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Old 12-03-2006, 17:13   #1
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How Would You Have Handled This Situation

Three of us were sailing on Galveston Bay this afternoon on a sloop rigged, Catalina 387. The wind was out of the south/south east at a steady 12 to 15 knots, gusting on ocassion to 18. The roller furled genny was reefed as was the main and eased as well (in-mast mainsail furling) to accomodate the blustery conditions. We were plugging along on a beam reach sliding along on a comfy, 15-20 degree heel. One of the crew was on the forward lee deck adjusting lower shroud tension, one was at the helm and the third adjusting sail trim in the cockpit.

Catching us totally by surprise, windspeed immediately accelerated to 35 knots, more than burying the rail and causing an almost total loss of steerage. We thought is was a fresh puff... it was not. For the next 5 minutes or so, windspeed hovered between 30 and 35 knots, negating all attempts to turn the boat into the wind to reduce sail. We finally started the motor, pointed downwind slightly to regain steerage and came about to reduce sail.

All three of us are novice sailors and had a lengthy discussion on our way back to the dock regarding the situation and what would have been the proper course of action in the situation.

My question is... what would you have done in this situation given only SECONDS to react.

TIA,

Karl
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Old 12-03-2006, 17:46   #2
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Natural answer

Assuming that you have "sea room" (or in this case Bay room), let-out the main. Then ease the jib out and furl it.

That's after you get the crew into the cockpit (or out of harm's way), make sure that you have searoom, that the lines are clear etc., etc.

You might have produce the same result by easing the traveller, not the sheet.

The key is to reduce PRESSURE.

Would that have worked for you?
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Old 12-03-2006, 18:22   #3
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If you couldn't head up, then your center of effort (sail area) was too far forward, meaning you had too much jib filled and not enough main. You probably had lee helm, or at least no weather helm.

Quick solution? Ease the jib first, then you should be able to head up some to a close reach or close hauled, to get the jib luffing. Take in the roller furl more on the jib, leaving just a "handkerchief" for 35 knots of wind. She should handle better then, and not heel so much, until the wind dies down. Reef the main more if you have to, but do it so as to keep some weather helm.
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Old 12-03-2006, 19:02   #4
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nolatum is correct. In a situation such as you describe, and assuming you were pointing to some degree, releasing the jib is the fastest action you can take to allow you to head up, then you will be able to reef accordingly. In a situation where the wiind picks up to a lesser degree, releasing the main traveler will spill some wind from the main and reduce drive to slow the boat down, but in this case, it sounds like the headsail was causing the problem. The point about not releasing the mainsheet is also important. Suddenly releasing the main with the boat that far out of balance can cause you to round down. Not a position you want to be in in 35kts with crew on the foredeck.
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Old 12-03-2006, 19:08   #5
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I've been beaten to it! The above answers are what I would have done as well. Let tension off the jib sheet allowing it to luff, and roll it on up to just a small bit of sail showing, if any.

Then... as was suggested, you could head up. Or...if the course was necessary to follow without changing direction, ease the main out until you are heeling at a more comfortable angle. Reducing sail area and reefing the main might have been advisable if the conditions warranted it.

I actually have a lot of trouble telling people when to reef, etc... because I do it by feel rather than by numbers. I don't know if it's necessary in 35kts of wind. I just do it when it becomes uncomfortable and you feel too much power in the sails.
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Old 12-03-2006, 19:45   #6
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Thanks all for the replies and answers. After re-thinking the senario, it's clear the genny was overpowering the main and the solution of easing the headsail would have reduced power allowing us to reef even deeper.

As the situation played out, my first thought was to come closer to the wind to reduce pressure so we could reef instead of dumping the sails and depowering.

Oh well... thanks again for the help. We had an exiciting day on the water and a valuable +++ learning experience.

Karl
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Old 12-03-2006, 19:57   #7
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We all get wet a time or two, and maybe even experience a bit of pucker factor before it becomes second nature. You know what they say, any landing you can walk away from is a good one
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Old 12-03-2006, 20:45   #8
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In my humble opinion, easing the main first (traveller or sheet) -- then flap the jenny around. Especially with a crew member forward playing with the shrouds.

I'm not talking about "blowing" the sheet, just easing it--especially on a beam reach.

You already had the jib reefed somewhat, you main was eased. The Cataline has a rig that would be better for that.

BY THE WAY: What was the crewmember forward doing with the tuning of the shroud?
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Old 12-03-2006, 20:55   #9
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I'm no sailing expert so I'm certainly not here to argue the finer points of reacting to an immediate situation... I'm more interested in learning than anything else.

