how do cats handle big waves?

Discussion in 'Multihulls' started by Guest1578132542, Jul 15, 2010.

  1. catsketcher
    Joined: Mar 2006
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    catsketcher Senior Member

    Good lessons here

    Thanks Westerman for the link

    A few points from my background

    The Catana seems a pretty good boat so the storm must have been very nasty. More than a few Catana 44s have done lots of miles.

    The sea anchor is a very interesting point. The designer of my cat - Robin Chamberlin does not like them. He does design big bows on his boats (BTW his inner forestay and staysail on his rigs stops the bows blowing off as the CE stays in the same spot when reefed) and he does not like the round up into the nasty weather when the storm blows up. On his antarctic trip he used a drogue. The best thing about a drogue is that you don't have to round up. The sea anchor people do insist that you deploy it as soon as you think of the sea anchor. In this case the bridle was not working. The same thing happened to a tri in the late 80s. Lesson to learn - if your sea anchor does not keep you headed up straight into the wind cut it free and deploy the drogue.

    Another point is the boat's preparedness. It was good that the boat had an escape hatch. A French based cat capsized and the people inside asphyxiated as they did not leave the boat. The occupants could not stay inside and breathe for more than a few hours.

    It seems as though the boat did not have deck paint and ropes on the bridgedeck. A cruising cat should. Many cruising cats have a clear run from aft to the front which means there are no inverted void spaces. On our Chamberlin 38 the front 3.5 metres and aft 2 metres are separated from the accomodation. They are still very useful for storage. If the boat was to flip these areas would provide a space to cut into with an axe and keep the boat high (they have a floor). When I asked for capsize friendly bulkheads the designer was surprised. It seems that as soon as he drew them in people would cut them out to get an extra single bunk. I appreciate the bulkheads at all times as they separate the wet storage from the interior and provide a great crash bulkhead upright too.

    When I painted deck paint on the under wing a friend thought I was being overly worried. Deck paint on the underwing makes it much easier to build as you don't have to fair the underwing so much.

    So put your crash bulkheads in for upright and inverted safety. Deck paint your underwing and fit with ropes. Practise with your parachute and drogue and get a good weather forecast. Have an axe tied to an accessible part of the inverted boat.


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  2. Westernman51
    Joined: Jul 2010
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    Location: France

    Westernman51 Junior Member

    Never underestimate the med in winter.

    There has not yet been a winter where we have not had a storm with winds of over 100MPH inside my marina. I would not like to be out in the middle of the med in that kind of weather in any kind of boat.

    You can go from F1-F7 down here in less than an hour or in less than 5nm distance - even in the middle of summer.
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  3. CatBuilder

    CatBuilder Previous Member

    Ok, I haven't read "page 4" yet, when responding to this, but I hope the thread didn't spiral into sh*t. :D

    Mark, we share something in common. I once, too believed in and felt that there was "no replacement for displacement" and that a heavy craft was the right solution in rough times.

    I bought a catamaran for one reason only: Deck space for charters.

    After taking that catamaran from the FL keys to Down East Maine, my mind was completely changed. I saw how a lighter boat behaves better in the rough stuff, if it's a catamaran (raft).

    It's not something I can "prove" or will even argue. It's kind of like a "you had to be there" thing. As conditions deteriorated, I was able to handle them like never before in the cat. What would once scare the crap out of me was still nerve wracking, but manageable.

    I know all of this makes no sense to you and I wouldn't expect it to. FWIW: I'm talking about sailboats here too. I wouldn't have the first clue about if a cat power boat was any good in the slop compared to a standard power boat. I'm just relating sailing experience.

    Anyway, there is something to it. If you can, try to get out on one. I know you're more of a commercial guy, but it's definitely an eye opener to be on the cat rough conditions.

    Before I owned one, I would have never believed it either.
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  4. mark775

    mark775 Guest

  5. Bruce Woods
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    Bruce Woods Senior Member

    Hi phil, I enjoy reading your informed and knowledgeable posts.

