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Old 24-07-2020, 23:51   #1
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Did I act correctly in a gale?

Recently in the Tuscan archipelago I was caught by a sudden gale (gusting 45kn). It was a 46 foot chartered sailboat. I was on engine so turned the boat to the wind and reduced speed to displacement. Off course all of us had life jackets on and whilst it was building I secured everything.

Since this was my first time in such conditions, I would value any advice on whether this was the right course of action? Anything else I should have done?
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Old 25-07-2020, 00:20   #2
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Re: Did I act correctly in a gale?

Take down or fold away everything on deck that reduces surfaces exposed to the wind. Keep away from lee shore. Make up plan B: what to do if engine quits for whatever reason, but mostly because of depots stirred up in the tank by the waves.
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Old 25-07-2020, 00:39   #3
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Re: Did I act correctly in a gale?

I would do what you did, if heading in to it was not heading into danger, as it was a charter boat I would also call the charter company on the radio or phone and tell them what was happening and your position.
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Old 25-07-2020, 02:59   #4
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Re: Did I act correctly in a gale?

Thank you both
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Old 25-07-2020, 03:11   #5
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Re: Did I act correctly in a gale?

Gusting 45 knots is not extreme weather, so there are a variety of ways to deal with it.

First question, though, was it really a gale? Or was it a squall, or a thunderstorm? Gales don't usually occur suddenly, and a real gale can create a dangerous sea state. A squall which comes and goes will generally not do much to the sea, so how you deal with it will be different.

What you did is fine - you got through it, didn't you?

Some tips:

1. I prefer to meet strong weather under sail, not motoring. Sails stabilize the boat, and have more power than the motor in case you need it. Plus, you can heave to instantly if you need it, if you have sails up.

2.If you have sea room in that direction, heading downwind, rather than up, will reduce the apparent wind and greatly reduce the force of the wind and waves. Heading upwind on the contrary intensifies them.

3. That being said, if it's a squall and all you're dealing with is wind, no bad sea state, I wouldn't bother changing direction at all. I would just carry my course, getting the right amount of sail up BEFORE the squall hits.

4. Key skill here is reading the weather and not getting caught by surprise.

This time of year in the temperate latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, when sailing near land, convection-driven thunderstorm/squall activity is a frequent part of life. It's no big deal once you learn to recognize them ahead of time, and learn to get the sails in the right posture.
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Old 25-07-2020, 03:25   #6
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Re: Did I act correctly in a gale?

Thank you, well noted. In retrospect it was a squall as the waves were not consistent with a gale.
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Old 25-07-2020, 03:37   #7
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Re: Did I act correctly in a gale?

When the weather goes bad itís always best to slow down

Sails down , motor on is a good way to slow down

Be alert to anything on deck that might go over board and foul prop or rudder

Slow motion . do everything slowly and precisely
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Old 25-07-2020, 03:37   #8
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Re: Did I act correctly in a gale?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post

Some tips:

1. I prefer to meet strong weather under sail, not motoring. Sails stabilize the boat, and have more power than the motor in case you need it. Plus, you can heave to instantly if you need it, if you have sails up.

if front is coming and you have enough room why would you have sails on (mainsail) and risk to get say 60 kn steady, would not that get tricky as cant take down sail if thing goes on and on?

Isnt better to wait out so winds settle down before pulling sails back up ?

that is what i have done and seemed reasonable.
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Old 25-07-2020, 03:53   #9
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Re: Did I act correctly in a gale?

Sails should always be up when under way on a sailboat. For all the reasons that Dockhead enumerates. Also whatever direction gives you sea room is most important, although off-the-wind/downwind angles will be the most comfortable.

I've sailed quite comfortably with 3 reefs in the main and the #3 headsail in 45knts - but it sounds as if you didn't recognise the squall approaching, so wouldn't have had time to reduce sail - even if you'd had them up. Sorry, but from a couple of the replies it sounds as if some people haven't heard of reefing. Learn how to do it. Reef as soon as you think of it.

I like the idea of notifying the charter company of your position and situation.

Fair winds,
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Old 25-07-2020, 04:07   #10
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Re: Did I act correctly in a gale?

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Originally Posted by arsenelupiga View Post
if front is coming and you have enough room why would you have sails on (mainsail) and risk to get say 60 kn steady, would not that get tricky as cant take down sail if thing goes on and on?

Isnt better to wait out so winds settle down before pulling sails back up ?

that is what i have done and seemed reasonable.

To each his own! I'm not saying that there is only one right way to do it.


And probably this varies according to boat as well.


I'm a sailor and I find that sailboats work best under sail. YMMV. Not every sailboat is rigged to be manageable in 60 knots of wind; mine is. On my boat, when I am about to be overtaken by a squall (as just happened to me on my last passage, twice), I get rid of the jib, rig the staysail, rig running backs (both of them), and reef the main down to the level of the top of the inner forestay. Like that a 60 knot blast will not cause too much trouble; yet I have power, am not at risk of losing power because something gets churned up in the tank, not at risk of damaging the engine because oil is slung out of the pan, and I can heave to in the twinkle of an eye in case it really gets hairy. And the boat is stabilized by the wind in the sails.



