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SURVIVING THE SAVAGE SEAS

 

Once upon a time there was a small catamaran named Exit Only.  Although it wasn't a large yacht, it was big enough to sail the seven seas - the reason was simple.  Ninety-five percent of the time the seas were small and the winds were light.  In fact, in an eleven year voyage around the world, Exit Only never saw winds in excess of fifty knots while on passage, and only three or four times saw winds up to forty knots.

 

That's the way it is for most boats who sail in temperate latitudes at the correct time of year.  People who sail for pleasure, rather than necessity or racing, rarely find themselves caught out in a gale.  Nevertheless, sometimes mother nature throws you a curve and you get caught in a storm, and that's exactly what happened to us as we ventured out into the Atlantic from Gibraltar.

 

We started our transatlantic crossing by sailing from Gibraltar to the Canary Islands.  Because this passage takes only five to six days, we were able to select our weather window at the beginning of the trip, but during the end of the passage the weather was up for grabs.  We had no reason to expect it would be bad, and no guarantee it would remain good.

 

As the weather gods would have it,  the last three days of the trip turned into a gale with winds gusting to forty knots.  Fortunately, the winds were coming primarily from behind so we could run downwind.  Unfortunately, the seas rapidly became steep, up to twenty feet in height, and there were cross seas as well, creating an exciting and potentially dangerous ride.

 

Why is it dangerous to sail downwind in gale force winds?  Think for a moment about the last time you saw a surfer wipeout going down the front of a twenty foot wave.  He has an awesome ride right up to the moment he and his surfboard go berserk and get pulverized in the surf.  Words like pain and disaster pop into your mind as you watch the spectacular wipeout.

 

Similar things can happen to a cruising yacht when it surfs down the waves during a gale.  When Exit Only started rocketing down those steep twenty foot seas, our speed peaked at eighteen knots.  Exit Only became a giant surfboard that was forty feet long and twenty-one feet wide.  Surfing at ten knots was fun.  Surfing at eighteen knots was getting close to wipeout speed.  If the autopilot lost control of the boat during an eighteen knot surf, disaster could happen.  Wipeout in a cruising catamaran means flipping it over - a very expensive and painful mistake - not to mention the fact the crew can get badly hurt in a capsize.  When your catamaran is upside down in the ocean, it becomes the most expensive life raft on the seven seas.

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So what do you do when things are getting out of control and you are approaching wipeout conditions?  The first thing to do is slow the boat down by reducing sail.  We had already done that.  Our mainsail was furled, and we had about ten percent of our headsail out to give us enough sail power forward to keep our autopilot happy and make it easy to safely steer the yacht downwind.  That small handkerchief of sail kept our boat pointed downwind, but it still gave us too much speed which was getting out of control.

 

Taking our foot off the accelerator by reducing sail wasn't enough.  We needed to apply the brakes, and that's exactly what we did.  Once we turned on our boat breaks, our speed came down to five or six knots, and peace and serenity returned to our chaotic water world.

 

What exactly are boat brakes, and how do you apply them?  Boat brakes are drogues that you trail behind your boat to slow down.  There are many types of drogues, and you can trail them in many different configurations.

 

The main criteria for success in using drogues is they reduce your speed to a safe level.  You have enough speed for the autopilot to easily steer the yacht, but you don't want to slow down so much that waves break on the stern and fill your cockpit with water.  Putting on boat brakes isn't rocket science - just common sense.

 

Each yacht behaves differently in following seas, and the number and type of drogues you use depends on the design of the yacht.  It's mostly trial and error.  The first drogue we put out consisted of eighty feet of one inch three strand nylon rope with a ball of anchor chain attached to its middle.  We took fifteen feet of three-eighths inch chain and tied it in knots and shackled it to a swivel in the middle of  the rope bridle.  We then attached the two ends of the bridle to port and starboard winches at the back of Exit Only.  This first drogue had a modest effect in slowing us down most of the time, but on the really big surfs, it didn't give us enough drag.

