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Old 07-12-2009, 08:42   #1
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Techniques for Handling Wind and Tide

I just got back from sailing from Jacksonville to Miami, and the worst part of the trip, wave-wise, was coming into the Government Cut at Miami. The wind was from the East at 20-25 knots, and the tide was going out at a pretty good clip. We took the sails down before making the turn into the cut. We came in at about 1/2 throttle - 4.5 knots boat speed - and we almost got broached about 4 times by the short, steep waves.

What's the best technique for getting through those type conditions? Full throttle? Wait for the tide to change? Or, is that pretty much par for the course? The larger power boats didn't seem to have too many problems going in our out, but we were getting tossed from side to side, and I was cranking the wheel pretty much from lock to lock just to keep the boat straight into the waves trying to keep her from going sideways.

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Old 07-12-2009, 09:56   #2
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Hi Lee,

I've never been through Gov Cut...maybe someone familiar with it will have more insight.

A stiff wind like that against an outgoing current is always a pain!

4.5 knots at half throttle? was that Speed over ground??

in either case, if you weren't inclined to sail, or heave to outside...and wait for a fair current I would probably have tried a little more throttle, I suspect you were making less than 4.5 against the current, those short choppy seas knock the boatspeed way down.
and can considerably reduce steerage. You were also, no doubt, getting knocked about by the the wakes of the large power boats going through at a good clip.

I might have also kept at least some Jib up to give the boat more boatspeed/steerage and stability.
If the wind was out of the east, and the cut..I believe has a northwest/southeast flow, you would have had a decent broad reach capability.

It may have also been a better strategy to jibe a few times in the channel and take the chop at a slight angle, rather than head on.

I've found myself in those conditions from time to time in new york harbor near the narrows, sometimes there's nothing you can do but hang on and slog though it.
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Old 07-12-2009, 11:08   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oldjags View Post
...coming into the Government Cut at Miami. The wind was from the East at 20-25 knots, and the tide was going out at a pretty good clip...

...I was cranking the wheel pretty much from lock to lock just to keep the boat straight into the wave...
Lee,

Sorry to hear of your nasty experience with Gov. Cut. There is no doubt, especially with that turn, that it can be an unpleasant place.

First off, I am confused by your description of the weather patterns. You said the wind was from the east about force six. If this was so, there should have been a sea running into the cut (as there always is). How were you keeping your boat straight into the waves if there was a following sea? I am assuming you mean that you were trying to keep your stern to the oncoming swell?

Either way, as tempest said, keeping a sail up can help a lot, especially in 20-25 kts, where your boats freeboard is seriously working against you. A small jib or stays'l (if you have a cutter rig) when on a reach will really help to stabilize the rolling and keep you your bow down. The best setup probably would have been to keep your reefed main and foresails up through the whole channel, assuming you had the quarter wind, letting the wind do the work. But I understand being concerned with keeping full sail up going into that area. Usually the wind dies inside in the lee of Miami Beach though.

Anyway, hope this helps!
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Old 07-12-2009, 11:32   #4
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Govt. Cut can be a wee bit difficult with the situation you described. Knowing the tides is the real help. You could've slowed down in Lauderdale, and arrived at a more favorable situation. Sometimes it's how you slow the boat down, and not getting every tenth of a knot out of her that helps..........i2f
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Old 07-12-2009, 11:44   #5
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Regardless of how they arise, short period, steep faced waves - even relatively small ones - can be extremely dangerous. And this is so even for otherwise very capable boats that have little trouble with larger longer period waves. I agree with everything Tempest suggests, but the result is highly dependent on a host of variables which can affect the behavior of the specific boat in unpredictable ways. Once you encounter these conditions, trial and error may not be possible or safe. In some conditions you may be losing rudder control as waves pass under the stern, and coming about may risk burying the beam. Having some sail up may improve stability and control, but sometimes it may also create a tendency to turn the boat parallel to the waves. Running at an angle to the waves may be more comfortable and be an easier course to hold, but sometimes it may also allow the waves to push the bow around. Taking the waves head on may have the bow alternately riding over a crest with little rudder control and then burying itself with little or no rudder control. Sometimes you can adjust speed to sort of time and control this, but if possible, avoiding these conditions altogether is preferable.
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Old 07-12-2009, 12:18   #6
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We kept our boat at the Miami Beach Marina, on the inside, just north of Government Cut, for a short while just after we arrived in Florida, and there is no doubt that Government Cut can be a Stone Bit_h in the conditions you describe--outbound tide verses inbound waves and wind.

