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Old 16-06-2013, 18:00   #1
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Thunderstorm While Coastal Cruising. What do you do?

Scenario: East coast of USA sailing. 3 miles off shore headed parallel to shore. Water is somewhat shallow - 20-30 feet (like in S. Florida) and one of those Florida thunderstorms comes in from the east. You are still several hours from harbor- say, you are halfway between Port Everglades and Miami/Government Cut.
What is you tactic to keep your boat and crew safe?
You are in a 8,000 lbs. boat with 3,000 ballast, full keel, shallow draft (3.8 feet) and wide beam (10.6 feet) stout little 27 foot boat with a length at waterline of 24 feet. What is the procedure you activate?
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Old 16-06-2013, 18:05   #2
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Re: Thunderstorm while coastal cruising. What do you do?

Your tactic started before you bought the boat and left on the trip. I am going to do similar west coast Australia. Getting a swing keel boat [12" draft] and a means of gettting weather forecasts.
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Old 16-06-2013, 18:05   #3
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Reef the sails, close the ports, portable electronics in the microwave with the breaker off and enjoy the ride.
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Old 16-06-2013, 18:27   #4
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Re: Thunderstorm while coastal cruising. What do you do?

Hi

I dont know what the systems are in that part of the world.

Are these short 15 minute squalls? Or longer 2 to 3 hour squalls?

in the tropics we get a few per day and at times many per day. But they are usually of short duration.
first there is a hit of strong wind that may last 5 minutes, then heavy rain for 5 minutes then 10 minutes of diminishing rain and wind.

I do NOT reef the main in these squalls. I do roll the genoa up quite substantially. Then I depower the main by letting the traveler down hill as far as I can till the sail luffs a bit. Maybe have to ease out some main sheet.

Then I hang on and ride it out.

Its its a longer squall I will reef the main.

As I usually sail solo I dont worry about anything but the sailing. But when I have friends or guests on board I get them out of the way and take over all the controls myself... unless someone is very experienced.

When it comes to a squall, or any other quick changing situation I become quite "task orientated". I dont get angry or yell, but I am not asking for people to do things, I am ordering things to be done etc. For example I had a very sea sick woman lying in the cockpit and I wanted to get her out of the way of the sail controls and engine panel etc. "Sit up and sit here!" Clear, concise and not a request.
After the squall settles I can be more aware of the individuals personal comfort.
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Old 16-06-2013, 18:31   #5
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Re: Thunderstorm while coastal cruising. What do you do?

If you are talking one of those thunderclouds that build up by mid day, 'amytom' has the handle on it. Got hit by one of those off the SE Florida coast. I'd never sailed the waters before and didn't know what to expect. Fortunately my sailing mate had and he galvanized us into securing hatches and opening ports and clearing everything off the deck that we could. Thundercloud hit with winds probably exceding 50 knots as we were immediately heeled over with the spreader nearly in the water even with bare pole. Just headed off to get the boat more upright and hung on. The cloud passed fairly quickly dumping a ton of rain on us but seas stayed calm. Hoisted the sails afterward and continued on to Marathon and on up the coast to the Chesapeake. Never had a problem with one of those thunder bumpers the rest of the trip.

If you are talking a frontal passage and assuming easterly winds and a lee shore. I'd want to be as far off shore as possible. Throw out a drogue or drag warps to slow boat speed as much as possible and hang on. Usually the violent winds only last a short time as the front passes over and you'll have enough sea room to hang out and wait for it to pass. If caught close to shore, deploy the anchor with maximum rode and hope that it will hold you off the coast till the front passes. The thundercloud we were caught in had such strong winds, there was no way we'd have been able to beat off a lee shore.
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Old 16-06-2013, 18:43   #6
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Re: Thunderstorm while coastal cruising. What do you do?

I assume you're talking about vertical development T-storms due to land heating, and not cold front stuff.

As a Great Lakes Sailor we deal with this stuff all the time. They pop up out of nowhere and can be incredibly intense for a short time. 50+knots is pretty common, and they can last from 10 minutes to an hour.

When that anvil starts reaching out from land we usually get as much sea room as possible. Then, before it hits, reef way down depending on expected winds. You get good at reading the clouds. If they are rolling and quickly changing shape, with lots of green legs reaching down, then you know it's going to be very windy. Keep enough sail to maintain steerage. Close everything up, secure dingy if it's out there, and get the foulies on (our summer T-storms are usually pretty cold). Keep a hand on the mainsheet. When it hits it can be sudden and intense. Run with it, and/depower the main if needed.

