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post #1 of Old 09-30-2009 Thread Starter
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Heavy Weather Points of Sail

I was hoping that you all could help me out with some feedback on handling heavy weather. I am realtively new to SN and in previous posts have mentioned that, while I have 25 years sailing experience, it has almost exclusively been as a day sailor within the shelter of Penobscot Bay. My father and I recently upgraded to Decision - a Baba 40, Bob Perry design out of the Ta Shing Boat Yard, cutter rig, 40' LOA, 12'10" beam, 29,000 lbs displacement) with the intention of doing more cruising. To that end, I returned yesterday from a 5 day, 4 night sail around Penobscot, Jericho, and Blue Hill Bays.

I had one realtively inexperienced crew with me for the first two days. The first day was mild 10-15 knots and we made it to Isle au Haut and anchored in Duck Harbor beyond which lies the gulf of Maine. My intention was to drop out into the Gulf on Day 2 and, with a forecast NW wind of 30 knots, hoped to make it down to Winter Harbor on Schoodic Point, a distance of about 35 nm to the northeast (I needed to travel more easterly for about 20 nm, then turn nne for 15 nm once I cleared the Duck Islands and headed to Winter Harbor) . As we came out from under the lee of Isle au Haut, it was immediately apparent that the winds were higher than forecast at 35 knots gusting to 40. As we moved further into open water the wind built so it was a steady 40 with gusts over 45. I had headed out under staysl only with the equivalent of one reef in the main (have inmast furling for the main - btw, kept remembering the inmast furling debate that CD started and thinking "I really don't want this thing to jam right now ). I immediately put in the equivalent of a second reef and, as the wind built, a third reef shortly thereafter, but left the staysl up. With the northerly wind, my point of sail was slightly above beam-on.

My problem was wave height/period. The seas had been forecast at 4-6 ft which didn't overly concern me, but they ended up larger - I would put them at 7-10 (the observation buoy a couple miles further south recorded 13), very steep and tightly packed together and seemed to be starting to break. We were a couple hours into it and getting smacked around a fair amount at this point, took a couple of waves across the bow and then dropped off a couple waves - not a complete drop-off I suppose, but certainly not something I had experienced before. At this point I came as close as I care to a knock-down. It wasn't a knock down, the sails didn't go in the water, but we went way over to the point where some sea came into the cockpit on the leeward side (hard to do in this boat). I had enough, changed course and beat up under the outer most islands (Marshall and Long islands) to get cover from the sea (this put me in Toothacher Bay, which i had to laugh at) - took me a good 3 to 4 hours to go about 3 nm. Oh, and I put the engine on, took in the staysl and let out a reef in the main. While we had to cross those conditions a couple more times to work our way back into Jericho Bay, once I made Marshall Island, I was largely able to leadfrog from the lee of one island to the next - didn't cut the wind much, but the sea was more manageable. We were picking up another crew member that night and I emailed him to change the place as we weren't going to make winter harbor. Sorry, this is getting long - a couple questions that came out of this:

1. Was going beam-on a dumb idea in those conditions?
2. Beating into the waves/wind was no fun (buried the bow a couple times, another first) - I actually considered falling out into more open water - this would have allowed me to be on a close reach straight to Winter Harbor. My thinking was: (a) that if I got further from land, the seas might have more room to separate and be more manageable - I have no basis for this, but was briefly tempted by my theory - does that make sense to anybody?; (b) I Could be on a close reach, which seemed preferrable to beam-on or close-hauled and (c) I could still make my intended destination.
3. Did I leave the staysl up too long, or maybe I should have left it out for the duration for better balance.
4. My dumbest move - not pulling up the tender and lashing it to the deck before we left - my greatest fear once I was out there was that a wave would flip the inflatable and I'd end up having to just cut it loose - was amazed that it just bobbed like a cork and never was an issue.

Any thoughts about what I should have done differently would be appreciated. Sorry this got so long..
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