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marinesniper 08-14-2006 04:01 PM

3rd time sailing hit 35kt

well I thought I would share this with everyone. Today I went out with my brother and wife for only my third time sailing every. It was a sunny day with only 5kt winds...we were sailing a rental, 25ft catalina in decent shape.

We were having fun trying to trim the sails to get the best speed and wham, within 5 minutes a 35kt stormy (rain, thunder and lightning) hit us. being a newbie I did not recognize this earlier.

the 25ft'er would barely turn with full rudder, I was trying to go from close reach to broad reach to head back to the dock. This was not working and the boat was getting thrown around...I yelled for my brother to bring in the jib (first mistake should have angled into the wind then the start motor first), then I told him to bring down the main while we were in a beam reach (tough to do), I told my wife to go below immediatly...

Still the damn outboard would not start (guess I flooded it in all the excitment), so once the main was down I had my brothertry and start the motor...(tough to day over me while I was steering) I had him take over and I verbally guided him with steering...he got the motor started and I then took over again...

This was a great experience to go through, I have alot of respect for the seas and the weather after today...

I will be practicing emergency procedures for the next couple lessons...!

Anyway I am still learning and am even more excited about sailing more and learning more.


Cruisingdad 08-14-2006 04:30 PM

I have been caught in many of those. In S Florida, it is just a way of life this time of year.

Always keep an eye on the sky around you. They build up quick, come on you quick, and leave quick. First thing to do is throw on lifejackets too. Remember to reef in your sails or go with just a reefed Jib. I once owned a Catalina 250 and it does pretty good with just a reefed jib, and it is easier to control. If you are inside a bay, make your way to the middle until you can get a feel for where the wind will come from, then make a b-line for that shore. Caution, those storms do sometimes shift winds... but I typically have found they blow from one direction.

Stay away from the mast. Lots lof lightning.

If you are in an area where you can anchor safely, do it and get it set. Keep your motor running and make sure you have put out lots of extra rode.

They are not that bad once you get used to them... and it will make you a better sailor.

Take care...

foxglove 08-14-2006 06:52 PM

Cruisingdad has it right.

Life jacketson and anchor off the bow if possible. If not, you might be able to hove-to on the 25 footer in 35 kt wind.

You probably lost steeing because your angle of heel was too great for the rudder to get a grip on the water. If your boat is heeled 40 degrees, your rudder is also angled similarly in the water.

Also, because you heel sharply and lose much of the wind in the sails on close reach in high winds, you might have also lost enough speed that water running over the rudder was too slow for it to bring you on your desired course.

sailingdog 08-15-2006 12:38 AM

CD & FG have it right... first thing you should do is put on PFDs for everyone. That way, if the wind knocks you down, or someone goes overboard, they have a chance.

Lightning is a real danger... so try to get the boat anchored and then hide out in the cabin, as far away from the chainplates and mast as possible.

Reefing—the old adage about when the right time to put in a reef is when you first think about it is very true. Always better to reef early, and have too little sail up, than to reef too late, and maybe not be able to get the sail area reduced.

astraeus 08-15-2006 10:45 AM

I know this is a little off topic...but, does anyone have any first or second hand accounts of lightning hitting a sailboat? I've heard sailors debating whether or not to ground the mast. The advocates of not grounding the boat say that it increases the chances of being struck (not sure I buy this argument). My boat is not grounded, but I carry wire to run off the shroud in case of electrical storms.

Cruisingdad 08-15-2006 11:07 AM

This would be a heated debate.

If you ground your boat, You WILL increase the odds of getting hit. I do not know how this can be an argument. Electricity looks for the easiest path to ground. Now that being said, not grounding your boat does NOT mean you will not get hit. Martha Bliss has a Catalina 400 that is not grounded. She has been hit twice, though I do not think either was a direct strike.

Lightning does not have to hit your boat to take everything out. All it has to do is hit close.

To ground or not to ground is a very debated subject. Most offshore boats (Valiant, etc) ground. If you are out at sea in a storm, you are probably the highest point out there. I find most production/coastal cruisers do not ground.

If I were going offshore a bunch, I would ground my boat. You are increasing your chances of being struck, but will give the lightning a clear exit point from the boat likely reducing the possibility of serious damage. If I were going to be coastal primarily and in areas where there should be taller objects, I would not.

Another option (and this one is very debatable) is to put a charge dissipating item on top of your mast. It looks like a metal bottle brush. THere are better ones and worse ones, but in general the theory is that it diddpiates the charge build up the preminates a strike. Thus, your neighbor gets struck!!! Ha! Ha!

I did put one of these on my last boat in S Florida and I never got struck. S Florida has got to be the lightning capitol of the country. THat being said, was that because of the disspator or was it because I was just lucky???? Who knows.

PS If you do use the disspator, you are SUPPOSED to ground your stick. I could not bring myeself to do that. I preferred running to the other side of the marina, throwing a chain around the forestay of another owners boat, and tossing the other end in the water. He never could figure out why he got struck so much. I told him to try a dissipator, it might help.

foxglove 08-15-2006 06:50 PM

I have read articles by 'experts' claiming that dissipators don't work. I don't recall the author of how he reached that conclusion.

I also recently read that a one foot square plate should be attached to the underwater surface and grounded to the engine and only the engine. Bonding the metal fittings together, the article said, only increases the oportunity for lightning to blow a hole in the boat.

I'll see if I can find some research on the topic. I'd like to know.


sailingdog 08-15-2006 10:55 PM

There is too much unknown variation in what happens in a lightning strike. While grounding a boat may offer some additional protection, it may also increase the potential for getting struck. Basically, lightning protection is a crapshoot....if you think it helps.... do it...if not, don't bother.

That said, I have read a few articles which seem to point to boats having a lightning ground system surviving with less damage than boats without one. Also, a good lightning protection system setup may offer a bit more protection to the passengers on the boat.

marinesniper 08-15-2006 11:09 PM

Thanks guys for all the input, the first thing I did was kiss my wife and throw a life jacket on her. I then told her to stay below and let me and bro fix things on-top...!

I did not put a life jacket on neither my brother, he and I were too concerned with my wife and fixing our situation... the problem with being a marine (me) and my brother a navy seal medic...we forget about our own safety for the safetly of others...!

I am now in Buenos Aires, but the first thing we will due when I return is practice safetly measures and storm condtion procedures.

Our instructor told us because we got the boat and ourselves back to the dock safetly we passed his test...HAHA...he said he would not charge me for the rental but show us what to do next time this occurs..with our 30ft Lippincott...!!!

thanks again bros...


sailingdog 08-15-2006 11:28 PM

Congrats on the boat.. I take it you just got her... :D

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