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Old 07-07-2021, 07:00   #1
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Furling in high winds?

I messed up yesterday.

The forecast was for 10-20 mph winds, 30% chance of thunderstorms- our typical summer forecast. I invited my sister & her friend out for an evening sail. Mysister is a semi experienced boater, who recently had surgery & REALLY needs to get out of the house. Friend has been on boats before, but no real experience. So, I'm basically single handing, with a bit of help available. No problem.

The boat is a new-to me O'Day 30. The ancient TP5000 tillerpilot picked picked yesterday to stop working. No big deal, we're just going for an easy sail.

We head out, and I leave the main covered and unroll about 60% of the 150 genny. We're sailing nicely- easy. There is a bit of rain coming, so we put up the canvas.

We get hit by a gust, maybe 40mph. I head up to, expecting the gust to pass. Nope. It's steadily building. Sister is having fun, Friend is not. Friend was not impressed with the sounds of stuff flying around the cabin (which was only an empty wire spool, but plenty loud.). I'm now forereaching, and we in control. I have sister hold the tiller to leeward so I can play with the sail. I was not strong enough to move the furling line at all, even after releasing the genny sheet. It's windy at this point. My wind instrument is inoperative, I estimate force 11.

I sheet the wildly flogging genoa enough to have control again. It's mostly flogging wildly and shaking the rig pretty well. I do not want to sheet in any more- we are doing OK- even if I'm wrecking a sail. I'm not having any other ideas- I don't want to turn downwind & expose our beam to the wind, and I don't have canvas for the stern, so we will be getting pelted by rain, which won't help friend's stress level... I start the motor so we have more options. We are just making enough way to have steering. At some point, our lazy sheet pulls free from the boat, and is now tangled around the working sheet and dragging in the water. We retrieve and secure it.

After about 20 minutes, the wind starts dropping and I am able to furl the genny. No damage to the people or the boat. The genoa lost a few stitches on the leach line cleat cover.

A nearby boat recorded 63 mph winds, while in their slip with trees around them. A local park had gusts "over 70". My house is 3 miles from where we were sailing. No wind, little rain. Go figure! Friend's house had a tree come down & smash her shed & deck. It didn't help her state of mind when hubby called with the news.

Eventually, the clouds parted and we have a beautiful motor back to our slip.

Lessons I see-
I didn't turn on my VHF, which might have warned of impending doom. My phone app weather alerts did not activate or give any warning.

That rain just might be hiding WIND. Consider furling/reefing until I'm sure it's just rain.

At least have a plan to lash the tiller instead of relying on inexperienced hands. (this was not a problem, but it could have been.)

At the first suspicion of WIND, secure the lazy sheet. The figure 8 stopper knot I had was insufficient.

How can I do better next time?

(When I called my other half after getting home, her words were, "You're not allowed to hurt the boat unless I'm on it." LOL!
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Old 07-07-2021, 07:24   #2
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Re: Furling in high winds?

Turn down and run with the wind to ease furling the sail if there’s sea room. Running eases the load on the sail.
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Old 07-07-2021, 07:31   #3
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Re: Furling in high winds?

It sounds like you got hit by a straight-line cell inbedded in a front or thunderstorm. They can easily have 90 mph winds. They are not tornadoes, although they can develop into them, and into water spouts.

Do you remember way back when airliners were getting slammed into runways while landing in thunderstorms? Same situation. They don't do that anymore.

If you want to see what cells are all about, get my favorite weather application, Weathertap.com, and select storm tracks. Weathertap shows the individual cells, details about them, and their projected paths.

It really sounds like you did an admirable job of dealing with a new and scary situation. Now you know about that, and have mitigation plans for the future.
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Old 07-07-2021, 08:03   #4
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Re: Furling in high winds?

I had this same experience once with less breeze. The issue I had was that I felt I needed to really monitor the course, even downwind and could not take the time to teach the person with me how to furl the jib.

As you write, proactive action is best before the spooked look on your face alarms everyone even more!

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Old 07-07-2021, 08:23   #5
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Re: Furling in high winds?

I would say the first lesson is (almost) never hoist just one sail. A sailboat needs to be balanced, so using only your headsail means all the effort to balance is left to the rudder. This can become overwhelmed (as you found out), leaving you with few good options.

If your main was hoisted (even well reefed) it would have provided you the upwind capacity so you could bring the boat into the wind and depower the foresail. Then you can easily furl it.

I get that it's easier to roll out the furled foresail than to get the main going, but this is a good demonstration as to why it's not a good idea.

Getting caught in your situation, I think I'd run downwind and try and depower the sail that way, but this assumes you have enough sheet length to let the foresail out far enough.
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Old 07-07-2021, 09:35   #6
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Re: Furling in high winds?