Frankly, the wisest thing to do is to delay or time one's arrival at any of Florida's passes to correspond with slack water; or, at least with the tide and the wind headed in the same direction. At Government Cut, with normal wave action (inbound) enhanced by strong easterly winds but an outbound tide, there is a "lens effect" in the Cut that makes for very short steep seas, essentially standing waves--particularly in mid-channel where the tide runs the fastest. If one must come into the Channel at such time I would say favor the north channel edge where the tide runs more slowly, but with the rocks of the jetties, I wouldn't get any closer than say 75 yards (the Cut's about 325 yards wide). By having some of your jib rolled out on a port gybe to pull your head down wind--essentially straight down the Cut-you'll have less tendancy to broach. A double or triple reef in the Main, keeping it hard sheeted amidships, will tend to stabilize the yacht against roll but if you do broach, would exacerbate the situation unless someone's ready to blow the sheet and even that may not be very helpful so going bald might be wiser.

There would have to be a pretty pressing reason for me to not simply heave-too on the off-shore tack and wait out the tide.

FWIW...
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Old 07-12-2009, 12:51   #7
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We get the same situation here on the San Francisco Bay when the current is ebbing towards the West and the wind is traveling in the opposite direction from the West. Oceanographers call them standing waves, meaning they are holding as much energy as possible and dissipating that energy by white capping.

Usually you can keep your bow in to them, shorten sail and ride them out. You can also drop sail and power in to them. The third alternative is to wait until the wind and the current are traveling in the same direction. All are viable solutions depending on their size, your skill and the boats seaworthiness.
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Old 07-12-2009, 15:04   #8
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Some of the wildest swell vs current waves are in the Exumas. They call them RAGE 'S. And they are so deserving of that name.
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Old 07-12-2009, 15:18   #9
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"4.5 knots at half throttle? was that Speed over ground?? "

No, that was the knot meter reading. With the 2.5 knot current we were running against, we were only making about 2 knots over ground.

I thought about leaving some sail up, but was worried about having too many things to manage at the same time if the boat broached. Just making the change in course from South to West outside the cut was pretty dicy itself. Once in the cut, the combination of the following seas and the standing waves made any course other than straight ahead pretty much impossible. Trying quartering the waves would have resulted in a broach for sure, I think. As would have trying to chicken out and go back out and wait for the tide to slack. Once I started in, I had the feeling that I was committed. It would have been almost impossible to get the boat fully turned around before the next wave hit.

"There would have to be a pretty pressing reason for me to not simply heave-too on the off-shore tack and wait out the tide."

Methinks that's probably what I'll do next time.

We spent Friday night at the Miami Beach Marina, just to able to walk around South Beach and see all the architecture and such, then moved to Rickenbacher Marina, where we'll pick up the boat and continue down to Key West over Christmas.

With all the mega-yachts at Miami Beach Marina, I didn't think I had enough insurance coverage in the event I hit something. :-)

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Old 07-12-2009, 15:53   #10
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Hi Lee,

Well, the good news is that you made it!! And that you're out there doing it!!

Also, every such experience that you survive adds to your knowlege and experience.

