Big wind, big sea - stories from the helm?

Denise McDonald

Member II
Hello, Having just gotten our E27 back in the water after a long summer at the mechanics, we are just now getting to really take her out and have some fun. I'm always surprised by how many people say, "Is that an Ericson? Those are really great boats." And then many launch into things they've 'heard' about how great they handle in big wind and big seas. Can anyone tell me a sea story about sailing an Ericson in rough conditions? At what point (wind or sea size) did it stop being fun and become a fearful experience? I realize it's a kind of hard question because some people love rolling over 6 footers and think "Now THAT'S sailing!" while others won't go out in much more that 2 or 3 foot waves. Just looking for some good sail tales.
 

Loren Beach

O34 - Portland, OR
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
Mr. King has a great design touch. The V section forward seems to be 'just right' to provide a soft entry into larger seas while still providing enough reserve buoyancy. This takes both calculation and intuition. He's not the only person to do this so well, but is one of the better NA's. :D

Not sure where the gray area for fun vs fear sharpens up.... but on the several great ocean-rated designs I have done multi day deliveries on, we were not fearful in winds to 40 and seas to around 20. Pretty darned exciting, tho! :)
(Olson, Ericson, Cascade, Kelly-Petersen, Yamaha, Sabre, Niagara, CT, to name the best ones)
In gale conditions, one does begin to ponder one's place in the cosmos and wonder about the "hereafter" just a bit! And, mostly, hope that nothing breaks....
FWIW, I would never again choose to spend 36 hours in a gale, 50 miles offshore.
 
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cowlum

Member I
Went round Brooks Peninsula in northerly 25-30 knot winds after it had been blowing northerly for 40+ for a week in my e27. Largest waves I've experienced. The waves compact at the peninsula and become short period. Trailing seas with heaps of correction on the helm required by me. Only the main fully reefed. Two broaches at the crest of waves. The waves came up from behind looking like they'll swamp the boat but every time the boat rides up the face of the wave easily. Havn't been in waves like that before or since on any other boat so have no idea if the E27 was doing well or poorly. Two 45 foot beneteaus under motor also went round in the "wind lull" with me. All I can say for certain is the boats build quality never concerned me.
 

Denise McDonald

Member II
Went round Brooks Peninsula in northerly 25-30 knot winds after it had been blowing northerly for 40+ for a week in my e27. Largest waves I've experienced. The waves compact at the peninsula and become short period. Trailing seas with heaps of correction on the helm required by me. Only the main fully reefed. Two broaches at the crest of waves. The waves came up from behind looking like they'll swamp the boat but every time the boat rides up the face of the wave easily. Havn't been in waves like that before or since on any other boat so have no idea if the E27 was doing well or poorly. Two 45 foot beneteaus under motor also went round in the "wind lull" with me. All I can say for certain is the boats build quality never concerned me.
Awesome sea tale!
 

Loren Beach

O34 - Portland, OR
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
Found this blog, with some searching on "Brooks Peninsula".... I have heard that it's quite rough, and this narrative also confirms that.

(My experience with big winds/seas was a southbound delivery past Cape Mendocino.... and tongue-in-cheek do believe it might be a native American word translating to "scaring ignorant sailors on small boats"... ! ) :)
 

Gary Holford

Member II
I was on the third day out in early May moving my first and only sailboat, an E27 to a North Channel marina with the previous owner, George. With trepidation I steered 270 out of Britt and ventured across a very choppy Georgian Bay. I had never been in a situation where I could not see land and now we were head on into 4 foot waves for what seemed an eternity in the middle of nowhere. My 77 old navigator, a life long sailor and former 2nd mate on a tall ship was even sick. At one point he was lifeless and curled up on the cabin floor. I thought he had died. "Gary, I'm getting too old for this."
When at long last we spotted land and redemption we were invaded by thousands of gnats and flies. That was short lived as the wind swung from the north, increased past 20 knots and the waves grew to 6+ feet. We were motoring with only a small part of the genoa out as the bow dove into these never ending wave troughs and water ran down the side decks. I was terrified with a death grip on the tiller. By nightfall the rain, thunder and lightning only added to our misery. As we fought north across Frazer Bay seeking a safe anchorage the image of Forrest Gump and Lieut. Dan came to mind. Well we made to a lee shore and dragged anchor half the night. By morning Lake Huron was a mill pond.
That was my first and last great storm but now I know what my little boat and I can handle. Fair winds
 

