PxPixel
Cruising Tips: Spouting Off - Sail Magazine

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:
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

HB96k_EP

Sea Eagle’s HB96 inflatable SUP

What SUP?Dinghies and kayaks are all very well, but there’s nothing like a stand-up paddleboard for exploring interesting new shorelines while giving you a good workout. Sea Eagle’s HB96 inflatable SUP makes a fine addition to your boat’s armory of anchorage toys, either on its ...read more

DSC_0031-43

Charting the USVI and Spanish Virgins

When my friends and I booked a one-way bareboat charter with Sail Caribe, starting in the U.S. Virgin Islands and finishing in Puerto Rico, we were a little nervous about what we would find in the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria—even seven months later.When our plane ...read more

SailRepairKit

Know How: Sail Repair Kit

Despite your best efforts, there will inevitably be times when your sail gets damaged while at sea and needs to be repaired. First, no matter what the job, you will need to do a quick damage assessment, a task that requires a flat wooden surface, sharp scissors and a helping ...read more

01-061018ROAC-8149

Coming of Age at the Atlantic Cup

Midway through the final race of the inshore portion of the 2018 Atlantic Cup, the three boats in the lead—Mike Dreese’s Toothface 2, Mike Hennessy’s Dragon and Oakcliff Racing, representing the Long Island Sound-based sailing school of the same name—suddenly broke free from the ...read more

01_silken_2018-03-08-0052

North U’s Regatta Experience Program

“Want to check the keel?” North U Coach Geoff Becker calls to me from back by the transom. We’ve just suffered our worst finish in the regatta and are absolutely flying on our way back to shore, spinnaker up and heeling at an angle that feels like maybe we’re tempting fate. ...read more

Navy-Sand-Dune_1080

Tucket Footwear’s Giller Shoes

Just for KicksMove over Crocs, there’s a new plastic shoe in town. Unlike the aforementioned fashion crimes, Tucket Footwear’s Giller shoes are made for boating. Water will get in, yes, but it will also run straight out again via rows of “scuppers” in the uppers and a dozen drain ...read more

01-m3113_git170829-294

France’s Maxi-tri Ultime class

It’s hard to believe how far foiling has come since the Moth class figured out how to reliably take to the air in the early 2000s.Was it really only in 2013 that the America’s Cup was dragged kicking and screaming into the foiling world by Emirates Team New Zealand back in San ...read more

GGTobagoCays

Cruising: Guadeloupe to Grenada

Our Dream Yacht Charter delivery started as a “wouldn’t it be fun if” idea. Those are usually misguided, if not downright stupid. But a Bali 4.3 named Jumelles (French for “twins,” appropriately) needed to leave Guadeloupe to do heavier charter work in Grenada, and as soon as I ...read more