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Old 30-08-2012, 05:40   #1
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Wind Speed And Wave Size. How Big Is Too Big?

For all the Skippers out there........ When you are planning a trip, how big does the sea forecast have to be before you call off or a least postpone your departure? Does the experience of your crew affect your decision? What other factors do you consider?
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Old 30-08-2012, 05:51   #2
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Re: Wind speed and wave size. How big is too big?

Hi, Sonja - the most important is the direction of the waves. From less than +/- 120 degrees - ugly. From more or less behind - much less ugly.

Second thing is whether the wind is in line. There are few things worse than a bad sea state and no wind in the sails...

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Old 30-08-2012, 05:58   #3
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Re: Wind speed and wave size. How big is too big?

SonjaD
It depends (sorry about that) not only on the height of the seas but the period -- the distance between crests. I would consider a 4-foot sea (1.25 meters) in deep water a calm sea since the waves will be far apart and my boat would ride them very easily maintaining speed and direction. In shallow water like the Chesapeake Bay a 4-foot seas is an entirekly different animal. The crests are very close together so a boat can't really ride the waves it just gets constantly hit and thrown about, even a heavy boat like mine -- even when being pushed by a 18-20kt breeze. Believe me its no fun at all. So while I've been out in what was reported as 10-ft seas in the ocean with no real difficulty I would not go out in 4-ft seas in the Chesapeake. Not that its dangerous but its very uncomfortable and probably hard on the steering mechanism. Any way the more violent the motion of the boat the more likely people are to get hurt
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Old 30-08-2012, 06:20   #4
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Re: Wind speed and wave size. How big is too big?

Up down up down up down...uh oh.....bluurrrk!

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Old 30-08-2012, 09:59   #5
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Re: Wind Speed And Wave Size. How Big Is Too Big?

Wind, sea state and crew are the major factors for me decided to leave or not.

As stated in the previous post, size is not an issue as much as intervals. A 12 foot wave at 15 seconds should be doable, but a 5 foot wave at 5 seconds would be a very uncomfortable ride.

No the worst senario is when wind and swell become opposing... Causing a washing machine effect and again a very uncomfortable ride.

Crew is also a huge consideration... Do you want to take cocktail drinkers out into the stink? Probably not, but a seasoned crew could do well.

I grew up sailing the San Francisco Bay and continued through my adult life, until I started fulltime cruising two years ago. Our normal summer days were 20-25 knots out of the west from Noon to about 1800 with wind waives up to 4 feet and less than 4 seconds apart. Some sailors in light wind areas would think that is crazy sailing with Small Craft Warnings, but thats what we SF Bay Sailors had to work with. You just learned to leave the marina with at least one reef in your sail!

The bottom line is your boat will take a hell of a lot more than your body will... There are no hard numbers to say "stay home". Only experince and instict can guide you.

Also don't ever let anyone talk you into something you not comfortable with or refuse to listen to that little voice in your head saying forget it.
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Old 30-08-2012, 10:30   #6
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Re: Wind Speed And Wave Size. How Big Is Too Big?

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Also don't ever let anyone talk you into something you not comfortable with or refuse to listen to that little voice in your head saying forget it.
Amen to that.
Or talk yourself into it to keep to a schedule.
When I taught a sailing course for beginners one of the points I made was that people have been injured and even died because they put to sea in questionable conditions in order to be in a certain place at a specified time.
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Old 30-08-2012, 10:47   #7
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Re: Wind Speed And Wave Size. How Big Is Too Big?

I've never been in a situation where the waves were too large. I have, however, been in situations where the boat was too small.
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Old 30-08-2012, 12:18   #8
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Re: Wind Speed And Wave Size. How Big Is Too Big?

I got myself into 40 mph winds and 30+mph winds recently. We hove to for about 36 hours. The boat did well. I slept 8 hours straight thru the worst weather. I do not want to do that again but we did not brake anything. we lost a little ground. Hopefully my weather skills will improve.
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Old 30-08-2012, 12:54   #9
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Re: Wind Speed And Wave Size. How Big Is Too Big?

It "depends", as others have posted, is of course the real world answer.

Wave Period. Wave "period" is really more significant than wave height. Large swells with a very long period can make for quite nice sailing. Short choppy seas (short period) can be quite unpleasant. Big seas with a short period are potentially life threatening.

Wave Direction. Relative direction of the seas makes a huge difference. Are those big seas coming from roughly behind you on your intended course -- no problem (within in reason of course). I've made the decision to take off in MAXIMUM sea height of 15 feet current conditions and forecast, but the wave period was reasonable and the route was down wind with waves. Getting out to sea was a bit sporty, but once we got on course, it was a easy ride. Going to windward in these conditions would have been very unpleasant. This was also a delivery with experienced crew, not cruising.

Other factors:

What's Forecast. So it's a little snotty today...what's forecast a few days from now...maybe we want to make tracks before it gets worse -- or find a hole to hide in.

Cruising vs. Delivery. If in cruising mode and its a little snotty out -- have another beer and check the forecast tomorrow. Delivery...suck it up cupcake.

Crew Comfort. Specifically, my GF's comfort! I don't mind a little nasty weather, but if she's miserable...then I'm not likely to be having a good time either.

Schedule. Does someone have a schedule? Like a flight to catch? Put out more rode immediately -- made even a second anchor. I refuse to chase air planes in sail boats. Lots of cruisers make bad weather window decisions because they believe they must meet a "schedule".
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Old 30-08-2012, 12:58   #10
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Re: Wind Speed And Wave Size. How Big Is Too Big?

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I refuse to chase air planes in sail boats.
That may be the smartest thing ever said on this forum.
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Old 30-08-2012, 13:13   #11
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Re: Wind Speed And Wave Size. How Big Is Too Big?

Yep; wind-power vs. jet-power can only end badly.......

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Old 30-08-2012, 15:05   #12
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Re: Wind Speed And Wave Size. How Big Is Too Big?

some of you are so scientific with your answer

if I feel that the trip is going to crappy enough to offset any fun I expect to have at the other end...........well it sounds like it is better to stay where I am, so I do!
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Old 30-08-2012, 16:14   #13
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Re: Wind Speed And Wave Size. How Big Is Too Big?

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Yep; wind-power vs. jet-power can only end badly.......
Holy crap!

Add another "thing to consider" to the list!
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Old 30-08-2012, 16:16   #14
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Re: Wind Speed And Wave Size. How Big Is Too Big?

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Originally Posted by Don Lucas View Post
...
if I feel that the trip is going to crappy enough to offset any fun I expect to have at the other end...........well it sounds like it is better to stay where I am, so I do!
Good criteria I think! After all this crusing stuff is supposed to be fun.
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Old 30-08-2012, 16:22   #15
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Re: Wind Speed And Wave Size. How Big Is Too Big?

I take into consideration many factors. Depends on where I'm going in relation to the wind and the seas, the wind, the overall weather picture, the crew, how well the boat is set up, etc. For example, I have daysailed out off of Newport when there were huge 20+ foot swells rolling in from a distant hurricane. It was like being on a roller coaster, but no real issues other than dodging the rollers getting back into Newport. On the other hand, beating directly into a 4-foot sea in the shallow Bahamas can really beat you up. In general my philosophy is to go with the flow. If the wind and seas are bad we might stay in harbor and do something else. I have gone so far with this as to leave in the middle of the night just to catch a flat spell after a long stretch of bad weather. It is almost never worth it to leave port in bad weather unless you want some character and skill building.
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