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Old 22-08-2016, 08:47   #16
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Survived Lake Ontario Storm

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Originally Posted by 30yearslater View Post
I can answer this one. A great deal depends on the particular storm. Generally speaking they can range from 30 Knots up to 60. Some can go even higher but are very rare. In this instance the nearest shore based weather was reporting 39 knots. As Dangerfield offered the wind shifted from South to East in less than a minute as the downdraft hit. I attempt to be conservative when I say 45 knots was a probable wind speed. The plus is they do come fast and pass fast in the 15 to 30 minute range.

Thanks for the info. I was thinking 60+ by the way people are talking.

Most cruising boats are configured with reefing sufficient to handle sailing for hours if not days in 30 to 45 kts of wind. Sure a day sailer is not necessarily going to be so rigged and may have to modify the sail to get the proper reef in.

While it seems instinctive for people to do so these days, striking sail and relying on an engine is the opposite of prudence. Keeping up a bit of sail is hugely beneficial allowing a safer and more comfortable ride. Think about heaving to in a storm 60+kts of wind--even this requires a bit of sail up.

Sailboats are amazingly capable in a wide range of conditions.


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Old 22-08-2016, 09:13   #17
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Re: Survived Lake Ontario Storm

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Thanks Mike. I had hoped never to be able to make that post. I would say stay put up there. They are calling for water spouts today and tomorrow along with more severe thunderstorms. I am just glad I can laugh about it now.
You did well and you did the right things. There's no old and bold sailors.
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Old 22-08-2016, 09:17   #18
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Re: Survived Lake Ontario Storm

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Originally Posted by 30yearslater View Post
I can answer this one. A great deal depends on the particular storm. Generally speaking they can range from 30 Knots up to 60. Some can go even higher but are very rare. In this instance the nearest shore based weather was reporting 39 knots. As Dangerfield offered the wind shifted from South to East in less than a minute as the downdraft hit. I attempt to be conservative when I say 45 knots was a probable wind speed. The plus is they do come fast and pass fast in the 15 to 30 minute range.
I was in a big race in 2010 when three came through: high 40s, high 50s and the last one hit 68 knots. Sailmaker's paradise and I've never had that high on the Atlantic (max, about 45 knots): The world encompassed: Squall aboard at the Lake Ontario 300 race
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Old 22-08-2016, 09:24   #19
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Re: Survived Lake Ontario Storm

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Originally Posted by Schooner Chandlery View Post
Thanks for the info. I was thinking 60+ by the way people are talking.

Most cruising boats are configured with reefing sufficient to handle sailing for hours if not days in 30 to 45 kts of wind. Sure a day sailer is not necessarily going to be so rigged and may have to modify the sail to get the proper reef in.

While it seems instinctive for people to do so these days, striking sail and relying on an engine is the opposite of prudence. Keeping up a bit of sail is hugely beneficial allowing a safer and more comfortable ride. Think about heaving to in a storm 60+kts of wind--even this requires a bit of sail up.

Sailboats are amazingly capable in a wide range of conditions.
Yes, crew, however, less so. We are not informed of the seamanship of those aboard, whether some were kids, whether tethers were available, and so on. All would play a role in the decision to motor into the squall. Another factor that's a big deal on the Great Lakes is the rapid development of steep, short-period waves that can really throw the boat around. If we are talking a rapid, "typical" squall, these can pass in literally minutes and the seas decay shortly thereafter. Basically, what is prudent is what keeps boat and crew undamaged. I would put out a storm jib, personally, but I would keep the engine in neutral, watching for signs of overheating if my roll was severe enough to endanger the oil circulation. But that's me. Few, save those who sail on them, grasp how nasty the Great Lakes can be in summer and how necessary it is to have a game plan if you are caught out in a "pop up" storm. The upside is that you rarely see terrible weather for long, but me, I prefer the long swells of the ocean!
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Old 22-08-2016, 09:26   #20
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Re: Survived Lake Ontario Storm

Here's my adventure story from the same front (different squall) Kick*** T-Storm, Sodus Bluffs, Lake Ontario - Cruisers & Sailing Forums


You did pretty good. Typically for lake storms I try to punch through as fast as possible, even if that means changing course. The storms were moving in a NE direction, which would mean heading SW. However, these frontal storms often train in long groups, so if I could see clear air I'd have headed NW. By falling off a bit you can actually get speed; I've hit over 5.5knots under bare poles.

It is not uncommon for these fronts to have LOCALIZED winds over 50 knots. That puts a serious strain on the rig if there is any sail up. Even a double reefed main, unless totally secured, will bag and add huge windage. I think you did the right thing.

The big danger is lightning. I was hit once, which smoked a lot of electronics. But I've also seen boats sent straight to the bottom, and seen them on fire. Your boat can take one hell of a beating, more than you'd know- but losing the rig and lightning can finish it off quick. That's why I say punch through ASAP. If you run with it, you stay with it- bad idea. If you heave to, you'd better have the right size sails up- and be prepared for damage.
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Old 22-08-2016, 09:30   #21
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Re: Survived Lake Ontario Storm

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You did well and you did the right things. There's no old and bold sailors.

