During offshore sea trials a few days ago, I encountered a somewhat serious problem. Up until this point, the most wind WiTHiN has ever encountered is about 10 to 15 knots. During a run offshore on April 1st, I encountered 20 knots of wind and WiTHiN broached and was rolled to 45 degrees where she stayed. The water level was up to the bottom of the starboard port lights. I was unable to steer out of this orientation and I drifted safely back into the inlet just missing a rocky point. The photo attached is a frame from a cockpit video I was shooting at the time.
The YouTube video of the trip:
Here are some background details:
1. During even the smallest amount of wind, WiTHiN always weather cocks so that it is abeam to the wind.
2. During 10 to 15 knots of wind beam-on, WiTHiN will heel about 10 degrees or so.
3. When abeam to 20 knots of wind, WiTHiN will drift at a speed of about 1 knot. When facing directly upwind, she won’t drift very much, but this is hard to measure because the only way I can maintain an upwind heading is to pedal forward. When drifting, she quickly broaches.
Conditions at the time of the knock-down (taken from historical data from a near-by ocean weather buoy and a radio weather report immediately after the incident):
Date & time: April 1st, 2010, 11:52 am PST
Wind: 20 knots from the South
Wave height: 3.5 meters
I was staying in WiTHiN docked at the Marina in Ucluelet. The Marina is situated on a protected peninsula 2 nautical miles north of the entrance to the Ucluelet inlet. The original objective of the offshore sea trials was to pedal a distance offshore and sleep overnight in WiTHiN, but the weather forecasts were for more gales and a storm warning, so staying out all night was not a safe plan. When I arrived in Ucluelet on March 29th as Clive was sailing Theodora from the east side of the island through the storm, I could actually see the spray puffs from 6 meter waves crashing against the reef from the far end of the inlet 3.7 nautical miles away! Up to that point, I had made day trips out into the swell past the entrance to the inlet for 3 days and had spent considerable time maneuvering WiTHiN through 4 meter swells that entered from 2 channels which created an unpredictable mayhem of criss-crossing waves. So far, WiTHiN handled the conditions very well.
On my 4th day – Thursday, April 1st, a storm was forecast for the afternoon, so I thought it would be a good chance to venture into the channel and finally experience how WiTHiN handles some wind. Up to that point during the 3 days previously, the wind ranged from calm to 10 knots. The remnant swells from a storm 4 days ago and a gale up north were still very big, averaging from 4 to 6 meters.. Clive stayed at the marina to replace some fuel filters on Theodora and I headed out into the swells by myself.
On my first entrance into the channel, I was becoming concerned about how quickly WiTHiN was turning sideways to the 10 to 15 knot head wind. So, I backed into the entrance of the inlet where I had ample sea room and still some swell and wind, and I deployed my drogue to see if the drogue would pull my bow into the wind. WiTHiN stayed abeam to the wind with the drogue dragging up wind off the port side. I realized that maybe the sea anchor would provide more resistance, but there wasn’t enough room between buoys and the shore to play around with the anchor. Plus, I was moving downwind and into the channel at about 1 knot due to the tidal current. I put the drogue away and headed back into the channel and swell.
When I exited the inlet, I proceeded up-wind toward a rocky island we called “sea lion island” due to the large number of barking sea lions on the rocks that we had watched there during previous days. The swell today was a bit less than previous days at 3.5 meters according to the weather forecast and weather buoy data for that date and time. The direction of the swell was coming directly toward me in a more uniform fashion compared to the previous days multi-direction. When I reached mid-channel, I turned to port and spent a couple of minutes pedaling abeam to the wind and seas. I noticed that the wind was picking up because WiTHiN rolled to port more than usual due to the wind. When I went to make another turn to port to head down-wind, I was alarmed by how difficult it was to make the turn. I had to use full rudder and really had to stomp on the pedals. WiTHiN’s bow moved slowly and reluctantly around to the left, and I started to pedal down wind, back toward the entrance to the inlet.
As I struggled to get the bow going left, the situation felt very familiar to me. I realized that it was the same feeling I had with Critical Power 2 trimaran (24 hour human powered boat world record) during a windy training day on Whitefish lake. The high wind had turned CP2 abeam to the wind and I was unable to make a turn either to port or starboard and was blown into shore. It feels like the rudder isn’t working, and additional power added to the pedals does nothing to help activate the rudder.
I was now noticing white caps just starting to appear.
I was heading directly toward the rocks on the North East side of the channel, so I started to make a slight turn toward port again to alter my heading toward the entrance of the channel rather than the rocks. I was immediately blown around to a position perpendicular to the wind (broach). I was very alarmed when WiTHiN rolled to 45 to 50 degrees with water up to the level of the port lights. I quickly closed the pilot hatch (in case of a complete roll – unlikely, but I’m always being safe) and tried to make a turn to starboard. The bow was not moving an inch. I cranked on the pedals as hard as I could and I could still not move the bow a fraction of an inch. The rudder felt useless, and the prop grip felt very odd. I was on my starboard side, and it felt like the prop was partially churning air on the back side of a wave or something. it didn’t feel like my pedaling was very effective, but I was moving forward.
I tried to make a turn to port and that failed as well. I was now being blown toward the entrance of the inlet, but because of my aggressive pedaling, I had moved further north toward the other rocky shore, so I stopped pedaling. I checked the GPS and was drifting 1.9 knots toward the north rocky shore. I calculated that my drift was 1 knot due to the wind, and .9 knots due to the tide current. I waited a bit and noted my drift direction on the GPS screen. I had been accustomed to doing this over the past few days, as I always wanted to make sure that If my drive leg ever failed while in the swells around all the rocks and reefs, that I knew my drift speed and direction. I had also developed a good feel for the tidal current from observing my speed on out and back runs up and down the inlet and in the channel. The drift vector on the GPS screen was pointing directly into the north rocky shore which wasn’t far away. I picked up my radio and called Clive who answered immediately. I told Clive that my rudder wasn’t working, the wind has knocked me down, and the wind was blowing me toward the coast. I asked him how much longer he thought he would be. He said he could get going in 5 minutes, but motoring down the inlet would take him about 20 minutes to reach me.
I was becoming very concerned about my drift, so I started to back-pedal. The back pedaling moved me back toward the center of the inlet and I missed hitting the rocks. When I was blown deeper into the inlet, the waves and wind eased and I was able to power my way out of the knock-down and I proceeded back to the Marina. I tuned in the weather station right away on my radio and recorded that the wind was blowing 20 to 25 knots with seas at 3 to 4 meters.
I believe that the loss of rudder control is due to two factors:
1. The wind is pressing against the slab sides of WiTHiN, and with the keel acting as a pivot point (I mean a pivot-point side to side, not fore-aft) in the water, the wind rolls WITHiN over and “pins” her onto her side. Rudder movements (with maximum prop thrust) isn’t enough to push the bow either upwind or, the stern downwind.
2. When WiTHiN is rolled to 45 degrees on her side, the rudder is at an ineffective angle. A turn to upwind means that the rudder is acting like an airplane wing and trying to force the stern down into the water. A turn to downwind means the rudder is partially trying to force the stern up int the air.
2. Larger rudder. I still think that a larger rudder at 45 degrees (or more) won’t be very effective, and that won’t solve the issue of the uncomfortable heeled position while drifting.
3. Heavier and deeper keel. I think we have some structural limitations? I don’t like this idea because WiTHiN will be slower and heavier in the water.
4. A fin on the bow with enough surface area to keep the bow weather cocked with the wind. This is a messy and non-standard solution.