A couple of weeks ago, Fredia and I were on our first mini cruise
and ran into some nasty stuff. Right in the middle of the mouth of the San Juan
de Fuca, headed from San Juan
to Port Townsend, we ran into a clear air Gale that was blowing against a strong ebb. The big boat we were chasing came about after the first 10 minutes and beat feet back North. The waves quickly built to 6-8' on the beam so I bore off and had Fredia take the helm
while I furled the Genny and rigged the Solent stay and Staysail. Fredia wasn't happy surfing since she couldn't see where she was going while sitting down and the forces were too high to stand up and drive. After spending part of the time pointing where she should steer while rigging
and bending on the sail, I finally took the helm
and pointed back up to a beam reach.
To say it was a wild ride would be an understatement. While heeled 35* we would catch the wave, heel to 45 or so and surf along the face for 20-40 seconds until the wave finally passed. This progressed to 10-12 footers with the occasional 14+ when two waves would collide and join. The closer we got to Wilson Point, the worse it got with confused waves from 2-3 different directions that were only as wide as they were tall. We spent four hours pounding through these beam seas and saw speeds of 10+ AGAINST the ebb while surfing on a boat with a 6.9 knots hull speed
. This was Fredia's first encounter with any real seas and she wasn't happy. She spent the four hours perched on the companionway
ladder, too scared to come out and too subject to Mal de Mar to stay below. She's still quite the trooper though and went forward to douse once we finally ducked around Point Wilson and reached flat water.
What did I learn?
Reef early, I still had the full main up throughout.
Maintain speed in beam seas, the boat handled the seas better with a turn of speed. The boat won't trip on her keel
in beam (non-breaking) seas, at least up to 1/3 her LOA
Don't sail in beam seas unless ya have to. We didn't have to but I wanted the experience and the seas were manageable at the time.