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 We had some excitement tonight...
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Steve Milby
Past Commodore

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USA
5333 Posts

Initially Posted - 08/21/2019 :  23:44:33  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
and for the owner, it was a $5000. night!

It was a Wednesday night race on the Magothy River, north of Annapolis. We had rounded the windward mark in the skipper's Jeanneau 45 and were broad reaching to the next mark. We doused the genoa and hoisted the assymetrical spinnaker, but it wrapped itself around the forestay and we were struggling to get it free. It was hourglassed, with some of it opened at the top and bottom, but the middle tightly wrapped. We couldn't get it up or down.

While the crew struggled, a nasty little black cloud approached. I suggested to the skipper that we should furl the mainsail, start the engine and try to smother the spinnaker before it hit. Without explanation, he rejected the suggestion. About 4 minutes later it hit. "It" was a microburst, with the initial winds about 50-55 kts. With our full genoa and fouled spinnaker, it wrenched the 18,000 lb boat onto it's beam. He rushed to the cockpit clutches to try to furl the mainsail and told me to take the helm. She was pinned on her beam ends, and unresponsive to the helm. We were near a lee shore and at one point it felt very much like she was dragging her keel through mud in a shallow area, and I was concerned that we might lose the boat, but she floated out of it. With the help of the power winches, the skipper was able to get the mainsail furled into the mast, and the transom slued around to windward as the snarled spinnaker dragged the bow to leeward. I said we need to start the engine, and he told me to start it, but I had never started it before, and so he took the helm and got it going.

I ran to the foredeck to help the two crew who were trying to control the spinnaker, which was shredded and a long section was dragging in the water, threatening to get tangled in the spinning prop. We gradually managed to drag the sailcloth out of the water and were fighting to stop the wind from pulling it out of our arms again. I shouted to the cockpit for some rope. Someone tossed a coiled line forward, and I lashed the head of the sail to a bow cleat, to prevent it from pulling the sail out of our hands. With the pressure off the sail, we stuffed it down the forward hatch. With the sails down, the boat stood up to the wind and she went where the motor and helm told her to go. The wind dropped to about 40-45 kts and the skipper gave me the helm again while he went about untangling the considerable mess of fouled lines.

We got her back to her marina and into her slip, but the skipper lost a $5000. sail and needs to inspect her keel to be sure it isn't damaged. What a night!


Steve Milby C&C 35 Landfall ("Captiva Wind"); Cal 25 ("Fahrvergnügen")
Past Commodore

Stinkpotter
Master Marine Consultant

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Djibouti
8305 Posts

Response Posted - 08/22/2019 :  05:27:56  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
"Hours of tedium punctuated by moments of terror..." I'll bet that slip felt pretty good! Great story!

Dave Bristle
Association "Port Captain" for Mystic, CT
PO of 1985 C-25 SR/FK #5032 Passage, ex-USCG-OUPV
Now on Eastern 27 Sarge (but still sailing when I can).

Passage, Mystic, and Sarge--click to enlarge.

Edited by - Stinkpotter on 08/22/2019 05:28:53
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Derek Crawford
Master Marine Consultant

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USA
3228 Posts

Response Posted - 08/22/2019 :  07:53:18  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Gee Steve, you seem to have all the fun!

Derek Crawford
Chief Measurer C25-250 2008
Previous owner of "This Side UP"
1981 C-25 TR/FK #2262 Used to have an '89 C22 #9483, "Downsized"
San Antonio, Texas
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Steve Milby
Past Commodore

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USA
5333 Posts

Response Posted - 08/22/2019 :  16:38:20  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
To be honest, it's more fun to reflect on it than it was to experience it. Thank God everyone held on tight, stayed on the boat and kept their heads down! I was a little surprised to see that our mostly inexperienced crew used their common sense and understood, without being told, what needed to be done, put aside their fear and took all the right actions. Once they got the boat under control, the worst was over. With all the noise, people on the bow can't hear shouted instructions from the cockpit, and the crew's ability to know instinctively what to do was a huge help. They "held down the fort" until we could get them the additional support that they needed. Everyone played their part.

Steve Milby C&C 35 Landfall ("Captiva Wind"); Cal 25 ("Fahrvergnügen")
Past Commodore
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Voyager
Master Marine Consultant

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USA
4393 Posts

Response Posted - 08/24/2019 :  08:48:20  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Steve, What an episode!
Did the skipper ever explain why he rejected your experience and advice just before the action began? It’s the mark of a man whether they later admit to a bad call or not.

