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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Seamanship & Navigation > Twelve foot breaking swells today...
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Thread: Twelve foot breaking swells today... Reply to Thread
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Topic Review (Newest First)
04-07-2010 04:11 PM
sailingdog Jim—

It really depends a lot on the boat. Some boats do fine with a heavily reefed mainsail, others require at least a bit of jib to be able to work to windward well and balance the boat properly.

Another option would be to have something like the Gale Sail, pre-rigged and ready to go. That would give you a fairly small storm jib that would also help secure the roller furling genny from unfurling accidentally.

Setting up a downhaul for the main might help with dousing it completely, but requires one more line be lead aft.
04-07-2010 03:23 PM
Jim H Thanks for all the replies, everyone. I'll have to post more complete responses after we're back from the cruise, since we're entirely on the hook this week and low on electrical supplies.

Overall, I'm interested in the correct use of the headsail in heavy weather. We could have gone entirely with the headsail, or third reef on the main with part of the headsail out. As mentioned, I've heard that only having a headsail, especially a partly unfurled roller reefing one may not always be the best choice.

The second part is the best way to take down the main if there is a heavy swell to windward. Having all lines led back to the cockpit might help with this, but mostly that is done for reefing and not dousing the main entirely. Also, lowering the main turned out to be relatively straight-forward, even in the swell conditions, so maybe it's just a matter of practice.

The best parts of yesterday was the attitudes of the crew-- no one was scared at any point, and everyone bounced back quickly after feeling unwell. We really do trust our boat, and we did have full standing and rigging checks done just this winter, etc.

We hiked all over Brownsea Island today, while our boat bobbed at anchor in winds up to 20 mph (directly on shore, of course). After a chicken Korma for dinner, our daughter is now reading to the rest of us by candelight, so we can save the electrons for the anchor light. I need to get the battery monitor installed...

Tomorrow, we either sail back to the Solent, or spend a second day exploring the island and taking the ferry to Poole proper for fun. Depends on the weather and mood tomorrow.
04-07-2010 08:18 AM
Jeff_H Very nice write up which should be very helpful to all reading it.

It is always easy to armchair comment on such reports, and I mean no disrespect here, but I would suggest that you have pointed towards one of my key issues with some older designs. On any small cruising boat (meaning less than about 50 feet) I am a big believer in having the main halyard and both reefs run back to the cockpit, rigged and ready to go at all times when you are cruising with a smallish crew.

With a two line reefing system for each reef, rigged properly you should be able reef the mainsail quickly and on the fly on almost all points of sail and end up with good sail shape. The ability to reef on the fly from the cockpit rather than have to bash into the wave train or go on deck is a seriously important safety feature. There are times when reefing quickly is the only safe choice, and going on deck to do is taking unnecessary chances, not just with your safety but that of the whole crew.

Depending on the design of the boat, idea of just flying the jib in heavy winds has its own hazards. In heavy winds, the induced lee helm can prevent you from safely heading up and being able to reduce sail.

Jeff
04-06-2010 11:17 PM
jrd22 Good post, sounds like the family did well. I've been caught with a full main up in conditions where I didn't really want to go to the mast and put a reef in too, but have learned that it's better sooner than later. Good job.
04-06-2010 08:51 PM
JohnRPollard Jim,

Great trip and great read.

I kept thinking what my family would have done under similar circumstances. I'm sure they'd have risen to the occasion, but I'm also sure I'd be in the doghouse when we reached port safely. Because, of course, it would be all my fault that the weather went bad.

I hope your wife and kids aren't too upset or deterred. These things happen -- it's part of sailing. Can't have fair skies and following seas on every trip.

I knew you'd be fine in your Rival. The only thing I might have done differently was to try a scrap of headsail or get that reef in if I could -- but I wasn't there and I know how it goes when you're in the thick of it. You did well.
04-06-2010 08:50 PM
CharlieCobra Jim, next time you're running offwind in a blow, douse your Main instead of your Jib. No weather helm but it will cause Lee helm if on a beam reach. If ya have reefs in the Main, reef down and fly the Jib as SD said. It'll make life much easier. Having driven into big seas like that at 7 knots under power just to hold position, I remember well shipping green water over the boat. My bowman at the time was completely submerged for a couple of seconds on each wave while he doused the Staysail that trip.
04-06-2010 08:20 PM
Seercha Correction to my previous post. East Looe channel (not north channel) of Poole Harbour Entrance.
Apologies for any confusion.....
"Seercha" Ericson 26, K'port ME
04-06-2010 07:09 PM
Seercha Jim,
I was interested in your report of a sailing area I know well (as a former YM Instructor from Cowes). I'm glad to hear you're all OK, however there are a couple of points that you should be aware of:
1. "At the Needles channel, the wind picked up to 22 knots to 28 from the SW, directly against the strengthing ebb tide"
~ Apparent windspeed is increased significantly by a strong 'weather-going' tide.
2. "We decided it would be dangerous to run with the wind up the North End, in shore, because it would put us against a lee shore and we could have had a disastrous jibe with just the main up (which we had).
~ With your reported wind direction of SW, then exiting Hurst Narrows by the North Channel would put you reaching on port tack, with the Shingle Bank to windward of you, before hardening up to close hauled on port tack at the North Head buoy. Thus no gybe needed! Also the Shingle Bank provides an excellent 'breakwater' and smooth water for you to sail fast with minimal leeway. Tacking onto starboard once abeam Mudeford/Christchurch allows you to clear Hengistbury (spelling?)Head and its offlying ledge.
3. "We burned along at 6.2 to 7.8 knots all the way to the Poole channel entrance, where the breaking swells were worse than ever, AND we had to drop the main because it was impossible to run downwind with the boom out (the boat insisted on heading up, over powering the rudder to the point that I thought the tiller would snap from the weather helm)."
~ Entering Poole Harbour downwind against a strong ebb tide is ill advised (in my opinion). Better would be to anchor in Studland Bay under the lee of Old Harry and wait for the tide to turn or slacken. Alternatively, the North Channel is well protected from the wind over tide maelstrom albeit with a draught restriction at low tide. Approaching Poole Entrance from the north puts the wind on the port beam thus allowing you to get inside the entrance before dropping the main in the quiet and smooth of the South Deep.

Just my opinion........
"Seercha" Ericson 26, K'port ME
04-06-2010 05:33 PM
smackdaddy Jim - GREAT write up! And great job on the mast!

Sounds like this season shaping up to be epic!

BTW - you've gotta dump this story into the BFS thread. It's awesome. Otherwise, I'll just have to steal it and dump it in myself.
04-06-2010 04:29 PM
sailingdog Good report... why didn't you have a bit of the headsail out? Do you have roller furling on your boat??? It would have at least helped balance the boat out a bit.

If the wind was against the current, the seas can get truly atrocious, even in what are relatively mild conditions. The ebb tide against the wind probably did just that... not fun at all.
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