Originally Posted by sailaway21
Am I reading you correctly in stating that a fin keel boat will refuse to ride in any semblence of order under this arrangement? Would it be the case that, with so little lateral resistence as compared to a full keel boat, one would have to continuously tend to the running bridle to acheive a semblence of order? Very interested in your further thoughts on the matter. From another thread, I gather that you may feel the drogue towed astern could be more effective. I would suspect that the difficulty with that device would be the number of units deployed and also it's unlikelyhood of recovery (which given the circumstances encountered may be a low price for survival).
Your background Sailaway21 is ships and I would maintain that itís easer to understand ship handling and storm tactics on ships then the same subjects on yachts. Ship handling is now a science and although the sea is relentless in itís probing for a weakness to exploit a ship is a well understood thing and tactics are studied and documented in both theory and practice. Todayís ships are studied in wave tanks, towing tanks and every aspect of the design is refined and you can read papers on everything from stability during turns in heavy weather to slamming loads from wave impact. Very little is open to debate today.
On yachts itís a different story and two masters presented with the same scenario on two identical boats may suggest two different solutions. Aside from the fact itís not studied with the same intensity as in ships the input to the discussion is from too large a group with too small a personal sample limited to yachts having different characteristics in storms in widely differing areas so even the wave shape and pattern are different even on the off chance you are discussing two samples of the same boat but in different storms.
You ask if there are any fin keel boats that will behave in a storm. Yes, I think there are but the number is small and for the most part I think a modern fin keel boat will have trouble heaving to. Now having said that I have only tried it with one fin keel boat in one survival situation and thatís too small a sample to be meaningful.
You also ask about running with a drag. I have run three times and once was a survival situation. The first time was with a 22 foot boat off Nova Scotia and it was the most comfortable I have been during bad weather. The boat just danced among the waves and the deck stayed dry. I had hot food and absolutely no problems. The trip was solo and I wasnít using a windvane but instead the boat would sail herself under all conditions by balancing the sailplan. The seas were limited in height because of the fetch and the windspeed didnít exceed 45 to 50 knots. I didnít see any need to slow the boat down because she rode comfortably and she was going in the right direction. The second example is when I crossed the Bay of Biscay in a 100 ton West Country Ketch in the winter time.
We ran and the seas were much larger then I had seen before and the wind speed was as much as 60 to 70 knots but again it was a comfortable trip with a large well rested crew. I was the Sailing Master and she was a former cargo boat that had been converted to an expedition yacht. Gaff rigged and with very heavy gear this kept the roll reasonable and again no need to slow the boat down. The last example is a 30 foot fin keel boat in a hurricane.
Let me set the scene for that encounter this way. In October of 1976 I was in Hurricane Gloria on a 30 foot boat east and slightly north of Puerto Rico with over 90 Knots wind speed and 45 foot (or larger, its hard to tell after the wave is higher then the mast) waves. At one point to the north of me was the 590 foot 15,028 ton Sylvia L Ossa with a crew of 37. She sank with a loss of all hands sometime between the 13 to the 15 of October. During the height of the storm the truck fitting failed by cracking between the hole for the headstay clevis pin and the corner of the casting adjacent to the mast. When the headstay went the sound and the recoil were intense. Early in the storm I had a small storm jib just turn to dust. As it went the rig seamed to just grab the boat and shake it, the whole boat vibrated.
That was the wrong boat in the wrong place at the wrong time. Running under bare poles was a disaster with or without a drag. The wind was intense and the seas were confused and made the Alps look small. I was finally pooped and the excessively large cockpit was filled. With the cockpit full of water every wave now swept over the boat and she had no freeboard aft because of the weight. All the water that got below also went aft because the bow was pointing straight up, or so it looked at the time.
