I don't think my freak wave story meets the classic definition, but...
We were on the last few hours of a 5 day passage
from Georgetown Bahamas
to Boquerone PR. The previous 24 hours were with a strong north wind
from behind us, I think about 30 knots, and we were steadily surfing along between 9 and 10 knots.
The waves were large, but because we were riding along with them, no big deal. I would describe it as a very long ocean swell with a nasty surface chop, but NO large breaking waves. On other points of sail, and discounting the "swell" aspect, I'm pretty good at judging the wave height. Not so regarding a long ocean swell. I just know that in the troughs, my view was more or less the sky.
34 Tri has a huge centerboard
with skeg/rudder, and was totally under control in these conditions.
Well into the Mona Passage
, and approaching landfall, the boat encountered a wave that was not at ALL like the pattern around us. The boat rose way up for a second and then the huge wave that was under us, (but we never saw), broke right out from under us!
The decks remained horizontal at first, and then the boat just DROPPED
straight down for a second or two. (I felt very nearly 0 Gs). Then with us still on autopilot
, it pointed down the mountain, reacted too slowly at the bottom, and threw me across the cockpit
. I did not get to the wheel
in time, and we broached... BIG TIME! We healed so far over that I thought we might capsize
. Then she straightened up and once again, took off. I was shaken... and stirred.
I was very appreciative of Jim Brown's concept
of keeping the 25% payload down very low and in the middle third of the boat. It saved our bacon!
After going below & studying the chart, I realized that we had just crossed an underwater hump with only 60' over it. The surrounding water being VERY deep, a strong current
in a narrow passage, high winds, and huge swell, were the perfect combination.
If I had paid more attention to the soundings, I would have gone around this hump. It was a set up!
As I said, this is not the classic definition of a rogue wave
, as it was generated partly by bottom conditions, and probably did repeat itself, in that one spot only.
I have however been a multihuller for decades and studied the subject in my own self interest. I assure you that rogue waves are for real, and as far as their existence is concerned, the jury has been "in" for over 25 years. They scare me as much as floating containers must scare monohullers! In both cases, what you can do about it is "be lucky".
capsizes usually result in survival of the crew, this is where the largest volume of accounts are. They lived to write it down. One of the best is the account by Phil Weld in "Gulf Streamer". After his 60' tri was tossed in the air and flipped by a huge
rogue wave on a moderate sea, he had a new tri built called "Rogue Wave". It is a good story for those interested in rogue waves.