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Senior Smart Aleck
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My brother and I went out sailing yesterday on the Rappahannock River in near gale conditions, forecast 20-25 kts., gusting to 30 kts. We did not see a single other boat, sail or motor, the entire four hours we were out there. We ran down to the Rappahannock River bridge under storm jib alone, at 5 - 7 kts., then motorsailed back. Here is one of three videos:

 

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Senior Smart Aleck
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
It is a '77 Pearson 28, 7850 lbs with 3530 ballast, 4.5 ft draft. It is a tank, and a pretty fast tank in anything above 10 kts. I have complete confidence in the boat.
 

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The highest winds I've encountered while underway to date were at the mouth of the Rappahannock. Forecast was 25+ for the morning getting lighter towards afternoon so we took a leisurely departure from Onancock to "let things settle down". We got clobbered all the way across with big chop smacking the starboard quarter. Flipped the dinghy and I lost a seatbag and its contents. We were able to pull the dink up to the stern and right it. Left it on a short tether after that so it wouldn't flip again. Like you, we didn't see a single other boat all the way across. Really got me thinking about if anything got out of hand how alone we were that day.

The forecast abating of the wind never occurred and on the contrary they increased as we approached the Rappahannock entrance to 35 sustained and gusting higher. Stayed that way until we were well inside Windmill Point. Fortunately this was a dudes weekend so I had some help. Would have been pretty tough with just the wife and me. I was very happy when we got it Broad creek. Still have my ripped Genny from that trip.

I can imagine what the bay must have been like with it blowing that had above Norris bridge.
 

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Master Mariner
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Cape Horn's next?
 

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Senior Smart Aleck
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Yes, we were expecting the wind to drop and it never did. Sailing upwind, we both got soaked from spray. With the wind chill, it was quite cold, even in the marina. Next time, I will wear my full foul weather gear and boots to stay warmer.

I hesitated to raise the reefed mainsail because I could imagine it flogging itself to death in one of the 30 kt. gusts, so we powered under storm jib and engine back upwind.
 

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Yes, we were expecting the wind to drop and it never did. Sailing upwind, we both got soaked from spray. With the wind chill, it was quite cold, even in the marina. Next time, I will wear my full foul weather gear and boots to stay warmer.
Is there a dodger somewhere in your future? It does offer protection from the wind and spray.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
Is there a dodger somewhere in your future? It does offer protection from the wind and spray.
The several times I have been in these peculiar conditions where I get sprayed - beating upwind in strong wind into waves with the boat healed over - the spray comes up over the side of the boat and shoots back over the cockpit coamings from the side, mostly missing the companionway area. I am not sure a dodger would prevent it since it originates from the side of the boat. I can sometimes dodge it by ducking my head, but other times water pours into my lap as I sit in the cockpit. The foredeck, sidedecks and cabintop are soaked also.
 

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Yeah, the helmsman catches some spray on my boat, but I'm very happy to have it(my dodger) anyway. Keeps the rest of the cockpit occupants dry and at least blocks the ones that would be like a bucket of water in the face. I'll take some residual spray over a bucket dump every time!
 

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Sailing from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland in similar conditions, but in 9 meter seas, weather cloths proved useful..
 

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Wandering Aimlessly
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I find it a lot easier to shed clothes, than to have to get them and put them on when they prove necessary.
 

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Barquito
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I hesitated to raise the reefed mainsail because I could imagine it flogging itself to death in one of the 30 kt. gusts, so we powered under storm jib and engine back upwind.
Unless it is a really old sail that is falling apart, I think it would have done fine. With the jib only, did you find you had any lee helm?
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 · (Edited)
Unless it is a really old sail that is falling apart, I think it would have done fine. With the jib only, did you find you had any lee helm?
Yes, there was lee helm going upwind. With the ebb tide, the strong wind pushing the boat downwind, the outboard jib lead, and the lee helm, it was difficult to make way to windward with storm jib alone, even though the boat was sailing to windward. Next time, I may try a reefed main and inboard jib leads. I also want to try heaving-to in those winds next time.
 

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Chastened
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Thomas Point light was reporting 40+ knot winds yesterday... That would be your average Leeward Island day on the water.. :0
On the Chesapeake, it's not so much the wind that's the problem, it's the nasty chop. People who sail on the Delaware Bay can relate, I'm sure.

Two weekends ago, I beat home in mid 20's sustained, gusting to the low 30's. The waves were stacked so close that at times, it looked like they were tripping over each other.

I have not been caught in the Atlantic in nasty weather, but I often wonder if it wouldn't be as bad, sailing in large swells instead of a short chop.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 · (Edited)
... I often wonder if it wouldn't be as bad, sailing in large swells instead of a short chop.
I have seen that same chop in the Atlantic off the Virginia coast, at least when it first develops. The last sailing trip with my brother, the wind rose to 20 kts. from the SSE as we approached Cape Charles on the outside and we were beating into these short, choppy 5 - 7 footers in the shallow water - some of the worst I have seen. We were getting buckets full of spray tossed on us.

What sail configuration were you carrying when you beat upwind in those conditions?
 

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Note to Newbies -
Sailing in these conditions does present safety issues, but these can be dealt with. But another problem is that things start to break, sails begin to rip, etc. in these heavy air conditions. That is the main reason why I try to avoid sailing with the wind above 25 kts.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 · (Edited)
Note to Newbies -
Sailing in these conditions does present safety issues, but these can be dealt with. But another problem is that things start to break, sails begin to rip, etc. in these heavy air conditions. That is the main reason why I try to avoid sailing with the wind above 25 kts.
That is a very good point. If you are relatively new to sailing, welcome the challenge of sailing in higher and higher windspeeds and rougher conditions only after you feel more confident and comfortable with your abilities. I have spent a lot of time sailing in the mid to upper teens and welcome higher wind speeds in the 20s.

Start out sailing when the wind is in the teens, then later, when the wind approaches twenty, then later still in these small craft warning conditions. You will discover most folks head in when the windspeed climbs to the upper teens (and claim it was in the twenties).

This is a lot of exaggeration of windspeeds on all the sailing forums. People talk about flying their spinnakers in 25 kts. and all this other B.S. Start looking at the NOAA historical data for the actual recorded windspeeds after you return. You will discover it is lower than you thought it was. Fifteen knots is a lot of wind; thirty is four times as much.

As an example of how wind seems higher than it is, here is mid to upper teens, gusting to 20, looks pretty intimidating (at least to me, it does, sailing solo in December):

 
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