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Old 02-09-2013, 16:19   #1
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Sail management under 'high' wind

We were in the Straight of Georgia the other day heading south, beating on a 25knot South-Easterly. The tide was running against the wind, so the seas were a bit steeper and with shorter period than what we'd like. The bow was pointing up in the sky in one moment, and was underwater in the next. I was quite surprised that 25knots could create such sea conditions. Maybe that's normal, we were all beginners onboard and didn't have much experience.

Anyway, we had the main reefed, and the 130% genoa furled about 1/3. Our Catalina 36 was handling just about Ok I think, doing about 6knots SOG, and if the wind increased we'd probably had to reduce sail further. And then, the furling line snapped!

The immediate reaction was to let go of the genoa sheets so as to avoid getting caught over-canvased, and so the genoa started flapping in the wind. The reefed main proved barely adequate (assisted by hard-to-port rudder) to keep the boat tracking close hauled. That point of sail felt safer as we didn't want to take the seas on our beam. Our speed dropped to about 1 knot SOG, or less. With the genoa flapping like crazy and the bow pointing to the sky or underwater, the whole thing took much longer than expected. In the end, the genoa developed a small rip by the spreader and at that point it became obvious that we were not going to keep sailing. We took the sails down and motored back to where we started, as port was rather close.

In retrospect, the whole situation was very badly managed. I think a much better approach would have been to start the engine immediately, point into wind, take the genoa down, replace the broken line without drama, hoist the sail back up, switch off engine, and carry on. It's funny that originally taking the genoa down was nowhere within our scope of possible options, simply because we've always been furling it, we didn't even consider that it could come down! (Yup, feel free to laugh ) We've only had the boat for a 2-3 months.

Anyway, my question is, what would you have done? What's the best way to handle such a situation?

On a more general note, when the wind is strong, or if you get caught in a gale (not implying that I was in one), how do you manage the forces that develop on boat systems when reefing or furling-in? Do you point into wind and keep the boat there with the engine assisting, until the sail area has been further reduced? Without some hull speed our Catalina will align herself beam-on to the seas.

Thanks
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Old 03-09-2013, 04:22   #2
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Re: Sail management under 'high' wind

Dont be so hard on your self I think you did well and we all had to learn somehow.To reduce sail in strong winds you dont have to head up into the wind you can keep sailing by going hard on the wind and reefing one sail at a time,usually I reef my head sail first just keep sailing hard on the wind let out the sheet until the sail is flogging then quickly haul the furling line in tie off then tighten your sheet again.Then if you need to reef your main just carry on sailing hard on the wind let your mainsheet out till main is flapping then reef it down.Once you are sailing with the right amount of sail up bear off and carry on.Enjoy your sailing
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Old 03-09-2013, 14:44   #3
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Re: Sail management under 'high' wind

welljim,
It's generally possible to take the genoa down when sailing downwind. In this situation, the apparent wind speed is much reduced and so is the pressure on the sail. In fact, if the genoa is oversheeted in this situation (as when close hauled), it stalls and doesn't develop much force.

If it had been possible in your situation, this is what I would have tried first: bearing away sharply with the reefed main wouldn't have been a problem.

When reducing sail, I do it in the same way as builder dan: I keep sailing hard on the wind, reduce the head sail first, then reef the main. I have hank-on headsails, so it's easier to douse the genoa first because it reduces the boat speed and the apparent wind.

It's easier to reef the main while sailing hard on the wind under jib alone than while motoring head to wind, because the boat is heeled and more stable, and the mainsail and the boom are clear on the lee side and not overhead.

Alain
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Old 03-09-2013, 14:54   #4
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Re: Sail management under 'high' wind

My preference is to have a jib that's roughly the right size for the conditions, rather than always be furling a larger one down.

Large jibs furled down always mean a poor shape with lots of drag. I hadn't considered the result of a snapped furler line but now that gives me another reason to like smaller jibs.

For summers in SF Bay, where the wind is routinely 25 kts, I'm down to a 83%. The boat sails like a witch to windward with it up too.

I'd suggest having a smaller sail or two in your repertoire, and change the headsail according to forecast before you set off. Sure, if the wind comes up unexpectedly, it would probably be better to keep sailing with the 130 furled down - but leaving harbour with a large headsail with high winds forecast is a different matter.
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Old 03-09-2013, 14:54   #5
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Re: Sail management under 'high' wind

never really having done extensive sailing with roller furlers(less than 30,000miles),my first instinct would have been to drop the sail,but then that is the beauty of hanked on sails.........
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Old 03-09-2013, 14:58   #6
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Re: Sail management under 'high' wind

I agree with dan. You did ok.

