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post #1 of 15 Old 09-28-2013 Thread Starter
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Another n00b question: strategies for handling chop

It was a breezy day on the Chesapeake today, and I headed out in anticipation of a nice day of sailing with about 10-15 knots of wind. Good day to practice reefing the sails, which I haven't done yet on this boat.

The 1-2 foot waves in the marine forecast did not seem dire, but out on the water, I finally understood what everyone refers to as the 'Chesapeake chop'. We rolled from side to side and up and down and watched the boats around us do the same. Not very comfortable, but I hoped we might still get the sails up. However, on leaving Herring Bay the chop got more severe - more like 3 ft waves with white caps, and very uncomfortable. The wind also felt much more like 15 knots than 10 and and it did not feel like a good day to play around with a new reefing system. So we turned around and headed for home.

Before departing I looked around to see what strategies others were using in these conditions and they were all over the map. Lots of boats on bare poles. Several boats with just a jib up. Some with a flattened main and jib.

So my question is - is there anything a sailor can do to make that kind of chop comfortable? Three foot waves doesn't sound like a lot, but when they hit in such quick succession, it's like sailing a weeble-wobble.

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E.

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post #2 of 15 Old 09-28-2013
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Re: Another n00b question: strategies for handling chop

I was out today and saw the same: lots of sailboats motoring. When do these boats sail? There were excellent conditions today in the Rappahannock River.

With chop, I carry maximum sail, keep the sails full, and bear off a little - no pinching and no feathering. The IOR-influenced heavier displacement boats do well in these conditions. You have to build and maintain momentum so the boat will punch through the waves, no harm in heeling:



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post #3 of 15 Old 09-28-2013
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Re: Another n00b question: strategies for handling chop

Great videos James, you were hauling some a$$ in that first one. I guess it's to much for people to sail on those days if they are about having wine and cheese with 5 knot winds.

Nice stuff, thoroughly enjoyed !!!
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post #4 of 15 Old 09-28-2013
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Re: Another n00b question: strategies for handling chop

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Originally Posted by emcentar View Post
So my question is - is there anything a sailor can do to make that kind of chop comfortable? Three foot waves doesn't sound like a lot, but when they hit in such quick succession, it's like sailing a weeble-wobble.

Thanks,
E.
My wife and I were out in similar conditions on Lake Michigan Friday on our 24 Mirage with a SSE breeze. We were hit with an occasional four footer. The wind shifted SW so waves began coming from two directions.

My 150 genoa is on a Harken furler. I let out enough jenny to equal about a 100% jib. I let the traveler down to leeward, hung on and sailed on. My biggest challenge in those conditions is downwind trying to keep both sails drawing. Sometimes I put a preventer on the main to hold the boom steady and wing out the genoa (to 150 percent) on the opposite side with an adjustable wisker pole. When the boat yaws, and rocks from port to starboard the preventer and wisker pole hold the sails steady and generally drawing in those conditions. Yesterday the wind held the main.
-CH
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post #5 of 15 Old 09-28-2013
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Re: Another n00b question: strategies for handling chop

Weight helps (more crew)... increase waterline, and take the rollers to 22 to 45 degrees (if possible)... run more sail if possible (power up).. crack off, and sail on!

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post #6 of 15 Old 09-28-2013
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Re: Another n00b question: strategies for handling chop

I'm with James on this one. Excellent conditions on the rivah today. One reef in the main and full genoa (130). Yes, a bit of heeling but nothing serious. Bay was a bit choppy today. Glad we have Rappahannock. Hoping for the same tomorrow.

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post #7 of 15 Old 09-28-2013 Thread Starter
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Re: Another n00b question: strategies for handling chop

Thanks, James - the conditions we saw today were a lot like those in your third video. It's hard to tell with video but even with the sails up it looks like a bumpy ride.

Two things I was worried about with putting the sails up (1) my wife on the cabin raising the main in that chop (she was already nervous in the cockpit and not eager to take the wheel either) and (2) getting the right sail balance for those conditions with really no idea where to start. Not having reefed the sails on this boat before also made me cautious.

