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  #31  
Old 12-30-2013
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Re: What would you do? Caught off guard by storm on the Chesapeake

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Originally Posted by SVAuspicious View Post
Sure - do as you like. Thunderstorms on the Chesapeake can be tough on small boats, and that was the scenario.

The folks on the radio at station Annapolis and sector Baltimore don't actually have a whole lot else to do unless there is a Mayday. The sector radio room in particular is full of kids out of boot on their first tour. A radio sked in unpleasant to bad conditions is good practice for them, a huge morale boost for the boater, and a reasonable safety net.

I'm happy to call the CO at Sector Baltimore and ask what he thinks...
I'd love to hear what the CG would say about that. It does seem clear the folks manning the radios are pretty inexperienced. It should not take more that a couple of radio calls to garner the required information and get things rolling. Instead, during the real life calls I hear, it seems the CG watchstanders think the skipper of a vessel in distress has nothing else to do but stand by the radio and answer a series of inane questions one at a time. I've heard it take dozens of calls over many minutes to establish the basic information a pilot and air traffic controller cover in one or two very brief calls.

On most occasions, nearby boaters that overheard the call have responded and gotten things under control, long before the CG can finish their checklist and put out a call for nearby boats to help. That is ridiculous. Why the protocol is not to get the who, where, what, then request those on the distressed vessel to don PFD's and get the call for assistance from nearby boaters ASAP is beyond me.

I do credit the Coast Guard for their work once the ball does get moving but the initial radio response could use some improvement
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  #32  
Old 12-30-2013
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Re: What would you do? Caught off guard by storm on the Chesapeake

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Originally Posted by PalmettoSailor View Post
I'd love to hear what the CG would say about that.
I spoke with the Command Center at USCG Sector Baltimore.

Their suggestion was that asking for a radio guard (what I called a radio schedule) is only appropriate when the boat owner/skipper feels s/he is in some distress (a lower level of hazard than a Mayday or Pan-Pan I think).

So I was incorrect.

Ultimately however it is up to the skipper to decide if his or her safety is at risk.

In this and my previous discussions with various Sectors they recognize the issues with the radio watch. My favorite nit is saying "break" and not letting go of the mic button. *grin* Let's not forget that the first line of response are awfully young and inexperienced working off flip cards.
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  #33  
Old 12-30-2013
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Re: What would you do? Caught off guard by storm on the Chesapeake

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Last but not least your scenario really points out the value of situational awareness and being able to put together a plan on a moments notice.
Actually, a moment's notice is a bit late. We're talking about it now, so we're all ahead of the game. A good skipper always has a bunch of "what-if's" rolling around at any given time.

Why I believe that the summer thunderstorms can't be outrun:
In the '70s, we were in the Great Egg Harbor bay with full sail and motor trying to beat a storm and get to our marina in my dad's Catalina 27. We were 1 mile short when it hit with resulting wind and rain. The boat went over to 30 degrees-ish and I went over the side while trying to dose the genoa. I hung on to a sheet and eventually hauled myself back on board. NOT cool.

Why I don't run for shore:
Entering Smith Point at the mouth of the Potomac ahead of a storm, the sky blackened and we were crossing the vast 2.5 nm shoal from Smith Point Light, I had 7' of water under me (we drew 4'4"), lightning all around, and rising wind. My lovely wife turned to me and asked if I was nervous. By the time we entered harbor, it was a mess and docking was much more complicated than if I'd just stayed outside.

Why it's folly to think that a storm isn't aiming for you:
I took a non-sailing coworker out. We saw a storm developing and I convinced myself that it would pass north of us. It didn't and we were hit with 25 kts of wind and rain while under full sail. While the wind speed wasn't so bad, it was more than we were set up for. I got the main single, then double reefed, then doused and the genoa brought into 50% before we had everything under control. The guest was petrified and to this day thinks that I was trying to kill him. Sloppy on my part and I knew better. I just promoted him, so maybe that compensates.

Why I stay out and reef:
In the 2008 MD Governor's Cup Race, shortly after dawn, the entire Chesapeake Bay north of the Potomac River went black. And it was rolling down on us. Hatches were already dogged, we shut the companionway, double reefed the main, and set the 100%. The wind hit at about 30 kts and off we went. After 30 minutes, it was over, we shook out the reefs, and ended up drifting to a classic Gov Cup finish. Preparation, cool, thinking, and execution were key. The fact that I had 7 sets of hands was irrelevant. We've done it with just the two of us.
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  #34  
Old 12-30-2013
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Re: What would you do? Caught off guard by storm on the Chesapeake

Good organization of thoughts.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sabreman View Post
Why I believe that the summer thunderstorms can't be outrun:
That depends on where you are. In my experience on Chesapeake Bay, Long Island Sound, and other estuaries MOST of the time the thunderstorms are not something you can run from or even dodge. Well offshore the seem to MOSTLY (not always) break up into cells. With decent radar you can avoid the worst even in a slower boat.

