Pooped on the 1994 Farallones Race

by Joe Siudzinski, 5/19/99

Subject: BAMA: DisasterStoryOfTheWeek: Pooped on a Farallones Race
    Date: Wed, 19 May 1999 22:12:54 -0800
   From: Joe Siudzinski <siudzinski@telis.org>
        To: "BAMA," <bama@tango.rahul.net>

"You can't poop a multihull!" they said... having often wondered about that and the consequences of it happening, little did I realize that my 1994 Doublehanded Farallones Race would provide the answer...

The traditional pooping of a boat involves a slow lumbering monohull being overtaken from behind by a breaking wave which crashes down on the boat and fills up the cockpit and which can result in a few complications... however, multihulls are supposed to be too fast for this sort of thing, so I always wondered how the cockpit of my boat would actually acquire water which was other than spray or water over the bow and cabintop ...

Let me tell you about my experience with my 26-foot Telstar trimaran...  the cockpit on the Telstar is small but very deep (great feeling of security - one is not about to be ejected from this cockpit in rough weather) and it's only one step down to go into the cabin over about a 9" threshold. It's equipped with two small (1" dia) cockpit drains, but for good measure I had added a 2" drainhole which I normally keep plugged with a kitchen drainplug unless conditions are really nasty (because otherwise water occasionally sloshes into the cockpit sole through this hole).

We were coming back after rounding the island during the 1994 DoubleHanded Farallones Race, not far from the Lightbucket, on a beam reach in 25-30 kt. winds and somewhat confused seas on top of long rolling waves. We were comfortably cruising along with my small jib (off a Shark catamaran) and single-reefed main doing 7-8 knots ... my crew was in the cockpit sitting up against the weather rail and I was down below and the boat was steering itself with the Autohelm 1000.

It was late in the day and I had just finishing putting on some warmer clothes and was buttoning my foul weather gear and was just exiting the cabin into the cockpit, when this WALL OF WATER slammed into me, pushing me back into the cabin! My crew was knocked off his seat and tossed down into the cockpit (he had a safety harness on and tether clipped into a padeye). The cockpit was full of water which was sloshing down into the cabin.

I dived into the cockpit and pulled out the plug on that 2" drain and the cockpit drained very fast (obviously this was unexpected and I didn't even consider it rough enough to have this plug pulled), and I now quickly put in the two lower companionway hatchboards in case we had a recurrence of this, uh, event...

The boat happily sailed along on autopilot as though nothing had happened.

A quick damage assessment showed that the dodger side curtain and windward side were torn off, but nothing else was wrong. The water down below sloshed around and into the bilge and I easily pumped it out. I swapped places with my crew so he could dry off and, while hand-steering and observing the waves, I tried to figure things out ...

Based on two more attempted-poops (which I avoided by veering off quickly), here's what had happened to us (remember, we're on a beam reach): imagine a curling wave (just like the ones surfers love) coming in abeam of the boat, with the windward hull of the trimaran INSIDE the "pipeline" ... put simply, the wave crest just falls on top of the main hull and into the cockpit - a saving grace was that the wave crests were windblown and pretty aerated and the dodger deflected some  of this water. Throughout all this, the boat didn't heel any more than usual (it was very bouncy) and gave no sense of unusual instability.

What would I do differently?

1. We should have been hand-steering: I was certainly able to avoid being pooped again by quickly bearing off when I saw waves like this coming again.

2. I usually sail my Telstar with the board down completely, and perhaps in conditions such as these with both the wind and waves on the beam I should raise the board somewhat to allow the boat to sideslip.

3. I should have had the drainplug out on that 2" drain.

4. I should have had the companionway lower hatchboard(s) in place.

The gist of it is that I simply didn't think that at the time the conditions were bad enough to warrant a more cautious approach.

All in all, this was an interesting experience.

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