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Old 04-03-2010
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Beating into 12-14' seas

Does anyone here have experience doing upwind (close-hauled) legs into 12-14' swell? We are planning a trip down the coast next week and the predictions have been for 10-12' seas. I don't expect a difficult sail down but the return will be about a 20 mile upwind beat to return to SF. I know this is not a great distance but we are double-handing and I want to be sure that we are not going to run into too much difficulty returning.

The boat is a 41' C&C offshore designed hull; and I'm not concerned about the boat being able to handle the conditions, just need tactics to help make the trip safe/comfortable for The Admiral...
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Old 04-03-2010
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I bet GeorgeB could tell you all about it since he does a lot of racing in that area. You might throw him a PM.
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Old 04-03-2010
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This time of year you can get pretty big seas, today running about 17 feet off SF: Northern California NOAA/CDIP Buoy Data. Coming back from Half Moon Bay
will be uphill and against the current, not good sailing conditions, probably have to motor most or all the way, not a fun trip in my opinion. Suggest you stay well off shore and enter the ship channel at the light station. Don't even think of taking the inshore "channel" off the SF beach. Marine forecast :
Marine Forecast : Weather Underground My apologies if you already know all of this.

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Old 04-03-2010
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Yes; I'm aware of the conditions, but thanks for posting this. We are expecting lighter conditions after this next storm passes through; and we won't go if it's worse than predicted (will be checking buoy data before we set out).

I was hoping to get more experience sailing in heavier conditions (we do fine in 35kts on SF Bay); but ocean conditions are different and of course we don't want too much and I want to keep it safe. Since it's an upwind sail coming back it will be more difficult on the return; and we won't have a totally accurate picture of the swell and wind until the day before we return. I have a couple of days we can wait to sail back so hopefully we will find a better day if it's terribly rough on Thursday.
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Old 04-03-2010
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You need to know the period of the swell as well as the height, basically the shorter the period the nastier it will be.

See windguru.com
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Old 04-03-2010
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TQA's point is very good... in many cases the period is far more important than the height. Four foot waves with a three-foot wavelength is going to be far worse than 14' waves with a 20' wavelength.

Beating into short period waves is a lot harder than doing so into the same wave height with a longer period. If the wavelength is less than the height... expect a nasty trip.
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Keelhaulin,

My experience was 10 years in and outside the gate in a Coronado 25. Your boat is much, much bigger and stronger. No matter what size, going uphill out there can be like a non-stop train wreck with the wind waves on top of a big short term swell, both capping if the wind is up. Things start to be a little better after about the first or middle of June, but then the fog starts. Looks like you have it covered, you will get the experience you want, fortunately in a nice big strong boat. Hope you have a good trip back.

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Thanks; seems like the predictions have worsened for Monday/Tuesday, and without knowing what the forecast will be on Friday will have us waiting until at least Monday to determine if we can go. I was hoping for 8-10' when we sail out but right now the prediction is for 12-14' on Monday. It's a bit better for Tuesday at 10-12' but there is an additional south swell of 3' predicted also; so it could be 13-15' with stacked swells. Everything is predicted for short wave periods (13-15 seconds); also not good.

Seems like we either get no wind offshore (summer), fog(spring, summer, fall), or heavy wind and seas (late fall through spring). It makes for difficult planning offshore sailing trips...
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Right, seems like we have had an extension of heavy winter weather. We have been waiting for it to lay down some before going crabing out of Fort Bragg. Don't know how the Salmon opener was out of SF this weekend for the "puker" fleet? Glad to see you are keeping a good eye on it before jumping in.

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You might try heading out and sailing into it for a few miles first before turning and running with it just to make sure that you are comfortable doing it.

Depending on the boat and the wave period, beating into seas of that size can be anything from hard driving to survival sailing where you are not making any progress. If the period is long and you have a boat well suited to the conditions, just power her up and you will get there. It will definitely put some extra stress on the people and gear so you need to be prepared. However, if the period of the waves is short, your boat can start "falling off" the waves which makes it extremely hard to cover any ground. This results in extreme pitching and the boat loosing most of its speed each time it comes down into the trough. The key in these conditions if you want to make any progress is to accept that you can't point very high and fall off a little to get your boatspeed up.

One of my favorite days on the water ever was a day with 10-12' waves with a very short period. We only went out for 2 hours or so and couldn't point above probably 60 degrees. When we went to tack, we discovered that the boat wouldn't do it, we could never get head to wind so we used the engine at WOT since we didn't want to gybe. There was also a race going on at the same time and some of the multihulls would launch off the top of a wave and move sideways 10-15' while in the air before hitting the next wave. While the wave height was not that great on these seas, the reason that it was so tough was the period.
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