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Old 23-05-2013, 02:59   #16
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Re: Avoiding bad weather

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Originally Posted by rebel heart View Post
A gale you know about and are ready for is one thing. A gale you don't know about and that takes you by surprise is something else entirely.
Who was it threw his barometer overboard, Blondie hastler or someone like that? Offshore the boat was always ready and he hated the waiting more than the gale.

Not sure I'd go quite that far....
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Old 23-05-2013, 04:38   #17
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Re: Avoiding bad weather

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Who was it threw his barometer overboard, Blondie hastler or someone like that? Offshore the boat was always ready and he hated the waiting more than the gale.
....
I hadn't heard that story. Thanks, conachair. That's staunch.

"Offshore the boat is always ready" is, it seems to me, a great aspirational goal.

The only two times I've wondered if our survival was a slightly open question, the conditions had changed from benign to barely survivable in less than an hour.

In one case, I think 95% of the sailing boats I've ever been on would have been in trouble. We were on a small boat, and it took us no time at all to make it as ready as it would ever be.

But in the other case, we were on a big, well found boat, and the only reason why our survival was in question was that we were drastically unready in two respects.

Firstly (for the first time since I joined the boat) the skipper had not seen fit to rig the offshore bottom washboard, which was in harbour stowage, a beautiful purpose-built teak box integral with the wall in his cabin.

The washboard in question was a wide, deep, substantially built bolt-in aluminium structure with captive bolts, deep flanges and strongbacks and peripheral seals ... and we were only three on watch.

Nobody else was up, it was dawn, and nobody could be spared to go below and get it, let alone fit it.

When it was absent, the only thing between a cockpit full of water and a boat full of water was a threshold about 6" off the LOWER cockpit sole.

The cockpit was split-level, with large 'fine weather' gracious outdoor area, and a step down to the grizzled seadog portion under the substantial solid dodger, which was big enough to boast full length sleepable waterproof squabs either side.

So we were in a truly precarious predicament: the 'easy outdoor-indoor flow' we were contemplating was not quite the sort the designer'd had in mind when he came up with his ingenious removable bridge-deck concept, sat in front of his drawing board.

I should have thrown a winch handle at the wall of the skipper's cabin, because he was clearly malingering, pretending to be asleep, presumably unsure what to do.

In his defence, it must have felt extraordinary to wake up to the boat charging along and quivering all over, at twelve knots plus, on a dead flat ocean, having gone to sleep lolloping along at six or seven on a substantial left-over slop.

We knew exactly what to do, and were doing it, but I had a fair idea from past experience that if he "woke up", assessed our predicament and assumed his duties, he would form a completely different and probably suicidal view of our best course of action ... and insist that we do it his way.

So I never threw that handle, mercifully, as it turned out.


I should explain that the reason he was the skipper was because he was the owner's oldest son.

The owner had flown home from the first stop on the boat's maiden voyage (a grand anticlockwise tour of the Pacific), to tend to business (and possibly because it turned out that crossing oceans lacked the appeal - for him - he had confidently expected it would have when he had the boat built)

Although he was a great kid, #1 son had no talent for offshore decision-making.
So that's the second respect in which we were unready: he was unready for command.

His younger brother was on the helm, also a truly great kid, and he was in every sailing respect a total asset. I'd say his extraordinary helming and our (OK, my) plan were the only things between us and a watery end. (I should clarify that this was a fully ballasted deep-keeled monohull)

I was the hired hand, so although I was the only one aboard who'd crossed oceans (and that includes the boat's designer, who was a guest, and highly regarded as having drawn many very fine cruising yachts) I had limited leverage in the command structure except on matters navigational, where I was the 'buck stops here' guy.

Even there, now that I think about it, I had to stand my ground a couple of times. But I digress ....

After the predicament had passed (a tropical revolving storm on a smaller scale and with a more rapid onset than I had hitherto thought possible), I was able to explain to the skipper how we'd resolved the problem of being caught in something over 80 knots true under full (Stoway) main, and finding ourselves unable to put it away while running off, because the in-mast furling/reefing gear was proving undersized for the boat.

And, as I expected, far from conceding it was as brilliant as it was unconventional, he had a very different and rather prosaic idea of what we should have done. "Rounded up, head to wind"

Yeah, right !

Let sleeping dogs lie...
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Old 23-05-2013, 05:01   #18
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Re: Avoiding bad weather

We were entering Charlotte Harbor, Florida, last Monday afternoon after traveling 9500 NM in the last 32 months from San Francisco. During that time we had two wind events in the Sea of Cortez, both at anchor. The remaining time we had a couple of squalls, but nothing over 40 knots. Down in Panama you could normally see them coming from so far off that you could actually sail or motor around them.

So back to Charlotte Harbor, we see this big black cloud and a wall of water... We turn and run for sea and get run over like road kill.... 62 knot winds and torrential rain for about 45 minutes. Thank goodness the only thing damaged was the American Flag, which now looks like a civil war relic.

Our Sirus Weather Unit tracked the Squall very well, but the weather was so benign for the last 200 miles we hadn't checked the unit for about three hours and didn't see the squall until it was on top of us.

