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  #31  
Old 02-25-2007
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In the Navy we had watertight bulkheads. After going through several damage control simulations where we were put in a mocked up compartment, and required to stem the ingress of water with various sized wooden bungs, I decided that watertights were the only real hope we had. The plugs just don't work. You need a sledge hammer to get them into place against the force of the watrer rushing in. In a fibreglass boat, one bad hammer swing and you've just doubled the size of your problem. I think that if you are going to spend a lot of time offshore, then watertights are a necessity on any boat, and it's possible to modify most boats this way. I would ensure that all hatches had strong solid covers with gaskets that could be dogged. As far as the way they build boats for the mass market today, all light and bright, 99% of them will never be more than a couple of miles off shore, and rarely that far in any kind of inclement weather. The remaining one percent are captained by those with a death wish.
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  #32  
Old 02-25-2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cruisingdad
I found the most comfortable place in a bad sea was in the floor in the salon, not on a berth (or sea berth). You might too.
I have. I don't suffer from mal-de-mer particularly, but I do recall a November crossing of Lake Ontario when we perhaps overdid the rum beverages and I had clocked my head on the mizzen boom...anyway, I was feeling rough the next morning.

We motorsailed back to Toronto from the south shore into an ENE quartering sea and about 25 knots of wind and six-seven foot seas. Lake Ontario lies mostly on an SW-NE axis, and this meant at the west end the waves had about a 150 miles fetch. Nothing compared to the ocean, but it meant a short period, a "squarish" presentation and a damned corkscrew motion that made my breakfast appear for an encore.

The only place I felt decent was as low and as centered as I could get, jammed on the saloon floor between the table and the berth bench. After an hour, I felt human enough to stand a watch. No doubt the boozing and the head wound started the process, but it was the motion that made the difference between a mild and bleary irritation and full-on having to retire for a cringe down below.
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  #33  
Old 02-25-2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sailaway21
Tartan34,
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,
Robert Gainer
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  #34  
Old 02-26-2007
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I've heard about a product developed by the US Navy that is enviromentally friendly that they use to calm the waters around aircraft carriers during flight exercises in rough weather. Not sure if it's true but I've seen such product to use in place of oil, although I see little problem with canola oil. I have to agree that many new boats have such a flat entry that it's not surprising that they don't heave to well. I wanted to bring up the issue of the smaller openings that are often overlooked. Vents, cockpit speakers, cockpit lockers, and thru hulls that are usually above the waterline can let in a surprising amount of water when submerged in green water. There are obviously ways to secure this but they are often not thought to be a real threat. I read a theory about a large ship in that was lost in the North Pacific, not becasue a forward hatch opened as was suspected, but because of four, eight inch mushroom vents. Over the period of several hours in a North Pacific low the vents let enough water in to lower the bow so that the main forward hatch recieved a direct hit from a large wave. So if four 8inch vents can lead to the sinking of a bulk carrier, what can the 6 inch holes for your cockpit speakers let in? Enough to lower the freeboard of your boat once it rights itself? You bet. Then the cockpit is continually swamped untill all is lost. It has happened and I'm sure it'll happen again. What does it take to install speacers in the cockpit behind regular inspection ports with removable covers? Not much. As for the big holes, like hatches. We know that the lids to the storage lockers in the quarter births fit nicely over the two hatches, we'll also keep large lag bolts to fasten them down. The port quarter birth is built with 3/4 inch plywood, so that one's for the forward hatch. I think like anything that can happen in heavy weather it's good to be a prepared as possible. Know what can be used to cover what.

I have a question about Sea anchors. I like the idea of warps to maintain control in large seas. Why would I want to use a sea anchor instead? Never used one before and I'm curious as to their advantages. I understand that the sea anchor is perhaps a more passive way to deal with heavy weather but if you have sea room to drift, is there any reason to have a sea anchor
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Old 02-26-2007
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Tartan 34c,
Thanks for the account of your adventure. If nothing else I doubt anyone would loose hope afer hearing what you and your boat survived.
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  #36  
Old 02-26-2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tartan34C
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,
Robert Gainer
Despite what must have been a frightening experience bordering on insanity, you certainly painted a detailed picture of how the conditions deteriorated. Thanks for posting this. I am both surprised and gratified you made it out alive.