    I also hank my storm jib onto an inner forestay. Having spent many years on Australia's south coast this sail has unfortunately had a little use. Once it really starts to blow the catamarans windage and lack of momentum seem to control the situation. It becomes pretty well impossible to tack with the windage from the both the rig and the bows, yet one is totally overpowered when the bows get knocked to lee as the boat slows and stalls, if you get a little high into the waves, or the rig becomes sheltered in the troughs and pummeled by the next sea. There's no substitute for lead, and lots of in this situation, in my opinion. Remember were cruising here, generally shorthanded, so one can only handsteer for so long, before the autopilot gets a run.
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  6. cavalier mk2
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    cavalier mk2 Senior Member

    My underwing nonskid is air sea rescue orange and our rule is the harder it blows the more conservative we sail. My oddest big wave experiance was on a 23' monohull uldb when we were picked up and squeezed by an large diagonal wave system approaching from the stern. The boat shot at hi velocity like a watermelon seed.....
  7. Richard Woods
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    Richard Woods Woods Designs

    We met this boat in Guatemala and Panama and as fellow Englishmen spent some time with them

    From Noonsite

    "Four British sailors had an unexpected ride to Spain when the Moody
    376 they were sailing back to Britain after a 12 year cruising sojourn
    in the Caribbean lost steering and began to sink in the Atlantic

    The combined efforts of the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC)
    Falmouth, the United States Coast Guard, and the excellent Amver
    system resulted in the two sailing couples being rescued from their
    sinking boat Octagon, 600 miles off the north-west coast of Spain this

    They were Mike and Barbara Arnold from Devon and David and Angela
    Johnson, from the Midlands.

    MRCC Falmouth, using the online surface picture request form, asked
    for assistance in locating Amver participants near the location of the
    sailing yacht Octagon.

    According to Captain Zaw Aung, of the MTM Princess, they were notified
    by British rescue authorities of the location of the sinking Octagon.
    On June 1, 2009, the MTM Princess, a Marshall Island flagged tanker,
    had enrolled in the voluntary Amver system, which is a register of
    ships available for rescues when needed.

    The on scene weather conditions prevented the MTM Princess from safely
    approaching the Octagon on the first rescue attempt. According to
    Captain Aung the winds were in excess of 30 knots, visability was 7
    miles, and the sea state was rough.

    On the second rescue attempt the MTM Princess was able to tie up the
    Octagon and rescue the four sailors, all of whom are in good health.
    Captain Aung's crew is looking after the foursome and they will
    disembark at the MTM Princess's next port call, Santander, Spain.

    The Arnolds and their friends had been sailing from the Azores to
    Britain when they were hit by gale force winds. They hove-to to wait
    out the storm, but the yacht then began taking on water. As the
    forecast was for continued gales, they decided to put out a May Day.
    The MTM Princess was just eleven miles away when alerted through the
    Amver system, and diverted to the rescue.

    The ship is now heading for its next port of Santander, where they
    will off-load their unexpected passengers. The lives are saved but the
    Octagon lost to the Atlantic Ocean."

    Richard Woods of Woods Designs
  8. Richard Woods
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    Richard Woods Woods Designs

    Oh I forgot to add.

    Years ago I was on one of four monohulls that left Bermuda together heading across the Atlantic

    We were the only ones who made it. Two sank, one was a total loss on a reef. But we didn't have that much fun either. Broken forestay, electrical fire, and a rudder that tried to fall off (we had to pump for 20 minutes each watch for 10 days)

    Richard Woods of Woods Designs
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  9. rayaldridge
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    rayaldridge Senior Member

    Sure, I knew that. So does any armchair sailor who's read a few books about folks taking to liferafts after their boat sinks in gale conditions. As far as Beaufort scales go, we were talking about a passage close to the eye of hurricane. This was Hurricane Blanche in 1975. That means that at some point it attained Beaufort 12 strength. Jones, being a painfully honest guy, points out that they were not in the dangerous semicircle, that the hurricane was moving rapidly north, so he estimated that the worst they saw was Force 11.

