Thursday, 6 March 2008

Enough wind for you, sir?

When they updated my favourite weather page I was surprised to see that the wind scale only went up to force 8. Maybe it’s climate change, I thought, no more big winds in the Med.

Well no, emphatically no.

The large white patch north of Menorca is where the gale goes off the scale.

I knew the wind was coming but it found me on the water all the same. Rowing home along the coast after a dawn jaunt. In the first few gusts OB heeled over even though she carried no sails or masts, but I could continue rowing. After a short time I had to turn head to wind in the gusts and pull hard just to remain stationary while I waited for the lulls. Then, when I felt the wind ease, I’d get back on course and row flat out until the next strong blow. It made for a long row home but the wind was offshore and we were close to the beach so there was no chop to speak of.

In the scant moments I had to look around I could see clouds of dust and polythene bags billowing off the shore. Spain has more determined distributors of litter than it has collectors. Every ditch and gully harbours its own hoard of rubbish, so it’s not surprising that when it blows hard a lot of that jetsam ends up in the sea. Soon we’ll have our own version of the North Pacific Gyre.

I’d lashed the oars to their pins in such a way that I couldn’t lose them. Such a loss would have been fatal in the conditions and would have see me drifting out to sea in the direction of Mallorca where I could have expected to find force 11 winds, 5 metre waves and, were I in a condition to witness it, a deal of trash.

Patins Catalans start to get blown about.


Baddaddy said...

Well - that was a bit of test. I'm so relieved you're ok.

How do you feel the boat did?


Ben said...

With the hull bare, ie. no daggerboard or rudder the boat wants to turn beam on to strong wind. I had to row to keep head to wind. But yes, I think the boat did just fine, my confidence in it continues to grow.

I didn't mention in this post that I was carrying two anchors just in case I lost an oar. I was close enough to the shore to throw an anchor into shallow water. So in reality it would only have been the oar that went to Mallorca. I don't feel that I was taking untoward risks. Though I wouldn't have launched into a wind as strong as the one that was blowing when I returned to the beach.

As soon as the days lengthen I hope to be going further afield so all experiences in extreme (for small boats) conditions are valuable lessons for me.


Baddaddy said...

I think that behaviour is normal. You might consider making yourself a drogue - you might also find it handy if you want to stop for lunch.

I've been wondering about the design. If the hull's up to rougher water, it might be worth thinking about some modifications to create a ballasted boat for adventurous solo cruising.

What do you think? Or is the ride too rough with that flat bottom, narrow as it is?


Ben said...

Yes, a drogue is on the list. At the moment I’m looking at manufactured ones though they all seem rather big. An adjustable one appeals, small for coming in through waves, bigger for stopping at sea in wind.
As regards ballast I think there are times (like the other day) when it would be an advantage but one of the aspects of this design that I value is its ‘beachability’ so any extra weight would have to be shedable water ballast.
I suppose that you could also go with a deeper hull and exterior ballast but maybe then it would cease to be a Light Trow.
I must say that the other day the boat was at it lightest carrying no rig. When cruising I think the weight of the gear maybe significant.
One idea that’s just occurred to me is simply to lash 5 litre plastic water bottles under the thwarts and around the centre board trunk, though it would make the cockpit fairly crowded ten bottles would be 50 kilos which, I think would be enough to make a difference. Actually it could quite easily be movable ballast that could be shifted from side to side depending on the tack. It might take a while to dump all the water before arriving at the beach but I might well try it.
The ride can be rough and wet at times but I think that reefing at the right time is crucial to more comfortable sailing but before I can experiment properly I really need the correct sized sails. (More on this at a later date.)
As I said before I’m really looking forward to getting out more (though I can’t complain at the amount I do go sailing) and learning more about all this…

Baddaddy said...

I think you'll be surprised how few bottles of water will make a difference.

Two points I'd make are that (i) ballast may require you to add more built-in bouyancy (which I had in mind for a new cruising version of the boat), and (ii) that the legendary Matt Layden uses sausage-shaped bags of wet sand.

These will be heavier than water along, and I guess they would be ok from an environmental point of view if you're returning to the beach you left from. Carrying sand from one place to another might I suppose transfer organisms and therefore spread something unpleasant - not that I know a thing about marine ecology, you understand!


Ben said...

Buoyancy, yes I should have closed in the centreboard thwart. But I have got my fenders which are hard to sink.
I've been following the evolution of Matt Layden's e460 Enigma and was inspired by the cruiser that Sven Yrvind designed with input from Matt. Sausage shaped sacks may well become a feature on OB.