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Old 23-10-2009, 13:41   #16
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North of NZ's North Cape - June 78, just found this in the old files

I had just got back from the Noumea race, was unemployed (sacked from Lidgard Rudling), and wanted to get across to Oz to visit a certain young lady. I met this guy who had just bought a Pacific 38, his first boat, knew next to nothing. There was one other on board who had experience (ex crew from Buccaneer), so I offered to sail up and do the nav if he would fly me to Sydney after.
At the time I was sure I knew everything as I had done a few ocean passages by then ( I was 22).
First few days were OK then it went NE and got up to about 40-45 with higher gusts. The boat handled that no problems, no sail and we all went below to wait it out. A few hours later a wall of water hit us and we were upside down and back up before you even had time to think about it.
As it happens a secondary front had gone over us with a ninety degree wind shift and much higher wind speed. As it was way more than I had seen at the time I’m reluctant to guess at wind speed but at the Cape they reported a max gust of 104kn, I would say we had consistent 70’s with gusts. The real problem was the effect the wind shift had on the sea state, two large wave sets at right angles throwing pyramids of water that would collapse under their own weight, I’m fairly sure it was one of these that hit us.
After we came up though I still hadn’t clicked that conditions were much worse, so looking at the mess below I offered to go run off and steer while the others cleaned up. My first inkling of real trouble was when I pulled the hatch back, the air going past sucked pressure out of the cabin and my ears popped as in a plane.
I turned her downwind and this heavy old displacement boat took off at about 17kn under bare poles, got to the trough and spun out into a ninety degree knockdown. That was pretty much the story for the next few hours. The rudder would let go when a breaking wave with 5-6 feet of foam got under her and the rudder had no bite. The air/sea interface was very indistinct and at times it felt almost as if we were sinking, with so much air in the water we were down almost to the toerail.
Anyway, after a while the other guy came on deck, we had a quick parley and decided to slow her down. He tied a bucket to a line and tossed it over- it lasted 1.2 nanoseconds. After some trial and error we ended with the #2 genoa and an anchor and chain out the back and things improved considerably. Enough that after watching for maybe half an hour I went below (also the seas were adjusting to the new wind direction).
Down below was a sh!tfight. The stove/oven had jumped the gimbals when we were upside down and was banging around inside the boat. We threw it overboard. The owner had been in a pilot berth, rolled across the overhead and fell on his back across the table as we righted, he was passing blood for a few days. The water was about knee deep and littered with eggs, flour, all sorts of unidentifiable stuff and my nav tables. Most had to be got rid of by hand as it was too thick for the bilge pumps.
By morning it had eased to about 35kn (seemed like a flat calm) and we very carefully started sailing back to Russell, arriving two days later.
The pri*ck never covered my airfare to Sydney saying I hadn’t got his boat to Fiji. And he stole my favourite beanie.
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Old 23-10-2009, 15:09   #17
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^ Great story. Not going to tell my wife that one :-)
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Old 24-10-2009, 10:04   #18
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Wow! What kind of boat were you in?
Vagabond 42 cutter rig. both times under double-reefed main and staysail for the duration.

To tell the truth the Indian Ocean crossing was boring after the first couple of days. By then it was apparent that the auto pilot could handle the steering, and we just closed up and went below.

Played a lot of cards and read a lot of books. nothing else to do.

The weather was bad enough that when we stopped in Deigo Garcia they missed seeing us on approach and the harbor master told us on VHF that we were somewhere else. He said "We know everything that moves within a hundred miles of this rock, and you are not where you think you are". We responded with "We are talking to you on line-of-sight VHF radio and I am looking down the mouth of the harbor at you. Where the hell do you think I am?"

At this point the Navy jets buzzed the boat and the harbormaster politely granted us access to the lagoon.
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Old 24-10-2009, 11:07   #19
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Off Cape Hatteras, late Oct back sometime in the seventies. Signed on to crew a delivery of a 90' steel commercial fishing boat from TX to MA. Boat wasn't ready so we got a late start and got hammered by a nor'easter going around Hatteras. No idea of the wind speed but we had green water breaking over the top of the cabin house that I figured was at least 30' over the water.

