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Old 27-10-2014, 07:13   #1
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Storm techniques for a modern cruiser

Hello all,

I've been reading a lot about Storm techniques over the last few weeks, trying to get my brain up to date with what to do if things get nasty.

A lot of the info out there is for older, heaver, boats.

When you start talking about modern cruising yachts a lot of people seem to shrug and tell you that you shouldn't be out in an ocean in one.

Well as a lot of are out there I was wondering if anyone has any tips on what works and what doesn't when it comes to a modern boat.

I'm talking quite light weight, quite beamy.
My boat for example is a Hanse 385. What would work well for this? Heaving to? Running? Sea anchor out the front?

I know a lot depends on the sea state and every boat is different but are there some ideas out there of where to start if you ever get caught?

Also...

Why are all hatches on boats watertight (good) but the main companionway hatch isn't (bad)?

If the boat gets rolled a worry with beamy boats is that they might not roll back. Wouldn't it then sink? I've always wondered where the largest hole in the boat isn't watertight.

Regards,
Simon
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Old 27-10-2014, 07:40   #2
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Re: Storm techniques for a modern cruiser

A 360 roll is a rare ocurrence, make a real watertight door is expensive from the builders point of view.

The old techniques work well with new boats except maybe Hove to, light fin keelers tend to have some tough time to keep a nice hove to position in real weather, in your Hanse running off could be the best way to fight a storm if you have enough sea room , under bare poles or with a tiny crap of jib pole out, you bring a good question about be rolled in that beamy boats , i made myself the same question many times, i guess and i put my 2 cents that designers make the right calculations in paper , i never see a beamy new light boat in turtle position and i think there is a 0,000009% to be in that scenario, if you start to worry to much about that i guess you choose the wrong boat , getting caught in a gale is a normal ocurrence sooner or later , your boat can handle that and probably more...
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Old 27-10-2014, 08:40   #3
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Re: Storm techniques for a modern cruiser

Have you read Dashews' Surviving the Storm book? Its available as a free download. The title is kinda funky and the editing is pretty poor, but the content is really good and applicable to your question.
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Old 27-10-2014, 08:46   #4
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Re: Storm techniques for a modern cruiser

Can't really go wrong with a Jordan Series Drogue.

Jordan Series Drogue
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Old 27-10-2014, 09:07   #5
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Re: Storm techniques for a modern cruiser

Read the latest addition of Hal Roth's "Handling Storms at Sea". You won't find a better resource.
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Old 27-10-2014, 09:26   #6
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Re: Storm techniques for a modern cruiser

I'm surprised after a few hours discussion that no one has mentioned the bible of heavy weather sailing, "Alard Cole's Heavy Weather Sailing". Now in its sixth edition, there's not much left written by Cole, but it is a compilation of the best thinking on this subject. I've just started reading again, and it's got several chapters on boat design and adapting the guidance to lighter, modern racing boats.
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Old 27-10-2014, 09:43   #7
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Re: Storm techniques for a modern cruiser

Simon,
I'll throw in my 2 cents worth.
To begin with you can not hove to in your light weight fin keeler like a heavy displacement boat with a full keel creating a slick. You can however set up your boat in a similar fashion but instead of parking it you will be fore reaching very slowly, so not quite as effective but still works some what. No one can tell you how to do this because each boat is different, especially boats like yours. Normally you start with a little headsail backwinded, a deeply reefed main to center and the wheel hard over to weather but many boats are happy with no headsail and only a deep reef in the main. You have to sail it in at least 25 knots and practice to see how your boat lies. Usually the best you can get is to lie 50-60 degrees off the wind reaching very slowly to windward. We use this all the time, sometimes if its been rough we may decide to hove to just to make lunch and reduce the motion for an hour. Other times we do it to change a sail or other work that may involve time spent on the fore deck. This works well until you start getting larger breaking seas and then its time to run off and what I mean is no matter where you are going you simply sail downwind with a scrap of headsail or bare poles if its blowing hard enough. If the seas are large enough it may be necessary to hand steer to avoid the largest waves. When you are not able to keep control of the boat or you are simply too tired you need a passive system like the Jordan drogue that you can deploy and go below and wait it out. There is way more to this than a few paragraphs so others have given you some reading to do. You are right that if your boat was to roll it would be fairly stable upside down because of the beam and light ballast but the same waves that can turn you upside down can also right you. I would not loose a lot of sleep over this, boats do in fact get rolled but its a rare occurrence especially in the trade wind latitudes.
Being able to lock up your main hatch to the sea is always a proper idea and most boats can be modified with simple but effective systems to keep the hatch closed from the interior. Its good that these questions are on your mind as you should always have a plan for when the going gets tough BUT in my experience you will spend way more time in light air conditions trying to keep your boat moving. Have a great sail, we'll be out there with you.
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Old 27-10-2014, 09:48   #8
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Re: Storm techniques for a modern cruiser

Simon,

My experience is racing very light boats, sailing a heavy one (our own), and sailing for money on mostly biggish middle of the roads. So pick up whatever may suit you.

