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Go Back   SailNet Community > General Interest > General Discussion (sailing related) > What would you do? Caught off guard by storm on the Chesapeake
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Thread: What would you do? Caught off guard by storm on the Chesapeake Reply to Thread
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Topic Review (Newest First)
12-31-2013 01:28 PM
RichH
Re: What would you do? Caught off guard by storm on the Chesapeake

Ive sailed the Ches. for most of my long adult life. Thunderstorms there typically will behave in 2 distinct patterns.
Storms without 'cold fronts' will usually travel in a direction paralleling Interstate 95, going from SW to NE even with their outflow winds ultimately coming from the W or NW. This Interstate 95 type of T'storm will usually increase winds first from the S or SW and then veer finally to the W/NW ... and you can use the initial southerly winds to 'haul ass' to the western shore (or port) to safely anchor in the shadow of a cliff or next to high trees. "Radar Weather" app (smart phone or ipad) is a good one to SEE which direction these storms are actually moving ... and are 'just starting' to form. With such 'apps' connected to cell service .... there really should be 'no surprises'.

T'storms imbedded in 'fronts' can easily be tracked by 'apps', even clear air fronts (white squalls).

A significant advantage to these 'apps' is that you can SEE advancing 'bow echos' (the domain of the strongest winds of thunderstorms) .... looks like the leading edge of circle or disc advancing in your direction. When you see one of these 'bow echos' you can make your decision to 'sail away' to a moderatly safer location, or make the decision to button-up and take your chances.

My technique on the Chesapeake if time permits, is to sail to the western shore and either anchor in the lee of a cliff or high trees, etc. or run into a creek/river on the western shore looking for the same protective terrain if possible. The benefit of these 'weather apps' is that you have increased time to make your 'decisions'.
A VHF radio with a 'weather alert' function is also a 'must'.

Why fly blind in the age of 'cyberspace' and 'gizmos'?
12-31-2013 12:11 PM
sealover
Re: What would you do? Caught off guard by storm on the Chesapeake

I'm really enjoying this excellent discussion. I'm sure lots of novice lurkers are too. I do have a lazarrette latch meant for a pad lock, but as my boat lives in my garage, I don't have a lock on it. I do put a small brass clip on it (the same one that holds my boom to the back stay as a topping lift). With sails down I'd need a second one. Hadn't thought about that.

My boat is advertised as having positive flotation, but after thirty years I wouldn't count on it.
12-31-2013 10:34 AM
zeehag
Re: What would you do? Caught off guard by storm on the Chesapeake

been caught in storms. lower sail and sail thru it...sometimes using only a neo natal diaper sized rag on bow.....with this ketch it is easier to sail thru sudden winds as i use only mizzen and jib and have been caught in a 60 plus kt chubasco off mexico just north of cabo san lucas... what a ride...we hit 8.4 kts boat speed..almost as fast as fastest leaky teaky reported ever...lol it was a kick!!!!
12-31-2013 08:30 AM
robcan
Re: What would you do? Caught off guard by storm on the Chesapeake

I got caught by a microburst heading south just as I approached the bay bridge, it came from the west out of nowhere (the radar showed it pop up over USNA and hit me in about 10 min). I had a Catalina 34 at the time and 2 inexperienced crew. Decide and act fast is key, battened everything down, engine on, sails down, PFD's and other safety gear as Sabre lays out. We had traffic nearby and the only things I would add was to have an air horn and a sea anchor or drogue ready if necessary. Since I was so close to the bridge, I had to turn north away from it and thankfully the wind direction was west/NW. The cell came so quick that the boys didn't have time to get foulie pants on. Wind clocked up to over 40kts and visibility was zero. Blew the horn every two minutes, got tossed around for about 10 keeping eyes on my chartplotter and having crew keep an eye out. it was extremely hairy. My son was filming the approaching storm, put the camera down in the helm drinkholder (camera was still on) and I now have video of us getting hit by lightning. (Search 'lightening.wmv' on youtube) This (thankfully) only knocked out my anemometer and not the engine/alternator or chartplotter. When the cell passed, the catamaran that was easily .5nm sw of us was now 100 yds approaching my stbd quarter from the north at speed. I also highly recommend having your swim goggles handy, especially if you wear contacts. Heavy rain can make it difficult to see.

