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Old 06-25-2016, 07:10 PM   #1
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Discretion is the better part of valor

The better part of valor is discretion, in the which better part I have sav'd my life.
--William Shakespeare

This quote by old Will himself is a truism that I’ve tried to live my life by. Today, it paid off.

We had a boat trip planned from our marina to the marina at Umatilla, OR. It’s about 43 miles of so and involves passing through the lock at McNary Dam. We had to be there by 12:30 so we left the slip about 10:00 so we could have a leisurely cruise down. Our club was to be the guests of the Umatilla Yacht Club for the city's Umatilla Days Festival.

The winds had been picking up over the past couple of days and were forecasted to be steady at 20-22mph with gusts to 30mph.

When we headed out the winds at the marina were pretty steady out of the SW blowing around 18-20. We cleared the railroad bridge, running about 10kts in a 1.5’ chop. Not bad. As we got further down the Columbia the winds kept picking up, as did the waves. Before we got to the area of Wallula Gap the waves had increased to about 4’-5’ and the wind was on our port bow. When we’d hit a wave the spray would blow up onto the eisenglass at the front of the flybridge. Not too bad yet.

We got to Wallula Gap (Google it), an area long known for having the worst water conditions on the river. The reason for that is our typical winds are out of the SW and at the Gap the river turns to the SW. The winds have a loooong fetch to pick up speed and they are funneled by the hills on both sides of the river.

As we got to the Gap the waves picked up to about 6’-7’. I was starting to have doubts about continuing, not because of the winds and waves but because of having to go through the lock in high winds. That ain’t a bit fun.

So we made the bend at the Gap and the waves continued to build, not in the 7’-8’ range. For those of you who don’t think you can have waves that large on a river, I have a couple of videos that I took as we were coming to the Gap but they are in my camera which is still on the boat.

As we got further around the bend the waves were now solidly in the 8’ range or larger and the wind was directly on the bow. I was having fun watching the bow rise and fall and the spray blow up over the top of the upper bimini. I decided it was time to take a video with my phone so I could send it to some friends.
As I started shooting the video we got hit by the biggest wave I’ve ever encountered on the river, it was all of 10’.

Now, as you watch the video, keep in mind that I'm standing and was knocked back to the seat. The cover over my head (upper bimini) is about 17' off the water. The 8' waves we were running in sent spray up and onto the top bimini. The big wave we hit sent the full splash of water up and onto the bimini. Watch for it, it comes about half way through the video.

Watch this and judge for yourselves……
https://youtu.be/OtfsjCKmzRk

About that that time my wife called me on the phone. She'd been down below sleeping. She called because the boat was rocking so much that she was afraid to come out of the cabin. She wanted to know what the hell was going on, said stuff was all over the floor, the forward berth was soaked because the forward hatch was open. I saw it was closed when I checked before we left the slip but apparently latch dogs were not secured. Oh, and she'd gotten seasick.

I encouraged her to come up above so she could watch the horizon. She did, but only very reluctantly. When she got up there she insisted we turn around. It didn't take much convincing on her part because the winds were now blowing 35-40mph and I had no intention of going through the lock with those winds. So discretion being the better part of valor, I turned the boat around and we headed home.

So we went home, unloaded (downloaded????) all of our wet bedding and trekked to the laundromat. An hour later things were dry so we headed for home.

Tomorrow is forecasted to be winds of less than 5mph so we get to do this all over again.

Wish us luck.
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Old 06-26-2016, 12:49 AM   #2
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Thanks for sharing this. I hope your wife is better and the weather cooperates next time...
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Old 06-26-2016, 01:20 AM   #3
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<<The winds have a loooong fetch to pick up speed and they are funneled by the hills on both sides of the river. >>

Me thinks you may have some venturi effect going there..... google that. (I googled Wallula, so that'll make us even...... ;-) )
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Old 06-26-2016, 10:58 AM   #4
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Good video, Mike. It illustrates your conditions well.

I'll try to do the same when I get into some snotty conditions like I had Wed on San Pablo Bay riding the ebb into 20-25 kt SW winds. Only 4-5 footers, but lots of wind spray.

It's reassuring to have the proof that our boats can handle more than we can!
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Old 06-26-2016, 11:06 AM   #5
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That was some serious water, Mike. We seldom see anything remotely close to that in Puget Sound. Just goes to show that you don't necessarily need big water to get some truly nasty conditions!
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Old 06-26-2016, 11:18 AM   #6
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That was some serious water, Mike. We seldom see anything remotely close to that in Puget Sound. Just goes to show that you don't necessarily need big water to get some truly nasty conditions!
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I have seen freighters bury their bows on Juan de Fuca, 50 knots of wind mind you. Like Mike posted, strong winds and current opposing one another make for short steep seas.