Oh, and try not to get hit my the lightning .
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Old 16-06-2013, 18:53   #7
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Re: Thunderstorm while coastal cruising. What do you do?

Quote:
Originally Posted by advocate777 View Post
Scenario: East coast of USA sailing. 3 miles off shore headed parallel to shore. Water is somewhat shallow - 20-30 feet (like in S. Florida) and one of those Florida thunderstorms comes in from the east. You are still several hours from harbor- say, you are halfway between Port Everglades and Miami/Government Cut.
What is you tactic to keep your boat and crew safe?
You are in a 8,000 lbs. boat with 3,000 ballast, full keel, shallow draft (3.8 feet) and wide beam (10.6 feet) stout little 27 foot boat with a length at waterline of 24 feet. What is the procedure you activate?

You aren't far enough off shore. If something big (like a rudder) breaks, you could be forced into really skinny water. Reef up and do what you can to steer farther away from the shore, say, on a broad reach. Get everything secured. Do as much as you have time for -- jackline, short tethers, everybody in pfd's and clipped in. Bring water up to the cockpit.

Don't count on predictable waves; the water is too shallow. Stay in the cockpit and sail the boat. Don't count on your autopilot to steer you reliably -- be ready to take over for your "electronic extra crew." Also be ready for sudden shifts in wind direction, which will make the waves more "interesting." Stay out of the Gulfstream if possible, but don't let the boat get trapped in truly shallow water. Turn around and go north if you have to to stay out of shallows.

If *I* were coastal crusing along the southeast coast of Florida I would want to be on the ocean side of the Gulf Stream, particularly toward the southern end where it comes very close to shore, until I was ready to head for shore. Afternoon thunderstorms are very common. Although most of them aren't too fierce, some of them can be (personally I think they tend to be worse on the West coast of Florida). Keep an eye out for waterspouts -- they're common in south Florida in thunderstorms.

And before anyone jumps me -- I grew up in Fort Lauderdale, my father ran a tugboat company (we went out on them fairly often) and friends had "cabin cruisers" as well. Of the three children I was the only one intrested in boating and he was always explaining to me what was going on. He taught me a lot about the waters off Fort Lauderdale and about reading the weather. I didn't SAIL but I was on the water there a lot. My father was an ex-Coastie and a Merchant Marineman during WWII (he was a pacifist, so he left the Coast Guard for the MM). I've sailed (as in, as skipper) through coastal storms on the west side of the state.

These are all things I would do here on the west coast except that I don't have to worry about a strong current like the Gulf Stream, and waterspouts aren't as common as on the east coast.

Simply put, to stay safe, don't be in the shallows and don't be in the Gulf Stream -- why have to deal with that on top of everything else?

You most assuredly do not want to try to come into Fort Lauderdale during a significant thunderstorm. That entrance is often turbulent without a storm.

Hey -- it's Father's Day -- here's to you, Dad! I bet you knew I would end up with a boat.
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Old 16-06-2013, 18:56   #8
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Re: Thunderstorm while coastal cruising. What do you do?

"
Are these short 15 minute squalls? Or longer 2 to 3 hour squalls?"

Yes.

My recollection of the east coast (Florida) is that they tend to be shorter. Bigger, longer ones would more likely be associated with a front or some other major weather event, and therefore, predictable, so none of *us* would be out there, right?

On the west coast the storms tend to be of longer rather than shorter duration, and not always so predictable.
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Old 16-06-2013, 19:18   #9
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Thanks for the replies Roverhi Mike Oreilly and Rakuflames-

The thunderstorms pop up more frequently according to the season and in July-September the thunderstorms are predictable daily in the afternoon so I would just be at port by then and sail in the morning- as the Ft Lauderdale sailor knows.
It's just that so many times in every other month the storms can pop up and that fund from Port Everglades to Miami/key Biscayne anchorage an take 5 hours. So, we keep an eye on the weather and head out early in the day to make the offshore passage but in so many months I see those thunderstorms developing inland florida and they tend to head west - I have all the weather info I need but sometimes the sail is slow and you are vulnerable for a window period and those storms are scary so it was helpful to hear your input, all of you, especially the ones who have sailed in similar conditions. There are not major fronts moving through (I would stay anchored sheltered) rather these are those thunderstorm cells that develop inland and them move out to the ocean.
There is a 'range' of depth between the coast and the Gulf Stream. The depth goes from 20-30 feet within a Few miles from shore to hundreds about 5-10 miles out where the Gulf Stream is. So, I like the idea to go as far out without being in the Stream so I don't get too shallow but if the wind is blowing from the west that would not be as big a deal as on the west coast of Florida.
Thanks for the input ... Sometimes it is good to be able to talk these things out with other sailors instead of keeping it in your head. thanks-
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Old 16-06-2013, 19:34   #10
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Get in front of it and pop the 'chute?

