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coriffithq 08-04-2003 08:03 AM

Weather SURPRISE out at SEA
After completing a very basic course on Dinghy Sailing, I thought I would further my education by crewing on some bigger boats. I found one individual who was kind enough and patience enough to take me on. This individual races in a lot of those CCV races, and I have been out with him at least 5 times. I have learnt a GREAT DEAL in a short space of time. But this weekend was the most drastic lesson I have learned so far. There was a Sunday race, and I make it a point to always check the weather report the day before and the day of the race. There were Thunderstorms and Isolated Showers predicted for this race day (starting at 11:00AM), and I thought for sure the race would be cancelled. But I went to the dock and saw the rest of the crew making the usual preparations to go out. The weather was nice and a pretty good day for sailing (9:00AM), so although my mind said do not go, I went ahead and we went out. The race was to start at 11:00AM, and we had a wonderful start. But then about 45 minutes into the race, we lost all wind and just drifted or sat in a hole. Then one of the crew notice a very ominous dark cloud and he said it was heading our way. He was right and within ten minutes there was a gust of serious wind and rain and then, it looked to me a novice that all hell broke loose. We were flying a #1 Jib and the wind and the waves 4-6 ft just started throwing the boat around like it was a piece of plywood. We dropped the #1 Jib and put on the #2 and it was no better. I was the pit guy and had to go under and prepare the #2 Jib to be passed out to the forestay guy, and man was I thrown around the cabin. I had never been on such a ride before and it was quite concerning and quite wonderful all at the same time. The Capt, who was fighting the wheel, told us to reef the Mainsail, first we reefed it to the #1 position and later to the #2 position. This gave us a little more control of the boat, but not enough to really stay clear of the results of the waves and the wind. I was sitting on the high side as the boat was heeling quite severely. Then something happened I never noticed before, the waves would sometimes change the heel of the boat, so that one minute I was the high side and the next I was the low side. The force of the wind was so strong that to do a jibe we had to take down the Mainsail, and pull the boom over and then raise the mainsail again ob the new side. I think our Capt, called this a Squall or something but whatever it was it really broke me into the REAL world of sailing. Well after about what seemed like an eternity, but was really maybe 45 minutes of Hell, the cloud and storm passed over us. In the time we were experiencing this madness I thought I would never see the dock again. What really scared me the most was that the 5 previous times I had been out with this boat; I was the only one that wore a lifejacket. But in the middle of the fight the Captain had everyone else put on a lifejacket. On the radio we here many distress calls and heard one by one boats calling the race committee to say they were pulling out of the race. We our selves just miss hitting another race boat by about 4 feet. When we pulled in the dock, I saw a boat with it mast broken in half, I saw sails torn, and heard of tow boats that collided. Needless to say it was quite an exciting but concerning experience, and I learned quite a bit about respecting the weather and the power of the sea. But I must tip my hat to the captain and the forestay guy as they fought and did everything in their powers to control and fight back against the storm. I also learned that in situations like that the one thing you must do is something and not just think about the situation and not react. One of my first REAL Lessons of being out at sea, and I just wanted to share it with you guys. I can say now that I am so glad I experienced it, although when I was in it, it seemed like one of the last places I wanted to be…. Thanks for listening and Stay Dry….

pirateofcapeann 08-04-2003 08:58 AM

Weather SURPRISE out at SEA
Three things.

1) This was a great situation for the skipper as with all of the other boats dropping out and running for home, the field would be narrowed and better his chances for a win.

2) Don''t bother "fighting" the sea, you''ll loose. Roll with her, dance with her. Learn the lesson that she is teaching: Be fluid and giving. You''ll be fine.

3) Tristan Jones said that fear is a useless emotion, that it gets in the way of normal thinking. Relax and make decisions wisely. Acting on emotion and adrenaline can get people killed. When I know the "crap is about to hit the fan", I''ll force a smile and a chuckle. This helps me relax and realize that my situation isn’t that bleak, then I can get to work doing what needs to be done.

Fun story and thanks!

Jeff_H 08-04-2003 09:09 AM

Weather SURPRISE out at SEA
It sounds like you were out there with a knowledgable crew and skipper. Many of these squall can contain enormous winds and they often contain wind that is moving very vertically making knockdowns harder to avoid. Being on a boat with a good crew it is easier to try different ideas to see what works. You saw a crew and skipper thinking on their feet, adjusting the boat and sailing techniques to the conditions and actually being pretty conservative in such acts as dropping the mainsail to jibe. (A more cavalier skipper might have jibed with the mainsail up or risked a tack. Sail handling in those conditions are especially tricky but it sounds like a good crew as well.) You had the chance to see how an experienced crew handled a difficult situation and I think that you can walk away with lessons that will be with you for years.

Thanks for telling your story,

BigRed56 08-05-2003 07:38 AM

Weather SURPRISE out at SEA
Ahoy matey, ye be a fine sailor and a generous human for sharing your story for us. Dis ere Pirate had a similar event this weekend and as I stood on me cabin furling the main while pitching like a bucking bronco, screaming at de squall " is dat all ye got ye sorry misbegotten bag of wind", me 9 yr old first mate was in your shoes. Aye I said 9 and what of it Ye got to gets em young! Squalls be just dat and ye need not be ascared iffin ye has a good captain and your vessel is sound ye be fine. Pirate of Pine Island.

mdougan 08-19-2003 12:06 PM

Weather SURPRISE out at SEA
Yea, great story. Hope it doesn''t scare you out of the water.

A couple of things... if he really was a good Captain, he should have seen it coming and already had the first reef or two in before it hit...

But then, if he''s in a race, I can see him not wanting to do that.

I agree that the best thing to do is relax and hopefully you have some faith/knowledge of what your boat can handle.

I got caught by a pretty intense squall a while back in the middle of an otherwise very calm night. Caught with jib and staysail up, and a single-reefed main (at least I was a little conservative about sailing at night). After sitting back and relaxing for a while, letting the windvane steer the boat, and seeing that the boat was handling the wind, rain and lightning OK even with all that sail up, I decided it wasn''t worth risking anyone on deck trying to drop sail any further and just rode it out. Last thing you want to attempt is a man overboard drill at night in a storm.

About an hour and a half later we were sitting it absolute calm about 15 miles away from where it started, but thankfully just about right on course.


bob_walden 08-19-2003 02:19 PM

Weather SURPRISE out at SEA
Wow, great story. But something is confusing this newbie. You said:

"The force of the wind was so strong that to do a jibe we had to take down the Mainsail, and pull the boom over and then raise the mainsail again ob the new side."

Now, any boat I''ve been on (a handful, admitedly), I''d never be able to do this with the wind behind. There''d be too much pressure on the sail lugs or boltrope to move the main up or down. I have always gone at least partly head-to-wind to drop or raise the main. How does one drop/raise with strong winds astearn?

I would have thought that "chicken-jibing" would be the way to go in this situation--but then, I''m a newbie.


snoreky 08-23-2003 12:35 PM

Weather SURPRISE out at SEA

snoreky 08-23-2003 12:38 PM

Weather SURPRISE out at SEA
Sorry bout the caps!! thanks, Snoreky

Stede 08-23-2003 01:25 PM

Weather SURPRISE out at SEA
I wish I just understood more of the names.What''s a snoreky? ;^)

Jeff_H 08-23-2003 02:09 PM

Weather SURPRISE out at SEA
Chicken jibing is to harden up onto a beat, tack and then fall off to the new course instead of jibing.


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