Good decision Mike, the locks would most likely have been difficult. Did any wind surfers fly past you?
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Old 06-26-2016, 11:24 AM   #7
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Yeah, agree. The strait is another story -- I was thinking primarily of the waters south of Pt. Wilson. Opposing tides, as well as rips, can give some localized crappy conditions, but generally, the Sound is fairly benign, compared to the stuff Mikes' video.

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Shasa III

I have seen freighters bury their bows on Juan de Fuca, 50 knots of wind mind you. Like Mike posted, strong winds and current opposing one another make for short steep seas.
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Old 06-27-2016, 12:40 AM   #8
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We ended up heading back to our slip on Friday and spent some time at a laundromat to get the bedding dried out.


Saturday dawned bright and clear with light winds, waves about 1'-2', no clouds and temps headed for the mid-80's. We had a wonderful weekend in Umatilla as guests of the Umatilla YC. This is our club's 9th year of making that trek and 18 boats from our club attended this time.


Saturday our club fixed dinner for everyone and we all enjoyed a great fireworks show. The fireworks were lit off just 150' or so from our boat so they were going off almost directly overhead with a light breeze carrying the smoke and embers out over the river.


Sunday the UYC cooked breakfast for everyone, then about 11:30 we headed out for the trip back home. Winds were almost nil, no waves or clouds. A perfect day on the water.


I've watched that video several times over the past couple of days and I think I found out what happened. As you look at the bow rising and falling in the first part of the video you see the top of the venturi screen coming up to about where the horizon is.


At about :13 into the video the bow takes a much higher rise with the top of the venturi several degrees above the horizon. I think that's when we hit the big wave. That is followed by the bow dipping lower as it falls into the trough then it appears to plunge directly into the following wave and that is when we took that water over the fly bridge and upper bimini.


I suspect that is also when the hatch was forced open and the water came in, soaking the bedding.


Oh well, things are now dry. We ran two fans throughout the night and the only thing still damp now is the carpet.


The weekend was a great success. The members of the two clubs are pretty similar. Just plain folk who are not pretentious and just like to have fun on their boats. We met some great people from UYC and I think it's safe to say that a good time was had by all.


Thanks, UYC.


Irene, she is, and she had a LOT of fun on this trip.


Oscar, we had passed the Gap where the venturi effect happens and were about 2 miles further down the river when we started really hitting the big waves. At that point the wind was right on our bow and directly against the current.


Tom, no windsurfers in that stretch of the Columbia. They're further down river, near Hood River and The Dalles, OR.
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Old 06-27-2016, 11:28 AM   #9
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Wifey B:

I want to be sure I got one part of this right.

As we got further around the bend the waves were now solidly in the 8’ range or larger and the wind was directly on the bow. I was having fun watching the bow rise and fall and the spray blow up over the top of the upper bimini. I decided it was time to take a video with my phone so I could send it to some friends.
As I started shooting the video we got hit by the biggest wave I’ve ever encountered on the river, it was all of 10’.

Now, as you watch the video, keep in mind that I'm standing and was knocked back to the seat. The cover over my head (upper bimini) is about 17' off the water. The 8' waves we were running in sent spray up and onto the top bimini. The big wave we hit sent the full splash of water up and onto the bimini. Watch for it, it comes about half way through the video.


Then

I encouraged her to come up above so she could watch the horizon. She did, but only very reluctantly. When she got up there she insisted we turn around. It didn't take much convincing on her part because the winds were now blowing 35-40mph and I had no intention of going through the lock with those winds. So discretion being the better part of valor, I turned the boat around and we headed home.


So, you knew time to turn around and wanted to but you waited for her to insist so you'd get credit for agreeing and doing what she wanted and wouldn't have to admit it was too much for you?

Sneaky, but well done.

And so easy to make concessions to spouse when it's what we want to do ourselves.
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Old 06-27-2016, 12:56 PM   #10
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Wifey B: WHO, ME? Not going to admit to anything. The reason I wanted her to come up is I was getting an alarm signal that the aft bilge pump was on. It seemed to stay on a long time so I wanted her to take the helm so I could check on the condition of the bilge.


