Friday, January 29, 2016
Evanston: storms and typos
Steve on Vancouver Island wrote me recently asking about how I handled storms at sea. As you will see, I gained much more from our exchange than I gave.
From me to Steve:
I don't know that I have ever written about storm 'management' in one place. I put the word in quotes because in retyping A SINGLE WAVE, I recently came across "Small storms you manage. Big ones you merely hope to outlive."
What I have done in storms varies by the severity and the boat.
In EGREGIOUS, RESURGAM, and THE HAWKE OF TUONELA, a gale was not even a problem if the wind was aft of the beam, and only unpleasant if on the bow.
In really severe weather, Force 10 and above, and I've been in Force 12 at least eight times, given sea room, I went downwind under bare poles. Sometimes the wind vane could steer, A few times I steered myself. And sometimes I lay ahull.
I only once tried to set a parachute anchor off the bow, and that was in a 55 knot storm near South Africa in RESURGAM. The motion was very unsatisfactory and even with three layers of anti-chaffing gear, the line to the anchor chaffed through in a few hours. I was actually glad to be rid of it.
With her yawl rig, CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE, my 18' open boat, hove to better than any other boat I've owned. Lower the main. Furl the jib. Put the centerboard ⅔ down. Tie the tiller amidship. And flatten the mizzen which held the bow into the wind. The only problem was that in this position in 50+ knot winds, the little boat went backwards very fast.
On GANNET, the ultralight Moore 24 which I am presently sailing, I have a Jordan drogue. I've never used such a drogue, but respect the science of the late Professor Jordan. Jordan drogues are set off the stern. Here is a link to an entry about the massive plates I installed to connect the drogue.
I've been in a 45 knot gale in GANNET, but it was on the beam as I approached New Zealand and I did not use the drogue. Instead I hand steered to get us in before the wind backed and headed us.
I don't think there is any 'right' solution to storms. Different approaches may all work. What is critical in really severe weather is chance over which a sailor has no control. A thousand waves may pass uneventfully, and then one curls and breaks at precisely the right, or wrong, instant and your boat capsizes, as mine have several times. In each instance they came back or I would not be writing this to you.
From Steve to me:
I had the chance to deploy my Jordan Series drogue 3 times: twice briefly, for less than 6 hrs each time, approaching Valdivia from Easter island in 2011, and then again for 3 days while approaching Adak in the Aleutians in June 2013.
What I learned is that I needn't wait for 'survival' conditions to deploy the drogue. It was easy to deploy and to recover, much more so than I had heard about.
In the 3 day gale near the Aleutians the wind obviously clocked around as the system moved over us so that we described a big 'U' shaped course over the 3 days.
We drifted downwind at 1.5 to 1.8 knots. I expected that after the wind shifted we would be struck abeam by the old seas. Never seemed to happen enough to suffer a knockdown. There was a Bering Sea Crab boat not far away, that I met later in Dutch Harbor, who had hove-to , or jogged into the seas for the whole 3 days, unable to fish. They reported persistent 70 knot winds for much of the time.
We were actually pretty comfy. It was a boat I had built, a 36' steel boat with a submarine type dogged companion way hatch in a center cockpit, so the aft breaking seas were relatively harmless, although very noisy. The boat was shallow draft with twin keels, so probably didn't have an excess of stability for it's size, so I was pleased to not be knocked down/capsized. Ever, in 20 years on that boat.
I think that the Jordan Drogue is a game-changer, especially in very small boats. But it is hard to accumulate enough data in this field.
Coincidentally, as I sailed towards the Aleutians I made SSB radio contact with another Canadian vessel with Greg aboard who was anchored at Adak. It turns out that he was just finishing up a 9 year high latitude circumnavigation. He had spent a couple of MONTHS at the Kerguelen Islands just looking at mosses and birds. Then he had a horrendous south Indian Ocean crossing in which he rode to his Jordan Drogue on 7 different occasions.
As our storm approached in the Aleutians( seen on the Gribs), Greg and I would chat each morning. It was like prepping for a big game with a good coach!
I wondered at the time if there was anyone in the world with more Jordan Drogue experience than Greg on Alcidae.
So now I have an F27 trimaran which is a great little sailing boat, and I have the drogue: I wonder how the little tri would behave? The aft attachment points are everything. As I see from your photo you've got that figured out.
The loads were awesome. I sat aft and felt and watched the 10 ton boat start to free fall vertically down the front of a wave and then get arrested as on a bungee and subside down the back side.
It was a high point of my life and extremely satisfying.
I am interested and pleased to learn of your experiences with the Jordan drogue, particularly that you did not find retrieval difficult, and would like to share them in the journal. Roger Taylor, the only other person I have corresponded with who has used a Jordan drogue, found it impossible to retrieve and eventually cut it free. I've thought that with GANNET being so light retrieval might not be so difficult. If you have any particular pointers about retrieval I would appreciate knowing them.
I bought mine from a firm in England, who also, at additional cost, provided the attachment plates and a deployment bag. The plates, shackles and bridle are all enormous by GANNET standards, but I can imagine the strain on them in use.
I built my drogue from a Sail Rite kit with 125 cones. Took me two winters sitting by the fire.
My crewman on the Alaska trip, who was a greenhorn, suggests that I suspend the drogue in our house above the fireplace, as a reminder.