Depends on the wind speed. I've spent days hunting thunderstorms down just so I can ride the winds ahead if them. But the eye on the weather cannot blink. One definitely needs a few miles of searoom in case the only option is to bear away.
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Old 16-06-2013, 19:37   #11
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I've sailed that coast a little bit but the major T-storm experience I have is off the African coast. As a general rule , Id say ensure you have reduced canvas. If you have to reef a lot , why not start the engine to keep steerage etc. ( particulary in the flukey light winds before the blow)

The major issues in such weather are being over canvassed and then trying to reef in the teeth of it. That's when " stuff" happens. ( I've even seen newbies put on more sail in the light winds with the cloud base approaching !!!!!! )

They are mostly short lived and intense and rarely kick up a big sea , so its just wind speed that's the issue and properly sailed wind will never do you harm. ( seas do ) of course you're in for a good soaking

As for lightening I do little only watch , not much you can do , but I do always have a primeval feeing that I should be in a cave really.

20-30 feet is scarery shallow , if you can seek deeper water , but most times you don't have the time.
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Old 16-06-2013, 19:43   #12
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Re: Thunderstorm while coastal cruising. What do you do?

My old teacher always said," It takes a lot less time to shorten sail, and put it back on when the blow is over, then it takes to fix the rigging if ya blow things apart!" And it's good practice and a lot cheaper the haveing sails repaired LOL
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Old 16-06-2013, 19:45   #13
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Re: Thunderstorm while coastal cruising. What do you do?

Quote:
Originally Posted by advocate777 View Post
Thanks for the replies Roverhi Mike Oreilly and Rakuflames-

The thunderstorms pop up more frequently according to the season and in July-September the thunderstorms are predictable daily in the afternoon so I would just be at port by then and sail in the morning- as the Ft Lauderdale sailor knows.
It's just that so many times in every other month the storms can pop up and that fund from Port Everglades to Miami/key Biscayne anchorage an take 5 hours. So, we keep an eye on the weather and head out early in the day to make the offshore passage but in so many months I see those thunderstorms developing inland florida and they tend to head west - I have all the weather info I need but sometimes the sail is slow and you are vulnerable for a window period and those storms are scary so it was helpful to hear your input, all of you, especially the ones who have sailed in similar conditions. There are not major fronts moving through (I would stay anchored sheltered) rather these are those thunderstorm cells that develop inland and them move out to the ocean.
There is a 'range' of depth between the coast and the Gulf Stream. The depth goes from 20-30 feet within a Few miles from shore to hundreds about 5-10 miles out where the Gulf Stream is. So, I like the idea to go as far out without being in the Stream so I don't get too shallow but if the wind is blowing from the west that would not be as big a deal as on the west coast of Florida.
Thanks for the input ... Sometimes it is good to be able to talk these things out with other sailors instead of keeping it in your head. thanks-

Yes, they do often form inland and then move east, but that would be a storm coming from the west, right? Tampa is far enough inland to arguably be the lightning capital of the country. In the summer, east Hillsborough and Polk Counties get pounded by thunderstorms I wouldn't want to be sailing in (others here might be yelling "Ride 'em cowboy! )

I don't know the coast there *in detail.* Where I am there places where really shallow -- scary shallow -- water can extend as much as a mile off shore. The water gets very turbulent and confused and will stay that way for a day or so after a good sized storm.

At one time I was going to sail north and then across Okeechobee with someone, and I would have been the navigator, so I studied that stretch (boat was anchore south of Gov'ment Cut in Biscayne Bay). You always have to know where the Gulf Stream is. On Fort Lauderdale Beach we could see it from shore, not that far out. Personally, given my experiences on this coast, I would want to be on the east side of the Gulf Stream even if that meant eventually turning due west back across the thing to get to port.

The real trouble with the Gulf Stream is when the wind comes from the North, but that would be a front moving in, and completely avoidable unless you're unrealistic enough to have a deadline.
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Old 16-06-2013, 19:47   #14
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Re: Thunderstorm while coastal cruising. What do you do?

I've often wondered the same thing. It wasn't until yesterday that I've come to the conclusion that attempting to plan around non-frontal thunderstorms is a lost cause in Florida. That is a bit of an exaggeration, but I'm not sure how to deal with them.