    Do you understand how stability goes up in relation to size? There aren't a lot of yachtie liferafts 19 feet on the waterline with a beam of 12 feet. So, a tiny cat, but a huge liferaft, and much heavier than an inflatable liferaft.

    As to "sea stories." Are you implying that Jones lied about his experiences? The skipper of the yacht that sank, Robert Benson, saw him out there. Shortly after they saw the cat, Banjo fell off a wave that Benson estimated to be 50 feet, landied on her port quarter and split a seam open.

    To be fair, Two Rabbits was a modified Hinemoa. Jones raised the decks to the tops of the bulwarks, and put bigger houses on the hulls. He felt that these changes may have saved their lives. In the hyper-aerated water on top of the seas, the boat sank way below her lines, and without that extra volume, she might have been overwhelmed.

    Anyway, to quote Jones: "I believe the main reason we survived was luck." And that's probably the case for any yacht caught in a hurricane at sea. However, in this particular case, a much larger monohull sank, and a much smaller cat survived undamaged, in identical conditions. It's just a data point, much like your fearsome tide rip, except that in your anecdote, you're only guessing that a cat would not have survived. In Jones' story, another monohull that left Bermuda at the same time as Jones survived, though damaged, so again, luck always plays a part.

    I'll freely admit that your experience with bad weather is vastly greater than mine, but since you have no experience on cruising cats, your experience is completely irrelevant to a discussion of how such vessels would perform in big seas. You're just guessing. In that regard, my experiences are more relevant than yours. In 1979, I sailed through the fringes of Hurricane Frederic in a Wharram Tane, reaching shelter near Pensacola just a few hours before the storm made landfall. It wasn't fun, but I made it through okay. The only damage I suffered was a torn clew.
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  10. Fanie
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    Fanie Fanie

    What a great thread !

    Personally I am glad Mark775 (& 1/2) aired his views and experiences also although they are not from a multi's point of view - there still is a lot of usefull information one can learn from.

    It may be just that one single comment that come to your rescue when the paw paw hits the fan, there is no such thing as one knows it all, and no guarantees one will always be on a multi or a mono or a power whatever, so all experiences count for me, and I would like to learn from all of you who experienced bad weather, even if it wasn't the worst there is.

    I found the story about the 5 friends quite disturbing, I have a long time ago decided I never want to be in a situation where I have to tell someone their husband died offen my boat, and I don't ever want to lose any of my friends that way.

    The lesson from that probably is do not always assume everything is going to be ok.

    Be sure the weather allows, even if it means going to extra trouble to find out before setting out. The next thing we should ask for from our GPS's is not only position, but how about a position forecast of sorts... ? Of course it can be implemented.

    If you have no choice in getting cought in it, then what if this happens and what if that happens. Had the crew discuss the possibility of capsize and decided to stay in the warm dry before opening the escape hatch, who knows, there may have been a different outcome. The fact that the drogue was not deployed properly...

    If you design a boat with an upside down option with the eye on survival in the event of a capsize, one may still be able to breathe in there for an extended period, or as long as the storm persist.

    Just thinking out loud there. Lots of information to ponder and a lot of measures to think about.

    Thanks so far everyone !
  11. cavalier mk2
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    cavalier mk2 Senior Member

    One thing I've contemplated for my trimaran is to have water tight door on the forward section and the wings and amas similarly partitioned so they could be completely flooded ( pumping) to raise the stern above the waterline. This is like the righting technique shown in Jim Brown's "The Case for the Cruising Trimaran" but the initial goal is to have a drier survival compartment and increased visibility. The boat would have a much higher profile making it easier to spot in waves and better ventilation. Enough floatation should be installed in any multihull to ensure good floating if the airlock is breached. Staying sheltered is mandatory, suffocation should be addressed by an inverted ventilation system. A big cat from Africa capsized on the Washington Coast a few years back while being delivered at the wrong time of year, all were lost but the boat washed up on the ocean beach floating high and dry. With the right preparation a crew could have been stepping off onto the sand.
  12. Westernman51
    Joined: Jul 2010
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    Westernman51 Junior Member

    I think in most kinds of boats (including cruising catamarans, cruising monohulls), in really really nasty weather (very confused and big seas, very strong winds), you are probably best off running from the weather trailing warps to keep the speed to something which is not too excessive (i.e. less than hull speed). If you have the sea room of course.

