Safety - use your head

Most important is to put the boat in a safe environment. Use weather charting to avoid bad weather. Never leave a protected anchorage when the weather is deteriorating. In the Ocean, sail away from thunderclouds, no matter where that leads you until the storm has passed.

When a hurricane is forecast to cross the Islands North of Grenada, sail to the South end of Grenada or to Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela. It takes less than four days with the wind on the beam to sail from USVI to Puerto La Cruz which has five hurricane safe marinas ($1,000/mo). It is easier to travel up the Island chain in the summer, and down in the winter. But insurance carriers want you to take the boat South in the summer because of the threat of hurricane damage. If you have a policy like that, you are not insured during hurricane season above about 13 degrees N. Latitude. The South end of Grenada is at 12 degrees N. But don’t think that the boat will be guaranteed to be safe if south of 13 degrees. Grenada was wiped out by a hurricane in 2004. The insured boats were covered, but many boat were lost, some with the owner aboard.

If you are worried that the boat might catch fire and burn to the waterline, conside.r renting a life raft

Better still, have plenty of fire extinguishers on board, in the engine room and at three or four strategic places. Get Halotron for the navigation spaces, as it leaves no residue  on the electronics. Use ABC extinguishers as regulations require.

If you think you must have a life raft consider this: unless the boat is burned to the deck and sinking, stay with the boat. More yachtsmen have died in a life raft than in their disabled yacht.  A sailboat foundered off San Francisco, and the life raft failed to deploy. If you want a life raft get only the best, most expensive system, with room for at least two more people than the number of crew. Cheap life rafts sometimes fail to deploy if they are not cared for meticulously, with annual service and testing. You may have to sail a long way to find a service station. Life rafts will rot in their deck mounted cases if uncared for. A SOLAS 6 man raft, well equipped with EPIRB, and survival suits will cost $5000.  I don’t have one. I sail in good weather, avoid thunderstorms, and have fire protection equipment in strategic places. In an emergency I can communicate with rescue service. I think I would put one aboard for an Atlantic crossing.

I watched a video of a family being rescued at sea when their rudder broke and it could not be repaired at sea. Their rescue depended on them transferring to a life raft and drifting over to the rescue sailboat. Safety comes from knowing the weather and moving the boat to a safe place. As long as you have a weeks warning of a hurricane coming over the Islands, you have plenty of time to sail South to safety. If a hurricane pops up seeminglyout of nowhere, take the boat to the nearest hurricane hole and tie it to the trees. Get off the boat. If there is no close hurricane hole, put down three anchors connected to a swivel connected to a bridle and anchor off the stern as I teach. For my introductory PDF on stern anchoring click here  SternAnchoring.pdf.