This trip was what I called the Big French Combo. Friends had invited me to their daughter's wedding at St. Odile in the Vosges mountains near Strasbourg. It was a fabulous wedding and a trip filled with adventure and misadventures! We began with the beautiful couple and then proceeded to the land of the Riviera some 6 or 8 hours to the south. They drove, I flew, I got waylaid and found them in the dark after 12 hours of delayed flights due to a strike by pilots!
|Newlyweds Antony and Agnes at St Odile|
After the glorious wedding our troupe raced south to that coastline and found ourselves bareboating with Moorings France out of Hyeres, sailing across the rade de Hyeres and plunking around the delightful islands of the Porquerolles. It was after a few days I was having cafe aboard the sistership of my own Beneteau 473 located in Tortolla at that time. Listening to Radio Monaco, the broadcaster gave some cautionary news of a Force 7 or 8 sort of front that would move in quickly in the afternoon. It does help to have a Beaufort chart in the area: http://www.spc.noaa.gov/faq/tornado/beaufort.html
|Brian, ever cool at left, Lars in wife-beater, the best dressed on the boat, and K12 that stud from the Air Force whose knee came out of its socket while we were trying to head through the Gale...!|
That was not the first time I'd been in a squall of sizeable dimension but it was the first time in a 47' Beneteau with a small bulb keel. It was one of those times you could not hear one another due to the roar of the wind, and there were times of oblivion, as well as some failure of equipment. So, that tale is left to another time, but the lesson I learned from that afternoon was that barring certain calamity of structural failure, there are ways to mitigate your vessel's liabilities to high wind and waves. There were some things I did correctly and others I failed in. I did however, concentrate on doing what I knew and resisting utter panic in the face of such chaos.
|Minutes before the Squall tore up the lake.|
A squall is momentary chaos. In that case off the Riviera, it was about 4 hours of chaos. The other day on our lake it was 45 minutes of chaos. I purposely used a GoPro that afternoon on the lake and was fortunate it didn't get blown off the stern of the Alberg. The footage is very representative of these moments before, during and after the squall. It also reveals measures I took to get through my mistake this one time I went against all I know and do, reef first.
The Beneteau on the other hand, was a 47, the Alberg was a 30, and each have different characteristics. The Squalls were not equal, but they were very much akin to each other. The one in France had been up to 42kts which was screamed to me by an Air Force buddy as he was watching the anemometer with astonishment. On the lake the other day, we might have reached 30 at best which is a Strong Breeze, Force 6, the one near Hyeres was at minimum a Gale at Force 8, just as Radio Monaco had warned.
One thing is certain, in both cases, it is important to make a tactical decision, whether to go out into that condition or not, and if so, that everything is arranged for that event properly. As we were headed to St Tropez, a destination for which my crew would have mutinied if I did not achieve, there were racing boats streaming passed us headed into the larger waves of the Mediterranean while we plodded our way toward the lighthouse near St Tropez. Those racing boats were prepared for the wind that day. We really were not. I should have reefed the Beneteau but I made the mistake of thinking the forecast was perhaps a bit generous perhaps. I might have paid dearly for that analysis had something failed, but all went pretty fairly well as we reefed the headsail and spilled the main for hours on end. We did reach St Tropez and the winds were calm, and the rest is a story of grand proportion, as the following photos might suggest?
As for the lake, I have learned my lesson about reefing, and my failure on the lake was again to misjudge the forecaster. The lesson relearned was, "if in danger or in doubt, reef it out, reef it out." Nonetheless, there are times when this cannot happen for whatever reason, and even if by mistake, we have to have resources to use in these situations. Resources greater than a crew which has to get to this movie star rendezvous.
It is amazing to me how few folks do reef though. It is a practiced skill and one that should be in every sailor's hip pocket to reduce the violence of the wind and channel it safely into forward energy. Too, like the Med, the day had begun with 10kts and sunny skies while by 4pm in the afternoon it looked more like Armageddon had arrived on our short passage along the coast.
So, this 45 minutes of video chaos was a simple feat but no less important to the skipper aboard because you just never know what that storm is going to bring! Never assume the best, expect the worst! Then you can open that Port the Air Force buddy had, and all can laugh at the storm in retrospect! And so they did!
|Lars and K12|