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Old 25-10-2012, 10:30   #1
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Twisters

Today we met 4 twisters up close and personal. A bit too close and personal for my comfort levels, that is.

Now that I am tied up securely at Syracuse town quay and have had my beer, I would value people’s insights as too how we might have handled this better/differently and/or insights as to general tactics on meeting these creatures.

The full account, including photo, is on our blog over here: Twisters! Yikes!

The short version is thus:

We were sailing south along the East coast of Sicily from Catania to Syracuse. Wind, forecast at 5kts, was actually 20kts from the East, so we were on a fast beam reach. Radio forecast was for thunderstorms across the region.

We saw a twister form close to shore, about 2-3 miles 45deg off our starboard bow. A big black cloud with lots of rain was off our starboard quarter, so the twister was at the south end of the cloud. We took a compass bearing and turned on both engines for more speed, heading 20deg further out to sea.

Fortunately the compass bearing increased, and we felt relieved that we were leaving it behind.

We then saw another one form, again 2miles off to starboard. We put on our harnesses, and motor sailed as fast as we could (over 9kts).

We then saw two more form off to starboard – but only 2-300m away. The second one seemed even closer than that. At this point I decided to drop all sails as I didn’t want to be hit with canvas up. We continued under motor in a South East direction. Again, we left them behind, and then the weather cleared up.

I noticed that the tops of the spouts (where they entered the clouds) were bending off to North. At one point it was quite dramatic. Does that indicate that the systems are moving in that direction? It was very hard to judge what direction they were actually moving, only that their bearings were increasing relative to us. Also hard to judge if they were closing on us, or moving away. I tried to see them on radar, but it wasn’t obvious – especially with land, rain, another ship and rough water around us – and I wasn’t calm enough to sit there tweaking the knobs to get a better picture.

In general, is there a principle as to which direction to head when one sees such spouts forming?

Any other comments on how to manage the situation?

One thing I can tell you – it is pretty spooky watching these things just appear out of nowhere, wondering if the next one was going to appear right in front of us.
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Old 25-10-2012, 10:46   #2
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Re: Twisters

I've only seen them from the shore and that was enough. For whatever it's worth we call them waterspouts around here. Waterspout - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Old 25-10-2012, 11:16   #3
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Re: Twisters

Got hit buy a small one in my bass boat a few years back. Couldn't believe the power spun the boat around blew tackle box over. And I'm talking small 15 foot tall may be on a small lake. If I see one out on the big lake ( Michigan) I'm staying far away.
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Old 25-10-2012, 11:26   #4
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Re: Twisters

Having lived in NW Florida for 20 plus years I have seen my fair share of twisters and water spouts! Fortunately for us, whenever we were in the water we were in our power boat and was able to gauge the direction of the beast and head the opposite way. Really, that's the only thing you can do aside from lots of prayer!
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Old 25-10-2012, 11:57   #5
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Re: Twisters

It's so scary when it happens that it's hard to think.
First if I can't see thru the squall I don't sail thru it! To many times I've found really bad stuff in them.
One of the things I do, whenever there is an approaching squall, is turn the radar on, that way I can monitor its size, speed, and direction.
Once, while sailing south thru the Virgin Passage to the west of St. Thomas, An approaching squall had a footprint of a solid four mile image on my radar. So I shortened sail turned on the engine and did a 180.
The water spout touched the surface about 200 yards off my stearn and was within 100 ft in a twinkle. I redlined the tach and turned to starboard as the vaccum sound filled the air. The spout passed within 30 ft. It's very impressive to look straight up into the damn thing! The spout was about 10 ft wide at its base and I could see the water in the first 40 ft before it vaporized due to the speed the water attained.
Screaming helps!
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Old 25-10-2012, 13:17   #6
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Re: Twisters

My father, who was a mariner all his life, always said to travel at right angles to the twister -- not the storm, but the twister itself. Tricky because they don't always move in straight lines.

Lived around tornadoes in Missouri and saw them when I lived in FL as a child. Usually, when the twister ropes well away from its top, it's weakening. Usually waterspouts are weaker than their land-based brothers, but every once in a while they survive after moving onto land. Once they don't have to suck up water they can become stronger.

The thing that kills most people in twisters is actually the flying debris, which also makes waterspouts a little less dangerous, but they can still tear up your boat of course.
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Old 25-10-2012, 13:31   #7
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Re: Twisters

Quote:
Originally Posted by LifePart2 View Post
In general, is there a principle as to which direction to head when one sees such spouts forming?

Any other comments on how to manage the situation?
As a general rule, twisters move from the southwest to the northeast, at an average speed of about 30 mph. However, they don't always follow that pattern, deviating in both direction and speed.

I concur that taking your sails down was a good idea at the point you did so.
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Old 26-10-2012, 01:38   #8
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Re: Twisters

Wow, some other people have had some adventures too!

Yes, we call them waterspouts too, but twister is shorter and more dramatic!

Yes, I tried the radar too - it showed the big rain cloud, but I couldn't identify the waterspout itself to see what direction it was going. Maybe it doesn't even show up, since the water in it is all vaporized.

So no magic ideas - just get the H out of there as quick as one can!

Makes for good stories in the bar, anyway
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