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Old 17-11-2007, 20:04   #1
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Storm Management for Cruisers

Last week I attended and spoke at the 32nd annual Seven Seas Cruising Association convention in Melbourne, Florida.

At that meeting, I spoke on the subject of "Storm Managment for Cruisers."

I just uploaded that talk to my website on Maxingout.com, and it is available for anyone to view who wants a different perspective on storm management in breaking and non-breaking seas. The text of the discussion can be found at the following url:

STORM MANAGEMENT FOR CRUISERS

The theme of the talk is that storm management is about energy management. If you control the energy of your yacht, and if you decouple the energy of the storm from your yacht, the odds of survival are in your favor.

Anyone who is interested can review the material, and make any comments. I am always looking for ways of increasing what I know about storm management, and any tips, hints, or improvements on what I wrote would be appreciated.
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Old 17-11-2007, 21:35   #2
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That is a very nice article Dave. Good advice from a guy who has lived through it to tell about it.

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Old 17-11-2007, 22:00   #3
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Thanks for the comment. We had a lively discussion on storm management at the SSCA convention. Most of the time people think about storms in terms of wind strength and size of waves, when what they really need to be thinking about is the kinetic energy of their yacht.

When they start thinking about storms in terms of energy management, and preventing the coupling of the storm's energy to their yacht, they can develop a sensible plan for dealing with storms.

When I am in a storm, the first thing I think about is whether there are breaking seas or non-breaking seas. If there are non-breaking seas, it's a no worry situation. I just slow down so that I don't do anything stupid.

In breaking seas, it's either drogue time or parachute sea anchor time on my catamaran, because they are extremely effective in preventing the coupling of storm energy with the energy on board Exit Only.

For me, the best news was that when we were offshore, we never had any significant breaking seas in winds up to fifty knots. There might be an occasional unruly sea that gave us a whallop, but it was definitely the exception rather than the rule.

It was always a great comfort to me to know that I could easily decouple my boat from a storm using common sense, drogues, and parachutes.
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Old 17-11-2007, 22:15   #4
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I have read and viewed your entire website and really enjoyed it. I have also read almost all of your posts here on the forum and enjoyed them too. Lots of good advice in an inspiring kind of way.

I have a parachute anchor and Jordon Drogue. Hope I never have to use them but I agree with you on the subject of drag devices. I do need to practice deploying my parachute though so that it wont foul when I really need it.

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Old 17-11-2007, 22:27   #5
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Deploying the chute was straightforward on Exit Only because we have those deck chainplates with a bail that sticks out in front of the bow, and we simply shackle our parachute bridle to that chainplate/bail. Since we had everything prerigged as we headed north out of New Zealand, deployment wasn't a problem. Prerigging the bridle and having all of the gear out of the lockers ready to go makes everything easier when you think that things are going to hit the fan.

Retrieving the chute was easy. Tripping the chute and pulling it out of the water took only about fifteen minutes since we motored up to the chute.

The biggest deal about using the chute is getting all the salt out of the parachute and 500 foot double braid so that salt crystals don't weaken the material. We washed the chute and rode with water and pulled it all up the mast to drip dry. Then we tasted the chute and rode with our tongue, and if it was salty, we rinsed it again and raised it back up the mast to dry. It took a couple of days of soaking and drying to make the salty taste go away.
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Old 18-11-2007, 02:26   #6
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Thanks for the EXCELLENT article Dave.

Although you emphasize reducing the Kinetic Energy (momentuum) imparted on a boat, and the importance of minimizing (decoupling) it’s effects - it could be noted that the same square relationship applies to Wind Pressure, and Displacement vs Load relationships (which explains why loads & costs increase exponentially with boat size), and etc.

Wind Pressure can be approximated by:
Pressure = ˝ Density of air x Wind Speed Squared x Shape Factor
The shape factor (drag coefficient) depends on the shape of the body it impacts upon.

Simplified:
Wind Pressure is proportional to;
- wind velocity squared
- exposed area squared
Hence:
Doubling the sail Area will quadruple the wind force acting upon it.
Doubling the Wind Velocity will quadruple the wind force acting upon the same sail.

The chart shows approximate relationship between wind speed and wind force developed on one square foot of flat area set perpendicular to wind direction.
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Old 18-11-2007, 06:57   #7
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Gord

Thanks for good information about the squared relationships of wind speed and sail area. It's important for cruisers to focus on these aspects of energy coupling to their yacht. Although you can't control the wind speed, you can control how much sail area you have up, and that gives you the ability to break the energy couple between the wind and your yacht to a great degree.