I agree the OP did well with his boat -- one with sails which cannot be reefed.

The next thing for the OP if he will continue to sail at risk of similar conditions is to get a deep reef sewn into his mainsail. It is not a bold move to keep a bit of sail up-- it is a prudent one to enable the safest operation of the vessel.


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Old 22-08-2016, 10:05   #22
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Re: Survived Lake Ontario Storm

Sorry gentleman. The correct answer in that situations is exactly what was done. You can easily get pinned with the danger of people falling into the water. Although a 27 foot ODAY may not have a rolller furling jib- 90% of everyone else does so can easliy put up some sail if the situation calls for it. THe waves will quickly build but but not anywhere near that the engine is threatened by lack of lubrication. Drogues ect are great for the ocean in storm but not in the Great Lakes where it will moderate in 30-40 minutes to just less than 18 knots.
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Old 22-08-2016, 10:13   #23
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Re: Survived Lake Ontario Storm

One more perspective.
I have been sailing on the great lakes for close to 50 years, lots of racing and cruising. 15 plus Crewed Chi-Mac races, 8 Solo Chi to Mac races, 40,000 plus NM, lots of storms, both where I had to sail and when I had the option to motor. For me, if I am not in a race, and I see a heavy front coming, I take the sails down and motor. I have never had a motor fail me, but if I did, I would then put up some sail. Frequently, unrolling a little genoa is enough to give you control and no one has to leave the cockpit. Hoisting the main can be difficult if you are off the wind, and the boon swinging can be very dangerous.

The fronts pass quickly, the winds can be well over 50knots when you have a wall cloud front, and they move from 5 knots to 50+ in 3 seconds. It is not like an Ocean front. They also can have huge wind shifts and generally, making sailing through them a pain. For me, I would rather motor slowly in control than be fighting the sails as well, if I have a choice.

Just one more perspective.
Hope it is useful.
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Old 22-08-2016, 10:14   #24
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Re: Survived Lake Ontario Storm

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I want to say thank you to all who contribute to these forums with their experiences in storms. It was your willingness to share your experiences that prepared me for the worst storm I have ever encountered in a small vessel. I had hoped never to be able to share what I did to survive. Since it happened I guess it is my turn. On 20 August 2016 we checked multiple weather services for marine forecasts both from Canada and the U.S. Thunderstorms were forecast for the morning of 21 August with the general weather looking quite pleasant 10-15 knots southerly through the afternoon and evening. The trip from Cobourg, Ontario to Point Breeze, New York should be a pleasant sail. At midlake the sky to the south began to blacken with extreme vertical development of clouds. As it seemed to be moving closer I lowered all sails and lashed them extra securely. I started the engine and put the iron wind in gear. I ordered everyone into life jackets and prepare for some discomfort. Making 4 knots with all hatches and port lights secured the temperature dropped and the wind began to build. Heading the boat into the wind and increasing the throttle the wind continued to build. Spray and rain were stinging my face and the waves built to the point of green water and spray were coming over the bow. All I could do was hold the boat into the wind and waves maintaining steerage and peeking at the waves. I had my son call out heading and speed to keep from pounding. The wind built to over 45 knots and was shrieking through the rigging. The boat rode well and the wind and waves were sufficient to halt almost all progress. 1.5 knots was the forward progress against the tempest. Knowing that this would pass was little comfort during the 15 minutes or so of the storm's full fury. As the wind abated I realized the worst was over and we would survive. The only remaining challenge was now quarter the waves off the bow to resume progress toward home. Lessons learned. When in doubt prepare for the worst. Forget destination or timelines and remain focused on the task at hand. For comfort remember if it comes on fast it will pass fast. Again thanks to all for sharing their experiences. It makes a difference.
Made that trip a month ago, when conditions turned bad. The first day, we headed out with friends, and after getting beat up for awhile, (large waves from south, wind from SW) we headed back to Cobourg (5 miles) as did several LO300 racers. We left the next day in 20 knots and had a great ride.

Every boat I have sailed, is capable of sailing out of more than it can power out of.

For squalls, fore reaching with reduced sails about 45 degrees to waves is usually best. You get through the squall faster. If you can't reduce sail far enough or fast enough (with a balanced boat) turn and run. You'll be in it a little longer but the apparent wind will be reduced.

A sail, powered up, will help the boat to ride the waves much better.

I simply will not be caught on Lake Ontario without a sail up, unless it looks like glass. Getting caught in 40 knots is little concern for an experienced skipper with a double reef and deeply furled foresail. We sailed from Oswego to Henderson in 30+ knots on a beam reach on that same cruise and loved it (single reef and half a 155% out).

