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View Poll Results: worst weather - poll
less than 10' seas and up to 30 knot wind 6 12.50%
10-15' seas 30-40 knot wind 9 18.75%
15-20' seas 30-40 knot wind 14 29.17%
20-30' seas 40-50 knot 10 20.83%
something worst that the choices 9 18.75%
something you consider less than choices 0 0%
Voters: 48. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 11-01-2010, 04:44   #1
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Worst Weather - Poll

All the "talk" about choosing boats etc for that worst storm/weather makes me wonder what this really. means. I know I've been influenced by my reading, which is reasonable considering my light experience overall.

So what is the worst weather you have been out in?

Please if you read the thread vote or all we are going to get is from the people who got caught out in the big ones.

And if you got caught out in a big one, how dit is come about (did an unexpected front occurr, did you leave thinking it would be so bad, did you check the weather first, was the forecast wrong, etc etc)

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Old 11-01-2010, 05:17   #2
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We left NYC mid-October 2008 after a low went off-shore. NOAA report was for 20 knots gusting 25 from the west; but the gradient between the passing low and the following high tightened and by midnight we were off the Jersey Shore in 40+ knots with gusts up to 54 knots and 20+ ft seas.

We ran off-shore deeply reefed with the wind on our starboard quarter as we had planned and practiced. My wife stood the midnight to 04:00 watch alone with the Raymarine autopilot doing the work!!

Some sailors out that night blamed NOAA... we were pleased that it proved that we and the boat were up to it. Had we been in the Gulf Stream we would have been in big trouble...About the same time, in similar weather, a professional crew abandoned a new $750,000 cat out in the Stream.


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Old 11-01-2010, 05:34   #3
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We had 45kt winds when a front whistled up the English Channel ahead of forecast, and we were on our way across the Thames Estuary. The biggest problems were visibility (it was hailing) and depth - it's full of sandbars and some very shallow water that has often caught the unwary.

We motorsailed towards Holland to get to slightly deeper water and then after about 1 hour it abated enough for us to very slowly and carefully head into Harwich - which suited us better as we didn't have any charts for Holland!

The other time was crossing Biscay when we had 35-40kts wind, and no propellor. Big cross swell. Two reefs in main and tight genoa kept us going very well at 8kts - which is extremely fast for us, and gave us complete confidence in the boat. The swell was the big problem as it was very uncomfortable and sick-making.

That was forecast and we were prepared for the wind, but, being our first time far offshore, we really underestimated the impact of swell on our ability to manage food etc, so we learnt a lot. Never in any danger though.

