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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Seamanship & Navigation > How much wave/swell is too much?
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Thread: How much wave/swell is too much? Reply to Thread
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Topic Review (Newest First)
12-29-2013 11:46 PM
Barquito
Re: How much wave/swell is too much?

I take it tonight would be rough night out on Lake Michigan:

12-29-2013 03:38 PM
benesailor
Re: How much wave/swell is too much?

I use Dial-A-Buoy quite a bit before i go out when i don't have computer access. Obviously you have to be within cell range.
NDBC - Dial-A-Buoy

I keep a laminated sheet with instructions and buoy ID on board so i can check conditions when i'm out for long periods. As you know, conditions can change rapidly if the weather shifts.

National Data Buoy Center

I also use Weatherforyou.com and sailflow
Buoy Center - Buoy Map

As far as what is to much? You'll have to figure that one out on your own.
Depends, IE, Type of boat, Size, experience, Duration you will be in it, skill level, what will it be like when you come into port?

At some point you will discover your limit and/or your boats limit if you challenge yourself. You may not want to go there.

I enjoy heavy weather sailing (my wife loves it, scary) but, i do it in short spurts. Not for days. It will definitely sharpen your skills, especially when things break.

I'm stuck on Lake Ontario for now. It's some of the roughest water i've seen. 10 ft with a close freq can really be a long day if you are caught out (i feared for the boat that day, not mine, 34' C&C). We had the coast guard get rolled twice in 12-14 ft waves. Put three of them in the hospital. I had talked to the Chief PO after. They had one engine go out.

Watertown Daily Times | 5 US Coast Guardsmen hurt during Lake Ontario training
12-29-2013 02:25 PM
jrd22
Re: How much wave/swell is too much?

Islanderguy at the beginning of the thread gave some excellent advice about the relationship of height/time. If the height is greater than the time it's going to be very uncomfortable and possibly dangerous. The other factor to consider, even in protected waters like here in the PNW is the wind against the currents. It can get decidedly nasty with even a moderate breeze of 20 knots against a 3-4 kt current, I've seen breaking 8' waves in 30 knot wind against a 4-5 kt current in front of our marina.
12-28-2013 10:00 PM
dabnis
Re: How much wave/swell is too much?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Barquito View Post
Start with the idea that you will probably be pretty safe in large waves if you can keep the boat from being beam-on to breaking waves. So, you think, 'fine, I won't go beam-on to the waves'. However, there are any number of scenarios where this may get to be beyond your control:

1. Experience steering in big waves
2. The need to turn b/c of a lee shore
3. Engine failure
4. Rigging or sail failure
5. Fatigue leading to a mistake
6. etc.

The trick is to avoid things, through preparation, that may lead to you getting in situations where you can't control your boat.
Well said. I just used to hate it when waves would come over the stern or when the whole bow, back to the wheel house was under water. We fished a boat identical to the attached photo and sailed our Coronado 25 in and outside of San Francisco Bay for many years.

We could have really used this at the time:

Northern California NOAA/CDIP Buoy Data

Paul T
12-28-2013 07:55 PM
marianclaire
Re: How much wave/swell is too much?

I think it is important to understand what the wave height forecast is based on. Significant wave height. http://www.mxak.org/weather/pdfs/waves.pdf
Dan S/V Marian Claire
12-28-2013 07:31 PM
Pearson796
Re: How much wave/swell is too much?

Quote:
Originally Posted by miatapaul View Post
Glad it did not scare you away from sailing, lots of folks don't get back on the horse after an experience like that.
I paid cash for the boat and worked very hard for that cash during harvest season this year. For 3 months I had 7 hours off a night to eat and sleep. I wasn't about to quit after working so hard.

My wife and I researched for a year before I bought this boat. Almost from the beginning of our research we discovered Chuck and Laura.

I was very fortunate to find this sailboat for the price that I did.

Maybe if the boat had been given to me and I hadn't had to work for it and plan for it... It would have been easy to say #$%@ this, and walk away.

My wife and I literally sold everything that was not irreplaceable out of a 3 bedroom house and rented a uhaul trailer and headed to where the boat was on the hard... before we ever stepped foot on the boat.

We jumped in with both feet.

I joked with my wife... but not really joking... "I'm prone to sea sickness, I don't know how to sail, I haven't ever owned a boat, and we are basically buying this thing sight unseen.... What could go wrong?"

Here we are almost two months later and we haven't sunk the boat. We managed to survive Lake Michigan, The Illinois River, The Mississippi, The Ohio, and part of Kentucky Lake so far. I guess we must be doing something right.

