Cap’n Fatty is interviewed by Carolyn Goodlander about his new book
Storm Proofing your Boat, Gear, and Crew
Carolyn: So why this particular book at this particular time?
Fatty: I’ve been toying with the idea for a while. Recently, I had a huge library of marine books all to myself at the Changi Sailing Club in Singapore. I took the time to carefully re-read a dozen books on heavy weather management. While I still liked the Pardey’sStorm Tactics and all the case histories in Heavy Weather Sailing by Adlard Cole—I found most how-to-survive-the-storm books infuriating.
Fatty: Well, the authors refused to make any definite statements or to draw any real-world conclusions. They just said, “‘Well, Tommy did this,’ and ‘Bobby did that…’ so there you have it!” Often, I was more confused at the end than the beginning. A few actually convinced me how difficult it was offshore in a breeze—that I’d be out of my depth in gale. I’m not. It’s not so difficult. It’s all basic stuff. Heavy weather management is just basic seamanship under uncomfortable conditions. I mean, we do this shit all the time…”
Carolyn: Don’t swear—you can’t promote your book and swear at the same time.
Fatty: Yes, dear.
Carolyn: What is the core premise of your book?
Fatty: One of my core premises while writing the book was that money doesn’t matter. By that I mean, a used $3,000 sailboat can be safer offshore than a new $3,000,000 yacht if it is storm proofed, has the proper gear, and has a crew who knows how to deploy both. That’s why I talk about towing warps and fenders and tires, etc. Let’s face it, not everyone can afford a new Para-Tech sea anchor, store-bought Jordan Series Drogue, SHARK, Burke Sea Brake, or Gale Rider. But they still want to survive. So I wanted to write a book for your average ill-funded sea gypsy—as well as well-heeled yachties.
Carolyn: Isn’t that, perhaps, encouraging ill-prepared sailors to bite off more than they can chew?
Fatty: No, exactly the opposite. Offshore safety is at the very core of everything I write. Being penniless or rich isn’t a crime—going offshore unprepared for the conditions you’ll meet is. Remember: the sea is a harsh mistress. If you get too lax, she kills you.
Carolyn: What are the “Two Lies” you mention?
Fatty: Many cruising couples consist of a gung-ho sailor with a spouse who is… well, less gung-ho. It might be the male or the female, but one is usually trying to talk the other into a leap of lifestyle faith. I appreciate this—and personally believenothing ventured, nothing gained. If you want to change your result, you have to change your routine. Anyway, the coaxing partner often smooth-talks the reluctant partner with two small lies: one is that boats nowadays are as convenient as movable beach cottages; two, that with modern weather forecasting there’s no need to ever go through heavy weather at sea.
While this might be true for some dock huggers and dock queens, it ain’t true for cruising sailors who go offshore. Eventually, you’ll get wacked. And, naturally, the spouse who has been told they’ll never have to endure a mature gale at sea—will start to panic. This is silly.
Carolyn: How so?
Fatty: Here’s the undeniable reality: Storms are perfectly ordinary, everyday, normal, natural occurrences at sea. There is never a time when a storm is not raging somewhere offshore. If you want to live aboard your cruising boat at sea on passage, storms must be accommodated.
Denying their existence or pretending you will never intersect is silly.
You will. And, in order not to be panicked, you need to be fully prepared for the conditions you will encounter. This book details, to the best of my ability as a writer, storm preparation step-by-step. Most voyages fail at the dock. I don’t want my reader’s initial lack of offshore experience to scuttle their cruising dreams before they’re fully realized.
Carolyn: Other options?
Fatty: Don’t go offshore. Stay in Chicken Harbor. Creep up the ICW. Or sign your credit cards over to DOCKWISE.
Carolyn: What’s the current saying, “There’s no shame in shipping?”
Fatty: Yeah, right. But shipping your boat and cruising aboard it are two entirely different things. And sailing is a hell of a lot cheaper and more fun.
Carolyn: Do you see more or less people sailing offshore in the near future?
Fatty: Well, barring major global catastrophe, The Donald, or world-wide depression, I see more. A lot of folks want to be truly free—and the open ocean is the last free place in the world. More and more old folks are opting out of the Florida retirement home scenario and actively cruising Tahiti, Tonga, New Zealand, and Southeast Asia instead. Many younger sailors aren’t buying the consumerism of their parents. Plus, rising international clearance fees have—six times now in the last two years—have forced us to stay at sea for long periods of time to avoid excessive “rip off” charges. So, yeah, I see more folks offshore for longer periods—and thus, more folks going through major storms.
Carolyn: Do you think storms are becoming more severe?
Fatty: I dunno. There is no doubt our planet is heating up. Everywhere we’ve cruised to lately, the weather has been crazy. Ten years ago, the wind direction and strength were spot-on in our global Pilot Charts—not so any longer. All of this behooves us to be well-prepared offshore.
Carolyn: You really should not sail into hurricanes, should you?
Fatty: You’re right, absolutely right. You certainly should not. This is lesson I learned the hard way—200 miles north of Culebra during Hurricane Klaus. And how clever of you, honey, to have skipped the fun by taking the baby to visit your parents.
Carolyn: I’ll never forget getting that telephone call from the freighter captain saying, “I last saw your none-too-bright husband as he and his ketch disappeared into a large dark cloud called Hurricane Klaus while he muttered about how much he loved you.”
Carolyn: Did you develop the “boat, gear, crew” three-legged theory yourself?
Fatty: I dunno. I doubt it. It’s just commonsense—just basic seamanship. In order to be safe offshore you need a well-prepared boat. You also need some basic gear. And, lastly, you need a wee-bit of knowledge how to deploy both.
Carolyn: Are you proud of this book?
Fatty: I am. I’m proud ofChasing the Horizon, too—only a true idiot could have packed that much weird truth into one twisted missive. The success of Buy, Outfit, and Sail has totally blown me away. Creative Anchoring is doing very well despite its technical nature. But, in a sense, that’s what we writers do—we translate complicated subjects into simple words and sentences. There’s nothing profound inStorm Proofing, which is why it is so Zen.”
Fatty: Sorry, I was having an LSD flashback.
Carolyn: Can’t you ever be serious?
Fatty: Not with you.
Carolyn: Anything else? What have we left out?
Fatty: Well, I’d like to thank all the offshore sailors who have helped me understand some of this offshore techno-stuff—not just folks like Lin and Larry Pardey, Alvah and Diana Simon, Mike and Alisa Litzow, Bob Griffith, Donna Lange, Beth and Evans Leonard, Don Street, and Webb Childs—but all the ordinary sailors who have went offshore, made mistakes, and learned from those mistakes. Sailors are, mostly, uncommonly generous with their hard-won knowledge of gale survival. Oh, and I’d like to thank my long-suffering editors and proof readers—“Red Pencil” Sally Erdle, “Cowboy” Gene Nelson, and those crazy Turks who sail around the world in the operating room scrubs, Selim and Nadire. The book is dedicated to our granddaughters, Soku Orion and Tessa Maria. My biggest debt is to James E. and Marie Goodlander—who took me offshore while in diapers. But mostly I need to thank my occasionally-bewildered readers. They’ve put up with lots of silliness during the more than 30 years I’ve been professionally inkslinging. Thanks, from the bottom of my heart.
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