May 1, 2022, 9:31:42 PMMay 1
So we just returned from six weeks of sailing and partying in the Keys, and I thought list members might enjoy an account of some rough-weather sailing we did in our 320.
We were marooned in Key West for a second week (I know, tough …) because a high-pressure system with 20 to 25 knots of wind moved in and just sat there. Small-craft advisories every day. Gulf seas are short and steep, with the interval between them generally less than 4 seconds. That’s what makes conditions like this tough.
Finally, we got small craft exercise caution with 20-knot winds and 4-6 foot seas decided to make a run for it.
The winds were east-northeast, so we couldn’t make a shorter run to Little Shark River in the Everglades. Our only route was 80 miles north across the open Gulf of Mexico to Marco Island, the first outpost of civilization along the lower Gulf Coast of Florida.
We had a buddy boat, a Jenneau 42, and we both decided to run full mains with as much jib as we dared for speed and to ward off rolling from the 4- to 6-foot seas we expected.
Well, eight miles out of Key West Bight and the caution turned into a small craft warning. At that point, there wasn’t much to do but continue. It turned out to be the sail of a lifetime, and the 320 performed well. In fact, it ran neck and neck with the 42.
We averaged 6.5 knots for the first 70 miles, reaching speeds of more than 8 knots. The boat heeled over about 15 degrees and just locked due to the full main. The boat was buoyant and handled beam waves that occasionally reached 8 to 10 feet. I would be looking up at a big wave, and the 320 would just slide over it.
I had to hand steer for the 10 hours because the Raymarine EV 100 wasn’t up for the job. But then, neither was the hydraulic AP on our buddy boat. Even when winds died down after 70 miles, we broke the pedestal bracket for the EV 100 due to the choppy waves.
We had some weather helm, but nothing unmanageable.
These obviously were not true gale conditions, but it was rough. My old Bristol 30 would have handled them better, but with lots of weather helm and maybe 5 knots of speed. All in all, the 320 acquitted itself well.
Sonas, 1998 Catalina 320
Tierra Verde, Fl.
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