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Old 27-09-2014, 17:25   #1
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What conditions gives experienced sailors pause ?

Hello all, I'm just beginning my sailing education and am looking for personal benchmarks y'all may use to determine whether sailing would be advisable, challenging, or just down right silly.I was going to ,move my newly purchased 1978 Catalina 30 from the marina its presently at to a yard where I'll be hauling out and storing for our ridiculously long Canadian winter. The forecast is a strong wind warning along the coast of Nova Scotia in my area here stipulated as 20 knot winds and seas at 1 to 2 meters. This sounds like nothing too extreme but as I'm still in newbie learn mode I won't bother till it calms. What wind speed and sea height do you experience folks consider mild, medium or extra spicy and perhaps just suicide wing hot sauce?

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Old 27-09-2014, 17:27   #2
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Re: What conditions gives experienced sailors pause ?

Let me add that you would be in a 30 foot Catalina lol- I'm sure bigger boats eat bad weather for entree's

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Old 27-09-2014, 17:35   #3
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Re: What conditions gives experienced sailors pause ?

15 to 20's are ideal in my opinion, but an absolute noob might be better to limit themselves to 10 to 15's until they feel comfortable. I don't consider myself other than an average weekender / coastal cruiser but I think that anything over 30 is about the limit if given a choice of staying or going. Of course there are other factors e.g. what point of sail you will be travelling on (bashing to windward or running downwind) and the sea state. And don't forget lack of wind can be just as bad as big winds. Rolling around in a swell in under 10 knots of breeze can be an exercise in frustration.
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Old 27-09-2014, 17:36   #4
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Re: What conditions gives experienced sailors pause ?

This depends a lot on the situation. Moving in and out of slips, hoists, etc, can be particularly difficult when conditions are rough. Presumably the waves aren't a problem in the marina, but 20 kts of wind can make tight-quarters maneuvering quite the challenge. Having good crew on the boat and at the dock can really help.

For the open water stuff, 20 kts is usually just great sailing. 2-meter deep-water seas are pretty normal off San Francisco. 2-meter seas in the shallows with opposing current can be brutal.

If you are new to this, I suggest you get someone with local knowledge to help and advise you.
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Old 27-09-2014, 17:47   #5
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Re: What conditions gives experienced sailors pause ?

It really depends on the boat, where you are, and what you are doing.

20kn around here and the lake turns into a washing machine but it can be an amazing spinnaker carry to the far side (25 miles) then put the boat on a trailer and come home...

20kn in Jamaica is a nice breezy day, nothing special and just what we are looking for.

40kn offshore... It's a beast but on a fully crewed race boat really isn't that bad, on a cruiser it starts to get messy. The difference is just the number of bodies you can throw at a problem, and having the absolute right sail inventory for it.

For inshore sailing I tend to think of anything over 15kn as being the break point for inexperienced sailors. It isn't just the conditions, but the likelyhood of breaking questionably maintained gear that concerns me.
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Old 27-09-2014, 17:57   #6
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Re: What conditions gives experienced sailors pause ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Peters Wet View Post
SNIP

The forecast is a strong wind warning along the coast of Nova Scotia in my area here stipulated as 20 knot winds and seas at 1 to 2 meters.

SNIP
My experience has always been that more important than wave height is the wave period. Twenty foot waves a couple of hundred feet apart are easy to deal with but smaller square waves with a period shorter than your boat length can be very uncomfortable and hard on the boat.

As others have noted the direction of the waves is also important. Fighting into the teeth of both wind and waves is never a good idea.

A skill you should try and develop is finding the best (most comfortable, fastest, what ever) point(s) of sail for your boat which to some extent is based on sea state as well.

Conventional advice in my area is to never cross the Gulf Stream with a North component to the wind as this produces short square waves that are basically like walls of the water the boat has to punch through. This is true even if the wind is twenty knots and five foot seas. Local knowledge in your area would be vital to determining if the conditions you describe are easy or hard in your area.
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Old 27-09-2014, 20:21   #7
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Re: What conditions gives experienced sailors pause ?

I don't overly trust the Canadian weather service reports. They are pretty general reports suggesting off shore weather. Inshore you can get significantly different conditions. You could easily end up with 25 knots of wind 15 to 30 degrees off where predicted. That makes a big difference.

Case in point, I'm off cape Bonavista, the forecast is for 20 knots gusting to 25. But in the very same forecast they report current conditions at Bonavista as 32 knots. WTF!

I don't really know what I had, but it was't 32 knots, the anemometer (which lies on a regular basis) said 28. The wind generator however sounded like a helicopter taking off, just roaring like I've never heard before or since, including 40 knots at the dock.

The physical features of the land can strongly effect the wind strength and direction, for better or worse.

