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Old 17-06-2013, 23:02   #151
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Re: Thunderstorm While Coastal Cruising. What do you do?

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Originally Posted by advocate777 View Post
Great thread- thanks- so much info so let me be more specific especially for the east coast florida sailors:

I am headed south from ft pierce or palm beach or port Everglades, my destination is an anchorage sheltered off Virginia key or key Biscayne. It is not the heavy daily July-September predictable afternoon thunderstorm season....it is march or April. As you know, once you leave,say port Everglades there is no where to duck in until government cut/Miami. So, I am out in the ocean for a 5 hour window. I am sailing 3-5 miles off the coast but not in the Stream. The forecast calls for possible late day scattered thunderstorms some severe. I decide to leave early in the morning figuring to beat the Florida scattered storms forecast.
So I leave early but a storm heads from the west inland towards me off the east coast. The water is too deep to anchor and heaving to will have me have too much sail up. What actions should I take to keep my crew safe? I have a wheel not a tiller and I do not have an auto pilot. I have to stay at the helm to steer.
Do I drop sails and motor south or turn east into the wind? do I turn west with the storm and wind up in the Gulf Stream? What heading should I keep to hold fast until the storm passes?
Thanks-really appreciate it
I'm thinking I should turn on the engine and drop sails and secure everything- close the boat up and tether in and hold on for a possible near knock down if a microburst hits at 70k. I am just not sure what is the best heading to keep in that specific scenario.
Or, for that matter if I am heading north from Biscayne bay and am sailing further out in the Stream to pick up extra speed on my way to port Everglades or palm beach or ft pierce.
Which heading would you maintain?

Part of it is to pick your window. For instance, here, tomorrow there's little chance of t-storms here (not impossible, but not likely). Today the odds were 40%, enough to keep me in, but nothing materialized. but the rest of the week are forecast for "isolated" or "scattered" t-storms. So tomorrow would be the pick day for the journey. If really worried, I would leave as early as possible. These storms are heat-generated, not front-generated, so getting in early is a good plan.
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Old 18-06-2013, 00:01   #152
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Re: Thunderstorm While Coastal Cruising. What do you do?

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No one is impressed with my 81 knots of wind huh?
It surely impressed me! LOL
You took photos - dont tell me you weren't having fun...
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Old 18-06-2013, 02:47   #153
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Re: Thunderstorm While Coastal Cruising. What do you do?

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Originally Posted by daddle View Post
Different planet I guess. At Force 12 the sea is "completely white with flying spray greatly reducing visibility".

One bar bragger had an instrument pic like that and it later developed that while he had indeed been in a rough storm his SCUBA tank has assisted with acquiring the pic at a later time. Heh.
I completely believe the photos. Remember that the Beaufort scale is talking about what the sea looks like in sustained conditions. In an ordinary summer t-storm no significant sea state will be produced. The upper photos are before the storm hit. During the storm, there would be a lot of horizontal-ish rain in the air, and a lot of spray, but the sea would get up to a short chop at worst.

I've been in dozens of those Florida t-storms. 50 or 60 knots is common but only for a matter of minutes. I saw a gust of 70 once (according to my ST60 instruments which are not accurate at that speed). I've never seen 80 but it could be. It could also be that the instrument was overreading by 20 knots -- so what. It's still a gale of wind, and very impressive when you're out in it.
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Old 18-06-2013, 03:45   #154
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Re: Thunderstorm While Coastal Cruising. What do you do?

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Originally Posted by SailFastTri View Post
Just to add to my prior post: the main point is that hubris is a dangerous attitude, when it comes to storms. Just because they're small in area or of short duration, doesn't mean they're not dangerous.
Sorry, but this is an error, which can lead to wrong decisions at sea. Hubris is hubris, but a correct understanding of what thunderstorms can and cannot do is simply good seamanship. Different things.

Because they are small in area and short in duration in fact does mean that non-frontal t-storms are not dangerous. Unless you do something really stupid with your sails (or run into something or get struck by lightning). And you are more likely to do something stupid if you have erroneous ideas about the nature of these storms.

