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Old 03-16-2013, 12:54 PM   #1
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Rough Water Seamanship part deux: How to

I've followed with interest the OP by Kevin regarding this topic. What I hope to do here is get some boat handling tips for rough weather handling. I'm hoping all of you could provide a situation and the response you'd do. I understand that there are different ways to handle situations and that we have some stronger opinions here but I would think it would be valuable for the inexperienced to hear these responses. I could try to provide scenarios but I really don't have any idea. I think it would be better if the scenarios came from all of you. Good idea? Bad idea?

Thanks.
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Old 03-16-2013, 01:10 PM   #2
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No matter what boat or crew....if involved with rough water..the vessel should have reasonable survival gear for the OPAREA and enough of the crew to take over if someone is hurt...eve if that mean only to contact to rescue facilities for evacuation.

A skipper should also know how to evaluate a breaking inlet from sketchy shore info and realize running it would be a mistake...this involves havng an alternate inlet if ANY chance of not making it through the destination inlet.

Knowing how to deploy (even make) a drogue is important, and knowing when and when not to use one with your boat.

One should also know how to rig for towing in rough weather...how to protect from chafe or rig so minimal chafe would occur.
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Old 03-16-2013, 01:36 PM   #3
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Last night, about 9:30, a USCG boat went full tilt down Lake Union (normally a 7 knot max speed area) on its way to affect a rescue. The wake it left was huge, and had many boat bouncing and dancing:
  • The Bayliner 3258 behind us (moored in an east/west direction) was pitching so violently that the anchor and pulpit were completely submerging, and then pitchng up so over 1/3 of the hull was out of the water. Because of the massive rolling, there is chaos in the cabin, with drawers flung open, and gear strewn about.
  • A sailboat nearly ended up sideways on its float.
  • Another boat pitched and rolled onto its dock power box, snapping it off at its base.

Our boat survived unscathed- we were rolling and pitching pretty violently, but no damage.

How does this relate? One of the basic lessons the Navy teaches is that there is a place for everything, and everything should be in its place. Shortly after a Navy ship (surface or sub) gets underway, its goes thru a series of maneuvers to ensure that all gear is properly stowed and secured.

We always have our boat secured- stuff is put away, secured to the deck or bulkhead, and ready for sea. Having your boat secured in such a manner at all times will keep a pot, a wine bottle, or a neat decoration from becoming a missile that can take out a window- or a crewmember.
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Old 03-16-2013, 01:43 PM   #4
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Be willing and able to chafe your course and destination at a moments notice.

On our last gulf crossing we encountered unforecast very strong winds blowing large waves abeam.

Our fuel reserves and our willingness to change destinations at a moments notice changed a dangerous situation into a merely unpleasant one.

Without the fuel reserves we would have had less options.
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Old 03-16-2013, 02:04 PM   #5
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To echo ksanders to some extent: "The most dangerous thing you can have on a boat is a schedule"

I'd have a couple of questions: where are you going to be boating? And are we talking storm conditions or simply "rough water"? Steep, close aggressive chop can really make a boat move dangerously or at least be very hard to handle, yet be only 4 feet in height. In some parts of the country, running inlets is a very critical skill, others, people go a lifetime of boating having never dealt with it. Some of my most full-pucker moments have been where a steep nasty chop has combined with a wind-against ebb tide coming into an inlet; this has been one of the top causes of boating accidents in many places.
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Old 03-16-2013, 02:51 PM   #6
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To echo ksanders to some extent: "The most dangerous thing you can have on a boat is a schedule"

I'd have a couple of questions: where are you going to be boating? And are we talking storm conditions or simply "rough water"? Steep, close aggressive chop can really make a boat move dangerously or at least be very hard to handle, yet be only 4 feet in height. In some parts of the country, running inlets is a very critical skill, others, people go a lifetime of boating having never dealt with it. Some of my most full-pucker moments have been where a steep nasty chop has combined with a wind-against ebb tide coming into an inlet; this has been one of the top causes of boating accidents in many places.
Caltexflanc - I was hoping for some input from all of you as to the types of rough water one might encounter. All of what you mention is valid in my opinion. We currently live in the PNW where rough water probably doesn't really enter into the equation unless one is crossing larger stretches of water. For example, for those that live in this area, we were on the Port Townsend/Keystone ferry during a very windy day. As the ferry left the more protected area and was sailing past Pt. Hudson, the water became huge rollers (in my opinion from my vantage point on the ferry). The ferry was rocking pretty well and shuddering as it dove into the waves. I recall thinking "What would I do if I was on a 40 foot boat in these conditions?". To me, those waves looked like about 6 to 8 footers eyeballing them from the trough to the top. They were at a frequency of about 10 to 15 seconds if I recall. Not sure why it was so rough but speculate it had something to do with wind and tides perhaps like what you're referring to in your last sentence above. So I've frequently replayed in my mind if I was caught in that type of seas and needed to turn around, how would I do this? Should I start my turn in the trough? Or maybe as I'm coming out of the trough on the way up? Or at the top? The fear, of course, is not coming about fast enough and potentially rolling the boat.