Here I will talk about heavy weather sailing. Not inshore gales, not odd gusts, but proper fully blown up weather systems with associated wave action, rain and the level of crew fatigue that develops before any mickey mouse system builds up to a real bad bastard.

As per your post:

a. A lot of the info out there is for older, heaver, boats.

> Your boat is quoted at 7.6 light ship, not much ballast % but if it is in the bulb, it is fine enough with me. Older boats were some lighter some heavier than yours.

b. When you start talking about modern cruising yachts a lot of people seem to shrug and tell you that you shouldn't be out in an ocean in one.

> Disregard them. Most boats plying oceans today are more or less like yours. Get ARC lists see for yourself.

c. Well as a lot of are out there I was wondering if anyone has any tips on what works and what doesn't when it comes to a modern boat.

> Many what you called modern boats do not lay hove too as well as some older designs did. They may tend to get blown off and expose their beam to the seas. This is, in my book, bad.

d. Heaving to? Running? Sea anchor out the front?

NO, YES, no.

But a sea anchor off the bow may be your last line of defense. If the boat gets damaged. Or if the crew gets completely exhausted. Carry a BIG ONE.

If you can't run, try slow beating in place of heaving to. (Remember I am talking real bad weather here). Third reef main and a blade storm jib, on an inner stay.

e. I know a lot depends on the sea state and every boat is different but are there some ideas out there of where to start if you ever get caught?

> Yes: 1) be wx aware, 2) keep the crew rested at all times, 3) start preparing before the system hits you, 3) decide on which technique will be used up first, and which will be used if things get even worse, 4) batten down, 5) watch the boat and the seas and act accordingly, 6) monitor crew condition and keep them rested at max (of what is possible given the conditions). Sleep and hot food are the essentials. As is your leadership and your cool.

> Get the HQ'est, strongest, smartest AP you can. Learn how to fine tune it.

Also...

d. Why are all hatches on boats watertight (good) but the main companionway hatch isn't (bad)?

> Because an idiot designer drew it and an idiot boat builder built it. Then an idiot salesperson sold it. If it looks not safe, rebuild it. 100% watertightness and 100% bombshellproofness are a must in heavy weather. Look at Mini, Class 40, IMOCA, Figaro etc. companionways. Try to get as close to their storm preparedness level as practicable.

e. If the boat gets rolled a worry with beamy boats is that they might not roll back. Wouldn't it then sink? I've always wondered where the largest hole in the boat isn't watertight.

A beamy boat with low cabin may remain inverted for time. Some narrow boats may return sooner. Yours has tall topsides, this is a plus if you get inverted. Your cabin top is low and small volume, this is a minus.

Generally they all do anyways, except for some odd / bad designs. If you hatches and ALL OTHER openings are not 100 watertight WHEN INVERTED, the interior will be flooded which makes return more difficult. And when she does return, you interior will be a wet, cold, dark horrible heart of darkness with cold water sloshing one foot or higher above the floors (you have no bilges like some older heavier boats). Most systems will be down. Electric bilge pumps may not work. Your mental state will be a great unknown. All you will want will be to get to the right button and then hopefully on to the helicopter. You can read all about this online.

So, in a word, try not to get inverted. Avoid being beam on to any large seas that may or will break.

My advice is then:

- when sea room available: RUN,
- if running too fast: tow a drogue,
- if no sea room: fore reach at tight angle,
- if damaged or completely exhausted, deploy a big sea anchor,
- you can use a blade jib and the motor to fore reach, as long as you have fuel.

I think close fore reaching at limited speed is safer than being hove to.

I think being hove to in real bad sea state is asking for trouble. The smaller and lighter the boat, the bigger the risk.

Prefer active approaches over passive ones. Bad things happen (more often) when we think 'she will take care of herself and her crew'. Most of the time, she does not. Planes too fly very poorly when the pilot lets the controls and turns in for a nap.

This is only my perspective and my experience is very limited. Listen to everybody who did sail in bad weather then make your own plan that fits your boat and your mental constitution.

Visualise and test-ride as much as you can. A winter storm in the Med is your sparring partner. Do not quote me on this one though.

