long a swell period as you're going to find — the swells would be large but gentle rollers. We don't know of any rule of thumb, but if the swell period is any less than 10 seconds, you'd better hope the swells aren't more than two or three feet high. Surface conditions, however, often can't be characterized by just the swell size and period, for wind and wind waves can also be major factors. If the wind is strong enough — say 20 knots — and it's been blowing for awhile, you're going to get sizeable wind waves on top of the normal swell. Unfortunately, the wind and swell don't always come from the same direction. If both are sizeable and running at 90 degrees to each other, you're going to wish you were back in your berth. Fortunately, many weather buoys, such as the Lightbucket, provide a detailed wave summary that includes significant wave height, swell height, swell period, swell direction, wind wave height, wind wave period, wind wave direction, average wave period and wave steepness. When sailing outside the Gate, there are even more things to evaluate than the wind strength, swell period, and wave height, namely the tidal flow. The difference in surface conditions between a flood and an ebb can be very dramatic. And if you go past Land's End, you also have to keep in mind that there are shoals all around the entrance to the Gate, so if there's a big swell running, particularly during an ebb, the waves are likely to be steep or even breaking. If you're new to sailing, all this might sound a little intimidating. But once you understand it, it makes sailing a lot more fun because you can usually select the intensity of conditions you want to play in. For example, if you know what you're doing, you can have a great time surfing in swells and chop that have been greatly accentuated by a strong ebb flowing over relatively shallow water. Folks in places like Newport Beach, Marina del Rey and San Diego would kill to be able to do fun stuff like that. The bottom line is that you have to be prepared for everything when you sail outside the Gate — including more fun than sailors have anywhere else on the coast.
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• April, 2007
⇑⇓WE MADE SOME FOOLISH ASSUMPTIONS You had it all wrong with regard to the March 9 'Lectronic photo of the junk-rigged boat on her side in San Blas. The day I need help from Norm Goldie to enter San Blas Estuary — or anywhere else, for that matter — will be the day I quit sailing and take up knitting or maybe sitting around in a zocalo somewhere blowing smoke. If you have a better way to clean How can you tell the difference between an accia prop in water dental grounding and an intentional careening? that you wouldn’t Ask the owner. swim in than careening your boat, please advise. Believe it or not, careening has been the way boat bottoms have been accessed and cleaned since before Travel-Lifts and rails. And we careened the boat next to the anchorage in the estuary, not at the entrance. While I’m sure there were nothing but good inten-
The April 2007 issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.