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Old 09-12-2019, 16:12   #1
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Catamaran Sailing in Squalls

What's the best way to handle tropical squalls in a catamaran?

Yesterday we we on a beam sail with 18 knots of wind in 1.5 meter seas. Our reefing plan calls for the first reef at 20 and the second at 25 (apparent for upwind, actual for downwind).

We could see the squalls coming so we put the first reef in. We ended up with winds of about 28 for 5-10 minutes from the first squall. We headed downwind until it passed.

The issue was that there was a line of them all day with about 45-60 minutes in between all with similar winds. Reefing and shaking all day was going to be a major pain. We ended up just leaving one reef in and turning downwind each time a squall hit. But, that meant we had more sail up then the manual suggested. In moved the traveler way down as well.

I'm looking for thoughts from others on what you do in these situations.
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Old 09-12-2019, 16:28   #2
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Re: Catamaran Sailing in Squalls

FWIW here's what we do:

Upwind (forward of the beam) we reef to an intermediate level; a bit too little sail for the normal breeze and a bit too much for the squall winds. When the winds get to us we put in a "fisherman's reef" by dropping the main down to leeward and getting the jib to put a bubble in the main. We find this works quite well. If the wind comes on fast we do similar by pinching and then adjust the traveler and fall back off. We don't run a fisherman's reef for too long, but if the squalls are 5-10 minutes that's OK. Have to practice a little, you want things depowered but not luffing in a way that induces wear.

Downwind (aft of the beam) we reef the main appropriately for the squall conditions, and then use the roller jib in/out to adjust overall sail area.

That probably covers 75-80% of our squally condition sailing, there are times when we reef more deeply (the squalls are particularly fierce) or do something else.
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Old 09-12-2019, 16:31   #3
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Re: Catamaran Sailing in Squalls

Don't they say to always set the sails to the gusts? I'm super lazy so if I've reefed I wait for the wind to drop a lot before even considering taking them out.

Sometimes like the other day around here (large cliffs/mountains), you get wind of 2-5knts but then gusts of up to 30 knts. Then I just don't bother, and use the motor.
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Old 09-12-2019, 16:36   #4
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Re: Catamaran Sailing in Squalls

Do you have a roller furling headsail?


In squally weather, keep at least your main rigged for the squalls. If your headsail is a roller furler, you can ease it out during calmer periods. Just accept that you are carrying less than optimal sail area between squalls.
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Old 09-12-2019, 17:40   #5
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Re: Catamaran Sailing in Squalls

We recently spent a few days sailing in squalls and multi-celled storms with some impressive thunder and lightning. Peak gusts were just over 40 knots.

Our cat's reef schedule called for no main over 35 knots. Sooooo....no main and reefed headsail was pretty much how we sailed while penetrating squalls. We also had a motor going when thunder and lightning was about.

We are NOT experts by any means and might be a bit too conservative. I didn't see how we had any other options without risking the rig.
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Old 09-12-2019, 18:24   #6
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Re: Catamaran Sailing in Squalls

we have in mast furling. push IN button when squall is coming...push OUT button when squall is gone

simple

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Old 09-12-2019, 18:59   #7
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pirate Re: Catamaran Sailing in Squalls

Quote:
Originally Posted by StuM View Post
Do you have a roller furling headsail?


In squally weather, keep at least your main rigged for the squalls. If your headsail is a roller furler, you can ease it out during calmer periods. Just accept that you are carrying less than optimal sail area between squalls.
This.. ^^^^^ :
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Old 10-12-2019, 09:22   #8
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Re: Catamaran Sailing in Squalls

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Originally Posted by StuM View Post
Do you have a roller furling headsail?


In squally weather, keep at least your main rigged for the squalls. If your headsail is a roller furler, you can ease it out during calmer periods. Just accept that you are carrying less than optimal sail area between squalls.
That's the way to go.
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Old 10-12-2019, 09:31   #9
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Re: Catamaran Sailing in Squalls

I've read to reef for gusts on cats. Monohulls can heel and spill wind from the top of sails, cat's can and therefore the rig takes to brunt of the gusts.

Last summer I spent a half hour in a squall with 60 knots of wind. I have a Leopard 40. I dropped all sails and ran down wind. I was doing 10-12 knots over the ground under bare poles. I used my wind indicator to keep the wind on the stern. Fortunately we were close to shore and the wind was coming from the land so seas didn't have a chance to build.

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[QUOTE=crayiii;3032750]What's the best way to handle tropical squalls in a catamaran?