As I stated in another post, We plan to stay on Kentucky Lake for the remainder of the winter and hope to pick up some seasonal work at this marina until Sept 1st when we will continue our Loop Trip.

Oddly, I think I have more concern about the ICW than I have of any part we have done or are going to do of the loop.
12-28-2013 06:25 PM
miatapaul
Re: How much wave/swell is too much?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pearson796 View Post
We made the choice to get a sailboat so we didn't have to buy fuel. It cost us more upfront, but it will be cheaper in the long run. As everyone is probably aware, they all but give away motorboats.

We love the idea of sailing.

We follow a couple named Chuck and Laura on Youtube. They sail the pacific in a small Ablin Vega called the LeaLea. Chuck said he self taught himself to sail and they sail very conservatively.

I don't think, based on all the stupid mistakes I've made already on this loop trip, that I would be comfortable learning to sail on my own by trial and error.

If I've learned anything at all, I've learned that when things go wrong, they go wrong fast and with little or no warning.

We were lucky on Lake Michigan. We were able to steer and were able to surf the waves until help arrived. Even surfing, we had waves breaking over our stern.

Yea, LeaLea is a nice boat, and Chuck and Laura have traveled a lot on her. thing is too that he learned in HI, where they have very strong winds and waves. Once you start to understand it it is not hard. Just need to learn the basics so that you will be confidant in bringing up the sails. Then there is a lot of experimentation. As long as you are happy with the progress you are making, and don't break anything then you are doing it right. Glad it did not scare you away from sailing, lots of folks don't get back on the horse after an experience like that.
12-28-2013 06:08 PM
MarkSF
Re: How much wave/swell is too much?

Quote:
Originally Posted by rbyham View Post
which raises the question of how does one predict wave height/frequency? This being my first year sailing, I intentionally limited my sailing to the harbor and ICW. But the channel and ocean are something I want to explore in year two. I have found good resources for predicting wind strength and direction but to this point have not found a good solution (Android app or website) that will let me predict wave height and frequency off the coast of SC. Can anyone point me in the right direction?
The national weather service marine point forecast includes wave heights. They even separate wind waves, and long period swell. You just click on a point on the map. Hint : sometimes the general synopsis is more useful to know than the detailed model results.

PS : I'm a firm believer in being able to sail, AND having a dependable engine.
12-28-2013 05:40 PM
Pearson796
Re: How much wave/swell is too much?

Quote:
Originally Posted by miatapaul View Post
With no sail up in those conditions would be ugly. I would not have taken that trip without at least an experienced sailor. I think had you put up a deep reefed main and jib you likely would have had a different experience. It is especially bad if you have no motor and not sails as you not only feel out of control, but are out of control. Good thing you were far enough off the shore that you did not get washed aground. Lots of folks think "Oh it is just a lake" but it is a big brutal lake. But the important part is that you made it out OK, and likely will never (but never say never!) see anything like that again. You just got it out of the way early in game!

I think it is a wise choice to learn to sail on Kentucky Lake. Thing is a sailboat is a sailboat and not a motor boat. It will have a much more comfortable motion with the sails up even when motoring. The wind in the sails help to stabilize the boat, so I think you will be much more comfortable with the sails up. Heck you may even save a bunch of money on fuel, just think of the rum you can buy!
We made the choice to get a sailboat so we didn't have to buy fuel. It cost us more upfront, but it will be cheaper in the long run. As everyone is probably aware, they all but give away motorboats.

We love the idea of sailing.

We follow a couple named Chuck and Laura on Youtube. They sail the pacific in a small Ablin Vega called the LeaLea. Chuck said he self taught himself to sail and they sail very conservatively.

I don't think, based on all the stupid mistakes I've made already on this loop trip, that I would be comfortable learning to sail on my own by trial and error.

If I've learned anything at all, I've learned that when things go wrong, they go wrong fast and with little or no warning.

We were lucky on Lake Michigan. We were able to steer and were able to surf the waves until help arrived. Even surfing, we had waves breaking over our stern.
12-28-2013 04:48 PM
rbyham
Re: How much wave/swell is too much?

which raises the question of how does one predict wave height/frequency? This being my first year sailing, I intentionally limited my sailing to the harbor and ICW. But the channel and ocean are something I want to explore in year two. I have found good resources for predicting wind strength and direction but to this point have not found a good solution (Android app or website) that will let me predict wave height and frequency off the coast of SC. Can anyone point me in the right direction?
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