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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Seamanship & Navigation
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Seamanship & Navigation Forum devoted to seamanship and navigation topics, including paper and electronic charting tools.


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  #11  
Old 07-05-2014
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Re: Case Study in Surviving a Cat 1 Tropical Cyclone

Can't say that I am a very experienced sailor. however, when I read that you were running towards land I cringed - everything I have read and what is in my instincts says to run away from land, especially if there are clear skies in that direction. But I guess that depends on the boat and equipment. On my boat I have a life raft and a lot of emergency equipment. I suppose on a charter that is different. I also know what my boat can handle. Second guessing a situation is hard, especially if one doesn't know exactly what equipment there is and how well the crew is trained. In the end you got everyone safely ashore and the boat was not totaled, so I would say you were successful. Can you learn from the situation - I am sure. Did you go forward to check on why the jib was not furling? I have had similar problems furling the jib during heavy winds and later found that the line was fouled and could have been sorted out by going forward. The main halyard being fouled in the prop can prevent the main from coming down - did you think about cutting the halyard? On our boat knives are standard equipment for the crew. One of the reasons for that is that we religiously wear life jackets and have tethers on jacklines for moving around the deck. If someone falls over and needs to cut themselves loose, they have the tool for it. Since they are Leatherman knives, they also work for all kinds of other possible emergencies. I had an accidental jibe at some point that ripped out my lazy jacks and dumped some of them overboard. Since I have a line cutter on my prop it wasn't an issue - I just cut what was at the railing and let the line cutter take care of the rest. With a single engine it could have caused serious issues otherwise.
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  #12  
Old 07-06-2014
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Re: Case Study in Surviving a Cat 1 Tropical Cyclone

Thanks again to everyone. I've learned alot from the discussion. I almost wish I could have a "do over," but without my wife and daughter on board, whose screams made it so difficult to think straight under pressure.

To recap:

1. I should not call it a "cyclone" as it was the wrong hemisphere for that terminology to apply. It was, however, a storm of 35-50 knots, combined with drenching rain, lasting 90 mins or more. So, a tropical storm?

2. What I would do differently next time is to find the courage to leave the helm at the first sign of trouble with my lines. The storm came on so fast that I was afraid to leave the helm, and I did not trust my autopilot under those conditions. However, I probably could have determined why my sails would not cooperate as I tried to bring them in. The main was already reefed, but not enough. The jib furling line must have been caught on something.

3. Others felt I should have seem this storm coming. Next time, I need to react faster, but in this case we were heading toward it, it toward us, and I admit I was caught off guard by how fast things developed (we were under sunny skies and I never saw the horizon changing color until we hit 35 knots). Combined with #2 above, I could have reacted faster and perhaps saved the sails. And if I had reacted quicker, I would not have been so stressed at the wheel because I would have been in better control of things.

4. Some have questioned my choice to head for land, but I defend that decision as I could not be certain the storm would not follow me if I moved the other way, and the land was free from other vessels, allowing me to anchor in relatively shallow water and to get my family to safety.

Thanks again to everyone and i welcome any further advice.
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Old 07-06-2014
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Re: Case Study in Surviving a Cat 1 Tropical Cyclone

I take it the island you were talking about was upwind?

One doesn't have time, in these situations, to work out if its a squall or a cyclone/hurricane.

Its not your normal boat.

I agree with killarney_sailor. Each particular situation is different from everyone elses. Even the colour of the sky changes our perceptions. My ex-gf used to scream for an extra reef before it was needed... until I found her sunglasses were tinted gray. Every cloud looked like a storm.

On your own boat, in areas that you know, without the kids and wife on board, things may have been different. also Phang Nga bay has water that is a dirty lump of poop at the best of times. I havent seen it rough, but its poo brown and shallow. What would a good 'ol squall do it it??

in some occasions I doubt you can learn a real lot about one solitary incident thats bizarrely different from everything else.