Yesterday we we on a beam sail with 18 knots of wind in 1.5 meter seas. Our reefing plan calls for the first reef at 20 and the second at 25 (apparent for upwind, actual for downwind).
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Old 10-12-2019, 09:54   #10
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Re: Catamaran Sailing in Squalls

Not a complete answer by any means (and there's different good answers for differing conditions, levels and nature of experience and rig age, strength etc......but, depowering is a very important tool. For headsails, move the lead aft...even a lot. For main - don't drop the traveler, keep it high while easing the sheet and vang (a bit but not too much!). The idea is for the upper part of the sails to twist a lot and luff (with a bubble, but not flogging), decreasing the power they generate and lowering their center of effort (and heeling force....which on a cat translates to stress on the rig & structures).

This approach is not meant to replace awareness and caution, but, along with active helmsmanship can keep a boat in a sort of sweet spot with strong headway without undue stresses. For the racing sailor they can become second nature (and, developing the sensitivity and technique is a good reason to do some racing and heavy weather sailing in small boats).

We all sometimes will be caught napping, lazy or underestimating the threat - so learning and practicing such techniques is valuable. When I was younger I looked for the windiest days and biggest seas for the thrill of speed and pushing to the limits (and sometimes beyond...hence a few small-boat dismastings, many capsizes- but fortunately never any serious injuries!). But - like intentionally driving on a frozen lake or taking instruction on a winter driving course, what's been learned and become routine is valuable in times where the unexpected is suddenly in your face.
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Old 10-12-2019, 11:14   #11
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Re: Catamaran Sailing in Squalls

Quote:
Originally Posted by crayiii View Post
What's the best way to handle tropical squalls in a catamaran?

Yesterday we we on a beam sail with 18 knots of wind in 1.5 meter seas. Our reefing plan calls for the first reef at 20 and the second at 25 (apparent for upwind, actual for downwind).

We could see the squalls coming so we put the first reef in. We ended up with winds of about 28 for 5-10 minutes from the first squall. We headed downwind until it passed.

The issue was that there was a line of them all day with about 45-60 minutes in between all with similar winds. Reefing and shaking all day was going to be a major pain. We ended up just leaving one reef in and turning downwind each time a squall hit. But, that meant we had more sail up then the manual suggested. In moved the traveler way down as well.

I'm looking for thoughts from others on what you do in these situations.
Reef deep and reef early. Look at the horizon to see if you should remain reefed? I've never had a cat but two tris and a mono. Monos dump the air when heeling multihull may not dump the wind in the sails until the under surface gets the wind and over you go.
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Old 10-12-2019, 11:38   #12
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Re: Catamaran Sailing in Squalls

We were caught on our Cat in the Caribe leaving the lee end of an island and suddenly were in 30-40 knots of wind and 8-10 ft seas within minutes of getting out in the open. I had non sailors aboard and it was a mess. The cat seemed to do fine with full sail up. But that's what really scared me... the wrong combination of those seas and the wind and... you get no warning on a cat. Eventually we got reefed, but it was pretty crazy there for a bit.
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Old 10-12-2019, 11:51   #13
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Re: Catamaran Sailing in Squalls

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Originally Posted by Cadence View Post
Reef deep and reef early. Look at the horizon to see if you should remain reefed? I've never had a cat but two tris and a mono. Monos dump the air when heeling multihull may not dump the wind in the sails until the under surface gets the wind and over you go.
It has to be a very lightweight catamaran with large sails to go over... Most likely, something will break.

On my ex Lagoon 450, I could feel & hear the tension on the rigging. The boat would hum. When I would hear that, I knew the boat was overstressed.

Reef early and reef deep. There is no reason to stress the boat and passengers.
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Old 10-12-2019, 11:53   #14
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Re: Catamaran Sailing in Squalls

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It has to be a very lightweight catamaran with large sails to go over... Most likely, something will break.

On my ex Lagoon 450, I could feel & hear the tension on the rigging. The boat would hum. When I would hear that, I knew the boat was overstressed.

Reef early and reef deep. There is no reason to stress the boat and passengers.
There are a multitude of pictures of upside down cruising cats to dispute this. Just saying...
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Old 10-12-2019, 12:03   #15
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Re: Catamaran Sailing in Squalls

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There are a multitude of pictures of upside down cruising cats to dispute this. Just saying...
I am just describing my own experience. If my Lagoon 450 would have lifted a hull, it would have been a miracle. Maybe, I was careful.

I have seen pictures of a fellow catamaran cruiser lifting a hull, but he had a lightweight performance catamaran and his goal was speed.

Sorry for the thread shift... I will stop.
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