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Old 10-10-2007, 08:39 PM   #1
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Hi Everyone,

This is my first post, and let me start off by saying that I know nothing about sailing...

Two of my friends have had some previous experience sailing the east coast of the United States, and they have gone on a journey...

The plan is to pick-up a sailing catamaran (I believe approximately 30 ft., and approximately 20 years old) from Plymouth England, and to sail the boat to the North-West coast of Spain or Portugal. I believe that the original plan was to sail to the Canary Islands, but on the Google map the distance appears to be over 1700 mi, and I would imagine that a trip that far would take at least 15 days.

I've been doing some reading on the internet today, and I've seen mention of "Gale Winds"...At what point are winds considered gale ? Is it even doable to sail a 30 or 35 ft. cat in "Gale Winds"?

As I understand it, from my freind's wife, the two have sailed out of Plymouth yesterday....

I'm a bit concerned...How dangerous is it to do something like this during this time of year?

Thanks for any info that you may be able to give me,

Sincerly,

Chris Sambuco
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Old 10-10-2007, 11:26 PM   #2
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I've been doing some reading on the internet today, and I've seen mention of "Gale Winds"...At what point are winds considered gale ?

Chris Sambuco
The only part that can be answered is the question regarding "Gale force winds "

On the Beaufort Scale :- Force 8 = 34 to 40 knots (62 to 74 km/h) = Gale. moderately high waves (5.5m) 18 ft crests break into spindrift.

Sorry cannot answer the other points raised as there are too many unknowns and variables presented.
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Old 10-11-2007, 03:28 AM   #3
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Not the best time of year to cross Biscay by far. However, it looks as if your friends got lucky as the forecast is quite good with winds in Biscay / Fitzroy not exceeding force 7 and, for the most part probably arround force 4. (Shipping Forecast issued by the Met Office at 0015 on Thursday 11 October 2007). The predicted winds are also north-easterly which is amazingly fortunate for your friends as this means they will be running before the wind. North-easterlies are not so common in that area.

You state that your friends have "some previous experience". I wonder, what does the "some" entail. Is "some" enough? I have seen some pretty terrible seas in Biscay so if friends of mine with only "some previous experience" were crossing the Bay I would be concerned.

What also concerns me greatly, although I am not saying that this is the case here, is that people with insufficient experience head out on passages over areas like Biscay where gales can be expected at this time of year. But Biscay is worse than just a bad weather area. The real problem with the Bay of Biscay is that the sea bed rises from the ocean depths to littoral shallows causing exceedingly uncomfortable and dangerous wave patterns. Generally it is also a lee shore with few sheltered anchorages or ports and those that are are tidal and have bars to cross. I am not trying to paint a picture of gloom but just pointing out that this is an area to be treated with respect.

Naturally, I hope all goes well for your friends
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Old 10-11-2007, 07:16 AM   #4
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Thank you for the replies...

Would the rougher areas of the Biscay be more inland, or is the area still considered rough even 200 or so miles away from the shore from France ?

If I understand correctly, they intend to go straight to the Canary Islands , or to sail as far south as they can, until about the end of this month, at which point they plan to dock the boat where they can (probably in Spain), and then return to their jobs by November.

Again, I know nothing about sailing...You mentioned the current winds are north-easterly...Is that an advantage when sailing south-west ?

If everything works out well crossing the Biscay, how are the waters generally considered off of the coast of Portugal, Spain , and Morocco ?

Thanks again,

Chris Sambuco
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Old 10-11-2007, 11:30 AM   #5
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I suggest that anybody get some full time, non-stop experience on their boat for ATLEAST 6 months before doing a passage of several days. Really nice to know where the handholds are and which drawr holds the sharp knifes and what to do when @#$@#$@#$@# breaks or stops working.

When all hell breaks loose is not the time to learn these things.
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Old 10-11-2007, 03:20 PM   #6
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More questions ! No problems.

"Would the rougher areas of the Biscay be more inland, or is the area still considered rough even 200 or so miles away from the shore from France ?"

Good question. The seas in any gale will be rough but the general rule is once off the continental shelf the wave period is longer so, even if the wave height is greater, it feels better. In the deep ocean there is nothing to stop the waves rolling as the laws of physics dictate but once they are hindered by shoaling water then they have to change. The period becomes shorter and the waves steeper so, even if they are not as high as ocean waves, they toss a boat arround a lot more. Also, getting away from the coast means that the tidal stream is less pronounced so any wind-against-current effect will be less.

Let me explain wind-against-current. Three things contribute to building up waves; wind velocity, the fetch i.e. distance over water the wind has blown and the length of time it has blown.

* The wind velocity should really be termed relative velocity so if the wind and tide are blowing/setting in the same direction and at the same speed the relative velocity is zero hence no wind generated waves. Therefore, wind against tide is worse than wind with tide as far as wave building is concerned.

* The fetch is very important. If the wind is off the land and you are close to it then the fetch is extremely short and you may only get a rippling of the water. For the same wind, if on shore with a long fetch then you can get enormous waves. Example: I once sailed (actually motored in a multi-support vessel) up the English/Scottish east coast from Hull to Peterhead in a force 10 all the way. It would have been en extremely uncomfortable trip if the wind had been from the north east but it was westerly so we just hugged the shore all the way up and had a lovely, calm trip. Getting back to Biscay, if the wind is north-easterly then your friends will have the wind behind them. We say that they will be running free which is a comfortable point of sailing; gentle on both the crew and the boat. Also, if you look at a chart of Biscay, you will see that the fetch in north-easterly winds is far far less than it would be with westerlies or south-westerlies.

