I've started to give some thought to voyages I'd like to try and make this year during May Half term and during the summer. In no particular order:
1. going up the Lynher for an overnight at St Germans or boating World
2. going up the Tamar as far as Calstock for an overnight
3. sailing from Plymouth, via Salcombe to Dartmouth and up to Totnes; and or around to Torquay
4. Towing the boat down to Falmouth and sailing back to Plymouth via Mevagissy and Polperro or Looe
Regular readers of this blog will say "huh said that last year and the year before that...and still haven't done those voyages yet!" this is true.....but this year........I intend making a concerted effort!
The last two voyages would necessitate some open water sailing about four miles off shore and with the weather we have been having, close attention to appropriate weather opportunities would be needed. As I was thinking about this I spotted a Dinghy Cruising Association forum post about stormy weather tactics for small open boats. How appropriate!
DCA forum members have draw attention to some interesting forum posts about storm tactics, most of the posting being on the wooden boat forum but there have been references to other sites.
I have never given much thought to being caught out in stormy conditions. I've always kept a careful eye out on the weather; avoided sailing in conditions where there might be a risk of the weather deteriorating. But that isn't the point. I might get caught out one day. In fact I have. On my first voyage to Salcombe and back I ended up sailing back home in around 15 knots but with gusts of up to 25 knots. You can read about those voyages here at http://arwensmeanderings.blogspot.co.uk/2010/08/day-two-report-salcombe-to-plymouth.html
Anyway, just off Bolt Tail in Bigbury Bay, I got caught by a ferocious gust and before I had time to spill sail, luff up or do anything, Arwen was almost on her side with deep green water running down the starboard side deck. I was stood almost upright with my feet on the side wall of the starboard side thwart and the tiller/rudder were unresponsive. I was inexperienced, sailing under jib and mizzen and probably outside my 'experience zone'.....but hey a good learning experience I guess!
I learnt much from that experience about predicting weather, reeling early, sailing under mizzen and jib, anticipating wind gusts around headlands and down valleys...............
Which brings me back to storm tactics........do I really know what to do if I am sailing from Falmouth in the summer and I get caught out four or five miles off shore due to sudden 'unexpected' summer storms/squalls?
So what do various woodenboat forum members suggest you do in heavy seas and strong winds? Well in no particularly order, but worthy of consideration are
1. Watch the weather and don't leave harbour if there is a serious risk of stormy weather within my intended sailing time
2. Make sure all our hatches are sealed and as watertight as possible before going to sea so that if I do take on water it will stay in the cockpit and can be bailed out at some stage
3. If caught out, head out to sea to gain some sea room especially if on a lee shore. In such circumstances try to sail down wind. (There was discussion about whether this could be done with just jib; or under bare poles; or with just mizzen up; and about ensuring that you ran perpendicular to the wave fronts to avoid broaching so this would require constant careful steering)
4. Drop the main, furl the jib, tighten the mizzen and turn head to wind but make sure rudder is secured amidships as we'd be moving backwards. If doing this strategy, then deploying a drogue over the stern; or even a large loop of anchor warp would help slow the backward drift
5. The higher the wind, the less centreboard we should have down
6. One thing many forum members commented on was making sure that no water could come up through the centre case if the boat was swamped. Water could well up through faster than I could bale it out. (Now this is a problem on Arwen because she does have the font part of the centre case open. I think John Welsford has altered the design since I first built Arwen so I need to get my head around this problem).
7. Keep any flotation bags, waterproof storage bags, fenders, etc strapped low down on Arwen's hull sides near the floor. They will displace water in a swamped hull. More importantly, having them too high up on the hull sides could make her float too high when on her side, increasing the risk of her turning turtle
8. Plan escape refuges on long routes so if the weather is going to turn, get into harbour before it does so. (This is something I have always done as a matter of routine passage planning - its a hangover form my old mountaineering days - always know your escape routes!!).
9. Install some masthead buoyancy if going over a couple of miles out to sea. this could be a commercially bought one attached to the mast - or it could be a fender strung up; or I have seen used successfully a waterproof expedition drysac inflated and attached by Halyard. the latter are very lightweight but have surprising buoyancy when needed)
10. Hove to and if necessary deploy a drogue over the stern as we run downwind; or over the bow but keeping it to one side if bow pointing into the wind
11. Make sure everything is properly tied down and tied on i.e. items are actually restrained and tied in such a way that they become part of the boat. (here I need to do some more work on this. It isn't enough to have things attached to the boat by long pieces of string - they have to be actually restrained and stopped from floating around should the boat capsize or get swamped)
12. Wearing a safety harness attached to an eye bolt, which I need to add somewhere to the keel hog running through the boat. (And having a safety rope that would be long enough for me to swim around the boat from one side to the other; again I have the harness but I haven't checked whether it will clip to my new buoyancy aid or not; and whether the warp attached to it is long enough))
13. Install some righting lines. I've posted on this before but done nothing about it and I need to revisit this and think about it carefully
These aren't in any order and I need to fully think through some of the points above and what they mean. Food for thought. I am sure people will have views and actually if you do, please share them via the comment box below. I will appreciate your time and advice - thank you.
In the meantime making more securing points and a fixed eye ring at the base of the cockpit; and righting lines, of course, are things I can be usefully getting on with