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Old 27-11-2013, 05:59   #1
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Where the wind comes sweeping down the plain…

I live in Oklahoma and, therefore, I'm accustomed to stiff breezes. However, I've only recently taken my first practical steps into sailing. I took the ASA 101 course in October and bought my first boat (a 1973 Newport 19) a couple of weeks ago. After replacing a couple of lines and shackles, she was ready for her first outing with me at the helm.

Since good weather was quickly waning, I took advantage of what I accurately guessed would be the last warm Saturday of the year. The only drawback: 25-30mph winds with 35mph gusts.

Undaunted, I towed my boat to the lake and soon had the mast up and sails ready to be hoisted. With a couple passengers aboard, we shoved off and hoisted the main and jib. In the relatively protected waters near the boat ramp, the sails caught the wind and propelled my vessel toward open water. Being surrounded on three sides be land and trees, the wind was significantly less powerful than in the open water of the lake.

Within about minute we left our protected cove behind and ventured into the unrestrained wind. Immediately, the craft was overpowered. Though the wind was blowing abeam, I eased the sails until they were positioned as if we were at a dead run. Even with the sails eased all the way, the boat was heeling precariously. Of course, wind wasn't our only complication because where there is wind, there are waves. In our case, we were rolling on 2-3 foot waves that came at us every 5 to 6 seconds. We did not venture far before deciding to reverse course and make for shore.

Moments after we tacked and began our harrowing journey back to the boat ramp, the wind picked up substantially. I released the jib sheets, allowing the jib to flap in the wind. I kept the jib flapping until we were nearly to the protected waters that led to the ramp. At that time, the winds seemed to let up a bit, so I trimmed the jib in until it was only slightly luffing. Bad idea. As soon as I did this, the wind gusted. The boat heeled mightily and we began taking on water from the leeward side. I let go of everything, releasing the main and jib sheets and allowing the rudder to let the weather helm take control. When we were nearly in irons, I trimmed the main slightly and resumed control of the tiller while allowing the jib to flag, completely depowered. Soon we had land between us and the wind, thus ending our plight.

Things I learned: 1) I need to add some reefing points to my main (though I'm still trying to find a good resource to accomplish that task). 2) Using a storm jib would probably be wise (anyone know where I can get a used one for a good price?) 3) I need more experience in heavy weather. Although I think I did pretty well given the circumstances (ie I didn't turn the boat upside-down), things could definitely have gone better. If I can take care of points 1 and 2, I'd like to take her out again in similar conditions and see how I fare. I figure the more practice I can get in strong winds on a lake, the more prepared I'll be when I can finally move further south where I can take to the ocean.

Does anyone have any other thoughts -- anything else I should have learned?
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Old 27-11-2013, 06:21   #2
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Re: Where the wind comes sweeping down the plain…

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Originally Posted by nbuckner View Post
I live in Oklahoma and, therefore, I'm accustomed to stiff breezes. However, I've only recently taken my first practical steps into sailing. I took the ASA 101 course in October and bought my first boat (a 1973 Newport 19) a couple of weeks ago. After replacing a couple of lines and shackles, she was ready for her first outing with me at the helm.

Since good weather was quickly waning, I took advantage of what I accurately guessed would be the last warm Saturday of the year. The only drawback: 25-30mph winds with 35mph gusts.

Undaunted, I towed my boat to the lake and soon had the mast up and sails ready to be hoisted. With a couple passengers aboard, we shoved off and hoisted the main and jib. In the relatively protected waters near the boat ramp, the sails caught the wind and propelled my vessel toward open water. Being surrounded on three sides be land and trees, the wind was significantly less powerful than in the open water of the lake.

Within about minute we left our protected cove behind and ventured into the unrestrained wind. Immediately, the craft was overpowered. Though the wind was blowing abeam, I eased the sails until they were positioned as if we were at a dead run. Even with the sails eased all the way, the boat was heeling precariously. Of course, wind wasn't our only complication because where there is wind, there are waves. In our case, we were rolling on 2-3 foot waves that came at us every 5 to 6 seconds. We did not venture far before deciding to reverse course and make for shore.

