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  #21  
Old 04-10-2009
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Virtually any decent production boat should hold together in a storm of limited duration, but the record isn't always great with some of them that have had structural failures (rudders snapping off or bulkheads detabbing when the hulls flex).

Part of the problem is that it is difficult in confused seas to get a light displacement (comparatively), modern, relatively flat-hulled production boat to heave-to reliably. This seems to be a crap shoot: some will, and some won't, and experimenting in rough seas isn't on a lot of short lists. Not being able to stop, rest and regroup leads to bad, seamanship-eroding decisions, and that can contribute to fatiguing a boat further.

Lastly, some strongly built boats have a harsh motion in heavy seas that can exhaust a crew. The Pacific "weather bomb" storm between Fiji and NZ in '94 showed this: some of the boats had to be abandoned (but kept afloat) because the crews couldn't take the endless pounding. Others battened down, hove to and were ultimately fine, even in 90 knot "survival storm" conditions.

Again, it's like a Venn diagram...every boat is a compromise, and while there are quite a few "coastal" boats that could survive a storm, they might come in a wide range of seakindliness or comfort factors, and how important that is to you (or whether or not you're willing to give up a knot of light air speed or 10 degrees of pointing ability for it) is going to be a big factor.

You can't discuss boat suitability without broaching (pun intended) the topic of crew suitability. Alex is very proud of his boat, and rightly so, but he would not likely cross the Atlantic with it...it's not the appropriate boat for that. I wouldn't enter my boat in the Newport-Bermuda race, either, by the same logic...who wants to arrive tanned, fit and rested 10 days after the awards dinner?
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  #22  
Old 04-10-2009
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Great post Val. Thanks. I do think this would be an interesting discussion - so unless SailingDog tells me there's already a thread on this - I may float a new one.
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  #23  
Old 04-10-2009
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Having survived a 3 day storm in the Atlantic 5 years ago this week, I have some definite ideas regarding suitable blue water offshore boats. Granted, the sustained winds never exceeded 58 knots, the seas were the big problem. Fortunately the 55' aluminum purpose built boat I was on had a pilot house. Standing watches every 8 hours for 3 days in that sea state would have been physically impossible. Sitting in a gimballed chair for 4 hours and 4 hours in a pilot house sea berth was taxing enough. It is hard to accurately describe the violent motion that 25 foot breaking and confused seas make. You are constantly bracing yourself which inevitably becomes very tiring. Common tasks like making a sandwich take about 10 times as long and are tiring. The sheer power of waves, crashing over the pilothouse on occasion, was unbelievable. I never once thought the boat wasn't going to make it although we were occasionally were concerned about the hull tripping as we slid down a wave on our side.

In comparison, a friends Ericson 46 left St. Thomas a couple of days behind us, hit the storm for 1/2 a day, veered off towards Bermuda and limped in to Hampton Roads a week later than us. Their boat was obviously sturdy and well built for a production boat. Unfortunately it really couldn't handle those conditions for long. The boat was a total writeoff at the dock. The crew injuries included a broken arm and fractured ribs. The cabin sole had broken loose, the nav station had broken from its tabs and every bulkhead was broken. Yikes!

The main problem is that people on this board have varying opinions of blue water capable. I'd venture to say that most haven't been out in a sustained storme in the Atlantic. Some think they will be ok with the right equipment, some think it is heavy displacement, and others foolishly think that if a sister production boat has made offshore passages then they are good to go. Heck I believed some of these things too until I was caught in it 350 miles offshore.

Bottom line is that it is a combination things. If your boat can't withstand drops off 25 foot waves then I wouldn't venture to far into the Atlantic in spring. The key is to have good planning, good communication and no timetable. Having to get somewhere is the major reason for a lot of mistakes.

Of course if all you are doing is going to the Bahamas and island hopping south then any decent production boat is ok so long as your plan your trip right.
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I think that even with the right boat planning is critical. The solid boat is when reality does not match your plans. My last trip from Panama City to Pensacola was not a survival situation but it could have been very uncomfortable in a light boat.
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Go for the Commanche 42 which is ocean going, fast, $50k and available on the left coast (sausalito). Google will tell you where it is.

Moe
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  #26  
Old 04-11-2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sanduskysailor View Post
Having survived a 3 day storm in the Atlantic 5 years ago this week, I have some definite ideas regarding suitable blue water offshore boats. Granted, the sustained winds never exceeded 58 knots, the seas were the big problem. Fortunately the 55' aluminum purpose built boat I was on had a pilot house. Standing watches every 8 hours for 3 days in that sea state would have been physically impossible. Sitting in a gimballed chair for 4 hours and 4 hours in a pilot house sea berth was taxing enough. It is hard to accurately describe the violent motion that 25 foot breaking and confused seas make. You are constantly bracing yourself which inevitably becomes very tiring. Common tasks like making a sandwich take about 10 times as long and are tiring. The sheer power of waves, crashing over the pilothouse on occasion, was unbelievable. I never once thought the boat wasn't going to make it although we were occasionally were concerned about the hull tripping as we slid down a wave on our side.

