Sailing through a storm can be an intense and dangerous experience. The powerful winds, towering waves, and driving rain can make it difficult to see and navigate, and the constant motion of the boat can be disorienting and exhausting. Here are some of the things sailors may experience during a storm:

  1. High winds: Depending on the severity of the storm, sailors may face winds that can exceed 50 or 60 knots (60 to 70 miles per hour). These winds can make it difficult to control the boat and can create large waves that can be challenging to navigate.
  2. Large waves: Storms can create waves that are several meters high, and these waves can be very dangerous for sailors. In addition to the risk of capsizing or being swamped, sailors can be thrown around by the motion of the boat and may be at risk of injury.
  3. Limited visibility: Rain, fog, and spray from the waves can make it difficult to see, especially at night. This can make it challenging to navigate and to spot other boats or obstacles in the water.
  4. Fatigue: Sailing through a storm can be mentally and physically exhausting, and sailors may need to work for hours or even days without rest. This can make it difficult to stay alert and focused, increasing the risk of accidents.
  5. Fear: Storms can be frightening, especially for sailors who are not experienced in extreme weather. The noise of the wind and waves, the motion of the boat, and the uncertainty of what will happen next can all contribute to feelings of fear and anxiety.

Despite the challenges, many sailors are drawn to the excitement and adventure of sailing through a storm. For experienced sailors, it can be a test of their skills and resilience, and a chance to experience the power and beauty of nature in a unique and unforgettable way.

  • I remember we were sailing from Europe to Houston, US and we got fire onboard while in a bad Atlantic storm. We fought the fire and we survived. Let’s keep that story for later

What’s it like sailing through a storm? That depends. Do you get seasick?

Dumb question. Everyone gets seasick. If you think you don’t, it’s because you’ve never been in a proper storm or high seas. You don’t even necessarily get sick at first. You might have a pretty strong stomach, after all.

Depending on the size of vessel you’re on, and how high the seas are, it takes time for the rocking and buffeting to wear you down. What starts out as a fun ride for the first few hours, rapidly begins to take it’s toll, and you become progressively more and more fatigued by it. Depending on how easily you become motion sick, you will eventually start to succumb to it.

First one person, then another, then five more, and so forth. It’s a chain reaction in slow motion. The smell of vomit is omnipresent. Normal ship operations shut down, including the galley. Cooks, after all, can’t handle knives, and hot pots and pans when they can barely stay on their feet.

It’s less taxing if you’re out on deck or in the pilot house where you can see the sky or some kind of horizon. Even that small advantage disappears however, when the sun goes down or the sky is dark from a bad storm. If you’re below decks, it gets bloody miserable. It’s side to side, back and forth, and up and down. Worst of all, every time the ship crests over a swell, it noses down into a trough. Every time it does, it’s like slamming on the brakes in a car. This can go on for hours or even days.

  • A Story by Susanna Viljanen on Quora

So far the worst weather I have been have been Force 8 at basin of the Baltic (35 kn) and Force 10 (55 kn) in the Finnish Archipelago. I have not [yet] been in a ‘huge’ storm (tropical revolving storm), but here are some of my experiences.

We left our hometown (Espoo) in late July 2010 with our H-35 “Caprice” and headed to Visby, Sweden. Our intention was to participate at the Visby Middle Ages Week, the largest annual history re-enactment event in Scandinavia.

It usually takes 3 to 4 days to sail from Helsinki to Visby over the open, somewhat more following the coastline and archipelago. We headed for the open. We had read the weather report, and it promised foul weather, but we had schedule and thought we’d get bluewater experience of bad weather.

The first night was okay. We reached Hanko Peninsula the next morning. I saw altostratus clouds gathering at the West. The weather was still survivable, and we did steady 5–6 kn with spinnaker at bearing 240. Wind was from NE. We set the spinnaker down, set jib small and put #1 reef on mainsail and prepared for the next day.

The next day emerged foul. The altostratus had turned into nimbostratus, and it rained. Wind rose, and so did the waves. Baltic is very shallow – 459 m at deepest – and waves are short, sharp and choppy. The wave height was some 3 m from trough to top, and wave length some 10–12 m.

We got Gotska Sandön at sight at 1900, and we saw a storm front approaching. It was like a dark grey wall. I said: “We cannot overtake that, we cannot run away that, we cannot get around that, we must push through”. We lowered all sails and put diesel on, and headed straight thhrough it.

It was the core of a cyclone. When they say “calm before a storm”, it really was that. It was eerily calm, but the pressure was abysmally low and unsteady. We pressed on, closed all hatches and through-hulls, and the crew gangway. We dressed in oilskins and had tea in thermos.