So Far, I've only had Tempest as far south as Jacksonville, out of curiosity how long did it take you to make the Run from Jax to Miami?? How was that trip? how many crew?
Looks to be roughly the same distance approx. as the Run from the Cape Fear River to Jax...330 miles or so?? ( not looking at a chart right now)

Good luck on the rest of the trip and have fun in Key West!
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Old 07-12-2009, 20:36   #11
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Tempest,

We left Orange Park, FL at noon on Monday, and arrived in Miami at about 2 PM on Friday. My son and I did the trip with two overnight offshore legs - St. John's River to Ponce de Leon Inlet, and then Port St. Lucie to Miami. We motored the middle section down the Indian River into 20 - 25 knot South winds, and that was by far the most monotonous part of the trip. I much prefer the offshore portions, as you're not having to watch the depth sounder and the channel markers continuously.

The first overnight we had nice Westerly winds and got to sail all night with a full moon. The second night, we had very light Northerly winds, and ended up motoring most of the way. Aside from touching bottom once mid-channel in Port St. Lucie inlet and the roller coaster entry into Miami, the rest was pretty stress free.

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Old 08-12-2009, 07:46   #12
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We leave in the front section of a northerly coming down the coast. Once we are past the shoals of the cape we get closer to shore. Until we have one hull nearly on the beach. Those northerlies make for a quick, and fun sail to Miami.......i2f
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Old 10-12-2009, 17:54   #13
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or.... you could have gone south to biscayne channel.. not as well marked, but its not a funnel for current. basically run south around key biscayne, then north thru rickenbacker bridge and into govt cut.

but its about 3 hrs... maybe more.
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Old 05-01-2010, 13:49   #14
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Wind against Water

This is an interesting topic. There are many ocean inlets that are dangerous at inconvenient times. None the less, we must have a strategy for transiting the inlet.

Let's assume that the conditions are manageable. I will stay away from discussing outliers.

There is always a size wave that will overcome a boat. Steeper waves are more dangerous than longer waves of the same height. At some point, "no" is the only call.

Teaching this in advanced coastal cruising courses has come up once in a while. To handle the situation, I take a page out of the "down wind steering lesson" I was given by a master. It has worked for me and the students, even when sailing some squirrely old IOR designs.

The problem is broaching. Broaching occurs most often when a boat is going slower than the wave which is coming up from behind. The boat rolls, rounds up, and is swamped/broaches. Pretty ugly situation.

The solution is to keep speed on that roughly matches the speed of the wave.

Go as straight down the face of the wave as possible.

It is OK to go faster than the wave. The boat will naturally slow down while trying to climb up the back of the wave ahead. If the waves are steep enough to pitch pole you... there is nothing left to do. Turning around will roll you over. That's when you say, "we shouldn't have tried this."

Have some sail up. I seldom remove the main unless I am deep into the harbor. If the main is too much to handle, have the head sail set and filling. Be ready to gybe... crew in position, gear ready, etc. Have a person on the throttle ready to advance it at a moment's notice.

Stay in the deepest water possible. Still water runs deep.

Speed is safety!

Growing up sailing in Biscayne Bay we never ever went out Government Cut. unless the day was perfect. Problem is: it isn't what you go out in, it is what you come back in... Cliches, yeah, yeah.

Hope that is a worthwhile commentary. We have similar conditions at the Cape Cod Canal and Pollack Rip, for example.

As we await another cold snap here in Boston, struggling into Miami sounds pretty nice.
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Old 06-01-2010, 18:57   #15
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Standing Waves

Standing waves are a common phenomena in the Pacific Northwest and are caused by a number of factors, combining winds and tidal ocean or river currents colliding. I've seen more inshore but they can be found offshore where there is a sudden change in ocean depth. They can be nasty animals or just outright annoying. The tidal one you can wait out usually, weather related ones less so. Either way they make for a wearing day and you will usually find out who needs Dramamine or not.
My rule is this; (for power or sail) lots of power. Not enough the bash the bottom of the boat out (I hate that keel shudder) but enough to break the tops of the wave apart. Make sure everything is tied down and the hatches are closed 'cause its going the get wet. The long and the short of it you'll find your ride will smooth out.
The photo of the freighter is at the mouth of the Columbia River in a good set of standing waves.
The Sechelt Inlet is wrought with tales of those who did not heed the standing tidal bore that sometimes reaches 17 feet.
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