Hi everyone, last weekend I had an interesting experience sailing my Wave on Port Phillip Bay off Melbourne (Australia), and thought I'd share the story, both because it might be of interest to others on this forum, and in the hope that some of the more experienced Wave sailors might comment.
It was a sunny Saturday and I launched off the beach (on the eastern shore of the bay) around midday, in 10-15 knots ENE
. The bay is about 20nm across at this point. Other cats were being rigged on the beach for a club race, but I was just out for a relaxing sail. I tacked out to about a mile and a half off shore and then the wind dropped to around 10 knots and swinging SE/NE. I looked out to the horizon (west) and saw whitecaps moving in my direction
. It's not unusual to see whitecaps so I initially didn't think much of it, but as they got closer, I started to think hmm, that looks like a decent bit of wind. Basically the water in the distance was all white, and the line was getting closer, quickly. So I bore off and headed back towards the beach, still in 10 knots of wind, and sheeted out all the way (I have the optional jib and mainsheet traveller, which make a huge difference). I figured that if I could pick up some speed downwind, this would reduce the apparent wind and maybe I would be okay.
Moments later the wind hit me
, and it was like someone had flicked a switch -- the temperature dropped a good 5 degrees (celsius), and picked up to 30 knots SE
(the weather tower on the beach picked up gusts to 36 knots), with steep swells ~0.5m and rapidly building. I sat back as far as I could but in seconds had pitchpoled on the face of a wave
. I used to sail a Hobie 16 and I've got to say that this was a pretty gentle pitchpole, all things considered! Fortunately I surfaced close to the boat; it was being blown downwind at a rapid pace, and if I hadn't grabbed on quickly, I would have been in for a long, cold swim. The boat quickly settled into a surprisingly comfortable, stable position, starboard hull in the water, mast pointing to windward and the tramp acting as a sort of sail. I'd guess that I was doing 2-3 knots through the water
, slowed down considerably by the sails in the water acting like a 'drogue'.
The boat was so stable in this position that I was able to walk around the back (leeward side) of the tramp (on the lower hull) to uncleat the main, then back to the bow. With all sails up I knew there was no way I could keep the boat upright if I righted it, so I decided to try something
I'd often thought might be a good idea in these situations: I unclipped the main halyard, and slowly started to haul down the mainsail. This was surprisingly difficult because as I tried to pull it towards me (down the mast track), the water (through which we were moving at around 2-3 knots) was pulling it away from me. And every time it came free of the water, it would fill with wind (at 30 knots) and try to push me off the back of the boat! Eventually, I got it down and lashed it to the tramp using a couple of bungie cords, and tied off the main halyard. Perhaps I should have done this *before* the wind hit
With most of the windage gone, and the mainsail out of the water, I grabbed the righting rope and with the lightest of tugs, pulled the boat upright
. I had also uncleated the jib so fortunately the boat sat pretty nicely in the water, head to wind, jib flogging like crazy, although the swells were continuing to build
. I jumped on over the bow, just in time because as soon as the jib filled, she turned downwind and picked up speed -- lots of speed
. Then the starboard jib sheet came free from the clew (oops), and the main halyard came off the mast (oops again), and in the strong wind, the two lines coiled tightly around one another. So now I was surfing downwind under jib alone, with only the port sheet attached. The excess, tangled line meant that I couldn't sheet the jib in properly, but in a lull as I came down a swell I managed to tie a loop in the jib sheet, and hook the mainsheet on, then I used the mainsheet and block to control the jib. I was sitting ON the mainsheet traveller, facing backwards with my legs hanging in the water to increase drag, and in this configuration I was still climbing over the backs of swells, and surfing down them at about 12.5 knots
(I had a GPS on board). Once I got the hang of this, it was pretty exciting!
It didn't take long to get back to shore, where I almost rammed into someone who had come to help me bring the boat ashore. As I approached the beach I tried to turn the boat upwind, but running under jib alone, and not being able to sheet it in well, I couldn't round up. Fortunately we got it under control, and got the boat onto the beach with a minimum of fuss and no blood shed
. Needless to say, the race was cancelled, and I was the only person who got to go for a sail on the day. LESSONS LEARNED
I learned a few things from this experience:
- Keep an eye on the horizon! The earlier you respond to a change in weather, the better. The forecast was for 15-20 knots, picking up to 30 in the evening, but evidently the change came earlier than predicted.
- It pays to be a member of a club. Although I managed this without outside assistance, the club support boat came out to check that I was okay, which was reassuring. Two thumbs up to the folks at Frankston Yacht Club http://www.yachting.org.au/site/yachting/results/fyc/weathercam/weathercam.htm
- Sailing under jib alone is a good way to handle heavy weather (downwind) in the Wave. As I see it, upwind you can always feather the main to spill wind, but downwind this is harder. I’ve read on this forum that some people sheet the main in to the centreline to slow down downwind – does this really work? I found that the boat performed very well under jib alone, and I would do this again in a blow. Next time< I’ll try to get the main down *before* the wind hits ;p
- A few bungie cords on board come in very handy. I had 4 large bungie cords on board, and this allowed me to secure the bundled up main on deck.
A couple of mistakes I made:
- As I was hauling down the main I was careful to hang on to the halyard, but I find it a bit awkward to hook onto the mast. I didn’t take enough care doing this, which is why it came loose as I sailed back to shore.
- Poorly secured jib sheet. I tie the jib sheets to the clew with bowlines, but somehow one of these knots came loose while it was flogging. Not sure why, but I’m going to take more care with this in future!
On the whole, I think this was a great learning experience, and because I was being blown back to shore, it wasn’t cause for real concern. Have others on the forum had similar experiences? Anyone care to comment?