But not to take away from your experience. You sailed in 40 knots and everyone is fine. You should be proud. You are in the 1% who have ever done this. Practice reefing and heaving to, (including under reduced sail) in increasing conditions. In the future, when you have worked your way up to 40 knots (and perhaps beyond), you'll find handling the vessel comfortable and no major concern. (It's good to keep on your toes in higher winds, but it won't be scarey.)
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Old 22-08-2016, 11:24   #25
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Re: Survived Lake Ontario Storm

I have sailed Lake Ontario for forty years . It is one of the hardest places to forcast winds . I have seen the worst storms of my life on the lakes . They are just big enough to create there on weather systems . Just take a daily look at the wind maps and you will always see something totally different going on in the middle of these lakes . So be careful and prepared . One good thing , if you don't like the wind and weather right now , just wait a minute , it will change. 😜

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Old 22-08-2016, 11:26   #26
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Re: Survived Lake Ontario Storm

Thanks tetepare. That was indeed one of the monsters rocking through. Saw the one with lightning to the east and hoped it would miss me. Caught the edge of that one. The wave interval was about 30 feet which made the task of not pounding even tougher. My immediate concern beyond the engine quitting was losing rudder control as we were pitching at the top of each crest. Damn waves were breaking and close. Steep is an understatement. Again thanks and glad you faired well.
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Old 22-08-2016, 11:53   #27
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Re: Survived Lake Ontario Storm

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You did well and you did the right things. There's no old and bold sailors.
Fully agree. And nothing I've said is meant to imply the OP should have done things differently. We all do the best we can with the situation we're given, the boat we have, and the skills of the crew. Any squall that you can talk about later is one where you did things right.

The great thing about sailing is that it's a never-ending learning experience. You can always get better. I'm far, far from a great sailor, but I keep learning. Maybe by the time I'm dead I'll be good .
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Old 22-08-2016, 12:46   #28
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Re: Survived Lake Ontario Storm

"engine quitting" has been mentioned several times.

The most likely source of a suddenly stopped inboard in weather like this is garbage on the bottom of the fuel tank being stirred up and clogging the fuel filter. Keep your fuel clean, and take the boat out now and then in rough (safe) water to stir things up. Check fuel separators and change fuel filters annually. Burn through at least a full tank of fuel every summer.

FYI another boat this weekend went out and the insulation above the engine fell off, got into the alternator which bound up and broke the belt.

So let's say the engine quits in a serious storm and one has no sails hoisted.

If you've ever tried to let the headsail unfurl under any load you know how easily it can get away, and voila you have a 150% genoa in 40 knot winds. Have a method to throttle the output of the furling line. Heading upwind is the obvious- but you don't have a motor, remember?

For the main, going up on deck to connect a Cunningham or reefing line is nigh impossible. The deck is sideways, the rain hits so bad it hurts, the boat is heaving up and down. I know- have the busted knee to prove it. Trying to secure the reefer on/ through the clew of a bucking boom is also nigh impossible. Forget trying to bungee the big baggy reefed sail which now will act like a small spinnaker. Rule here is be reefed before a storm!!




ETA I was wrong. The most common stoppage of auxiliary propulsion is a line in the prop.
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Old 22-08-2016, 13:18   #29
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Re: Survived Lake Ontario Storm

It is interesting to hear the stories of the squall line last Saturday. We were on the east side of it near Ford Shoals (Between Oswego and Fair Haven/Little Sodus Bay).

Saw the squalls coming in late afternoon even though forecast down played the possibility.

Started to do exactly what the OP did, rolled up the jib, got ready to douse the main, sent crew to get PFDs and foul weather gear, and tried to start the engine.

My good foul weather gear was hanging in the closet at home, the good inflatable life vests with tethers were in the same closet, and the engine wouldn't start.

We got lucky, the squall line stalled and suddenly dissipated and the engine finally started. Foul weather gear and inflatable are on their way back to the boat. My only excuse for this lack of preparation is that this was the first sail of the season after a long series of events that just kept putting us further behind schedule and the forecast looked really good.

Lessons learned.
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Old 22-08-2016, 14:42   #30
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Re: Survived Lake Ontario Storm

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It is interesting to hear the stories of the squall line last Saturday. We were on the east side of it near Ford Shoals (Between Oswego and Fair Haven/Little Sodus Bay).

Saw the squalls coming in late afternoon even though forecast down played the possibility.

Started to do exactly what the OP did, rolled up the jib, got ready to douse the main, sent crew to get PFDs and foul weather gear, and tried to start the engine.

My good foul weather gear was hanging in the closet at home, the good inflatable life vests with tethers were in the same closet, and the engine wouldn't start.

We got lucky, the squall line stalled and suddenly dissipated and the engine finally started. Foul weather gear and inflatable are on their way back to the boat. My only excuse for this lack of preparation is that this was the first sail of the season after a long series of events that just kept putting us further behind schedule and the forecast looked really good.

Lessons learned.
Don't feel bad Dave. I checked Enviornment Canada and the NWS out of Buffalo and everything was South at 10 -15 with Tstorms after midnight. I figured get ahead of everything and left Cobourg at 2:45 which should have been a pleasant 6 - 8 hour sail across. But here's the DumbA$$ thing I did. I saw it coming and prepped everything but didn't bother putting on my foulies. I have 4 sets aboard. Needless to say I got soused.
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