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post #1 of 21 Old 04-12-2017 Thread Starter
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Weird Roundup under bridge...

Hello All, So, yesterday, I'm out for a sail, in my 35 MorganCB. Sail about 15 miles south, on a port tack, wind out of the SE. Turn around, sail back north, starboard tack wind out of the SE and backing to East. Getting ready to go under the 520 Bridge, here in Cocoa, FL, on the Indian River. It is my habit to hug the windward bumper. I'm doing 5 or 6 knots, cruising along like I have a couple of dozen times. Remember, I'm a rookie sailor. Usually, under the bridge the wind dies off. So, I'm scooting along about 15 feet from the bumper, just got between the bumpers, everything is cool and suddenly, she starts to round up hard. No sweat, turn the wheel to port and nothing. Things are starting to happen fast, I turn the wheel hard and I can feel way more pressure on the rudder than I ever felt and the boat is still rounding up and now the boat is headed AT THE BUMPER at a 45 degree angle and picking up speed. Anybody who has done a real roundup will know what I mean. I quess I had 10 or 15 feet to go to hit the bumper and it was happening quick. I was gonna hit the damn bumper at high speed with my 8 ton boat! So, Mr Rookie sailor had enough experience under his belt to turn around and snap the main sheet out of the clam clamp and let the main go. Then she righted herself and came around, about 5 feet from the bumper and scooted on under the bridge. Boy, was that a wild 15 seconds or so. I mean, I was gonna crunch that bumper at way too much of an angle, it wasn't gonna be a side swipe. Must have been a vortex or something there under the bridge. Great learning experience and I'll be a lot more alert next time I go under a damned bridge. Kevin
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post #2 of 21 Old 04-12-2017
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Re: Weird Roundup under bridge...

Puff. That's why the sheet handling setup is designed so you can let it go quickly. It is probably a cam cleat. Clam cleats can take longer to release because you have to pull in and up in order to release them. A strong puff might make it difficult to pull in the sheet to release it, so a cam, which only has to be pulled up, is the better arrangement. Fair winds!
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post #3 of 21 Old 04-12-2017
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Re: Weird Roundup under bridge...

That would mess up my shorts, for sure. Bridges almost always have their own wind patterns that can be hard to read. I like to take them in the middle.

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post #4 of 21 Old 04-12-2017
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Re: Weird Roundup under bridge...

Good way to learn by by not crashing anyway. Good example of what can happen sailing under bridges. Most will tell you to run the motor whether you need it or not just in case,
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Re: Weird Roundup under bridge...

Cam cleat, my bad. And I so wanted to get the terminology correct. It was the cam cleat on my fiddle block. kevin
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post #6 of 21 Old 04-12-2017
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Re: Weird Roundup under bridge...

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Originally Posted by paulk View Post
Puff. That's why the sheet handling setup is designed so you can let it go quickly. It is probably a cam cleat. Clam cleats can take longer to release because you have to pull in and up in order to release them. A strong puff might make it difficult to pull in the sheet to release it, so a cam, which only has to be pulled up, is the better arrangement. Fair winds!
Never trusted these things much past leach lines, even then looped them through. I guess they have their uses.
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post #7 of 21 Old 04-12-2017
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Re: Weird Roundup under bridge...

We were sailing under the Golden Gate bridge on the Schooner Viveka in a strong breeze, when the current flipped us around 180 degrees. That left us with all head sails backed and the spreaders heading for the water. Fortunately, there was nothing near by to hit, so it was only a matter of moving about on decks nearly vertical to the water to release the sheets. No cam or clam cleats on that boat!
We came to no harm, but we were careful to have someone stationed at each sheet thereafter, when sailing under that bridge.
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post #8 of 21 Old 04-13-2017
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Re: Weird Roundup under bridge...

Great instinct to ease the sheet. Also a great learning experience. Always leave room for something to go wrong and have a plan B.


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post #9 of 21 Old 04-13-2017
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Re: Weird Roundup under bridge...

Heading up in a puff can happen anywhere--not just near structures that distort wind patterns. The OP should now have a better understanding of his boat's behavior in a puff and be better prepared next time, which could be in open water.

There's no shame in being a newbie on a learning curve, as we're always on a learning curve. The only shame is when you don't learn from your experience.

The OP's story reminds me of a trip to Maine when we were accompanied by an older, experienced couple in a 34 foot keel/CB sloop. Well, they got knocked down in a 38+ kt puff, with spreader tips in the water. They came back up with no real harm done, but could not re establish raw water prime and needed a tow into port. We took them under tow about 6 nm off the coast with my 3GM30 Yanmar straining to make 3+ kts into a 25 kt headwind, with 15 tons of boat. THAT was a real learning experience for both of us! Thankfully they were able to work out the raw water issue once we got them headed into the wind and stabilized their boat motion. I was really happy not to have to tow another boat in the narrow, serpentine, rockbound channel into our harbor for the evening. Well, over dinner that evening, the older couple admitted they had been knocked down before and had made adjustments to secure loose objects in the event of a repeat. Sure enough, when they got back home the raw water prime issue was resolved. Lesson learned!
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post #10 of 21 Old 04-13-2017
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Re: Weird Roundup under bridge...

Sailing through a bridge opening is unwise in any case and unless one's engine is ticking over and can be thrown into gear quickly obviously dangerous.

The issue of loosing rudder control can be explained, in part, if one is headed "down current" in a traverse and not making much speed relative to the water to begin with. The fenders on the abutments for the bridge supports on either side of the opening tend to channel the water flow into the opening itself which speeds up the flow in the passage between them. A yacht, of course, has a certain momentum and does not accelerate as quickly as does the flow of water hence the flow of water over the rudder is slowed, or in some cases, almost stopped. No flow over the rudder = no control so the yacht is like a leaf driven by the wind. (The same effect as at the top of a wave when headed down wind in a following sea.)

Wind effects at an open bridge can also be unpredictable. The upright spans act like giant wind breaks. In a cross-wind (relative to the opening/parallel to the roadway) the windward span blocks and redirects the wind up and over the upright span creating a "wind shadow", or low pressure zone, immediately beneath it. That low pressure zone pulls the flow downward over the top of the windward span, across the gap between the spans, where it encounters the windward face of the leeward up-right span. That span directs the wind downward where it flows back across the water toward the "wind shadow"/low pressure zone under the windward span at increasing speed (the "plaza effect" at ground level that one sees between tall/high-rise buildings). Needless to say, the foregoing can have quite an effect on a yacht under sail with little or no rudder control.

FWIW you were lucky. And frankly, I am surprised that the Bridge Tender permitted you to make that traverse under sail only. It is our practice to keep our mainsail set while motoring to stabilize the yacht. On more than one occasion when we've had to pass through bridge openings I've had Bridge Tenders tell us that we cannot pass through unless we're motor sailing.
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