I would say just go on your way and take as learning only whats obvious.
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Old 07-06-2014
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Re: Case Study in Surviving a Cat 1 Tropical Cyclone

Quote:
Originally Posted by 1Nomad View Post
I just returned from Sailing in Phang Nga Bay and during my journey encountered a Category 1 Tropical Cyclone.
Others have made the point that what you experienced was not a cyclone. You have focused on wind speed without consideration for whether the weather itself qualified as a cyclone. See
. That isn't to say the weather wasn't sporty. *grin*

For usual conditions meteorologists often use the Beaufort scale: Beaufort Wind Scale . F8 is nothing to take lightly.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 1Nomad View Post
Sunsail staff initially claimed I merely encountered a squall
I would agree with them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 1Nomad View Post
Winds picked up, and although we were on a close haul before and on a comfortable tack, by now the jib was flailing on both sides of the mast.
I suspect that a cold front passed you bringing a wind shift with the squall. In the stress of the moment the shift didn't register with you. The course change you ultimately made that stabilized the jib was the appropriate response to the wind shift.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 1Nomad View Post
Our previous charter with Sunsail was taking the same vessel from St. Vincent to Grenada, nearly 100 nm, where we encountered many squalls and enjoyed what Sunsail describes as “Level 3 sailing.” This storm was different.
Like many words, the word 'squall' applies to a range of conditions. The afternoon squalls common to tropical and sub-tropical areas do indeed "come on you fast and leave you fast" (Captain Ron). That doesn't mean something that lasts a bit longer isn't still a squall.

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Originally Posted by 1Nomad View Post
I ordered kids to put on lifejackets at this point and relied on my first mate to provide me assistance.
Good call.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 1Nomad View Post
I decided the land the best option – the open sea could introduce other unknowns.
A very common reaction. Generally the best thing you can do in a real weather event is getting away from anything hard (land) that could put a hole in the boat. Trying to maneuver in close quarters (marinas, even mooring fields and anchorages) is difficult and stressing and often leads to injury to people and damage to boats. "When in doubt go out."

Quote:
Originally Posted by 1Nomad View Post
The entire vessel pitched to the port side at one point and was nearly turtled (at a 45 degree angle with the entire starboard side in the air), but I was able to create slack in the jib in time to prevent the jib and wind from conspiring against me, and turtling the boat.
Technically speaking that direction of rotation is roll, not pitch. I fully appreciate the adrenalin that must have been coursing through your veins. It is unlikely you reached 45 degrees in a catamaran without going over completely. Even 15 or 20 degrees feels like a LOT in those conditions.

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Originally Posted by 1Nomad View Post
By this time my wife and daughter were screaming and severely traumatized
This is a subject that has been discussed at great length here and elsewhere in the aftermath of great loss. Google for the loss of Rule 42 in the Bahamas. As near as can be reconstructed one if not two crew had overwhelming emotional reactions to sustained (days) severe weather that is speculated to have led to a demand to "get me off this boat - NOW!" When the person having a meltdown is a loved one it is difficult to explain that the best and safest course of action is to head out to sea.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 1Nomad View Post
It turns out that the jib, which should have been furled under these situations, probably saved us from losing total control of the boat.
Another normal and natural reaction to deteriorating weather is to take down the sails and motor. It makes you feel like you are doing something and gives some semblance of a feeling of control. In fact it is often easier to control the boat and motion is reduced by sailing. Often, not always. Many options are available: running, close reaching, heaving to, fore-reaching, and on catamarans "parking." In your case you were limited by your issues with the jib and main. I wasn't there and won't speculate. On a strange boat (lots of deliveries) I go over all the running rigging and recoil all the tails. Everything on the boat gets coiled the same way and I *NEVER* leave a tail uncoiled unless it is in my hand, regardless of what else is going on. Aside from the obvious benefits in reducing tangles and lines over the side, there is a calming effect for me and reassurance to the crew (if Dave is up there coiling the third reef line things can't be too bad *grin*).

