First storm in a sailboat; lessons learned, advice wanted. - Page 2 - SailNet Community
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post #11 of 81 Old 06-06-2010
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alan - great story, great attitude, and great lessons learned. I am hereby stealing this story for the BFS thread.

This is definitely one for the books.

S/V Dawn Treader - 1989 Hunter Legend 40
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post #12 of 81 Old 06-06-2010
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Don't go overboard on new sails

Originally Posted by alanr77 View Post
She needs new sails anyway so I may get three reefs installed in the new sail. Definitely need new headsails including a storm jib. The area I sail in is quite volatile and it is very likely that this is not the last storm I will get caught up in.
Look for used sails (from Bacon or someone similar). I am familiar with Bacon's rating system and anything from Good to Excellent would do the trick. If you get a new main consider two reefs but perhaps each a bit bigger than the standard size. With three reefs you end up with a lot of lines on board. Better to have a two-reef system that works really well. I can't imagine that you would ever need a true storm jib for a coastal cruiser since you can avoid the conditions where this would be used - by not going out when there is anything over 30 knots forecast. We just finished a 6400 mile cruise including 11 days from the Chesapeake to St Thomas and I never even 'thought' about using either my storm jib or storm trysail. If you have a larger genoa and a working jib (~100%) that is all you will need.

I have no idea if your boat would heave to well or not. Best thing is to experiment. Try it in 10 knots and see what happens; if it works, try it in 15 and work your way up the scale. The basic idea is pretty simple, tack the boat without letting go the jib sheet. Beyond this there are lots of possibilities, like how much jib is best, how much main, are you better with board up or down, how will you keep the tiller at the right angle. It is fun to experiment. You will not stop the boat in one place. It will forereach at a knot or so but should be pretty comfortable compared to bare poles in a squall.

After the refit we have decided to sell Ainia. We want something smaller that would be could for the light summer winds of Lake Ontario, although we plan to spend at least a couple of winters in the Caribbean before heading north.
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post #13 of 81 Old 06-06-2010
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All of the above posts pretty much cover it. Having been out on a V-21 in 25 knots, I can relate to how wild your ride was. If you'd had the jib and doused the main, there would not have been any weather helm but the issue with the inlet would've been the same and you would've suddenly found the meaning of lee helm when ya tried to come up. Get the new working jib and run sail controls to the cockpit. The housetop or side deck of a C-22 is NO place to be in a Gale.

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Bellingham, WA.

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post #14 of 81 Old 06-06-2010
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It's always good to live to tell these stories..
You got your ship and crew home kudos!

I concur with a working Jib...a 150 is more often than not imo too much headsail except in light winds.

install Double reefs in the main. Practice reefing. You can reef a mainsail from a hove-to position, so you don't have to start the engine and put her in irons.

Reefing early is always wise, but I completely understand that you wanted speed to get you in ahead of the storm...sometimes you win that race..
Once you realize you are losing the's best to stay well outside the inlet and turn into the weather imo.

If it's a line squall, I usually double reef the main, drop the jib or furl the genny and start my engine. Turn into the wind and fore-reach following the wind shifts. You want just enough speed to hold you to wind and give you steerage. Usually, as in your case the storm is short lived and there's not enough time for the seas to build that much. Once the storm passes, you can head for home.

As Charlie mentioned...I might have doused the main and ran before the wind ( broad reaching ) with the genoa. The main is what kept heading you up.
But then if you don't get in ahead of the're stuck with the big headsail up and lee helm and no way to hold you to weather..with a small outboard. So it's a judgment call as to who's going to get there 1st.
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post #15 of 81 Old 06-06-2010 Thread Starter
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"The housetop or side deck of a C-22 is NO place to be in a Gale" .......Yes, I found this out the hard way. Should have won a medal for the gymnast actions of holding myself to the boat, holding the boat to myself and wrestling the sails, tie down lines and such.

My boat is as basic as it gets, no proper cunningham, no boom vang, not even a proper outhaul. Oh and no topping lift, pigtails are used throughout. I am working on this though I like the simplicity as I don't race.

Big funny looking orange life jackets were on the minute we reduced sail. I really need some better vests.....

Its interesting reading about keeping some sail up in these blows. Instinct said to take it all down. The reef point on the main is only about 2' above the bolt rope. Does that 2' really make that much of a difference?

I spent some time today reading about reefing methods and it seems on my boat it is a lot simpler than some of the drawings make it out to be. Being that I have no outhaul and the foot is attached with a shackle. I can simply have two lines, pre measured and ready to go to attach the foot and clew to their respective shackles. Small bungees will hold the other grommets and excess sail in place. I'll test fire this theory this week. Thanks for the replies, Alan.
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post #16 of 81 Old 06-06-2010
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I agree with Tempest and Charlie. I usually drop the main first , then the jib. For us, it's usually, Reef 1, Reef 2, no main, then shorten jib. I find that the little bit of lee helm that we experience with just the jib is far preferable to weather helm which is so tiring to combat.