* The sea has a large amount of inertia. It takes time to start it moving and it takes time to stop it. If you get a strong wind which just lasts say half an hour then the seas do not have a chance to build up. If, on the other hand, the wind comes more or less constantly from the same direction for a long time then, unless the fetch is little, you will get huge seas and swell waves building up.

Again, I know nothing about sailing...You mentioned the current winds are north-easterly...Is that an advantage when sailing south-west ?

See above

If everything works out well crossing the Biscay, how are the waters generally considered off of the coast of Portugal, Spain , and Morocco ?

Once south of Cape Finisterre (the end of the earth!) the weather generally is better than Biscay but there are no guarantees. I have seen calm weather and fog, high winds and clear skies and also fantastic days off the Spanish Atlantic and Portuguese coasts. In summer there is often a nice big high pressure area parked long term over the Azores. This frequently stretches all the way to Biscay bringing balmy days but the summer is now over. My advice would be for your friends to make La Coruna for a few days rest and when a weather window presents itself head south for Portugal.

I hope this explanation helps.

Aye // Stephen
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Old 10-11-2007, 04:01 PM   #7
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Old 10-11-2007, 04:47 PM   #8
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That was a lot of helpful information...

Thanks again,

Chris sambuco
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Old 10-11-2007, 06:46 PM   #9
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That was a lot of helpful information...
Pleasure Chris
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Old 10-14-2007, 01:44 PM   #10
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Well, I have Good News and Bad News regarding my friends and their trip...

The good news is that they are safe on land...One is back home , and the other is still in England making arrangements before he returns home in a few days.

The bad news is that the both of the boat's rudders became damaged early out in the trip, and they had to return to where they started from...

From what I understand, they started off on their trip early this past Tuesday from Plymouth , and at about 30 hours out , they were rounding the point of the opening of the Biscay Bay near Brest France. At that point , they noticed some trouble with one of the rudders, and shortly after that the second rudder.

They "patched-up" the rudders with about 200 nylon Tie-wraps and Bungee cords well enough to return to their starting point by Thursday night.

I was checking the Met Office Shipping Forecast, and for a few days the sea conditions in Plymouth and Biscay were described as "slight or moderate", however as I understand from my friend it was a very rocky ride in a 30 foot boat...the shipping forecast was calling for rougher waters in the Fitzroy area.

It seems that my friends are very lucky that the rudders gave out early in the trip...I would imagine being a few hundred miles from shore, with no rudders, and "occasionally rough" waters could be a possibly grave situation.

By the way, the boat in question is a 30 year-old Iroquois mk2 made by Sailcraft.

That's my story,

Chris
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Old 10-14-2007, 03:41 PM   #11
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All very interesting,with exellent advice from the moderaters.
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Old 10-14-2007, 10:13 PM   #12
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Well, I have Good News and Bad News regarding my friends and their trip...

The bad news is that the both of the boat's rudders became damaged early out in the trip, and they had to return to where they started from...

From what I understand, they started off on their trip early this past Tuesday from Plymouth , and at about 30 hours out , they were rounding the point of the opening of the Biscay Bay near Brest France. At that point , they noticed some trouble with one of the rudders, and shortly after that the second rudder.

They "patched-up" the rudders with about 200 nylon Tie-wraps and Bungee cords well enough to return to their starting point by Thursday night.

It seems that my friends are very lucky that the rudders gave out early in the trip...I would imagine being a few hundred miles from shore, with no rudders, and "occasionally rough" waters could be a possibly grave situation.

By the way, the boat in question is a 30 year-old Iroquois mk2 made by Sailcraft.
Hi Chris,

Thanks so much for coming back with results of the trip - pleased to see that our sailors managed to jury rig the rudders to enable them to get back safely! Strangely enough by having this type of rudder, allowed repairs to be done - normal (spade or skeg supported) rudders almost impossible to repair in the water. However, the early Iroquois rudders were very light and in a following sea they were prone to damage-- check this photo of the design and construction :-

Iroquois_II.jpg

Richard
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Old 10-20-2007, 04:01 PM   #13
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Well, I have Good News and Bad News regarding my friends and their trip...

The good news is that they are safe on land...One is back home , and the other is still in England making arrangements before he returns home in a few days.

I was checking the Met Office Shipping Forecast, and for a few days the sea conditions in Plymouth and Biscay were described as "slight or moderate", however as I understand from my friend it was a very rocky ride in a 30 foot boat...the shipping forecast was calling for rougher waters in the Fitzroy area.

Chris
Sorry I have been unable to get back to you sooner but I have spent the last week out of contact with most of humanity - in the marshlands of southern Lithuania in fact!

Anyway, I am pleased your friends made it safely to port. Shame about the rudder though.

The British Shipping Forecast is about as good as it gets in a maritime climate. Their descriptions, such as "slight to moderate" are relative to their conditions. A moderate breeze elsewhere might be considered a strong wind or a near gale. Here in Sweden, for example, we describe the equivilent of an "English" "Fresh wind" as a near gale. It is simply horses for courses, in the same way as the Eskimos have, I believe, 22 different words for snow.

And yes, a 30 feet boat in a moderate breeze, especially if the wind is against the tide, can be tossed arround a bit.

Aye // Stephen
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