Large Ocean Waves - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 20 Old 03-15-2011 Thread Starter
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Question Large Ocean Waves

I keep reading accounts and watching youtube videos of very large ocean waves and very nasty weather. Some of these waves come up over the bows of large container ships. Is that normal? How do you sail in something like that? I have not sailed in the ocean yet but certainly want to ....... I think?
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post #2 of 20 Old 03-15-2011
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Big waves at sea aren't necessarily worrisome. If the wave period is long and the waves are not steep then you barely notice them. Boat speed and direction plays a big role - imagine the difference between driving on a pothole filled road at 5MPH versus 30MPH. Those container ships smashing into seas doing 20-30 are a different story than a sailing boat doing 6 knots.
If the waves reach a height where they are so steep that they begin to break then it is time to be somewhere else regardless of boat size.
A normal wave passing under a ship doesn't impart any of its energy and continues on its merry way. A breaking wave, on the other hand, expends enormous amounts of energy and if the boat is broadside to the wave then it could get rolled.


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post #3 of 20 Old 03-15-2011
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sanshin is exactly right,compared to a large heavy ship a small sailboat is akin to a bobbing cork,also the most dangerious water during heavy weather is near shore and shallow water
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post #4 of 20 Old 03-15-2011
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The waves you see on youtube were most likely shot in hurricanes or in the Southern Ocean or in the North Atlantic in winter. I've sailed some 25,000 miles in the ocean and never saw anything remotely like those Youtube spectaculars. If you sail in "proper" seasons and in established safe routes you will never be subjected to that kind of treatment. That's for big commercial ships on tight schedules in dangerous times of the year and in waters known for big waves.

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post #5 of 20 Old 03-15-2011
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I've seen the big waves, but then I've been working on the Oceans for over fifty years and out of those fifty years the ocurrance of heavy seas were about 5% of the time or less.
During heavy weather the watches are stood but the maintenance doesn't get done.
Now you go below 60S and into the Southern Ocean and those seas happen much more often. The Rest of the World bad weax comes and goes. Down there it occurs much more often.

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post #6 of 20 Old 03-15-2011
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These guys have it right and unless you go looking for hurricanes, crossing the Atlantic in winter or the Southern Ocean you are unlikely to encounter them.

We were out in F9 and 20 ft waves of the New Jersey coast and had an interesting but not uncomfortable night getting further off-shore than we were.

Having a nice big boat, sails with deep reefs, the skills to use them safely and staying off-shore helps. However, sometimes in bad weather you have to go where the wind and waves will let you rather than where you originally intended.

When planning passages I spend a lot of time watching PassageWeather - Sailing Weather - Marine Weather Forecasts for Sailors and Adventurers looking at the wind and wave chart animations so that I can judge what I am likely to face and under what conditions.
Phil

Last edited by Yorksailor; 03-15-2011 at 08:50 AM.
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post #7 of 20 Old 03-15-2011
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We have good friends who cruised and lived on their boat for almost ten years and never "encountered a real storm" (their words). They crossed the Atlantic a number of times and sailed from South America to north eastern Canada on the east coast. There were a number of things they avoided (all mentioned above):
  • the Southern Ocean or in the North Atlantic in winter
  • tight schedules in dangerous times of the year
  • waters known for big waves

The biggest problem (I think) for the recreational boater is having a tight schedule where you just have to be somewhere at a certain time. Ten summers sailing the coast of New Brunswick and Maine and no big bad weather - not that it did not happen, but when it did we were hidden away in some safe anchorage. We always built in a few days for a "weather window" and always were firm in our beliefs that if we had to be somewhere and time ran out, we would leave the boat at a marina and take a bus home and return for the boat later. Far and away cheaper than losing us or the boat in a storm.

Just my thoughts.

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post #8 of 20 Old 03-15-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Flyfish58 View Post
very large ocean waves and very nasty weather. Is that normal?
You will only find that sailing in the wrong season. And even then ususally only when its wind against current in the Gulfstream and Agulas Current. Or near the contionental shelf off the south coast of the UK going into the Bay of Biscay.
Also Hurricanes and Cyclones can give huge breaking waves.

So if you sail in the correct season you won't see those sort of waves or very nasty weather. If you do it wont be for long.

Don't sail the North Atlantic in winter! Don't sail the Souther Ocean in winter!
Before crossing the Gulf Stream or Aghulas current check the weather.

Then those videos will remain on YuouTube, not oon your own camera


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post #9 of 20 Old 03-15-2011 Thread Starter
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I am really enjoying this forum! I can ask questions without being treated like a total pinhead.

Appreciate the input it helps

John
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post #10 of 20 Old 03-15-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Flyfish58 View Post
I am really enjoying this forum! I can ask questions without being treated like a total pinhead.

Appreciate the input it helps

John
You've jinx'd it now, give it time
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