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3 Days Ago 07:16 PM
Re: Big Freakin' Sails

2004, leaving Halifax NS to go down east to St. Peters:
We rode out a gale the day before up in the Northwest Arm at RNSYS, (great place to be in any weather) and were sailing "Lioness" a Bermuda 40, in good shape.

Forecast was 2 meter seas and winds 15 kts from the SE-South-SW so we expected a nice onshore beam reach to scream up the coast
Reality was 2 meter seas from the SE, S, & SW occasionally giving a 6 meter pyramid.

The sensation of testicular retraction while observing water to weather in the vicinity of the spreader is not one I will soon forget, I may have pissed my foulies then or perhaps it was later due to no relief on the helm.

After the first heave and roll/yaw wiggle, terror gives way to fear, after a few of them fear gives way to resignation that its going to be a darn long day. Waves abated to only one set from the SW, the pilot was able to keep up and I had spare jeans to change into.
4 Days Ago 10:00 AM
Re: Big Freakin' Sails

Exhilarating. Well told.

Sent from my M532 using Tapatalk
1 Week Ago 12:33 PM
Re: Big Freakin' Sails

Guy: the Franco-Ontarians have a pithy old French-language saying that I think is appropriate here - "HOLY GUACAMOLE BATMAN!!"
1 Week Ago 09:44 AM
Re: Big Freakin' Sails

So now that things have settled down, I'm back home still feeling the floor move under me, I thought I'd do a break down of how last Saturday unfolded since Smack confirmed this as a BFS moment in my life on the water.

I have less than 1 full season of sailing in for reference (although I've spent the entire winter winter reading Kretschmer's books). I sail a Tanzer 7.5 circa 1978, masthead sloop rig, double reef main and 155% furling genoa, 10hp Honda outboard. My crew that day was my brother (on a boat once before) and my best friend (on my boat 2x before). This was sailing on Lake Huron.

We woke up that morning with a forecast showing West winds at about 10kt with some gusting to 15kt. We figured it would be a great day to sail with the wind at our backs to hit some islands to the East of where we anchored the night before. We had parked on the lee side of a small island to cook breakfast as the storm (fast moving cold front with a line of Tstorms) the night before switched from a SE to a W wind and it would be smoother to cook breakfast on. After sticking around the rock beach by the lighthouse for an hour or two we set off for the East island group.

On the way to the islands we had very little to no wind and the water was like glass. No wind had materialized as forecast whatsoever which we discussed at length. We trolled along between 2 and 4kts on what little wind we had and even cooked lunch underway, full sails out. We did make it to the islands we aimed for. The beaches were shallow shoals and we thought it would be more hassle than anything to anchor at. Also the forecast for TOMORROW was showing 15kt NW winds gusting 30kt (directly from the direction we had to go to return home ). This made us worry we wouldn't have people back on time for work on Monday so we thought to sail most of the way home and camp at an island about 6nm from my slip and then finish up in the AM.

Having very little wind it was near impossible to beat NW so we dropped the motor and cruised towards the island at a brisk 5.5kts. About 2nm from the planned anchorage the motor choked, sputtered, and shut off. We drifted to a near stop as I began troubleshooting what had happened. Fuel was getting to the carbs but pouring out of the intake, yet no fuel was getting INTO the engine (plugs were bone dry). I fiddled with it for 30mins or so and could not resolve the issue. This was a bit frustrating as I had changed out the entire fuel system, filters, and fluids this spring. At this point, still under blue sky, the wind began to pick up and ripple the water, roughly out of the West. We thought this was perfect and hoisted the main and unfurled the headsail in an effort to tack home to the bay my marina is in. The plan was to sail into the bay, ditch off the shipping route and sink an anchor in so we could either fix the motor or call for help or tow.

Within about 30mins of the "wind arriving lightly" it was blowing so hard the boat was on a 30deg heel and beating to weather at 6kts. The waves very quickly picked up from "glass top" to 4 and 5ft thumpers. I shrunk the headsail as it was pulling dangerously hard on the rigging and made the call to douse the main sail before it was damaged. Shortly after dropping the mainsail the winds grew much heavier and the boat again was leaning hard over while I fought each wave trying to keep a steady course. I already knew based on my weather experience this would not be a 1 or 2 hour event, this will go on for a long time and get worse. The land stations confirmed it was blowing 35kts and gusting 40kt+, I know it was blowing harder out on the open water where I was but I'll just quote the "known" weather not my guesses.

With no engine back up we now felt like an airplane in a storm with no landing gear. The first plan was to beat to the island we were originally planning for and attempt to hide on the lee side of it and pray for a shallow enough spot to anchor (we were in over 100ft of water at this point). We tried so hard to climb to that island but failed and after an hour or so we gave up and had to fall off. The wind was driving so hard at this point waves had grown into the 6ft+ range and stuff inside the galley was beginning to dump off it's shelves. After a gust violently pulled us over and forced the boat to tack (yep, no choice in that one!) I spun the rudder and ran off the wind to catch our breath. We surfed big waves that were now starting to crest and white cap all around us while the boat screamed over 7+kts down wave faces and lurched with each gust, not bad sine my hullspeed is only 6.3kt without wave assistance.