You have a new to you boat and your are not overly experienced.

I suggest you take your time and wait for a more benign forecast with some wiggle room. Better to be bored.
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Old 27-09-2014, 21:28   #8
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Re: What conditions gives experienced sailors pause ?

What a excellent question. I have poised this question to a weather forecaster, and have teased him about always being wrong yet still able to keep his job. But the truth is you can expect them to be right most of the time for the next 48 hours. After that it is anyone's guess.
I have also noticed that the VHF weather always states "swells are an average and may be up to twice as large in selected areas and conditions" They might as well say that about wind too.
Go/No Go? About 3 meter swells with wind waves on top of that make me stay home, because that means I am going to see some 5-6 meter waves, and if wind in on the head in front of that, well we are going to be miserable.
A beginner should take notice of half that. 20 knots of wind is fine, but 10 would be better for you in a smaller Catalina.
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Old 27-09-2014, 21:43   #9
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Re: What conditions gives experienced sailors pause ?

Weather reports are notoriously wrong. You should make your decision based on your comfort level and observed conditions at the time. 20 knots blowing you out of your slip might make your job easier, while 20 knots on the beam might make you go sideways trying to get out.
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Old 27-09-2014, 23:20   #10
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Re: What conditions gives experienced sailors pause ?

First time my wife and I took my now teenage son sailing when he was just a couple months old it was blowing at 33 knots and we all had a good time. So everything is relative and there is absolutely nothing wrong with being overly cautious, so do not hesitate for a calm day and motor your way to the haul out if you feel like it.
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Old 27-09-2014, 23:23   #11
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Re: What conditions gives experienced sailors pause ?

To the OP,

If you want to understand the forecasts better, you have to realize that wind strengths you experience MAY be up to 40% higher than the averages that are the f/cs. The same is similar for wave heights, although for them it's 50% higher. So if they say 2 m, you can expect to have some that are 3, and if the breeze is predicted at 20k you may see puffs up to 30k, and should not be surprised. Averages don't reflect the highs and lows very well. Usually, we don't bother with the ones that are less, they don't make too much of an impression, but it is really important to be prepared for the gusts. You might visit a local wx bureau and talk to a meteorologist. We found one at a State Fair (called a Show, here), and found him very informative.

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Old 27-09-2014, 23:56   #12
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Re: What conditions gives experienced sailors pause ?

I don't trust wind strengths in forecasts. Here's what I do: if the forecast is for 15 to 25 knots, I just add those two figures and expect wind to about 40 knots. Simple!
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Old 28-09-2014, 02:09   #13
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Re: What conditions gives experienced sailors pause ?

Great question - easy to get confused by the answers (not because the posters aren't trying, but for the inexperienced - the language might not make much sense) Here's my view (damn - another expert)

Forecasts, Wind and waves - first you should be aware that any forecast (wind or waves) is always talking averages. If they say 20 knots - expect to see anything between 10 and 30 knots.

If they say 2 meter waves, you can be sure that you'll see waves running 3 or perhaps even close to 4 meters.


Most experienced sailors are not at all concerned about the wind. You can always reef down. If that's not enough, you can reef some more. If that's not enough, you can turn (assuming you have searoom) and run ahead of it. If that's not enough and you're on bare poles, you can pray (there are no athiests in foxholes).

Waves are the real concern. Someone further up noted that wave's size is generally not a problem, but wave period is (space/time between the waves). I sail in the Baltic, where we generally do not have waves over 2-3 meters, ocassionally 4. So size is not the issue. Our waves here, however, are very closely spaced, meaning they are virtually perpendicular walls of water. Sailing against these when they are 3/4 meters is real punishment.

The same size waves in the Med are just a nice day on the water, because they are spaced so much further apart (and therefore are gentle rollers).

If you are inexperienced, my opinion, for what it is worth, is that 20 knots and 2 meters is where you should draw the line until you have tried it a few times.

As someone else noted - it also depends on what you are doing. Beating close-hauled right up against it? It will be a long day. Exhilarating perhaps, but you'll be tired, sleep exceptionally well that nighta nd a beer when you finally have docked will taste heavenly (so will the second one)

Running ahead of the wind? - if it is sunny - great , relaxing day on the water.

I'll also agree with the poster who said docking in 20 knots can be stressfull until you have learned how to do it.


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Old 28-09-2014, 11:53   #14
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Re: What conditions gives experienced sailors pause ?

There is no answer to that. It's the feeling in the pit of your stomach. Mine may be more or less than someone else of more or less experience. Err on the safe side.
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Old 28-09-2014, 14:05   #15
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Re: What conditions gives experienced sailors pause ?

Sometimes when the combination of wind and sea state are fantastic to us sailors, a landlubber will be sitting there terrified, sure that death is imminent.
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