Allow me to explain why. It's been said before but apparently not everyone has gotten it yet. Air has mass of something like 800 times less than water, which means it has that much less energy than water for a given speed. Moving at even 80 knots, air cannot hurt you, by itself, and cannot destroy your boat.

People confuse the effect of a storm or a gale at sea -- a sustained, long-term event -- with the effect of a t-storm with the same wind speeds, and this is just a grave error. Even just 30 knots of wind blowing over several days and all the way across the North Atlantic can kill you -- because the seas pile up and can form into something which can roll you, dismast you, and possibly sink you. Something which you can't run off in because you would lose control sailing down the lee faces of the waves, causing a broach or a pitchpole, which is dangerous.

A t-storm cannot produce this kind of sea state -- it takes days and hundreds of miles -- it takes a vast amount of energy such as what a real storm at sea has. Don't confuse these things. Even the Meltemi blowing sometimes for 5 or 6 hours all the way across the Aegean at as much as 50 knots, does not produce a dangerous sea state (thrilling sometimes, but not dangerous).

Without a dangerous sea state, the challenges of handling your boat are straightforward. Don't get knocked down, and for God's sake don't do an unintentional gybe. Don't get blown onto a lee shore. Don't run into anything in the near-0 visibility. Pray you don't get hit by lightning. If you can avoid these things, then nothing can happen to you (and since you can't do anything about lightning except pray, no need to worry about that, either).

The golden bullet in high winds is running off. There is no wind force on earth which cannot be handled by running off, at worst under bare poles. The reason why this is not a golden bullet for all situations at sea is because a real storm at sea produces more than just high winds -- it produces a sea state which makes it, at some point, impossible or too dangerous, to run off, which is why God invented drogues, heaving-to tactics, sea anchors, etc, none of which is relevant to the coastal sailor. In a t-storm there is nothing but a lee shore or an obstruction which can prevent you from solving the situation by running off. Even grossly overcanvassed -- say you have a jammed halyard -- you will be ok if you just head off.

It does not enhance your safety to exaggerate the nature of these storms. On the contrary, it will lead to errors in judgement and perhaps, to panic. If you get caught in a non-frontal t-storm, then get sail down and head off. That's all there is to it. The wind -- even 80 knots of it --cannot hurt you if you don't panic, and if you don't lose control over your sails. This is a fact, the knowledge of which is essential to decent seamanship in areas subject to this kind of t-storm.

The other mistake that this kind of misunderstanding of the nature of t-storms can lead to is complacency about real storms. "Oh, I've been in 50 knot t-storms off the coast, so this 35 knot gale at sea is not going to be a problem" -- wrong. A 35 knot gale blowing for a couple of days across a large expanse of open sea can create extremely dangerous conditions. Again -- sorry to sound like a broken record -- it is a question of sea state. The wind, by itself, can't hurt you (without a lot of help from you, at least, but you can be decapitated by an out-of-control boom in 20 knots almost as easily as in 50 knots, if you don't know how to ensure against an unintentional gybe).

Of course none of this means that anyone would intentionally go out into a thunderstorm*. The main dangers are lightning, and poor visibility. If you can't see anything there is a much greater risk of collisions and navigational errors. I carry a diving mask in the cockpit if there is a risk of t-storms, but you can't see anything in a good boomer even with that. Even radar can be blinded. That's the real danger, and yet another reason to be sure you have sea room if you think you might get caught in a t-storm.



* I have been in dozens of t-storms during my 15-odd years cruising SW Florida. I never went out into one intentionally, but likewise, in the knowledge that I could handle them, I did not stay home just because there was a risk.

I have however intentionally gone out into gales -- you can't sail in the English Channel if you're not willing to sail in an ordinary gale, which is normal weather here. Once a few years ago I really needed to get home from Bridport, in Lyme Bay, as the weather was building up to a full storm (in Beaufort's sense) and threatening to make the entrance impassible for days. It was a strong gale from the SW and I needed to go East. It had been blowing for a couple of days and the sea was "high", as described by the Coast Guard. But I knew that although the waves were huge, the shape of them would be benign -- if I chose the right part of the tide cycle, with the tide running in the same direction as the storm, reducing the wavelength. So we left at the crack of dawn (for correct timing with the tide), surfed over the bar (terrifying), and had a tough beam reach around Portland Bill. The waves towered above us, and we took masses of green water into the cockpit, something amazing on a boat with a 16' beam and a high center cockpit, at least it amazed me at the time. The average wind speed was near 50 knots.

