Another n00b question: strategies for handling chop - Page 2 - SailNet Community
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post #11 of 15 Old 09-29-2013
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Re: Another n00b question: strategies for handling chop

A couple of weeks ago I sailed out of Westport Harbor with my girlfriend heading to Cuttyhunk. I learned first hand about the Buzzards Bay chop. I estimate the waves to have been an average of three feet. We were under full sail in 15+ knots, and while we were punching through the waives to a certain degree, it was a rodeo ride. My girlfriend was becoming see sick, so she asked for the helm because it helps her with the onset of symptoms. But she accidentally brought the bow through the wind without releasing the jib and when it back winded we spun around. I had to jump in and get things in control, but all the extra motion put her over the edge. She curled up on deck for the rest of the ride.

Except for her getting sick, I was having a blast. So I guess whether to sail in chop depends on many thing, including the boat and the tolerance of crew.
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post #12 of 15 Old 10-01-2013
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Re: Another n00b question: strategies for handling chop

Quartering away from the wind tends to be more comfortable in chop. I would suggest motor-sailing with your engine just over idle with a full main (reef it if it makes you more comfortable). Having some sail up will cause the boat to heel to her preferred angle and you will feel the boat settle and cut through the chop better. Sailboats are meant to sail. Ease in to it but in those conditions your boat should perform well under working sails (full main and 110% jib). Take your time though, to avoid scaring your spouse away from sailing altogether.
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post #13 of 15 Old 10-01-2013
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Re: Another n00b question: strategies for handling chop


Nice discussion topic.

Are you sailing for fun, like a 2-3 hour day sail, or are you out there because you are trying to get somewhere?

For a short sail, especially when you are trying to gain experience, try both a reefed main and a reefed headsail. You will have enough sail up so you can move nicely through the water, but not too much so that you are excessively heeling. Taking the waves on the beam will give the worst ride, I try to take them at a 45 degree angle upwind or downwind if that is an option.

On a longer trip, like if I was trying to get somewhere and the conditions were bad I would put up the main only and motorsail as fast as possible and as close to the waves as possible. My goal would be to minimize the amount of time in those conditions. What is fun and exciting for an hour or two turns into just too much work after 5-6 hours. Having the main up will steady the motion of the boat and motorsailing will allow you to point much higher than normal. If you're going to be out there for a LONG time and have the sea room then maybe motorsail upwind for a bit, then unroll the headsail and sail downwind, which would be more comfortable. Fortunately, I have never had to deal with those conditions for more than 6-8 hours (which was bad enough).

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Barry Lenoble
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Mt. Sinai, NY

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post #14 of 15 Old 10-02-2013
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Re: Another n00b question: strategies for handling chop

# rule for sailing in Bay chop is to keep moving; that means motor sail if you have to and fall off and keep the sails powered.
If you are day tripping steer a course that lets you ride the waves instead of pounding through them. Sounds easy, not so much in confused crap waves.
If you are going somewhere you have to go, remember the chop will easy on the windward shore, get there as fast as you can then turn north or south.
It the chop is coming right down the bay it's going to be a busy day. Pack lunch at the dock.

If you are taking the roll from the beam get at least some heel on to steady out.
You can change the timing of the waves (period) by adjusting your speed, but never stop entirely.
You can even 'semi' heave to and move real slow - once you learn to balance the boat.

If all else fails, pretend it's fun, good exercise for the belly muscles, a hobby horse or whatever trips your trigger.

Practice putting a reef in at the dock the very next time you are on the boat, then put one in before you leave anytime the wind is forecasted to be at whatever your limit is. It's easier to shake it out on calm water than it is to put in on chop.
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post #15 of 15 Old 10-02-2013
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Re: Another n00b question: strategies for handling chop

Wow, I am surprised how many people advocate for motor sailing! I guess I am a bit of a purist, because I can't stand the idea of having engine running when I don't have to. If there is enough wind to sail I just don't see the point of running the engine. That would ruin my enjoyment far more than a bit of chop!

If you are going to motor sail you need to be very careful. Many marine engines don't like too much heel. The manual for my engine specifies a maximum of 10. Prolonged run time while heeled could do serious damage to your engine.

Helming in waves takes concentration and practice, but once you get the hang of it you can really smooth the motion out. Having a properly powered up sail plan is going to do far more to smooth out the motion than running your engine and pointing artificially high, and it will improve your skill as a helmsman at the same time.

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