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Old 06-06-2015, 10:00   #1
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Got Boarded?

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.
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Old 06-06-2015, 15:27   #2
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Re: Got Boarded?

We never had water from a wave breaking and coming aboard astern, but did have a bridge deck, and were quick to put the duckboards in. However, did get water below once when we were rolled down like a knockdown, and water came in through the dorade. I didn't like that.

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Old 06-06-2015, 16:01   #3
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Re: Got Boarded?

No experiences yet, but your story sure helps justify my decision to upgrade to a waterproofed control panel on our new engine!
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Old 06-06-2015, 17:08   #4
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Re: Got Boarded?

Have had significant boarding waves on monos a few times (green water completely covering decks & flooding cockpit). Only twice on cats. Once over the bows in very ugly conditions in a pass...shed it like a duck. Once had large follwing seas make it up the transom steps and into the cockpit, but only about 5 gallons. Engine controls on most cats are very high up, would take a hell of wave to wet them.

Is it practical to mount your panel higher?
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Old 06-06-2015, 19:23   #5
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Re: Got Boarded?

Only once. Had just changed into dry cloths (of course) and made coffee for the skipper and myself. Set the coffee mugs on the companionway steps and opened the hatch just in time to meet the water coming my way. Only mopped up maybe a gal. or so of water and it didn't cause any damage but I remember being po'd that I had to dump the coffee and start fresh. I was surprised at how far the water traveled below decks though. The companionway was closed else it could have been much worse. Have had lots of green water come in over the bow and even up over the spray hood. Surprising how fast it comes at you.
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Old 06-06-2015, 19:45   #6
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Re: Got Boarded?

Never shipped a wave of the style you're talking about. I'm pretty sure I'd be up the creek in my centre cockpit if I did.

However, I do have a similar hatch over my engine controls as is displayed in your photo. I'm not sure if it was factory or installed by one of the previous two owners.

Sent from my SGH-I547C using Cruisers Sailing Forum mobile app
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Old 07-06-2015, 07:04   #7
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Re: Got Boarded?

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Only once. Had just changed into dry cloths (of course) and made coffee for the skipper and myself. ....
Reminds me of a crew member who was having a really bad voyage. He had over stated his experience and was in over his head. We got into several days of storms and he was seriously seasick. Early on he valiantly tried to stand his watch (though he was eventually totally incapacitated). He had just laboriously got into full offshore foul weather gear and secured himself at the helm for his watch when an attack of diarrhoea hit...too fast for him to extract himself from all the gear...he only had time to open his jacket while still at the helm...as he sat there miserable, sick, stewing in his own poo...a big wave hit and deposited about 5 gallons of water squarely in his chest which flowed down thru his open jacket into his foulies...he was the picture of misery.

I was annoyed with him for having overstated his experience, but couldn't help but feel sorry for him. That was the last watch he stood till the storm cleared...he was bed ridden.
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Old 07-06-2015, 10:21   #8
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Re: Got Boarded?

Hmm, I don't know why my post would remind you of that story. Maybe you are into scatology?
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Old 07-06-2015, 10:43   #9
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Re: Got Boarded?

Never had a "rogue" wave or anything like that come over us but having green water coming over the boat from any direction wasn't uncommon. We had a Whitby 42 with a high and (usually) dry center cockpit, with a large bimini that completely cover the cockpit with some overhang and a very drive dodger with glass windows and canvas top and sides.

On one passage in about an hour overall I changed clothes three times from water coming over and drenching me. I was pretty PO'ed. The seas weren't huge, just completely unorganized giant washing machine type stuff. It wasn't one of the most pleasant passages to be had. But never felt like we would be rolled. But the Whitby's are pretty solid (as in slow and solid) so the boat did her part.

As far as self-steering, I think it is usually preferable if set up right. At some times/conditions you can't just try to aim direct for your waypoint so shouldn't set your autopilot or windvane pilot to just head for that. You will be inviting more green water. And you can't outfox the waves in many cases anyway, even if you can see them, which you can't at night in any case. Hand steering is a guaranteed way to rapidly get exhausted which can cause problems in decision-making and lack of strength if needed to deal with the little occurrences/emergencies that can pop up in the rough stuff.

But if the self-steering isn't up for the conditions you have to do what you have to do. Six of the worst hours of my life were doing that at night closing on a lee shore in a gale with the quartering seas not allowing me to make course to avoid outlying islands, my admiral exhausted and asleep down below with no way to wake her in the howling wind and seas. I had cramps on cramps and could see the (very big) light on the pile of rocks I needed to pass to the south of ahead. I basically just resigned to do the best possible and deal with going on the rocks if that is what would happen. Fortunately, the wind and seas let up right at day break and we got in to a bay and threw the anchor out and I practically passed out in my bunk. I was a bit wet even under my foulies from water coming over the stern quarter.
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Old 07-06-2015, 11:01   #10
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Re: Got Boarded?

I sail a lot in rough conditions (English Channel; no choice ) and have been boarded a few times. Never over the very buoyant stern of my boat, but once sailing beam-on to the wind and seas in a F9, and once over the quarter just last month in the North Sea.

The first time was not too bad -- some water in the cockpit.

The second, recent time was pretty bad -- a big wave broke right over the quarter and knocked us almost down -- mast maybe 60 degrees down. Crew was clipped in so no human casualties, but the companionway was open and a good bit of water poured onto the nav table, destroying my computer. Also got a good bit of green water down the dorades. Lost boathooks, but no other damage. Interestingly, the dinghy in davits with the 25hp engine mounted was untouched.

This was in a F9 which had been blowing for most of a day, creating a pretty ugly sea state. Crew at the helm had been poorly instructed by me and left the pilot on when the big wave approached. I was steering a couple of hours later when a similar wave appeared, and steered down it with no problems as it broke around us.

The wave that whacked us filled the center cockpit, which stayed full of water due to my boats utter crap cockpit drains which are tiny and subject to clogging with the slightest bit of debris. Fortunately the cockpit is well sealed and the companionway threshhold is well higher than the cockpit sole level, and no engine controls down there, so other than filling the crew's boots with sea water, there were no other negative consequences. A center cockpit full of water cannot be good for a boat's stability, however, so much better cockpit drains than this are an imperative, to my mind.
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Old 07-06-2015, 13:43   #11
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Re: Got Boarded?

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Originally Posted by DeepFrz View Post
Hmm, I don't know why my post would remind you of that story. Maybe you are into scatology?
No, the just changing into dry clothes part that I quoted.The crew member had just come on watch freshly changed.
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Old 07-06-2015, 18:36   #12
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Re: Got Boarded?

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Originally Posted by Delancey View Post
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.
If you sail offshore you'll get greenies overboard from all directions eventually.

Why leave the panel installed in the cockpit well anyway? Stupid place to put them in a blue water boat and I believe a hangover from when engines were a new thing and they hadn't worked out where to put all the bits yet.

Install it inside the companionway where it's a simple matter to reach inside to start the engine. In most boats it can be positioned so that you can see the dials through some kind of window in the companionway/hatch.

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