Tell me, please...how did you handle getting in and out of the companionway? I would have thought the boards themselves would have been blown out of your hands.
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  #37  
Old 02-26-2007
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Newport41-

I think you're confusing a drogue and a sea anchor. A large parachute sea-anchor will essentially stop the boat pretty much dead in the water. This is a plus, as it doesn't require the room to leeward that a drogue does... but it generates huge shock loads on the hardware on the boat...

A drogue will slow a boat down, but requires a fair bit of searoom to leeward, as the boat will still be moving.

As for speakers and such... the solar ventilator on my boat is one of the heavy-duty ones that screws into a stainless steel deck ring, and I have bronze deckplates that screw into the same ring for when I'm out in heavy weather. The speakers in the cockpit of my boat are mounted behind the coaming, on the inside, with a removable 6" deck plate in-front of them. In heavy weather, the stereo goes off...and the deckplates go in... no way for the sea to knock the speakers or ventilators out of the way and downflood the cabin.
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  #38  
Old 02-26-2007
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Thanks for the response Robert.
As stated elsewhere, I am firmly in your camp regarding the avoidance of such sea conditions. In my opinion the first requirement of prudent seamanship is to avoid getting in to a situation where survival and life-saving techniques must be employed. Probably the second requirement, as you have mentioned, is the contemplation of gear and seamanship to be employed if found out.

Being off sick today I had the chance to finish up Lin and Larry Pardey's Storm Tactics. I came away with two perceptions. Running before the weather is not prudent unless an aceivable goal is present. The danger of being pooped and the extreme continuous concentration on helmsmanship is too exhausting. The other was that most of the vessels they cited, after all manner of disaster was said and done, ended up hove to with the wind about fifty degrees off. The use of a parachute type sea-anchor with a bridle aided greatly with full keel boats riding to it better than fin keels. Though the fins did well enough to justify it's carriage. They seemed to use either a deeply reefed main or try-sail in conjunction. They only had anecdotal remarks about multi-hulls, to the extent that they deployed via a bridle and lay bow on.
They also mentioned something I had not thought of and that was securing the dodger and dinghy on deck with screws versus through bolting. The screws can tear loose and not leave large holes in one's deck. Also, a collapsed dodger can make egress through the companionway impossible after a boarding sea. They recommended securing the canvas of the dodger with light natural fiber line, relatively weak, so that the dodger canvas would carry away prior to making a mangle of it's mounting.
They bemoaned the lack of reporting from cruisers who have come through such gale conditions, with the level of reporting being more on the line of 'glad to survive' level and little in the way of seamanship employed. Hopefully, this thread and others will provoke the coming forth of such information.

While I agree that much more has been done in research on ship handling in heavy weather than in small sail boats, it is hardly exhaustive or even authoritative. Older merchant ships actually had more options in heavy weather handling than those of today. The higher freeboard, as well as container "sail area", have made handling of such vessels in winds greater than 50 knots radically different than their predecessers. The modern container ship may well have trouble holding her bow up in a gale without excessive use of the screw. That forward propulsion results in excessive pounding. She may well have to heave-to, with sea and wind on the quarter, long before her break-bulk freighter predeceaser had to do so. Heavy weather handling is little understood by the naval architect and, what is known, is by the slow process of unfortunate experience.
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Old 02-26-2007
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Sailaway-
"They also mentioned something I had not thought of and that was securing the dodger and dinghy on deck with screws versus through bolting. "
You might look further at the entire attachment. Consider, if you will:
Secure fittings on the dink, and the deck, and lashing the dink down. The lashings can be cut, unlike metal fittings that can jam. And if the line is properly selected--it can be chosen to burst before the deck fittings would pull out. Actually chosen in a fiinite range, instead of guessing when a screw will pull out.
On the deck itself, you then have a range of options, including a backing plate and a flush pad eye or ring, that sits flat when the dink is not on it. (Less to stub toes and trip over.)
If the dink is obstructing a hatch, it helps protect the hatch from green water but blocks emergency egress. Lashings that can be cut by a hand poked out the hatch remedy that, too.