The first of these two was far more frightening even though much shorter.
Sarah & Pip
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Old 11-01-2010, 06:39   #4
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I met my worst storm at sea at the beginning of March, 1962 on the way from New York to Bermuda . It was so much worse than anything else I’ve encountered before or since that in mymind it is ‘The Storm’ -- everything else is just strong wind.
BTW I mentioned this experience in passing on another thread in this forum but did not go into detail.
Since this happened almost 50 years ago so some of the timing is a bit hazy but the details remain clear.
There were four us, all in college. We co-owned a 37-ft Dutch-built steel ketch named Maelstrom. She was a heavy boat, full keel, very strongly built. We kept her on the Connecticut shore and sailed a lot in Buzzards Bay.
Anyway that year we had all finished our finals early and the next semester didn't start until April so we decided to go sailing. The weather, as I remember it, was beautiful, rather warm for that time of year. I'm not sure who got the idea first but we decided to sail to Bermuda.
One 19-year-old is capable of idiotic things, four together can produce stupidity raised to the fourth power. That stupidity had us out in the Atlantic during one of the worst storms ever to hit the east coast.
We set the boat up, made sure all our systems were in good shape, our safety gear was inspected. What we didn't do was get a long or even medium range weather forecast. On top of that we never checked the batteries for out weather radio – they were all dead and we couldn’t hook it up to run on ships power
Anyway off we went. The first couple of days were really good, Decent wind, nice weather until the second night when the wind and seas start to build. By the third day we were carrying 30-knot winds with gusts up to maybe 50 and increasing. The wind was coming more or less off our port beam and we were riding under a storm staysail and mizzen. Taking down the jib and the main was interesting . It took three of us to do it.
We were may 80-100 miles off the New Jersey Coast (this being the days before GPS and Loran really accurate positions were hard to come by). We figured the direction of the center of the storm and that we were in the ‘navigable’ semicircle in those circumstances, navigable is truly a relative term, Our plan was to run more or less parallel to what I estimated would be the track of the storm, keeping far enough offshore so we would be trapped by the Jersey or Hatteras if we got that far. I thought of running for the Chesapeake but it would have been dead reckoning all the way from a not well established starting point and if we missed it would have been all over. In fact the three- and-a-half days I spent navigating on dead reckoning was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done.
The water was cold even through the foul weather gear and layers of sweaters and we could do about 2 hours at the helm. The seas were confused with the wind strong enough to blow the tops off the waves making a very dangerous situation. Because of that, we decided we had to steer her to take the seas on the quarter as best we could and keep her from being rolled. To slow ourselves down so we wouldn’t trip on a wave and be pitchpoled, we towed a heavy hawser attached the bitts at our stern in a big loop. It slowed us to about 2-3 knots and the loop actually helped prevent waves from breaking over the stern.
We had no idea of the wind strength was since the wind had blown the anemometer off the mast back on the third day. And from, a small boat in a storm all waves look like they’re at least 10 stories high at least.
It's hard to describe just what it was like being pounded like that hour after hour. The worst thing was the noise. The shrieking of the wind in the rigging was enough to drive your crazy. I'm sure the winds got to hurricane force. Even worse, the storm parked itself off the Carolina coast for three days blocked by a high pressure system from Canada so the pounding went on and on and on.
We managed to reef down the staysail and the mizzen to mere scraps as we ran south and east..
We'd read all the heavy weather sailing books, in fact we had some of them aboard and I remember us pouring over them for hints. The best thing was not any instruction or hints we got from them but the simple fact that all of these people had survived some in boats smaller and not as strongly made as ours and some in worse conditions.
What we did -- at this distance in time its mostly a blur, remembered feelings and impressions rather than fact. Eventually the storm blew itself past us. When I was able to take a sun sight I found we were just west of the Stream off the Virginia coast more or less where I estimated we might be. We continued on and finally made it to Bermuda. Altogether it took us about 11 days. We had the boat hauled and checked by a surveyor and aside from the sails everything was in good shape. We replaced the storm jib and had the mizzen and the staysail re-stitched and by that time was had to head back. This time we got a detailed weather forecast.
In retrospect we owed our lives to the strength of our boat and to our little one-burner SeaSwing stove. Maelstrom took all the pounding the storm handed out and came through with no more damage than abraded paint and the topsides caked with salt. And without the hot meals that gimbaled stove made it possible to prepare we would not have had the strength to manage the boat.
Finally I gotta say that after that sail I became a lot more cautious – I figure I owe the ocean one and I want to put off payment for a very, very long time..

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located Herrington Harbour South, Friendship MD
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Old 11-01-2010, 09:57   #5
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i cant use poll for this one--i have sailed in 30 ft following seas in brisk--donot kno whow fast-winds after an el nino storm between castalina and oceanside in 1998, jan. and i sailed in 50+kt winds in gulf of mexico with lightning all around --60 mi out of 0200!!!! is difficult---ii think the night lightning and winds and such was worse than sailing the huge waves and wind from the 1998 storm LOL......huge waves are intimidating but if you donot see them from the helm is much better than seeing the lightning all the time lol....the 30 ft waves were predictable, not from everywhere like in the gulf.......
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Old 11-01-2010, 11:26   #6
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After aborting a run from S'ton halfway across Poole Bay we turned back for home.
Wind wasn't too bad, 30-35kts from the NW, but a short sea from the SW under the wind swell made a confused sea that had confined my Lady to the heads.
I and sailing Buddy had 60 hrs or so total experience by then.
The boat was hard to keep on a steady heading (probably sail trim) and wanted to broach as we ran surfing past the Needles lighthouse. 10.6kts on the surf, for a 7kt hull speed.
Now I know I should have double reefed the main, and furled some of the genoa.
We flew the jib to stbd, the main and genoa to port, gave a stable and tolerant sail set as the main filled the stay, and that filled the genoa. Double Gull Wing.
No worries about the boats ability, I've got to get more experience.
Ex Prout 31 Sailor, Now it's a 22ft Jaguar called 'Arfur' here in sunny Southampton, UK.
A few places left in Quayside Marina and Kemps Marina.
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Old 11-01-2010, 11:57   #7
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We had 12 hours of +45 from NW Sardinia (Stintino) to Mahon in Minorca.