Bruce Ross
Passage ~ SR-FK ~ C25 #5032

Port Captain — Milford, CT
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Steve Milby
Past Commodore

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USA
5333 Posts

Response Posted - 08/24/2019 :  10:11:05  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
He didn't explain it, but I think I sort of understand it. I think he simply didn't appreciate how bad it could be. It wasn't a terribly big cloud, maybe 3/4 mile across, and we have little dark clouds that don't mean much that pass over us frequently in these late afternoon races, so I think he underestimated it. This was a microburst. I've been through 3-4 microbursts before, and this cloud had the characteristics of one. The leading edge of this cloud had a concave arc shape that suggested that the shape was being formed by air movement. In a microburst, air pours out of the cloud at high velocity. If you could see it, it would look like water pouring out of a faucet. When it hits the surface of the earth, it spreads out in all directions, just like faucet water does when it strikes the sink bowl. The wind velocity is typically 50-65 kts.

I think he assumed it would just be another harmless dark cloud. I considered how vulnerable we were with a full mainsail flying and an hourglassed spinnaker, and saw clues that it might be something more. I didn't consciously recognize it at the time as a microburst, but it's visible characteristics suggested to me that there was something more going on with it than a harmless little cloud.

I don't doubt that he would admit, now, that it was a mistake, but I haven't discussed it with him. He's a good friend, and nothing good would come from squeezing an admission from him. He knows.

Steve Milby C&C 35 Landfall ("Captiva Wind"); Cal 25 ("Fahrvergnügen")
Past Commodore
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glivs
Admiral

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USA
721 Posts

Response Posted - 08/24/2019 :  14:30:35  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
What a ride...and a great crew to work together to get through when things were edgy at best. With apologies to The Art of War....chance creates the situation, but experience and genius is defined by the response.

Experienced a much smaller event a couple of weeks ago. Took my grand-daughters for a swim near the end of the day....beautiful afternoon. NOAA predicted “possible T-storms” later in the evening but I could see a large cumulonimbus building over the Adirondacks (I guessed 15-20 miles away) so we stayed on our mooring. It suddenly became apparent it was moving our way fast so I got the girls out of the water (not an easy task for an 8 and 10year old). They had barely gone below when I saw the down draft on the water coming at us. I called out to hang on and it hit. My daughter and I were still in the cockpit. The boat with just the sail cover and furled headsail heeled over nearly burying the rail and my inflatable was literally air-borne behind the boat. Between gusts we got below and closed up just as the rain and hail (pea size) hit. 15 minutes later it cleared and we rowed in to shore to find tree branches down as large in diameter as my leg. Lesson learned.

Also by the time we reached the dock emergency personnel and boats from the marina next door began swarming the shore and nearby waters. Later that evening we learned two kayakers (mid-60’s) had perished in the downburst in only 12-15’ of water. No report on whether they were wearing pfd’s.

Gerry & Leslie; Malletts Bay, VT
"Great Escape" 1989 C-25 SR/WK #5972
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Voyager
Master Marine Consultant

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USA
4393 Posts

Response Posted - 08/24/2019 :  17:58:42  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Whenever I’m out on the boat or fishing or cycling and weather conditions suggest there is a possibility for severe weather, I watch the NOAA weather radar frequently because you just don’t know when an if extreme weather events will happen.
At the end of June it was around 1:00 PM and the temperatures were hot, low 90°s.
Some friends of mine went sailing that morning as conditions were supposed to be perfect. I had chores. :(
I was heading out to get supplies at the hardware store and I checked the weather one more time.
All of a sudden out of the ground clutter there appeared a little curved thin line, about 40 miles long draped east and west across two counties. It was what’s normally called a “bow echo”.
When it hit, it had developed near-hurricane-force winds and torrential rain. My friends boat put the rail in the water, their friends’ boat capsized and sank in 20 ft. The top of the mast was still visible, so they did not lose track. Next day, boat became the cause celeb and it was refloated.
That storm was nearly undetectable but it exacted a heavy price.

Bruce Ross
Passage ~ SR-FK ~ C25 #5032

Port Captain — Milford, CT
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Steve Milby
Past Commodore

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USA
5333 Posts

Response Posted - 08/28/2019 :  08:11:04  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I just figured something out that's very interesting. What happens if you hold a leaf blower straight down over a puddle of water? It blows the water aside. After awhile the water might return to it's previous level, but at least for awhile, the force of the air on the water displaces the water.

That's what a microburst does. A huge stream of air pours straight down out of the cloud at high speed onto the water's surface.

Just before the wind hit, we were in shallow water, but enough so that grounding was not a concern. After it hit, the boat heeled over and laid on its side for perhaps 30 seconds. The boat's motion made it appear to me that the boat was lying on it's side on the bottom, and that it moved 2-3 times in jerky motions, as if it was about to lift free, but couldn't quite make it. It finally floated free, and that's when we started the engine.

I think the force of the wind temporarily displaced as much as 3-5 ft of water out from under the boat (perhaps even more), grounding it for almost 30 seconds until the displaced water was able to rush back in and re-float the boat.

My previous encounters with microbursts were in much deeper water. It never occurred to me how much water the microburst might displace when it first strikes.

Steve Milby C&C 35 Landfall ("Captiva Wind"); Cal 25 ("Fahrvergnügen")
Past Commodore
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