Cheers,
b.
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Old 27-10-2014, 10:09   #9
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Re: Storm techniques for a modern cruiser

I'm with barnakiel word for word except that I think heaving to is something you should practice in your boat to see how well it performs. Every boat is different and you might be surprised as how well your does. We hove to on a race boat coming back from bermuda when we were exhausted and the sh!t hit the fan and was forecast to stay in the fan for awhile. We were surprised given the design of the boat how well it behaved hove to...it was the perfect solution given the sea state. The key is to experiment with the sail trim and rudder position on your boat-- sometimes just tweaking the rudder or the traveller makes all the difference in the world, and some boats when hove to essentially beat to weather at a moderate pace.

The benefit of heaving to is that it is a good intermediate step when conditions get really crappy. You can easily set the boat hove to, then analyze your situation, get some rest, and if necessary prepare the boat for worse. I agree that if conditions deteriorate to the point where you have heavily breaking seas it becomes unsafe in some if not most boats. Again, it's a matter of the attitude/balance of the boat with respect to the seas.

Regarding the companionway, at the very least you should modify it's components so that it can be secured from either side and then unlocked/opened from the OTHER side. Offshore racing OSR's require this. Depending on your boat, you can fabricate new hatch boards and a latch mechanism that meets this requirement and keep them stowed for heavy weather. Hatchboards instead of doors are preferable as you can leave one or two in place to keep the cabin from getting flooded if you take a wave into the cockpit.
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Old 27-10-2014, 11:08   #10
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Re: Storm techniques for a modern cruiser

Quote:
Originally Posted by John_Trusty View Post
I'm surprised after a few hours discussion that no one has mentioned the bible of heavy weather sailing, "Alard Cole's Heavy Weather Sailing". Now in its sixth edition, there's not much left written by Cole, but it is a compilation of the best thinking on this subject. I've just started reading again, and it's got several chapters on boat design and adapting the guidance to lighter, modern racing boats.
I've read that one as well. I think Hal's book is better.
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Old 27-10-2014, 11:20   #11
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Re: Storm techniques for a modern cruiser

Quote:
Originally Posted by barnakiel View Post
b. When you start talking about modern cruising yachts a lot of people seem to shrug and tell you that you shouldn't be out in an ocean in one.

> Disregard them. Most boats plying oceans today are more or less like yours. Get ARC lists see for yourself.
Apart from the rest of an excellent post...THIS^^^^^^^^^
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Old 27-10-2014, 11:39   #12
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Re: Storm techniques for a modern cruiser

Quote:
Originally Posted by John_Trusty View Post
I'm surprised after a few hours discussion that no one has mentioned the bible of heavy weather sailing, "Alard Cole's Heavy Weather Sailing". Now in its sixth edition, there's not much left written by Cole, but it is a compilation of the best thinking on this subject. I've just started reading again, and it's got several chapters on boat design and adapting the guidance to lighter, modern racing boats.
The OP said he was not looking for info on
Quote:
A lot of the info out there is for older, heaver, boats.
. The Coles books are classics and I've enjoyed some of the earlier versions, but there isn't much on newer design boats.
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Old 27-10-2014, 12:13   #13
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Re: Storm techniques for a modern cruiser

Good discussion
A couple of thoughts- make sure the hatch cannot become locked from where you are not. I read about someone who aborted a planned solo circumnav after 2 days at sea when they got locked out of the cabin. OUCH!

Also, consider the forces in going inverted. If you are below and go across the cabin, it will be like falling off a first floor roof. Injury is more likely than not- busted ribs, wrist/elbow fractures, dislocated shoulders, all these are somewhat manageable, but lower extremity fractures also occur and are incapacitating. Not to mention head injuries... I broke my big toe when pitched over the leecloth in a knockdown. That SOB hurt like heck for a few days and limited my mobility as well as causing an unexpected and significant deterioration of my attitude.
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Old 27-10-2014, 13:54   #14
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Re: Storm techniques for a modern cruiser

Iv'e read Alard Coles and all those other old storm books and I don't think they have a great deal of relevance for todays boats and technology. Some books, the say, have been updated, but most are born well before Jordan series drogue, proper Parachute sea anchors, and Deadliest Catch. Deadliest Catch!!! Yes, one of the owners of those alaskan crab boats used to be on this forum because in the other season he would cruise warm waters i his sailing boat... His knowledge was in storms with trawlers and "jogging" to windward at 45 off the wind and very low revs just keeping steerage going over the waves... Its quite similar to our forereaching.
We can use that when heaving to on a boat that doesnt like heaving to. Mine will but a bit far off the wind for my liking. But if you have the engine ticking over then its fine.

If you sal in the right season the storms should last that long that you can not weather it in idle.

