A strong gale by any other name

To the editor: Rick Meisner’s recent story on experiencing a storm while sailing to Tortola (“Severe storm batters Tortola delivery crew, May/June 2007) reminds me of similar trips I’ve made. I have sailed my own boat in conditions very similar to those described in the story and could relate well to Rick’s description of the wind, the waves, the gear failures, the unexpected entry of water into the boat, and especially the anxiety and fatigue that can come over a short-handed crew (in my case it was just my wife and myself).

I would like to point out, however, what appears to be a bit of overstatement. Meisner describes the wind by saying “it increased to true storm intensity, regularly touching 50 knots.” The Beaufort Scale defines a “storm” as steady winds of 48 to 55 knots. From Meisner’s description it sounds like while the wind was gusting to storm force, the steady wind was probably more in the range of a “strong gale,” which is defined as steady winds from 41 to 47 knots.


I don’t in any way want to diminish the experience that Meisner, Charles Drakos and Rick Lueders had, as the three days of gales that my wife and I rode out together north of New Zealand was an experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life. Those types of conditions are genuinely severe and should have the respect of any yachtsman. At the same time, I would hate to diminish the experiences that others have had, who have ridden out true storms.


Jim Hancock is a licensed 50-ton Master and a U.S. Sailing and ASA Instructor who sails his Freya 39, Solstice, out of Alameda, Calif.

By Ocean Navigator