Weather Routing and Seaworthiness

Discussion in 'Sailboats' started by RHough, Mar 20, 2007.

  1. hiracer
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    hiracer Senior Member

    I've talked with people who spent 11 years going round and never met any storm of any consequence.

    Yet, myself, who has never even crossed an ocean, has spent an afternoon at anchor where I worried about the spreaders hitting the water. This during a summer when high winds were not predicted.
     
  2. hiracer
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    hiracer Senior Member

    Well, you didn't.

    There is a trend in cruising designs to sacrifice seaworthiness for speed. Not in all designs, but some. Do you deny this? If so, we have nothing in commmon to discuss.

    This new weather tool is going to add market pressure (from buyers of sailboats) on designers to continue to sacrifice seaworthiness in favor of speed.

    Which is not to say that safety can't be found from the use of computers. It can; that's the compelling problem. And precisely why I'm concerned about cruising designs.
     
  3. Chris Ostlind

    Chris Ostlind Previous Member

    The Ol' Switcheroo


    So, here you go "On Record", so to speak, with a wild proclamation that has no foundation whatsoever, much less a string of proofs that have any relative connective merit.



    And then, in your next post, you go exactly off in the opposite direction so that all bases can be covered. Whew! This sounds amazingly like Mitt Romney. Are you sure you haven't filed for an elected position at some time in your life? ;-)



    Actually, I would further argue that position as well. It isn't speed that is being sought in cruising designs... it's comfort. And, yes, some seaworthy design points have been given away in the search for enhanced comfort. But, then, you didn't establish that position in your statement, so it's off the table unless you'd like to backtrack once again.

    All boat design is a series of compromises. Some of these are market driven, some reality driven, some aesthetically driven... and on and on until something like a reasonable balance is achieved. Granted, there are boat companies that have gone off track in their pursuit of market share. That number is not as high as you would lead us to believe and I think you are being hysterical to the edge of libel. All you've left out are the specific accusations of particular boat builders/designers.

    Come on HiRacer, sack-up and shed your grief. You'll feel better for doing it.

    And then there's this... Nobody is forcing you to go to sea in a boat that is not suitable for the encounter. Caveat Emptor my man. Do your homework. Walk away from that which is not in your best interests and live to see another day. Squawking about things that are not in evidence is not going to get you... or I, any safer in our boating pursuits.

    I am sure of this. One day you will have the opportunity to file an Amicus Curiae (Friend of the Court) instrument and that will be your chance to have yourself heard and officially, "On the Record"

    Chris
     
  4. hiracer
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    hiracer Senior Member

    You're right; I'm wrong. Have a nice day.
     
  5. Crag Cay
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    Crag Cay Senior Member

    I think that's a good point. The pressure on designers of cruising boats hasn't come from any desire for speed, it has come from the demands of the boat buying public (including big charter companies) for space (3 double cabins in a 40 footer !) and the constant need to reduce manufacturing costs, so light displacement and iron keels abound. These are the sorts of boats that are made in the greatest number because they cater for the type of sailing most people do. Luckily for the designers, there has been a 'vernacular style' of race boat around over the past 15 years that has made meeting these demands easier, and has given the marketing guys a peg on which to hang the promotion of these 'fat arsed' cruising boats.

    But we mustn't confuse these with the real things or even with anything else that might bear a passing resemblance. There seems to be a tendency to lump all boats post 1975 into some generic 'light and fat' category and assign to them some universal qualities. Anecdotal evidence from 1979 when a racing rule penalised stability is frequently used to criticise more modern Class 40 style boats where almost half their displacement is in a bulb 9 feet below the surface. These are entirely different beasts and I think any of these seaworthiness discussions would be more meaningful if we could raise the debate above the constant restating of an over simplistic dichotomy.

    It was interesting listening to Ian Munslow last week on his experiences in an Class 40 in the Route de Rhum where he came third. He said they were really comfortable sea boats and despite the very rough final week, he felt well rested and relaxed after the finish. His boat Boland Mill, wasn't built to Bmax because the designer felt with their 'limited' sail area, they could trade off some RM in favour of less resistance in waves. Slightly different perspective from someone who's actually crossed a very rough ocean in one, to that of some dockside theorists.