Then at a safe distance off Portland Bill, well out to sea out of sight of land, we turned downwind, and it was as if someone had pressed a mute button. Just a little scrap of yankee jib was enough to keep us moving at 12 -13 knots, which meant the apparent wind dropped to below 40. We made coffee and put on Mahler and thoroughly enjoyed the passage. We were clipped in of course (), but it was totally stress-free, totally under control. I posted a video on here some years ago, I think. We were in Poole by lunch time -- with the boost from the tide, the average speed was something like 12 knots, including the slog through Lyme Bay.

Sorry for the long story; it was intended not just an answer to the question about intentionally going out into storms, but also an illustration of the amazing power of running off.
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Old 18-06-2013, 06:05   #155
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Re: Thunderstorm While Coastal Cruising. What do you do?

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Originally Posted by advocate777 View Post
................. Which heading would you maintain?
I would not factor your position, in or out of the Gulfstream, into your plan. There is much valid discussion about the problems with wind against the set of a strong current like the Gulfstream, but the winds from a localized thunderstorm are not going to last long enough to have a significant wave effect, though they will increase at the area of the storm. I would recommend that you do take advantage of the early start and stay closer to shore southbound and further out northbound as you described. During the heaviest winds, usually before the rain, and typically lasting no more than fifteen minutes, I do best motoring into the wind with enough rpm to maintain my heading. This leaves me with little change in my position during the storm. After the wind settles, I usually am able to come back to my planned trip heading and then I raise my sails according to conditions.

I would add that you can not depend on finding some countercurrent that is southbound closer to shore. Even those swimming in the surf at Fort Lauderdale must walk back to the south to find their towel snd shoes! If you do not have enough wind for good sailing performance heading south, consider waiting or crusing inside (ICW), but some hate the bridges. If you start early southbound and outside, don't flounder about in the light winds while being set back against the current. It's better to motor south early outside and raise your sails when the wind picks up, otherwise you lose all your advantage of the early start.

Oh yeah, one more thing. If you do not have a bimini, dodger or some cockpit enclosure, you'll need some suitable foul weater gear. My favorite choice for foul weather gear in a high wind deluge is a wet suit with mask & snorkel. This might sound silly, but you offer less wind resistance in the sleek suit and you can continue to see and breathe in the heavy driving rain.
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Old 18-06-2013, 06:06   #156
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Re: Thunderstorm While Coastal Cruising. What do you do?

The wind itself CAN hurt the boat. It can rip up your rigging; it can rip up your sails. It can bring the mast down, which can hurt or kill people and leave a pole in the water that can then sink your boat.

Getting knocked down may be a boat-survivable event, but if it throws you in the water it may well kill you. People on the boat, above decks or below, can be badly hurt or killed.

Without wind there are no waves to worry about. Wind is a BIG consideration.

These storms are not always small, and they're not always of small duration. So worrying about them is not exaggerating. The poster has a small boat -- 8,000 lb. -- and he is right to be thinking about these things.

Naturally, someone who has been in "dozens of these things" will not see them as the worry that someone who has not experienced it will. My neighbor who very nearly got pitched off his boat had been in dozens of them as well, and he's lucky to be alive, because *that* one was both fierce and long-lasting, but in fact it was the first wall of wind that nearly killed him.

While offshore storms may well have more duration, they're irrelevant to coastal cruisers. I would not take my boat across the Atlantic and IMO someone who is worried about coastal thunderstorms in an 8,000 lb. boat should not be thinking about that either. Not yet.

If I lived in England, I'm quite sure I would have bought a different boat. You really can't compare the north Atlantic to the coast of Florida. Meterorogically they're just very different.