So class... Even if you have modern technology and all the bells and whistles for tracking weather... You have to be smart enough to look at them once in a while :-)
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Old 23-05-2013, 05:32   #19
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Re: Avoiding bad weather

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I've seen it mentioned many times on this forum, something to the effect that only an idiot runs into bad weather on passage, because with modern technology and forecasting, it can nearly always be avoided. Of course I've always thought that was nonsense, and just reading Fatty Goodlander's latest tome, I throw his thoughts into the ether for further discussion:

"This concept -- never having to go through storms if you are clever and have the right equipement -- is ... wrong. While it is true that we have much better weather forecasting than we used to, storms still exist and, if you sail long and far enough, you will encounter one. We go through, on average, about four or five gales per year, only one of which is uncomfortable."

I don't feel that in the boat threads where weather/storms get talked about that people are talking gales (and if you went though 5 gales and only 1 was uncomfortable, then that is only 1 storm far as this subject is concerned). They are talking the major storm of salty sea stories that sink all boats in its' path and therefore drive all boat buying/design considerations in people's minds.
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Old 23-05-2013, 05:36   #20
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Re: Avoiding bad weather

knowing how to read the sky and seas is important--lol paying attention works also....severe thunder storms in gom are just that--severe, and expected. normal weather patterning for florida includes thunder storms. they do not usually happen at 60 miles from tampa bay, in the gulf of mexico. dont want to get "caught " in one--sail out farther--it works.
these severe thunderstorms pack 50-80 mph winds, as advised by noaa...
extreme fronts bring 80-100 kph winds, as advised by noaa. these happen not as often. these are not fun. one of these happened through the area just a few days ago in gom. i know as i read it on noaa...lol funny thing about that..it is predictable. the severity and existence of them is predicted by noaa. funny thing about that.
as far as gales in golfo de california--they happen. often. they have many names and they are seasonal.
anyone not wanting weather should stay at home. it will happen.
learn to read the signs. they are showing for long time before the event. for extreme front--we had visual warnings for 2 days when we were crossing gom from ft myers beach to pascagoula..we ran for st joseph bay. that was 2010 april 21. we had high clouds as warnings, we had changes in sea state, we had wildlife changes--it is not difficult to see the changes once you realize the weather forecast and seen in satellite shots really is what you are seeing in real world.
even chubascos and other sea of cortez, aka golfo de california--and the mainland based windstorms--are somewhat predictable.
they also give warnings.

learn what changing weather looks like in real life--that is your best help.

besides the awesome autopilot.......
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Old 23-05-2013, 06:05   #21
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Re: Avoiding bad weather

Where I sail, we have a good teacher that not's too hard on you. We frequently have what I call "roving thunderstorms, that can blow up to 50 knots (a few weeks ago we had one that was clocked at hurricane speeds when it hit our harbor).

The good thing is that when they catch you, they rarely last for more than fifteen or twenty minutes. But, you learn a lot about heavy weather preparation in those fifteen or twenty minutes (and you learn how to reef sails really quick when you see one coming after the first time).
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Old 23-05-2013, 06:17   #22
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Re: Avoiding bad weather

Two sundays ago we were sailing down to Paxos from Gouvia and this little fella popped up behind us, winds at the time around us were 5 to 10 on the nose. = Totally unexpected...

As soon as it expended it's energy another three started in the distance. The first one would have been in a line with the runway of Corfu Airport.

3 Nights later we had hail at 3am, sounds great on a fibreglass deck!

Next day the 'Morroccon' mud came down sending all of Corfu into a chocolate tinge......
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Old 23-05-2013, 08:51   #23
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Re: Avoiding bad weather

I don't recall any threads stating that only idiots run into bad weather. Certainly many threads have statements to the effect that weather forecasting is good enough now that it should be a low probability to get caught on short passages. I recall 1-3 day forecasts being used as the example.

Longer passages are entirely different.

Of course, isolated squalls and even waterspouts can occur - particularly in areas like FL where the heat and humidity cause all sorts of havoc in the late afternoons (but even that is forecasted - it just stands as a constant forecast!).

But this isn't really "running into bad weather". That paradigm holds for those who get caught in major storm systems during an overnight. And those people usually have a schedule to keep.

And short passages to schedules is what most of the threads on the topic of "no need to get caught in bad weather" really seem about.

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Old 23-05-2013, 09:11   #24
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Re: Avoiding bad weather

The typical late-summer Hawaii to west coast North America passage often has gale conditions several hundred miles off the mainland, as well as gale or even storm-level low-pressure systems moving in from the Gulf of Alaska area. Since the passage takes two to three weeks, there's no way to know what you're going to have to deal with as you approach the mainland.

What we have to do is watch the forecasts, and work with information that is at best reliable for the next five days, Every day we get updated wx info, and plan our route accordingly.

Getting around and over the Pacific High is a balancing act, where we try to find a route between the center of the high (and the "center" is an illusory moving target), and the approaching lows. If a low zigs when it was supposed to zag, we can get caught is some heavy conditions. I've had the good luck to not get surprised in this portion of the trip. Motoring through the calm "center" of the high may be an option, but many of us prefer to sail as much as possible.

