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Old 05-15-2013, 11:37 PM   #1
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When Are the Seas Just Too Rough?

We are bringing a 57 Bayliner down from Seattle to Stockton next month. I am doing a crash coarse on understanding the various sea condition we will face on a southerly coarse with predominately westerly or northwesterly winds and swells. Very common this time of year to see 3' - 5' wind waves and 5' - 8' swells on 9 - 10 seconds.

You guys who have been out there, where does fun end and misery begin, and I am most interested in abeam and following seas, not heading northerly into them.
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Old 05-15-2013, 11:54 PM   #2
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OK

We brought our 4788 Bayliner north from Washington to Alaska this time last year.

During our Gulf of Alaska crossing we had some iffy weather. I hired a weather router to help us with our decisionmaking.

The first question he asked is similar to your title, "what is too rough"

Ocean boating consists of two different types of waves. Long period waves, and short period waves. These two different kinds of waves combine to make a sea state.

Long period waves are the long term result of wind action. They are as the name implies long in period, with a good example being 11 seconds.

Short period waves are short in period, with a good example being 6-7 seconds. Short period waves are the short term result of wind action. When the wind dies the short period waves abate pretty quickly, leaving the long period waves.

I picked a number based on my experience as a go/no go criteria. I chose for head, or following 10' long and 6' short period waves. which could and would be combined to make the sea state.

For beam seas I decided on 1/2 that number.

Based on our actual experience in our boat that was a good decision, and its a number that I would use again for a safe trip. Thats not a comfortable trip, but it is, and was safe.

We could have handled larger waves, and have, but I would not volunteer to do so. There is a big difference between knowingly going out to sea in a certian sea state and getting caught unintentionally.
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Old 05-16-2013, 12:05 AM   #3
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What a great post! I'll look forward to more replies!
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Old 05-16-2013, 12:16 AM   #4
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Exactly the kind of feedback I was looking for Kevin. One thing I note however is the NOAA reports depict wind wave height, but only swell as height and seconds. For example:

TONIGHT...SE WIND 10 TO 15 KT. WIND WAVES 1 OR 2 FT. W SWELL 6 FT AT 9 SECONDS. A CHANCE OF SHOWERS.

THU...NE WIND 5 TO 15 KT...BECOMING N IN THE AFTERNOON. WIND WAVES 1 TO 2 FT. W SWELL 5 FT AT 9 SECONDS. A CHANCE OF SHOWERS.

THU NIGHT...NW WIND 5 TO 15 KT. WIND WAVES 1 TO 2 FT. W SWELL 5 FT AT 10 SECONDS. SLIGHT CHANCE OF SHOWERS.

FRI...W WIND 5 TO 15 KT. WIND WAVES 1 TO 2 FT. W SWELL 4 FT AT 10 SECONDS.

Were are you getting the wind wave period numbers?
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Old 05-16-2013, 12:24 AM   #5
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What a great post! I'll look forward to more replies!
+1

Ksanders gave a great response. This is the kind of stuff that can turn a life partner off boating all together. While those seas are manageable, with a new team out there with something major going wrong can be a disaster. This is for experienced crew. The fatigue factor can build up quickly.
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Old 05-16-2013, 12:33 AM   #6
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Great information on a great thread topic, ksanders.

A friend advised me to avoid conditions when the wave height and period approach each other...or, the period exceeds the height. In other words, a 9 ft wave on a 12 second period is manageable, but a nine ft wave on an 8 or 9 second interval could get very challenging.

I'll sit back and see if others with actual experience in the ocean (that wouldn't be me) agree or disagree with that approach.
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Old 05-16-2013, 12:42 AM   #7
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Flywright, on the near coastal East coast you will seldom see 12 second period. 9 is considered pretty good. That big ole Pacific surely has some long swell. Out in the big water far offshore in the Atlantic you can get some of that. Maybe Capt. Jack will chime in. He has more experience that all of us put together. Also, I would like to hear from Larry on Hobo. He could add a lot to this.

Very interesting subject.
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Old 05-16-2013, 12:50 AM   #8
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Stuart, the conditions you showed in your NOAA weather reports shouldn't be too bad. Following Seas will be able to handle that just fine.

I'm not sure it's an excellent comparison, but here's a video I shot on Beachcomber when we were headed to PDX last June. We were trying to make some time to get to the next dam so we were running about 22kts in 3'-5' waves. You can see the spray is coming up as high as we were on the flybridge. You can also see that the boat isn't bouncing around at all. All that weight really helps when the waters get roiled.



I got your email and have sent one back to you and Stray Cat.
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Old 05-16-2013, 12:56 AM   #9
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Wow!, Thanks guys!

Stuart, when I mentioned wind waves the period was given as a way to differentiate between them and swells.

I subscribe to a web site thats helpful called bouyweather.com

Weather routing services are not all that expensive.

I used Rick Shema at www.weatherguy.com

He charged $75.00 per update, generally once per day. Its a pretty good investment for any long crossings.

I would imagine for your trip he could give you bar forecasts at different times of day, and a host of unplesantness preventing information.
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Old 05-16-2013, 01:27 AM   #10
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Got it Kevin. Understand your explanation. Thanks for the info on Rick also.

Mike, fun film to watch. From talking with my brother in law, who for the benefit of everyone else reading here made this same trip all the way to Mexico in the same model boat, noted that at a fuel conserving speed of 10 - 11 knots, they contended with following seas that repeatedly buried the bow when the periods were just right. Problem is he cannot remember what that period and swell height was. We know we will have to strike a balance between speed and fuel consumption. Going forward into seas, tabing the bow down and holding 15 - 17 knots is often a smooth ride. Following seas can be a little more tricky.

