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