Heavy weather practice


In a gale

Late october, on the way to New Zeland, the weather explained me, that I really left the tropics. (31-3°S, near 179°E). 48 hours of bad weather (25.-26.10.2008) with frequent gale force winds, reaching 10 B and more in gusts (I am not technically able to measure higher winds), perhaps 9B sustained on the 26th afternoon. It was my first gale on the southern hemisphere.

Waterbird´s storm wings

Storm set sails are less than 10 sq. mtrs together, main slighty bigger than the jib.


A gale on the ocean is an amazing experience. It was a good test for me and for the boat before my voyage in the southern ocean when the gales are more frequent and more violent. I was well prepared and always two steps in advance before the wheather. Under such circumstances one has time to admire big breaking seas under big clouds, lit by a sunset which has been just uncovered thanks to the cold front passage.


Breakers have started to form

In a gale, breaking seas develop fast. This one is taken from the back, i.e. downwind, it is breaking to the other side, but the white can be seen anyway. If the top hits a boat just before it breaks, it brings a huge bang. Things which never moved before are flying around.

After the storm, I remembered an american sailor I met in Tahaa. He was very proud to tell me "we are good weather sailors". He was on his way to New Zeland, at the same time as me and thinking that it was too late in the season. (the opposite is true, but he seemed very convinced). I am wondering now, whether passage to New Zeland is for "good weather sailors" at all. One thing is sure for me. Changing weather of the middle latitudes can be hard, but it also makes me more alived and alert, bringing more happenings and chalanges. More intense experiences too: a sunrise after a storm on the ocean is something so incredibly strong and perhaps impossible to describe to anybody who lives whole life on the land.

Technical detailes

Waterbird used her storm "wings" when it was blowing 8 B and more. Several hours gale did not force me to run with the wind. I was "beating" all the time i.e. about 90 degrees progress to the wind or possibly less(the bow points to the wind more, not too much water in the cockpit). She heaves to comfortably, but I found slow progress practically as comfortable in most conditions (described here). Untill the wind backed to SW, I prefered mimimal progress and later I hove to because I would be faster in a wrong direction otherwise. Well the progress is not fast anyway 2 to 3 knots (not running, of course). Just a little faster than heaving to: 2 knots in a heavy blow, later about 1 knot, moving 135° from the wind, bow about 70° to the wind.


What I found unusual was: 1) gale force winds came 9 hrs after minimum pressure (999hPa), when this happened, the glass was already slightly rising. 2) the heaviest blast - perhaps cold front passage - came 36 hrs after the minimum glass and 27 hrs after start of gale force winds. 3) about 24 hrs before the heaviest blast glass was slowly rising from 1001 to 1008hPa (winds calmer but unstable anything from 4 to 8) and dropped just 1hPa 1 hour before the blast ("cold front passage") 4) I noticed that just under dark heavy blowing clouds barometer falls about 1hPa. Vito Dumas gave me this idea, he was observing the same in the southern ocean.

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