On a 21' trailer sailer - the original scenario here - you aren't running from anything.

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Why I don't run for shore:
On my boat, or yours, I fully agree with you. On the OP trailer sailor I think I'm heading for the beach. Not a dock - the beach.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sabreman View Post
Why it's folly to think that a storm isn't aiming for you:
Agreed. I always act as if I'm the bullseye. *grin*

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sabreman View Post
Why I stay out and reef:
Agreed. I just don't sail with open hatches. Your sail handling description is reasonable but doesn't apply to the 21' trailer sailor.
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  #35  
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Re: What would you do? Caught off guard by storm on the Chesapeake

Gee we were out sailing around Thomas Pt Saturday Dec 28th...it was a great day. Have experienced the same a number of times. The only thing I would add is to get away from the Ship's Channel, and since you're single handing, drop all sails and motor. In a Governor's Cup race 4-5 years ago, a storm came up, half my crew went below to don foul weather gear, my new england friend and I put our bathing suits on. It felt great. Our Apache 37 (S&S) boat put a bone in her teeth while all the other light boats were overpowered. (We took second).
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Re: What would you do? Caught off guard by storm on the Chesapeake

heres a short video of a storm on June 29, 2012. This was the night of the "derecho" - straight line winds up to 80 mph in places. I was in North East, MD, hard to guess the wind speed but the boat was laid over for what seemed a long long time. Glad I was on the mooring. We had some trees down but the storm really beat up communities to the east, especially the other side of the Delaware Bay.
No real warning this was coming unless you were looking at radar, it was a fast mover.

Last edited by Dfok; 12-30-2013 at 04:48 PM. Reason: add line
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  #37  
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Re: What would you do? Caught off guard by storm on the Chesapeake

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Originally Posted by Sabreman View Post
I'd say that your scenario isn't that hypothetical, it's an inevitability in the mid-Atlantic. I can say from experience that most of not all of us have been it this situation. For my part, I've been there many times on a Catalina 22, 27, 30, Sabre 28, and now our 38. At no time have I anchored to ride it out.

You have the right mindset and are headed along a good decision path. What I'd do in your situation:

1. You can't outrun the storm from where you are so don't even try, you'll waste valuable time. So you'll have to ride it out in open water, away from crab pots.
2. Don't anchor. The water is too deep and you'll drag. Boats invariably ride better when moving. So you have to decide to sail or motor.
3. Batten the hatches, get PFD on, check gas can, check flares are below but within reach, check that the anchor and rode are ready to deploy without kinks and snags. Get non-essential personnel below.
4. Unplug your permanent VHF from power and antenna in case of lightening strike. Make sure that handheld VHF is charged. Plug in to charge if needed.
5. You don't mention that you have furling or reef points so I'll assume that you don't. So sailing is probably out. Don't even think about running off with full sail … the wind will be too strong for your rig.
5a. Have the sails furled, but ready to deploy if necessary. Make sure that all lines are fair and not tangled. If the motor dies, sails are your best friend.
6. Get the motor going and head toward port. Your boat will hobby horse so the engine will have a tendency to lift out of the water in a seaway. It will sound nasty but persevere. The good news is that these blows on the Bay are short-lived and while you'll get some chop it won't have much of a chance to build, so you'll be ok. Just hang in there. You'll be plenty uncomfortable, but as long as the motor is running, you'll be ok. If the motor dies, go to Step 7 fast (i.e., less than a minute).
7. You may try to run with a jib only. But I wouldn't want to do it with anything greater than 100% in the wind that's coming. I would not try to go to windward. 90 - 120 degrees AWD is your best bet. I would not try to sail in restricted maneuverability situations (i.e., into your dock, in a tight channel, etc).


You'll get wet, but you'll be ok. Don't worry about lightning…you can't do anything about it so worry about safe vessel operation instead.

I'll stress that this is a highly variable situation and that circumstances can change in a minute. The key is to keep your options open. Anchoring restricts them, and can actually place you in danger depending on circumstances. Get rid of anything other than nylon for your anchor lines…they're worthless. You anchor rode is as important as your PFD.

A final thought. Once you develop a plan and have considered the pros and cons, stick with it unless there is a compelling reason to deviate (also holds true for many other life situations). Being scared or wet doesn't count as compelling. Something significant has to change to make you change your plan. Otherwise, you're floundering and that can be really bad.
Well thought out. Fear will kill you. Its just a waste of energy....
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Re: What would you do? Caught off guard by storm on the Chesapeake

SVAuspicious - I agree with everything you say here. I just wanted to provide a little basis for my rather heavy opinion.
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Re: What would you do? Caught off guard by storm on the Chesapeake

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sabreman View Post
I'd say that your scenario isn't that hypothetical, it's an inevitability in the mid-Atlantic. I can say from experience that most of not all of us have been it this situation. For my part, I've been there many times on a Catalina 22, 27, 30, Sabre 28, and now our 38. At no time have I anchored to ride it out.

