Cruising Tips: Spouting Off

Waterspouts are not just “tornadoes over water.” Meteorologists admit they still have much to learn about these phenomena, but there is a typical “waterspout cloud” that usually generates them. These dark, flat-bottomed cumulus clouds generally get no taller than 20,000 feet. As clouds go, this is noticeably low. Waterspouts get their energy from heat in the water, so they are most frequently
Author:
Publish date:
Social count:
0
CTWaterspoutsPhoto1

Waterspouts are not just “tornadoes over water.” Meteorologists admit they still have much to learn about these phenomena, but there is a typical “waterspout cloud” that usually generates them. These dark, flat-bottomed cumulus clouds generally get no taller than 20,000 feet. As clouds go, this is noticeably low. Waterspouts get their energy from heat in the water, so they are most frequently seen in warm waters when winds are light. They are most prevalent in the Florida Keys from May through September, averaging 500 per year there, but they also occur in the Caribbean and in the Atlantic hundreds of miles off the U.S. East Coast.

Waterspouts vary greatly in size and shape, and they move in a relatively consistent direction at speeds from 2 to 80 mph. Favorable conditions for waterspout formation can persist for days, and it is not unusual to see several at a time. Some dissipate after a few minutes, others last for hours.

Some sailors erroneously believe that waterspouts are harmless. Packing winds up to 200 mph, they have, however, capsized many boats and have swept the crews of others overboard. Their formation can’t be predicted, nor can they be detected by radar, which means weather services cannot issue warnings. Once a spout is spotted, however, warnings are usually relayed via VHF radio by boaters and weather stations.

If you see a waterspout, even at a great distance, you should start securing items on deck. Drop and tightly furl your sails. Place all loose items down below. Keep a lookout for other spouts that may form closer to you. Any crew who must remain on deck should be secured to the boat in a harness. You cannot count on being able to outrun a waterspout, but their paths are generally straight. You should try to follow a course that is 90 degrees to the spout’s path to increase the chance of it missing you. If you hear a hissing or a roar, everyone aboard should go below.

Related

01b-Over-Loch-Scavig

Cruising Across the North Sea

Conventional wisdom says sleeping in the V-berth while offshore is a bad idea. It can be like a diabolical amusement ride that tosses a sailor to and fro, inducing stomach-churning weightlessness. And yet, here I am, nestled in the tilted corner created by my berth and the ...read more

GG17-SAONA47-DX0796

Boat Review: Fountaine Pajot Saona 47

Here’s a riddle: What is less than 50ft long, has two hulls, three big cabins and four decks? Answer: The Fountaine Pajot Saona 47. In fact, it may even be five levels if you count the large engine rooms. This boat is a “space craft” in every sense of the word.DESIGN & ...read more

RichardBennettMIDNIGHT-RAMBLER3249x202

Storm Sails: Do you Need Them?

Many sailors embarking on ocean passages will take along the obligatory storm jib and trysail, with the vague idea that they may come in handy. Few sailors, however, have a real understanding of how and when to set them.It doesn’t help matters when we hear from seasoned sailors ...read more

IntheWater(1)

Boaters University Unveils Rescue Course

Boaters University has just announced its latest online course, Safety & Rescue at Sea, taught by Mario Vittone, whose name you might recognize from the pages of our sister publication, Soundings Magazine and his Lifelines blog.Mario Vittone is a retired U.S. Coast Guard rescue ...read more

IMG_20170920_132819

How to: Installing New Electronics

I had been sailing my Tayana 42, Eclipse, for a few years without any installed electronics on board. I’d gone pretty far up and down the New England and Mid-Atlantic coasts with paper charts, the Navionics app on my Android phone, a hand-bearing compass and the ship’s compass. ...read more

02-Douglas-Adkins---Coriolis---Orcas-Island-KevinLightPhoto

A Phoenix-like Concordia

Cutting a fine wake on the cobalt-blue waters of West Sound on Orcas Island, Coriolis sparkles like a diamond. Her lovely silhouette is offset by emerald forests that frame the ocean, within spitting distance of the border with Canada. Seen up close, this Concordia yawl is a ...read more

IMG_1051

The Latest Boat Trends from Dusseldorf

The world’s biggest boat and watersports show, held in Düsseldorf on the banks of Germany’s Rhine River each January, is the place to scope out emerging trends in the boat design and building.What would be the new trends for 2018 and beyond? Hint—sophisticated electronics figure ...read more