It got really exciting when we lost the port flopper stopper (delta wing shaped stabilizer). If you remember the scene in The Perfect Storm that is what happened to us (except we were not crazy enough to climb out on the outrigger like George Clooney). Attached the replacement on the end of the chain and dropped it over the side. But the boat was rolling so much that this 150 lb steel hammer was pulling up out of the water when the boat rolled and started swinging back and forth on the end of the chain in a giant arc. Every roll to stbd it would smash into the side of boat and make it ring like a bell. Since we had to be out there to get more line out it required a bit of ducking every so often to make sure you head stayed attached to the rest of your body. In retrospect the capt should have let out slack in the line before deploying the stabilizer but it was pretty easy to see that after the fact.
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Old 24-10-2009, 12:28   #20
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Late December 1967, Bay of Biscay southbound from Dublin to La Coruna in a 12 m custom steel ketch. I was 17 years old and a novice. There were three of us on board, only one with any experience. Main blew out, mizzen blew out, storm jib blew out, engine failed. Measured gusts of 60+ knots before the wind vane blew off the mast. Mountains of water collapsed on the boat and tried to drive her under. The journey took nearly 3 weeks to complete, but should have taken only 5 or 6 days, max. Although I was terrified for every minute of, I never wanted to turn back nor wished I hadn't come....
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Old 25-10-2009, 18:57   #21
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North of NZ's North Cape - June 78, just found this in the old files ....


The pri*ck never covered my airfare to Sydney saying I hadn’t got his boat to Fiji. And he stole my favourite beanie.

Great story. Sorry about the beanie.
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Old 28-10-2009, 11:37   #22
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Off the Virginia Capes (Hatteras and Charles), summer, in an Allied Seawind 30, in a Nor'easter.
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Old 28-10-2009, 12:06   #23
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It was in San Pedro Channel with Catalina Island laying a lee shore. Concerned I went to the nav station to check the barometer 29.9" and holding steady. Scanning the horizon between the West End and Santa Monica Bay I saw high wispy clouds blowing out of the NW with a 3' swell from the same direction. I couldn't belive my eyes. Jumping down below I checked the tempature, 78 degrees and 70% humidity. Now I was really concerned and raced back to the helm. I checked the wind speed and was amazed to see it was 12 knts with gusts to 18. In preperation for the worst, I shook out my single reef on the main, hardened up the jib, felt the boat heel to 10 degrees. I puit my Challenger 32 on auto-pilot with a heading of 205. Now I knew I was in trouble, with nothing but worry for the admiral and the boat, I checked the cooler and saw that we only had enough ice for one more round of bloody mary's. That was soon consumed.

After arriving at Two Harbors and successfully splitting the channel between Bird and Ship Rock, we tucked into the west side for our mooring. Later that night we regailed each other with high sprited stories of our narrow escape from Los Angeles over drinks and dinner at the bar.
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Old 28-10-2009, 12:16   #24
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Luckily it was in Kansas however I did go through it on foot. (see pic)

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Old 28-10-2009, 14:37   #25
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We’ve been quite pleased to not (yet) encounter any major storms at sea in sailing from Portugal to Panama. A number of the circumnavigators we met said they had not encountered winds over 40 kt on passages. However, if we ever decide to sail Cheshire back to the Pac NW, I know to expect nasty weather especially on the initial leg from NZ to Tahiti.

The stretch of water between the ABC’s and Cartagena/Columbia is a compression zone for both wind and waves. Several people we spoke to said they encountered the worst weather of their circumnavigation here. We hung out in Curacao and listened in to Herb, waiting for a break in the trades before making a relatively easy trip to the San Blas.

I note that several of the stories in this thread are from a while back. I think that the weather products available to us as sailors, even with a basic sailmail setup, offer much more insight into weather than had used to be the case. There is still something of an art to learn the patterns for each area you are in, to gain a sense of what the ‘risk boundaries’ are for the forecasts and thus what is an acceptable window. For example, a high brewing in Australia that is forecast to exceed 1030 will likely produce a “squash zone” wind differential on its boundaries (especially the eastern side) with winds over 30 knots. We wouldn’t leave on passage for New Zealand with this scenario.

On the flip side, the worst weather we’ve encountered has been here in Whangarei, tied to a pontoon that was at risk of coming free and crushing our boat in 70 kt easterlies boosted by a extraordinary tide. The next worst were the squalls in Fiji and Vanuatu, especially in the dark with changing wind direction, and at risk of dragging onto coral less than 100m away. The new grib viewer in sailmail allowed us to see these coming with much greater accuracy in 2008, and decide whether to shift anchorages, reposition the anchor, or stand anchor watch.