You have the right mindset and are headed along a good decision path. What I'd do in your situation:

1. You can't outrun the storm from where you are so don't even try, you'll waste valuable time. So you'll have to ride it out in open water, away from crab pots.
2. Don't anchor. The water is too deep and you'll drag. Boats invariably ride better when moving. So you have to decide to sail or motor.
3. Batten the hatches, get PFD on, check gas can, check flares are below but within reach, check that the anchor and rode are ready to deploy without kinks and snags. Get non-essential personnel below.
4. Unplug your permanent VHF from power and antenna in case of lightening strike. Make sure that handheld VHF is charged. Plug in to charge if needed.
5. You don't mention that you have furling or reef points so I'll assume that you don't. So sailing is probably out. Don't even think about running off with full sail … the wind will be too strong for your rig.
5a. Have the sails furled, but ready to deploy if necessary. Make sure that all lines are fair and not tangled. If the motor dies, sails are your best friend.
6. Get the motor going and head toward port. Your boat will hobby horse so the engine will have a tendency to lift out of the water in a seaway. It will sound nasty but persevere. The good news is that these blows on the Bay are short-lived and while you'll get some chop it won't have much of a chance to build, so you'll be ok. Just hang in there. You'll be plenty uncomfortable, but as long as the motor is running, you'll be ok. If the motor dies, go to Step 7 fast (i.e., less than a minute).
7. You may try to run with a jib only. But I wouldn't want to do it with anything greater than 100% in the wind that's coming. I would not try to go to windward. 90 - 120 degrees AWD is your best bet. I would not try to sail in restricted maneuverability situations (i.e., into your dock, in a tight channel, etc).


You'll get wet, but you'll be ok. Don't worry about lightning…you can't do anything about it so worry about safe vessel operation instead.

I'll stress that this is a highly variable situation and that circumstances can change in a minute. The key is to keep your options open. Anchoring restricts them, and can actually place you in danger depending on circumstances. Get rid of anything other than nylon for your anchor lines…they're worthless. You anchor rode is as important as your PFD.

A final thought. Once you develop a plan and have considered the pros and cons, stick with it unless there is a compelling reason to deviate (also holds true for many other life situations). Being scared or wet doesn't count as compelling. Something significant has to change to make you change your plan. Otherwise, you're floundering and that can be really bad.

i'd add a few things to this. even without reef points, you may be able to sail under main alone. many boats only sail down, under jib alone. however, most well balanced boats will sail under main alone. this is how i have handled heavy weather in my holiday 20.

you can use a type of fisherman's reef to ease the force on your main. if the force gets uncomfortable under main, alone, you can ease the sheet so that the luff loses shape but the leech is full. you can play the sheet so that you maintain motion, or even stay in one position, without being overpowered by the wind. i have 'reefed' like that a lot, in my holifday 20 and my 9' dinghy, in seriously heavy winds. you have to be very aware and alert but it's doable.

one other thing that might be done is to find a port in the storm. there are a lot of areas, on the bay, where people have docks behind their houses...there're marinas too. if you aren't too far from one, and you see the weather in time, you could make for one and tie up. drop sail and hole up til the storm passes. make sure you use your fenders. i can't think that anyone would begrudge you an hour tied up at their dock, in such a situation.
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  #40  
Old 12-31-2013
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Re: What would you do? Caught off guard by storm on the Chesapeake

Most of the good stuff has already been said and I'm no old salt, but I'd just add that for me, the best thing I've done is to go out in increasingly nasty weather to build my skills and confidence.

In our first full year with our Catalina 22, we got caught pretty far from home in a big storm (not a squall) with winds gusting to 35kts. The only thing that came to mind at the time was to batten down the hatches, put on our life jackets, and motor the whole way home. We were climbing up waves with the motor bogging down and then crashing down the other side with the prop coming out of the water. It wasn't pretty, and I was concerned that my wife would never sail again, but we made it.

From then on, we took every opportunity to push ourselves, sailing in 20, then 25, then even 30 knots under more controlled circumstances, and today I think a similar situation would just be more annoying than anything else. Now, I'd probably do it on a reefed main or scrap of jib, depending on the wind direction (still with the crib boards in and the PDFs on). The sails would make us more stable and save some wear on the engine, but our skills just weren't there in that first test and the motor got us home. We had the jib partially out for about 30 seconds and thought we were going to die.

There are pictures and stuff here: Cattus Island Beat Down | Sailing Fortuitous

Sometimes you're going to get surprised and it's good to have a failsafe plan, but pushing ourselves under incrementally more challenging situations, and just getting better at handling the boat in general and knowing what she wants as the winds pick up, has made the rest of the decision-making process a lot easier.
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Last edited by chip; 12-31-2013 at 01:21 AM.
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