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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Seamanship & Navigation
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  #31  
Old 04-10-2012
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Re: Thunderstorm in Chesapeake Bay

Quote:
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- midlifesailor
Good advice


Donna and I take the oppertunity when we spot a thunderstorm to hurry and anchor get our kite with 500 ft of string and the biggest copper key we can find and send it up the kite- We are trying to recreate Ben Franklins experiment

Seriously though if anchored we 1- set Drag Queen ( great droid anchor alarm and 2 set the chartplotter anchor alarm. Next we look around at potential draggers and try and see if they are getting ready or obliviously partying ( we try and anchor far away from these but ineveitably they plop down next to you while you are below. After acccessing I look for our out plan. I will now write down coordinates (great tip), 4 Turn on my droid I pad and watch the cells on Raindar to look at location. Once I feel they will hit we put our connector in and side panels which have windows and I sit in the cockpit and watch the festivities and make sure we are safe....sometimes with the engine running. Foulies next to me if needed

If under way sailing we dowse the main ( lazy jacks of course) tie it well and furl in to a blade the jib and creep keepin us in a large area of deep water. Storms usually pass quickly.

One of the worst T Storms I hever experience was in Delaware Bay about half way up going north 10 mi south of Egg Point. We were virtually in the middle and could see it coming for miles with no where to go. Large fetch...shallow water...Delaware bay so short choppy square waves 4 seconds apart. Since we ride the tide..wind against current though the wind kept switching which even further confused the seas. The storm litterally stopped us in our tracks so we were making VOG of .2 miles for almost 35 minutes. Hail the size of quarters so I was glad I had douesed th main and rolled the jib and was under engine power. It put no less than 35 holes in the bimini and dodger in less than 5 minutes. We were screaming when the thunderclaps went off and sounded like they were in the cockpit.. lots of adrenaline...then sunshine and calmness like nothing happened. All in 35 minutes. Nature is always the boss.

Dave
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Last edited by chef2sail; 04-10-2012 at 09:10 PM.
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  #32  
Old 04-11-2012
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Re: Thunderstorm in Chesapeake Bay

I'll share a few experiences here...

When I was a kid we were staying aboard at our marina one night when a t-storm of the slow moving variety hit. In the middle of the storm, by which point it was pitch black out and almost zero visibility, a large power boat came in looking for a place to tie up. My dad and a couple other guys from our dock went out to try to help him. The boat approached the open T-head at the end of the dock and at one point a single line was secured between the boat and dock. For unknown reasons though, the boat's skipper or crew cut the line loose and after another 15 or 20 minutes of trying to jockey back to the T-head against cross winds, gave up and motored off. The next morning the boat was on the beach opposite the marina. Looking back I suspect he may have tried to anchor in the narrow channel off the dock where there wouldn't have been enough room to let out adequate scope.

Fast forward to when I was sailing J22s and Sonars and twice I managed to just barely outrun storms and make it back to the dock before the skies opened. Really just barely - both times just managed to tie up to the dock and then ducked under the mainsail on the cockpit sole to try to stay somewhat dry. Both times I saw the thunderheads building but misjudged how quickly they'd turn into storms. In those small, motorless, open boats, staying out to ride out the storm never seemed like a good call though.

On the current boat I haven't yet had the experience of being caught out (knock on wood - though I know it's only a matter of time) but we have ridden a couple out while on the hook, the worst of which happened when we anchored in possibly one of the best storm hole spots - Granary Creek. Luckily we had out plenty of scope.
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  #33  
Old 04-11-2012
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Re: Thunderstorm in Chesapeake Bay

Looks like we have two slightly contradictory bits of advice. Some say head to the middle of the bay for more sea room and others say find a lee shore (probably the west side of the bay for the typical TS).

So my question is with the shifting winds of a thunderstorm, how often does the lee shore turn not so lee as the thunderstorm passes? I have a 22' shoal draft boat that could easily tuck up to a lee shore but I would be afraid of winds turning on me. On the other hand with only 22' I would probably feel safer close to a lee shore than in the middle of the bay as the seas build.
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Old 04-11-2012
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Re: Thunderstorm in Chesapeake Bay

I think the advice given was to "favor" the lee shore during a storm while still having the room to maneuver. Not so much fetch doesn't give the sea much room to build. The winds would be slightly less as well.
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Re: Thunderstorm in Chesapeake Bay

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Originally Posted by andrewoliv View Post
I think the advice given was to "favor" the lee shore during a storm while still having the room to maneuver. Not so much fetch doesn't give the sea much room to build. The winds would be slightly less as well.
That plus we're talking about fast moving summer thunderstorms that don't really last long enough to build waves very much. The primary hazards are high winds with wide variablity in direction, reduced visibility and lightning. Wave action has been a minor issue in my experience with summer thunderstorms. Two or three days of strong winds from the north or south have produced much rougher wave conditions than any TS I've yet to experience.

Favoring the western shore is a good strategy so long as you don't favor it too much. lol

My thinking is I would not want to be trying to negotiate some place like the entrance to either HHS or HHN where you have a narrow, shallow channel you must stay in to avoid disaster when you might not be able to see more that a boat length ahead and you have 15-20 degrees of heel under bare poles from the gust front.
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  #36  
Old 04-11-2012
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Re: Thunderstorm in Chesapeake Bay

Agree. JKEMP's concern was having a 22' boat and riding out the storm in the bay. I believe that if he favors the lee shore he should be just fine. The waves should not be too bad. If he drops his sails and points her in the wind he should be able to ride it out. Of course "into the wind" may vary.
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Old 04-11-2012
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Re: Thunderstorm in Chesapeake Bay

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Originally Posted by jkemp101 View Post
Looks like we have two slightly contradictory bits of advice. Some say head to the middle of the bay for more sea room and others say find a lee shore (probably the west side of the bay for the typical TS).