The boat is relatively new and as set-up from the dealership, left much to be desired in many aspects. After pre-tensioning the shrouds at the dock using a Loos gauge and as per instructions from Catalina, final adjustment of the shrouds, especially the lowers, requires the vessel to be under sail.

The lower shrouds were loose and required adjustment hence the man on the forward deck.
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Old 12-03-2006, 21:41   #10
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SG,

I would be interested in knowing what is inherent in the Catalina design that would have made it advantageous to further ease the main before depowering the genny. Though the main was already eased, we probably had the headsail over-sheeted.

The helm was fairly well balanced before the wind piped up with only a small amount of pressure on the rudder. I was not at the helm so I don't know if was lee or weather helm but we had just discussed the helm setting before the blow. Once the wind hit us, we lost effective steerage... at least I thought we had due to the severe heeling angle.

Thanks again,
Karl
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Old 12-03-2006, 22:14   #11
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SG, fine tuning the shrouds under load is a common practice, and one I have used myself. The idea is to set the tension at the low end, then, while the rig is under load, tighten the leeward shrouds to the point where they just loose slack.
Losing steerage was the first clue here as to why easing the main would not be the first action. On the Catalinas, the rudder is inboard, so it is not likely to come out of the water unless the boat is knocked down. The only other cause is for the headsail to catch so much wind that it is actually pushing the bow to leeward. Another indication here is of poor sail trim. Had the sail been trimmed perfect, the boat would have accelerated, heeled more, and possibly rounded up. If the headsail is trimmed too flat, it will not spill wind, and with a large gust, it loses it's ability to drive the boat forward. Not sure if that made sense, but I am a bit brain dead this evening, so I hope you can decipher it.
Remember, with sail trim, if in doubt, let it out.
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Old 12-03-2006, 23:45   #12
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Kai, you make perfect sense. Though the genoa was already rolled in (to whatever degree), it was preventing the boat from heading up/standing up. (Did you acertain from the helmsman that he put a few spokes to windward?)

A free lesson during the honeymoon: on this boat, reduce more headsail, less mainsail, to get some discernable weather helm. On a beam reach, rolling in the headsail deeply should leave at least acceptable shape.

I bet Karl keeps the jib sheet tails ready to run, and the traveler ready to ease, from now on.

Yeah, one foot in the cockpit sole, one foot down onto the backrest coaming to brace yourself so you can reach that working jib winch…
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Old 13-03-2006, 16:18   #13
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rough weather advice

I think this has been a meme on this thread already but I'd echo the thoughts of "letting go" the sheets -- or at least easing them considerably. This goes for the traveller as well.

Also, don't be afraid to pull the handbrake and figure out your situation. To do this you just need to drop the genny (furl it etc on your boat) and come up into the wind a little. Sheet in the reefed main and you're now classically hove-to. I wouldn't go sailing if I didn't know how to heave-to -- it's an absolute life saver and we've used it constantly for all kinds of reasons.

It may not seem like it but unless things are getting life threatening turning on the engine in times like this can sometimes only add to the chaos. If there's a lot of heel (more than 15-20 degrees) this can cause all sorts of issues (like the crankshaft not getting enough or any oil). This can lead to dead engine which can really start to make your crew panic.

Don't trust the iron genny in times like this -- your sails and rig are far more trustworthy.
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Old 13-03-2006, 16:42   #14
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Re: rough weather advice

Quote:
micoverde once whispered in the wind:

It may not seem like it but unless things are getting life threatening turning on the engine in times like this can sometimes only add to the chaos. If there's a lot of heel (more than 15-20 degrees) this can cause all sorts of issues (like the crankshaft not getting enough or any oil). This can lead to dead engine which can really start to make your crew panic.

Don't trust the iron genny in times like this -- your sails and rig are far more trustworthy.

I very much agree with the engine comment. Sailboats just do better in heavy weather under sail. I couldn't even tell you exaclty why, but the rougher it gets, the less apt I am to motor. The sails create a braking effect when it comes to roll... I do know that much.
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Old 13-03-2006, 18:11   #15
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I thank you all for the lessons learned. It's supposed to blow 25 most of the week so were gonna give it another shot. Help me here if I'm missing something that should have sunk in based on your replies.

*Obviously more time in the cockpit required.

*All sheets organized to allow immediate adjustment in a pucker situation.

*On a reach, sail trim should result in some degree of weather helm, ie: less headsail, more mainsail.

*Aside from having to much headsail flying, I do believe it was oversheeted as well.

*When in doubt... let it out, in this case, specifically in this case, the headsail. I'm not sure easing the traveler or mainsheet would have been the answer. It was eased a fair amount when the wind hit which probably contributed, along with other factors, to our inability to come up to the wind.

Karl
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