Another discussion elsewhere got me thinking about this particular subject. We got boarded twice delivering an old IOR boat across the North Atlantic last summer.
The first time I was asleep in the cockpit
. I think the helmsman might have been running a little too deep at the time and when the wave broke, it forced him to chinese gybe.
We had a preventer set up on the main, which held the boom, but as helmsman came back through the wind
, the top of the mainsail
slapped back so hard that it exploded against the spreaders and tore a seam all the way across an upper panel and up about 6 feet of leach. Yes, it was a bit windy at the time.
That wave left behind somewhere around 8" - 10" of water
in the cockpit
. Enough to completely submerge the engine control panel
and cause a short in the ignition which gave us grief for some time until I could sort it out.
The next day we were going to weather
on the opposite tack in a modest breeze and minimal chop when all of the sudden the now windward running backstay randomly fell to the deck
and hit my wife on the head
. She didn't get hurt fortunately, but was but surprised as we all were.
The second time we got boarded I was driving. It was daylight and we were broad reaching with just a blade jib
up. I saw the wave coming out of the corner of my eye at the same time I heard it beginning to break and I was working hard to drive the fall line, and up to a point was managing, before it finally smashed into us.
Once it did, it pushed our bow up into the wind
as it passed which caused it to break largely over the side. At that point you don't really have a lot of control over the boat. Basically none.
It took out one of the cockpit weather
cloths and left a similar amount of water
in the cockpit as the first time, which I figured was close to a thousand pounds worth.
The engine control panel
was already soaked so no matter there. I wasn't really paying attention since I was focused on driving but I think it seemed like the water drained pretty quickly.
On both occasions we got boarded we did ship some water belowdecks. Our companionway
wash boards were in place but the boat did not have a bridge deck
and washboards leak like it or not.
Driving in big waves can be challenging and takes skill. We had had problems with our self-steering gear
so didn't have a choice but to hand steer. That said, I am not sure I would have wanted to rely on self-steering gear
in those conditions.
I think it helps having experience driving in big waves already since the consequences of making a mistake during OJT can be severe. I got my introduction
to driving in heavy weather racing
470's and Solings as a teenager.
The stakes were very low then and we could always dry out on shore at the end of the day, but it seems like one bad wave could ruin a passage
for some and there's a lot of waves out there.
If I recall
correctly, Rebel Heart got boarded while self-steering and I believe did a fair amount of damage.
I'd be interested in hearing about other's experiences with the subject. I'll be repowering my own boat soon and when I do, which I have seen someone with a sister ship do, I'll be installing a Beckson opening port over my engine control panel.