Approaching the coast can be quite challenging. There is often a semi-permanent gale in the "squash zone" offshore of northern California, where the Pacific High meets the mainland low-pressure system. We can heave-to and wait, but these conditions can persist for weeks. Usually it's not too bad (the worst I've personally seen is 35-kts, gusts over 40), but the wind and seas can become truly challenging. I know several people who have experienced truly horrible conditions -- you don't know how bad it's going to be until you're in the middle of it. Once you're in it, diverting downwind to a more southern harbor is no guarantee. For an example, look at that happened to Skip Allen and "Wildflower" in 2008 (link). Skip is one of the most experienced sailors out there.

My point? You can't always avoid the rough stuff.
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Old 23-05-2013, 10:18   #25
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Re: Avoiding bad weather

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Originally Posted by Lagoon4us View Post
Two sundays ago we were sailing down to Paxos from Gouvia and this little fella popped up behind us, winds at the time around us were 5 to 10 on the nose. = Totally unexpected...

As soon as it expended it's energy another three started in the distance. The first one would have been in a line with the runway of Corfu Airport.

3 Nights later we had hail at 3am, sounds great on a fibreglass deck!

Next day the 'Morroccon' mud came down sending all of Corfu into a chocolate tinge......
Just to put these pictures in perspective, waterspouts were not predicted nor were any mention of them as being a possibility made on any forecasts.

We were three miles from it and moved further away as we deemed safe.

Others could well have sailed into it, been under it/them, VERY hard to avoid if in the wrong place at the wrong time. Just rotten luck....

Sailing your home waters are difficult BUT try totally foreign, can be a big and quick learning curve.

My mention of hail in the above, there was no prediction of hail and in my lifetime of being on the water in Australia (Queensland) i've never seen hail at night....

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Old 23-05-2013, 21:42   #26
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Re: Avoiding bad weather

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Originally Posted by Lagoon4us View Post
Two sundays ago we were sailing down to Paxos from Gouvia and this little fella popped up behind us, winds at the time around us were 5 to 10 on the nose. = Totally unexpected...

As soon as it expended it's energy another three started in the distance. The first one would have been in a line with the runway of Corfu Airport.

3 Nights later we had hail at 3am, sounds great on a fibreglass deck!

Next day the 'Morroccon' mud came down sending all of Corfu into a chocolate tinge......

Awesome stuff.
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Old 23-05-2013, 22:18   #27
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Re: Avoiding bad weather

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So class... Even if you have modern technology and all the bells and whistles for tracking weather... You have to be smart enough to look at them once in a while :-)
Something I learned in ground school:

Q. What's the biggest problem with navigational instruments?

A. Failure to monitor them.
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Old 26-05-2013, 08:08   #28
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I had read that Susan and Eric Hiscock sailed around the world with almost no inclement weather and they did this without our modern instruments. If I remember correctly their first circumnavigation started in 1952. Eric and Susan planned their trips carefully to avoid storms and surprises. By the way Zee, good weather advise for Fla, GOM and Cortes.
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Old 26-05-2013, 08:22   #29
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Re: Avoiding bad weather

Localized weather events are difficult to predict, and if small enough won't show up on any weather forecast. I can remember numerous trips across the Gulf Stream where we were dodging nasty thundersqualls in the midst of a perfect forecast overall, but the center of the stream generates small, localized weather systems. Still, you might see 40-50 knots for awhile, which is enough to make for a bad day.

Look at how often they get it wrong even when you're along the coast. When we were returning from Mexico to Key West it was great to start picking up NOAA Weather Radio again, but unfortunately it was a day with predicted storms and squalls. It seemed like every hour they would broadcast an update that yes it was nasty, but the front would move through and it would all be over in an hour. Then the next hour they would move it ahead another hour. This went on all day from the Dry Tortugas into Key West, with nearly continuous torrential rain, gusty squalls up to 40-50 knots, and zero visibility at times. We were nearly run down by a Coast Guard boat blasting out looking for a boat calling May Day in the midst of it. When we finally dropped the hook just before dark it was still squalling and for the last 12 hours they had been predicting it was almost over.
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Old 26-05-2013, 08:29   #30
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Re: Avoiding bad weather

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I had read that Susan and Eric Hiscock sailed around the world with almost no inclement weather and they did this without our modern instruments. If I remember correctly their first circumnavigation started in 1952. Eric and Susan planned their trips carefully to avoid storms and surprises. By the way Zee, good weather advise for Fla, GOM and Cortes.
Exactly, if we can't get it right who can?

Today we are sitting in a beautiful bay in the Greek Islands around Corfu, a Pommie Yachtie just swam over asking about our origins etc i.e. did we sail from Australia etc, he remarked how towards Turkey the wind blows at sixty knots etc....

We sailed down from Croatia where the dreaded BORA blows just to catch the careless yacht out at 60+KNOTS, Fair dinkum people 'get a grip' WEATHER is where you find it!

More concerning are the fricken Jet-ski's!!!!! LMAO Oh and i was born in 1952!!! Frig!!!!!
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