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post #17 of 81 Old 06-06-2010
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The 2 feet for the first reef makes more of a difference then you might think for a couple of reasons. First of all, it is on the widest part of the sail, so it reduces the area disproportionately. I am not sure of your sail size, but if you go back to your basic geometry and do the sail area, I would be surprised if even the first reef did not reduce the sail area by 15% or more. Equally important, when you reef, you move the center of effort of the sail down closer to the water. Lowering the center of effort reduces the heeling moment, thus stabilizing the boat.
It sounds like you did a pretty good job. One thing you may want to work on is heading up. You said that you were unable to head into the wind for fear of capsizing. Next time you are out in less terrifying circumstances, practice turning into the wind. You will usually find that the boat heels quite a bit until you reach a certain point, then it straightens up completely. You need to spend time with the boat to understand how much heeling it can take. You may be surprised at how much it can take. Also, with a smaller boat like yours, the distribution of crew weight is critical. Set yourself and the crew as outboard as possible to counteract the heel and it will help quite a bit.

As many others have said, you ended up doing fine, and more importantly, you are thinking about the lessons learned to do even better next time.
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post #18 of 81 Old 06-06-2010
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From reading this thread, I feel that you did very well; learned some valuable lessons and have received excellent advice from the other posters.

My only comments are that a good reefing system is worth its weight in gold. Second, when you start thinking about putting in a reef, it's time to actually do it. Finally, it is a lot easier to shake out an unnecessary reef than it is to put in a reef in bad conditions.


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post #19 of 81 Old 06-07-2010
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Good job gettting the boat through the storm! That's more wind than I have sailed through, but for the conditions you describe I would want life jackets with built-in harnesses, along with jacklines and tethers.

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post #20 of 81 Old 06-07-2010
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Good story & well played. Also some thoughtful responses on this thread -- thanks!

Having been caught in 50kts on a SJ21, I understand how small a boat can feel in those conditions. But the fact your boat made it through undamaged suggests you haven't yet plumbed its limits. We focus on our shortcomings and let the boat do its job. So far, it hasn't let us down.

Where you sail, you may benefit from two reefs in the main -- a shallower one for balancing the sailplan on "steady 18kt" days, and a deep one for storms. The first should be maybe 18" and the second 36" above the boom. A 36" reef on a C22 will remove almost 30% of your mainsail area & substantially lower your center of effort. A well-designed jiffy-reefing system will also severely flatten the mainsail, giving control in gusts while keeping the boat moving and stabilized. We have one deep reef (32"), because the wind here is either ON or OFF. We can reef the main in under 30 seconds, without leaving the cockpit or companionway.

The jib is problematic. C22s employ large Genoas and are balanced for them, but a 150% is frankly a drifter sail. The material and tie points are too light and the CofE too far aft to perform in heavy air. Upwind it will flog, and downwind it is a broach looking for a place to happen. You should be able to find a good, generic used 110% for $150 or so; headsails are pretty flexible moving between boat species, tho you will need inboard sheeting for a blade jib. Another possibility is roller furling; our CDI FF2 has its shortcomings, but we can Make The Jib Go Away in five seconds w/out performing the deadly Foredeck Tango.

For us the sequence is: reef main (15-18kts); furl jib (~25kts). Our boat sails slowly-but-well on reefed main only. Some don't. Once you have balanced your sailplan & matched sail area to windspeed, the boat will take care of itself and you can focus on the bigger danger to our little craft: sea state. Running free is attractive but there is the danger of pooping, broaching, and surfing combined with vastly reduced steering control. You may find taking the waves on the quarter yields more control. Close reaching -- even just a bit above a beam reach -- can be surprisingly comfortable. Our boats don't heave to worth a darn, but they will forereach. We like to point 10 degrees above the beam through the worst blows. It's wet, and it pounds a little, but it allows the boat to sorta "march in place", an important consideration where searoom is lacking. It also keeps the pointy end into the crud, which it's good at. And you always have the option of bearing off. Once you are surfing down a deep heading, it can be hard to head back up.

Finally, I know what it's like to feel as if every job has to be yours. When a gale rips thru, I find myself grabbing for control lines, running forward to dog the hatch, steering with my toes, etc., because my girlfriend lacks experience. We have agreed to teach her two bad-weather jobs that will be strictly hers to do, and we promise to drill until she is automatic and fast. She will furl the jib and secure the companionway. That way, I can focus on the mainsail and steering. We hope as time goes on to invert these roles. But multi-tasking is too much to ask of new crew, so instead we tend to ask nothing of them and do it all ourselves. That is dangerous for everyone.

You did brilliantly, you have a great story to share, you extracted sharp lessons from the day, and I'd sail with you anytime. Thanks for the story, and thanks everyone for responding with constructive and positive critiques.

Buccaneer18, Grainnia
SJ21, Diarmuid
Albin Ballad 30, Fionn
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