Moments after we tacked and began our harrowing journey back to the boat ramp, the wind picked up substantially. I released the jib sheets, allowing the jib to flap in the wind. I kept the jib flapping until we were nearly to the protected waters that led to the ramp. At that time, the winds seemed to let up a bit, so I trimmed the jib in until it was only slightly luffing. Bad idea. As soon as I did this, the wind gusted. The boat heeled mightily and we began taking on water from the leeward side. I let go of everything, releasing the main and jib sheets and allowing the rudder to let the weather helm take control. When we were nearly in irons, I trimmed the main slightly and resumed control of the tiller while allowing the jib to flag, completely depowered. Soon we had land between us and the wind, thus ending our plight.

Things I learned: 1) I need to add some reefing points to my main (though I'm still trying to find a good resource to accomplish that task). 2) Using a storm jib would probably be wise (anyone know where I can get a used one for a good price?) 3) I need more experience in heavy weather. Although I think I did pretty well given the circumstances (ie I didn't turn the boat upside-down), things could definitely have gone better. If I can take care of points 1 and 2, I'd like to take her out again in similar conditions and see how I fare. I figure the more practice I can get in strong winds on a lake, the more prepared I'll be when I can finally move further south where I can take to the ocean.

Does anyone have any other thoughts -- anything else I should have learned?
yeah - 35mph is like force 9. Don't go on the water in a 19 footer in force 9.

Drop the main completely and sail on only the jib, converse get reefs sewn in your main and drop the jib sailing only on the main.

Best advice - don't go on the water in force 9. at least not until you know what you are doing
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Old 27-11-2013, 06:39   #3
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Re: Where the wind comes sweeping down the plain…

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Originally Posted by carstenb View Post
yeah - 35mph is like force 9. Don't go on the water in a 19 footer in force 9.

Drop the main completely and sail on only the jib, converse get reefs sewn in your main and drop the jib sailing only on the main.

Best advice - don't go on the water in force 9. at least not until you know what you are doing
Sorry

Thought about this - added when I should have subtracted. 35mph is force 6-7. Still tough wind in a 19 footer.
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Old 27-11-2013, 06:40   #4
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Re: Where the wind comes sweeping down the plain…

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, nbuckner.
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Old 27-11-2013, 08:47   #5
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Re: Where the wind comes sweeping down the plain…

Hi, NBuckner,

Welcome aboard.

It seems to me you learned quite a bit, actually. The one thing you didn't mention was when the jib was flappiing, did you consider taking it down and lashing it on deck, or shoving it below? The scary stuff you experienced is called being over powered, and you were totally right to de-power the rig.

Most people with vessels that size will not take them out if the forecast is in the 20-25 range. Yes, you could have sunk the boat if she stayed on her side filling up with water. You acted fast enough and were lucky that didn't get a stronger gust while you were on your ear. When thinking about wind strength, it helps to know that the forecasts are of average wind speeds, and so there will be both lighter and stronger gusts: up to about 40% stronger tha the f/c averages. Of course our boats are sensitive to those 40% bits, and that is what we have to prepare for. Also, the force of increasing wind speed is not linear, it increases as the square of the velocity, so a small increase can act very strongly on your boat.

I have not personally seen a main for that size boat that had reef points and a way of tying them in, though they may exist. So I suggest that Carsten's point is well taken. Given that lakes generally have a reputation for having flukey (changeable) winds, anyway; your boat is a light air boat; therefore you might be well advised to practice with her when the forecast is in the less than 10 knot range, till you can handle her well. Then think if that is where she is best suited.
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Old 27-11-2013, 09:12   #6
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Re: Where the wind comes sweeping down the plain…

Good Story! What a great adventure.

I hope you all had your life jackets on and a water proof vhf radio attached to your person, or a cell phone in a zip lock bag.

You did well to keep your boat from taking on water in such strong winds. Although you could have lowered the jib, under the circumstances in such a small boat I would have kept everyone in the cockpit and let the jib beat itself silly. The noise of a flagging jib can be unnerving for some, like me, but you seem to have stayed calm and handled things quite well.

