Steering down the face of a 30 foot wave - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 30 Old 07-18-2008 Thread Starter
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Question Steering down the face of a 30 foot wave

Who has done it and what are somethings to keep in mind while attempting this? I have surfed down a 30 foot wave on a 6'4 surfboard but never on a 40' ketch...
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post #2 of 30 Old 07-18-2008
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Who has done it and what are somethings to keep in mind while attempting this? ...
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post #3 of 30 Old 07-18-2008
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1) Hope your further off of the leeward shore then you were on the board.
2) There will be many more then just the one wave to ride so have some good strong coffee made to keep awake.
3) Forget about the ankle tether cus a 40' board on the head hurts worse then a 7' one.
4) Pay attention to someone that knows what the heck hes talkin about and not me.

Hope this helps...
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post #4 of 30 Old 07-18-2008
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Here's my recommendation:
  • Do whatever you can to avoid having a 40ft ketch surfing down a 30 foot wave
  • Steer into seas that are this big either by sailing a course that cuts across the wave train or if this course cannot be sailed, motor the course.
  • If you're hell bent on sailing with a huge following sea, put a satisfactory drogue out that slows you to a lesser speed than the wave train. That way the waves will pass under you (unless they're breaking).
  • If they're breaking, revert to item 2 above.
  • Remember that there are probably several hundred of these waves behind the one you're dealing with now.
  • If you want to be a hero and choose to surf down such a wave and especially if it's breaking, sit down in the cockpit, tether yourself strongly to the vessel, place your head firmly between your knees and kiss your ar$e goodbye!!!
Whilst there are some that will say steering into the seas may take you away from your chosen destination, I say that the sea floor is far closer than your destination, it's a matter of personal choice!!

I believe the most important thing to do with seas this size is determine where the storm centre is (see here Buys Ballot's law - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) and, based on safe and unsafe sectors of a depression, decide on the best course to get you out of the area ASAP.

Just MHO use it, don't use it . . . . .

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post #5 of 30 Old 07-18-2008 Thread Starter
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Not wanting to be a hero at all, I was wondering if steering down the face of a 30' wave was a common practice by the seasoned blue water sailors. I remember hearing or reading about a sailor talking about steering down the face of a 30 foot wave as if that was some type medal... 30 foot seas are not uncommon in the Atlantic, the thought of riding down them had not occured to me until then. I alway's imagined I would be forced to sailing across them.

Being a surfer and looking forward to actually riding waves with my Ketch on the trip up from the keys I'm curious how large of waves would be comfortable to ride before the sketch factor wears in?
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post #6 of 30 Old 07-18-2008
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Having run before two Force 10 storms in the last 15 years ago for 48 hours and the latest this past March for 36 hours (according to Coast Guard Corpus Christi and CG New Orleans, winds gusting over 60 and 28 to 30 foot seas), I can tell you it's more sailing skill and muscle on the helm than it is drogues, and sails. In the first storm we ran with a third reef in the main and postage stamp size head sail with motor idling in neutral for emoergency use if necessary. In the second storm we ran bare poles and no engine (line was tangled in the prop) and the main was destroyed. You don't want to surf down the face of the wave, you want it to go under you, to accomplish this, sometimes you have to angle off the wave just a bit, then turn back up into the wave train. But, there is no hard fast rule because every storm and sometimes even waves in the same wave train are different. We found in the second storm that under bare poles, the stern and the bimini gave plenty of push - as much as 10mph on the GPS. That storm was a cold front moving at 35 mph, packing winds of 50-60. The best advice is know your boat inside and out and if you don't think it's strong enough to inadvertently skid down the face of a 30 foot wave and plow into the trough - don't go to sea in it. If you want to see what Paloma looked like after the last storm, go to photos and search for Paloma.

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Slipped in Bahia Marina, easy access to Corpus Christi Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
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post #7 of 30 Old 07-18-2008
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If you enjoy surfing, trade in that heavy ketch on an ultralight sled. Then pop the big chute, keep the speed up, and steer down for the holes. When you are locked in on that 30 footer and the speedo goes over 20k, you just have to give a big "WAHOOO", and be prepared to make a little bottom turn to avoid stuffing it into the next wave.
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post #8 of 30 Old 07-19-2008
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In David Adam's book Chasing Liquid Mountains which describes his experience in two BOC Challenge single handed races (he won Class 2 in 1995) he describes how he surfed across the waves in a storm in the Sourthern Ocean.
These waves were coming at us at about 20-25 knots from behind. I was keeping True Blue sailing in the direction of the waves at about 15 knots, so the force of each wave as it hit was reduced. I needed the boatspeed to control the decent like a surfer on a surfboard, zooming across the face of the wave, looking for a position on the wave where we could break out of it and turn before the next one hits.

Of course it did'nt always go according to plan. The cross-sea was really vicious, sweeping across the face of the big breakers...True Blue would start taking off down the wave like a surfboard then a cross sea would hit and tip us over sideways with the mast in the water, well beyond 90 degrees.
He describes the conditions as 50-60 knots ("...were'nt abnormally strong...!) with waves 12-18m. His boat was 50 ft and weighed 6 tonnes (13,227 lbs), definitely a sled.

Personally I think Omatako offers the best advice on what to do on a cruising boat.

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post #9 of 30 Old 07-19-2008
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This is my wave baby... don't cut me off... dropping in fast... eat the rocks

never done it myself but would probably try to surf it on in...no cutbacks of course

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post #10 of 30 Old 07-20-2008
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Surfing down the 30' wave is not a big deal. It is when you get to the bottom of that wave and bury your bow into the trough and that wave pitch poles your boat over and it is now belly up. Now that would be a bit dis-concerning. To put it mildly. Well maybe more than mildly. And if by chance you could turn before your bow buries into the trough, then that breaking wave will broach your vessel. Either event happening the survival is practically nil to naught.

Think about it!! You don't want to pitch pole or broach your vessel if you want to survive at sea.

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