I like Peter's input about proper stowage and the general readiness one should assume on a boat. Performing "angles and dangles" when putting out for the 1st time after mooring is a great idea.
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Old 03-16-2013, 05:23 PM   #7
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Handling characteristics vary too much to generalize. As Caltex says it depends on the type of water/weather conditions encountered. The boat size, hull type, keel or no, and power will alter tactics greatly. A lot more specific info is needed for any real help here.

One thing is for sure. If you run off shore enough you will get caught in some bad stuff.
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Old 03-16-2013, 05:39 PM   #8
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Handling characteristics vary too much to generalize. As Caltex says it depends on the type of water/weather conditions encountered. The boat size, hull type, keel or no, and power will alter tactics greatly. A lot more specific info is needed for any real help here.
Ok I understand. Thanks.
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Old 03-16-2013, 07:36 PM   #9
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"Wadosan - I was hoping for some input from all of you as to the types of rough water one might encounter. All of what you mention is valid in my opinion. We currently live in the PNW where rough water probably doesn't really enter into the equation unless one is crossing larger stretches of water. For example, for those that live in this area, we were on the Port Townsend/Keystone ferry during a very windy day. As the ferry left the more protected area and was sailing past Pt. Hudson, the water became huge rollers (in my opinion from my vantage point on the ferry). The ferry was rocking pretty well and shuddering as it dove into the waves. I recall thinking "What would I do if I was on a 40 foot boat in these conditions?". To me, those waves looked like about 6 to 8 footers eyeballing them from the trough to the top. They were at a frequency of about 10 to 15 seconds if I recall. Not sure why it was so rough but speculate it had something to do with wind and tides perhaps like what you're referring to in your last sentence above."

What you observed from the PT/Coupeville ferry was a relatively common event, particularly with the current opposes the wind off Point Wilson. If you have the choice, you don't want to go anywhere near Point Wilson if you expect these conditions. Even with a much larger boat than 40'. The main problem with Point Wilson is that most boaters are heading out of Port Townsend heading for BC or the San Juan Islands. Their voyage plan can be calculated to take advantage of the ebb current out of Admiralty Inlet, then the flood current up Haro Strait or San Juan Channel. To take maximum current advantage, boaters usually get too close to Point Wilson and once in the current flow will find it almost impossible to avoid the worsening conditions which may not be visible when heading out. I consider Point Wilson to be one of the most dangerous places for small boat navigation in the PNW US waters.

"So I've frequently replayed in my mind if I was caught in that type of seas and needed to turn around, how would I do this? Should I start my turn in the trough? Or maybe as I'm coming out of the trough on the way up? Or at the top? The fear, of course, is not coming about fast enough and potentially rolling the boat."

This is certainly some of the experience that you will eventually gain after using your boat for awhile. The important thing to consider initially, is to consider a maximum rough water threshold that you can possibly expand later after you (and any cruising companions) know your boat and yourselves better. The biggest thing that you should learn from rough water experience is recognizing how limited your options may be to keep yourself safe. Sometimes when you get caught in rough water, all you can do is hang on and trust that you have prepared well.

It's no reason to not go boating, it's a great reason to plan for a voyage fully considering yours and the boats' capabilities.
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Old 03-16-2013, 07:45 PM   #10
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Depending on where and how you boat...one of the greatest abilities you can develop as skipper is to know how to AVOID bad weather in the first place...it takes effort to learn how...but it's available to everyone if they so choose.

For those that run to places like Alaska or the maritmes of Canada.....well you definitely roll the dice more than most!!!! My hat's off to you and always...good luck!!!
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Old 03-17-2013, 01:37 AM   #11
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Wade we drive about an hour to our boat and I'll echo the advice on avoidance when possible. We're new to large boats and when we do not like the weather conditions we don't leave the dock. We made an impromptu visit to our boat today and we just sat in the cockpit and enjoyed the sounds of nature without firing the engine. Weather was beautiful, we just decided to lounge around and relax is all. We boat for the pleasure aspect of it, not with a destination or schedule.

