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View Poll Results: The biggest waves you're experienced at sea?
1 to 4 feet 2 1.55%
5 to 9 feet 20 15.50%
10 to 14 feet 29 22.48%
15 -19 feet 21 16.28%
20 - 24 feet 17 13.18%
Above 25 feet 40 31.01%
Voters: 129. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 29-05-2008, 12:06   #1
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What Are the Biggest Waves You've Experienced in Open Water ?

Myself, back in 1992 I went on a week long scuba diving trip in Hawaii. Well our last day out a storm hit with rain. We were on the boat and the seas were like 5 to 10 feet.
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Old 29-05-2008, 12:19   #2
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I like to think I am conservative in my wind strengths, and waves. While rounding Point Conception there was 50+mph winds. It was a torrential downpour to go with it. The rain like red ant bites stinging, and nearly going horizontal.

I was on a 30 foot Columbia standing at the mast taking this all in. When in the trough I noticed I was looking at the bottom half of the waves. A rough quesstimate of eye heigth is 10 feet from the water.

2 years later coming back north it was like a mill pond, and I took this picture of my 2 friends frolicing with Frolic, my boat.
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Old 29-05-2008, 12:38   #3
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I really don't know the height of the waves but off Half Moon Bay in CA I was doing a MORA (midget ocean racing association) Race. Here's what I saw. When we were on top of a wave I could see about a dozen boats. When we were at the bottom of the wave I couldn't see the masts of the boats around me. Half Moon Bay is where they hold the Maverick's Big Wave surf competion. Just last week off of the Columbia River Bar. While steering my 41 Foot Boat Maybe 8 or 9' off the water I was looking at the bottom half of the waves. I might look and see if there is any historical data availabe for wave heights on particuilar days.
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Old 29-05-2008, 13:07   #4
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1978 10-12 footers in the Gulf Stream crossing from Miami to Bimini in a 21 foot San Juan.... Non self bailing cockpit kept us busy bailing with cutoff milk jugs.. IF I knew then what I know now, I would have never done that trip! Or at least checked the weather forecast. Can you say, 'young and bullet proof?'. or at the very least young and dumb!!
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Old 29-05-2008, 13:27   #5
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Originally Posted by rtbates View Post
1978 Miami to Bimini in a 21 foot San Juan ... Can you say, 'young and bullet proof?'. or at the very least young and dumb!!
I know that boat -- its a day sailer. Wow.

Well, you live and learn... or else you don't live long.
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Old 29-05-2008, 14:04   #6
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Comming down from the north-west in April of 04 the weather changed really fast and we ducked into Ft. Bragg. On the radio the waves were reported to be hitting 30 feet....... I didnt stick around out there with a tape measure to find out.
On another trip up to Bodega Bay from San Francisco, we had spent the night in Drakes bay. The next morning while rounding the light house off Point Reyes (about a mile off) we were hit by a "Rouge wave". It broke over the top of the bimini and had enough strength to rip the dodger off the boat ... We made circles around the area for an hour picking up gear that had been blown off, including the dink.
I'm thinking it must have been 15 feet or so to break like it did........
I've recently learned that Rouge waves are normal in the early spring in the north west..
The rumors are that, it was a rough wave that broke up the boat "Daisy" just outside the gate a few months ago and the loss of two experanced sailors.
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Old 29-05-2008, 14:09   #7
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I have been on a boat and looking at the lower half of the waves too.
But the boat was heeled so as to have me looking downward for the most part.
It is really hard to estimate wave height so I estimate and divide by two.
I ignore others estimates if I can.
Why I didn't ignore this poll.............I don't know.
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Old 29-05-2008, 14:13   #8
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Waves of any size can be scary. It depends greatly on your experience, the wave shape, the wind, the tide, sea confusion and the direction you are traveling to the wave. My "big wave" experience was scary, but it was a smaller "big wave" experience that was the most terrifying for me. The smaller wave situation was a by far the more dangerous one if something went wrong. They were sharp steep breaking waves of around 3.5m with a "lee shore" reef right behind us and a 35kt wind. If the engine failed while we were smashing up and ove these steep things, it would have been all over for us. We had to endure that for 1 1/2hrs making as little as 1kt at times, till we managed to get into the shelter of a head land and then make headway
The really big wave experience was just huge mountain's of water. We started off entering the straight with a good 5m swell. But they were just big slow rolling hill of water. No crest just a gentle up and down. Nothing to it. It was when we reached the otherside that we ended up in a nightmare of steep 5+m towering monsters with additional 2m waves running at right angles across their faces. The scary thing was not that we were in danger, we were safe, just uncomfortable. The scary thing was just feeling so small as we were dwarfed by mountains of water that you can not comprehend how so many millions of tons of water can stay up there. Of course in reality they don't. It is just a transition of energy that makes a wave look like it is water moving forward. But it is still awe inspiring.
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Old 29-05-2008, 15:18   #9
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Your right Alan,
If they're a 1/4 mile apart, no biggy but the same wave every 8 to 10 seconds.
Hold on, cuz your in fer a ride
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Old 29-05-2008, 16:30   #10
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Funny thing. I was wondering if I had overestimated the wave height so I looked up the historical data on the Columbia River Bar buoy and the official buoy had a wave height of 2.3m or just under 8'. I was surprised that the waves weren't alot bigger than that. On studying the charts and pinpointing exactly where the buoy is I'm pretty sure they were bigger than 8' and the ship's captain who was sailing with us also thought they were better than 8'. Well in looking at the charts of the CRBar I can see where the waves would be 8' at the observation Buoy in 60m (195') of water and then quite a bit bigger in the channel where there was only about 14m (45.5 feet). I don't think they would close the bar for 8' waves. I don't know the calculations but I do know that when a wave gets to shallower water the height of the wave increase.
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Old 29-05-2008, 16:34   #11
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We stood at the mouth of MOrro Bay (on dry land) and watched waves coming in that the USCG station was calling "28 foot average wave height" across the entrance bar last January. It was a sight that brings ya to Jesus, I'd say.