I have always been amazed at how people sail offshore with dangerous amounts of canvas aloft during storms. On our trip to the Canaries we were sailing with a monohull that was carrying a full mainsail during a storm. They kept getting knocked down and filled their cockpit with water and had two inches of water in their galley after one knockdown. (That's what they told us on SSB) We told them that we had no main up, we had about 20% of our genoa unfurled, and we were running downwind at four and a half knots trailing two drogues. They finally decided to take down the main and run with a genoa, but even then, they didn't slow down that much. They wanted to keep up with another yacht that had a waterline about fifteen feet longer than theirs. (44 foot yacht sailing with a 62 foot yacht). They continued sailing at seven to eight knots to their destination. The other yachts in our group continued sailing at a fairly rapid clip to the Canaries. I must admit that watching everyone sail off leaving us in their wake made me want to haul in our drogues and put up more sail and keep up with them. I resisted the "peer pressure" from the other yachts and continued south at four and a half knots quite comfortable, but feeling alone. Although the other yachts in our group arrived in the Canaries twelve hours ahead of us, we arrived without broken gear and without fear, and so for us it was a good trip. Furthermore, it was an excellent opportunity to learn how Exit Only behaved using drogues while carrying a small amount of sail running downwind. Because of the squared relationship between wind speed and sail area, it doesn't take much canvas to keep a boat moving comfortably and safely while towing drogues.
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Old 18-11-2007, 09:10   #8
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Excellent! Thank you, Dave. This is the sort of plain, easily understood explanation of what to do, and when, that certainly helps to ease the anxiety for those of us looking to go out there for the first time.

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Old 18-11-2007, 09:17   #9
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We raced so much it is hard to realize its time to back off. We've busted more gear then most folks have bought, including breaking a forespar solid vang in two. We have ripped fittings out of the deck, snapped spinaker poles, broken goosenecks, parted sheets and halyards, and blown up enough sails to be the christmas card list of our sailmaker. Never pitched a rig though.

We're gonna have to learn what Maxing Out is teaching.
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Old 18-11-2007, 10:21   #10
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Dave:
Great article. I really enjoed it. I am prepping for a trip down the coast of OR and CA and a series drogue is on the top of my list of needed items.
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Old 18-11-2007, 14:37   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Intentional Drifter View Post
Excellent! Thank you, Dave. This is the sort of plain, easily understood explanation of what to do, and when, that certainly helps to ease the anxiety for those of us looking to go out there for the first time.

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Old 20-11-2007, 20:50   #12
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Thanks, great info and very nice web site !!!!
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Old 20-11-2007, 21:43   #13
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Thanks for all the positive feedback on the article and on the web site. I enjoy putting up stuff on our web site that's helpful to cruisers.

Since I returned to the USA after living overseas for 28 years, I have sensed a shift in the mood of the country. I feel like people are more worried and less optimistic about what's happening in this era of globalization. They feel like the rules are changing, and life is harder than before. People used to go crusing in their thirties and forties on boats that cost $30,000 to $60,000 dollars. Now I'm hearing talk about boats costing $250,000 to $750,000, and people needing a million dollars in the bank before they sail on the ocean of their dreams.

When I went to the SSCA convention, there was a distinct lack of young cruisers in the crowd. More than sixty percent of us had gray hair, and that includes me. Cruising seems to be an activity for people in their fifties and sixties and older.

A generation of baby boomers who thought they were going to have a great retirement aren't so sure any more, and most of them are still working.

My response to this malaise is to create a website that has a positive tone that encourages people to live their dreams in spite of all the challenges present in our world. Go now. Go small. Go simple.

Since I recently returned from a circumnavigation, I know affordable cruising is possible for ordinary people who have extraordinary dreams. We spent between $500 to $1000 per month to cruise in most destinations, and I know it doesn't take a million dollars in the bank to sail around the world as long as you stay healthy.

For most of us, storm management means dealing with the storm of uncertainty that wants to steal our dreams. It's the storm of thoughts blowing through our minds that causes so many problems.
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Old 21-11-2007, 09:47   #14
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An Additional Thought

Enjoyed your article but I would consider stressing conditions requiring speed adjustment and controlled manueverability. "Decoupling" from the power of the storm seems a bit of a misnomer as it is impossible to unlink the boat from the conditions in which it sits, short of picking it up with a helicopter; however, steps can be taken to moderate and lessen the impact of those conditions as you rightfully point out, and under some conditions, these steps can involve the necessity of maintaining directional control coupled with substantial speed, sometimes surfing UNDER CONTROL, is the only way to avoid being broached/rolled/ or pitch poled.