If we're out on the water and notice the conditions are trending out of our comfort zone we turn around and head back to the marina. We are very happy pleasure boaters without a destination or schedule to meet.
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Old 03-17-2013, 05:09 PM   #12
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Don't ask me how I know, but it's a good idea to make sure forward hatches are secured before heading out into wind and waves.

We found this out last year on a trip up the Columbia where we were running about 22kts in 4'-5' waves with about a 20-25kt wind on the bow. Lots of heavy spray blowing up, with enough to break the zippers on two of our forward-facing windows on the flybridge.

The boat did well, riding through it with minimal bow rise and yaw, I was having a ball, and even my Admiral was finding the ride exciting.

Here's a link to a video I shot on the way downstream through that same stretch of river. Coming upstream against the current and the wind makes the waves a bit steeper and shorter duration, but you can get an idea of what things looked like.

M2U00419 - YouTube
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Old 03-17-2013, 10:38 PM   #13
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Last night, about 9:30, a USCG boat went full tilt down Lake Union (normally a 7 knot max speed area) on its way to affect a rescue. The wake it left was huge, and had many boat bouncing and dancing:
  • The Bayliner 3258 behind us (moored in an east/west direction) was pitching so violently that the anchor and pulpit were completely submerging, and then pitchng up so over 1/3 of the hull was out of the water. Because of the massive rolling, there is chaos in the cabin, with drawers flung open, and gear strewn about.
  • A sailboat nearly ended up sideways on its float.
  • Another boat pitched and rolled onto its dock power box, snapping it off at its base.
Our boat survived unscathed- we were rolling and pitching pretty violently, but no damage.

How does this relate? One of the basic lessons the Navy teaches is that there is a place for everything, and everything should be in its place. Shortly after a Navy ship (surface or sub) gets underway, its goes thru a series of maneuvers to ensure that all gear is properly stowed and secured.

We always have our boat secured- stuff is put away, secured to the deck or bulkhead, and ready for sea. Having your boat secured in such a manner at all times will keep a pot, a wine bottle, or a neat decoration from becoming a missile that can take out a window- or a crewmember.
If that happened to me without warning and I knew it was uscg I would file a report and raise a little cane about that. That boat should have announced its approach at the very least or slowed down while near the anchorage.
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Old 03-17-2013, 11:20 PM   #14
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I boat in the Catalina Channel and it is said if you can survive this channel you can boat anywhere in the world. I've had seas so flat the water was like glass and I've been in a quartering sea with 16' seas and 4 to 5' breakers accompanied by 65 kt winds gusting to 75 kts. I learned to read the waves and the seas and to count the sets. They are never constant. Turning around can be the worse thing you can do especially if you get caught beam to and it broaches you.

I only turned around once and I counted sets and when I thought it was time, I counted again to be sure. I began the turn when I was on top of that last wave. I was counting for the longest time between waves. I got lucky and by the time I was turned around I was almost straight before I was picked up by the next wave. I ran the outboard engine WOT to help it turn faster. I have a twin screw.

Now always remember this. Read this over if you need to. Turning your boat in following seas requires reverse thinking. The reason is because the water that is rushing past your rudders is faster from the rear than your props can push. If you turn the wheel right, your boat will go left. This will make the average captain turn harder thinking he will correct that. Instead it will just push you sideways to the seas and possibly a broach.

Leaving in 21' seas I described above meant I had to watch the seas from the bridge and when a wave pushed my stern sideways I steered backwards and it turned back straight. This takes a while to learn but it is a life saver. I know the skippers that cross bars at inlets practice this too. This is where i learned it. From a professional skipper on the Columbia river inlet.

I think staying out of situations is best, but if you get caught and have no knowledge of how to handle your boat plus knowing how your boat responds to certain situations is a worse case scenario.

In my marina we have boaters go out and sail in storms to get the experience. We are in the Catalina Channel and things can come up quick. Be prepared.
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Old 03-17-2013, 11:38 PM   #15
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I boat in the Catalina Channel and it is said if you can survive this channel you can boat anywhere in the world. I've had seas so flat the water was like glass and I've been in a quartering sea with 16' seas and 4 to 5' breakers accompanied by 65 kt winds gusting to 75 kts. I learned to read the waves and the seas and to count the sets. They are never constant. Turning around can be the worse thing you can do especially if you get caught beam to and it broaches you.