BANG! The hell turned loose. It was an unforgettable lightning show. And we realized our mast would be the only high point around miles. The lightnings flashed and lit the sky in eerie purple light. Thunderbolts and lightnings, very, very frightening, yeah!, I thought on my mind. Our diesel roared faithfully. It did not need electricity. It lasted for two hours. The sun was about to set, and wind rose. We would have tailwind now, and I hoisted the storm jib. We locked the boom; we would go with storm jib only.

Our wind indicator showed 17 m/s readings. It soon became pitch black dark. The only light was our navigation light, which showed eerily the waves. It was if we had been closed in a sick crossbreed of a roller coaster and washing machine. The log and GPS showed 8 kn speed – with that storm jib size of a stamp! I estimated the wave height as 5 m from trough to bottom, and wave length some 20 m. Nobody could sleep. We were tired at the wee hours.

Then we lost electricity. Our GPS quit the contract. Fortunately I had made the logbook pedantly, and I had readings where we were. I marked the time on logbook and told to keep the direction.

The storm settled by 0400, when the morning twilight rose. I could see the stars, but not coastline, so I took sextant and took the readings of Deneb and Kochab, and did the astro. We are now back at the eighties, I thought. Mom and Dad sailed to Visby this way. Awfully tedious! There are 17 steps and calculations to determine the position by Marc St. Hilaire method. But my calculations were correct; we’d be very close to Gotland, and if we’d keep the bearing, we’d arrive to Visby by afternoon. Once we got Gotland to sight, it was littoral navigation thereafter. Magnetic compass doesn’t need electricity, and I can navigate the old-fashioned way.

We arrived to Visby and made to marina with sails. The reason for losing the electricity was stupid; we had had car bulbs on navigation lights, and they had drained the batteries. We could not use the diesel. The first thing to buy were quick charger and new LED lights.

We did it to opening ceremony of the Middle Ages Week, where we met our friends. They told us they had faced the same storm on the ferry, and been scared for life(and for our lives) as they know we’d sail there. Next morning I met a Latvian girl in the marina shower, who had been in the same storm. She told me she will fly back home and never put her feet again onboard a yacht…

After the wonderful week we headed back to Finland. I had calculated a cyclone would pass over, and we’d get to sail on its tail on tailwind – SW – to Finland. The plan was excellent. There was just one little fault on that plan.

The goddamn cyclone changed its direction.

Our first day back home was nice, and by midnight we had crossed Gotska Sandön. We had now full batteries and LED navigation lights, and enough juice on batteries. But the next day emerged foul. Sun was nowhere to be seen, and wind rose. By midday we had #1 reef, and we decreased our furler jib all the time. The bad thing was we were sailing against the wind, and had to do tacking.

The wind rose all the time, and finally the waves were some 4 m high. I said to my hubby “Take the rudder and keep the bearing, I will go reefing the mainsail!”

I have done all kinds of stupidities in my life, including jumping off a perfectly good aeroplane, but that has been the scariest experience in my life. Even though I had safety harness and lifelines on, I had to go there on all fours. Wind howled its devil’s concerto on sheets and stays. I finally got there. The boat pitched and rolled 45 deg on each direction. Water poured in horizontally. It rained and splashed. Swoosh – BANG!! Swoosh – BANG! I was full of adrenaline. Finally I got the reefing done and secured the sail. I said my hubby: “I need to go to bunk now, I’m so full of adrenaline I’m shaking! I trembled and shook for almost two hours. It was both an utterly scary – and utterly exhilarating experience. The best adrenaline high in my life!

In the end the wind was now 17.5 m/s (35 kn) and wave height 5.5 m – headwind. I said “We cannot go on. The nature is stronger than us. Let’s head back to Gotland. We lose some days, but it is better that way to lose the boat and our lives.”

The next day and night we sailed back, and arrived to Lauterhorn at 1800. We spent two days at Fårö, resting. We decided to head to Nynäshamn, check the situation of the boat, and then head back to Finland. The decision was right. Boat was undamaged, and we got rest and replenished our victuals. We eventually headed home with spinnaker and mainsail, doing 9 kn at surf.

I thought “That’s it! I’m gonna sell the boat, get me a nice, cosy and safe job at the Koverhar steel mill blast furnaces, and never even look at the sea!”, but we sailors have notoriously short memories – otherwise we wouldn’t be sailors. Next weekend we were again at the sea.

The worst experience n the Archipelago was harder, but less scary. The waves were short and choppy and violent, but the islands damped the force a lot. The worst danger was now drifting off the course and veering on the rocks. It was awfully tiresome! We both were in the end completely exhausted when we arrived home.

In such weather you first fear you are gonna die, then you hope the death would be quick, and when it is over, you feel you are dead already.


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