Cheers!
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Old 29-10-2009, 13:31   #26
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The Worst Storm I Ever Encountered At Sea Wasn’t…

It was in San Francisco Bay—at Ayala Cove on Angel Island—over the Thanksgiving Weekend of 1977.

At the time I was with friends aboard a 1963 Rhodes Reliant that we had taken to the Island the evening before Thanksgiving for a Holiday Raft-up with friends from the San Rafael Yacht Club. Upon our arrival we picked up a mooring but, as it was quite late and the weather calm, we simply passed a line through the iron eye on the top of the mooring ball and brought it back to the bow—and then eased out enough to do the same with a stern line to a mooring ball behind us, leaving the yacht facing outward, to the northeast.

Thanksgiving morning our friends arrived in their flush decked Cal-25 and rafted along side us as did another couple in an Erickson 27 that could not find a mooring. In the hubbub of the morning, and with the unusually calm weather, we forgot to go back and double loop the bow-line through the bow mooring buoy eye (bad mistake). The Day was lovely and the smells of Turkey, mulled cider and hot mice pie were soon wafting out the companionway. Everyone had more than their fill and all agreed it was one of the best Thanksgiving Dinners ever.

Friday AM dawned somewhat foggy and calm again and tho’ we had planned to take the “big boat” sailing after breakfast, all agreed that the Cal 25 would be a better choice in the light air so 5 of us set off in that to circle the Island. We slowly motored out of the Cove and caught the flood through Raccoon Straight that carried us up to Campbell Point and allowed us to sail into China Cove where we anchored for a late lunch. After fooling around there for awhile we finally resumed our trek, albeit v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y. By about 4:30 we finally rounded Blunt Point and began our run to Stuart Point and back into Raccoon Straight. With the approach to Stuart Point, however, our progress slowed dramatically as we were, then, sailing into the ebb tide rushing for the Gate.

Shortly after finally passing the Point in fading day-light I looked up to the northeast and saw a dark wind-line rushing toward us from northeast of Bluff Point. Sue, the lady that owned the Cal, and I were the only ones with any real sailing experience and when I called her attention to the sight, she quickly ordered her other guests below, threw me a handful of sail ties and cast-off the jib halyard from the cabin-top cleat while I scuttled forward to haul down the sail and tie it up in a bundle to the bow pulpit. While I was doing that she tilted her outboard into the water and started it up in the rising, cold, cold wind. Within seconds of making it back to the cockpit the wind hit and slammed us over sideways to port where we scooped a good load of water over the combings. The yacht rounded up and righted herself violently enough that most of it was thrown back out, over the starboard combing, although we were both thoroughly drenched. With only one reef point we could not reduce the sail enough for the conditions-tho’ I cannot say how strong the wind was as we had only a windex. Knowing that the big boat was exposed to the conditions with only the single bow line, we had to make it back to Ayala Cove and so began short tacking up the edge of Raccoon Straight, staying as close to the island as possible, trying for what cover we could in the lee of Lone Point. We tacked inshore until the fathometer began beeping its warnings and then tacked back off until the wind and waves put our port coming back under with our three involuntary passengers bouncing around below-deck, scared witless.

After what seemed forever—and many dousings in sea-water—we finally rounded Lone Point—hoping for relief in a wind shadow in front of the bluffs. We did find some relief from the wind, but also found huge waves that were crashing against the shale-shingle beach and reflecting back into the Cove. One of these caught our bow and shoved us over to starboard, causing the main to jibe. It did not crash across the cockpit however. Instead, in the violence of the jibe, I lost my grip on the sheet and as it ran out, the boom lifted (no vang in those daze) and smacked into the back-stay where it hung up when the gate of a carabineer used on the outhaul was shoved open—hanging the boom on the stay. Sue managed to get the yacht’s head back around into the wind—with the sail luffing and flogging like crazy—and I managed to get the carabineer freed by standing in the cupped hands of one of our—hefty—but inexperienced below decks crew and hanging onto the back-stay with one hand. How we actually got the sail freed I really don’t know, but we did. At that point we hauled the sail down and managed to make it to the mid-ships of the big-boat, which we found stern-to-weather and plunging in the on-coming waves with the bow only a few feet from the rail of a trawler moored cross-wise to the wind to leeward of us. (Our forgotten single bow-line though the eye on the mooring ball had chaffed through shortly after the storm began which allowed the yacht to swing around, stern to weather and our visiting Erickson 27 cut his lines and made for safety on the lee side of the Island.)