I only turned around once and I counted sets and when I thought it was time, I counted again to be sure. I began the turn when I was on top of that last wave. I was counting for the longest time between waves. I got lucky and by the time I was turned around I was almost straight before I was picked up by the next wave. I ran the outboard engine WOT to help it turn faster. I have a twin screw.

Now always remember this. Read this over if you need to. Turning your boat in following seas requires reverse thinking. The reason is because the water that is rushing past your rudders is faster from the rear than your props can push. If you turn the wheel right, your boat will go left. This will make the average captain turn harder thinking he will correct that. Instead it will just push you sideways to the seas and possibly a broach.
Capthead - Thank you! This is exactly what I was hoping for. When you describe it, it makes sense. The water is moving past the boat from the stern so rudder movements need to be the opposite of what you're thinking when you're looking forward. Very valuable info.
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Old 03-18-2013, 12:10 AM   #16
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If that happened to me without warning and I knew it was uscg I would file a report and raise a little cane about that. That boat should have announced its approach at the very least or slowed down while near the anchorage.
Boats on their way to a rescue dont need to slow down. They need to go as fast as possible.
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Old 03-18-2013, 06:50 AM   #17
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Steering opposite in following seas isn't a given. Different boats and different conditions will dictate..thta's why practicing in your own boat in ever increasing conditions is the only way to have a realistic expectation of what may happen.

If in those/similar conditions...a drogue may be a suitable solution for keeping the stern under control.
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Old 03-18-2013, 07:30 AM   #18
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If that happened to me without warning and I knew it was uscg I would file a report and raise a little cane about that. That boat should have announced its approach at the very least or slowed down while near the anchorage.
It's rare that they didn't have their siren on...if they didn't... shame on them and a complaint would be warranted.

The USCG often asks me to speed up in my assistance boat when responding to fire/flooding. I never just do it on my own except when I know I'll be the first on scene in a dangerous situation...then I go full speed even thrugh anchorages and no-wake zones with lights flashing and a loud siren. Only when life is in danger...not just property.
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Old 03-18-2013, 09:01 AM   #19
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I had a situation in the 80's in the San Diego harbor. I had a 30' boat at that time and I took it from LA to SD. Along the way I stopped to assist a boater in distress and that took an hour before the cost guard arrived to take over. When I got to the entrance of the San Diego harbor I ran out of gas. I was green as a boater and didn't think I needed extra gas.

I called the coast guard and they came out with a 5 gallon can of gas which I put in my boat. The trip to the fuel dock from where I was was too far for only 5 gallons and when I ran out they pulled along side, tied to me and started towing towards the fuel dock.

There are no speed limits in that harbor and the USN is there. The port police boat was listening in to the VHF conversations and soon after I was in tow, he flew as fast as his boat could go and sped past us throwing a huge wake. This caused damage to my rub rail. Then he turned around and sped by us again. More damage was created.

The coast guard complained but nothing happened about that. Just another day I suppose.

Later I'll tell you the story about the boat that came in right after we left and exploded throwing the dock worker in the harbor and burning up a sail boat that was tied there taking on supplies.
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Old 03-18-2013, 09:40 AM   #20
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Steering opposite in following seas isn't a given. Different boats and different conditions will dictate..thta's why practicing in your own boat in ever increasing conditions is the only way to have a realistic expectation of what may happen.

If in those/similar conditions...a drogue may be a suitable solution for keeping the stern under control.
I'm not aware of how steering the opposite direction when a following sea is rushing under your stern would be different on another type of boat. Please explain it to me.

I also met with the captain whose name escapes me right now at a GB rendezvous that was an editor of a Power Boating magazine. He got GB to give him a boat and it was outfitted completely by companies who donated their products for advertisement. You might have read his journey from the east coast to Alaska. He sold a weeks time on the boat for the legs on that route.

When he was going west in the southern Caribbean just north of Columbia he had a huge following sea that was dead astern. His autopilot could not steer the boat as it was turning the boat opposite or a normal heading. He said the seas were not breaking but were so large it would pick the stern up and the boat would then surf down the wave. He had to manually steer the boat for almost 20 hours, if my memory serves me well.

Maybe it's just semi displacement hulls but the fishing boat I was on I'm sure was displacement and it was a single screw. Getting in that inlet was a big ticket ride I won't forget.
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