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Old 22-01-2023, 19:09   #1
Nor
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First time in challenging weather as captain

I recently sailed a 50 NM passage (from Penang to Langkawi, Malaysia, a 330į course) together with one crew, in a 30ft catamaran, and just wanted to see if I could get some feedback.

The forecast (Windy) said 8-9 kn to 18 kn gusts from the NE, which seemed like good conditions for the trip. After a couple of hours the wind was too northerly, so we motorsailed in order to get closer to the wind in order to arrive in daylight.

About 12nm from the destination the wind picked up. We took down the main sail as it was difficult to get close enough to the wind (still motorsailing). We put on wests and tied us to the boat. The wind kept building and waves got bigger. I'd estimate 2m waves, as I've sailed the boat before with another captain and we were in similar conditions and he estimated 2.5 m then. Except this time we were sailing into the wind, so both the wind and the waves appeared much stronger.
I'm note sure how the wind was at the strongest, I'd estimate 25 to 30kn. From Beaufort description it seems like it could have been a 6 to 7, as there was big areas of foam (spindrift?), however waves weren't 5m.

I was worried that we couldn't keep the course and would miss our destination by getting too far south. But it didn't really work to get more directly into the wind, as even with the motor the speed went down to just 2kn or so. So I thought its better to get 5 - 6 kn by falling off and also could get some shelter from the island group to our north eventually, but we were still 2 hours or so away.
At one point the wind was so strong that I worried for the head sail, so we rolled it in by a quarter a so (which wasn't very easy).

I also thought about that I've heard that in a great storm you have to go with the wind. So I wonder, at what time do you decide that you have to completely leave your course and go with the wind, or is that maybe when you experience that it's the only option?

Eventually we got closer to the island, and some protection from the NE seas. The 50nm trip took us 11hours.
I don't think you'd call this a squall, as it went on for hours, but it wasn't a full storm either. So, what do you call it, a low pressure system?

Any other advice on how to deal with winds and seas that are higher than what you're familiar with?
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Old 22-01-2023, 19:20   #2
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Re: First time in challenging weather as captain

Sounds like you did a good job in challenging conditions - congratulations!

I really donít think I would have done anything different except perhaps rolled the headsail in a little earlier - like you Iíve been caught with more sail than I wanted and so Iíve tried to reduce sail earlier than I need to. But, jeeze, thatís such a minor critique, I just say: nice job sir!

Cheers,
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Old 22-01-2023, 19:47   #3
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Re: First time in challenging weather as captain

Going upwind motoring with just a headsail is tough because the headsail will end up offering more drag than drive. What I have done in the past when I had to continue motoring upwind (in a monohull) was to furl the headsail completely and reef the main and continue motoring into the wind though I had to fall off a bit. The main gives stability and drive, as long as it is not overpowered. ( I had to do this once with a group of new sailors who were in no mood to sail in those conditions and just wanted to get home as soon as possible. I could have sailed that boat upwind, it had really good upwind ability, but it would have meant a lot more heeling.) But eventually if things pipe up you reach a point where the boat won't go upwind and you may have to reach across to some kind of shelter or area of better conditions, dodging the breaking waves along the way, or run with it. In that case what I do with my boat (29' mono) is I furl the main and let a small jib drive the boat. I see no benefit to having a main up if you are running in conditions that concern you. All depends on the boat and conditions of course. When to make that call depends on your (and your boat's) tolerance for bashing, and whether you are really making headway or if it is all an illusion and you are just being blown backwards.
You made it there safe and sound so you must have been doing something right! As they say in flying, any landing you can walk away from is a good one.
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Old 22-01-2023, 21:30   #4
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Re: First time in challenging weather as captain

Quote:
Originally Posted by Don C L View Post
Going upwind motoring with just a headsail is tough because the headsail will end up offering more drag than drive. What I have done in the past when I had to continue motoring upwind (in a monohull) was to furl the headsail completely and reef the main and continue motoring into the wind though I had to fall off a bit. The main gives stability and drive, as long as it is not overpowered.
You made it there safe and sound so you must have been doing something right! As they say in flying, any landing you can walk away from is a good one.

This!


