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post #226 of Old 09-09-2010
Tartan 27' owner
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St. Anna,
I guess you could call it that but our cliffs and hills are only around 300 - 500' high.
I've read several books about sailing near Cape Horn and they have called them Katabatic winds or williwaws (sounds more Australian): Katabatic wind - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
winds that roll downhill like, yes, bullets. I never thought of our normally fairly placid Hudson River as a dangerous sailing area like the Straits of Magellan but when the wind pipes up the hills and cliffs do seem to fire some 'bullets' of wind that had me in a pretty catatonic state. It is all about the shape of the land masses and the relatively narrow river (3 miles wide) that makes me usually refer to the winds as 'fluky'.
What was most disconcerting about yesterdays race was the differential between the gusts at over 30 knots and the 15 knot prevailing wind and the directional shifts, even within a single gust, and yes, of course you could see them approaching on the waters surface if you knew what to look for. The 90 degree shift in direction was a bit of a surprise though. I'm quite happy my underwear ended up with only river water on them.
Normally I would have had an open beverage nearby and would not be wearing a life jacket but I was kind of mesmerized and the beers would have been toppled by our knock downs anyway. Fortunately I had plenty of beer left when we tied up safely back at our mooring.
Now I know why about half the boats in our fleet dropped out of the race for emotional or equipment reasons. It would be fine one minute and then it was over on your ear as the next gust pushed through. It would have been really difficult to shake out and put in a reef every few minutes much less letting the furled jib out and taking it in as conditions required. Most blue blooded racers scorn the idea of reefing their sails as it is against their credo of 'as fast as possible' and 'man up and take it' (MTFU) but as a shorthanded crew we had to choose an option that would allow us to finish without getting into worse trouble. The owners manual for my 1967 Tartan 27' even says that it is advisable to reef the main in over 18 knots of wind; so what do you do when the wind goes from 15 - 30+ knots? I don't like trouble so I'll reef even in a race if I feel it is needed.

Hope your feline has dried out and not too aggro after the yakkers got her/him wet! Wind and waves are a sailors dilemma and all the little water craft can get in the way as well.

"The cure for anything is salt water~ sweat, tears, or the sea." ~Isak Denesen

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