I hate to sound combative but I believe tht your level of experience is significantly above the OP. But I also think the OP is entitled to ask his question. What is right for you may not be right for less experienced people.

I agree with you; reducing the sail area and choosing your point of sail carefully can turn a rough sail into a complete delight. My very small sailboat (previous boat) sailed BETTER reefed in higher winds than she did in moderate winds and full sails. It was my first time doing it and I was stunned by it.

But she had a shoal draft and I knew the waters. If your maneuverability is restricted -- and it IS between Fort Lauderdale and Miami by the relatively narrow space between the Gulf Stream and the coast -- the OP is right to carefully consider his options.

My point is that the "nature" of these storms vary. Some are mild events. Occasionally they are quite dangerous, and they can't always be predicted.
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Old 18-06-2013, 06:17   #157
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Re: Thunderstorm While Coastal Cruising. What do you do?

Found an interesting website last night:

Thunderstorms - Florida Climate Center

It shows the frequency of thunderstorms. SW Florida competes with the other two hot spots of the world, in the interior of the South American rain forest and the interior of African rain forests, for thunderstorms with thunder.

I couldn't find a similar map for wind, but there is at least a correlation between the amount of lightning in a storm and its overall strength.

SW Florida is the most intense with the east coast of Florida right behind it.

While these storms won't last for days, they're in more dangerous waters in one way -- shallow.

I post this to demonstrate that the storms I have been talking about and that the OP is concerned about have unique circumstances that require careful thought.
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Old 18-06-2013, 06:18   #158
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Re: Thunderstorm while coastal cruising. What do you do?

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Originally Posted by Rakuflames View Post
Between Fort Lauderdale and Miami it comes very close to the shore.
Yes I know, that's what I said in my post and that was the reason for my question. I don't understand what you mean by the ocean side of the Gulf Stream.

Since you enter the Gulf stream anywhere from 1/4 mile to maybe 2-4 miles off the SE FL coast you will be in the Gulf Stream, not on the side of the Gulf Stream. The other side (ocean side?) of the Gulf Stream you are approaching the Bahamas, in most places the Bahamas Banks and not the ocean. That could also be a lee shore.




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Between Fort Lauderdale and Miami it comes very close to the shore. With a storm from the east, one could be stuck between the gulf stream and a very close lee shore. That's the vicinity the OP was talking about.
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Between Fort Lauderdale and Miami it comes very close to the shore. With a storm from the east, one could be stuck between the gulf stream and a very close lee shore. That's the vicinity the OP was talking about.
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Old 18-06-2013, 06:22   #159
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Originally Posted by Rakuflames View Post

Between Fort Lauderdale and Miami it comes very close to the shore. With a storm from the east, one could be stuck between the gulf stream and a very close lee shore. That's the vicinity the OP was talking about.
When posting advice or "facts" one should be sure of them. YOU ARE WRONG.

There is plenty of room for a sail boat to weather a squall west of the GS and still be in 100 foot of water. I know this as I sail out if Hillsboro Inlet and sail Miami to Lake Worth inlet....

I would suggest reading the charts and plotting the west wall if the Gulf Stream on the chart before posting a response.

Cheers
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Old 18-06-2013, 06:23   #160
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Re: Thunderstorm While Coastal Cruising. What do you do?

I notice that there is very little difference between my own action during a thunderstorm and Dockhead's except for his choice to run downwind during the duration and my choice to hold position pointing into the wind. This is a choice that is usually occuring during fifteen to thirty minutes of high wind. This choice might be influenced by the design of the boat and our percieved comfort. I'm comfortable with my actions, but I see merit with Dockhead's too.
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Old 18-06-2013, 06:26   #161
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Re: Thunderstorm While Coastal Cruising. What do you do?

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I would not factor your position, in or out of the Gulfstream, into your plan. There is much valid discussion about the problems with wind against the set of a strong current like the Gulfstream, but the winds from a localized thunderstorm are not going to last long enough to have a significant wave effect, though they will increase at the area of the storm.
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Old 18-06-2013, 06:28   #162
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Re: Thunderstorm While Coastal Cruising. What do you do?

Just let me clarify my earlier posts where I said I dont reef during a squall.

