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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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  #21  
Old 04-10-2012
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Re: Thunderstorm in Chesapeake Bay

After reading Hal Roth's Book "Handling storms at sea" I wonder about using lying ahull in the Bay during a Tstorm as long as you have enough sea room. Since you should not have to worry about breaking seas in the bay seems like this could be an alternative. I have never used it yet, I have always just dropped sail, started the engine and pointed the boat into the wind.
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  #22  
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Re: Thunderstorm in Chesapeake Bay

Normally I would never use the lying ahull method....however speaking of thunderstorms on the Bay that is exactly what I did when one approached when sailing on the Patuxent river. All sails were doused and the wheel was locked and we sat under the dodger not touching anything metal. As the boat neared the shore on one tack, I unlocked the rudder and let the boat go on the opposite tack until the storm had passed.

Another time coming back into Solomons at night, I was trying to get back before the storm struck. Did not make it and was caught in the channel going in. The wind was gusting so I had to maintain steerage, but could not see much beyound the bow. Watched the compass heading and looked to the side to see dock lights as I passed some marinas, however as I neared my marina going through an anchorage with boats anchored that I could not see I was fortunate enough to get a lightening bolt which let me see what was ahead. That is the one and only time that I wanted to see lightening.
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  #23  
Old 04-10-2012
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Re: Thunderstorm in Chesapeake Bay

Quote:
Originally Posted by midlifesailor View Post
If you sail on the Chesapeake you will sooner or later be exposed to a lightning storm. The advice already given is pretty much what I do.

The only thing I can add is to realize that you are not going to be outrunning any TS you can see on your sailboat. If its in sight, you'll just have time to reef or secure the sails and maybe get your foulies on before its on top of you. It can be tempting to try to make it through that narrow entrance channel to a safe harbor, but its more likely you will get caught in high gusty winds, near zero visiblity and high adreniln from the lightning striking around you at the worst possible time. Its much safer (on the Chesapeake) to weather a summer storm in an area where you have room to manuver in any direction the storm dictates. Its also very hard to tell if the storm is going to hit you, which is likely why there are so many tales of sailors waiting too late and getting spanked. Better to take the precautions while you can and if the storm misses you, great go back to what you were doing.

I just moved from HHS to Shipwright and wouldn't be too thrilled about being caught in a TS while in the "slot" running between HHS and HHN. There is a bit of room in there but not a whole lot. I'd rather wait out the storm somewhere further out and make the run in after it had passed.

One thing not mentioned, that I do at anchor is determine a "panic azimith" which is a safe intial direction to point the boat if you have to get going in a hurry in the dark or low visiblity like a heavy downpour. I write it down and leave it at the helm so I know a compass bearing to steer immediately. I also will keep a fender at the bow in case I need to leave the anchor quickly so I can secure the rode to a floating object to retrieve later. Lastly, there have been some achorages where I felt constrained enough to don foulies and sit through a TS in the cockpit with the engine running in case the shifts broke the anchor free.
Some great ideas! I always keep a 100% watch if there is a t.s. approaching. Having plenty of fenders out is a good idea because boats almost always slip anchors. I've had a number of "catches." Ski goggles work well because visibility in driving rain is often close to 0 and impossible without eye protection. I really like your "panic azimuth" idea and will start doing that.
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  #24  
Old 04-10-2012
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Re: Thunderstorm in Chesapeake Bay

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Originally Posted by andrewoliv View Post
RichH Can you elaborate on "updraft" and "downdraft"? I assume updraft is wind blowing towards the storm and down draft vice versa?
Updrafts and downdrafts are vertical movements of air up and down that result from significant pressure differences as a function of altitude.
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  #25  
Old 04-10-2012
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SV got it. However, I have never experienced an up or down draft on the water. Thus the question. How are they identified?
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  #26  
Old 04-10-2012
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Re: Thunderstorm in Chesapeake Bay