At that point I decided that I wanted to turn sideways to the wind so that I could get a trysail up and lay the boat on her side. I thought that would get the water out of the cockpit and give me some time to bail out the cabin. With the boat nearly dead in the water and the windage from the bow sticking up so high I couldnít get the boat to turn no mater what I did. In the end I went forward and bent on my second anchor to my main anchor and streamed that combination from the bow with some extra chain added just because I was desperate. That added enough drag at the bow to get the boat started in her turn. When I got the trysail up that completed the turn and she did lay over with the side of the cabin in the water. The ride was much better and I let her stay that way for the night. In the morning I found the anchors gone and the rode was partly MELTED and partly chafed at the chocks. I was awake all night and never noticed the loss of the two anchors and 300 feet of line. With that boat and that shape to the seas with breaking tops running was a poor choice. Laying a-hull was also not a good idea and if the storm had lasted much longer she would have sunk. The hull-deck joint failed in some places and a crack formed between the keel bolts. The rudder fairing (non structural skeg) also failed at some point and the keel had dropped a bit because the bolts and backing plates dug into the fiberglass but I didnít know some of this until the boat was placed on the deck of the ship that rescued me.
Itís common to discuss storm tactics and you, Sailaway21 may have an idea of what its like but I donít think most people understand what its like to see a storm wave from a vantage point only 3 or 4 feet above the sea. One of the few things in life that I can guarantee you is that itís a vantage point you never want to have yourself. As I tell you this keep in mind that I really canít make any intelligent comments on the wind speed or the height of the waves. If I remember it right my gauge for wind speed only went up to 75 statute miles per hour and I never had any way to measure the wave height. After the waves get to be higher then my mast all bets were off about guessing the height.
As the wind increases there is the expected increase in wave height. During the period of increase you see a marked change in shape and height. The wave will start to climb in height and increase in steepness until they get their tops blown off. After that the wave are noticeably asymmetrical with a very steep face. The next thing is the top of the wave looks like it just falls over and the entire surface of the sea is covered by foam and spray from the wave tops disintegrating into foam. During the increase but before the wave starts to become chaotic in shape the lee side will have large patches of foam free water. There is a repeatable pattern to the height. You can count the average height waves as they go by and then the showstopper would come along right on schedule. You donít have to watch to windward, you can feel the big one coming. Actually you canít look to windward at the height of the storm; it hurts to put your face above the cockpit coming. You can hunker down in the cockpit and look past the lee side of the cockpit or stay in the cabin and look out the weather ports. Even then itís tough to see anything because the weather ports had a great view of the sky most of the time and the lee ports were under water or pointing straight down. The background to all of this is the sound of two 747 jets dueling to see who can be the loudest.
A gust in Hurricane Gloria would be well over the 90 Knots wind speed reported from Hurricane Hunter Aircraft that flew overhead and would take the top of the wave right off. The wave top didnít just fall over and create foam and spray, it was entirely removed and the air was filled with what I could only describe as a new type of water. It became a layer of water with enough air in it so you could get a breath now and then. This layer of water/air mix is not very high and when you look down wind (if you are in the cockpit you can only look downwind and your height of eye is only 3 feet above the water) you canít see it at all. It looks just like a layer of spray. You would almost swear that the wave shape changed as the gust came through from a trochoid wave to a wave form with a flat top, The peak was gone and all that remained was a steeper leading edge of solid water with less spray hugging the surface near the top and a backside that had a surface layer of spray and foam that was several inches thick. As the boat makes it to the peak of the wave the boat will have lost a large amount of stability and just falls over from the blast of wind above the waves. I know the rule about a wave being limited to a height of 1/7 of its own wavelength. But I would swear on a stack of bibles that the relationship doesnít hold up in a gust condition and the wavelength will close up much faster then you would expect. Itís as if the wave changes in speed faster then it can change in height. The angle that you read about as the greatest angle that the face of a wave can support, I think its 130 degrees. Forget about that, I saw a wave go by that had a face that was close to vertical and it was as stable as a rock. Within seconds of the gust passing, the wave pattern will return to what it was immediately before the gust and the wavelength increases again.
All in all, it was an experience that I would not want to repeat. But if you want to try it, be my guest and have fun.
Good sailing and enjoy the weather,