I would disagree with your comment about possibly turning on the engine at this point of chaos to get your nose into the wind. A friend was in this exact same situation and fouled the prop with the wild genoa sheet line! talk about adding fuel to the fire. He lost his electrical too at that point too which is another story. boatus towed him back in for $1400

We did winter vashon (30 knot winds) and i did similar to you. reefed main and little bit of genoa unfurled. I found myself back asking the same questions your asking. What I was told is to use a full main and no jibb due to the way the sails "pull" or "push" the boat in the water. the main pushed the boat more and is more stable than the little piece of genoa which unbalances the boat and creates lots of weather helm. I did this last time it was blowing 20 knots and did better. You can adjust your main a lot more than you can your head-sail. I ended up pulling out a tiny little piece of my Genoa to just direct air to my main and it balanced the boat a lot better and it felt solid.

So simply. I would try this next time you were in those conditions.

Full main shaped for your conditions (more shape if bashing against waves but not enough to heel past 25 degrees) and sliver of headsail to direct wind back to main.
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Old 03-09-2013, 15:02   #7
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Re: Sail management under 'high' wind

Run off.

Then either fix furling line, or drop sail and go home.
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Old 03-09-2013, 15:19   #8
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Re: Sail management under 'high' wind

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Run off.

Then either fix furling line, or drop sail and go home.
I think this would be my preference too....turn downwind, if having searoom, gives you less wind and sea conditions to cope with and a calming effect to allow you make proper decisions.

Re attaching furling line would be favourite but possibly dificult to accomplish in the conditions.

I love the Catalina 36....good choice!
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Old 03-09-2013, 15:33   #9
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Re: Sail management under 'high' wind

turn downwind and run off. Id never try and stay close hauled and fix things, way to much stuff can go wrong.

dave
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Old 03-09-2013, 15:43   #10
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Re: Sail management under 'high' wind

Hi, welljim,

Evans' way works. However, I have something to add: at 20 apparent and 6 k. boat speed, your turning down will give you 14 apparent wind speed, approximately. That's still light enough that you probably won't have a kerfuffle getting the genoa down. But this makes me wonder whether you have lifeline lacing to help keep the sail on board, because when that bolt rope leaves the furler track, you can have a huge mess on your hands very quickly. If you don't have the lacing, consider it. We used to use ~3mm diameter line for it.

ALWAYS, ALWAYS CHECK TO BE SURE THERE ARE NO LINES IN THE WATER BEFORE STARTING YOUR ENGINE.

No one's going to be laughing at you, we've all started as beginners. What you now have is the opportunity to go right back out in those wind-against-tide conditions, and try out various options. Do it from an experimental point of view, to see what works best for you and the boat. Try different things: Perhaps someone will loan you a furling #4 for an afternoon (95-100% of foretriangle). If you try dropping the headsail on the wind, try it with pinching way up so it has a chance of falling on deck, the boat will just about stop. If you have crew with you, they can help you secure it. If the motion is too severe, then that's not an option, and you need to bear off till the wind's well aft of the beam, but not about to gybe, and drop it then, but it may try to go overboard--do NOT release the tack!

Finally, always keep an eye on all your running rigging, look for chafe and for tired rope (it looks faded and somewhat fuzzy, usually, not sleek, bright, and slippery). Look at all of it every time you go to the boat, so nothing like that sneaks up on you.

Now, go have some more fun!

Ann
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Old 03-09-2013, 15:44   #11
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Re: Sail management under 'high' wind

Strait of Georgia. Your experience brings back memories. The only other place I've experienced similar wind/wave conditions was off Cabo San Lucas.

One advantage of having hanked on sails is illustrated by your experience. The foresail can be doused quickly, and in your situation after doing so I would have hove to, dealt with the sheet and carried on. The same thing happened to me when attempting to 'escape' from a quickly developing 'souther' in Sausalito, Ca. Not a good time for a sheet to part. Question for those of you with roller furling systems. How quickly can you drop your foresail in a similar situation?
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Old 03-09-2013, 16:05   #12
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Re: Sail management under 'high' wind

Just want to add. In 25 knots with wind anywhere but aft of the beam I'd be hove to anyway. Unless wave height and shape makes that a risky choice. Then I'd run. On a day like the one described by the OP, occuring anywhere in the San Juans, I'd never leave a sheltered anchorage or as it were - Squallicum harbour. But, up there you can round a point and all hell breaks loose. Going back is usually an option though. Great place to learn to sail!
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Old 03-09-2013, 17:26   #13
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Re: Sail management under 'high' wind

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Originally Posted by Ann T. Cate View Post
What you now have is the opportunity to go right back out in those wind-against-tide conditions, and try out various options.

Ann
With all due respect, I'm not sure I agree with this advice entirely. The tide opposing wind situation in the straits is not something to toy with.

I would suggest working on these tactics, which by the way is so far excellent advice and much appreciated, in other than the opposing wind/tide conditions experienced in the Georgia Straits. I'm not as vastly experienced as a lot of sailors on here, but I do know the straits (learned the hard way) and I know a lot of people that make their living on them. I would suggest you have your crap squared away BEFORE you "go right back out in those wind-against-tide conditions".

