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cmendoza 05-30-2004 12:48 PM

What should I have done?
Evening folks...
Just got back from a multi-day sail north on the Hudson and have a question.

First, my wife and I sail an 1982 Catalina 30 (tall-rig) that we''ve owned for exactly 1 year on Wednesday.

We where south of the Bear Mountain Bridge under full main and 150% genoa... not much of a breeze (about 2-3 knots). We were on the west side of the Hudson and had just completed our turn onto a port tack... I complained to my wife about the lack of wind (big mistake!) when out of nowhere came a howling 20-25 knot blow... not a sudden gust, a constant 20-25 knot wind from the north that literally sunk our toe-rail under water (first time we''ve experienced that) and filled the until then glass like Hudson with a nasty white capped chop.

After fumbling around for what seemed like an eternity (dunking the toe-rail two more times, I managed to head North into the wind, furl the wildling flailing jib, drop the main and turn on the engine.

Not exactly graceful and sailor like!

What I''m hoping for, is some indication of how I should have reacted in said situation.

Thank you all in advance for your help.

SV Rocinante

paulk 05-30-2004 07:32 PM

What should I have done?
Sounds like you ended up doing what you wanted to do. Perhaps not as rapidly and seamanlike as you would have wanted, but safely. As with flying, any landing you walk away from is O.K. You''ve now had practice for the next time. What SHOULD you have done? That depends. It might have been a really cool ride to have headed off towards Manhattan in that breeze -- but then you''d still have had to turn around at some point , and have had the same problem, possibly with worse waves, since they''d have had more ttime and fetch to build. You may have been able to conttinue sailing to windward under just the main, but you''d still have to get the genoa down or rolled up (150% is much too big for tthat much wind on that boat on that heading.) Even just the main might have been too much sail for comfortt in the breeze you had. Reefing the main would make things a bit less hairy and also make boathandling easier by being better balanced. With just the two of you, doing the takedowns and reefing could take a while. There are so many variables -- it sounds like you did just fine.

39512 05-31-2004 01:48 AM

What should I have done?
Ditto what Paul said. The only thing, in a quick takedown, think of the engine first in case something jams. You may find that once you strike all the sails, the engine won''t start immediately.

cmendoza 05-31-2004 03:27 AM

What should I have done?
Thanks Paul, I appreciate the feedback.
I''ve been going through this in my head trying to figure out what to do next time so that it will be more of a reflex action as opposed to a series of potentially dangerous trial-and-error attempts to right the boat.

In the end, I think the problem was that I reacted to the situation as I would to a sudden gust, as opposed to a change in wind conditions...

Again, thanks for the input.

SV Rocinante

cmendoza 05-31-2004 03:34 AM

What should I have done?
Thanks 39512...

Actually, now that I think about it, I did start the engine first. I think more out of a need to keep the boat into the wind than because I anticipated that it might not start immediately or at all for that matter (wouldn''t be the first time).

Thanks again for your input,
SV Rocinante

Denr 06-01-2004 06:02 AM

What should I have done?
There probably is no universally correct answer in this situation as most of us that have been sailing for some time have been caught off guard especially when conditions seemed so benign. Resorting to the engine would NOT have been my first reaction, seems as if you had an abundance of propulsion power available at the time...the wind! Most auxiliary engines are not terribly effective at powering a sailboat into a 25-knot headwind anyway.

Given enough sea room I would have fallen way off the wind (in an effort to reduce the apparent wind) even if it meant heading in the opposite direction of your intended route and furled most of the headsail in. Then I would turn back into the wind, hardened the main to de-power it, let the traveler down and feather the boat into the wind until the conditions subsided. The Catalina 30 should be able to handle these conditions without much fuss. I would have gauged the situation and thrown in a reef while going up wind if the conditions warranted. A lot of valuable time is lost fumbling for the ignition switch, pre-heating the engine, taking it out of forward and putting it into neutral to start the engine.

I can’t understand why we as sailors rely so much on the piece of equipment we all hate to use, the iron maiden! What are we men or mice……pass the cheese please!

bob_walden 06-01-2004 07:06 AM

What should I have done?
I''d add to the well-reasoned comments above the following: try not to be taken by suprise by the weather. You''ll never be able to do this 100%, but try nonetheless. Make sure you have a good NOAA mariner''s forecast for the day, and if it indicates possible gusts like the one you experienced, have a plan for reefing ready to go. As the day goes by, you can also check in on the WX VHF channels to see if anything noteworthy is developing. As you navigate, ask yourself frequently "what would I do right now if the wind died/gusted/shifted/...". The former also applies if you''re motoring--"what would I do right now if the engine died/won''t go into forward/reverse/...". And don''t forget "what would I do right now if someone falls overboard/another boat doesn''t seem to see me/my rig fails/..."

Also, sustained gusts like the one you describe are easy to see coming if you watch the water surface--you can see the oncoming wind usually as a darker, less-reflective area of water where the waves are enlarged. If you keep a "weather eye" out, you can be more prepared for these gusts by shortening sail ahead of time.


hamiam 06-01-2004 10:44 AM

What should I have done?
A few thoughts. I can''t see any harm in starting the engine and letting it idle. Its a good safety especially if something goes wrong. 2nd a company named Oregon Scientific makes a handheld weather radio that you can program for your local area. If it gets a severe weather report for your area it wakes itself up and you start hearing the report.

Sailormon6 06-01-2004 03:49 PM

What should I have done?
Whatever the problem that you are responding to, the most important thing is to gain control of the problem as soon as possible. Your fear goes away as soon as you regain control. If you are a skilled sail handler, I agree with Denr, that you should reduce sail area and continue sailing, but if you have a hank-on headsail and/or are uncomfortable tucking in a reef other than at the dock, your better choice is probably to get the sails down and start the motor. Whenever I lower the sails, I take the jib down first, because, even if I''m singlehanding, the boat will self-steer on the mainsail alone with a lashed tiller or a tiller tamer or other self-steering mechanism. Denr''s suggestion to bear off downwind is also good. The sound and fury and excessive heeling dissipate when you head downwind, but you have to watch out for an accidental jibe.

maestro 06-02-2004 04:19 AM

What should I have done?
as the Hudson lessens in width from the bend in the river just north of Peekskill Bay to the Bear Mtn. Bridge (with Anthony''s nose on the East side and the the hills on the west side) that area acts like a wind tunnel on many days.
Hopefully, you know that even with 25kt winds, you''re pretty safe in the Catalina 30 and the most that will happen is that you will round up into the wind. (after getting a bit wet) I always have 1 hand on the mainsheet and can blow the sheet at any time I feel like there''s too much wind.

Mike C.
Hudson River NY

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