I feel like I have more control in that configuration, and have more options, than if the sails were down and the motor were on.


YMMV!
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Old 25-07-2020, 04:15   #11
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Re: Did I act correctly in a gale?

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. . .it sounds as if you didn't recognise the squall approaching, so wouldn't have had time to reduce sail . . .

This is the absolutely key skill for this scenario.


It's important to recognize what kind of clouds go with squalls, and recognize the signs of an approaching squall. It's important to understand thermal effects on weather, and the preconditions for t-storms. A sailor just can't know too much about weather (and I don't claim to have great knowledge myself; it's one skill I continue working on).



It's no substitute for weather knowledge, but radar is a superb SUPPLEMENTARY tool, for dealing with summer squalls. Put your EBL and VRM on the center of the squall and you will quickly see whether it's going to hit you or not, and when. It helps a lot with planning and good timing for reefing or sail changes. Sometime you can even dodge them.


The absolutely key thing is to know AHEAD OF TIME that it's going to happen, so you can get the boat in the right posture to meet it. With all the hatches shut down tight and the right amount of sail up, maybe clipped into the cockpit with life jackets on, foul weather gear on, an even pretty violent squall is no big deal. If on the other hand it takes you by surprise with your pants down, so to speak -- like, with all plain sail up, hatches open, crew in t-shirts and no life jackets -- it can be really hairy, or even dangerous. The whole difference is watching the weather carefully, and reading it, and taking appropriate measures IN TIME.
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Old 25-07-2020, 04:34   #12
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Re: Did I act correctly in a gale?

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Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
To each his own! I'm not saying that there is only one right way to do it.

And probably this varies according to boat as well.

I'm a sailor and I find that sailboats work best under sail....
YMMV!

And it varies with experience and talent onboard. For new sailors using the motor is simpler, and there is a lot to be said for that.


I would also volunteer that a stead storm and a squall are two very different things. A squall has minimal waves and winds of unpredictable strength and direction. A storm has waves (you'll need more power and stability) and the directions are more constant and predictable, at least in the near term.


Different things that are typically managed differently.
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Old 25-07-2020, 05:11   #13
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Re: Did I act correctly in a gale?

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And it varies with experience and talent onboard. For new sailors using the motor is simpler, and there is a lot to be said for that.


I would also volunteer that a stead storm and a squall are two very different things. A squall has minimal waves and winds of unpredictable strength and direction. A storm has waves (you'll need more power and stability) and the directions are more constant and predictable, at least in the near term.


Different things that are typically managed differently.
yeah, this was a storm. First one. We got 3m waves coming in dead calm before the storm. How would one know storm will be 60 kn, instead of say 70 kn before it hits? I do not posses that skill. In 70 kn mainsail will not be welcome after first hour passes, especially singlehanding. And there is no easy way to take it down at least on my boat. By then you will have 3-4m breakers or so.
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Old 25-07-2020, 05:15   #14
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Re: Did I act correctly in a gale?

It’s rare that ONE problem (in this case the problem is a squall) get you in serious trouble. The concern is the SECOND problem that might crop up.

1. Engine failure. This is the biggest worry. Steer a course such that an engine failure at the worst possible moment would not quickly put you on the rocks or shore.

2. Flooding. In rough conditions, new ways for water to get below often make themselves known. Check the bilges regularly.

3.As you did, tie thing down but pay special attention to the heavy dinghy. Really strap it down. If it starts to break free it can be a real problem.

4. Be extra cautious of man-over-board. Do not let anyone leave the cockpit (for example to tie something down) without weighing the risk of man-over-board or injury. Better to lose a cockpit cushion than a life. Obviously anyone who does leave the cockpit should be wearing a harness.

5. Crew seasickness. If you have crew members who get badly seasick - and this is supposed to be a pleasure cruise - is there an easy way to change your plans to avoid putting them through a miserable experience. Perhaps duck under the lee of an island for a few hours?

6. Do not stay “locked in” to your original plan for the day. Pushing on to the original destination is called “get-there-itis” in aviation. A surprising number of air crashes can be traced to it.

7. Keep you crew from being scared. Explain what is happening, why you are doing things, and emphasize that it is a normal precaution. Tell them what to expect and assure them the boat is built for it. Keep your voice calmer than usual. Don’t sit there silently while they imagine the worst.
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Old 25-07-2020, 05:18   #15
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Re: Did I act correctly in a gale?

[QUOTE=dr.j.levy;3193659
Since this was my first time in such conditions, I would value any advice on whether this was the right course of action? [/QUOTE]

In my world if nothing broke and no one got hurt the actions were just fine! I have done the same lot of times in a sudden gale/front. Every gale/squall that hits you while out is different and how you deal with each has to be based on the available opinions at the time.
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