency personnel try to put a fire on a sailboat off the coast of Cape Henry, Va. early Friday, March 8, 2024. Three people were rescued as the U.S. Coast Guard asked the Virginia Beach Fire Department’s fire boat crews to help respond to the fire about 3 miles (4.8 km) off the coast of Cape Henry around 3:40 a.m., department spokesperson said in an email. (Virginia Beach Fire Department via AP)

Emergency personnel try to put a fire on a sailboat off the coast of Cape Henry, Va. early Friday, March 8, 2024. Three people were rescued as the U.S. Coast Guard asked the Virginia Beach Fire Department’s fire boat crews to help respond to the fire about 3 miles (4.8 km) off the coast of Cape Henry around 3:40 a.m., department spokesperson said in an email. (Virginia Beach Fire Department via AP)

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) — Three people were rescued after a sailboat caught fire off the coast of Virginia Beach early Friday, a fire official said.

The U.S. Coast Guard asked the Virginia Beach Fire Department’s fire boat crews to help respond to the fire about 3 miles (4.8 km) off the coast of Cape Henry around 3:40 a.m., department spokesperson Barbara Morrison said in an email.

A pilot boat picked up the three adults after they jumped into the water from the 75-foot (22.9-meter) sailboat and they were taken to the nearby Virginia pilot house, Morrison said. EMS checked out the patients and no injuries were reported, she said.

sailboat caught in hurricane

Haitian migrant boat with guns, drugs intercepted in Florida: What we know

sailboat caught in hurricane

Over two dozen people this past month were discovered by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers being smuggled into Florida, according to FWC reports. Included in the group were unaccompanied children and armed smugglers attempting to make their way into Sebastian Inlet on Feb. 29, FWC said in a statement released Friday. Law enforcement officials are continuing to investigate the case in which guns and drugs were also seized from a 42-foot vessel in in Brevard County near the Indian River County line. Gov. Ron DeSantis used it as a prime example for tougher laws.

What did FWC officers discover on migrant boat?

FWC reports said the boat's operator was armed. There were 25 people, including five unaccompanied children, on board the boat entering the country. Officers also found firearms, night vision gear and drugs, the report said. The exact details of the interdiction were not released.

Who is investigating the smuggling operation?

The Brevard County Sheriff’s Office and U.S. Customs and Border Protection are carrying out an investigation into the boat. It was not reported if charges had been filed in the case as of Monday morning.

What did Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis say about armed migrant boat?

DeSantis pointed to the incident as an example for the need to deter illegal immigration in a press conference this past weekend. Two separate laws signed by the governor would crack down on penalties for undocumented immigrants driving without a license and those who are re-entering the country after previously being deported.

“In their boat, in their vessel, they had firearms, they had drugs, they had night vision gear and were boating very recklessly, which would potentially endanger other folks,” DeSantis  told reporters on Friday.

DeSantis said int he press conference that the migrants were deported by the U.S. Coast Guard.

This incident comes two months after DeSantis announced that he is sending approximately 1,000 Florida National Guard troops to Texas to assist in security along the Mexican border.

Last week, DeSantis also announced that he was shoring up immigration security in the Florida Keys, where he deployed "250 additional officers and soldiers and over a dozen air and sea craft to the southern coast of Florida to protect our state."

Italy: Eight boats have been destroyed as a fire spread across Genoa Port overnight

Local media said no injuries were reported, but one man was extracted from a boat that had caught fire.

Tuesday 19 March 2024 12:19, UK

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Fire destroys boats and one man extracted in Genoa Port

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13.40-pound largemouth bass caught at Inks Lake in Hill Country breaks waterbody record

Inks lake has produced its first legacy class fish.

Rebecca Salinas , Digital Journalist

A fisherman at Inks Lake State Park in the Hill Country broke the waterbody record for largemouth bass with a 13.40-pound fish.

Darryl Hanson II of Round Rock reeled in the whopper on Sunday, giving Inks Lake its first Legacy Class fish.