    However, what is undeniable is that over recent years, keels have been a concern. I had my customary poke around Hamble Yacht Services the other day, and frankly the 'ask' of some of these fins in supporting the bulbs is incredible. But although it would be easy to say 'well lets all go back to wide cord shallow keels', that has never been the way we have progressed any engineering discipline. I think we need to have a concerted effort to resolve this issue which at the moment is colouring people perception of this style of boat. (Hopefully the recovery of Hooligan V will help with this process) Fifty years ago the whole notion of civilian jet flight wasn't condemned to the dust bin because of the Comet crashes. The engineering shortfalls were addressed and we moved on. Similarly, light displacement faster boats offers a lot of people the sailing outlet they like. It may involve a new skill base, including more reliance on technology, but that's okay. Every change to the 'norms' in the sailing world has met with similar resistance. I remember old man Gowan being castigated when he made the first set of Dacron sails for a cruiser in Europe. "The stitching on Dacron sails doesn't settle into the cloth, so it will chafe and then they will blow out near a lee shore and all hands will be lost because of your evil technological meddling!" Hummmm.. anyone want to go back to cotton sails? I don't.
     
  6. hiracer
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    hiracer Senior Member

    I would agree that speed is not the only motivation that has compromised, on occasion, seaworthiness. Large accomodations and cheap manufacturing are good illustrations of other motivations. And I'm sure there are others.

    The point is that it happens. Which, in turn, causes me to ask the question of whether this new ability to predict weather patterns will become another factor in a trend to unseaworthiness--despite its obvious advantages in improving safety. Some say no way. I'm less confident.

    Why? I think you can trace the history of EVERY technological innovation in sailing and find examples of bad application leading to unsafe conditions. Fin keels being a classic example. (And let me state here that my boat has a fin keel.)

    Pointing out this history of bad applicaton should not cause one to be painted as a Luddite. It's simply accepting the fact that boats are compromises and not all compromises are seaworthy.

    New weather prediction abilities offer a new oppportunity for a bad compromise, which is not to say that the net effect within the entire sailing universe will be bad.

    * * *

    Some day when this technology is more affordable, some guy is going to take a coastal cruiser across some portion of an ocean on the premise that he really believes what the computer is telling him. The designers and builders will cater to this market. That doesn't mean the technology is bad. But I can just about guarantee it will be used inappropriately, just like all sailing innovations have been so abused.

    ---->>>And it will affect sailboat design, just like every innovation has. How, is the question.<<<<------

    Having said that, as soon as it's affordable (my definition), I want it on my boat. Just like the fin keel.
     
  7. RHough
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    RHough Retro Dude

    Another way to look at it is that good designers will realize that new technology will encourage people with less experience to consider sailing oceans. I see the GPS as a bit of technology that has done more to endanger sailors than design trends. It has allowed people with lower navigational skill levels to undertake passages that they would not consider without GPS. It seems to me that good design caters to the intended user. If the user's are less skilled, the boats should be easier to sail, have more reliable systems, and be safer overall than the boats they replace.

    Part of me is anti-technology. I see new technology as a tool to be used by a competent sailor. I feel that the same technology is used as a substitute for seamanship skills by people that probably shouldn't be going to sea. I am a victim myself. It will be a struggle to force myself to learn celestial navigation when I know that the price of a decent sextant buys 3-4 GPS units and a whack of batteries. :(

    I sincerely hope that manufactures, in their pursuit of profit don't compromise safety. I think the builders realize that producing an unsafe boat will harm their reputation and more than negate any profit gained in the short term. Bavaria is a good case, how long will be before Bavaria is not equated with boats that loose their keels? I think that the desire for comfort in coastal cruisers will prevent the mass market boats from becoming too lightly built to be safe, and like it or not the CE rating system and STIX can't help but produce boats with some degree of seaworthiness, designing a boat so that it earns an offshore rating adds to it's value. Ensuring the design meets that standard is free profit.

    An example of some of the technology I like is the advanced engineering that allows lighter (less material = less expensive) structures to be stronger and stiffer than the heavier structures they replace. More efficient use of materials requires tighter quality control and in many cases, a more automated construction method. This should help to make better boats more affordable. Thank goodness the days of chopper gun lay-up are behind us. :)
     
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  8. Guillermo
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    Guillermo Ingeniero Naval

    Randy,
    I agree nowadays' electronics technology is of great help, absolutely, but let me remember you the words of Knox-Johnston I posted at the Seaworthiness thread:

    "...we have become dependant of electronic aids. We all have been shamed into thinking we must have this stuff, but it is like the Emperor's new clothes -we need to turn back on the producers and say enough is enough, let's have some quality, please, before you sell us your product..."

    We can use and enjoy electronics, of course, but we cannot blindly trust them. They may fail in the worst moment. Even if it is not their fault. I think we should always keep our elementary navigational skills sharpened, by practizing them.