Unfortunately, there was no way we could extricate ourselves from our position under the conditions and no way the yacht could survive the night on the single stern-line which was quickly, visibly, chaffing though without enough length to allow adjustment. Accordingly, Mr. Hefty and I loaded as much line as we had in the anchor locker into the yacht’s El Toro dinghy—secured one end to the stern of the yacht, and somehow managed to row out to the next line of mooring buoys to seaward where we passed that line through a mooring eye—twice—and then let the wind blow us back down wind, hanging onto the outward length of the line to ensure we ended up back at the boat and not on the beach. That line we led through a snatch block and to a sheet winch, which allowed us to crank ourselves away from the trawler. The rest of the night was spent feeding out a few feet of slack and cranking in on the sheet winch every 20 minutes or so.

With the dawn we discovered a badly mangled bow-pulpit which we later learned had bashed the side of the trawler during our absence—severely injuring the wife of the owner when she tried to fend off. (Her husband, children and mother-in-law were ashore when the storm hit and could not make it back to the Trawler in their inflatable. Fortunately, the Trawler was fitted with a VHF and she reached the Coast Guard who evacuated her to Tiburon while we were fighting our way up Raccoon Straight.) The storm finally abated enough to allow us to escape the Cove the next morning although that too was a trial. I don’t think the ship’s engine ever worked as hard, before or since, particularly as we were still dragging the Cal 25 along, at least until we reached the Straight where Sue and company cast off and ran down-wind to safety in Richardson Bay as we motor-sailed back to the San Rafael Canal.

Since then we have experienced some terrific winds and seas, including a full gale in the Catalina Channel, but I do not think anything since has been as frightening as our experience in Ayala Cove that night, before the days of advance detailed weather with the turn of a dial...

FWIW...
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Old 30-10-2009, 04:33   #27
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So just before any person reading this thread craps themselves with fear that the next time their boat leave port for a '3 hour trip'...

I just did a quick survey in this thread.
The listed years of the storms are: 1967 1978 1981 1979 1977

So the bad ones are not all that common! If we sail with a good eye on the forecast and a good look out the window, sail in the right area in the right season, navigate to avoid cells etc, the chance of hitting a bad one is pretty slim.

We were talking about storms over a beer the other night and some cruisers have done 15 years cruising with NO bad storms! A bit of a blow here and there, but no bad ones! I thought that was remarkable, but quite a few have had a whole bunch of good time.

Use your noggin and keep safe



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Old 30-10-2009, 10:48   #28
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So just before any person reading this thread craps themselves with fear that the next time their boat leave port for a '3 hour trip'...

I just did a quick survey in this thread.
The listed years of the storms are: 1967 1978 1981 1979 1977

So the bad ones are not all that common! If we sail with a good eye on the forecast and a good look out the window, sail in the right area in the right season, navigate to avoid cells etc, the chance of hitting a bad one is pretty slim.

We were talking about storms over a beer the other night and some cruisers have done 15 years cruising with NO bad storms! A bit of a blow here and there, but no bad ones! I thought that was remarkable, but quite a few have had a whole bunch of good time.

Use your noggin and keep safe



Mark

Exactly right. The risk of storms at sea is frequently overblown (pun intended). The only time I ever got hammered was when were out at a time of year that we knew the risk was higher but had a delivery to do and went anyway. Other than that, 15 years of good weather with a bit of a blow once in a while.
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Old 30-10-2009, 11:34   #29
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What was it the captain of the Titanic said when asked about his life at sea...something like "uneventful?"
Our situation could have been avoided if we were smarter.
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Old 31-10-2009, 20:03   #30
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Pacific, 137W, 23S, June. 64+. Can't say how much + because our anemo is only scaled to 64.

Tonga to NZ, mast in the water, broken spreader and damage aplenty (worst - to skipper's self esteem ;-). Not much wind but very bad seas.
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