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Originally Posted by andrewoliv View Post
RichH Can you elaborate on "updraft" and "downdraft"? I assume updraft is wind blowing towards the storm and down draft vice versa?
Correct, its when a storm 'matures' and the upwelling air becomes saturated and form large droplets and sometimes ice pellets/hail and can no longer 'support the load' is when the air reverse into a downdraft and you can get 'straight line winds' near the bottom of the storm that can easily be 70kts +. If there is any 'rotation' to the cell, you then tornadic winds .... I always look for the 'wall cloud' as it can more than 'unpleasant' if you get 'inside' the path of a rotating T'storm.
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Old 04-10-2012
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Re: Thunderstorm in Chesapeake Bay

Quote:
Originally Posted by andrewoliv View Post
SV got it. However, I have never experienced an up or down draft on the water. Thus the question. How are they identified?
During the growth stage, TS's feed on warm moist air flowing in and up. This stage is characterized by towering cumulus clouds building high into the atmosphere often forming an "anvil" shaped head. During this stage, you're likely enjoying a comfortable onshore breeze as air is sucked into the engine that produces a TS.

In the dissapating stage, air has cooled and reached a saturation point becoming heavier and the column of air literally collapses through the middle of the storm until it hits the ground and speads out as a gust front. This is when the rain and winds hit the surface and you'll generally see a very rapid wind shift and increase in intensity.

When you see the "anvil" of the thunderhead and experience a big wind shift, you've gone from the effects of the updraft to the effects of the downdraft.
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  #28  
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Re: Thunderstorm in Chesapeake Bay

Quote:
Originally Posted by brokesailor View Post
After reading Hal Roth's Book "Handling storms at sea" I wonder about using lying ahull in the Bay during a Tstorm as long as you have enough sea room. Since you should not have to worry about breaking seas in the bay seems like this could be an alternative. I have never used it yet, I have always just dropped sail, started the engine and pointed the boat into the wind.
Assuming you were a good ways from any potential lee shore I'd say this might be a good option if you didn't want to start the engine for some reason, say like you were racing.

Yes, I know real racers would never consider this alternative, but I'm too chicken to want to find out what my boat sails like in 50 knot gusts and I'm too cheap to risk breaking anything so, this is probably exactly what I'd do if I got caught in a storm doing a distance race.

In 15/20 minutes you'll likely be able to put up some sail and get racing again with little risk of breaking anything.
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Last edited by PalmettoSailor; 04-10-2012 at 06:33 PM.
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  #29  
Old 04-10-2012
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Re: Thunderstorm in Chesapeake Bay

Heavy weather drill... yeh, yeh, yeh. That is for sustained winds of predictable force. A TS is Russian Roulette. You have no idea what is coming, much of the time.

Maybe 30 knots and a few drops. Maybe 45 knots and heavy rain. Maybe 75 knots and baseball hail (I got a hole in a hatch from that one). No boat I've seen on the Bay has any business trying to stand up to 75 knots with any sail they would actually have up (anything that might work wouldn't move the boat). And what of the risk of blowing out or even badly stretching a sail? More than a few have a destroyed a good main or jib because they thought it seemed like a challenge, a seaman-like thing to do. Nonsense. They only last minutes, sometimes longer.

I've been sailing on the Bay for 30 years, both with and without an engine. The worst I've seen was the hail storm and I survived it, but learned something. Nature holds the cards.

I don't fear TS weather. But I am realistic and avoid all I can. If you think you have survived a bad squall with sail up, either you simply feathered and there was no point in having sail, or perhaps you've not really met the beast yet. If it's really black, the smart folks are under barepoles and getting sea room, the more the better. Any other plan is fun and games.

------

None of which is to say you shouldn't learn to sail in a blow with varius combinations. Heck, engines fail. But a TS is a stupid classroom--there is only enough time to pass or fail, not enough to learn much.
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Re: Thunderstorm in Chesapeake Bay

Most thunderstorms on the bay come from the north or west, so I usually get close to the western shore and hug it. That often means heading from mid-bay towards the storm rather than away from it, but, you can't outrun it, so you might as well be in a good, safe place when it hits, and the safest place is on a weather shore, where the waves will be smaller and the boat's headway won't be impeded by big waves crashing against the bow, and the trees and bluffs along the shore will break the wind.
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