Realizing this storm would blow us all the way to the east coast, and with no motor to "land" with we picked the next closest island which was a very small island, the one we had woken up on that morning. It may have also been about this point my brother hit the "help" button on the SPOT (which was a message we had pre-arrange to say we were experiencing an issue or may be late but don't call 911 yet). The smaller island was not by any stretch ideal, it was almost due North of us at this point and had big rocky shoals around it's edges and the only anchor spot was like hitting a bulleye on a dartboard from 100yds with no motor and heavy weather to content with. It was the only choice so we shrunk the headsail down to, I am not joking, less than the size of a table cloth and beat hard to weather. Breezy was smoking 5.5kts in the face of massive waves and wind with that smidge of sail out. The waves got bigger, the wind howled harder. It blew my VHF antenna off it's connector to give you an idea. I tried standing at one point and was almost blown right over in the cockpit. My crew was doing an outstanding job managing the sheets. Each tack was a terrifying event timed between sets of waves, one of the gusts grabbed the headsail so hard I felt the boat shutter under me, and even with 4 wraps on the winch it took two of us to sheet the headsail sliver back in.

The winds continued to pick up, gusts lasted even longer, and the direction was seemlingly erratic, sometimes NW hard blasts then almost down to SW. The tops of the white caps were blowing off in white streaks just like snowbanks in a whiteoutsnow squall. So bad that more than a few times I lost sight of the island we were shooting for. Multiple waves slammed Breezy, most averaging 9ft to 12ft according to data from the buoys and spray was hitting us so hard it stung your skin. The rudder felt like 50lbs of weight just to keep Breezy at a 45 angle to those waves so we wouldn't be broad sided. I know the sail style wasn't balanced but we were committed at this point. This went on for hours, literally, somewhere around 6-7hrs, I will confirm with GPS logs. Some of the waves at this point were getting monstrous and stacking up 3 at a time, none of them were nice long slopes they were all sharp with little break in between.

There was one set of 3 that seriously made me question if the boat would hold together. It was so far over the average we were seeing, I would hate to "guess" how big they were, I'm sure my two crew can throw their estimates. The first one was a wall of black water, I nosed hard over to catch it at 45deg and Breezy climbed so high I couldn't see water or anything anymore, just sky. The front 3rd of the boat was out of the water and as soon as we peaked it slammed down and we surfed down it's back, I'm sure I felt my seat flex a bit under the backstay tension from the "hang time". Immediately we went up the 2nd in the set and Breezy slid to port side slightly, this 2nd wave was bigger. I was busy watching the bow as we climbed this one at a much worse angle. We heeled over to the max on my inclinometer (45deg) and I heard a gurgling sound right beside my head. I looked over and there was over 3ft of black water above the combing right beside me beginning to break. It dumped into the cockpit over my head solidly and I had to hold my breath. It wasn't "spray" like dozens before, it literally filled us and for a second I swear I was swimming. Some of the water kept right on going over the low side of the rail and the rest poured out of the cockpit drains, everyone was still accounted for. We surfed down the backside of that one and Breezy slammed her starboard shoulder right into the ditch of the next wave. The whole boat shuttered and we skidded through it. Luckily it had already begun breaking when we climbed it so less "volume" of water got in and more "hard spray" made it. That one actually hit my headsail on the way by and shuddered the mast harder than the wind.

Those waves more than anything will stick with my memory for sure. We were still somewhere around 2 miles from our target and I felt like my arms wanted to fall off, as did my crew I'm sure. We beat, smashed, and flogged to weather closing that gap, Breezy averaging 5kts even with the waves pounding us back trying to force us East. The last 0.3nm to safety was the worst. We had tacked dozens of times just to get a "window" to shoot for and it felt like we would never make it. Those last 0.3nm pounded us with the worst of all the winds, it must have been a funnel between the two islands or something. At this point all waves were white caps and all were "spindrifting" limiting visibility to almost nothing. My brother ran the chartplotter to check our course with the shoals and my friend was adjusting the sheets with me as the gusts fluctuated and became very unpredictable. I thought we finally had the "window" to shoot for after gauging the lee way we were losing. One final tack happened and we shot straight for the rock shoal at the south end of the island planning to fall off with the speed we would build, sling shot around the lee side and pitch the anchor on the way by. I literally felt like this was some failed apollo mission trying to slingshot around the moon. All while we were sailing this event I would interrupt the quiet chaos (everyone was doing their jobs and so focused few words were said). I began going over scenerios with everyone so we had a plan. "If we lose the sail here's what we will do..." "If the mast comes down here's what to watch for what we will do..." "If we miss our anchor depth and lose the island here's what we will do..." "DO NOT GET OFF THE BOAT FOR ANY REASON".