Loren Beach

O34 - Portland, OR
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
Gary, Thanks for the great narrative...
Needs only one more sentence at the end: "And That's all I have to say about That!"
:)
 

Denise McDonald

Member II
I was on the third day out in early May moving my first and only sailboat, an E27 to a North Channel marina with the previous owner, George. With trepidation I steered 270 out of Britt and ventured across a very choppy Georgian Bay. I had never been in a situation where I could not see land and now we were head on into 4 foot waves for what seemed an eternity in the middle of nowhere. My 77 old navigator, a life long sailor and former 2nd mate on a tall ship was even sick. At one point he was lifeless and curled up on the cabin floor. I thought he had died. "Gary, I'm getting too old for this."
When at long last we spotted land and redemption we were invaded by thousands of gnats and flies. That was short lived as the wind swung from the north, increased past 20 knots and the waves grew to 6+ feet. We were motoring with only a small part of the genoa out as the bow dove into these never ending wave troughs and water ran down the side decks. I was terrified with a death grip on the tiller. By nightfall the rain, thunder and lightning only added to our misery. As we fought north across Frazer Bay seeking a safe anchorage the image of Forrest Gump and Lieut. Dan came to mind. Well we made to a lee shore and dragged anchor half the night. By morning Lake Huron was a mill pond.
That was my first and last great storm but now I know what my little boat and I can handle. Fair winds
Amazing! thank you
 

Frank Langer

1984 Ericson 30+, Nanaimo, BC
One of the advantages of sailing in more challenging conditions is that it shows you how solid Ericsons are, that they can handle more than we often can. It also increases our experience so that when we are caught out in stronger winds, it's not so daunting if we know we managed ok in these winds before.
Sometimes the hardest part is reassuring the crew that it's ok, not dangerous, and they can relax a bit.
Frank
 

frosero7744

Member II
SF Bay. This day blowing about 30 true wind in the slot between treasure island and angel island. 2-3 foot wind waves. Super fun!
20200829_134925_Moment.jpg
 

paul culver

Member III
My only gale experiences were crewing for my late father-in-law in his Passport 40. Twice at Pt. Concepcion in CA. But I was coming back from a week long trip about three years ago out to the channel islands and back into my home port at Oceanside harbor. The VHF was saying the harbor was closed due to a 12 to 15 foot south swell at the entrance. When we got there we were greeted by a lifeguard on a rescue boat who said no one can leave the harbor but he can't stop a returner, though entry was "not advised". I circled for several minutes to get a feel for the swell's timing, then went full throttle on a motor-and-main configuration. I looked aft once to check my alignment with the building swell and it was huge. Then I looked forward to see half a dozen kayakers paddling like crazy to get out of my way. Lucky for me that wave never broke. I am sure my E29 never went faster than it did surfing down that swell.
 

goldenstate

Member III
Blogs Author
"blowing about 30 true wind in the slot between treasure island and angel island "

Kind of like driving home from Tahoe.
The gas pedal is available, but you only need to glance at it every once in a while to stay well over the speed limit.
 

p.gazibara

Member III
Point conception can be a rather exciting place. We rounded coming south in a brisk wind and filled the cockpit 3 or 4 times with green water. The Aries was doing all the work and I just popped my head out the companionway every 20 minutes.

Sure was comforting throwing down the hook at San Miguel Island.
 

toddster

Curator of Broken Parts
Blogs Author
Maybe this quote from Astronaut Mark Kelly, which was not strictly about sailing, sums it up:
“It’s kinda like going over Niagara Falls in a barrel. On fire. Once you realize that you’re not gonna die, it’s the most fun you’ve ever had.”
 

Keith Parcells

Sustaining Member
Knuckle biter #1

we wee out for a rather exhilarating sail in about 18-20 knots with a good sized swell running. It was 5-6 feet, but the waves were of a very long period of about 13 seconds. With those long period waves, big distances between the swells, it was actually pretty pleasant and tolerated well even though the admiral is sometimes prone to mal de mer.

