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Seamanship & Navigation Forum devoted to seamanship and navigation topics, including paper and electronic charting tools.

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Old 02-18-2011
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It happens all the time. Not paying attention, or a wind shift you don't see. It happens. I usually fell the wind die, the apparent speed drops off and I immediately head up or check the windex. If the pressure drops, I should probably head up anyway, as sailing 170* is very slow. Check your polars.
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Old 02-18-2011
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I accidentally jibe often in winds under 5 kts here in the Hudson Valley. The winds around Storm King Mountain, that drops right down to the river, are so flukey that there can be a 90 degree shifts in one boatlength. At that windspeed the boom just lazily swings over to the other side in 5 to 10 seconds. No biggie there.

As someone said earlier in this thread - if you haven't had an accidental jibe you probably haven't been sailing much. I have learned from some of the harrowing ones I've been a part of that if you have the slightest feeling you might need a preventer, then get one on - fast. It can get a bit interesting with the main full and drawing on the wrong side, held there by a stout preventer, but it is preferable to the alternative of busting something - gear at best and heads at worst. When I head out for the ocean I keep a preventer rigged and ready at all times.
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Old 02-19-2011
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Several years ago while sailing the boat back from a race in Palm Beach w/ my dad, the wind suddenly shifted directions, while maintaining our course, then suddenly shifted back. My dad said "I've never seen that happen before". We were off the Pompano Beach seafood festival and shortly after heard screaming from ashore & saw tents & people's hats flying around. Apparently a tornado-like vortex formed, passed us and hit the festival. It was a very strange experience.

Another time while sailing/fishing in the Abacos, we had a big fish on the line. My dad wasn't paying attention and we accidentally jibed. The boom nearly hit my head. All for a undesirable barracuda.

Whenever I go sailing now I tell the crew to always keep their heads below where the boom swings & anytime they need there heads above this point to be aware of the boom at all times.
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Old 02-20-2011
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I had my entire family (3 kids, wife and me) in a Sonar on the Patapsco River one Father's Day. We were on a starboard tack broad reach after making the right turn to head out past Fort McHenry when the wind suddenly did a double shift, slamming the boom from the starboard side to the port, and before I could do more than form the letters WTF? in my mind, it slammed back over to the starboard side. Luckily the boom on a Sonar is way over everyone's head sitting in the cockpit, so it was just a surprise with no harm done -- not to people or to rigging.

When I was taking my ASA certifications I was taught two things about avoiding accidental gybes: keep a close eye on the jib, and if it starts to collapse -- TILLER TO THE BOOM TO AVOID DOOM!

That is to say, push the tiller over to the side where the boom is out, AKA head up-wind.
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Old 02-20-2011
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Agree with all. I haven't had an accidental gybe in anything but light conditions because I am CHICKEN. If the wind is up or shifty, I don't sail deep enough to risk it. Or, I pay very close attention.

Practice running wing-and-wing in light conditions. That will train you to sail close to the knife edge of gybing.
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Old 02-20-2011
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This forum topic is very timely.

I was in an offshore race 2 days ago. We had a 25kt tail wind, the jib was poled out (to windward) on a run with a rolling sea. We had an accidental gybe and one of the crew was thrown by the mainsheet and ended needing urgent treatment in a hospital. Thankfully he's fine now ... and I won't spoil your lunches with any further details of what happened ;-)

The poled out jib took away the usual telltale signs that the boat is in the "gybe zone". If the boat if rolling on the sea, you need to be well off a dead run to avoid a gybe.

I don't want to go through this again so I'm now in the market for a boom brake.

For those who haven't seen one in action, have a look at this link:

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Old 02-20-2011
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Originally Posted by chrism33 View Post
For those who haven't seen one in action, have a look at this link:
I am a big fan of boom brakes, I prefer them to preventers. They do not stop a gybe, but they sure slow one down. Rigging and releasing a preventer presents its own problems, as does intentionally gybing.
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Old 02-21-2011
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Love these little reminders, will memories this one.
And look at fitting a boom brake as I never liked the preventer when single handing.
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Old 02-21-2011
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Originally Posted by rmeador View Post
This thread reminds me of a question... does anyone make boom end padding? I was thinking of buying some pipe insulation at home depot and wrapping the end of my boom with it so if it smacked someone in the head, it wouldn't hurt so much. It might not be much help during an accidental gybe, but I hit my head on the damn thing all the time just sitting at the dock.
Like most sailors, I've had an accidental gybe from time to time, but really try to avoid them. The last one was several years ago in moderate wind conditions. I'm not sure exactly how it happened...I was at the wheel but was focused on trying to get a sailing companion to make a traveler adjustment. I'm not sure if I accidentally moved the wheel, had the rudder in wrong position, experienced a wind shift, or all of the above. One second, all was well, the next, the boom went flying across hard enough and violent enough to pull the leach end of the sail out of the boom bolt rope slot. Forget warning anyone, it happened so quickly that there would be no time to yell the warning, and if you did, it takes some reaction time for the other people. No one was hurt this time. The boat is a Catalina 320 and that boom went across so hard, that there is no doubt that it would have killed anyone it hit, whether it was padded or not. As has been pointed out, if the helmsman is paying close attention, there are warning signs from the sails, but if the helmsman is paying attention, he is unlikely to have such a gybe in the first place. I have since rigged the boat with preventers, but if you are frequently changing course, you (me at least) are likely not to set them. Because of the possibility of being caught off guard by a wind shift, I try not to sail straight down wind. If you aren't confined by the channel, traffic, or in a race, there generally is no real need to run straight down wind. On long runs, it's probably ok to sail closer downwind if you set the preventers.
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Old 02-21-2011
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Lets talk about boom brakes, they look like a great idea. Why not use them always? A simple piece of metal wrapped in a rope, and gybes are a lot less stressful. I have never seen one in person, or seen one used. Do they work? Are they hard to use? How about an adjustable shock cord on the mainsheet connection? It would pull the boom to center when the wind shifts, (or stalls), and slow it down when the boom goes over to the other side, just like a person would on a controlled gybe. An adjustment would control tension for light or heavy winds.
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