Wind speed, where do you draw the line in small boats?

steve yates

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when passage planning or on a cruise?
If it's 20knots do you go anyway? 25? What speeds or gusts forecast would you plan on going out fully rigged, going out reefed and where do you say, naa, I'll stay in the pub today and wait till it drops before moving on?

Sorry it's so basic, but I have no idea what's considered being over cautious versus foolhardy.

In my case it's an 18.5 ft lifting keeler, out on a 3/4 day cruise, or a 2 day one if the 25 knot winds coming are considered too much :)
 

dylanwinter

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when passage planning or on a cruise?
If it's 20knots do you go anyway? 25? What speeds or gusts forecast would you plan on going out fully rigged, going out reefed and where do you say, naa, I'll stay in the pub today and wait till it drops before moving on?

Sorry it's so basic, but I have no idea what's considered being over cautious versus foolhardy.

In my case it's an 18.5 ft lifting keeler, out on a 3/4 day cruise, or a 2 day one if the 25 knot winds coming are considered too much :)

How sheltered are you?

happy to go out when gusts of 30 are predicted provided my bow is showed well up a river somewhere.

ditto is if is an estuary with the wind blowing off the land - flat water is what you need to seek out

however, if it is raining..... fek it... rather read a book than sail in the rain

D
 

Daydream believer

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It is really all relative plus a case of where you are & the type of boat you have
People have crossed oceans in 18 ft boats & regularly race across the Atlantic in 22 ftrs.
A small boat can go quite a way offshore in strong breezes if the seas are more of a swell but up the Wallet on the east coast against tide then 15kts would be more than enough with the 1 metre chop that develops when wind over spring tide.

You really need to answer the question yourself. Half the people who say that they have sailed in gales really have not. They may have had a couple of 35 kt gusts but that is not a gale. Take with a pinch of salt what you are told by people with tales of high winds. You need to build experience, the windy bits will come & when you get home you will have a story to tell
Only you can decide if you are experienced enough & where you are sailing
First go out in lighter 10Kt stuff & get used to all the sail handling, reefing etc. Keep the trips short so you do not get into trouble, tired, frightened etc (everyone gets a bit of a bum tightener now & again)
Gradually you will get more adventurous & go out in stronger winds. You may not be reefed at the start so you need to be able to reef anytime. One does not always say " its windy I need X reefs" one assesses the situation , makes a decision then adjusts as necessary.
If you sail down wind in heavy weather always remember that you may have to turn round & then things get hairy. Always keep looking behind & ask " if I go the other way am I reefed etc & capable do that" if not then be prepared to divert & stop somewhere safe.
Only your own experience tells you what you can handle so build up gradually. A sensible skipper will always turn back if it is too windy/rough rather than try to cope in deteriorating conditions. That applies to 20, 30 & 40 foot boats not just 18 ft ones



25Kts in an 18 ftr would - in my opinion , be too much in open water & hard work up a sheltered river estuary esp if tide gets to play. I have a 20 ft squib, at our race week the start was windy ( 20kts) but every boat sailed as most had handled those winds before. However a 40kt gust came & on my boat the spinnaker halliard cleat slipped & the spinnaker just fell down. On another the crew could not release the spinnaker cleat & the boat sank leaving the crew swimming.
So 20 ft boats can go sailing in 20 kts but winds are not always constant & there is always that 40 kt gust waiting to catch out the inexperienced.
 
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steve yates

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I was thinking myself that once it's nearing 20 knots, I'd probably sit tight and avoid it.
It's the Solway firth/Irish Sea, so it can get lumpy quite quickly apparently, I wouldn't know!

The flip side of the question is, if winds are forecast around 5 knots, is it worth trying to sail?
 

Zagato

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F5 ideally max for me in my 22' Drascombe, e.g. F4 gusting F5 will always allow a safety margin if it blows up to a F6 which it will take and I experienced quite happily in Falmouth Harbour last year. I wouldn,t want to be in a F6 off the coast however in nasty conditions! If there is surf on top of a wave the surf pushes the boat across wave apparently. The older experienced Drascombe guys go of the Coast in F5's regularly and are confident in there boats and there ability... I havn,t reached that stage yet...

