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Old 06-12-2009, 09:01   #1
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Max Force Wind and Safety

Of course waves are a big factor as well.

Ive tried searching for days.. nothing much comes up and its very conflicting. A lot of it says Force 5 is the max to sail in, and some say force 5 is too strong and to sail <5.

When I first started sailing years ago - we trained as new sailors in force 5 large waves.

I'm no adventure nut, but force 5 seemed ok to me. I've also seen some posts saying even force 6-7 is ok.

And of course boat matters too. I learned mostly on 40 cruisers, but now plan to sail a 40 foot racer which I imagine might be better suited.

Opinions? At what point would you consider it unsafe to go out? Of course if you are a day sailor thats an option, but if you are on a long trip you have to plan ahead based on probability.

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Old 06-12-2009, 09:19   #2
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I personally would easily contemplate setting out in anything up to force 6 and perhaps force 7 in a 40' range boat. I also would not hesitate to plan a passage with the possibility of wind all the way up to force 9. Of course the higher the wind the more uncomfortable the ride. Additionally you want to allways prepare for dealing with conditions exceeding what you would make passage in as you can never forsee everything where the weather is concerned.

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Old 06-12-2009, 09:25   #3
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We're preparing like mad for a cross Med sailing in winter.

We're down to 2 boats (possibly 4 in worst case). Both prime candidates are 40 foot racing boats and very very strongly built with good track records.

My intuition said 6-7 would be fine for passage, but thanks for the confirmation. I can deal with uncomfortable - safety is number 1! Watching the Med last few weeks, we can certainly expect to hit some 6's and some possible 7's. Will try to avoid as possible, but especially passing Italy could be tough if our timing isn't just right. 6-7 fairly frequent there lately.
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Old 06-12-2009, 09:38   #4
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Wind speed alone isn't the best indicator of safety and comfort at sea, most likely it's the wave heights and sea conditions that are a better indicator. Of course, to some extent, they do go together. I agree with Rustypirate, I would not hesitate to go out in force 5, 6 or even 7. I also agree that I would factor in the boat and crew that I would be taking out in said conditions. We had a crew of 8 experienced sailors on a 47 Ft catamaran in 35-40 knot winds with 10-12 foot seas and had a blast. Smaller boat with less crew might have thought twice about it.

Regardless of what the conditions are when you leave the dock or what has been predicted, you will want to have a plan for dealing with any conditions that you encounter. Force 5 at the dock or predicted will not always stay that way.

Had a friend of our sail on Lake Superior in very benign conditions, 10-15 knots, nice sunny summer day. He had a squall come through very quickly that produced 60 - 70 knot winds that he motored through under bare poles. He was in transit back to Bayfield without any place to quickly tuck in before the squall came up on him. With a small hp motor (10 hp), the winds actually pushed him back 1/2 mile before the squall died off and he was able to continue back to Bayfield.
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Old 06-12-2009, 09:43   #5
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The biggest factor in harsh conditions I hate - is wave frequency.. high close "stacked" waves.. yuck....
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Old 06-12-2009, 10:27   #6

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Son and I sailed offshore in gulf of mexico voluntarily in 23' sloop for 3 days in gale conditions. We were getting ready for carribean cruise and thought it would be good practice. Had no problem on all points of sail. (No motor on boat). 12+ steep seas and 23' boat meant a lot of motion but never felt threatened.
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Old 06-12-2009, 11:38   #7
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But depend of some factors, where is blowing force 7 ?? in a enclosed piece of water , in the med, mid atlantic!!... in deep water i dont consider force 7 to be really bad, last winter we cross Biscay Bay in force 7 gusting 8 in a catamaran and whe feel very miserables, whe wait 20 plus days for a decent window , but you know ? Biscay is Biscay...
The same wind in the med built a short steep seas ready to eat your boat as soon you made a mistake, so force 7 no problem in some places , deep ocean is the best place to experience a serious gale, and i always think that if the weather report talk about force 5 , expect force 6 ....
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Old 06-12-2009, 12:25   #8
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around here if you weren't willing to go out in Force 6 you'd have to park your boat the entire summer.
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Old 06-12-2009, 12:38   #9
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Someone (rightfully) sent me a private email about something that made me realize that I forgot to mention something important in my post!

I am not captaining the upcoming trip. A captain who is far more experience than I will be doing the job. The questions Im asking are because I'm doing a lot of the pre-planning, but also because of my own curiosity and wanting to expand my knowledge.

I've definitely sailed in force 5's a lot before, and I'm sure force 6's but when was out wasn't really measuring it. And I've dealt with 4 meter high frequency waves as well. I really don't like the high frequency ones, but I felt safe in them. Just very uncomfortable to constantly porpoise and plow through the waves rather than over them.
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Old 06-12-2009, 14:50   #10
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So, assuming we're talking about monohulls: the boat can take any windforce as it will heel until the wind doesn't bother it anymore and come back up when the pressure gets less.

So that makes it the combination with the sea, which directly means that it is always that combination. An example: a force 8 on the Atlantic is fine, but a force 8 on the North Sea or even the Caribbean is a different story.

I think you want to know for crossing the Med? In that case you can count on less comfort compared to ocean sailing with the same wind, but the only real danger is one of the special winds out there, like Mistrals, Meltemi's etc. as those can turn the sea into a washing machine.

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Old 06-12-2009, 18:03   #11
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Assuming, you have a sound vessel and requisite skills, a captain must then look to the competency of the crew, The number of crew, their physical conditioning and endurance. It's even more critical in a winter crossing to be able to stay warm and dry in order to conserve energy and avoid fatique.
An exhausted crew, makes poor decisions and mistakes.

If bad weather is expected, I always prefer to know my crew. I've learned from experience that you never know how a crew will handle adverse conditions until you've been out there in it with them.
Losing 30% of your crew to seasickness for days at a time puts unnecessay strain on the remaining crew.

If I'm sitting comfortably at a dock, I wouldn't head out into a gale. I'd pick the best weather window I could for my passage, and then if something comes up during the crossing, I'd deal with it.
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Old 06-12-2009, 18:59   #12
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Do you guys actually have this force thing memorized...I have to look it up every time it comes up..:O
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Old 06-12-2009, 19:08   #13
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Don't have it memorized, I had to look it up too. Knotmeter doesn't read in Force
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Old 06-12-2009, 23:30   #14
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Unfortunately many of the reports use force ratings.. Would be much simpler just to say knots!
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Old 07-12-2009, 04:11   #15
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For us it's more about sea state, room and course then wind speed. Brought the boat back this spring in Force 9. It was a late night sail, broad reach with a staysail. Boat speed was ~14 so we saw maybe 30 across the stern. It would have been no fun if we had to beat into it but running off in 12 footers with a 4 sec period was a pleasant and quick ride.

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