Then, tired, we returned and approached our home port. Our harbor has two rock jetties protected by a detached breakwater. most of our waters are fairly deep and we are not often concerned about the state of the tides,BUT of that day, the wind and waves both pointed into the harbor and the tide was at ebb.the out rushing tide met the in rushing waves and wind. That shorted the wave period drastically right at the harbor mouth. The
laws of physics being firm as they are, shortened wave frequencies equal added wave amplitude (height). So now, close to the rocks and sweeping across the harbor entrance toward a Lee shore were (my estimate) 8-10’ waves which were very close together. The harbor patrol boat was out hailing boats to use caution on entry. No s**t, Sherlock!. Watching Several wave sets and other boats, the few who dared, was scary but I could see in my minds eye what had to be done. Once committed we were surfing and had to turn back up the face of the wave, exactly toward the rocks of the detached breakwater, knowing that the wave would turn the bow back away from the rocks as it sweeps us into the harbor mouth! What a ride. Made it!
 

p.gazibara

Member III
I guess the biggest knuckle biter I experienced so far was coming back to Tahiti after touring the societies with some relatives.

The rest of Ava’s family had flown into Tahiti the night before and we were coming back to see everyone. We were going to anchor behind the house they rented, but of course to get there we had to enter an uncharted break in the reef. As we approached we couldn’t see the pass! I could see white water breaking everywhere along the reef. Could have been the 5 meter swell that was running...

We got within a few hundred yards and decided to carry on and head for Port Phaeton instead (much more clearly marked pass).

The wind was light so the 5 or so miles were slow going. We were still waiting on our replacement motor drive batteries to arrive from India, but didn’t let that deter us from sailing around the island. (After leaving the boat in Tahiti for 4 months we returned to a dead battery bank. We managed to dumb charge the batteries back up and they held 12V each, but how much capacity remained was a big question mark. Each 12V battery was down to 2V before we managed to charge them.)

Knowing all of this, even entering the “big” pass was a nail biter. Of course we were under sail, and of course the wind was light. We were hard on the fickle wind, but at least we had a slight current in our favor.

As we entered the pass, the wind built and soon were we coming in at 6kts next to the surfers and kayakers that were paddling the Vairao break. It was terrifyingly beautiful to be lifted by the 5meter swell and launched into the pass a hundred feet from the surfers. A quick burst of the throttle allowed us to point up just enough to clear the reef marker and in we went.

One exciting tack later the nerves calmed and we were sailing in the crystal clear water of the beautiful lagoon. We made it “home.”

I guess we were a bit practiced after Ava and I sailed out of the East pass of Huahine a week prior with the wind on the nose into 3 meter swell. We had to tack about 4 times in the narrow pass before we were well clear of the reef. It’s very intimidating watching those waves break on the reef a hundred feet away...

I absolutely love how Cinderella sails. Yes, she’s slow compared to some of the big modern sleds, but I would like to see them sail in and out of all those passes in French Polynesia double-handed. I still remember blowing the doors of a Tayana 48 going to windward against the current in El Salvador. After we passed them, they started their engine and dropped their sails.

-P
 

Guy Stevens

Moderator
Moderator
Ericson 39 coming out of New Zealand headed for Tonga:
Wind 92+ Knots (Our Anemometer pegged at 65 knots, the weather station on the Kermadec Islands when we were passing them, contacted by radio had theirs pegged at 92 Knots).
Seas 45 feet Plus, Measured by the height of the second spreader. Could have been higher, really hard to know except that there was only a small patch of sky visible when you were in the troughs.
In the group of boats that left at the same time we did, 4 sank, 1 with all hands, another crew fished out of the ocean by helicopter, two in life rafts. 5 Other boats headed back after the storm that wasn't supposed to have happened passed over them. 3 of them had to be towed in as I recall.
We ripped the traveler off of one side of the deck, (Turns out the backing plates on the traveler on the 39 were a bad joke). We bent the anchor roller retrieving the parachute sea anchor (User error and a long anchor roller). We did temporary repairs at sea. We had to caulk, and rebed later, the port dead lights, but they held through an amazing beating they took at one point, and sailed into Tonga.
Fun, no you couldn't even see fun from where we were....
My wife asked me if I was afraid, I lied and said no.. I asked her the same question, she said no... We both knew our spouse was lying to us, but never pointed that out......
Our 39 took care of us through that storm which would have been considered a hurricane outside of the southern ocean sailing.
Our 46 has been through a number of full gales. Both boats took care of us, they were well built and we took care of them first....
 
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