I am talking about short duration tropical squalls that one may encounter at sea 5 to 10 times per day and sometimes every hour.

I am not talking about thunderstorms that can pop out 80 knots.

We are talking about two completely different puppies.

One can tell the difference by local knowledge and local observations.

Local Knowledge: Set geographic areas in particular seasons: South Florida in summer; Australian east coast near Sydney in late summer "Southerly Busters"; Kansas when they have their super cell storms.

Local observations: I have a good book on weather that gives colour photos of clouds and good descriptions. But I do find that many clouds that are meant to predict severity are not useful at sea. The classic thunderstorm Anvil is sometimes not visible till after the thunderstorm has hit its peak and is dissipating; mammatus clouds too can be a bit confusing because I find them often on the trailing edge of the storm, so for sailors its already gone! Some other clouds just dont occur often enough in my sailing to be useful.

What I do look at carefully is the amount of convection in Cumulous clouds. Are they going from Cumulus Humilis to Congestus to Calvus to Cumulonimbus?
Most important, I find, it the vertical increase of the top of the cloud. And when it really goes up fast Pileus can be seen. If thats heading towards you batten down the hatches!!!

The dome shaped cloud is Pileus and occurs above Cumulous when its vertical convection is high and fast. But it doeesnt always look this clear!


Local areas have their own type of storms. A good thing to research if you live there or heading into the area. The photo above is a Southerly Buster that hits Sydney in summer after long, hot, beautiful days when everyone hits the water, either on boats, or like here at Manly Beach.
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Old 18-06-2013, 06:33   #163
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Re: Thunderstorm While Coastal Cruising. What do you do?

I've run before t-storms a number of times. Here in the north, they are not here now, gone in 30 minutes. Gale conditions are normal, even for summer sailing.

Generally, we drop the main, and reef the jib, turn so we get the wind just slightly over our shoulder and enjoy the ride.

Not always possible, and sometimes this has you going the wrong way, but we've never felt we were in any great danger when doing this.

For the OP, this famous quote is useful:

"He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day" Works at sea also
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Old 18-06-2013, 06:35   #164
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Re: Thunderstorm While Coastal Cruising. What do you do?

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Originally Posted by Snore View Post
When posting advice or "facts" one should be sure of them. YOU ARE WRONG.

There is plenty of room for a sail boat to weather a squall west of the GS and still be in 100 foot of water. I know this as I sail out if Hillsboro Inlet and sail Miami to Lake Worth inlet....

I would suggest reading the charts and plotting the west wall if the Gulf Stream on the chart before posting a response.

Cheers
Usually correct but the west side of the Gulf Stream does move quite a bit and especially around Lake Worth can be 1/2 mile or less off the beach. I know because I have done drift dives going 2-3 knts north in 40-60 ft of water right in front of the Breakers.

But in this situation I don't think being in or out of the Gulf Stream current is a significant factor anyway.
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Old 18-06-2013, 06:37   #165
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I have considered donning the dive mask and snorkel to get thru a squall with eyes intact. Wise friends say a ski mask is the trick.

Often too hot to wear foulies so one's skin becomes polished - water blasted - kind sexy smooth.

At anything over about 50 knots the water does not stay attached to the sea surface no matter what the fetch. All the loose bits become airborne. What remains is streaming white foam. Taking casual photos of distant vistas is not going to happen in 81 knots of breeze.

On the knockdown subject: once knocked down its not entirely unlike being hove-to. Except one traverses the yacht by walking on the sides. I'm more comfortable knowing the boat and I have been thru several knockdowns with no significant trouble. The rig stays on. She behaves well. My stowage technique is reasonable - only a few pots and cans go on walkabout. The sea stays outside. The last time we took a knockdown was in sheltered waters on a fine day. There were puffs coming over the nearby shore. But nothing extraordinary. Had all the white sail flying. Big fun. Then whoops! Almost rinsed the spreaders. Pinned over at least 60 degrees. My first time sailor friend, a bit surprised by the sudden departure from the ordinary, looked at me for reaction. My face said only "Well this is different". Watched the water more carefully after that.
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