Well, with all due respect to Kan, I was out in a storm off the pac northwest that saw ten boats go down; 3 with all hands and to deploy a parachute off the bow and nose into those seas would've been suicide. My mast
was just shy of 75 feet and those waves towered over the mast
in the troughs, every time the boat rose up and surfed down the face, I kept thinking of the vid's I'd seen of guys surfing the monster waves out in hawaii
, and i'll tell you, I was feeling pretty much the same "pucker" factor, and with good reason. One of the casualties was a 100 plus foot fisherman that apparently broke its back and went down.
I can't speak as to what everyone else did in that storm, but I can tell you that I ran like a bunny, trailing warps to keep me stern to the waves, and with engine
at a slight angle down the face-very very slight so as to limit the possibility of a broach which would have been "it", while avoiding pitchpoling which would have been equally "UN" fun. What was happening was that a damned mountain of a wave would loom up behind and we would rise up the face just like a surfer waiting to catch 'the big one'...just shy of the crest, the boat would be at such a steep angle that it would rise up onto the surface and plane down the face (54foot Stan Huntingford custom FG sloop). The crest of the larger waves would curl up and the top 10 to 15 feet or so broke off and came rumbling down the face behind us, a wall of seething white water
, much like you'd experience standing in pretty good sized pacific coast surf, but with greater velocity due to its falling down the face. We got going fast enough to plow into the back of the wave in front, which I would take at a narrow angle-fortunately that boat had one of Stan's 'blue water bows'.. which had enormous reserve volume and tho it would scoop up some green water, as it bit into the back of the wave in front, it still rose on thru just before the wall of water behind crashed into the stern quarter...then the whole cycle would repeat. It was a testament to Stan's design and the skill of his canadian builders that the ship even stayed together. I've never seen anything like it before or since and don't care to. Oh, and in case you're wondering what I was doing out there in the first place, I PERSONALLY had visited the Seattle
NOAA the day before to get a forecast
and was told "sleigh ride" i.e. extremely favorable wind and seas for smooth passage
down the coast..now I look at my own maps.
It was one miserable experience. Out of the six on board, one nearly died of dehydration, the only professional sailor on board was immobilized by the motion as were 2 others. The motion was so severe we had to wedge them around the mast on the cabin sole
with the cushions
, bedding, pillows, and everything else we could find. One crewmember was harnessed and latched to the frame of the helmstation when we were a little late starting our surfing and fell off the top of the wave with the breaking crest. He did the tetherball thing going up and over to the other side of the cockpit and injured his ribs.
Now I don't know what a passport 45 weighs, but my boat was about 55k, and I was dragging 1" lines on the drogue off big reinforced bits off the stern quarters. I'm surprised 5/8" lines could hold a 45 foot boat to a big chute in a 70 knot
generated sea. That boat HAS to be something over 30k doesn't it? And just offhand, seems to me good 5/8's tensile is what, in the low teens? Hell I've seen 36's snap dock
lines that big when swells came thru a marina.
I also had an oversized wagner hydraulic autopilot
which most likely saved the boat and all on board as only two out of the six of us remained ambulatory and trying to steer manually in those seas really took the starch out of your collar after only a few hours. The oversized ram and quick cycle earned a tip of the hat to Wagner along with one helluva testimonial letter.
(Oh, another point, of all the crew I was one of the, if not THE most susceptible to sea sickness
, but you will be amazed how 'focused' you become on other things when the ship hangs in the balance, just keep hold of the wheel
. You will forget all about being sick.
For those of you reading this thread that have not yet encountered life threatening severe weather
which is generally what 70 knot
and up stuff is out in the deep blue, you might run over to Youtube and search giant waves, storm seas, etc., and take a look at the kind of stuff out there. Seems to me someone also posted some video of a marina during hurricane
conditions, but I've forgotten what the windspeed was. What you will see is inadequately wrapped/socked etc. roller furling sails
shredded to pieces.
Last comment. Not all large seas are as dangerous as these were. Some of the truly huge rollers are so far apart that you're not faced with the conditions I've described, but in other areas, they can get packed really close together and things can get out of hand in a hurry. I am told there is a theoretical limit as to how high they can get before the tops start falling off which was the case here. Also, in some instances, really strong winds can tend to flatten the waves a bit by knocking the crests off. There are no hard and fast rules as to how a skipper
should react. It's one of those "everything depends" type of deals...a whole bunch of variables. What can be uniformly said is that the skipper
should make sure his ship is sound, that your fuel
are clean and baffled (I'm a huge believer in day tanks) so as eliminate the possibility that gunk in the tank is going to be churned up or the fuel
sloshed around and lead to foam in the lines-either one can prevent you from being able to use the engine to help manuever when it would be 'really nice' to be able to do so. You should know your own boat, how she reacts to a chute or drogue off the bow when trying to hold position, or warps off the stern when trying to run but keep your tail in the face of the storm. Lastly, when faced with extreme adversity, remind yourself to take a deep breath and *THINK*. It's been my experience that those who keep their heads under stress....are the ones that , well keep their heads period.
oh, I should mention that a huge number of far better sailors than I have sailed tens of thousands of miles over years and years and never hit the kind of storm I've been talking about. With advances in weather reporting and the ability of current instruments to see pretty much in real time what a storm is doing, a careful skipper will only extremely rarely find himself surprised by a dangerous storm... that is UNLESS, he's trying to make someone's schedule...Schedules can get you hurt faster than anything I know of.