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DS2 caught in outgoing tide on the local bay

PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2016 12:54 am
by hnash53
I was out on my DS2 in a small bay on the central Oregon coast. I'm familiar with the bay, the channels, the way the tide runs, and so on.

I started sailing about 90 minutes before high tide, and continued to sail till about 2 hours after high tide (or well into ebb tide). I had been sailing to a certain point and turning around and heading back against the outgoing tide and had no problems doing that (the wind was about 8-10 knots). But the final time (it's always the last one you do that goes sour) I sailed back to that point, I couldn't turn around like I had been doing. The bow would start a strong swing through the wind and just die and I would be pushed sideways. So, I turned with the tide for a few moments to build some speed so I could try to turn back, and the same thing happened.

I was surprised, and so I started up the trolling motor and that gave me enough power to make the turn back against the outgoing tide. The wind was sufficient to give me good headway and all went well back to the boat dock. I wasn't yet in real danger of being swept out to the bar and the open ocean in this experience, but it was close enough to be sobering to me.

So I have learned some things and did so without something bad or really serious happening.

Had I not had a motor, what would have been my options? I would have tried a couple more times to get the boat turned around. What next, get out the anchor?

Help me out here so I will be wiser in future outings.

Re: DS2 caught in outgoing tide on the local bay

PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2016 10:16 am
by GreenLake
This is very puzzling.

You see, when you sail in a current (such as the tide), there really isn't any difference in how the boat should behave.

Well, two.

First, the wind you feel on the boat will be the same as it would be on standing water, except that the speed (and direction) of the current is added to it - if wind and current go together, then you add, if they oppose, you subtract their speeds. At other angles you get a shift in both speed and direction of the resulting wind. However, at all moments you are sailing in that resulting wind (and if true wind and current are constant, so is the resulting wind).

In other words, you sail in the wind you feel (or can measure on board) and without observing the land, you, or your DS, can't tell there's current. That means, if you were unable to turn, it wasn't due to the tide, but some other effect, and we'd need to find out what was different that one time.

I promised two differences: the second one has to do with speed over ground. That one is affected by the current. If the current is strong enough, you may end up sailing in place. That happened to me once in a small boat. I had good wind, but it was in line with the tide. So to sail against the tide, I had to tack. While I was making good progress through the water (sailing the resulting wind), because of tacking, the velocity made good in the upwind direction just about equaled the rate at which the tidal current swept me downwind.

What looked like beautifully executed tacks on the water, were really 180 degree tacks over ground!

I sailed like that for an hour or two before deciding there was no point to that exercise. Luckily by simply extending one of the tacks I could reach the shore, so I just beached the boat and called for someone to come pick me up.

So, I can certainly empathize with your worries about not making it back.

However, I had no difficulties tacking that day, and had somebody taken the picture of my wake on the water, if would have looked no different from a wake in standing water.

So, to get back to your experience: I'm having a hard time connecting your inability to tack to the current. Especially, since you had good wind (8-10) and apparently enough to easily sail back once you made your turn.

I was out on a lake in Italy one year in another small boat, and we had been sailing downwind to check on some monastery built into a cliff. When it came time to turn around, my friend told me: the rudder isn't working, I can't turn. And proceeded to demonstrate it. Bad news as we were being blown onto the rocks. Luckily, that boat had an open CB well, not a closed trunk like the DS, so as I was looking around for a paddle, I noticed the CB had come up. Pushing that down again did the trick.

Now, you don't say whether you were tacking, or perhaps just reaching up and down along the coast (with the wind coming from offshore). If the latter, then you might easily sail with a CB that's partially raised, but might have a tough time executing a tack.

One trick you might try in doing a tack would be to let the jib stay on the original side a little longer. First, the jib will continue to provide power a good bit into the turn. Eventually it will "backwind" if you don't release it. A backwinded jib, however, does push the bow into the direction that you want to turn. So you can use that to help the bow come around and release the jib only when you have almost completed the tack.

Another thing to watch out for is how hard you pull the tiller over. If you turn too hard, it's like pulling a brake. The rudder blade will move sideways through the water. So the aim is to initiate the turn with a firm, but limited deflection of the rudder. Because a DS, in the right circumstances, can pivot around the CB, your tack may become not so much a gentle U curve through the water, but a pirouette. In that case, the stern will sweep sideways a bit, and you can deflect that rudder a bit more. (Try letting go of the tiller in the middle of a practice tack, to see how the rudder aligns itself almost at right angles - once the boat spins into the turn).