 

We put out a second drogue consisting of one-hundred and eighty feet of one inch nylon line which formed a giant loop behind the boat, and we also attached it to the winches at the back of the boat.  This slowed us down further, but still not quite enough.  I increased the effectiveness of this drogue by putting PVC hose on the line, and I shackled the dingy anchor and chain to the hose.  The PVC hose was a messenger that transported the anchor and chain down the line, and carried it all the way to the back of the one-hundred and eighty foot rope loop.  This additional weight kept the long loop of rope continually submerged and substantially increased the effectiveness of the second drogue in controlling boat speed.  This was just right.

 

We ended up trailing two drogues behind our boat.  One loop trailed forty feet behind Exit Only, and the other was eighty feet off our stern.  The weights on the drogues kept them submerged, and the different distances of the drogues from the stern guaranteed that one of them was effective when  the other was slack.  This combination of drogues snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, and our worries were over.

 

If the storm became worse, we would have deployed our Jordan Series Drogue which consists of a two-hundred foot line with one-hundred and twenty sailcloth cones attached to the line.  That would have stopped us in our tracks.  Fortunately, we didn't need a drogue that powerful, so we didn't use it.  It was ready if we needed it, but thankfully, it wasn't necessary.

 

These storm management techniques worked well for us because we are a catamaran.  The arms of the drogues were attached to winches that are twenty feet apart on the stern, and that augmented the ability of the drogue to create directional stability in the yacht.  It also worked well because a catamaran has a bridge deck, and when breaking seas assault the stern of Exit Only, they pass under the bridge deck rather than come into the cockpit.  On a monohull yacht, the same techniques might be less effective, and you might end up with water in the cockpit.  Every yacht behaves in a different manner when they trail drogues in steep following seas.  Several monohull yachts sailing in the same gale ended up with water in their cockpit.

 

In 33,000 miles of sailing around the world, this was the first time we ever needed to trail drogues behind our yacht.  That should put things in their proper perspective.  If you sail the seven seas in a conservative manner at the correct time of year, you have a ninety-five percent chance of having a wonderful adventure, but five percent of the time, things may unwind a bit, and you end up in a gale.  When that happens, you say, "No worries mate."  You trail your drogues and control your speed until the storm passes by.  Then you continue on to your destination and tell your friends about how you survived the savage seas.

 

Boat brakes.  I love them!

 



ABBOTT DROGUE  -  ADJUSTABLE MEDIUM PULL DROGUE FOR WINDS TO FIFTY KNOTS

INEXPENSIVE DROGUE THAT YOU CAN CONSTRUCT USING MATERIALS ONBOARD

Most storms at sea are not survival storms, and you don't need to put out a parachute sea anchor or use a Jordan Series Drogue to survive.  What you need is help controlling your yacht in non-survival conditions.

Even though most yachts don't experience survival storms, many still get out of control and broach because they sail in an uncontrolled  manner.  These yachts need something to slow them down and impart directional stability to their vessel to remain in control in bad weather.

On Exit Only, we use an ABBOTT DROGUE constructed of materials that are readily available on board.  We don't need to get out the Series Drogue because the ABBOTT DROGUE HAS ENOUGH POWER to control our 39 foot catamaran in winds up to fifty knots.  In our eleven year circumnavigation we never had winds in excess of fifty knots, and we never had to use our Series Drogue.

 

The ABBOTT DROGUE consists of one-hundred and eighty feet of one inch nylon line which forms a giant loop behind the boat.  We attach the loops to the port and starboard winches at the back of the boat.  We then slide weights down the loop of rope to increase the drogue effect.

You can't slide weights down a warp without attaching them to a carrier (to prevent chafe), and I use water hose as my carrier that transports the weights down the warp.  I slide a meter long piece of flexible plastic water hose over the one inch warp , and then I shackle the dingy anchor and chain to the water hose so that it's firmly attached , and it cannot come off the hose carrier.  The hose is the carrier that transports the anchor and chain down the warp to the center of the one-hundred and eighty foot rope loop.   As soon as the carrier and attached weight hit the water, they slide rapidly down the warp until they reach the middle of the loop,  This additional weight keeps the warp continually submerged and substantially increases the effectiveness of the warp in controlling boat speed.  The irregular shape and heavy weight of the chain and dingy anchor on the carrier creates turbulence in the water increasing the power of the drogue.

