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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Seamanship & Navigation
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  #1  
Old 08-22-2007
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What do YOU do in a squall?

We are planning a trip from Oriental to Ocracoke at the end of September. Even with a good forecast, i'm sure we'll still have to deal with the afternoon squall lines that normally form this time of year. We can handle 3-4' waves in our Pearson 27 and still feel comfortable but anything over that we start getting a little nervous. When faced with an oncoming squall and rough chop... what do you do?
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Old 08-22-2007
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I try to run downwind on a broad reach.. and hopefully that is where I want to got. If it looks like a nasty blow I roll in the head sail. and go with main alone I also blow off the vang to spill some air and take the helm over from the auto pilot.

jef
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Old 08-22-2007
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I just reef and pound through it on a bigger boat. On mine with no reefing or furling, I just sheet out and pound through it.
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Old 08-22-2007
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Reduce sail before the squall line hits... If possible, get to an area where the you're in the lee of the shore, so the force of the squalls is weakened. If near a lee shore... head for deeper water and further from shore. Rig jacklines and put on your PFDs, harnesses and tethers if you've got them.
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Old 08-22-2007
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On the 20' C scow that I sail when we get into the heavier winds we crank hard on the vang and cunningham, let out the traveler and work the mainsheet to spill any excess wind. You want to flatten the sail as much as possible and keep the power low and forward. A tight vang, and cunningham will help flatten the luff of your sail, keeping the boom down. The leach is then controlled by main sheet tension. The C scow is a 20' dinghy and we can't reef. I would think the vang and cunningham would have similar effect on keel boats and rigs that can reef. By letting off the vang as mentioned by SanderO/jef you would actually hold more wind/power. The only time we let off that vang is if we are getting tipped on our ear and a strong helm developes, we release the pressure, flatten out the boat and then bring the vang back on again.

This worked well enough to secure 3rd in our 24 boat fleet for this season.

Jeff
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Old 08-22-2007
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Get the sails down...the pfd's on and motor into the wind.
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Old 08-22-2007
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Hi,

I experienced my first squall last week. We went on the boat around 7:30PM with the plan of watching the Perseid meteor shower. The weather forecast was for clear skies and light winds. As we headed down to the marina my wife remarked on some dark clouds. I told her the weather forecast was fine, checked it again on my mobile phone and again it was fine.

Once on the boat we headed out. Once clear of the harbor my wife pointed out some dark clouds north of us. She said those were rain clouds. I agreed they were, but the clouds were far away and we didn't need to worry. I put on the weather radio and for the first time they said a slight chance of rain.

We stayed near the harbor entrance. The storms seemed to be moving away. Then about 200 yards away I saw a wall of water moving towards us at a high rate of speed. I had enough time to say "oh sh*t". I had my wife take the wheel while I rolled in the headsail. That took about a minute, and in that time my wife and I were completely soaked. Once the headsail was in my wife went below with the kids. The wind was strong, but with just the main up the boat rode very nicely and we didn't heel very much. The squall passed in about 10 minutes.

Next time I see a storm like that I would
-take the headsail down and leave the main up
-put on PFD's
-have rain gear handy
-I might even start the motor

Good luck,
Barry
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Old 08-22-2007
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In a smaller boat with no motor, or a small outboard, consider whether the squall is going to set you towards a lee shore. If it really honks, you may not be able to make good anything to windward, and you won't be able to see enough in all that rain (or hail) to determine if you're staying clear of shore, or getting closer.

So, if you have good holding ground, and it's not too deep, consider dousing all sail and dropping the hook. Do it before the squall hits.

This works on Lake Pontchartrain, where I sail and teach sometimes. Bottom's only 15 feet down, easy to get plenty of scope.
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Old 08-22-2007
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I guess it depends how strong the squalls are. I've always thought that you head into the approaching squall. The idea being to get it overwith fast. However, I've been caught out in microcells with 60 knot winds and with sails down and both engines at full power have been unable to make any headway.

Should this happen, I trust you all have your track enabled on your GPS. I go with the wind and with near zero visibility use the track on my GPS to keep me floating on the blue wet stuff. This works for almost all scenarios, but the last time out we were actually struck by lightning.

We can't control the elements, all you can do is minimize the risks to boat and crew.
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Old 08-22-2007
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This is common enough on Lake Ontario in the spring and fall (with occasional bursts of "rolling" squalls in front of thunderheads) that it pays to practice. First thing is easy: look behind you occasionally. This stuff almost always comes from the west or the southwest on the lake, and so the greatest danger is getting caught going east in the morning: the vast cloud bank *won't* cross the sun before it's on you. 6string's advice was sound, so I won't repeat it here, but will add a little trick I've used on occasion...a little clip on rear view mirror. Properly positioned on the cabintop or clipped to a bimini frame, it's a way to glance backward without turning your head. Turning to look back over your shoulder is a good way to slew 10 degrees off course with a tiller...not what you want to do if you are getting pasted on a run.

Other than that, I actually think if you can drive the boat on a broad reach, you will be safer than if you attempt to round up to motor into the wind with sail still up. Of course, I am assuming this unfortunate squall doesn't happen when you are close into shore.

I recall in 2000 when a 60 knot squall of some 10 minutes' duration hit my club, during a C&C regatta of all things. A 41 footer tried to motor in through the gap, but simply couldn't...the cross wind was too much. Coming about just by the small shelter of the swamped breakwall and running off into the lake was far safer.
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