Monday, October 22, 2012

Hobie 17 windy on the Columbia River

I had quite a sail at the Wallula Gap on Friday, 10/12/12. It was blowing 10-15 knots so I headed downstream (up wind) about 10 miles averaging 8-10 knots boat speed (GPS) before turning around. It was great being out on the water in a moderate wind. While coming back (but still 7 miles from the launch point, Port Kelly) the wind came quickly up to 25-35+ knots (a regular dust storm). What a wild ride. Initially the waves were small (1-2 ft) and I got up to 18.2 knots (21 mph) without really trying, so I furled the jib. The waves quickly built to 3-5 ft. I weaved myself through the waves and made the first two of 4 needed jibes, but flipped on the next one. The wind was blowing so hard I barely had to pull on the righting line to right the boat, only to have it cartwheel. I was holding onto the windward hull, but even with my 210 lbs, was tossed up like a rag doll and the boat turtled. Had I been in the center of the river, I might have settled to wait out the blow turtled (there is nothing more stable than a turtle catamaran). But I was near the rocky shoreline and was being pushed by wind & waves toward it. So after a short break (to GMST), I righted the boat again (very easy with the wind assist). I was pointed toward the shore and too close to round up, so I did a quick jibe and took off like a bat out of hell. It was then I noticed that my leeward rudder was up, so I was just steering with the windward one. There was no way I could move over to lock it and not flip, so I weaved through the waves at 15+ knots using just the windward rudder. I had one more jibe to make, but soon as I started it I knew it was a mistake, buried both hulls in an endo capsize. Once again the boat righted quickly and pointed in the right direction, but I was so tired that I could not get on the boat normally (4 tries and I was pooped out). I had to go under the boat to the back, then up along the windward side and with the help of a big wave was able to haul myself aboard (seal style). One broad reach later I was back at the landing, felt like kissing the beach. This all happened, traveling 7 miles (point to point, so boat course distance was further) and 3 capsizes (w/turtle) within 1 hour. The 3 capsizes are a new 1 day record for me. A deputy sheriff stopped by while I was taking down the boat and said there were a couple reports of a capsized catamaran. Good to know someone is looking out for you. In the end, all's well that ends well.

P.S. I made a 3' rope loop (6' of rope) to use on either end of the front cross bar as a leg up step. I store it in the center lacings of the tramp near the mast.

By Hobie 17 sailor and club member Jeff Creim of Pasco, WA.

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