I found this by taking Cat Man Do's advice and googled Ramtha Catamaran
. It was in a mailing list at:
Although this deals with sailing cats—not many had much sail up by the time it was over. It certainly deals with the ability of a group of at least three cats to survive a storm—but also has some lessons for monohulls! This relates to the Queens Birthday Day Storm in June 1994. Typically one sails
N.Z. North to Fiji
After the first week of April and before the end of June. This should avoid the Souther Cyclone season and the severe winter Gales. In 1994 there were a series of mild lows which kept many mariners from leaving in April and May—none of these were severe—but folks were waiting for “Ideal weather”. However time crept up on them. The meteriological scenerio is well described in the web site of Steve Dashew at: http://www.setsail.com/products/pdfs/qbs.pdf
The story unfolds as noted in the archives
of Lat 38, June 1999:
‘It’s unclear exactly how many boats were caught in the core of the June ’94 storm, but nine boats with a total of 24 crew issued maydays. One boat and her three crew were never seen again. Seven other boats with 17 crew were eventually rescued. One boat rescinded her mayday and made it to port under her own power. What should make the Queen’s Birthday Storm story so interesting to you, .... is that two of the nine boats that issued maydays were catamarans; one a homebuilt 39-footer, the other a Catalac
In addition, there was a third catamaran
, a 39-footer, on the periphery of the core. The following is a quick rundown of all nine boats, their crews, and what happened to each of them.” Also an analysis of the monohulls condensed: “
Five things stand out from the experience of the seven monohulls:
1) Despite all efforts, it was virtually impossible to keep the boats from ending up beam-to the seas, which resulted in five of the boats being repeatedly knocked down or rolled.
2) Despite trailing drogues, two of the boats pitch
3) No matter if the seven monohulls pitch
poled or rolled, all of them lost
4) As a result of the pitch poles, knockdowns, and rollovers, many of the crews suffered serious injuries.
5) Having a ship come alongside to effect a rescue
was extremely difficult and dangerous foreveryone involved.
6) Perhaps the most amazing thing is how well the seven boats held up to the unthinkably horrible conditions; had it not been for scuttling or collisions with rescuing ships, six of them would have continued to float.
The age-old admonition to never leave a boat until it’sunderwater would seem as true as ever.
Now for the catamarans:
“Ramtha, a 38-foot Roger Simpson designed modern-style catamaran from Australia
, with a husband and wife crew with five years of coastal cruising experience and some offshore
experience: The crew had set a drogue
several days before the storm to fix her steering
, but had to cut it loose when they were unable to pull it back up. Ultimately, they found themselves in 70 knots of wind
and 40 foot seas, conditions so bad that the 4,000-ton ship Monowai, coming to their rescue
, rolled as much as 48º in each direction, injuring three of her crew. Despite four reefs
, Ramtha’s main blew to shreds and her steering
system became inoperable. With nothing but her twin engines available for maneuvering, being aboard her was like “going down a mountain in a wooden box” or being on a “roller coaster that never stopped.” The boat slid down waves forward, sideways, and backwards. Several times it seemed as though she might flip, but she never did. Ultimately, Monowai shot a line to Ramtha’s crew, but missed. While the line gun was being reloaded, Ramtha’s crew began to get strong second thoughts about leaving the boat, feeling he was doing fine on her own despite being crippled. Nonetheless, they attached their harnesses when the second line landed on their boat, and were dragged several hundred feet ÷ often underwater ÷ to and up the side of the ship. After abandoning the cat, the owners gave her up for lost
. A week or so later, they were stunned to learn that the boat had been found ÷ upright and in surprisingly good shape! After settling a salvage
claim with another yachtie, they eventually sailed her back to Oz where they began rebuilding the cruising kitty.
Heart Light, a 41-foot Catalac
U.S.-based catamaran with a crew of four; a husband and wife couple with 16,000 ocean miles, and two crew with no offshore
experience: Despite having 16,000 miles ocean experience, the captain
and wife claimed to have not steered the boat except near the dock
and to have never jibed between the States and New Zealand
. Heart Light was a heavy, solid fiberglass
, narrow catamaran. Nevertheless, she did reasonably well, surfing at between 6 and 13 knots while dragging a drogue
. When the autopilot
couldn’t handle it any longer, the skipper
finally learned how to steer, working desperately to prevent waves from slewing the stern in front of the bow. Eventually, both engines went down and linesfouled both rudders. They tied off the helm
to port and slid sideways down waves. Despite being “captapulted” through the air on many occasions and being knocked onto one hull
several other times, she endured. When the rescue ship arrived, her captain
noted that the boat “appeared seaworthy
and was riding comfortably in the improved weather
.” When the captain said he couldn’t tow the boat, Heart Light’s first mate, a New Age visionary, talked the ship’s captain into a weird agreement: they would only allow themselves to be rescued if he promised to ram Heart Light until she sank. The woman’s theory was that the sinking boat would be a lighthouse guiding the forces of good through seven layers of reality into our currently evil world. Something like that ÷ and yes, she wrote a book. The ship’s captain complied, and Heart Light sank after being rammed several times.
The third catamaran, a 40-footer, carried a deeply reefed main and furled jib
in slightly lighter conditions outside of the core. She experienced no serious problems.
There are several interesting things about the two catamarans in the core area of the storm:
1) Neither of them pitchpoled;
2) Neither of them flipped÷ although the crews thought they came close;
3) Neither of them were dismasted;
4) Both of them apparently would have survived ÷ by surfing forwards, sideways, and backwards ÷ had they just been left alone.
Does this mean that multihulls are actually safer in very severe weather
than monohulls? We ÷ who own both a monohull
and a catamaran ÷ certainly wouldn’t leap to that conclusion. After all, there were several other monohulls in the core area of the storm that didn’t even issue maydays and survived the storm with very little damage. And while it’s much too small asample on which to base any firm conclusions on, the performance of the catamarans in the storm nonetheless had some influence on our deciding to build a cat for our next charterboat.By the way, most of the factual information presented above comes from Rescue In The Pacific, a well-written and well-documented account of the Queen’s Birthday Storm by Tony Farrington. The book is still in print.