Arwen's meanderings

Hi everyone and welcome to my new blog. My name is Steve and i am the lucky owner of a John Welsford designed 'navigator' named Arwen. I built her over three years with the help of my father, father-in-law and two children. She was launched in August 2007 at Queen Anne's battery marina in the barbican area of Plymouth. This blog is a record of our voyages together around SW England.
Arwen has a YouTube channel of her own. Search "plymouthwelshboy".

Monday, 28 April 2014

storm tactics and heavy weather 2

'A very thought provoking and insightful post Steve. You've got me convinced now that I'm not carrying enough safety gear. Thanks for the inspiration and the fine examples'

So said Joel after reading the post previous to this one. Nice to have some praise, but I'm not confident about what I wrote in the last post. The idea of putting a drogue over the bow and lying in the floorboards doesn't really seem a viable option to me in a small open dinghy.

I think a drogue over the stern as you make a downwind run is probably a far better option. All being well - you have some refuge on the leeshore, downwind of you! Better to head for that if all other options are failing.

Anyway, Joel's comment got me thinking, as always about the whole issue of safety in stormy seas. My main aim is never to get caught out i.e. choosing an appropriate weather window!  Running out to sea to get sea room during a storm also 'feels' wrong. I would have thought that waves further out to sea will be even bigger and there would be a serious risk of swamping, broaching etc in a small dinghy.

If I were to be capsized, staying with the boat would be essential so harnesses are a definite. Carrying VHF, mobile, GPS, PLB, knife, some boiled sweets and a spray hood in my buoyancy aid - a must. If I had to sit on an upturned hull; or if I couldn't get Arwen upright again, at least drifting attached to her makes me easier to see and find.

Masthead buoyancy - well it may be worth hoisting an inflated expedition dry sac and seeing what issues that causes next time I'm out (so note to self for next trip...........
  • it will be the 300th hour in Arwen and 75th trip so party!
  • raise the attachment point for the snotter as outlined in a previous post - advice from Joel
  • similarly, tension the downhaul more and pull the tack of the sail closer to the mast and secure
  • raise an expedition drybag or attach one to top of mast; use a running halyard line on loop around block so it can be lowered if needbe)
Having drybags, fenders etc low down and attached to hull sides - definitely displaces water in swamped hull and provides floatation. But what about my anchor?

Ah! That Anchor. A 15lb Bruce anchor with 3m of chain and then almost 40m of rode. Kept upfront in the anchor well on the starboard side just behind the bowsprit and secured with elastic straps - it can be seen in the photo below.  Is its storage location an issue?

the anchor and warp are stored on the left hand side of the bowsprit in this photo between oar and stemhead; you can just make out anchor shank sticking up

 If heading upwind in stormy conditions would it cause the bow to bury itself - would this be a good thing? On a downwind run in stormy conditions would that weight cause the bow to dig into the waves and so induce a nasty broach gybe or far worse a pitch-pole situation?

Oh dear! I feel one of 'my headaches' coming know the ones.........confused, tense,!
I'd better go for a lie down on the sofa with a marmite sandwich, glass of milk and Hawaii 5-0 on the TV; and everyone kicked out of the if that could ever happen in my household!


Bursledon Blogger said...

I can only speak from experience we spent 48 hours hove to in a NE'ly gale 1000 miles from land, it was safe, comfortable and easy, since then I've heaved to in practically every boat I've been in including Tosh our 12' cat boat. In extreme conditions lying bow to a sea anchor and lying on the floorboards sounds like a good tactic, didn't Frank Dye do that on his trip to Norway? but on a summer cruise along the south west coast I'm not sure you ever need to meet conditions that would demand it nor would you have enough sea room - note we still have a sea anchor from our Atlantic trip unused and in the loft!

steve said...

Fair points. I know some of the dinghy cruisers have been caught in severe weather during summer. I think thy heaved to and headed out to sea a little. Being inexperienced is one times tricky. You get many views, some contrasting, and so it becomes difficult to judge things. However, listening to those who have experienced such conditions and been through them, is very useful. Thanks Max. Valuable food for thought.


Bursledon Blogger said...

Steve the pardy's Storm Tactics is worth a read, they champion a parachute sea anchor for extreme offshore gales, but heaving too for 95% of conditions I reread Heavy weather sailing (an early copy) after reading storm tactics about 10 times and I'm convinced that many of the problems/capsizes de masting were caused by running - clearly no way to say that hove to would have prevented the major disasters but I know my own mind is very firm on the subject

steve said...

I often heave to. having read Roger Barnes advice in his new dinghy cruising book and also going back and reading about Frank dye and his sailing through a force 9 gale, it seems that dinghies may behave differently to small yachts. dinghies certainly don't have the weight to punch through steep waves or against strong winds. Both Frank and Roger talk about in worst case scenarios having reduced sail, heaved too etc then switching to going downwind under bare poles. Both suggest unshipping the mast if possible.....that latter bit would be impossible in Arwen in such conditions.