Top of my mast looked like someone pointed an arc welder at it for about 20 minutes according to my rigger that fixed it. The VHF antenna wiring was melted inside of the mast. This thing bounced off the top of the mast and hit the water ahead of the bow just like Faraday's Cage is supposed to work I guess...I got a few new gray hairs after that one!
12-31-2013 04:34 AM
captain jack
Re: What would you do? Caught off guard by storm on the Chesapeake

one thing i think is most important is frame of mind. know your boat, know yourself, and do your best to know the waters where you sail. unfamiliar waters require extra caution. but, no matter what happens, you must always remain calm and deliberate. panick and fear will kill you in a crisis. also, no matter how many blows and storms you have faced, never get the attitude that you've been there and done that...the i've been through worse mentality. every situation is unique and should be faced with that in mind...otherwise you risk the fate of the Bounty. she needlessly went down because of a been through worse attitude. a watchul eye and good judgement are your best tools.
12-31-2013 02:17 AM
chip
Re: What would you do? Caught off guard by storm on the Chesapeake

Most of the good stuff has already been said and I'm no old salt, but I'd just add that for me, the best thing I've done is to go out in increasingly nasty weather to build my skills and confidence.

In our first full year with our Catalina 22, we got caught pretty far from home in a big storm (not a squall) with winds gusting to 35kts. The only thing that came to mind at the time was to batten down the hatches, put on our life jackets, and motor the whole way home. We were climbing up waves with the motor bogging down and then crashing down the other side with the prop coming out of the water. It wasn't pretty, and I was concerned that my wife would never sail again, but we made it.

From then on, we took every opportunity to push ourselves, sailing in 20, then 25, then even 30 knots under more controlled circumstances, and today I think a similar situation would just be more annoying than anything else. Now, I'd probably do it on a reefed main or scrap of jib, depending on the wind direction (still with the crib boards in and the PDFs on). The sails would make us more stable and save some wear on the engine, but our skills just weren't there in that first test and the motor got us home. We had the jib partially out for about 30 seconds and thought we were going to die.

There are pictures and stuff here: Cattus Island Beat Down | Sailing Fortuitous

Sometimes you're going to get surprised and it's good to have a failsafe plan, but pushing ourselves under incrementally more challenging situations, and just getting better at handling the boat in general and knowing what she wants as the winds pick up, has made the rest of the decision-making process a lot easier.
12-30-2013 06:53 PM
captain jack
Re: What would you do? Caught off guard by storm on the Chesapeake

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sabreman View Post
I'd say that your scenario isn't that hypothetical, it's an inevitability in the mid-Atlantic. I can say from experience that most of not all of us have been it this situation. For my part, I've been there many times on a Catalina 22, 27, 30, Sabre 28, and now our 38. At no time have I anchored to ride it out.

You have the right mindset and are headed along a good decision path. What I'd do in your situation:

1. You can't outrun the storm from where you are so don't even try, you'll waste valuable time. So you'll have to ride it out in open water, away from crab pots.
2. Don't anchor. The water is too deep and you'll drag. Boats invariably ride better when moving. So you have to decide to sail or motor.
3. Batten the hatches, get PFD on, check gas can, check flares are below but within reach, check that the anchor and rode are ready to deploy without kinks and snags. Get non-essential personnel below.
4. Unplug your permanent VHF from power and antenna in case of lightening strike. Make sure that handheld VHF is charged. Plug in to charge if needed.
5. You don't mention that you have furling or reef points so I'll assume that you don't. So sailing is probably out. Don't even think about running off with full sail … the wind will be too strong for your rig.
5a. Have the sails furled, but ready to deploy if necessary. Make sure that all lines are fair and not tangled. If the motor dies, sails are your best friend.
6. Get the motor going and head toward port. Your boat will hobby horse so the engine will have a tendency to lift out of the water in a seaway. It will sound nasty but persevere. The good news is that these blows on the Bay are short-lived and while you'll get some chop it won't have much of a chance to build, so you'll be ok. Just hang in there. You'll be plenty uncomfortable, but as long as the motor is running, you'll be ok. If the motor dies, go to Step 7 fast (i.e., less than a minute).
7. You may try to run with a jib only. But I wouldn't want to do it with anything greater than 100% in the wind that's coming. I would not try to go to windward. 90 - 120 degrees AWD is your best bet. I would not try to sail in restricted maneuverability situations (i.e., into your dock, in a tight channel, etc).


You'll get wet, but you'll be ok. Don't worry about lightning…you can't do anything about it so worry about safe vessel operation instead.

I'll stress that this is a highly variable situation and that circumstances can change in a minute. The key is to keep your options open. Anchoring restricts them, and can actually place you in danger depending on circumstances. Get rid of anything other than nylon for your anchor lines…they're worthless. You anchor rode is as important as your PFD.

