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Old 13-06-2010, 02:26   #1
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Singlehanding in the Southern Ocean

Single handing in the Southern Ocean seems very topical at the moment. So maybe all you single handers can help me with this. It seems to me that our well publicised single handers of very recent times just go downstairs and try to rest with everything battened down when the weather gets really nasty. Sounds good but, if it was me at this point I'd at least have a drogue or warps trailing behind and maybe a storm jib up at most. Is this what is happening and what do you guys do anyway?
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Old 13-06-2010, 07:39   #2
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There are various books on the market describing heavy weather tactics, my favorite is Adlard Cole's "Heavy Weather Sailing". Techniques used depend more on the type of boat and the weather than whether or not one is singlehanding. Once the weather gets to a certain point and/or the (single) crew gets too tired one lets the boat fend for herself and boes below. By this time the sail will be shortened as much as possible and such devices as a series drogue or sea anchor may be deployed.
Many boats and many singlehanders practice one or more of the techniques listed in the literature. It is those who don't practice any technique, or who choose an inappopriate one, which get an inordinate amount of press and thus make it seem as if either singlehanders or modern boats are less sturdy.
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Old 13-06-2010, 09:34   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eleebana View Post
Single handing in the Southern Ocean seems very topical at the moment. So maybe all you single handers can help me with this...
I too would like to hear from those who actually do this, or have done it… there is a wide range of reading material dedicated to the subject, but proportionally only a small number of folks who are doing other than extrapolating from their experience gained elsewhere… a few like Chichester, Bligh, Moitessier and the like experimented extensively with proper heavy weather tactic some decades ago, and happily they were also good enough to reduce their knowledge to paper. But is seems to me that many of the current crop of solo voyagers have written not much (in English at least) so I’m reduced to second hand information or sifting through blog speculations…

I know Moitessier long ago advocated staying out of the weather (he could steer from under Joshua’s bubble) because it was so much more taxing out in the gales that lasting 36-72 hours could exhaust a solo sailor to the point where they simply were not able to cope… I’d be only too happy to expand my library if someone knows of Vendee authors, or BOC or even Volvo sailors who have authored authoritative southern weather books/articles…
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Old 13-06-2010, 10:17   #4
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It's a Small World, After All…

…after all those safe landfalls.

Good point, Zanshin. It's not the successful ocean crossing that merits notice nowadays; it's the failure that gets 24/7, telescopic coverage.

I recently finished reading Ann Davison's account of her crossing of the Atlantic (first woman to do so) in 1952. Then, 60 years ago, celestial navigation was the only choice for ocean voyagers (well, unless you were Hall Roth), & before modern electronics and most modern synthetic materials, an ocean crossing was headline news. One shoved off with a sextant and a windvane, and barring a few reported positions from ships encountered along the way, (which would be old by the time anyone on land received them), either appeared somewhere else, or didn't. There were still dragons out there.

Today, there is very little new ground to break, nautically speaking. Children are crossing oceans and climbing Mt. Everest, in large part because better equipment and materials, communications, and Search-and-Rescue capabilities have turned an ocean crossing into a largely plug-and-play affair, at least in the minds of some.

Turning back to the topic: I'm not questioning Miss Sunderland's skill: as I understand it, she has more nautical miles under her keel than Tania Aebi had when she set off at eighteen on her circumnavigation, and the one published aerial photo of her dismasted 40-footer shows something trailing her stern resembling a drouge, which suggests she wasn't just lying ahull, broadside to the seas. One thing modern technology hasn't changed is the humbling power of nature. The unpredictable, dispassionate ocean is still king, and a knockdown/dismasting can happen to anyone.

But it is arguable that the realities of modern sailing have made it possible for just about anyone with the resources to attempt ocean-crossing feats before having developed the experience in a wide range of sea and weather conditions to shift the odds of a successful landfall in his favor.
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Old 13-06-2010, 11:05   #5
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Thats her mast and sails still dragging behind the boat. She says she was using them like a drogue rather then cut them loose.
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Old 13-06-2010, 13:51   #6
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A long long time ago I lived on a 27' sailboat and solo sailed around New England for 6 months. It was fun, but I am no a fan of solo passage making. Even with all the bells and whistles, I cannot go to sleep while the boat sails itself. So I have nothing by way of experience to add to a discussion of singlehanding in the Southern Ocean.

But, I will share my one and only drogue story:

Crewing on a 36' Morgan something in the '70s, running downwind toward the Maine coast with only a small storm sail up in 30 knot winds. The following seas were 12-15', steep faced but not breaking. The captain deployed a drogue off a kind of bridle arrangement on the stern. It seemed to work well for a while.