I have a healthy respect and fear of thunderstorms from my days flying. When I was flying, I always did as my instructor told me, "have everyone on the ground and in the bar by 2 PM" (in summer), but it was fairly easy in aviation. We'd take off in the morning and be at our destination in a few hours, if the weather started to deteriorate, we deviated and waited it out. The stakes are higher if you do fly into a t-storm, but you have a number of ways out if you plan correctly. It was frustrating at times, but having seen the consequences of not paying attention or getting too anxious to get to your destination, I learned to just make it part of the experience. I got to where I enjoyed all those little airports I was stuck at.

With sailing, you don't get that liberty, you just have to ride it out, mostly because it takes so long to get to a safe place. So how do you plan then? The frontal storms are easy enough to plan out, but we sail in Florida and things aren't that easy. We have storms that pop up in less than 10 minutes. So how do you make educated and good decisions about avoiding dangerous weather?

For instance, in the past 2 weeks, I've wanted to go out on the water for a few hours after work. In almost every instance there have been scattered storms around. Even if they weren't over the water, we didn't go, because I didn't want to risk it. Well, we finally go out on a day when there isn't a cloud in the sky and sure enough, at 10 AM we're in the middle of the river and a storm passes right overhead, thunder and lightning and all, the only one within a 30 mile radius of our location. We were 30 min away from the closest marina and so we just had to wait it out on the river (fortunately it was pretty well dissipated by the time it got to us).

So, my question is the same. When you live in an area where thunderstorms pop up in short periods of time, how do you make an educated go or no go decision? Where avoiding storms 100% of the time means "no go" and any "go" decision assumes some level of storm risk, especially given storms are a daily occurrence.
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Old 16-06-2013, 20:04   #15
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Re: Thunderstorm while coastal cruising. What do you do?

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I've often wondered the same thing. It wasn't until yesterday that I've come to the conclusion that attempting to plan around non-frontal thunderstorms is a lost cause in Florida. That is a bit of an exaggeration, but I'm not sure how to deal with them.

I have a healthy respect and fear of thunderstorms from my days flying. When I was flying, I always did as my instructor told me, "have everyone on the ground and in the bar by 2 PM" (in summer), but it was fairly easy in aviation. We'd take off in the morning and be at our destination in a few hours, if the weather started to deteriorate, we deviated and waited it out. The stakes are higher if you do fly into a t-storm, but you have a number of ways out if you plan correctly. It was frustrating at times, but having seen the consequences of not paying attention or getting too anxious to get to your destination, I learned to just make it part of the experience. I got to where I enjoyed all those little airports I was stuck at.

With sailing, you don't get that liberty, you just have to ride it out, mostly because it takes so long to get to a safe place. So how do you plan then? The frontal storms are easy enough to plan out, but we sail in Florida and things aren't that easy. We have storms that pop up in less than 10 minutes. So how do you make educated and good decisions about avoiding dangerous weather?

For instance, in the past 2 weeks, I've wanted to go out on the water for a few hours after work. In almost every instance there have been scattered storms around. Even if they weren't over the water, we didn't go, because I didn't want to risk it. Well, we finally go out on a day when there isn't a cloud in the sky and sure enough, at 10 AM we're in the middle of the river and a storm passes right overhead, thunder and lightning and all, the only one within a 30 mile radius of our location. We were 30 min away from the closest marina and so we just had to wait it out on the river (fortunately it was pretty well dissipated by the time it got to us).

So, my question is the same. When you live in an area where thunderstorms pop up in short periods of time, how do you make an educated go or no go decision? Where avoiding storms 100% of the time means "no go" and any "go" decision assumes some level of storm risk, especially given storms are a daily occurrence.

The answer is you can't.

I would not take my boat out on the Gulf right now unless I had another experienced sailor on board WHO WAS FAMILIAR WITH MY BOAT, because she's very tender and if you aren't careful she'll over-react.

Then, as I said before, my plan is to go OUT to sea, not in.

The weather here (on both sides of the state) as you know is very unstable. You can predict it stepping out the door at 8AM on this side right now because of the high humidity.

Here, the storms tend to form more or less along I-75, which coincidentally is about where the east breeze and west sea breeze tend to start to bump and grind.

But another marker you can watch is the amount of humidity and heat in the center of the state -- Orlando is good enough, far enough inland. If you see storms down the center of the state I wouldn't go out for an afternoon sail on the east coast.

Where I am you just don't get to sail as much in the summer. If it isn't a storm, the winds die completely. Don't know if you have to deal with that on the east coast.
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