I believe there's a post of my experience at Point Wilson on CF. I've been practicing every since and getting my boat ready...........

John
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Old 03-09-2013, 17:55   #14
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Re: Sail management under 'high' wind

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Originally Posted by welljim View Post
We were in the Straight of Georgia the other day heading south, beating on a 25knot South-Easterly. The tide was running against the wind, so the seas were a bit steeper and with shorter period than what we'd like. The bow was pointing up in the sky in one moment, and was underwater in the next. I was quite surprised that 25knots could create such sea conditions. Maybe that's normal, we were all beginners onboard and didn't have much experience.

Anyway, we had the main reefed, and the 130% genoa furled about 1/3. Our Catalina 36 was handling just about Ok I think, doing about 6knots SOG, and if the wind increased we'd probably had to reduce sail further. And then, the furling line snapped!

The immediate reaction was to let go of the genoa sheets so as to avoid getting caught over-canvased, and so the genoa started flapping in the wind. The reefed main proved barely adequate (assisted by hard-to-port rudder) to keep the boat tracking close hauled. That point of sail felt safer as we didn't want to take the seas on our beam. Our speed dropped to about 1 knot SOG, or less. With the genoa flapping like crazy and the bow pointing to the sky or underwater, the whole thing took much longer than expected. In the end, the genoa developed a small rip by the spreader and at that point it became obvious that we were not going to keep sailing. We took the sails down and motored back to where we started, as port was rather close.

In retrospect, the whole situation was very badly managed. I think a much better approach would have been to start the engine immediately, point into wind, take the genoa down, replace the broken line without drama, hoist the sail back up, switch off engine, and carry on. It's funny that originally taking the genoa down was nowhere within our scope of possible options, simply because we've always been furling it, we didn't even consider that it could come down! (Yup, feel free to laugh ) We've only had the boat for a 2-3 months.

Anyway, my question is, what would you have done? What's the best way to handle such a situation?

On a more general note, when the wind is strong, or if you get caught in a gale (not implying that I was in one), how do you manage the forces that develop on boat systems when reefing or furling-in? Do you point into wind and keep the boat there with the engine assisting, until the sail area has been further reduced? Without some hull speed our Catalina will align herself beam-on to the seas.

Thanks

I'm going to make a point here, before you start reading what people who have sailed extensively for many years say.

I've only been sailing six years (although I take my boat out much more often than most people I knowd, so it's what I call an "action-packed" six years). Any time I have any sort of emergency -- or even just unexpected significant event -- I start the engine. I may well leave it in neutral, but I have it running. I don't want to go to my engine as a last resort only to find that for some reason, it won't start, or run.

Along that line I'm going to urge you to do some things preventively with your engine, and at the top of that list for me is replacing the impeller *before* it breaks. I took the helm once while a friend and another fellow went below to deal with the overheating engine, which, as it turned out, was causd by ... a broken impeller! They pulled the old one out, but since it was in 8 pieces they laid it out on a paper towel, and finding the last bit of broken impeller was devilishly hard.

It took them about 45 minutes, and my friend's guest came up greener than the Geico gecko. And we had extremely light seas with almost no wind ... that's why the engine was on.

Since you consider yourself a beginner, I think you did pretty well. You kept the boat on the point of sail you thought was best for those conditions, and that can't have been easy without your Genny.

This place is great. You've made me think. I'm planning on replacing the lower unit of my furler from continuous line to single line, and I believe I'll make sure I have a spare furling line!
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Old 03-09-2013, 17:59   #15
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Re: Sail management under 'high' wind

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Originally Posted by Hydra View Post
welljim,
It's generally possible to take the genoa down when sailing downwind. In this situation, the apparent wind speed is much reduced and so is the pressure on the sail. In fact, if the genoa is oversheeted in this situation (as when close hauled), it stalls and doesn't develop much force.

If it had been possible in your situation, this is what I would have tried first: bearing away sharply with the reefed main wouldn't have been a problem.

When reducing sail, I do it in the same way as builder dan: I keep sailing hard on the wind, reduce the head sail first, then reef the main. I have hank-on headsails, so it's easier to douse the genoa first because it reduces the boat speed and the apparent wind.

It's easier to reef the main while sailing hard on the wind under jib alone than while motoring head to wind, because the boat is heeled and more stable, and the mainsail and the boom are clear on the lee side and not overhead.

Alain

That's certainly something to consider, but my first boat was caught in a following sea and it wasn't pretty. I haven't had that situation on this boat, but it has such a big, fat stern that I wonder if it would even be a good idea. Hopefully some day I'll have her out when the waves are high enough to test that but not so high that it could be dangerous. Then I'll just try her on various points. My first, very skinny, very light boat? She was much better pointing into the waves than taking it on the stern.
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