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wind_magic 10-12-2007 01:26 AM

Variables in Sailing off a Lee Shore
Question to the experts ...

What are the variables involved in being able to sail safely off (away from) a lee shore ? If it's a relatively calm day it's easy, just point her near the wind and sail away from the shore without much trouble. But in a hurricane you're pretty much doomed, as I understand it. So there is a lot of "in between" in there.

What affects your ability to sail off a lee shore, at what point does it become "dangerous", and at what point does it become "impossible", and why ? When do you have to start worrying about keeping her off the rocks, and what can you do to make sure she doesn't end up there ?

Tartan34C 10-12-2007 06:29 AM

Nothing like asking a simple question. It depends very much on the boat the storm and the geography. You need to know enough about your own boat so that you can answer this for yourself when the time comes. But even better you should learn to plan so that the chance of this happening is minimized. I did a lot of offshore sailing with an engineless boat and had to consider very carefully where to go or not go because I didnít want to sail into a place I couldnít sail out of with the expected conditions. I think I was more aware of a boats capabilities because of this then if I had a powered boat where I could just think in terms of hitting the button and powering out of trouble.
All the best,
Robert Gainer

Raggbagger 10-12-2007 07:21 AM

Just too many variables that you can have at the time , when you need to get away from the leeward shore that is threatening . A couple of hairy momments I recall where having to sail back to the dock after my deisel died on me and the wind picked up . Trying to manage the sails was a pretty ugly affair and the 41ft Morgan is not the worlds most responsive boat at the best of times. We came out unscathed largely by quickly increasing our head sail and taking the opposing tack . Ugly , lucky , scary yes , all of the above . If I hadnt had my wife whip out the sail and tacked we would have been in trouble . Did I think it through first , no , not at all . The whole thing happened so fast I was in a mood to try anything to get that big bugger of a boat to move . The other hairy one I wasnt driving but it was in my schooner days on a 160ft er we got caught in a bit of a squall , returning to Baltimores inner harbour . It came up so quick the staysail was shredded . The crew freeked out and the skipper white knuckled and wide eyed . He put the engine throttle down so hard but the ship didnt budge . She was creeping backwards into the docks , just before he gave the order to unleash the anchor the wind died down as fast as she had come up on us . We again where lucky , scared and ugly on that one too . There is no real way to suggest what you must do when this happens to you . The only thing I can tell you is keep trying things till something works .

22odaybc 10-12-2007 07:34 AM

3 things you must have, pratice x3.learn your limits and the boats limits this way.

RealityCheck 10-12-2007 11:54 AM

Start the engine, put it into gear, advance throttle.

bestfriend 10-12-2007 12:34 PM


Originally Posted by RealityCheck (Post 206128)
Start the engine, put it into gear, advance throttle.

Nevermind! SD has preserved it for all eternity, its still good info anyway, even if I was thinking leeward of the island, not the boat.

sailingdog 10-12-2007 02:50 PM


It isn't a lee shore if you can sail away from it DDW... by definition, a lee shore would be downwind of you, and to get away from it, you would need to sail UPWIND.:rolleyes:

BTW, never a big fan of relying on an engine in bad conditions.... if the engine cuts out on you, you're basically screwed. IMHO, much of the time you'd spend futzing with the engine, could better be spent sailing the boat away from the lee shore. Engines on sailboats tend not to be all that reliable in heavy seas and winds.


Originally Posted by bestfriend (Post 206155)
I like your thinking. Alcatraz Island can be a very surprisingly difficult lee shore. The current can race around it and suck you into the island. On the North side of the Island there are lots of rocks above and right below the water. I got stuck there once, and I say once because I will never get that close again. I couldn't beat around the South end because the current was too strong, and I couldn't go the Northern route because it would take me too close to the rocks. I tried sailing out of it on both tacks, in every direction, to no avail. What finally worked was to start the engine and go high rpm/full sail DDW away from the shore. I did that for about a half hour until I got out of the current and could resume course. I made it about 2 or 300 yards in the half hour.

CharlieCobra 10-12-2007 03:19 PM

No doubt. I always approach everything as if I had no engine in case it or the tranny packs it in. If it's gonna fail, it's gonna fail when ya most need it. I guess sailing without an engine for the first year was the best teacher here.

Raggbagger 10-12-2007 03:43 PM

Having no engine was how I ended up with a lee shore in the first place ( see post #3 ) and depending on the strength of the wind , the old iron jib may not do much for you , other than delay the inevitable. Thats ok though . As I said before keep trying things until something works , there are just too many variables to give a step by step proceedure on this one . Wish there was an easy answer , but what fun would that be ? We wouldn't get to say " Haaa yet again we cheat death " and have great stories we can brag about . Even when we needed a change o undies at the time .

TrueBlue 10-12-2007 03:44 PM


Question to the experts ... What affects your ability to sail off a lee shore, at what point does it become "dangerous", and at what point does it become "impossible", and why ?
As was said, without knowing the lee shore's geography, relative to wind direction - and boat's distance from hard ground, this is such a general question with no correct answer.

By no means am I an "expert sailor", but having singlehanded her for the past four seasons, I did learn how she handles under most conditions. Her fastest point of sail is a close to beam reach using a moderate amount of sail. Full sail under strong winds makes her heel quickly, but will maintain stablility. The deep, modified fin keel does minimize sideslip, allowing for laterally sailing along the lee shore. I would simply point as high as possible and eventually, crab away to safer waters.

Worse case scenario, if sailing proves to be a losing battle and powering is not an option, I'd drop all sail, deploy the storm anchor with 250 feet of chain, and ride out the storm.

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