The forecast was NE 25kts. We left with nice weather in the afternoon. The night came with lots of thunderstorms and no wind. I rolled the main to a third reef and motored until sunrise when the NE started to blow. We unrolled the genoa and sailed in -2 meter waves. But the wind builded, and in one moment it went up to +40. We partially rolled the genoa and started surfing. It was 12 hours and the sea builded quickly. The big ones topped 5 or more meters. Our best speed was 16 kts. We sail a Bavaria 40

It was my first time in this kind of weather. And I was the only "experienced" sailor. We were 7 people onboard. In the begining I ordered everybody to stay inside, and only a friend was outside with me. People can't fall in water from the inside, and they could not help. It took me 2 or 3 hours to realize the boat could cope with it and to calm down. Then I let the people come out. Everybody had his harness.

We didn't brake anything, I learned a lot. So It was a good experience I do NOT want to repeat.
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Old 11-01-2010, 12:23   #8
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Typical poll/survey: 147 views and only 18 votes. Does this mean the for over 100 viewers there wasn't a choice that fits :-)
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Old 11-01-2010, 12:26   #9
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No -it just means that 88% of readers of this forum have never been to sea on a boat!
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Old 11-01-2010, 12:53   #10
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Originally Posted by paradix View Post
No -it just means that 88% of readers of this forum have never been to sea on a boat!
LOL- I think quite a few people follow a thread and come back to it from time to time...
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Old 11-01-2010, 14:23   #11
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One of the nastiest involved practically no wind. Motorsailing up the New Jersey coast to New York in the middle of the night in almost a dead calm, with serious fog. The only time we could see anything was due to the frequent lightning strikes all around us. I've never seen lightning in those types of conditions before and will be quite happy if I never do again. Scared hell out of me and my partner.
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Old 11-01-2010, 14:50   #12
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I've been out in much worse than what's on the poll, but for purposes of what we're doing here, on a small sailboat, I lived through about 15' square waves and 30+ knots in 60' of water off of Louisiana surounded by wellheads.......I chose poorly and will never play with the weather like that again. I've also been on the bridge of a ship and seen water consume the deck that stood 30' above the surface.......the ship did not move.
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Old 11-01-2010, 14:52   #13

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Worst winds a no name winter cold front packing hurricane force winds, weather forecast changed from 10-15s to special marine warnings in two hrs. Was in gulf of mexico and waves were 12-15' breaking.

Biggest waves coming back from bahamas when low pressure formed over islands. Waves were huge in gulfstream.
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Old 11-01-2010, 15:05   #14
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I chose something worse that the choices as my worst storm was in a fairly enclosed body of water so the waves never really got much over 6-8ft trough to crest. And their frequency was fairly fast, not the long drawn out sets you get in the open ocean. But the wind was clocked at 115kmph, which is about 72mph. Makes for a very nasty ride.

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Old 11-01-2010, 18:57   #15
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We also ticked off 'worse'. But it was not the worst.

We were in a bad Southern Ocean generated system off Mangareva and it was frightening but turned out not as dangerous as it seemed. Then we were in a normal storm conditions off NZ and we got badly knocked down.

So we think the highest waves and strongest winds may be less dangerous than a less dynamic but more perplexed weather system.


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