Is this right ??? - SailNet Community

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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Learning to Sail
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  #1  
Old 05-29-2008
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bettyswollocks is on a distinguished road
Is this right ???

I have been sailing for about a year, only coastal stuff and never above 30knots. I have often read about 'getting caught on a lee shore' and thought this applied more to the old square riggers than todays rigs. That was until I read a description of the Beaufort scale (albeit a modern revised version) the other day where it states that in winds of force 7 and above (32 knots and over) sailing to windward becomes impossible.
Is this correct ? Can yachts still get caught out on a lee shore because they cannot claw their way off because of the headwind ?
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Old 05-29-2008
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Some boats may well have trouble but many of today's boats, when well sailed, can certainly "claw off" a lee shore even in heavy winds. But the wind is only part of the problem, and other factors such as boat/rig design and crew experience play a huge part in these scenarios. (btw, 32 knots is PLENTY of wind for most folks...)

If your are typically "caught on a lee shore" you're likely to be in shallow water and sea conditions can become quite bad in a hurry... this creates more difficulty in making headway, especially if hard pressed by the breeze. Also, if you happened to be anchored when all this came up, weighing anchor can be especially difficult and potentially dangerous, and has to be done cleanly before you can attempt to sail away.

So while it's not impossible to do, it's advisable to avoid those kinds of potential situations and, if you do end up there be sure you are ready to flee at a moments notice. The boat should be prepped at all times, you should "have a plan" and in extreme cases be prepared to sacrifice your ground tackle and simply get out of there.

Paying attention to local weather forecasts, and to those with local knowledge is crucial to avoiding such situations in the first place.

Oh- and Welcome to Sailnet!
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Last edited by Faster; 05-29-2008 at 11:37 PM.
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Old 05-29-2008
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One issue is that you have to reduce sail in very high winds...sometimes to just a scrap of sail to keep the boat under control...but this reduced sail can make it very difficult to go to weather...hence a lee shore is still dangerous. This is why many folks insist on a rugged/strong engine....carrying a drougue or sea anchor...and learn how to hove to in their boat all as measure to prevent ending up on a lee shore.
The best way to stay off a lee shore is to pay attention to the weather forecasts at least every six hours ...sail to and from places in the right season and never sail on a schedule.
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Old 05-30-2008
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Betty, trust the above advice, this is a lesson you *don't* want to learn the hard way. If you're right, you'll claw slowly offshore, but only after your blood pressure has risen about 50 points (assuming the wind hasn't also increased in synch), and you'll get away with it. If you don't, then you'll be slowly be set towards shore, and your only hope is that the weather lets up before you hit it. Whether you make it depends on the boat, on you, and on the sail choice and trim you've made. Some boats (and skippers) can make windward progress in 35 knots, some can't. But this isn't an exam you want to take in real life, the consequences of failure are too steep, not only for you and your boat, but also for the rescuers who will inevitably be called upon to try to save you in time.

So how to find out the answer to your very valid question? All I can suggest is to take a GPS with you, and if you ever get caught out in such conditions (which should only happen by accident and not by choice, trust me), and you have plenty of searoom to leeward, then note what your distance off shore is (or off your starting GPS position), then do your best to increase it. If you can, then you know your answer. If you can't, you know your answer as well, but you should have enough searoom to ride it out until the weather passes, without becoming a news item.

A lee shore is a serious concern. It's the primary reason why there are so many shipwrecks. But it's a good question. I hope this helps answer it.

Last edited by nolatom; 05-30-2008 at 12:15 AM.
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