    Let me tell you an small story:

    Three years ago I was day-sailing with a friend of mine within the well protected waters of the Ria of Pontevedra. It was September, nice sunny day, almost no wind, deteriorating weather prediction by the end of the day, but nothing serious. We hooked for lunch at a very nice beach some 15 miles away from good old Marie's home port in Pontevedra.

    After lunch I realized some very dark clouds appeared over the southern mountains of the Ria of Vigo (South of the Pontevedra one) and I told my friend we'd better go back in a hurry as I didn't liked the aspect of those clouds. There had been not an steep falling of barometer and there had been not any kind of warning from the several coastal radio stations and rescue services all around the coast.

    Skys darkened very quickly and when we were half our way back to Pontevedra under engine, because there was not enough wind to bring Marie to a decent speed, we were hitten by a sudden sqall blowing from the top of the southern hills of the Ria. In a matter of minutes we were blind because of the very heavy rain, heeled to port by 15ยบ in the gusts (bare short masts) and surrounded by the worst lightning storm I have experienced in my life. I measured wind speed as being a force 7 gusting 8. There was no swell as we were well into the Ria, and there were only the wind waves caused by the short fetch of a couple of miles, so really not big.

    The lightning was so intense we had to turn off radar (Anyway of no use at all as the heavy rain totally blankened the screen) as well as all electronics. Before that we were hearing at the radio the desperate calls for help of several yachts being blown to the coast. Visibility was less than 100 ft. We kept on slowly moving ahead only guided by the compass, towards the bottom of the Ria's river entrance with the concern of not been able to see at all an small island located in our course.

    Luckily the situation lasted only about half an hour and then the lightning stopped and wind and rain eased somewhat. Visibility improved and we saw we had kept on the right course, following our way back to Pontevedra with no further concerns.

    7 yachts went aground that day, luckily with no injuries to their crews. This was summertime, in protected and safe home waters.

    Cheers.
     
  9. rayk
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    rayk Senior Member

    Good luck with the sextant thing Rhough:)

    I only ever used it for two days. I turned on the GPS the day after leaving Guam, and had no signal. Bugger. I spent the afternoon getting to grips with the sextant, and trying several different methods of sight reduction/calculation. By the next evening I had figured it out, and was happy enough with my calculations. I was then confident enough to suggest to the wife that she should learn to do it now. In reply she reached over to the GPS and hit the refresh button for the zillionth time, and what do you know, it suddenly works again. She promised to learn next time.

    Another time that I lost the signal for a day, was when the shuttle blew up.
    I happened to be using GPS then to measure progress during a tacking duel against the wind and tide in Canal Woodin, NC. Without DMG it was an excruciatingly slow trip through.
     
  10. Mychael
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    Mychael Mychael

    Too much reliance on technology?? In this case GPS, some time ago in my flying career a note came out to airmen not to be too dependent on gps and to keep a good lookout when flying.. What was happening was that pilots wanting to fly to any popular place you care to name say at a fly-in were all putting in the identical co-ordinates into their gps and all arriving at the same spot, havoc and several near mid-air collisions occured.

    Mychael
     
  11. RHough
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    RHough Retro Dude

    Agree 100%

    This is exactly the kind of thing that seamanship and local knowledge are needed for. :) Somewhere in the foggy depths of my failing memory I remember that the average duration of a thunderstorm in fair weather is about 45 minutes. As you stated, the wind was high but the duration and fetch prevented the waves from becoming large enough to threaten the boat. When I started sailing, we lived in Colorado and sailed on the mountain lakes. The summer brought afternoon thunderstorms quite regularly. This provided two learning experiences; how to recover from a capsize :) and how to recognize the cloud patterns that almost always provide a bit of warning before the capsize drill. :D

    If you study the micro weather pattern around a thunderstorm or squall you can use the wind speed and direction to advantage. The ocean racing folk use radar to help "see" the squalls and use them to increase boat speed since they are nearly always looking for more wind in fair weather / thunderstorm conditions.

    Mychael, great story about airplanes and GPS! It points out that while GPS and autopilots are better than human helmsmen in some ways, they are blind. It is up to the human to make sure that the instructions given to Auto don't put the vessel at risk and to keep a proper lookout for hazards not on the chart.

    At little story of my own.