Quote:
Originally Posted by 1Nomad View Post
I could not keep us on the proper tack to reach the beach and to guarantee the safety of the kids and the boat
The wind may have saved you some very unfortunate results. Again, read the posts on Rule 42.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 1Nomad View Post
Squalls are defined as short bursts of wind and rain, often followed by sunny skies and even rainbows. We could get more technical by comparing the wind we experienced to typical winds in the region to get to a more precise qualification of this storm as either a squall or something else. To debate this is of little consequence since we were able to safeguard both passengers and the vessel until Sunsail staff were able to arrive to render assistance. However, any eyewitness to this storm will confirm there were no clear skies, no rainbows, but consistent rain for most of the afternoon even after the storm had passed. And I doubt anyone would consider a 2 hour storm as a burst of “short duration.”
For starters, I certainly WOULD consider a 2 hour bit of weather of short duration. That Sunsail staff headed out to the boat to help is an indication that the weather event was not so bad as to preclude them coming to your aid.

What you describe as your earlier experience with squalls is consistent with tropical weather patterns. This event was likely a frontal passage that brought severe weather at the front and dragged rain behind it.

I congratulate you on being so open-minded as to share your story and risk criticism.

I do think you were quite fortunate. People get hurt or die when a series of things goes wrong - rarely because of only one failure. You lost control of the jib furler, the main hoist, tore the main, lost an engine, and had minimal use of the other engine. Events could have turned out much differently.

Best wishes to you.
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  #15  
Old 07-06-2014
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Re: Case Study in Surviving a Cat 1 Tropical Cyclone

Final comment, a 'tropical storm' is a tropical cyclonic storm that is not strong enough to warrant the designation 'cyclone' or 'hurricane, or 'typhoon'. Think of it a baby hurricane, so Hurricane Arthur that just touched North Carolina was a tropical storm as it strengthened towards hurricane status and became a tropical storm again as it lost power. These things happen in both hemispheres but basically not between 10°N and 10°S. In this band the forces that make these storms rotate are not strong enough to have much effect.
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Old 07-06-2014
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Re: Case Study in Surviving a Cat 1 Tropical Cyclone

Barring a clogged water intake, or some other failure of the cooling system, how would one cause an engine to overheat to the point of failure? This is a situation I have heard of but have never encountered, myself.
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Old 07-06-2014
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Re: Case Study in Surviving a Cat 1 Tropical Cyclone

IIRC the the boat lost en route to the Bahamas a few years ago, that Dave (SVAuspicious) refers to above, was Rule 62. There was much discussion here and elsewhere about it.

Here is one link:
Sinking of Rule 62

Glad to hear that all your family and the boat survived, and also that you are sharing your story, so that all of us can learn from it. Thank you.
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Old 07-06-2014
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Re: Case Study in Surviving a Cat 1 Tropical Cyclone

Quote:
Originally Posted by joebeach View Post
IIRC the the boat lost en route to the Bahamas a few years ago, that Dave (SVAuspicious) refers to above, was Rule 62. There was much discussion here and elsewhere about it.
That's it! Thanks for the correct name and the link. We were out sailing this weekend and I didn't have the bandwidth for good research. *grin*
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Old 07-07-2014
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Re: Case Study in Surviving a Tropical Storm

Thanks again to everyone, I've learned a ton. And Rule 62 leaves quite a legacy and more to learn. I've changed the title of the post from "cyclone" to "tropical storm." Forgive me for any appearance of exaggeration, it seemed tough to exaggerate while in the middle of it!
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Old 07-07-2014
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Re: Case Study in Surviving a Cat 1 Tropical Cyclone

Gday Nomad. Glad everything worked out. Family safe that the main thing.

In Australia the definition of average wind strengths are as follows:

Wind warning Wind range*
Strong wind 26 to 33 knots
Gale 34 to 47 knots
Storm force 48 to 63 knots
Hurricane force 64 knots or more

These that these are averages over a 10 minute period would not include wind gusts.

Ilenart
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