In comparison, a friends Ericson 46 left St. Thomas a couple of days behind us, hit the storm for 1/2 a day, veered off towards Bermuda and limped in to Hampton Roads a week later than us. Their boat was obviously sturdy and well built for a production boat. Unfortunately it really couldn't handle those conditions for long. The boat was a total writeoff at the dock. The crew injuries included a broken arm and fractured ribs. The cabin sole had broken loose, the nav station had broken from its tabs and every bulkhead was broken. Yikes!

The main problem is that people on this board have varying opinions of blue water capable. I'd venture to say that most haven't been out in a sustained storme in the Atlantic. Some think they will be ok with the right equipment, some think it is heavy displacement, and others foolishly think that if a sister production boat has made offshore passages then they are good to go. Heck I believed some of these things too until I was caught in it 350 miles offshore.

Bottom line is that it is a combination things. If your boat can't withstand drops off 25 foot waves then I wouldn't venture to far into the Atlantic in spring. The key is to have good planning, good communication and no timetable. Having to get somewhere is the major reason for a lot of mistakes.

Of course if all you are doing is going to the Bahamas and island hopping south then any decent production boat is ok so long as your plan your trip right.
Sandusky, you totally summarize with personal experience exactly what I was trying to say. Your post should be framed.

The irony of the situation is that fewer and fewer oceanic sailors are likely to experience what you did specifically because we have more and more aids in the form of voyage-specific weather forecasting to help us avoid those situations. While this is undeniably a good thing (who wants to court death as a mouse inside a jar inside a washing machine?), it means that fewer crew and fewer boats have a tested appreciation of how rough things can get.

Every month in either Ocean Navigator or in some online forum, I read of circumnavigators who have experienced perhaps one 50 knot episode in ten years or 50,000 NM of cruising. This is undoubtedly good and prudent seamanship, given that the evidence would suggest the oceans are getting stormier, but it also illustrates how few people really KNOW how these conditions affect boats and their crews. I've seen 40 knots sustained on a great lake for a couple of hours, and 35 knots on the English Channel...but that about it. And that was plenty.
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  #27  
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Valiente, you and I are on the same page on this one. When planning our trip the weather forecast was pretty good for the 1200 miles. We were taking a route directly from St. Thomas to a point about 100 miles east of Cape Hatteras and then to the Chesapeake. We made several mistakes. One, we made the trip the first week of April which is about 3 weeks too early. 3 low pressure systems came off the east coast and unexpectedly formed into a monster storm which rotated the wind to the southeast while we were 350miles off St. Augustine. Next big mistake was to ignore weather advice of our weather router. He warned us to turn southwest and head for south Florida and not to sail north of the 29th parallel. Our skipper decided to go against the advice and trust a forecast we had for our Maxsea nav software provider. (daily gribs by modem that overlayed our electronic charts). Unbeknown to us, our skipper had a time constraint which influenced his decision. Next we were going with the storm which meant we experienced the storm for 3 days. Although heaving to or beating into 25ft waves really didn't look like a great option, we would have been in the storm for a shorter period of time. 25 ft waves are doable but not when they are confused, steep, and breaking. Unbelievable power in those waves.

The things we did right. We were 3 reasonably fit men with a fair amount of experience, mechanical expertise and sea miles. Not the place for the wife and kids. We had a proper boat, although designed by the owner (architect), it was professionally built by a quality boat manufacturer Hike Metal Products Ltd. and the design was reviewed by a naval architect and engineering firm. The boat was fast with a hull speed of over 10 knots and it was very stiff. We maintained a constant watch system and made every effort to conserve our energy. Sleeping was near impossible even with lee cloths, pillows, and numerous life jackets as we tried to wedge into our berths. We maintained communication with our SSB and Satphone which at times was reassuring. Because we had a proper pilothouse we were never cold or wet which would have contributed greatly to fatigue. We had 2 underdeck hydraulic autopilots. Both pilots had electronic rudder sensors and we could manually adjust the yaw rates. The engine and battery compartments were completely watertight and designed to survive a rollover. For the record, the boat was an aluminum 55 foot pilothouse (53' waterline) that weighed 32,000# all up, 10.5' lifting keel with a 12,500 bulb on the bottom of it. The engine was a 110hp turbo diesel laser aligned and bolted between the 2 longitudinal stringers that ran the length of the boat. The mast, hydraulic lifting keel and engine was secured to the stringers. The construction also included ring frames that provided transverse support.The boat was constructed with a forward watertight crash compartment, accessible only by deck hatch which is where stored spare sails, lines, etc. The were also 2 watertight bulkheads with gasketed doors. We carried 320 gallons a fuel in 4 tanks that were centrally controlled. The tanks could be pumped from one to another with either the electric or manual pumps. For electronics, we had full instrumentation, 36 mile Radar, SSB, SSB fax/modem, Satphone, 3 cell phones, DSC VHF radio, Electronic Navigation software on laptop in Nav Station, Epirb in main cabin, second Epirp with liferaft, Offshore liferaft with full provisions and crash bag.