(I've done it in a cat too.)
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Old 23-01-2023, 09:51   #5
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Re: First time in challenging weather as captain

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Originally Posted by Nor View Post
The forecast (Windy) said 8-9 kn to 18 kn gusts from the NE, which seemed like good conditions for the trip.
Out of curiosity, what did the forecast say for the next 4 days? Did the various models (GFS, ECMWF) agree? Low pressure systems should also be visible on synoptic charts.
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Old 23-01-2023, 10:32   #6
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Re: First time in challenging weather as captain

Nor, agree with all that's been said earlier. Since the last cat I sailed was a hobie 16, my following advice is based on monohull experience. When heading to wind with seas that reduced our boat speed to 3-4 knots while motor-sailing, I've tried tacking thru the wind...so I've maintained boat speed, 6-7 knots while traveling much greater distance. Play with your course at a point where shortened/reefed headsail and reefed main are full with acceptable heel (or none w/ cat) and maximum boat speed and see how far off you are from your desired course. Trial and error given the conditions and comfort. At one point we doused all sails and just motored keeping our desired course so we could end up in Long Island Sound and not Maine...all in all you made it safely & averaging a bit less than 5 knots, so good job there.
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Old 23-01-2023, 19:25   #7
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Re: First time in challenging weather as captain

Quote:
Originally Posted by requiem View Post
Out of curiosity, what did the forecast say for the next 4 days? Did the various models (GFS, ECMWF) agree? Low pressure systems should also be visible on synoptic charts.
I didn't check the other models before this passage. I think the problem in the tropics is that forecasts will seldom show smaller local weather system that can also develop quickly. I've checked and changed plans numerous times before, just to see totally different conditions than what was forecasted.
But I'll try to check more different models next time.

And it's not easy to see what's going on from afar, as the horizon in all directions are often unclear, with some white/grey color. But I'm sure more experienced sailors in the area would have a better understanding of what to expect.
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Old 23-01-2023, 22:43   #8
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Re: First time in challenging weather as captain

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Originally Posted by Nor View Post
I didn't check the other models before this passage. I think the problem in the tropics is that forecasts will seldom show smaller local weather system that can also develop quickly.
The reason I asked was because forecasts, even if they have the general picture correct, can still have the timing off. Watching the overall trend gives an idea of things are getting better or worse. Bad weather sometimes arrives early after all.

When the weather is unsettled it can go in different directions. Checking different models is a way to see how settled the forecast may be: the greater the disagreement the greater the uncertainty.

Over here in SF, I'm used to the waves not matching the Beaufort descriptions, as there just isn't sufficient fetch to build up wave heights inside the Bay. There's only the whitecaps, spindrift, and whistling rigging. I guess you might have similar with a smaller local weather system.
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Old 24-01-2023, 04:39   #9
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Re: First time in challenging weather as captain

I think you did well, those were challenging conditions for that boat. I have had similar circumstances and I always find it nerve wracking. I a monohull yiu have the option to heave to, ai don’t know about your boat. Thing is weather predicting is not solid, and even with my best efforts I can get caught out, as I did a couple of months ago.

I will off this below for weather.

I use WeatherTrack to get both US and European models. It is not very user friendly, takes a fair bit if fiddling around to figure out all the features. But once you have it sorted it is a VERY good route planning tool.

when planning a trip, even 50 miles, I download both models a few days in advance. I both compare the models, they want to pretty much agree, and I watch how they develop over time, it is best if they settle into a stable prediction. If they are changing a lot the. i have little confidence in the prediction.

Next, WeatherTracks is just presenting the agency provided info. weatherTracks offshore guidance says to assume winds 20% greater than predicted.

WeatherTrack allows you to enter a route and to then a chart (Meteograph) of the weather over that route as you progress at your anticipated speed. If you use the Apparent wind option it will show that velocity and your wind angle. This will help with weather planning.

Again, WeatherTrack, once mastered; is simple and the most useful app out there, and has been for a long time. It is just a PITA to master. BUT even then you will sometimes get caught out.