    I got my start sailing by building a boat with my father. He is ex-US Navy. I spent many hours with him as he practiced with a sextant in Colorado (5300 ft ASL) to keep his skills alive. I was taught that there is only one way to do do anything on a boat. Why things are done that way and why safety is always an underlying concern. I have been sailing for years before I realized that there are more than one answer to many sailing questions. I owe much of my self-confidence and most of my boat handling skills to him. I learned piloting with a hand bearing compass, chart and lead line. 30 years later he crewed for me and the roles on the boat were reversed. I taught him the fine points of sail trim and introduced him to modern (LORAN) electronic navigation. I earned his respect as a skipper when we made a landfall after sailing 20 miles at night in zero visibility fog.

    I don't know why I wanted to share that, except that it provides background for my opinions on aids to navigation and seamanship. It never occurred to me that anyone would go sailing and not be as self sufficient as possible. If I pulled a Ken Barnes, my father would disown me. :) Likewise, if I didn't make use of every available tool and skill to make my boat safer he would disown me.

    Tired crew are more liable to make mistakes in stressfull situations. I feel that having a reliable navigation system on board to provide information should reduce the stress level. Choices made based on more accurate information should be better than choices made based on less accurate information. If that information allows the crew to sail in less extreme conditions, they should also find themselves tired and beat up less often.
     
  12. timgoz
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    timgoz Senior Member

    My story is similar to Mychael's.

    In "03" I was alone on wheel watch at night, coming in from a 2 day salmon purse seining opener in SE Alaska. There were several of us heading for the same nav light. I was following the GPS trackline (as instructed by Capt.), as I assume the others were. Visually I knew we were all converging to a point. I cut back the speed a kt. or so, figuring this would bring the sleeping Capt. but it did not. This was my first trip with him & my first time on the wheel. Another deck hand, Warren (an Upik fellow from Bristol Bay) came up and I sent him for Mitch, the skiff man, whose watch was in 20 minutes.

    We were using a new upper wheelhouse and had ONLY GPS. The radar had been cut when the new house went on & never fixed. The compass & sounder were in the lower old helm below. I never saw a paper chart on board. All that to say- my options as to taking avoiding action were limited, not knowing how close to dangers the trackline had been plotted, hence I called a more experienced crewmember, him being long-term and local.

    Earlier in the evening (fully dark) I had come up into the wheel house to find Warren, alone on watch, his feet proped up, and reading a book with a bright flashlight! He had fished a number of years gillnetting & seining, but knew nothing of night vision. Forget sleeping that night, as I stayed up top with him until my watch.

    Coastal work in generally cloudy areas is greatly facillitated by GPS, but as has been said, it aint no substitue for basic seamanship.

    TGoz
     
  13. timgoz
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    timgoz Senior Member

    An Addiition to the Above.

    I only made one trip with this boat. Along with being improperly epuipped in Nav essentials & allowing unqualified people alone on the wheel, there were several near fatal, but totally avoidable incidents on deck while actually engaged in fishing.

    You got to be careful who you go out with.

    TGoz
     
  14. Guillermo
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    Guillermo Ingeniero Naval

    Coasting may be very tricky and in many ocasions more dangerous than open ocean sailing. But I find coastal navigation basic skills are not mastered at all by many nowadays coasters, at least in my experience around here. A surprising amount of people tend to blindly rely on GPS-plotter, radar and the like. If those turn-off or malfunction for whatever reason when in a tight or just discomfortable situation, let's say a sudden summer fog, so common in our home waters, they get really helpless. You can hear them at the VHF stammering in anxiety.
    My old man was able to coastal race for hours in dense fog just with compass and log. After several hours like that he'd say to us something like: Keep an eye over there: It should appear Cabalo's Point (or whetever) in a few minutes. And damn it! There it was, ghostly appearing between the fringes of fog! That was magic.
    Cheers.
     

  15. timgoz
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    timgoz Senior Member

    I've always used a non-mapping GPS along with a paper chart, & compass. I preplot my course on the chart and in the GPS. If the unit where to fail I can run a DR course & speed by compass. In a fog I could cautiously (& hopefully) obtain a safe haven. Most of my solo travels have been by skiff, so sounders & radar are not relevant. Always had a H2O proof vhf along though for weather & emergency use.

    Of course I also use my hand-bearing compass to take bearings on landmarks and nav-aids to update my DR when needed.

    Though not as good as traditional methods, I've used my GPS to give me an idea of deviation for various headings. Your not getting that close with a hand compass any how, so it is better than nothing. The trick is to take sights from the same spot, and watch what you place, and where it's placed ,on board.

    Coastal means constant close proximity to land, which unless intended for, is always our nemisis. Thats why many captains fear the US Great Lakes more than the ocean proper.

    Take care.

    TGoz
     
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