Its just a modern technique for a modern boat
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Old 27-10-2014, 14:33   #15
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Re: Storm techniques for a modern cruiser

Quote:
Originally Posted by Suijin View Post
I'm with barnakiel word for word except that I think heaving to is something you should practice in your boat to see how well it performs. Every boat is different and you might be surprised as how well your does. We hove to on a race boat coming back from bermuda when we were exhausted and the sh!t hit the fan and was forecast to stay in the fan for awhile. We were surprised given the design of the boat how well it behaved hove to...it was the perfect solution given the sea state. The key is to experiment with the sail trim and rudder position on your boat-- sometimes just tweaking the rudder or the traveller makes all the difference in the world, and some boats when hove to essentially beat to weather at a moderate pace.

The benefit of heaving to is that it is a good intermediate step when conditions get really crappy. You can easily set the boat hove to, then analyze your situation, get some rest, and if necessary prepare the boat for worse. I agree that if conditions deteriorate to the point where you have heavily breaking seas it becomes unsafe in some if not most boats. Again, it's a matter of the attitude/balance of the boat with respect to the seas.

Regarding the companionway, at the very least you should modify it's components so that it can be secured from either side and then unlocked/opened from the OTHER side. Offshore racing OSR's require this. Depending on your boat, you can fabricate new hatch boards and a latch mechanism that meets this requirement and keep them stowed for heavy weather. Hatchboards instead of doors are preferable as you can leave one or two in place to keep the cabin from getting flooded if you take a wave into the cockpit.
I'm with Barnakiel word for word too, and with these qualifications word for word!!! All very good advice!

I think thinking about storm tactics has evolved a lot since Adlard Coles (although I treasure his book and reread it from time to time).

And I think Barny has just about nailed it.

It's important to keep all this in perspective -- few cruisers will ever need any real storm tactics, as they are required only by a major storm system which takes a lot of time to develop. There's hardly any excuse to be caught in a major storm unless you are days away from port, and even then it would be rare if you are minimally aware of the weather. So I guess every cruiser should understand storm tactics, but they will be practically needed only by those who cross oceans, or who take ridiculous risks like crossing Biscay without a proper weather window.

I'm with Suijin about the great value of heaving to. I would not use it as primary storm tactic as I prefer active tactics, but there are many, many cases where you need it. I needed it last time crossing the Baltic from Sweden to Gotland upwind in a F7 (which in the Baltic produces a vicious sea state), when a davit broke. I immediately hove to in order to make an emergency repair, and it worked beautifully. The sea state was such that you wouldn't even get out of the cockpit while underway, but hove to we were able to move around on deck without drama and rig up some supports for the dinghy.

I disagree with the poster above that modern boats can't heave to. I've never sailed a boat I couldn't get to heave to. And my boat, with a bulb keel and modern underbody, heaves to beautifully. Every boat does it differently, and you just have to experiment until you find what your boat needs.

I agree with Barny that running off should be most people's primary storm tactic, and I am convinced that the Jordan Series Drogue is the ultimate tool for the job. I don't have one (so far), because where I sail I'm never more than a couple of days from a port. My boat, like most modern boats, is very stable going downwind, and I have never felt the need for a drogue even in the pretty rough conditions I sail in sometimes. I did a passage in a F10 once, downwind from West Harbour to Poole, under a scrap of yankee, with boatspeed hardly falling below 10 knots the whole way. First year I had this boat. I have a video of it. Despite the huge waves, it was not scary at all -- it was even fun. Autopilot coped fine with it and we listened to Mahler in the cockpit.

Which is a long way of saying that Barny is right -- if you have sea room to run off, you will rarely need any other tactic. The limitation with this tactic is when the waves get to be so big that you surf out of control down the front faces of them, which creates the risk of broaching, or of plunging the bow into the back of the next wave, causing a (shudder) pitchpole. That's when you need the drogue to slow you down (or trail warps, which is what I would since I don't have the Jordan drogue). But this takes a really huge storm -- far greater than anything I've ever seen, and I've seen a lot.

If you don't have sea room, then you've got a problem, and might need to forereach or heave-to. But how could you end up in a major storm without sea room? It would take a real colossal mistake, I think, or a total lapse in weather awareness.

I am in the camp that thinks that parachute sea anchors are of limited value. That's because if you are facing bows-to into the weather, your bow will be constantly blowing off or being knocked off by the waves, which is dangerous, as you can be rolled if you end up beam-to breaking waves. You are much more stable being held by the stern, and your stern has more buoyancy than the bow does, so will rise up over waves better. I know it is somewhat counterintuitive, but I think most people will agree if they think about it. The most stable position you can be in in really wild weather is headed downwind, stabilized by the stern by trailing warps or a drogue of some kind.
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