Good luck, have fun.
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Old 24-01-2023, 15:47   #10
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Re: First time in challenging weather as captain

As the old saying goes;
"When in danger when in doubt, run in circles scream and shout".
Sorry, I couldn't resist.
Looks like you done good.
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Old 24-01-2023, 17:22   #11
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Re: First time in challenging weather as captain

You did fine. Sometimes it's not easy.
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Old 24-01-2023, 17:36   #12
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Re: First time in challenging weather as captain

This is a tough thread to respond to, as without being out there yourself, it's difficult to really assess the situation.

I've been in a variety of bad weather, and no two instances were the same.

Weather forecasts are only as good as the source, and they can't identify "local weather" anomalies which can change 20 miles from one location to another. Forecasting wind speed is one thing, but ocean bottom terrain can also influence wave height, as will ocean currents, etc. All these things should be assessed or thought about.

Typically, I have found that when one is on a reasonably short trip, as in this case, 50 nm case, from A to B, one tends to want to hold this course, despite worsening weather, as the urge to " get home" overrides common sense.

While in this instance, the engine was used a lot, one must be prepared to handle the situation without an engine, as fuel sloshing around a tank that is jumping around is going to pick up a lot of tank detritus and can cause the engine to stop.

My question to the OP is this....what would you have done with an inoperable engine ??

My next question would be...what would you do if you can't reach your destination before nightfall ??

My last question would be....was there a plan "B" ???

Just some points to ponder.
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Old 24-01-2023, 18:48   #13
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Re: First time in challenging weather as captain

https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer...5833924219&z=9

what a beautiful sailing area.

You can feel very good about yourself, as the most experienced sailors in this group have indicated in their opinions.


As I grow old and usually sailing alone, I am much more conservative,last year as got caught in a bad situation I decided to test my boat "hove to" ability as well as my own reaction.

The seas and winds were rough (not life-threatening). Post tropical storm near Bermuda.

The boat rode great, best 12 hours sleep I can remember, not longer the loud noise of the wind, sails etc.

By the time things quiet down, I lost about 25 miles from my course.
But I was rested, in good spirits and ready to continue.

My boat is a full keel traditional design and do not know how it will work in a catamaran.

We crossed paths with a catamaran and certainly was more lively than me!!

Also echoing other's observation, I do not mind postponing arrival, sometimes we get caught up on making the destination and underestimate the risk is higher than spending an extra night?

Like to join in a "job well done"

That area must be paradise!!!
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Old 25-01-2023, 00:20   #14
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Re: First time in challenging weather as captain

Thanks everybody for your valuable input and advice! It's good to get some feedback from others, and hear that what I did was quite ok.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MicHughV View Post
My question to the OP is this....what would you have done with an inoperable engine ??

My next question would be...what would you do if you can't reach your destination before nightfall ??

My last question would be....was there a plan "B" ???

Just some points to ponder.
Thanks for raising these concerns.
If the engine stopped I'd have continued with the headsail and would have to fall off a bit more. We would probably have gotten further southwest of the islands and would get some shelter from the NE winds eventually, but would have had to tack and work hard to get there, probably after sundown.

If we couldn't reach before it's got dark I'd have to continue in the dark, which in those conditions wouldn't have been very fun. I think I'll try soon to do some night sailing in the area in better weather to get some more experience in the dark, so if I'd have to it in bad weather at least it's not the first time. I also thought after this trip that a planned 50nm trip is long for a day trip (when I want to avoid sailing in the dark), so I'll think twice before planning such long trips until I have some more experience, just to have some extra buffer for unforeseen circumstances.

There wasn't really spelled out a plan B, but if we really couldn't hold up going against the wind it would have been to head back south towards Penang where we started, but it would have been a very very long trip during the night.
Other options could have been heading towards the cost, where there are a couple of islands suitable for an overnight anchor, however with the NE wind that also wouldn't have been very easy. But if wind directions had changed some then it could also have been an option. But most probably it would have been to slowly approach the destination, even if this would have taken several additional hours.
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Old 25-01-2023, 02:30   #15
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Re: First time in challenging weather as captain

Going to windward in a 30' catamaran, in strong winds, is always going to be tough. You don't say what type of catamaran but the shorter length cats do tend to hobby horse a bit.
As you get to know your boat you will plan accordingly.
Good learning experience and well done
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