The ABBOTT DROGUE has several advantages.

1.  It is adjustable.  You can winch the drogue in and out to control its distance behind your yacht.  If you want the drogue farther out, let out more line.  If you want the drogue closer to the yacht, then winch it in.  It's a good idea to vary the distance of the drogue behind the yacht according the the sea state.  You don't want the drogue to pull out of the front side of a wave which would cause it to instantly lose it's effectiveness.  Instead, you want the drogue in the middle or the backside of the wave where it will have maximum power.  This is easily done by adjusting the length of the rope loop.

2.  The carriers stay centered in the middle of the rope loop where it has maximum effectiveness.

3.  You can vary the power of the drogue.  You can send as many hose carriers down the warp as you want.  If you want to increase the power of the drogue, then put more anchor chain on the hose carriers and send a second or third carrier down the warp to the back of the loop.

4.  It is chafe resistant.  We normally use hose on our boat as chafing gear for our dock lines.  We use the same water hose as the carriers to carry the weights out to the middle of the loop of rope.  If we are worried about chafe in a storm, we can take in or let out a little more rope so that the position of the carriers on the warp shift slightly reducing any chafe.

5.  It's easily recoverable.  When it comes time to pull in the ABBOTT DROGUE, you simply winch it in.  Because the hose carriers stay centered in the middle of the rope loop, the carriers and attached weights are easy to recover when they get to the stern of the yacht.

6.  It's constructed of materials that you already have on board.  You don't need to spend a thousand dollars to have an ABBOTT DROGUE.  You simply use water hose for carriers, anchors and chains for weight, and warps that you already have on board.

 

The ABBOTT DROGUE works well for us because we are a catamaran.  The arms of the drogues are attached to winches that are twenty feet apart on the stern, and that augments the ability of the drogue to create directional stability in our yacht.  It also works well because a catamaran has a bridge deck, and when breaking seas assault the stern of Exit Only, they tend to pass under the bridge deck rather than come into the cockpit.  On a monohull yacht, the same techniques might be less effective, and you might end up with water in the cockpit.  Every yacht behaves in a different manner when they trail drogues in steep following seas. 

An ABBOTT DROGUE isn't a Jordan Series Drogue, and it's not intended to be used in survival conditions.
The ABBOTT DROGUE is a medium pull drogue intended for use in winds to fifty knots.  It's easily constructed in an emergency, adjustable, chafe resistant, and inexpensive.

When we find ourselves in trouble offshore, but not in survival conditions, we construct an ABBOTT DROGUE.  If conditions deteriorate further, then we call upon our Jordan Series Drogue or Parachute Sea Anchor to keep us safe.

Life is good.

 

 

 

YOU MUST KNOW THE SEA

 

Joshua Slocum said, "You must know the sea, and know that you know it, and know that it was meant to be sailed upon."  What Joshua was describing was a real mariner.

True mariners are in short supply.  There have never been so many boats parked in marinas, and so few mariners to take them out of the slip.

The ocean is a mariner factory.  When you successfully weather a storm at sea, you're one storm closer to becoming a true mariner.  Surviving a single storm at sea may not make you into a mariner, but it's a step in the right direction.

Becoming a mariner takes time, because it requires years to get to know the sea in all of its moods.  You can't get to know it from books.  You can read about it all you want, but until you experience it first hand, you won't understand the wiles of the sea.  You need to put thousands of miles in your wake before you know the sea and know that you know it.

 

I've been to seminars designed to prepare sailors for offshore sailing. Seminars are good at teaching people what to do in an emergency, but there's no seminar that can make you into a mariner.  Only the sea can do that.

 

Becoming a mariner is a catch-22 situation.  You shouldn't go to sea unless you are a mariner, and you can't become a mariner unless you go to sea.

The wannabe mariner's dilemma isn't as bad as it first might seem.  Becoming a mariner is an incremental task, and most of all, you need time at sea.  There's no other way to become a mariner except by slipping your dock lines and getting out on the high seas.  The trick is to not bite off more than you can chew early on in the process.