If you can rule out the CB, and handled jib and tiller to your best advantage, I don't know what else to suggest. You may not have had your main tight enough? A tight main will help turn a boat upwind. Normally, if you tack from a close-hauled course, that's not an issue, but if you were reaching up and down, making 180 degree turns instead of 90 degree ones, you may have had your main pretty loose. And if your were taking your tacks fairly slowly, the main would stop pulling pretty early in the turn (and also not pushing the bow upwind).

Re: DS2 caught in outgoing tide on the local bay

PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2016 10:58 am
by Interim
I read Greenlake's post and think I understand (I'm a lake sailor, with no tide or current experience). But I am wondering if you can't get the bow to come around in a tack, can you jibe instead? I realize you would lose more position this way, but you could get onto the new heading.


Re: DS2 caught in outgoing tide on the local bay

PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2016 11:20 am
by hnash53
OK... I was not using a jib... just the main. Single handling everything is a bit too much for me, so perhaps that might be part of the answer.

Also, perhaps I turned too quickly with the rudder/tiller and the turn died too quickly because of that.

And finally, I could have jibed but that would have put me further down stream and that was not on my list of things to do.

Thanks for all the comments so far. I appreciate the thoughts shared.

Re: DS2 caught in outgoing tide on the local bay

PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2016 3:04 pm
by GreenLake
When not using a jib, the sail plan is more easily balanced if you raise the CB a bit. (As it swings, initially it moves mostly back, rather than up, and it's that effect you are after, not so much the loss of exposed cross section).

BTW, I do know the feeling when something that's worked well normally, suddenly doesn't want to come together - and especially, if you depend on it at that moment and can't figure out the why on the spot. Thanks for sharing your adventure.

Re: DS2 caught in outgoing tide on the local bay

PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2016 3:16 pm
by GreenLake
In single-handing, I find that having a simple bungee as a tiller-tamer makes all the difference. It's ready to "take over" when you need to reach for something. If the wind's steady and not too strong, I will cleat the jib and just control the main. Otherwise, I will hold both in the same hand; by not just pulling in and out, but also changing the angle, I find I can even fine-tune the relative trim of both (to a degree). Or let both go a bit simultaneously. Every once in while, I let go of the tiller (held in place by bungee) and use the other hand to help make a bigger adjustment. Having ratchet blocks on each helps with holding power.

Dealing with 8-10 is relatively relaxed even with both sails; I usually prefer to spill wind in the gusts rather than hike, except when racing.

Re: DS2 caught in outgoing tide on the local bay

PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2016 6:00 pm
by Baysailer
I double on Greenlakes advice to raise the CB some. Recently I had the same experience as you but due to heavy winds and somewhat heavy confused seas. I had the CB all the way down and under main alone. Regardless of how much speed I got on a beam reach the tack would die mid way and I'd be in irons, even the attempts to reverse turn to good point were thwarted. I raised the board some (less than half) and it definitely helped and I smartly got home and called it a day.


Re: DS2 caught in outgoing tide on the local bay

PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2016 6:45 pm
by Solarwinds
Some time ago, I inquired about being locked in irons when the tide and wind were coming from the same direction. I wonder if this is what happened to you.
The replies I got were that nobody had experienced this so I was ,and, am, still puzzled. This has happened to me with both main and jib up.
I've also had situations where the boat doesn't go over all the way on a tack, but I think that we may not be holding the stick over long enough being used to bigger keel boats that keep going because they have more inertia. Now I keep a paddle handy and just paddle the boat around, may not be the most expertly nautical way to change the heading of the boat but if the bulk head or a dock are nearby, it works.
The suggestion that you put a bungee (I have a tiller tamer) on is a good one, because single-handing often requires 3 hands.
The tiller tamer works really well because you can set it to hold the tiller in position without it being locked. If you need to make a course correction or want to tack you can without having to loosen the tiller tamer.

Re: DS2 caught in outgoing tide on the local bay

PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2016 7:16 pm
by Shagbark
You stated that you "weren't in any real danger of being swept out to the bar." I'm always facing the possibility of being swept to a bar, but the real danger is being thrown out of it. :D

Re: DS2 caught in outgoing tide on the local bay

PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2016 7:35 pm
by GreenLake
Sailing is playing with two opposing forces - the wind acting on the sails and the water acting on the foils (CB and rudder). High school physics (that is, the discoveries of Galileo and Newton) tells you that, on the water, only the relative motion between air and water matters.

With wind aligned with tide, the relative motion of the wind over water is reduced (subtract current from wind-speed over ground to get the resulting wind), but otherwise you can't tell any difference. For example, if you sail in a fog (where you can't see land, and assuming your GPS is off) you will not be able to tell which direction the tide is flowing - you will be sailing in the resulting wind, and the boat will behave just as it would on standing water with that much wind.