So my question is with the shifting winds of a thunderstorm, how often does the lee shore turn not so lee as the thunderstorm passes? I have a 22' shoal draft boat that could easily tuck up to a lee shore but I would be afraid of winds turning on me. On the other hand with only 22' I would probably feel safer close to a lee shore than in the middle of the bay as the seas build.
The storm tactics that you should adopt are entirely dependent on the specific conditions that you encounter. For example, if the wind is coming more or less directly out of the west, I can't say that I have ever seen the wind change as much as 180 degrees during a storm, although I know it's possible. But. let's consider some variations.

Suppose you're headed south down the bay, and the wind is northerly. You won't ordinarily get any shelter from the wind and fetch by hugging either shore, so you are probably better off running down the center, keeping sea room on both sides. However, suppose the wind is northwesterly. At certain points in the bay, the western shoreline juts out into the bay. A couple examples I might mention are in the area around Plum Point, and north of Solomons, and one place that saved my behind once was around Sandy Point Light. If the wind direction is just right, you can get relief from wind and waves if you can get into the lee of a point of land. When I had a particularly bad time of it, the northwesterly wind was measured at 55 kts at Thomas Point Light while I was heading south at Sandy Point Light, and I got just enough respite from the western shoreline at Sandy Point Light to give the boat relief from the steep rollers striking the boat on the starboard quarter. We were getting beaten up until we were able to work the boat far enough to the west to get into the lee of the western shoreline. As soon as we got there, the relief was immediate.

Another example is, if you're sailing south towards Solomons, and the wind is southwesterly, the western shoreline that juts out to the east, to the north of Cove Point, will shelter the boat from wind and waves. If you sail to the west along that shoreline, the trees and high bluffs of Calvert Cliffs will greatly moderate the southwesterly wind and waves.

The shoreline of the bay meanders in and out, and, depending on the wind direction at any given time, it can provide shelter, not just in terms of a safe place to anchor, but also while underway.
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  #38  
Old 04-11-2012
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Re: Thunderstorm in Chesapeake Bay

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Originally Posted by pdqaltair View Post
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).
You're going to have to help me here. 75 kts? I haven't seen F12 on the Bay from a thunderstorm. I remember winds in the 40s on more than one occasion. I seem to recall low 50s while at anchor during one of our "hurricane" non-events. I don't remember ever seeing 75 reported credibly. Can you point to a source?

There is no question that a J/22 or a small Catalina will have a rougher time than my 22k# 40' boat. Even so, I'm not going to "reef" the jib - I don't want to depend on that single reefing line to keep the sail from unrolling. I roll it all the way up and put several wraps of sheet around it. If I happen to have the staysail rigged that goes up so I can point. If it isn't on deck there isn't likely to be time to do so. Regardless I reef down the main as seems appropriate (one, two, or three reefs depending on how black the sky is and what the radio chatter sounds like).

In a big gust (say 35 kts gusting 50) my boat will certainly blow over a good bit and might round up which reduces windage anyway. I don't mean to minimize the potential damage that can come from a Chesapeake thunderstorm. We all have to know our own limits and those of the boat we're on. There is little value in scaring the bejeepers out of people unnecessarily.

Did we mention PFDs? Lights? Sound signals? All relevant.
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  #39  
Old 04-11-2012
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Re: Thunderstorm in Chesapeake Bay

I'm coming up from a O'Day daysailer so storm tactics on the bay are a little new to me. Sailing out of the West River. Securing the furled Genoa seems like a good thing to add to the list. Furlers are new to me but I would imagine that if the furling line or sheets got loose somehow, it would be a very unwanted challenge to deal with. So in my situation with a furler, single reefable (older) main, not a lot of sailing experience, 22 foot boat. My plan would generally be:
  1. If you detect storm early enough, get in to shelter
  2. If not, start motor
  3. Secure foresail and main
  4. Get family in cabin with PFDs on/ready. Keep them away from metal/wires.
  5. Head towards the lee shore
  6. Ensure my anchor is ready with 250ft of rode
  7. Try to stay pointed into the wind while the storm passes
  8. Deploy anchor if motor quits

I think I might get some compass headings ready so that I could motor in limited visibility with a general idea of where I am headed but unless I am far from my home port I would probably already know these.
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Old 04-11-2012
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Re: Thunderstorm in Chesapeake Bay

I have been on the Bay a few times in storms, and have seen the low 50's as recent as 2 days ago coming up from Deltaville. It amazes me everytime how quickly the Bay can build, and how confused the seas get, especially if current and wind work against each other. Also all the rivermouths will provide you with even more variability due to the built up fetch and currents, and the protected lee of a shoreline can be 2 hours away.
Lessons I learned from this weeks gale:
Reef even earlier, set up third reef, be able to blow the sheets quickly and get a cooler with a lockable lid .
I will second Dave's point about the furling line on the genny. Mine blew about 3 years ago offshore in about 45 k, and caused an immediate knockdown. Above 25 k, the main should be enough for hull speed.
I am also clearly on the side to keep the sail up, as it provides more stability and the power to get through the chop.
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