Essentially we were prepared for just about anything and the preparedness saved our bacon. I would imagine if you bought a custom French alloy cruiser equipped the same as this boat you are looking at 750-900K to get an equivalent boat. The owner did a lot the interior work himself, supervised construction, and diligently sourced the components using a rig off a Frers 45 that had been destroyed in a fire (rig not on boat). He reinforced the rig, designed new spreaders that had a wider sheeting base and basically made the rig pretty stout. With all of that I would estimate that he had in excess of 275K in the boat when finished.

The point of all this is: This is the reality of what a true offshore boat costs. From my experience, production boats are not built that way nor should they be. Most boats are perfectly fine for taking to the Carribean or doing reasonable distance offshore in weather seasons and areas where severe storms are extremely rare. Yes, you can go around the world in a Catalina 27 but you have to be both lucky and skilled in your planning, boat preparation, and seamanship. People have done it and others have failed miserably. It is your risk albeit a big one. Through unpredicted or unforeseen circumstances if you are caught out in a big storm in an area where seas get rough you can have a very unfortunate outcome without the proper equipment.

Last edited by Sanduskysailor; 04-12-2009 at 12:03 PM.
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  #28  
Old 04-13-2009
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Wow...you'd like my boat, I think. Yes, I agree, you and the owner improved your chances greatly with all that preparation and what some might term "design overkill". I would imagine after the first 24 hours it seemed "reasonable expense and attention to detail," and by the 48th hour maybe the phrase "light displacement" came to mind.

Hike is a great builder. Almost every cop boat in Toronto and some of the Canadian Coast Guard boats are made by them, and when you see them fearlessly blasting out of our Western Gap directly into 12 foot square waves and "grabbing air" before smacking into the next one, you think "man, that's a tough boat". These guys take their doughnut runs seriously.

I knew they did catamarans, but I didn't know they did sailboats. That boat sounds superb. I have a pilothouse cutter in steel with many of the same attributes (no lifting keel, however, just a full keel). When I finish, she will also have dual manual and electric water and fuel transfer. We have two pilot berths in the pilot house itself that a six-footer essentially must be jammed into, plus six-foot sea berths in the saloon that will be rigged with lee cloths or boards.

It's interesting that while you learned a lot about the fact that you had the right boat and the right crew for the situation, you also had full access to the means to avoid the extreme conditions in the first place. This illustrates quite well my point that if you find yourself in a maelstrom, it's just as often as not these days a bad judgement call rather than a lack of available facts. It reminds me of all those dead "back country skiers" this winter...they could read "avalanche conditions: extreme" and went anyway.
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  #29  
Old 04-13-2009
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Hey Sandusky - you have a killer BFS here - with a valuable lessons-learned followup. Drop those into the BFS thread will ya? Otherwise I'll be forced to steal them.
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Old 04-13-2009
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Valiente, you might notice the decision to go into the storm was made for the wrong reasons. Even if we had turned around we still would have experienced some of the storm (probably a half a day). The owner has sworn never to do that again. I agree that most of the time you can avoid situations like this but there is always a chance that something happens that the forecast doesn't expect.

Some notes about the pilothouse. The starboard side has a pilot berth with lee cloth. Very comfy and just long enough to lay down in. The port side had a nav station with controls and electronics. It also had a gimballed leather seat out of a Porsche 911 that was sweet. You could lock the chair at an angle which really helped when the boat was bouncing around. The other thing of note were the pilothouse windows. The forward window had a hatch in it and was lexan. The side windows were 3/4" tempered glass. Plexiglass is too flexible and would have blown out with the first big wave. Lexan is tinted and is difficult to see out of on a dark night so not an option for all of the windows.

The 10-1/2 deep keel bulb was great for stability. The boat empty was about 28,000 with about 4,000# of fuel,water, stores, sails, rig etc. The hull shape was not flat but more a V shape A motor driven hydraulic pump lifted the keel to 6-1/2' when motoring into the dock. As far as I know, this might be the only sailboat ever built by Hike. The workmanship and quality were first rate. As I said in a previous post, I never doubted that the boat would be fine. Aluminum for a boat this size is a great choice.
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