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Old 27-01-2010, 06:43   #1
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If Bad Weather Is Looming...

What strategies should one adopt if bad weather is looming.
. . . lets say you are cruising [in a catamaran] miles away from home. You receive a weather report of a cyclone intensifying ??klm away but is heading in your general direction. The boat is in good shape and fully provisioned. So you reef in your sails, stow everything, get the warps ready. But what strategies do you adopt Active or Passive = do you run, do you look for a safe mooring or harbour, do you heave-to and ride it out.
[I would really like to hear from anyone that has done extended cruising or any live-aboard]
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Old 27-01-2010, 09:10   #2
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RB,
You got the first part exactly right, get your boat ready while you have time. Assume part of that would be making sure every one had life jackets and harness on and tethers clipped to the jacklines. Also assuming you have a good strong boat.
Generally you won't be able to outrun a storm and I wouldn't head for a port unless I was 200 pct sure I could make it. The last thing I would want would be to try to make my way into an unfamiliar harbor in the middle of a storm.
My personal feeling and what I've done in the past is take and active role. The goal was to position the boat so it was in the 'navigable semi-circle' of the storm and above all else stay out of the most dangerous quadrant of the storm. In the norther hemisphere the winds circle the eye of the storm in a counter-clockwise direction is the southern hemisphere its reversed. If you were in the eye of the storm facing in the direction of the storm's path the dangerous quadrant is in front and on the right.
During the one really bad storm (100 knot winds we were told later) I was in we were in the left front quadrant and ran before the wind towing a heavy warp in a loop from our stern posts. Eventually we were running under bare poles and managed to keep our speed to 3-4 kts and the boat was manageable. If things had become unmanageable would would have heaved-to and tried to ride it out.
Other storms were not nearly as bad but I've used similar tactics. Never have been caught in the dangerous quarter though.
But this comes with one big if -- I was never single-handing, if I were I would heave-to or use a drogue, no question about it.
With a crew of four were able to keep our time at the helm to two-hours or less a shift. In a bad storm that's about all you can manage. The problem is your have to pay attention every second to position the boat properly as you ride the waves and about 2 hours of that is about all anyone can do and remain sufficiently alert.
One final thing, if you can make a safe harbor definitely go for it. I remember when we were at West End in the Bahamas had sailed across the day before from Ft. Lauderdale. Early the next morning we left with our eventual goal Antigua. We got out of the harbor and headed southeast. I looked over the bow and there were these
huge black clouds dead ahead of us (weather report had said this was coming but not until much later). Any way I looked back at my friend at the helm and asked 'Uh John, why are we doing this? We turned around and went back into the harbor and stayed until the weather passed us. We probably could have battened everything down and sailed though it but why take a chance if you don't have to?
So from my experience make sure you get a good handle on the track of the storm. Prepare well in advance and give yourself plenty of sea room. Try to position your out of the dangerous quadrant. If you have a crew steer the boat if you get overtired you're gonna make mistakes and that can be fatal.
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Old 27-01-2010, 09:41   #3
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I haven't faced it yet, but have run over the options many times. The Cat books all assume good reaching performance and advise making sure you are in the safer quadrant OR as far away as you can get. Harbour is not first on my list because it's probably a lee shore and if something goes wrong I'd be in trouble. A good look at the charts might show a good spot in the lee of what's coming, but the lee will swing as the storm passes by and could become a lee shore. And waves are higher in shallow water so - I'd be trying to head the right way, which ever that is. Chances are it's not towards land.
By reaching early I would hope to keep sailing, but I would shake out the drogue (sea anchor if near land (200miles) and get the lines sorted out, life lines rigged and stores secured. Shipshape for bad weather.
Then a large pot of wet stew that'll last three days and re-heat easy.
Then the radio, just to see who's about and make contact.
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Old 27-01-2010, 10:05   #4
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I like what Bloodhunter said. Fortunately, I've never had to deal with anything more than 40 knots for a couple of hours, but that was still enough to get my attention, if you know what I mean.

I would add two things: The first is specific to your boat. I developed a checklist of "to do" items, a protocol to follow, that is kept in the boat's "red book" (which is our general reference manual containing all sorts of critical documents and information). It lets me verify that we've done a variety of important procedures in preparation. E.G., all hatches closed and dogged, Track it TV dish removed and stowed, dinghy stowed & lashed in vertical position, warps and/or drogue in the cockpit and ready for deployment, etc. It just helps us be sure that we're ready for heavy weather.

The second thing is to send a sailmail message to our land-based family members who are on the EPIRB list, notifying them of our position and general situation and letting them know that we'll email them again when we're out of it.

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Old 27-01-2010, 10:53   #5
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Drifter,
Sending a message to those on the EPIRB list is a great idea that I just put on our checklist. thanks
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Old 27-01-2010, 10:57   #6
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One thing to take into consideration in coming up with a plan is that in the Tropics, the Tradewinds often die off before the approach of a tropical storm. So if you're going to run away, you'd better have a reliable engine and plenty of fuel on board.
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Old 27-01-2010, 13:07   #7
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This is a universal question that has no answer. It has been discussed ad nauseum in many books by those that have done it and lived to tell their stories. I personnaly love to read them and try to learn what they did right and wrong.
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Old 27-01-2010, 13:14   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Intentional Drifter View Post
... send a sailmail message to our land-based family members who are on the EPIRB list, notifying them of our position and general situation and letting them know that we'll email them again when we're out of it [sic: are able.]
Make it clear that they may not hear from you immediately after the "emergency" passes, giving them a firm earliest time & date to get worried.
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Old 27-01-2010, 15:33   #9
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You can call me blonde, but would someone please make me understand how do you heave to in a storm? Everytime someone mentioned it in a conversation I asked them to explain what that is and how you do it and all I got were condescending smiles.
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Old 27-01-2010, 16:41   #10
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Varies from boat to boat, depending on how they balance, but generally speaking, you have the main and jib appropriately reefed, the main traveller centered to perhaps a bit to windward (just past the point of luffing), the jib is then backwinded and the rudder turned into the wind.