Lift the fog, and you'll notice that the buoy or headland you are trying to make is being swept away from you, or towards you, or past you, as the case may be. So instead of fixed landmarks, from your boat's perspective, they are now moving targets. That's the only thing that changes in current, but it should not matter for your ability to complete a tack. (Psychologically, if you navigate as if there wasn't any current, you might set your course the wrong way, perhaps attempting tacking angles that aren't possible).

There is one effect where current matters very much and that is if the current is moving as fast (or faster) than you can sail in a given direction. Can happen with a motor as well. I was sailing one day in a tidal channel when the wind died. Under motor, I was able to just cancel the current, maintaining position between two channel markers. That looked like a losing game. The tide was prepared to go out for another 3 hours, and my battery was good for at most one.

The solution was to crab sideways, doing a ferry glide to one side of the channel. In the shallows beyond I could expect less current, enough that I might bear off and head for shore without being swept out much further. In the end, it didn't come to that; the wind came back after a while and as I can sail faster than I can motor, I was gaining against the current and made it home upstream in under 20 mins.

Re: DS2 caught in outgoing tide on the local bay

PostPosted: Wed Aug 24, 2016 12:22 am
by hnash53
Thank you all for your contributions to my understanding... and the suggestions to get out of the position I found myself in.

You've all given me much to think about, and I understand a bit more about what was happening... and how to get out of it.

For one, I will probably not sail quite as far as I did toward the mouth of the bay. The centerboard move seems to make sense, too. Having less board down decreases the resistance to turning into and through the wind. Good idea.

Solarwinds... yes that is what happened. I was turning against the flow of the tide heading out AND turning into the wind. A jibe the other direction would perhaps have gotten me out of it.

A tiller tamer sounds great. I need one of those! I've had to indeed let go of the tiller to go and do something. Can you make your own tiller tamer? Using a bungee? I'd be interested in knowing how. Thanks for that idea, too.

Again, your comments have been much appreciated!!!

Re: DS2 caught in outgoing tide on the local bay

PostPosted: Wed Aug 24, 2016 1:48 am
by GreenLake
You will eventually want to read some of the older threads here; they are full of useful info.

Briefly, the simplest tiller tamer is a bungee strung across the cockpit with a wrap around the tiller. (You may need to find a place to screw in some eye straps to fix the bungee to).

One slight upgrade I personally like is to not wrap the bungee around the tiller, but to wrap a short length of shockcord several times around both tiller and bungee. Both designs will allow the tiller to "slip" along the bungee with enough force, so you can override at any time, while immediately ready to "hold" when you let go. With the upgraded design you have better control of the friction.

Other people like other designs, using ropes and clutches. I find them more trouble than they are worth.

Re: DS2 caught in outgoing tide on the local bay

PostPosted: Thu Aug 25, 2016 11:52 am
by Interim
My version of a tiller tamer is to cleat a line--very small; it doesn't have to be a strong line--across the stern cleats. Then I wrap a bungee around line and tiller. This allows you to set it in a position and it will hold (more or less), because the bungee will slip along the line. Adjust the strength of the resistance to your likening by making the bungee tighter or looser.

I don't know if the bungee-only system has a self-centering tendency, but that is how I imagine it. Either system allows you to control it (or overcome it) if you wish, or let it go.


Re: DS2 caught in outgoing tide on the local bay

PostPosted: Tue Aug 30, 2016 1:02 am
by talbot
As someone who also sails in "small bays on the Central Oregon coast," I 'm wondering which one. Was this at Winchester, Coos, or Yaquina?
Anyway, we got a little 2hp Honda just for those waters. We have also had to use an electric trolling motor to augment our sails, particularly when launching into an ebb tide from South Beach at Yaquina Bay. But we decided we were cutting it too close. (For those not familiar with the area, you can see breakers from the dock.) We wanted something that would push us at 5kt without sails.

We also made some other modifications that help a lot. We added double reefing to the main, which lets us keep the jib up longer. And we had an old jib cut down to make a storm sail. With the small jib and double-reefed main, we're good to about 18kt. (Maybe higher, but in those conditions I don't have a hand free to check the wind gauge.) Suggestion: look up the discussions on the forum about single-handing, and then practice with both sails up when the adrenaline is not quite so high.

I personally think your use of the motor was the best way to handle the conditions you faced, once the boat went into irons. You didn't talk about the seas, but we have found the long fetch for west winds at Yaquina and for north winds at Coos and Winchester Bays can result in some steep waves. Gybing to avoid being taken aback ("waring away" is the technical term) is useful, but it's pretty violent in high winds, and a wave that catches you at the wrong time could swamp the boat.

Re: DS2 caught in outgoing tide on the local bay

PostPosted: Tue Aug 30, 2016 12:21 pm
by GreenLake
Good stuff here. I'm moving this to "Seamanship and Boat Handling".