When I first set sail on my circumnavigation, I had never sailed offshore at night.  I was comfortable with the idea of sailing during daylight hours, but night sailing was an entirely different matter.  I felt as if I was sailing blind and it made me uneasy.  I had to start thinking like a mariner about night sailing.  I quickly discovered that if I reduced sail and slowed the boat down at night, my distaste for night sailing went away.  Slowing down at night was one of the first mariner-like lessons I learned on my trip around the world.

The sea has many lessons to teach, and if we pay attention, it won't be long before we start behaving like mariners.  Our sea legs will come, and eventually we will learn to swashbuckle with confidence as we sail the seven seas.

Knowing the sea, and knowing that you know it, isn't impossible, it just takes time.  If you are patient and put in the time, your confidence will increase, and you will know that the sea was meant to sailed upon.  You will become a true mariner.

 

TAKE THE PLUNGE AND ORDER THE RED SEA CHRONICLES.   JUMP INTO A GREAT MULTIHULL CRUISING VIDEO.  YOU WILL BE GLAD THAT YOU DID!

 

A FIRST CLASS SAILING ADVENTURE
A FIRST CLASS CHRISTMAS GIFT

Captain Dave and his family spent eleven years sailing around the world on their Privilege 39 catamaran, Exit Only. During the trip, the crew of Exit Only shot 200 hours of video with professional cameras to show people what it's like to sail on a small boat around the world.

The Red Sea Chronicles is a one hour and twenty-two minute feature film showing their adventures as Exit Only sails through Pirate Alley in the Gulf of Aden and up the Red Sea.  The professional footage documents their experiences in Oman, Yemen, Eritrea, Sudan, Egypt, and the Suez Canal.  It chronicles the rigors of traveling in a remote section of the world rarely visited by cruisers.  Exit Only dodges Yemeni pirates, fights a gale and sand storms in the Bab al Mandeb at the southern entrance to the Red Sea.  The crew explores deserted islands on the western shores of the Red Sea, and learns to check the cruising guides for land mines before venturing ashore.

The Red Sea Chronicles also has outstanding Special Features including an Instructional Video on Storm Management that tells sailors how to deal with storms at sea.

And don't forget the two Music Videos: "The Red Sea Blues", and "Captain - Save Our Souls".

The Red Sea Chronicles is a first class adventure that stokes the sailing dreams of both experienced and wannabe sailors alike.  Order your copy of the Red Sea Chronicles and experience the adventures of Exit Only as they sail around the world and up the Red Sea.
 

Meet The Crew

Dave Abbott - Captain

Captain Dave always dreamed of sailing around the world on his own sailboat, and his eleven year circumnavigation with his family made his dream come true.
 

Donna Abbott - First Mate

Donna earned her stripes the REALLY old fashioned way...by enduring the rigors of passage making for the thrill of exploring exotic ports across the globe.

 

Sarah Abbott - Deck Swab

Sarah is the newest member of the family and crew. Despite her limited sailing experience, she jumped right in to life on the high seas. Her fresh and enthusiastic perspective on cruising help make the Red Sea Chronicles so special.

 

David Abbott - Cameraman/Director/Editor/Narrator/Composer

David shot over 170 hours of footage on the voyage from Australia to Florida. He then spent a year and a half on dry land editing and producing the Red Sea Chronicles DVD. In addition to the narrating the film, David also scored, performed, and recorded the entire soundtrack for the project.

 

Wendy Abbott - Voice of Ninja Crab

Wendy is the daughter of Capt Dave and Donna. She sailed on Exit Only from Florida to New Zealand. Wendy guest stars as the voice of a Ninja Hermit Crab in the Red Sea


 

TOP TEN REASONS TO BUY THE RED SEA CHRONICLES

10. The Red Sea Chronicles is an affordable CHRISTMAS gift for the sailor in my life.  Where else can I get a totally awesome gift for only twenty bucks?  
 9. I work hard for a living, and I deserve to reward myself with the Red Sea Chronicles.  
 8. My Dream Machine could use a shot in the arm, and the Red Sea Chronicles will give it the boost that it needs.  
 7. Every minute spent watching The Red Sea Chronicles extends my life by a full year.  
 6. I want to see what it's like to cruise on a catamaran before I spend a bazillion dollars purchasing one.  
 5. I want to see how a catamaran handles in heavy weather.  
 4. I want to see the Storm Management video so I understand what I need to do when I get in a storm at sea.  
 3. If I buy The Red Sea Chronicles, then Maxing Out Media will start production on two new DVD's - Australia to the Red Sea, and Med Sea to the Caribbean.  
 2. I like the Maxing Out web site, and I would like to support the website by purchasing their DVD.  
 1. After watching the Red Sea Chronicles, I can finally see myself sailing on the ocean of my dreams.
 

