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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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  #1  
Old 08-07-2008
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Surfing & Broaching

The other night I got the urge to do some sailing and headed down to the marina to take her out. "Her" is a new-to-me, 1985, 26 foot Seafarer, 4' keel with keel attached ruddr, Edison wheel steering and an 8hp yanmar inboard. Leaving the harbor (Milford,CT) at low tide presents some problems due to Gulf Pond emptying into the channel which is at low tide only about 25 feet wide with 8 foot depths. This channel runs out to the "sea" buoy and so is about 1/4 mile long.


Transiting the channel, I determined that the wind and surf conditions were such that single-handing was going to be more of a chore than I wanted at that point (20-25 mph winds/2-3' surf, some breaking). Unable to turn around until I cleared the channel, and finding myself halfway to Charles Island, I figured I'd just motor around a bit to recharge batteries (the boats & my own ). Everything was fine until I started to head back to the channel and harbor.

The wind (unusually) was from the ESE and was pushing the surf right down the channel. Motoring in (2800rmp about 6mph) I found that the smaller waves would catch me up and pass under the boat but that the bigger ones would actually cause her to 'surf' for a bit. At one point I was hit with a bigger than usual set of waves which caused the bow to drop and pushed the stern hard to port. At the worst I was about 30 degrees off course to starboard and sliding down the wave . I immediately chopped power and turned back to port fearing a broach -she rocked pretty violently for a bit but it appeared I did the right thing.

Once that set of waves went past, I eased the power back up to about half speed and tried to keep in time with the wave sets coming by. My question then is/are . . .

Have you ever been in a similar position and what did you do?

Fair Winds

John Kimberly
SV Puppy Feet II
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Old 08-07-2008
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knothead has a spectacular aura about knothead has a spectacular aura about knothead has a spectacular aura about
Have I ever been in a similar situation. Yes

What did I do. Enjoyed a fun ride.

I love surfing but it doesn't happen to often.

You just have to pay real close attention to the helm.

If you were at sea with huge following seas, then that might call for a different strategy but under power with 4 or 5 foot waves shouldn't really be dangerous. But then again I don't know the area or channel that you were in.
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Old 08-07-2008
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Quitting sooner

You mentioned that, halfway out, you wanted to turn around but the channel was too narrow.

Using prop walk, you can turn around within your own boat length.

Here's an animation that's helped me become more confident in handling under power: Sailing Lessons, Sailboat Docking and Anchoring. Boat is similar to yours.
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Old 08-07-2008
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Quitting Sooner

I use prop-walk all the time to dock, mine has a pretty nice "swing the stern to port" motion that is really handy. Unfortunately with the wind blowing the way it was. plus the surf, I was afraid that turning around in that manner would present other, more difficult choices (like being broadside to the wind & waves) so I chose to just run out, turn and head back.

Thanks for the link to the animation, though.

jk
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Old 08-07-2008
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Have had this happen to me on 180 ft supply boats and a 210 ft Fishing vessel.
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Old 08-11-2008
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Wind & waves...sounds like the usual thing to encounter when on a boat. If they are not to your liking, maybe you should check the weather report and local conditions at your marina before you depart, at least until you get more confident handling your boat.
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Old 08-11-2008
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John,

I'm also in Milford Harbor. Are you sure it was the waves pushing you around and not the current from the pound? Low tide is tough do to the pound emptying out and my 30 ft. boat has been bounced around a bit.
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Old 08-12-2008
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Going head on to waves is nearly impossible in a small sailboat like yours, since the wave kills forward momentum and taking them at an angle is best . Certainly turning around in a narrow channel is not recommended. Continuing out to smoother waters before returning to port was a good call.

While boat steering is compromised in a following sea due to the wave catching the boat and pushing the rudder to port or starboard, most displacement boats handle more of these forces than their drivers due to righting moment (the keel weight resisting broaching) except on large breaking waves which are uncommon in shallow channels.

Controlling the boat's direction of movement can be corrected somewhat by anticipating the way the wave wants to push and turning the rudder to avoid that force. This takes some practice but can restore confidence as the driver gets the feel of the boat.

Considering both surfing and broaching there is another problem to consider that no one seems to have mentioned yet. Surfing the boat to stay ahead of the wave you are riding to avoid the following-wave-steering-problem can be fun and scary. But, if the boat is allowed to run down the wave slope at a great speed and catches the preceeding wave it may bury the bow in the preceeding wave and stop short. This may cause the boat to pitch pole which is turning the boat over end for end. Although uncommon in shallow channels, it's something to be aware of.
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Old 08-13-2008
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Sounds like you did the right things. You don't want to turn the boat broadside to relatively large waves in a narrow channel so continuing out was the only thing to do. Coming in you might have had a bit too much throttle, but you were there, I wasn't. Chopping the throttle and steering through the big one sounds right to me. Bottom line, you made it so you must have done something right.
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Old 08-14-2008
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And you are a lot wiser, because of this. I wish I had the internet when I began, or a mentor. I read everything I could, and still do. That's why I am on several sites!
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