For example, let's say you're getting the weather from starboard, around 40 degrees. You want to balance the boat in such a way that with the jib backwinded, it wants to push your bow to port. You want your main contributing very little power, just enough to keep some steerage way going But with your rudder turned to steer you to starboard, they end up balancing each other out, and you (theoretically) stay put.

That's the principle, anyway. Lots of boats don't like staying put all that much and finding the balance point for your boat requires experimentation. I've found that one of the biggest variables requiring experimentation is where the traveller should be and how much you've got the main sheeted. How much sail you have out will vary according to conditions.

Lin and Larry Pardey devoted pretty much an entire book to the technique and there's several variations, including even putting out a sea anchor to windward and riding in the slick, as well as doing it under bare poles and with a storm jib. Although I've never done it myself, their video of the method was impressive.

One should be mindful of what is leeward to you, though, as your boat will be slipping that direction.

Does that help?

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Old 27-01-2010, 16:42   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sailingmonica View Post
You can call me blonde, but would someone please make me understand how do you heave to in a storm? Everytime someone mentioned it in a conversation I asked them to explain what that is and how you do it and all I got were condescending smiles.
Probably best to google it and find a picture. It involves back winding the jib and turning the rudder hard in the same direction so that the rudder and jib are basically parallel ( that's how I remember it) .
This puts the sails and rudder in opposition so that if the rudder wants to turn you to starboard the back winded jib is pushing the boat to port.
Keeps the wind and waves to one quarter constantly and improves the ride.
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Old 27-01-2010, 19:06   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RubyBishop View Post
What strategies should one adopt if bad weather is looming.
. . . lets say you are cruising [in a catamaran] miles away from home. You receive a weather report of a cyclone intensifying ??klm away but is heading in your general direction. The boat is in good shape and fully provisioned. So you reef in your sails, stow everything, get the warps ready. But what strategies do you adopt Active or Passive = do you run, do you look for a safe mooring or harbour, do you heave-to and ride it out.
[I would really like to hear from anyone that has done extended cruising or any live-aboard]
On our catamaran, we have been threatened by two cyclones in the South Pacific. The first one happened when we were in Suva, Fiji. We anchored away from the main harbor using our heaviest ground tackle which included at FX-110 Fortress, a sixty-pound CQR, and a fifty nine pound Max Anchor. We put two big anchors in the water, and held one anchor in reserve.

The second time we were threatened by a cyclone was sailing to windward from Australia to New Caledonia. We recieved conflicting weather faxes from Australia and New Zealand, and based on the predicted path of the cyclone, we headed the other way. It was nerve wracking, but the strategy worked.

On another occasion we got caught in a winter storm three hundred miles north of New Zealand, and we weathered that storm lying to an eighteen foot diameter parachute sea anchor.

The last gale we were in required the use of drogues. Here is some information about our drogue experience:

MULTIHULL VIDEOS FROM AROUND THE WORLD.* SURVIVING THE SAVAGE SEAS. ABBOTT DROGUE

Here is a web page that summarizes our storm survival strategy:

Blue Water Catamaran - Exit Only Sails Offshore Around The World.* Captain Dave - Privilege 39

Those two web pages pretty much summarize most of what I think about storms at sea. I hope it answers many of your questions.
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Old 27-01-2010, 22:22   #13
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Some boats are very stable hove to. Some are not. It requires practice. There is a lot of pressure on the rudder, sail and running rigging which may be a problem for an extended period of time due to chaffing or excessive stress.
You may want to acquire a parachute or "sea" anchor. They are more reliable then heaving to in extreme conditions. There is one chaff point where the line runs off the bow which can be easily maintained or protected.
Using a parachute you will be pushed downwind a fraction of the 20-30 or more miles when hove to. The downside is they can be a bit awkward to set up and then take in. There are a variety of ways to set it up to make it easier to take in (trip lines, floats, etc.).
The one I have used is a military surplus 14 foot drouge chute made for the air dropping of equipment. They are ruggedly constructed and inexpensive if you can find a used one.
A more expensive option are parachutes made specifically for sailboats.
As at anchor the boat will tend to sail back and forth which can be uncomfortable. A small riding sail or a deeply reefed missen sail will keep the boat on one tack.
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Old 28-01-2010, 00:10   #14
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Ok, My lack of sailing experience is going to show through here. But why is going to fast an issue?
I read Maxing out's "Surviving the savage seas". One of the concerns in it was that one drouge wasn't enough and they had to deploy a second to slow them down.
What is the Danger in going to fast?

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Old 28-01-2010, 00:36   #15
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Depending on the boat, some run a risk of broaching (monohulls with fin keels are more prone to this), which would put you broad side to the waves and over you go! The boat does a 360, you might fill with water and go to the bottom. With multihulls, you run the risk of pitchpoling, which means you go end over end. With a multihull, you will probably stay upside down. Both are very, very bad. At the very least, everything will be a gawdawful mess and the crew stands a very good chance of getting hurt, if not tossed overboard.

Keeping your boat slow really helps to keep you in control. Using a drogue or warps acts as a brake, with the force pulling you from your aft, helping to keep you aligned with the wave train.

Google for Jordan Series Drogue and Coast Guard videos. They did some very nice studies in wave tanks that illustrate what happens with and without drogues.

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