Many don,t bother reefing, you just go out on jib and mizzen...
 
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Wansworth

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To some extent its all to do with confidence in yourself and the boat and sometimes due to an error you find you can cope in conditions you thought dangerous,a small boat needs little sail to get along so reef early and you will be surprised how a buoyant small boat can saik over the seas without standing on its ear.
 

KellysEye

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In Spanish waters Curacao there were 10/12 year olds sailing Oppies in gale force winds, we couldn't believe what we were seeing. Not to be beaten, since we were too big for an Oppie, we hired a 15 foot dutch keelboat and went out in the same winds. However strong winds at sea are a whole diferent ball game. We bought a 38 foot steel ketch and went out in ever increasing wind speeds to get experience. You could do the same in an 18.5 foot boat but go slowly up the wind speeds and see what you and the boat can manage, when it becomes uncomfortable stop and plan accordingly. Bear in mind gusts can be 40% higher than forecast wind speeds, for example over Biscay we had 35 knots gusting 50 knots, 20 knots could gust to 28knots, we reefed early if the wind started to pick up or the barometer started falling.
 

lpdsn

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I was thinking myself that once it's nearing 20 knots, I'd probably sit tight and avoid it.
It's the Solway firth/Irish Sea, so it can get lumpy quite quickly apparently, I wouldn't know!

The flip side of the question is, if winds are forecast around 5 knots, is it worth trying to sail?

As others have said, you have to work it out for yourself, given your own abilities and the boats handling. Take it cautiously at first.

It's not just the wind speed, you might be able to sail quite happily in F5 to 6 in flat water, it is duration and fetch which affect the waves. Beware also of left over seas from previous weather combining with recent waves to make for rougher seas with irregular waves.

The Solway Firth has the problem of strong tides and shallow water, which can make things far worse. Take the comments about The Wallet (in the Thames Estuary) and add some.

Racing in 5 knots is in some way the most challenging. It really sorts out those who want to suceed from the makeweights. Cruising can be boring, but if you're just messing around in a particular area on a warm day rather than trying to get over the horizon, it can be fun. Worth going out, just don't set yourself a tight schedule.
 

ProDave

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We have an 18ft 6 lifting keel boat so in many ways similar to your own.

For us 10knts is plenty. That's enough to easily sail at hull speed and usually in a calm sea.

The boat can handle more, but what we find where we sail is the sea rapidly builds up a short chop, and slamming down one wave into the next really kills the boat speed and makes for uncomfortable progress, so as wind speed increases, the actual speed of progress reduces and comfort reduces. We sail for fun, not for endurance, so that's what decides if it's too windy. But wind off the land where you can make serious progress with a flat sea can be great fun.

As to light winds, we were out today in 7knts. Enough to get us sailing at 4knts sometimes dropping to 3. A nice calm relaxing sail, which was just what we wanted as we had 2 friends on board who had never been on a sail boat before.

If you are out just for a day sail for fun then pottering about at 3 knts might be good relaxing fun, but if you are on a passage to get somewhere, you will probably have to start the motor.

The other factor of course is which point of sail are you on. Sailing upwind of course is always the most boisterous. When that starts to get a bit lively and uncomfortable, turn downwind and peace and calm is restored.
 
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Seajet

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Steve,

2 points if I may;

1, You're new to the sailing lark, take it easy and don't push your self, your boat or your luck; in a perfect world - I don't know if it's possible where you are - your having some sails on other people's boats would help a lot, alternatively pressgang someone experienced to come with you on yours ( just make sure they're not a nutter who'll go out in any gale ).

2, It's meant to be FUN - if at all apprehensive stay put, if anything like a lot of us you'll get as much fun fettling and working on your new-to-you boat.
 

steve yates

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Thanks guys, im hoping to go out overnight to galloway on tue, as forecast is good, but i''m aware the wind is building up, and by wed evening will be reaching 20knts, so I'll be coming back the next day, as the longer term forecast is strong winds thurs/fri.

The lock gates wont be open till 5.30 in the evening, so I'll probably get to feel the wind coming up at the end, which might be good timing, if I leave early to come back. I can sail up and down just offshore of maryport and then run for the lock when I start to get nervous.