Disclosure: GFC Mike is one of the crew member joining me on the trip.
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Old 05-16-2013, 01:54 AM   #11
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Disclosure: GFC Mike is one of the crew member joining me on the trip.

And I'm darned glad to be a part of the crew!
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Old 05-16-2013, 07:08 AM   #12
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Whean I lived in SoCal we made the trip over to Catalina dozens of times. My wife's rule was that if NOAA was forecasting 4-6' seas or more she wouldn't go.

This worked pretty well as we once made the crossing in 4-6 and it was uncomfortable but not unsafe with occaisional spray over the flybridge windshield.

Having said all of that, the points concentrate the wind/waves and can be much worse near them than the general forecast wave height.

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Old 05-16-2013, 11:15 AM   #13
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I find this topic to be quite interesting as I know for a fact that many mariners don't estimate the wave heights accurately. I've seen guys arriving at Catalina, saying that they fought 6' seas all the way from San Diego when I had arrived 1 hour earlier (from the same city) with reported 3-4' seas. The same thing happened when I took my 42' Ocean Alex to Ensenada from San Diego. (70 miles) There were four of us on board and though it was a little uncomfortable, it certainly was not dangerous.

So, what's my point? Get a good forecast, put to sea and see if those reported wave heights, etc, make your sphinkter pucker. If they do, follow Clint Eastwood's advice ("A man's gotta know his limitations") and don't go! If they don't, you now have a benchmark for future cruises. As Ksanders pointed out many posts ago, you have to experience (take the boat out) many sea states before you can accurately assess their effect on your boat. (and you!)
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Old 05-16-2013, 11:26 AM   #14
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Unless entering an inlet, over a shoal, or rounding a point coastal seas don't really have to be estimated. The seastate bouys tell the story. Here is a link to the one I use off Ft. Pierce when we go fishing.

NDBC - Station 41114
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Old 05-16-2013, 12:06 PM   #15
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Hi Stuart,

It will be interesting to see how "Following Seas" handles following seas. I think Kevin's response way up at post #2 is spot on. When I used to run a Dive Charter out of Neah Bay, our criteria for heading offshore was always that the wave period should be longer than the wave height.

As an example, we went out one day with a 14' swell, but a 16 second period and the divers had a great time. It was a slow, easy sea state. On the flip side, I screwed up one time and took the crew out (and my wife) in a small boat one day with 8' seas and a 7 second period (very steep waves, close together). My wife was hanging on for dear life and asking me, "are we going to die?".....

Oops!
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Old 05-16-2013, 12:20 PM   #16
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SEAS ARE PROVIDED AS A RANGE OF SIGNIFICANT WAVE HEIGHTS...WHICH IS
THE AVERAGE HEIGHT OF THE HIGHEST 1/3 OF THE WAVES...ALONG WITH THE
OCCASIONAL HEIGHT OF THE AVERAGE HIGHEST 10 PERCENT OF THE WAVES.

Remember this notice on the NOAA website and note the word AVERAGE. That means that many are larger waves. I like to take the height of wind waves and add them up. If the forecast is 2 feet to four feet just add 2+4 to get 6 foot waves.....
Most boats will take rough conditions better than the crew will. A group of experienced crew will do much better than offshore newbies and that should be taken into consideration.
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Old 05-16-2013, 06:30 PM   #17
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Great information on a great thread topic, ksanders.

A friend advised me to avoid conditions when the wave height and period approach each other...or, the period exceeds the height. In other words, a 9 ft wave on a 12 second period is manageable, but a nine ft wave on an 8 or 9 second interval could get very challenging.

I'll sit back and see if others with actual experience in the ocean (that wouldn't be me) agree or disagree with that approach.
Al's rule if thumb is what we followed when we used to race in the Pacific Ocean in our sailing days. The few times we went anyway when it was questionable, we regretted it. Nothing bad happened because of it but those weren't the best days. One of them, we had one crew throwing up pretty much the entire way and we finally had to do a headsail change and it was pretty terrifying. But as always the boat can handle more than the people and we all lived to tell.
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Old 05-16-2013, 07:40 PM   #18
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We have done the trip south twice. Small craft warnings, we stayed in. We looked at the wave height and period but at the end of the day the CG was a pretty good benchmark with their warnings and that with the NOAA weather forecasts. You will have lots of harbors in/outs as you go done the coast. The best advice we had going done the coast was, Ebb was evil and flood was fine. Lots of bar crossings.

Have a great trip. The CG is your friend.
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Old 05-16-2013, 08:01 PM   #19
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+1

Ksanders gave a great response. This is the kind of stuff that can turn a life partner off boating all together. While those seas are manageable, with a new team out there with something major going wrong can be a disaster. This is for experienced crew. The fatigue factor can build up quickly.
Don brings up a great point. i just finished two days of coming up the coast from Norfolk to Cape May. The first day the 3-5 ft swell 150 off my bow (so this means 30 off stbd stern). My boat was rockin and rolling into the night.
Today, by 9 am the swell was a little less, but since I was now going due north, it was on my stern. It was great, but as the day wore on, I was feeling sicker and sicker. It's 3 hours since i tied up and am still not recovered. So even though the rolling was 1/10 of what it was the day before, fatigue ended up being a big issue.

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Old 05-16-2013, 08:04 PM   #20
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"... the skipper must plan his entrance so that it is attempted only when the seas are benign and during a flood tide --the last of the flood being the best. ..." (from page 11 of Charlie's Charts of the U.S. Pacific Coast)
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