    Trying to keep the bows into a very strong wind is not going to work in most boats unless you have a very substantial sea anchor, and the front end of the boat is set up to take a lot of heavy seas over it.

    A catamaran should be built in such a way that a capsize is survivable for the crew without abandoning to a liferaft, and without getting out of the upturned craft (you would be washed away).

    Similiary, a monohull must be built to survive a roll over without sinking.

    In both cases, it goes without saying that engines, batteries etc should stay in place.

    I would like to hear of views of people who have really experienced heavy weather and what they think the best way of surviving it is.
  13. cavalier mk2
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    cavalier mk2 Senior Member

    I commercial fished in Alaska also and have experienced "heavy weather" in the Bering Sea and North Pacific etc... I think the biggest contributers to sea state are the surrounding land masses and sea bottom conture and depth.Is the wind going to funnel, is there a shelf that will build up the seas? How is the current going to affect the waves? Mark is right that even on a day with less wind a tide rip can magnify the conditions. The old saying about heading to deep water makes the most sense to me if you don't have time to get safely inshore. Sailing, the times I have been in what I felt were survival conditions for the boat I was on I have run with the wind and seas. The number 1 thing you can do is try not to be out in bad weather. Use more than one source for your weather and start observing how location influences conditions.
  14. catsketcher
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    catsketcher Senior Member

    Rose Noelle

    Cav - Make sure you read "The spirit of Rose Noelle" a book on the guys who set the record on living in an upturned tri. They were capsized for so long that we thought they were gone. (I had worked on the boat and had been invited to crew her to NZ) When they turned up they were in such good condition that many people thought they were frauds and had faked the whole thing. Rose Noelle was designed by John Glennie and had an aft cabin. The bottom of the cockpit leading to the aft cabin was above the inverted waterline and they lived here. Rather than sink one part of your boat I would counsel you to make sure that this part of your boat has good inverted flotation.

    In my view a cat should also have inverted flotation. Although rare capsize can and does still occur but I have to say almost all of the cats I have been on are woefully prepared for it. The lack of inverted flotation, a dry spot when inverted, deck paint on the bridgedeck are real problems. Most cats seem to go stern down when inverted so it makes sense to use the bows for inverted space.

    A trimaran has an obvious advantage here as it will have two hulls that maintain an airlock. This allows the survivors to make a hole in the main hull without having the boat settle greatly. A cat cannot do this. Seacocks and escape hatches will relieve the airlock and the boat will settle low to the water. So a cat needs bulkheads and lockers to help keep an airlock. If considered during the build the result is very unobtrusive.

    Of course we all come to this with different views. I grew up knowing three people who had died on the water and five close friends who had capsized. So naturally capsize survival was high on my list when building Kankama. Also I included lugs on the forebeam to take a parachute to resist chafe.

    The cat scene has changed markedly since the 80s. Back then capsize was talked about and considered. Now it seems as though the marketers are like the car sellers of the 50s and 60s. Anxious to avoid capsize thoughts lest they scare off a buyer. When an australian mag ran a story on a modern cat that capsized on the Wide Bay bar (2004) a well known builder rang up the mag and shouted "Do you want to put the multihull scene back 30 years!" (Hearsay I know - I was not the editor) Still look at a modern mag and try and find something on drogues, building, seamanship. It all seems to be glossy picture book stuff - the equivalent of Home and Garden for the waterborne brigade.



  15. scsailor
    Joined: Oct 2009
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    scsailor New Member

    Multihull Seamanship, by Michael McMullen, though now out of print, has a good chapter on the authors' experience of extremely big seas in his trimaran, Three Cheers. Also good stuff on catamarans: highly recommended.
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