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That means Inks Lake is the 78th public water body to produce a Legacy Class ShareLunker — a program from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department that highlights the best lakes for bass fishing.

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A news release from TPWD states Hanson was competing in the Tonkawa Bassmasters Club tournament.

He told TPWD that based on previous trips to the lake, he knew he wanted to fish in a particular area that included docks and cement structures.

As he was fishing parallel to a structure, the fish “slammed it,” he said.

“I set the hook, and she pulled back and ran out to open water,” Hanson said in the news release. “She came up out of the water and I knew this was a big fish. She made five or six runs with two of them going underneath the boat. She got to the point where I could get her closer to the boat and scooped her into the net. I lifted her in the boat and said that must be a double-digit.”

His bag for the day totaled 39 pounds, making him the winner of the tournament. The fish also beat his own personal best — an 11.40-pound largemouth bass caught at Choke Canyon.

Hanson said he weighed the fish on the tournament’s and state park’s scales before starting the process for the Toyota ShareLunker program.

According to TPWD, the previous record for largemouth bass at the lake was a 12.50-pound fish caught in February 2017. The lake is located about 20 miles northwest of Marble Falls.

The Toyota ShareLunker is a program from TPWD that runs year-round and aims to enhance bass fishing in Texas. Anglers who catch large bass in Texas lakes can submit data to the ShareLunker program to win prizes.

It has four levels of participation:

  • Lunker Legacy Class, 13-plus pounds between the spawning period of January and March.
  • Lew’s Legend Class, 13-plus pounds from April to December.
  • Strike King Elite Class, 10-plus pounds.
  • Bass Pro Shops Lunker Class, 8-plus pounds.

O. H. Ivie — a lake 55 miles east of San Angelo — leads the program this season with five legacy class, eight elite class, and three lunker class fish.

On Monday, Larry Walker of Irving landed a 13.83-pound largemouth bass at O.H. Ivie.

“In the Lone Star State, there are numerous water bodies capable of reaching an impressive 13 pounds or heavier,” Natalie Goldstrohm, Toyota ShareLunker program coordinator, said in the release. “There are reservoirs that have historically produced bigger bass, like Lake Fork and O.H. Ivie, and those that are lesser known that have remarkable trophy bass fisheries. We are awaiting what the remainder of the season holds.”

From Jan. 1-March 31, anglers who reel in a 13-plus-pound bass can loan it to TPWD for the ShareLunker selective breeding and stocking program.

For more information on the program, click here .

  • Texas fisherman breaks waterbody record with 13.33-pound largemouth bass
  • Texas lake listed as best place to fish for bass in the US for 2023

Copyright 2024 by KSAT - All rights reserved.

About the Author:

Rebecca salinas.

Rebecca Salinas has worked in digital news for more than 10 years and joined KSAT in 2019. She reports on a variety of topics for KSAT 12 News.

KSAT News at Noon : Mar 19, 2024

Family displaced, pets killed after fire at west side home, swat teams called to west side home after gunshots are fired, police say, bcso sheriff: two bodies believed to be missing mother, 3-year-old son found near tom slick park, bcso sheriff: two bodies matching of missing mother, 3-year-old son found near tom slick park.

LIVE: Family, officials provide update on search for missing college student Riley Strain

NASHVILLE, Tenn. ( WSMV /Gray News) – The family of Riley Strain and officials are holding a press conference Tuesday to provide an update on the search for the missing University of Missouri student.

Strain, who was in Nashville for a fraternity trip, went missing on March 8 after being kicked out of Luke’s 32 Bridge on Broadway. Strain’s missing person’s case has gained national attention as the search for him continues.

The family announced that the United Cajun Navy, a group of private citizens with boats, announced they plan to join the search for Strain. They also encouraged anyone who takes part in the search to join the formal search rather than going it alone because of safety concerns.

Authorities have searched both on land and in the river for him with no luck so far. One of the biggest leads in the case came Sunday when Strain’s bank card was found on an embankment off Cumberland River, near where his phone last pinged off a cellphone tower.