It is too easy to "go gorilla" and make something TOO strong these days. Like Bob Heinlein said, sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. We're at that point with engineering now, where you have to really take a close look to see failure modes and methods, and make sure you don't compromise the intentional ones.
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Old 02-27-2007
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Valiente said,
ďa frightening experience bordering on insanity,Ē

At the time some said I started out with insanity and I was also surprised I made it. Some newspapers printed my obituary as a result of that trip. The book that was written afterwards played up the ďpresumed lostĒ part of the newspaper coverage.

ĒTell me, please...how did you handle getting in and out of the companionway? I would have thought the boards themselves would have been blown out of your hands.Ē

I donít remember having any problems with the drop boards. That may be because I tended to pop out the top without removing the drop boards at all. I had a system for fastening them in place during bad weather and in a lull I would just drop in or pop out. I was younger back then and a lot faster and more agile then today.


Sailaway21,
ďRunning before the weather is not prudent unless an aceivable goal is present. The danger of being pooped and the extreme continuous concentration on helmsmanship is too exhausting.Ē

I think that sums it up nicely when the seas get extreme and steep. Just your run of the mill storm might be comfortable while running in some boats but in the ultimate storm running is seldom wise. As a solo sailor the break point might be when the windvane has trouble steering or when the boat becomes uncomfortable.

ďThey also mentioned something I had not thought of and that was securing the dodger and dinghy on deck with screws versus through bolting. The screws can tear loose and not leave large holes in one's deck. Also, a collapsed dodger can make egress through the companionway impossible after a boarding sea. They recommended securing the canvas of the dodger with light natural fiber line, relatively weak, so that the dodger canvas would carry away prior to making a mangle of it's mounting.Ē

In this I donít agree with them. You donít need to look vary far to see the folly of carrying a dingy on deck and having a dodger rigged during a storm is a questionable practice at best. In fact if I understand the Ken Barns story correctly the hard dodger he had was collapsed and swept into his steering pedestal causing the lose of steering and his dingy was swept overboard. I think the biggest problem with planning to have something swept away is the fact it can take things with it such as gear, shrouds or even worse crew. I use an inflatable and it is kept below while offshore. The inflatable is also a suitable backup for the liferaft unlike a hard dinghy. Unlike most offshore boats I donít keep my lifraft on deck either. When things get really bad getting on deck and doing something with the liferaft is going to be tough. I may store it on the cabin top while daysailing but offshore it sits in the cockpit where it is handy and it also reduces the volume of water that can be in the cockpit. It is lashed in place with a sharp knife taped to the top so you can get it free no mater how unprepared you are when you come up from below.

ďThey bemoaned the lack of reporting from cruisers who have come through such gale conditions, with the level of reporting being more on the line of 'glad to survive' level and little in the way of seamanship employed.Ē

Maybe itís because the cruisers arenít writers. In my case I made a lot more mistakes when I was starting out then I admitted both because I was doing sponsored sailing and looking too dumb would hurt the income and I was always in a rush to move on to the next project instead of dwelling on the last one. Being caught in the 1976 storm is not the worst thing I ever did and the best (biggest) mistakes I made are being saved up until I retire from sailing altogether and then I will spill the beans. You might be surprised at some of the stupid things I have done and survived, so far.

ďWhile I agree that much more has been done in research on ship handling in heavy weather than in small sail boats, it is hardly exhaustive or even authoritative.Ē ***Snip*** ďHeavy weather handling is little understood by the naval architect and, what is known, is by the slow process of unfortunate experience.Ē

Something you and I donít agree on? While I am not a member of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SNAME) I am a corresponding member of The Small Craft Sailing Technical Panel (SC-2) of SNAME and as a practicing small craft designer I try to keep up to date and at least be aware of the volume of technical papers presented on the subjects of small craft design and ship handling. Naval Architects realized long ago that having ships disappear was bad for the industry. They not only want to design a ship that will stay together but they also want to know why they do break. They look at how the ships are used and then they study ways to improve the design to handle the real world use or try to influence the operation of the ships so that they donít exceed the structural limits. You may not agree with the designer about every aspect of the design but he does understand whatís happing to the ship in a storm. He may understand the forces and actions better then you do. By the way that doesnít make him qualified as a ships Master and itís a lot like an aircraft designer. They may understand how it works and are able to design a plane but they might not be able to fly a plane.
All the best and I hope you feel better soon,
Robert Gainer
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