A final thought. Once you develop a plan and have considered the pros and cons, stick with it unless there is a compelling reason to deviate (also holds true for many other life situations). Being scared or wet doesn't count as compelling. Something significant has to change to make you change your plan. Otherwise, you're floundering and that can be really bad.

i'd add a few things to this. even without reef points, you may be able to sail under main alone. many boats only sail down, under jib alone. however, most well balanced boats will sail under main alone. this is how i have handled heavy weather in my holiday 20.

you can use a type of fisherman's reef to ease the force on your main. if the force gets uncomfortable under main, alone, you can ease the sheet so that the luff loses shape but the leech is full. you can play the sheet so that you maintain motion, or even stay in one position, without being overpowered by the wind. i have 'reefed' like that a lot, in my holifday 20 and my 9' dinghy, in seriously heavy winds. you have to be very aware and alert but it's doable.

one other thing that might be done is to find a port in the storm. there are a lot of areas, on the bay, where people have docks behind their houses...there're marinas too. if you aren't too far from one, and you see the weather in time, you could make for one and tie up. drop sail and hole up til the storm passes. make sure you use your fenders. i can't think that anyone would begrudge you an hour tied up at their dock, in such a situation.
12-30-2013 06:44 PM
Sabreman
Re: What would you do? Caught off guard by storm on the Chesapeake

SVAuspicious - I agree with everything you say here. I just wanted to provide a little basis for my rather heavy opinion.
12-30-2013 06:33 PM
boknows
Re: What would you do? Caught off guard by storm on the Chesapeake

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sabreman View Post
I'd say that your scenario isn't that hypothetical, it's an inevitability in the mid-Atlantic. I can say from experience that most of not all of us have been it this situation. For my part, I've been there many times on a Catalina 22, 27, 30, Sabre 28, and now our 38. At no time have I anchored to ride it out.

You have the right mindset and are headed along a good decision path. What I'd do in your situation:

1. You can't outrun the storm from where you are so don't even try, you'll waste valuable time. So you'll have to ride it out in open water, away from crab pots.
2. Don't anchor. The water is too deep and you'll drag. Boats invariably ride better when moving. So you have to decide to sail or motor.
3. Batten the hatches, get PFD on, check gas can, check flares are below but within reach, check that the anchor and rode are ready to deploy without kinks and snags. Get non-essential personnel below.
4. Unplug your permanent VHF from power and antenna in case of lightening strike. Make sure that handheld VHF is charged. Plug in to charge if needed.
5. You don't mention that you have furling or reef points so I'll assume that you don't. So sailing is probably out. Don't even think about running off with full sail … the wind will be too strong for your rig.
5a. Have the sails furled, but ready to deploy if necessary. Make sure that all lines are fair and not tangled. If the motor dies, sails are your best friend.
6. Get the motor going and head toward port. Your boat will hobby horse so the engine will have a tendency to lift out of the water in a seaway. It will sound nasty but persevere. The good news is that these blows on the Bay are short-lived and while you'll get some chop it won't have much of a chance to build, so you'll be ok. Just hang in there. You'll be plenty uncomfortable, but as long as the motor is running, you'll be ok. If the motor dies, go to Step 7 fast (i.e., less than a minute).
7. You may try to run with a jib only. But I wouldn't want to do it with anything greater than 100% in the wind that's coming. I would not try to go to windward. 90 - 120 degrees AWD is your best bet. I would not try to sail in restricted maneuverability situations (i.e., into your dock, in a tight channel, etc).


You'll get wet, but you'll be ok. Don't worry about lightning…you can't do anything about it so worry about safe vessel operation instead.

I'll stress that this is a highly variable situation and that circumstances can change in a minute. The key is to keep your options open. Anchoring restricts them, and can actually place you in danger depending on circumstances. Get rid of anything other than nylon for your anchor lines…they're worthless. You anchor rode is as important as your PFD.

A final thought. Once you develop a plan and have considered the pros and cons, stick with it unless there is a compelling reason to deviate (also holds true for many other life situations). Being scared or wet doesn't count as compelling. Something significant has to change to make you change your plan. Otherwise, you're floundering and that can be really bad.
Well thought out. Fear will kill you. Its just a waste of energy....
12-30-2013 05:45 PM
Dfok
Re: What would you do? Caught off guard by storm on the Chesapeake

heres a short video of a storm on June 29, 2012. This was the night of the "derecho" - straight line winds up to 80 mph in places. I was in North East, MD, hard to guess the wind speed but the boat was laid over for what seemed a long long time. Glad I was on the mooring. We had some trees down but the storm really beat up communities to the east, especially the other side of the Delaware Bay.
No real warning this was coming unless you were looking at radar, it was a fast mover.
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