Riley Strain, 22, was in Nashville for a fraternity trip where he was last seen downtown...

On Monday, the Metro Nashville Police Department released a previously unseen video of Strain interacting with an officer on the night of his disappearance. Police said the Missouri student did not seem distressed, while early video shows Strain stumbling and falling around downtown Nashville.

Authorities at the press conference said, despite rumors on social media, there’s no evidence of a crime committed.

The Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission has launched an investigation to find out whether Strain was overserved alcohol on Broadway. Luke’s 32 Bridge claims Strain was served only one drink and two waters on the night he disappeared.

Copyright 2024 WSMV via Gray Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

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  1. Sailboat caught on rough waves #sailing

  2. A storm while aboard

  3. Dramatic rescue of four people from rough seas as Hurricane Ian approaches

  4. 3 arrive in Honolulu after sailboat caught in Hurricane Julio


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  6. How to Prepare your Boat if It's in the Path of a Hurricane

    Hurricane Prep 101. A few things you should do when hauling your boat and preparing for a hurricane. Take down all of your canvas—sails, sail covers, biminis, seat cushions, take it all down. Make sure that your boat is watertight, shut all hatches, seal anything that might be leaking. There will be a lot of rain, be ready for it.

  7. The Hurricane and the Saildrone

    The boats were frequently caught in doldrums and set back by powerful ocean currents skirting the East Coast of the United States. That August, a sister ship, SD 1031, successfully entered ...

  8. Multiple Agencies Assist in Rescue of Couple on Sailboat Caught in

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  9. Surviving 24 Hours in Hurricane Julio on a Sinking Sailboat

    The 42-foot sailboat Walkabout caught in Hurricane Julio, about 400 miles northeast of Oahu, Hawaii, Aug. 10, 2014. ... the air crew could hear the Mayday calls from the boat. With Hurricane Julio ...

  10. Sailboat Caught In Rare Hurricane Near Hawaii

    The National Weather Service also downgraded the storm to a category 1 hurricane over the weekend after wind speeds decreased. (Video via KGMB) But the U.S. Coast Guard says it received a distress signal from a sailboat with three people aboard drifting off shore Sunday. The boat's lifeboat and hatch cover were blown away by the hurricane winds.

  11. What sailboats could survive a full blown hurricane at sea?

    The storm in that book actually happened after the battle of Leyte. The returning American fleet got caught in what was, at the time, the worst storm ever recorded (lowest barometric pressure). Several Destroyers were lost. If I had to choose a small boat to survive a hurricane I think I would choose one of those foam filled, unsinkable Etaps.

  12. How To Sail Safely Through a Storm

    As the jib tries to push the bow down, the bow turns off the wind and the main fills, moving the boat forward. Once the boat begins to make headway, the lashed helm turns the boat toward the wind again. As the main goes soft the jib once again takes over, pushing the bow down.

  13. Where to Sail During Hurricane Season

    Seawater floods inland and overflows rivers, lakes, and neighborhoods with up to 30 feet of water. Boats caught in a storm surge get washed inland and pounded to bits against buildings, cars, trees, and infrastructure. How to Protect your Sailboat from Hurricanes. The best way to protect your sailboat from a hurricane is to get out of its way.

  14. Surviving a hurricane in a sailboat: Essential things to do

    3. Keep your objects inside the boat during a hurricane. After anchoring your boat, 50% of the work is done. Now, it's time to pack all the objects which are outside the boat and keep them inside the boat. Now in this step, you need to do only one thing, just pack the necessary belongings and keep it inside the boat.


    WARNING: BOATS CAUGHT IN HURRICANE IAN AT HAULOVER INLET !! | WAVY BOATS | CATEGORY 4 LANDFALL !Hurricane Ian is approaching Florida and is expected to make ...

  16. Hurricane Prep For Boaters: Protecting Your Yacht In Storm Season

    Above: A lone boat sits tied to a breakwater in a marina in a raging hurricane storm with big waves crashing over the docks. Photo by GEORGE DESIPRIS from Pexels.. One of the most important things to consider when choosing to stay on an anchor during a tropical storm is how much protection from both the winds and the waves the anchorage will provide. . Remember, the wind will shift at least ...