Then while sliding down the back of a wave, the rudder suddenly jammed full right. We turned broadside to the next wave and miraculously rode up over the face in near knockdown position. The captain cut the drogue away while I freed the wheel. Luckily I got steering control and managed to turn the stern to the seas. We surfed our way to the lee of an island and hove to in the conventional manner.

I don't know what kind of drogue it was, I assume it was properly deployed because it worked, the rudder was amidships and the wheel was tied off, and it almost killed us. Maybe you're supposed to jam the steering gear or something. We didn't have a drogue when we cruised the Caribbean, and I don't want one. I think the Southern Ocean is safe from me.
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Old 13-06-2010, 14:29   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dcstrng View Post
I too would like to hear from those who actually do this, or have done it… there is a wide range of reading material dedicated to the subject, but proportionally only a small number of folks who are doing other than extrapolating from their experience gained elsewhere… a few like Chichester, Bligh, Moitessier and the like experimented extensively with proper heavy weather tactic some decades ago, and happily they were also good enough to reduce their knowledge to paper. But is seems to me that many of the current crop of solo voyagers have written not much (in English at least) so I’m reduced to second hand information or sifting through blog speculations…

I know Moitessier long ago advocated staying out of the weather (he could steer from under Joshua’s bubble) because it was so much more taxing out in the gales that lasting 36-72 hours could exhaust a solo sailor to the point where they simply were not able to cope… I’d be only too happy to expand my library if someone knows of Vendee authors, or BOC or even Volvo sailors who have authored authoritative southern weather books/articles…
G'Day All,
Well, one such book is (from memory) "Against all Odds" written by Alan Nebauer, about his BOC race in '94-'95. For
those who didn't follow the race, Alan, a "mature" 29 or so at the time, built and financed his open 5 "Newcastle
Australia", and had a memorable time of it!! After receiving one outstanding seamanship award for the rescue of Josh
Hall when his boat sank off South Africa, Alan was dismasted (sound familiar) in the Southern Ocean, some 600 miles
west of Cape Horn. Here's where the story differs -- after the dismasting, Alan built a Jury rig, continued in the
race around the horn and reached the Falklands where a new (to him) mast had been flown. No EPIRB or rescue efforts
were involved. Needless to say, he received a second and unprecedented award for that feat!
Anyhow, it's an interesting read about how he dealt with a host of difficulties... poorly funded, late starting, bad
luck hitting floating objects, and the usual evils of high latitude sailing while singlehanding. It is also
interesting to contrast the approach of a truly experienced sailor to that of one with a "lifetime dream" spanning the
eternity between 13 and 16 years of age.
Cheers,
Jim and Ann s/v Insatiable II lying Coffs Harbour, NSW, Oz
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Old 13-06-2010, 21:05   #8
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The OP has it pretty much right. Tend to the boat, get it ata comfortable attitude to the waves, go below, have something to eat or drink, then go to bed and put a pillow over your head.
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Old 13-06-2010, 21:27   #9
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If I remember Chichester's account of setting the record in the 60's in Gypsy Moth that's pretty much what he did. Slept and read, drank beer and G&T's. He got rolled in the Southern Ocean IIRC 50 foot waves and 60-80 knot winds. He was in bed at the time. He got up checked that the boat was still floating then set about getting comfortable again. He was never very happy with that boat but it got the job done.
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Old 13-06-2010, 21:29   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Cate View Post
G'Day All,
Well, one such book is (from memory) "Against all Odds" written by Alan Nebauer, about his BOC race in '94-'95. For
those who didn't follow the race, Alan, a "mature" 29 or so at the time, built and financed his open 5 "Newcastle
Australia", and had a memorable time of it!! After receiving one outstanding seamanship award for the rescue of Josh
Hall when his boat sank off South Africa, Alan was dismasted (sound familiar) in the Southern Ocean, some 600 miles
west of Cape Horn. Here's where the story differs -- after the dismasting, Alan built a Jury rig, continued in the
race around the horn and reached the Falklands where a new (to him) mast had been flown. No EPIRB or rescue efforts
were involved. Needless to say, he received a second and unprecedented award for that feat!
Anyhow, it's an interesting read about how he dealt with a host of difficulties... poorly funded, late starting, bad
luck hitting floating objects, and the usual evils of high latitude sailing while singlehanding. It is also
interesting to contrast the approach of a truly experienced sailor to that of one with a "lifetime dream" spanning the
eternity between 13 and 16 years of age.
Cheers,
Jim and Ann s/v Insatiable II lying Coffs Harbour, NSW, Oz
I remember reading the boat and following the race, a great story. If I remember right, the same boat went around again as Balance Bar skippered by Brad Van Liew, who was also dismasted. So, here is a good boat in the hands of two different but well qualified skippers and both were dismasted. And the races were not in the winter. To me this just shows sh*t happens no matter who you are and what season it is if you are in the Southern Ocean.
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