If it was really blowing 70, running down wind wouldn’t take too much strain off the jib without a main sail to blank it. You also lose the option to depower the jib either by sheeting in tight and heading into the wind or easing until luffing. Heading down wind no amount of sheeting out will depower you.

For next time, I think you should rig a provision to winch the furler. If you sheet out until the whole luff of the sail has a big bubble in it, it seems to relieve about 90% of the pressure, but doesn’t flog wildly. I think it would be safe to winch in at that point as long as you keep easing the sheet to keep tension off.
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Old 07-07-2021, 11:15   #7
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Re: Furling in high winds?

I learned the painful way, to reef the main head into the wind, to reef the foresail run before the wind.

This lesson cost me a tired but still serviceable genoa.
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Old 07-07-2021, 11:39   #8
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Re: Furling in high winds?

I remember some advice from Jimmy Cornell to winch the genny in in such conditions.
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Old 08-07-2021, 06:18   #9
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Re: Furling in high winds?

Thanks all!

I have lots to learn, and lots of new ideas to try.

In more reasonable winds. :-)
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Old 08-07-2021, 07:07   #10
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Re: Furling in high winds?

if you can't furl it in then turn downwind .. if you can. but 60 mph is too much for a 150. once you got the first gust you should have immediately furled the genoa and started your engine IMHO.
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Old 08-07-2021, 07:49   #11
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Re: Furling in high winds?

The reality is, you need to lower the forces on the sail to furl it in. Using a winch on the furling line would certainly allow you to overcome more force, but the best way is to depower the sail.

There are only two ways to do this; either let it all out and run downwind, at which point you've got a flapping, flogging sail. Or the better option is to go into the wind. BUT, you'll never be able to do this with just the headsail out in these conditions. This is why you should (almost) always hoist both sails. With a reefed main you'd have the ability to sail to weather and get the jib reefed in. Or even better, you can reef both sails by balancing against one, then the other.

Of course the real answer is be far more attentive to the conditions. Despite the stories we tell, conditions rarely go from zero to hell in a few seconds. There are weather signs. And as soon as you see them, get those sails reefed!

All good learning. We've all been there ... many times .
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Old 08-07-2021, 08:09   #12
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Re: Furling in high winds?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike OReilly View Post
you'll never be able to do this with just the headsail out in these conditions. This is why you should (almost) always hoist both sails. .
Why cant you just motor into the wind?
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Old 08-07-2021, 08:14   #13
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Re: Furling in high winds?

You've got it. As you say, assume that a squall line brings a significant increase in wind. Sometimes it's the opposite, but it's not worth testing under full sail.

As others have said, turn down wind (deep down wind) to reef the genoa. Having the main up makes it a lot easier but even without it if you go deep down wind and sheet out the luff will start to curl around the head stay and you'll be able to get it in even in quite high winds.

The consensus on winches for furling lines is divided as you can see, but personally I always like to have it on either a dedicated winch or at least running through a clutch. That way you can take up on the reefing line incrementally (by hand) without losing it in the next gust. And sometimes, well, the stuff hits the fan and the option of grinding it in is a good one to have.
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Old 08-07-2021, 08:15   #14
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Re: Furling in high winds?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wilyum View Post
Why cant you just motor into the wind?
In high winds you cannot furl a headsail by hand while going up wind. There's just too much pressure on the furling line from the violently-flogging sail.
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Old 08-07-2021, 10:09   #15
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Re: Furling in high winds?

Two years ago, I was caught offshore in 78kts. I saw it coming on satellite weather and radar. 80 miles across, 50 miles deep. Impossible to tell how bad it would be beyond pressure gradients ( a lot of red). There were no wind plumes. After judging speed by radar movement, what I did was...

1) completely furl the genoa with extra turns on the forestay. CLeat the furling line and take up slack on both winches. A partially furled genoa is way out in front, so massive unbalancing, and likely to unfurl.

2) Put two reefs in the main. With the sail close to the mast, less effect on balance.
Note: I would've put in a 3rd reef, but not enough time to use the messenger line. I considered dropping all sail and running under bare poles. However, it did not look that bad. Duh!

3. Start engine. Safety harness attached. Send crew below.

4. Take wind over aft quarter--wind and Gulf Stream were going the same direction. Waves were breakers, a lot of spray, nothing the boat could not handle.


It lasted about two hours. Maximum speed through water 11.2 knots. Theoretical hull speed 9 knots. In the worst of the storm a 1,100 ft container ship (seen on AIS) offered to come between us and the wind. I declined.
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