  17. Can A Sailboat Survive A Hurricane?

    Yes, sailboats can make it through a hurricane strike without any major issues depending on a few factors such as taking necessary precautions, the strength of the wind, boat's location and the position of the vessel in the hurricane, etc. ... How to avoid getting caught in a hurricane? Ideally, the best choice you can make is to move your ...

  18. Rush to reach 3 sailors caught by Hurricane Julio

    HONOLULU -- A rescue effort was launched Sunday to reach three people aboard a sailboat that got caught in Hurricane Julio about 400 miles northeast of Oahu. The sailors aboard the 42-foot ...

  19. Adrift Movie vs. the True Story of Tami Oldham and Richard Sharp

    Tami Oldham remained unconscious for 27 hours after hitting her head when the boat capsized during the hurricane. The severe head injury is visible on Shailene Woodley's character in the 2018 movie. At first, the Adrift movie seems to unfold differently than the true story. Tami wakes up and finds an injured Richard floating in the water as he ...

  20. Can a Sailboat Survive a Hurricane?

    Hurricane Information. A hurricane, sometimes known as a cyclone or typhoon, is a tropical rotating storm in the North Atlantic Ocean. They also occur in the Caribbean Sea or the Gulf of Mexico with sustained winds of 74 mph or higher. Hurricanes only form over warm tropical oceans, usually above 27°C (81°F).

  21. A Guide to Preparing Marinas and Boats for Hurricanes

    Securing a Boat Ashore. A study by MIT after hurricane Gloria found that boats stored ashore were far more likely to be saved than boats stored in the water. For many boat owners and marinas, hauling boats is the foundation of their hurricane plan. Some farsighted marinas and yacht clubs have evacuation plans to pull as many boats out of the ...

  22. The palace was hoping to lay rumours about Princess Kate to rest, but

    The stakes of a Princess Catherine photo could not have been higher amid a swirl of speculation. But instead of avoiding a media storm, the House of Windsor is now caught up in a hurricane of ...

  23. Three people were rescued after a sailboat caught fire off the coast of

    Emergency personnel try to put a fire on a sailboat off the coast of Cape Henry, Va. early Friday, March 8, 2024. Three people were rescued as the U.S. Coast Guard asked the Virginia Beach Fire Department's fire boat crews to help respond to the fire about 3 miles (4.8 km) off the coast of Cape Henry around 3:40 a.m., department spokesperson said in an email.

  24. Florida fishermen ride out Hurricane Ian on their boat

    Near Tampa, local fisherman hunkered down for Hurricane Ian on Sept. 28 and hoped for the best. Read more: Subscribe to The Washingt...

  25. Haitian migrant boat with guns, drugs intercepted near Sebastian, Florida

    FWC reports said the boat's operator was armed. There were 25 people, including five unaccompanied children, on board the boat entering the country. Officers also found firearms, night vision gear ...

  26. Italy: Eight boats have been destroyed as a fire spread across Genoa

    Italy: Eight boats have been destroyed as a fire spread across Genoa Port overnight. Local media said no injuries were reported, but one man was extracted from a boat that had caught fire.

  27. 13.40-pound largemouth bass caught at Inks Lake in Hill ...

    According to TPWD, the previous record for largemouth bass at the lake was a 12.50-pound fish caught in February 2017. The lake is located about 20 miles northwest of Marble Falls.

  28. Sailboat Walkabout Caught in Hurricane Julio

    The Coast Guard is coordinating the rescue of 42-foot sailboat Walkabout caught in Hurricane Julio 414 miles northeast of Oahu, Aug. 10, 2014. Walkabout is d...

  29. Family of missing college student Riley Strain to provide update

    NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV/Gray News) - The family of Riley Strain will hold a press conference at 1 p.m. Central (2 p.m. Eastern) Tuesday to provide an update regarding the missing University of ...