I am still thinking about how I might use it on the trimaran, but the drogue is quite a heavy thing, probably 50 or 60 lbs. How much does your drogue, with everything, weigh? Any idea? I guess that you need to pay close attention to excess weight on Gannet to maintain sailing performance, much like on the trimaran.
I also built one of their deployment 'bags' which worked well. Offshore, I kept the whole deal ready to go in a duffle bag at the stern, with the bridle arms shackled and wired to the drogue chainplates and with the slack bridle lines zip-tied to various stanchions etc. The routing of the bridle lines was best done ahead of time so that I was certain that nothing would be fouled, like cleats, or worse, the wind vane.
This all nicely cleared everything when I dropped the end-weight overboard to deploy.
At deployment we were moving right along under bare poles,at perhaps 6 or 7 knots, therefore the process was really fast and powerful. Once the end weight hit the water and pulled the first cones into the water it was too late for second thoughts. It was like a whirring, flailing machine and I kept my hands and feet well clear to avoid being plucked overboard or injured.
As the full load of the moving boat came on the drogue, once the whole thing was in the water, the bridle arms came very tight and water visibly spurted; squeezed from the weave of the double-braid. Your situation may not be quite as dramatic , with lesser loads involved. Nonetheless, it was a Holy S*** time!
And a HUGE relief to have it out, with much more inclination to just sit and watch the awesome conditions. Of course the birds were constant in those high latitudes and were a comfort as they just lived their lives, thriving on the big seas and singing wind.
The wind vane was disconnected, and no steering was done.
To retrieve the drogue on my boat:
First, I never tried retrieving it in winds over 20 knots. I guess that helped.
No sail up until the drogue was aboard.
I had rigged a slack line from the boat stern to just past the apex of the bridle.
That retrieval line was winched in first, just using a cockpit sheet winch, to bring the actual drogue line within reach.
Another short line was rolling-hitched to the drogue line as far out as I could reach, and that line winched in.
That gave working slack in the drogue line so that it could be wrapped on a winch.
Then I could slowly winch in the drogue line with cones, watching carefully for foul-ups in two main places; as the drogue line came over the stern toe rail and made its way to the cockpit winch, and also as it wrapped around that winch.
I was surprised how readily the big line with cones was winchable and how seldom the cones actually fouled.
Still, there were lots of trips to the stern rail and small slack-offs to avoid tearing the cones. I did not use the self tailing feature on my Anderson winches for this process.
Nevertheless, the drogue was slowly but inexorably ground in, making use of lulls in the wind and brief slackenings with the heaving of the seas, with the slack drogue being deposited in a wet heap in the cockpit.
Two people makes it easier, but its not essential. In My Experience, haha.
Only needed two winches.
Took perhaps 30 to 40 minutes for the whole retrieval. Re-packing the drogue took longer but that doesn't really matter.
I haven't looked at Roger Taylor's site in a while: I wonder if he has cockpit winches (maybe not needed with the junk rig).
Retrieval would be brutal without winches, I think. And in strong winds. Very hard.
As a direct result of this correspondence I will assemble the various pieces of the Jordan drogue, bridle, drogue, weight, when I return to GANNET and consider how best I can arrange them for deployment, realizing that once the wind is blowing fifty knots, everything is difficult to do on a boat, and perhaps more difficult on GANNET than most.
Right now I can’t visualize having the entire drogue permanently on deck during a passage. I don’t think there is room for that on GANNET. But I might at least be able to keep the bridle shackled in place.
Professor Jordan advised against using a trip line on the drogues because he believed it likely to foul the drogue and make it ineffective. However Steve’s idea of a retrieval line to the end of the bridle is a very good idea.
I replaced GANNET’s original Barient 10 winches with Harken 20.2s, which are powerful for a Moore.
I don’t expect to use the drogue this year, sailing from New Zealand to South Africa, unless I run into an out of season cyclone. But I might need it next.
I enjoyed not having to commute this morning.
My medical appointments the past two mornings were both at 9:00 a.m. and in downtown Chicago. By train and foot, the eleven mile journey takes me an hour each way. I rode in jammed against productive members of society. All of us had eyes glued to our phones, including me, who started February’s Aubrey/Maturin a few days early because I didn’t want to carry the paperback copy of A HORSE’S MOUTH.
I thought of the latin word I recently learned, otium.
Returning around 10:00 the cars were mostly empty. A few students. A few senior citizen. A few indeterminates.
My glaucoma specialist dilated my eyes, which messed up such vision as I have until late afternoon. I could still see, but not read, so I pulled the pile of stuff I have collected to take to GANNET from a closet and assembled it on our spare bedroom floor to see what size duffle bag I need to carry it. The tiller is 37”, so I ordered a 40” bag from Amazon. I’ll take a photo of some of the stuff one of these days.
Finally, about 4:00 p.m. my vision cleared and I was able to resume typing A SINGLE WAVE.
Here is an updated PDF.
Many of you have sent me corrections. I am distressed that there are so many and deeply appreciative to all of you who have taken the time to advise me of them.
Some of the typos are amusing. I have several times written about a furling jim. Once I looked at my fact in the mirror. But, ranking up there with the angle of hell, is: But unfortunate because in my weakened condition I liked the police so much I wanted to stay.
Not a good enough reason.
Should have been ‘place’.