In the boat, out once near the Monterrey waveride buoy that was reporting 17', but fortunately the swell was old enough that it was just big and rolly. It was when the wind picked up and put a different direction 4' swell across it that I didn't like it. Like Alan says, big water certainly is awestriking, but it is the smaller waves with the malintent of driving you onto the rocks that are the ones you remember --- like the 3-5' breaking ones rolling through my anchorage in the middle of the night in Baja when the Norte hit at about 0200.
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Old 29-05-2008, 16:48   #12
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In the mid 70s I worked on a 110' eastern rigged scalloper; during Feb we had to run to Nantucket from George's Banks to get out of a storm. The Capt told us that the waves we were seeing were honest 30 foot seas. Even for a 110 foot boat, it was a rough ride, and all the while with ice building on the deck...
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Old 29-05-2008, 17:22   #13
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15 to 20 foot seas from 3 directions and often breaking.

We were headed South in the Sea of Cortez on the second or third day of a Norther when coming out behind a longish island pass.

First, the waves were just the 30 mile fetch of the pass, then the wave train from the sea mixed causing confused seas from 2 directions. As we neared Isla San Francisco the waves reflected toward us causing reaaly messy stuff from 3 directions. We got repeatedly pooped, even though our boat was a Lord Nelson 35 designed for blue water passages. Thankfully, we were on a beam reach with our destination exactly on the rhumbline, and it was 85 degrees and sunny!

We anchored in about 7 feet of glass smooth water in Isla Grande with full view of 40 foot Moorings charter boats trying (unsuccessfully) to furl huge genoas and keep control of TOWED HARD dinghies! They looked like toy boats when they were on the wave tops, but they'd disappear in the troughs with only the top half of their mast showing.
We were sure glad to find the protection of the steep cliff in that anchorage.
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Old 29-05-2008, 18:22   #14
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Outside Poole harbor in the UK sailing back towards Southampton on a 40 footer, my Dad, old Harry who had sailed on J boats as a youngster and whose fingers were so bent with arthiritis he could barely grip the tiller, and me aged about 12. Looked up and one wave coming at us was half way up the mast. Never forgot that sight.
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Old 29-05-2008, 19:12   #15
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As others have pointed out, frequency and shape can be much more important than amplitude:

1. Biggest waves = 20' swells in a power boat on Georges Banks off the Massachusetts coast. They were long gentle swells in light winds and the ride was dramatic but quite pleasant.

2. Worst waves = 3' to 4' off Montauk Point, Long Island (otherwise known as the Race) in a 34' sailboat. The waves were high frequency, steep faced, breaking, and confused in 20 kts of wind. At one point we had waves breaking on the starboard bow and the port quarter at the same time. For about half an hour no point of sail provided any relief or escape from the helpless cork-screwing. It was the only time I have ever been truly scared on a sailboat. Finally things settled down and we made it to Rhode Island where we had the cockpit drains enlarged.
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