Originally Posted by estarzinger
One comment I have not made . . . is that for relatively inexperienced people seasickness is a big underlying (sort of co-equal with fatigue) cause of bad decisions (like abandoning ship). The stress and fear present in storm conditions aggravates any slight tendency for seasickness.
Certainly this is a plus for the more active techniques, by giving the crew some feeling of control and something to do I think the more marginal cases might be less likely to succumb to the dangerous lethargy and hopelessness that seasickness can cause.
Originally Posted by estarzinger
Several above have commented they generally lean toward the passive techniques, especially with small crew. We also did when on Silk. On Hawk, we lean toward the fast techniques if our destination
is somewhere near to downwind and the medium (forereaching) if the destination
is more upwind. Both boat size and 'performance' seem to be an important factor in this decision. We have just gotten older, but also a bit more experienced and gained a bit more 'feel' so we know better when the boat is good and when we need to do something different (slow down).
As one of the several that leans towards the passive techniques. I am interested to discuss this more. I feel strongly that the safest place for crew in severe storm waves (where the risk of capsize
is high) is below, strapped in securely with head protection. Doing this pretty much rules out active approaches unless effective inside steering
is available or a very clever autopilot
If your passive technique and setup is good there should be no problems with chafe, so there is no real need to even go on deck
very often. Unless for concern about shipping. AIS
and a VHF
securitie message should help in this case. Crew morale might also benefit from the regular routine. But basically the ideal in my mind is to be able to sit it out with noise
canceling earphones, some good music
and a book.
This I guess is an ideal that I have never actually managed to achieve, which is your point. The only time I came close was running off under drogue in a f9 on my way to Antarctica, but the windvane
course setting had been damaged and was slipping slowly so we needed to regularly reset it to hold her directly downwind.
The conditions were reasonably manageable although we had earlier had a pretty nasty knockdown when a rogue from a weird angle had slammed her down and soaked everything.. (well my bunk anyway!). We probably didn't need the drogue but I wanted to test it before the next much bigger system came through, as it turned out we just escaped this next one by getting south into the navigable quadrant. 100 miles to the north it was shrieking.
The only other time we pretty much went below was in a Force 11-12 off Cape Palliser on my parents 45 foot gaff ketch
. That night nearby motorcycles where banned from the roads, Nelson and Wellington airports were closed due to winds and the Cook Strait ferries stopped running. The coast we were on had a state of emergency
declared, due to high winds and flooding with Wellington airport
recording 74 knots. It was the worst weather I have ever seen at sea, including my time on ships regularly rounding the Horn, Biscay and cape of good hope. We had tried the active technique, motorsailing to about 60 degree's of the wind
with the small staysail set to get across the strait and under Cape Campbell. To be honest it worked well enough until a rope
got washed down the cockpit
drain and into the prop. We were regularly underwater. The wind
had pegged our anemometer at 60 knots for a long while, and the sea was completely white when you could actually look to windward without you're eyes stinging. At one point a tanker came past. They had green water
over their bridge.
To be honest I was too scared to go below so I just hung on in the cockpit
soaking wet and wishing a helicopter would come and pluck us off. This has given me a good appreciation for why people abandon floating vessels.
Once the rope
killed the engine
we turned and ran with the helm
lashed, and the small staysail pulling hard. I suspect the wind had eased because we were only doing about four or five knots and rolling heavily. Thats about what she will do in 35-40 knots. But aside from the leaks
and the wet bunks and the worry she plodded along through the night with the helm lashed with my father tucked up near the hatch
, poking his head out every so often. By morning it had eased, and we sailed into castle point to clear the prop.
Since this I have never seen any thing quite so bad. Every time it blows hard I think at least it's not as bad as cape Palliser, and I hope to never see conditions like it again, but if I did I would be much more ready.
Aside from these two occasions I have always had people on deck
for some reason. The three rogue waves I have had have all been in otherwise rough but not what I would consider to be storm conditions, maybe maximum of gale to strong gale. They all came from an odd angle and knocked the boat down without any real warning. Once I was on the helm. There was nothing I could do about it and we got knocked down and badly flooded (The top dropboard was out) a frightened man with a bucket soon fixed that, but it was a good lesson to always shut the hatch
in marginal conditions.
My guess is that in real storm conditions a proper rogue wave
would result in a capsize
of most 40 foot mono's no matter what tactics were employed. I saw a rogue trough once from a container ships bridge. I estimated the thing to be 70+ foot deep with near vertical sides, the average significant wave height was probably 25-30 foot but this thing was like a trench that just missed us by 100 meters.
You might get lucky and surf away from a rogue. I don't think you will ever be able to safely get through a storm sized rogue wave
hove to or sailing to windward unless you have a very big powerful boat. Anybody that thinks they can anticipate one and steer around it is mistaken. You might get lucky, but I doubt it, they honestly can come without any warning. A series drogue or sea anchor
might just work, if something doesn't break first, or the wave doesn't hit you from abeam.
To me this is why I prefer to have crew below and secure, and a boat that will most likely be strong enough to survive a capsize and mast
being bashed alongside for a day or so. This is a slightly fatalistic approach, but no more so than the reality of driving a car where any oncoming car could swerve and hit you in an instant. It is about managing the consequence given that I expect a rogue wave to capsize me and quite likely injure (or worse) anybody outside.
Saying all this I completely agree with Evans on going for the active technique if you think it will get you into a safer patch of water
significantly quicker than a passive technique.
Thank you Evans for a good well thought out article. I might disagree slightly on the way you have worded the bit about not going below and leaving the boat to do her thing. But I suspect we would just be arguing the words rather than the intent.