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Old 26-02-2010, 09:13   #1
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How to Sail Through a Waterspout

I would love to claim credit for this article, but I found it many years a go on the 'net and thought I would share it with you!

Waterspouts can be intimidating to the uninitiated. But a waterspout is nothing more than a cylindrical wall of water spiraling upward propelled by 175 knot winds. If you just think of them that way, the seamanship required to safely navigate through them becomes obvious.

Some less experienced skippers will tell you to attempt to avoid waterspouts. Nonsense. If you have the rare opportunity to tack through the eye of a huge raging funnel of watery death, don't miss it!

And tacking is just what is required. You'll find that most waterspouts in the northern hemisphere spin in a counter-clockwise direction. That means you'll want to approach on a port tack, beating as close to the wind as you can. But keep a sharp weather eye, because things will change rapidly.

When you first enter the wall of the 'spout, you'll find that the wind shifts quickly from a moderate breeze over the port bow to a hurricane-force blast of green water dead abeam. Be prepared for it by keeping a loose grip on the main sheet. You'll probably want to ease the main as the first few tons of seawater burst over the rail. And don't forget the old adage "one hand for the ship, and one hand for you". It's easy to lose your footing when navigating through Force-25 conditions. Often the more conservative captain will recommend a harness at this time.

Once securely inside the wall of the maelstrom, set your sails for a beam reach and steer for the eye. Waterspouts are not very large, and you will generally reach the eye in just a short time.

BE CAREFUL! The transition to the eye can be a tricky. As soon as you enter the eye, the wind will suddenly diminish. If you're not quick with the helm, the boat can rock back over to windward from the sudden loss of pressure on the sail. This can be uncomfortable for your guests, and is a mark of 'lubberly boat handling.

Inside the eye of the waterspout it's always very calm and relaxing. It's a great time to hoist a cold one and reflect with your crew on the joys of sailing. But don't become too distracted, because in a couple of seconds you'll reach the other wall of the storm.

The far wall of the waterspout will slam into your starboard side with the force of a small nuclear detonation. So it's wise to have the sheets and traveler pre-positioned in anticipation of this. If the 175 knot wind pushes the uncontrolled boom over on it's own, it can make an alarming noise and even damage equipment.

Sail through the screaming wind, crashing water, and flying debris with a steady hand on the helm, and in a few moments you'll pop out and clear the edge. It can be very misty on the boundary of a waterspout, so foul-weather gear can be a comfort. It's usually best to don your "foulies" before entering the storm, just in case things get wet.

As you sail away on a pleasant broad reach, don't forget to glance aft and enjoy the spectacle of one of nature's most powerful events.
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Old 26-02-2010, 09:33   #2
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Not to mention at 175mph it can lift many boats clean out of the water and you could enjoy the flight home , perhaps put your feet up on the rail and relax with a beer in one hand and a joint in the other wile you fly the friendly skys, just think of all the time and fuel you could save on your way home!
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Old 26-02-2010, 09:39   #3
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If you see a witch flying by...
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Old 26-02-2010, 09:57   #4
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Hmmm Must be a joke.
I've never liked the idea of tornados on land let alone water. Hurricanes are one thing, but tornados are a whole different breed! I would never do it by choice!!
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Old 26-02-2010, 10:23   #5
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Quote:
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Hmmm Must be a joke.
gee, ya think so?
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Old 26-02-2010, 10:33   #6
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I need to replace my jib halyard, perhaps I could use the lift to climb the mast?
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Old 26-02-2010, 10:34   #7
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I have not managed to sail through one yet, but I have had a couple of close encounters. Here are a couple of pictures from the Bahamas in 2008. They were taken with a wide angle lens and are much closer than they appear in the photo. They were actually two separate ones formed about 20 minutes apart. The first appeared about 100 yards off, the second about 200. A Bahamian local told us the way to deal with a water spout was to stand on the bow and cut it with your knife. That doesn't soundlike nearly as much fun as sailing through it.
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Old 26-02-2010, 10:50   #8
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I think the time honored saftey procedure of bending over, putting your head between your knees and kissing your as@ goodbye would be the right way to deal with one, but I like the local's appraoch also.
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Old 26-02-2010, 10:52   #9
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Like you, I have had close encounters and they are very hard to photograph. Coming into Captivia Island one day we saw three form, come down and then disappear. We come into the dock to find everyone had been evacuated! They returned to their homes a short time later...It is better to be lucky than good somedays....
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Old 26-02-2010, 11:24   #10
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We typically get photos of them from our patio here. It is difficult, they always seem to show up at dusk.

I was once on a 150' high res seismic survey boat that had one go across the deck in the middle of the night. We all got woken up, big time. And everything that had been on the deck that was not actually chained or welded to the deck.......was gone.
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Old 27-02-2010, 11:15   #11
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This is from a few years back crossing the Bahama bank as a front passed over. Just as soon as one dissipated there was another to take its place, this went on for about an hr. and half. At one time there were six touching down at the same time.



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Old 27-02-2010, 11:44   #12
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Funny........... I should have read this Yesterday...Thanks for the laugh!..


Looking forward to your How Not to Sail off the Edge of the World instructional..
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Old 27-02-2010, 12:50   #13
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Old 27-02-2010, 13:56   #14
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I once had one in the Bahamas coming at me so close, I really thought that I was taking my last breaths then it just hopped over me an kept on going, scared me to with in an inch of Death
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Old 27-02-2010, 19:03   #15
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Grew up in Michigan and watched more than one funnel cloud float by without touching down. Had to move to Kona to get the fun of making a close and personal acquaintance with one. Had just moved into our new home, think it was the first or second night there. My wife woke me up in the middle of the night because the wind was howling and she wanted to make sure the furniture on the lanai was secure. I staggered out on the lanai (covered porch) still half asleep, heard a big whoomph and I was suddenly soaked. I was a bit puzzled as I knew I'd put the roof on myself and couldn't figure out why it was leaking so badly. Finally sunk in that the front half of our roof wasn't there any longer. The house almost instantly filled up with water to the windowsills. Fortunately, it's Hawaii so windows went nearly to the floor and the water was only about a foot deep. Huddled the family in a back bedroom that still had a roof and waited out the night. The wind and rain went as quickly as they came and we woke up to bright sunshine, as if nothing had happened, in the morning. If it wasn't for the fact that the front of our roof was now in the backyard and all the downed limbs and one tree in the yard it would almost have been a dream.

If you ever have the good fortune to run into a water spout at sea, get the sails down, get everything battened down, and then go below, fix yourself a stiff drink, and pray.

What was kind of funny is when we reported getting hit by a waterspout to the local civil defense agency, they told us we were mistaken. Water spouts don't occur at night, according to them. We pointed out that there was a line of destruction that marked the path of the spout from the time it came ashore till it petered out further up the mountain. They wouldn't hear of such a thing. To them, water spouts simply couldn't form at night.
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