First off, any offshore boat should have a storm trysail. Period, end of story. You HAVE to be able to keep the bow downwind and out in front of your stern but, putting a drogue out back with sufficient drag to "stop" the boat could be dangerous as hell in large seas as the forces sufficient to prevent a boat from being propelled forward like a surfboard by large seas is enormous. Innumberable drogues, cleats, rodes, etc. have been destroyed in the trying. Sometimes what you want is just enough to keep your stern to the waves as you run like the dickens thus effectively lessening the impact of the breaking crests as they surge up on your stern. In this way, rigging so as to control the speed of a yacht while maintaining steerage way and maneuverability has been successful for me in storms where other boats and lives have been lost. In that regard, one cannot discount the usefulness of a proper auxillary, especially where the prop is just forward of the rudder. Having the main available to control speed and direction in a dangerous sea can be critical. Clean tanks, clean filters, and clean fuel go a long way towards ensuring engine reliability in a blow, and with a proper rudder, the ability to quickly speed up, slow down, and/or kick the stern to one side or another adds important arrows to your survivability quiver.

Each boat for each set of conditions will have its own sweet spot involving compensation for direction of wind, direction of wave, existence of confused or cross seas, type and size of boat, nature of rig, experience of helmsman, direction and extent of "sea room" etc. I personally don't believe there is a 'one method fits all' way of dealing with this. I would advise having a number of different alternatives available, from the streaming of single warps, multiple warps, multiple warps with bights, your favored drogue of the month, up to the almost indestructible expedient of a car or truck tire rigged with a 4 or 5 point chain bridle to pull crossways against the sea. Conditions at one time or another will favor one or two of these solutions over the others, but they must be made available in advance. Most production boats do not have cleats strong enough to hold a drogue in a blow for long, nor are they placed so as to minimize the chafe which more often than not results in the loss of drogues at the worst possible moments. Another factor to be considered is a stout autopilot. Few helmsmen alone can serve the ship well throughout the entirety of any substantial storm, and crewmen, even professionals, can become incapacitated over time (especially in open cockpit boats) by the severe motions experienced during a gale, so the availability of a stout mechanical crew can be a godsend, as in life threatening conditions, maneuverability is often critical to survival.

In short there can be "too fast" , "too slow", and "best you can do" under the circumstances but only familiarity and experience with your own craft can tell you what those are. You can't however, find that out if you haven't properly prepared yourself and your ship in advance. In that regard, a careful examination dockside of vents, ports, hatches etc. with a view as to how they will function in a full gale may also generate some ideas of things might be improved. Some boats will keep their heads downwind under bare poles, many more will not, especially with the proliferation of radar arches, wind generator towers etc. Under any circumstances, a stout and easily rigged storm trysail should be in the inventory of any ocean going sailboat, and wouldn't hurt a few trawlers, either.

Lastly, for those who have not yet had the misfortune of being caught out in the type of conditions we're talking about, I would suggest an hour or two perusing Youtube and searching for ocean storms etc. I believe there are even several on there showing boats in harbor during a hurricane. A perusal of the damage might suggest some preparations /modifications one might make on his own boat (especially the securing of roller furling sails

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Old 21-11-2007, 17:41   #15
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Seeratlas,

You made many excellent points in your comments on storm management. Every storm is different, and you must "customize" your approach to the storm considering the capabilities of the crew and yacht.

Multihulls and monohulls behave very differently in stormy conditions. Heavier cats with longer deeper keels like a privilege 39 have a huge amount of directional stability and drogues work well on them. A powerful drogue like a series drogue imparts so much additional directional stability that the cat may behave like it's a hundred feet long rather than only 39. All of that directional stability makes it less likely that a cat is going to get out of control and broach or capsize. After I set a drogue off the stern, the autopilot had much less work to do and quartering seas didn't push the stern around nearly as much.

Cats also have massive reserve boyance in the stern that lifts the boat up in following seas. At the same time, following seas tend to pass under the bridgedeck rather than come on board.

In the same conditions, a modern fin keeler may have significantly less directional stability, and running off before a storm may be a higher maintenance challenge. What works well on a catamaran may not work as well on the fin keeler.

Obviously, some yachts are up to the task of running off better than others, and some designs aren't particularly good for heaving to.

Finally, crew experience and size are important factors in dealing with storms offshore. A large experienced crew that is well rested can sail more agressively than a short-handed exhausted crew. Judgement can become impaired and reaction time inadequate for agressive heavy weather sailing.

A small catamaran like Exit Only has a small crew and we get tired quickly. For us, storm managment is about energy management, and this approach worked well during our trip around the world. Sailing fast with a huge amount of kinetic energy on board didn't work for us. We either slowed down or stopped when things were getting out of control. Obviously. other yachts with bigger crews and bigger wallets could have used other tactics with success.
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