We sailed a Rhodes 19 for many years that had reefing points in the sail. This would have been a must in your situation. You should probably not go out in such conditions again in that boat anytime soon, or maybe never, unless you are young and strong and your crew is likewise young and strong and you are prepared to swamp your boat and maybe lose it.

Someone in our fleet did sink a rhodes 19's in Boston Harbor (it did not have the customary flotation built in). Lucky enough, help was near buy and they managed to fish the boat up from the bottom.

Not sure what point of sail you were on but you need to learn to feather your sails in such a boat, i.e. sailing somewhere between irons and close hauled, back and forth between the two as a means of de-powering but not stalling.

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Old 27-11-2013, 09:31   #7
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Re: Where the wind comes sweeping down the plain…

Actually, I checked out the Newport 19 and it is more of a cruiser, with an enclosed cabin, than the rhodes 19. It is somewhere between the Olsen 25 we've sailed and the rhodes 19. We would take the Olsen 25 out in 25-35knt weather to test the limits and gain experience in heavy weather. And we felt like we pushed the rigging on that old boat to the limit. It was creaking and squealing the whole time. It was not a joy ride, but we were relatively experienced and well prepared.
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Old 27-11-2013, 13:24   #8
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Thank you all for the excellent advice. Lots of good stuff to think about.

And yes, we all had life jackets, though we didn't have a waterproof VHF or a cell phone in a ziplock bag. Definitely on my list for future excursions.
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Old 29-11-2013, 18:10   #9
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Sorry Thought about this - added when I should have subtracted. 35mph is force 6-7. Still tough wind in a 19 footer.
+1. Things you could have done better or different in 35 kts? Stay on shore. Especially as a newbie you should think about graduating up in wind speed - gaining skills and understanding how your boat handles different wind speeds.
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Old 29-11-2013, 18:58   #10
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Re: Where the wind comes sweeping down the plain…

A boat this size can be sailed in a high wind. A lot of work. First get the sail as flat as possible. Then to go up wind you ride the edge between dead upwind in irons and off the wind that lays you over. Tricky and one needs to anticipate gusts.

Perhaps look for another sail made for a much smaller boat. Changing sails in a blow is hard but possible. A sailmaker can add reef points.

It seems like a tiny jib would be useful for control, makes tacking by backing much easier but just releasing the jib reduces a lot of pressure.

There is a technique for jibing in big winds, but really mostly for racers.
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Old 29-11-2013, 19:35   #11
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Re: Where the wind comes sweeping down the plain…

Try this for interpreting wind forecasts: if a range is given, such as "10 to 20 knots," just add the two numbers together and expect winds of 30 with higher gusts. Simple, no?
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Old 29-11-2013, 19:42   #12
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Re: Where the wind comes sweeping down the plain…

Hey there fellow okie, nice weather huh? Best of luck to you on your adventure.
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Old 29-11-2013, 20:00   #13
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Re: Where the wind comes sweeping down the plain…

> Try this for interpreting wind forecasts: if a range is given, such as "10 to 20 knots,"

Except when the upper figure is below 10 knots. In that case you subtract one from the other and expect lulls of half that
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Old 29-11-2013, 20:46   #14
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Re: Where the wind comes sweeping down the plain…

Lake sailing can be more difficult than open ocean sailing at times, due to the changing winds caused by the topography of the shoreline.
Lake sailing requires sail adjustment much more often than in open water, and conditions change fast.

It is critical to watch the water surface in front of you. Look for ripples caused by gusting wind, so you can be ready for it before it it hits. Learn to read the water surface, - it will tell you the strength and direction of the wind.
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Old 29-11-2013, 21:13   #15
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Re: Where the wind comes sweeping down the plain…

Most sail lofts sell generic storm jibs for a reasonable price. Your boat is small enough that a fitted storm jib probably wont cost too much. Just send your type vessel, and or dimensions and you can get a quote. It will be hard to find a used storm jib since most boats your size never have one. A jib from a much smaller boat might be storm jib size for yours, but will be too light of a cloth. I may be wrong, but I dont think the price will shock you. GOOD SAILING. _____Grant.
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