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Old 11-29-2015, 09:31 PM   #1
AusCan's Avatar
City: Adelaide
Country: Australia
Vessel Name: Kokanee
Vessel Model: Cuddles 30 Pilot House Motor Sailer
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 2,854
A few lessons learned on a motorsailer

I was planning on doing a 3-4 day singlehanded cruise to one of my favourite spots - Kangaroo Island as a break-in run for the new engine. The initial weather prediction was for increasing winds over the next few days but nothing severe.

On the first day I motored south into light variable winds and a 3-4 foot swell and spent the night at a small marina on the mainland.

The next mornings weather update included a high wind warning later in the day with wind rising to 30 knots that evening. I reviewed the situation and reluctantly decided not to make the crossing and to cut the trip short.

Heading back north, there was no sign of the high winds, just a light northerly at less than 10 knots. The swell was coming from the west, so I decided to raise the sails to steady out the rolling motion. The wind was barely able to fill the sails but it still steadied the boat nicely with the sails pulled tight.

I was thinking that I might reef the main at the first sign of any change and then ... I got a sign. I could see increased swell ahead. Within a few seconds, WHAM! - We were hit by a BIG westerly gust on the beam which almost knocked over the boat.

I was at the pilothouse helm, and the wheel was closer then the mainsheet, so I used that to bring her around pointed into the wind with the sails still pulled tight. The wind was increasing, looking like well over 40 knots with plenty of spray coming off the swell. I was sh**ting myself, as I tried to set the AP to hold into the gusting wind, allowing me to take a few steps to the cockpit to let out tension off the main and jib sheets. The old trusty Autohelm 4000 did the job, and I loosened the sheets a bit, so Otto didn't have to work as hard. A small sigh of relief.

I then prepared to climb out on the foredeck as all running lines are controlled from the base of the mast. Again - my butt was at a high pucker factor as I made my way around the pilothouse trusting my safety line to hold on to me should a large swell come over the bow. Luckily - no green water but plenty of spray. I was drenched almost immediately. Looking at bedlam on the deck, with the sails flapping out of control and the club-footed boom swinging wildly, I began to have second thoughts. I released the jib halyard but it wasn't coming down without me hanging off it, and I wasn't game to go near the raging club foot. Then I looked at the main. Rather than trying to reef (or drop) the mainsail without a topping lift, I decided to just scandalise the gaff, and get back to the helm before Otto decided this is too much to handle.

Back in the pilothouse, catching my breath, I could see the wind was dropping slightly. I tightened up the sheets a bit to reduce the flogging and wait things out, When down to about 25 knots I was confident enough to drop the sails without putting myself at too much risk.

30 minutes after it all started, the wind was down to 10 knots again. It took another hour before I was game to raise the sails again, (yes - reefed this time).

I made it safely home with no damage done, but plenty of lessons learned.
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