Andy, I hate fettling, I'm having to do various bits and bobs to the boat, and all I can see is they are stopping me from going out on trips :)
 

Seajet

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Steve,

I'm afraid you were doomed to fettling the moment you took up sailing; if I was given a ' money no object ' £millions boat I'd find plenty to do !

Yes get experience by all means, but remember it's meant to be a fairly gradual process, getting a lot of experience all in one go is usually bad news.

One last tip, and this is REALLY important based on personal experiences, some of which I'm lucky to have survived;

FATIGUE IS THE KILLER;
not rocks, not big waves, not fog; fatigue is your no.1 enemy - I realised that after close shaves when I was young and rather fit, so presumably it's more of a problem now I'm 53 if I blunder into its clutches...

Have Fun,

Andy
 

lpdsn

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Andy, I hate fettling, I'm having to do various bits and bobs to the boat, and all I can see is they are stopping me from going out on trips :)

You're obviously new to boating. You'll soon learn that going out on trips is merely the quickest way to work out what needs fettling next. :)
 

TSB240

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We used to sail a smaller light weight trailer sailer. In the early days of ownership we were very careful to not overstretch ourselves . Gradually we found that actually our boat was manageable in most normal winds even up to 30 knots. In the last year of our ownership we enjoyed memorable cruises in company with other larger yachts. On some of these we recorded over 40 knots of wind and made extremely fast passage around North Wales and to the Isle of Man. You will find most boats will look after you even in rougher conditions. My main rule is the stronger the wind dont try to fight your way into it! This naturally applies to tides in our area also!

Having recently upgraded we are going through the same process and finding our limits again. A cruise to Scotland including a wild downwind sail for 3hours running for shelter was character forming! Trying to sleep through 50 knot gust in the Marina later was scary!

There is no straight answer to your question as you will find the point at which you feel confident changes with conditions, experience and the capability of your craft.
 

Seajet

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Steve,

while TSB240 is right in saying it will all work out for you and your boat with experience, one more tip; if at all possible ( with any big changes in the forecast in mind ) go upwind from your home port, this means you can always get back without a battle into rising winds.

Though if they have risen too much there is no shame in leaving the boat safe after notifying the harbourmaster / marina etc, getting the bus or train home and coming back in a few days or a week's time; most old hands here will have done this.
 

UncleAlbert

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Wind speed is just a number . Its the force/energy that is the issue. I beleive that the force is (and I stand to be correct) ..... the square of the increase in speed.
Its the force that breaks things (and people eventually).
 

Seajet

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With respect, I don't see that being much help to Steve; I always say to people ' imagine holding up a 1' square of cardboard into the wind ' - and Beaufort Forces increase exponentially, 3 double the force of a 2 and so on.

I'm too tired to explain the rest - yes Steve, fatigue after just a very trivial 2 day trip ! - but you get my gist.
 

JumbleDuck

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Thanks guys, im hoping to go out overnight to galloway on tue ...

Between you and the Galloway shore are strong tides, numerous sandbanks, a huge windfarm and very few aids to navigation. Much of it is unsurveyed. It will be pitch dark from 9pm till 5am and it will feel very cold. The wind will be on your nose so you will have to tack across, missing all those hazards. If you are lucky you will make 2kt, which means you'll arrive off Hestan Island at dead low water. You can't come up the Urr then, because it nearly dries out and the few buoys currently in place are not lit. You'll need to wait for daylight at 6am or so to come up the river and you'll get to Kippford at more or less high tide, so you'll have just an hour or two to rest before doing the whole thing again in rapidly strengthening winds from the southwest. You won't be able to get back in to Maryport until about 7pm. Trying for Kirkcudbright will be just as bad: same tidal constraints but further to go. Dumfries is uncharted.

I'm all for derring-do in small boats, but please, please, please don't do this. You simply don't know enough to realise how appallingly dangerous your plan is.
 

steve yates

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Sorry jumble duck, I wasn't being very clear, I meant overnight as in going out in the morning, sleeping inboard at the destination, and sailing back next day :)
No way was I thinking
of doing that at night, my nav lights don't even work. I bought some little clip on cycling lights mentioned by Phil the cow man on his laynee blog just in case I get caught out, but that's just ass covering, I have no intention of needing them in anger yet.
 
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