I think what caused the pump to come on was that the constant movement of the rudders (we were on autopilot) allowed more water than normal to come in around the rudder shafts. That's what was leaking. Once I determined that there was no drastic leak and no emergency, I went back upstairs. She wanted to go back to the slip and we needed to dry out all the bedding so it was an easy decision to return to our slip. I told her at the time that I was not anxious to go through the lock with that amount of wind and was already thinking of going back.
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Old 06-27-2016, 01:54 PM   #11
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I hope this doesn't sound rude, but it doesn't look like 8' seas to me. Admittedly, it is hard to get a good look at wave height in that video, but there were a couple opportunities, especially if you look to the port bow. No doubt you took a bunch of water up to your flybridge, but the boat was pitching pretty good and you were heading straight into it.
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Old 06-27-2016, 02:20 PM   #12
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I have a very hard time judging wave height. I have my own mental scale.
Flat
Smooth
Choppy
Lumpy
Uncomfortable
Worrisome, and
Holy crap get me outta here!
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Old 06-27-2016, 05:47 PM   #13
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I hope this doesn't sound rude, but it doesn't look like 8' seas to me. Admittedly, it is hard to get a good look at wave height in that video, but there were a couple opportunities, especially if you look to the port bow. No doubt you took a bunch of water up to your flybridge, but the boat was pitching pretty good and you were heading straight into it.
I would agree. 8-10ft seas you are looking UP at them even from the flybridge....and I mean W A Y U P!!!! Seas are generally measuring the amplitude of the wave. In other words, if you are in the trough of a wave, you are looking up at 20 feet of wave face to the next crest in 10 foot seas. I live on the Gulf Coast. Our waves are very short period windswell(usually in the 6 second range) for the most part. I dare you to go out in 3-4 seas(as measured scientifically by a NDBC buoy). You won't die. Your boat likely won't sink. But you will be extremely uncomfortable and swear you(the untrained eye) were in 10 foot seas....even though the buoy is saying 4 feet. If you are in true 8-10 foot seas in the Gulf, you are likely in near Force 10 conditions and in potential serious danger unless you have a boat built for it.

In comparison, a 5 foot swell at 18-20 seconds on a windless day in the Pacific is a perfectly docile ride.

The important thing here is that you made the right decision. And then you came back another day to have a very fine time!! I cannot stress that sentiment enough....not like my opinion matters. But give yourself a GIANT pat on the back for that.
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Old 06-27-2016, 06:00 PM   #14
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"The important thing here is that you made the right decision. And then you came back another day to have a very fine time!! I cannot stress that sentiment enough....not like my opinion matters. But give yourself a GIANT pat on the back for that."

I agree with that, and would add that it matters not who is more uncomfortable. If anyone on board does not want to continue because of the sea conditions, we don't.
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Old 06-27-2016, 06:54 PM   #15
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Seas are generally measuring the amplitude of the wave. In other words, if you are in the trough of a wave, you are looking up at 20 feet of wave face to the next crest in 10 foot seas. I live on the Gulf Coast. Our waves are very short period windswell(usually in the 6 second range) for the most part. I dare you to go out in 3-4 seas(as measured scientifically by a NDBC buoy).

.
No, wave height is the distance between the crest and the trough.
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Old 06-27-2016, 06:54 PM   #16
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I would agree. 8-10ft seas you are looking UP at them even from the flybridge....and I mean W A Y U P!!!! Seas are generally measuring the amplitude of the wave. In other words, if you are in the trough of a wave, you are looking up at 20 feet of wave face to the next crest in 10 foot seas.
Respectfully, I think you have this wrong. It has always been my understanding that the sea state given in marine weather reports is actually wave height (trough to crest) and not amplitude (sea level to crest).

I will agree that most folks tend to over estimate wave heights however due to our perceptions of what is down. In a swell, we tend to mistake an angle across the trough as being "down" and therefore overestimate wave height.
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Old 06-27-2016, 06:55 PM   #17
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NDBC - Science Education - How are ocean waves described?
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Old 06-27-2016, 07:01 PM   #18
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I agree with that, and would add that it matters not who is more uncomfortable. If anyone on board does not want to continue because of the sea conditions, we don't.
Wifey B: We push them overboard....

We generally boat with people use to moderate to rough seas. However, if boating with those lacking experience, we try to be very aware of that and our limits of seas are much less. We might take ICW with them aboard when by ourselves, we'd go outside.

And with kids it's especially important as it might be their lasting impression of boating.

One more comment on rough seas. I've found when at the helm, it's much less scary than just riding somewhere on the boat. You have control and you know what you're doing. Others might have no idea how easy or difficult it might be and certainly no control.
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Old 06-27-2016, 07:04 PM   #19
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Thanks. I stand corrected. I guess I will go with Dhays though. I have been out with people that absolutely freak out and are saying 10 feet when I check the buoy nearby and it is 4....I guess that was my main point.
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Old 06-27-2016, 07:09 PM   #20
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Thanks. I stand corrected. I guess I will go with Dhays though. I have been out with people that absolutely freak out and are saying 10 feet when I check the buoy nearby and it is 4....I guess that was my main point.
Height is all many look at and they don't understand the impact of period and other aspects of waves. No two wave conditions are ever the same it seems. As to guessing wave height, I'm still not as good at it as my wife, and definitely not as good as those with decades of experience.
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