At this point we still weren't even at the "scary" part of anchoring in a gale under sail with no motor! We fired in from the howling wind around the lee side of the island, dodged the rock shoal, and immediately got caught in eddying wind currents I hadn't predicted. The wind was "less" but was still storm like, the waves were "less" but were still 5ft white caps, and we had 75 to 100ft of depth with the sounder showing boulders. We tried tacking back and forth to try and get closer to shore but just couldn't do it. The winds were shifting wildly with a wrap around effect from the island and tacking became very unpredictable. Sometimes while under a hard heel and racing forward to the backside the wind would snap over and backwind the sail spinning us around the opposite way. It felt like trying to swim up a waterfall here. We finally caught one just right and got as close as I thought we could and we dumped the entire anchor rode and the big plow in 75ft of water with a hard bottom on the sonar. The winds facepushed (yes I'll use that term literally) us backwards off the island and I am not kidding I prayed the anchor would catch. If it did not we would blow back out into 100ft+ deep water and our next island was miles away, and unknown to me, in failing daylight. Energy was nearly all spent at this point. The anchor caught hard on what I assume was a boulder and I felt the bow shudder as the boat stopped and lined up with the waves.

At this point we were anchored in a "semi-sheltered" spot on the lee of the island. 5ft waves still rolling under us and winds whipping us around on the anchor. I marked our spot on the GPS to watch for anchor drag and flew back to the transom to start taking the old Honda 10hp apart hoping to find a fix. I spent some time taking the carb apart and trying to figure out what could possibly block fuel from getting into the cylinders, but allow it to pour from the intake. I felt the boat free drift for a minute then jam to a stop again. I am assuming we had rolled a boulder or two and dragged until we caught another, not surprising in the conditions, the GPS mark was now 50ft away to confirm this. I knew we couldn't stay here for the night which made the motor all the more important, there was just no way I could thread us into the MUCH smaller gravel anchorage just north of us without the motor, it was too steep of a drop off and we wouldn't be able to sail into that spot with the wind the way it was.

I figured maybe the float was jammed and rather than take it apart I thought I'd reset it with fuel. I drained the bowls completely, rapped it hard with my leatherman, closed the drain and pressurized it with the ball. No fuel sprayed out! I pulled the cord and it immediately came back to life, which was great because the anchor was dragging again (lol). My crew both climbed up front and began pulling in the, now, free-dragging anchor while I controlled our stern with the motor so we didn't wrap the rode around the keel or rudder. We got the plow back up and I blasted us over to the gravel beach where we found nearly dead calm water and 30ft of depth to anchor in. To the North and to the South of our "spot" was massive white caps screaming by, on the island itself trees were bending over and flogging heavily in the wind, but our spot was the perfect "shadow" to hide in right beside the lighthouse.

We all changed into dry clothes, talked about how rediculous that was, and made some of the best tasting sandwhiches ever, the kind that you don't even remember what you made them with, but because you were alive they were the best ever.

Lessons of that day:
-Don't trust all forecasts.
-Always have a plan, be ready to fight for your life if the weather turns.
-Take care of your boat so she will take care of you! Every single piece I repaired or upgraded this spring was all tested on Saturday. The fact that Breezy still has 2 sails and a mast is proof of that. I found less than 1in of water in the bilge even.
2 Weeks Ago 12:55 PM
Re: Big Freakin' Sails

Originally Posted by smackdaddy View Post
Heh. Thanks for the reminder. At least we missed one TS so far!
Colin came close, but it never got too bad here at Brunswick Landing Marina in Georgia. We did see 45 knots on the beam for about 30 seconds when a squall hit here. I don't think some on the west coast of Florida had such an easy time though.

2 Weeks Ago 12:29 PM
Re: Big Freakin' Sails

Very nice ts! Nothing better than multi-envy! Heh.
2 Weeks Ago 12:16 PM
Re: Big Freakin' Sails

Always love the sail out Ocracoke. I have seen everything from glassy calm with no wind to 30 knots with huge chop.
Glad you had fun.
2 Weeks Ago 11:55 AM
Re: Big Freakin' Sails

EDIT: Anyone able to tell me the right way to embed these videos?

So my meager contribution. I have an earlier one in this thread from my 17 foot boat but this is on my 23 foot boat. We had a great beam reach sail from Oriental, NC to Ocracoke and enjoyed some great days out there. Unfortunately, typical winds coming back are dead on the nose from Oriental. So considering it is 40nm across open water with zero spots to bail out, you are either in a 20 hour day tacking into the wind or you motor it. So the first video is our great sail out, averaged 5 knots in a 23 foot boat on a beautiful beam reach in 15-17 mph winds.

The second is the much less fun pounding directly into the steep chop on Pamlico for 9 hours. And yes I know these are only 2-3 foot waves, but they are like 8 feet apart and steep. Nothing dangerous just tiring.

2 Weeks Ago 11:44 AM
Re: Big Freakin' Sails

Originally Posted by RTB View Post
It's good to hear you have the boat back together. Now, if you get moving, you can be in Florida for peak hurricane/thunderstorm season......

Heh. Thanks for the reminder. At least we missed one TS so far!
2 Weeks Ago 10:49 AM
Re: Big Freakin' Sails

Originally Posted by smackdaddy View Post

The best part was that Dawn Treader is finally back together and ready to go! We'd just finished up everything the night before Drake and Mo came out. More on that soon!
It's good to hear you have the boat back together. Now, if you get moving, you can be in Florida for peak hurricane/thunderstorm season......

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