REVIEWS

"Story, quality, music, people, boat... Just excellent."

"...w
e got the DVD yesterday and watched it last night (we had no problem with the different format at all), what a great adventure and well put together DVD it was entertaining as well as informative and funny at times, a great combination. Well done you guys are natural movie stars, Laura and I watched the DVD twice and I am sure we will watch it many more times in the future."

"
I hope you guys are going to make more DVDís of your previous sailing trips for us to enjoy."

"Amazing...Just watched your dvd The Red Sea Chronicles for the third time today...I called my boss at home and turned in my notice...I'm going sailing!"

"The best cruising video to date from any source and should be on the shelf of every one who shares the cruising spirit even if only in dreams."

"...a great video that transported me from a damp, cold day in Wales to cruising aboard Maxing Out in the Red Sea - pure nectar."

"The only "problem" is that this has left me wanting more of the same stuff, just from some of the other places Maxing Out has visited!"

"Thumbs up. I also wish the entire circumnavigation was documented, but this small portion in the Red Sea is excellent. Well done."

"
I just watched the Red Sea Chronicles and second what all the others have said. I'd love to see a whole series of Maxing Out DVDs...Good job!"

Red Sea Chronicles DVD Previews

The Red Sea Chronicles is now available!

 
  We are attacked by flying fish as we cross the Indian Ocean on our way to Salalah, Oman. When we make landfall, the local suq (market) helps us regain our land legs.


 

  The riskier side of world cruising. In this episode we prepare to sail through "Pirate Alley" in the Gulf of Aden

 
  We arrive in Aden with a damaged alternator and are delighted to find a superb local machine shop. As we prepare to leave, fellow cruisers are attacked by pirates.

 
  We must sail through the notorious Bab el Mandeb (Gate of Sorrows) to enter the Red Sea. 50 knot winds and relentless sandstorms are ready and waiting on the other side


 



 

 

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Storm Management Offshore
Parachute Sea Anchor Chainplates
When To Deploy Chutes and Drogues

The Almost Never Fail Catamaran Anchoring System
How Big Should Your Anchor Be?
Far Horizons
Tsunami Damage - The Starboard Bow Takes A Licking
Everywhere, Everything
Go West Young Man - Seasteading
Beam Me Up Scotty

Ten Reasons Why Night Sailing Rocks
When Are You Coming Home?

Sailing to Borneo to See Wild Orangutans
Double Headsail Downwind Sailing
Grand Schemes And Other Important Things
Rigging Emergency Prevented - Listening To Your Boat

Dreams Do Come True
I Have A Dream

I Am Wandering, But Not Lost
Missing Out
The Facts of Life

Red Sea Rigors and Rumors
Never Surrender Your Dreams
Red Sea Sunsets

Exit Only Survives the Global Tsunami
The Sea Is So Big and My Ship Is So Small

34 Things I Learned in 33,000 Miles
Space Travel

Ten Disasters I Was Afraid Of That Never Happened
Kissing Cobras

Pirates of The Malacca Straits
The Tree That Wanted To Eat My Boat

Offshore Dream Machine for Circumnavigation
The Facts of Life Rafts

Surviving the Savage Seas
Abbott Drogue - Adjustable Medium Pull Drogue
You Must Know The Sea

Listen to the Sound of Your Dreams
Clouds Are a Sailor's Friend

Exit Only
Life Is Good
Getting Connected

First You Think It, And Then You Do It
My Addiction
Cook's Look at Lizard Island

I've Got Trade Wind Dreams
Storms Come and Go
Go Ahead.  Live Your Dreams.
The Next Step

Take Care of Your Autopilot So It Takes Care of You
Danger Zones On Board Exit Only
 

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