I'm eager to try this again, but maybe in conditions with a little less chop.

Does anyone avoid bad chop for day sails altogether? Now that I've experienced it, I have to say, it makes for a pretty tiring day on the water, but maybe that's just inexperience.

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post #8 of 15 Old 09-28-2013
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Re: Another n00b question: strategies for handling chop

Our boat is very happy to have either the main reefed or the genoa reefed, it doesn't seem to affect the balance much to do one or the other first. My halyards and reefing lines are run aft, so I tend to reef the main first. If you don't need to point high then the boat sails great on main only, I did that a lot in my first couple months of ownership when I wasn't quite comfortable being in high winds with full sail. My original line-drive furler wouldn't reef.

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post #9 of 15 Old 09-28-2013
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Re: Another n00b question: strategies for handling chop

In chop, there is no substitute for waterline. shorter boats are gonna get tossed around more than longer boats. So, knowing that, don't worry about what other boats are doing- do what works for you. Em, I don't know the balance of your boat, but if the forecast is calling for anything higher than 10-12, I leave the dock with main reefed. I can always release the reef, and roll out more jenny on the furler if conditions are more benign than expected.

It sounds like your biggest concern was the comfort of crew on deck while getting sail up, and that is a very valid concern to have. Sometimes the answer is counterintuitive- when it is choppy, power up the motor while raising sail rather than pwering down- try to match boat speed to the chop.

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post #10 of 15 Old 09-29-2013 Thread Starter
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Re: Another n00b question: strategies for handling chop

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In chop, there is no substitute for waterline. shorter boats are gonna get tossed around more than longer boats. So, knowing that, don't worry about what other boats are doing- do what works for you. Em, I don't know the balance of your boat, but if the forecast is calling for anything higher than 10-12, I leave the dock with main reefed. I can always release the reef, and roll out more jenny on the furler if conditions are more benign than expected.

It sounds like your biggest concern was the comfort of crew on deck while getting sail up, and that is a very valid concern to have. Sometimes the answer is counterintuitive- when it is choppy, power up the motor while raising sail rather than pwering down- try to match boat speed to the chop.
Yes, I typically motor out of the narrowish Herring Bay, and then put the sails up once out in the Chesapeake. Many do this to get in the bigger water faster. I noticed on my return trip that a few boats yesterday were putting up sails in Herring Bay itself, and one even while still in the channel behind the jetty. This seems like the smarter choice now - to get the sails up and reefed while still in relatively protected water.*

With regards to boat length, my ego was soothed slightly on my return to the slip by noticing that every other boat headed out was at least 5 feet longer than me. Even the big boats were rolling around quite a bit.

I'm going to see if I can sum up the advice I've read here: (1) get the sails up to increase power moving through the waves to keep the boat steady, (2) use a preventer to avoid accidental jibes on downwind choppy courses, (3) trim your boat for the wind conditions (thanks Alex for tips here), (4) move faster when getting the sails up and down in chop to stabilize the boat (and try to do this in relatively protected water), and (5) the shorter your waterline, the bouncier you will be in the chop, so take that into consideration in your plans (i.e. this will not be a pleasant afternoon picnic-and-beer-on-the-water day sail).

One final question with regard to crew sailing comfort - I experimented with multiple ways of heading into the waves and found that hitting them at an angle to my bow was more stable and comfortable than hitting them head on (lots of bucking up and down) or on the beam (rocking the boat back and forth like an out-of-control rocking chair). Having them at my stern at an angle was most comfortable of all. Does this accord with other's experience?

Did I sum this up correctly? Thanks for all the suggestions,

E.


*Yesterday I had hoped that the Bay may be smoother, not choppier, in deeper water. It might be needless to point out at this stage that this is my first few months of sailing in the Bay, and I've been sailing Flying Scots in rivers until now. So this was my first experience with heavier chop.
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