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SJ23 in heavy weather

Having just got back from an extraordinary boating trip in on our SJ23 from New Bern NC to Oriental NC on the Nuese River, my wife & I got to talking about likely scenarios when an SJ23 is caught in heavy weather.  This past Sunday, we left Oriental to return to New Bern at about 9:30am. A front was supposed to have passed through during the night, and all forecasts as of Saturday put winds @ NW 15 - 20 & diminishing in the afternoon.  While we had not heard whether the front had moved through over nite, we assumed it had been relatively small, and had come and went. 

We left the marina with one reef in the main and a 110 jib. About 3/4 mile out,  we saw a line of dark clouds approaching.  The wind quickly built to 30+,  building a steep chop of 4 - 5 ft running down the river.  For the next 20 minutes, it took everything we had to continue to steer the boat, get the jib down, and then the main.  The bow of the boat was heaving up & down a good 10ft, with my wife hanging on, as the boat climbed over each wave. We ended up splitting the main before she could finally get it down, as I was unable to steer the boat directly into the wind.  Somehow I managed to start the motor, and with our weenie 8 horses fully cranked, we managed to turn the boat through the eye and head back in.  Thats when we were broadsided with a 5 footer that nearly put the mast in the water.  I was looking straight down at the starboard winch, almost submerged.

We made it in, but IMHO, only barely.  Thinking back, I would have done some things differently, but as mentioned above, what happens when an SJ23 rolls bad?  Does the cockpit flood?  If the hatch is open will the cuddy flood?  Is that the sign that shes going down?  Is there any significant righting moment in an SJ23?

The water was 65 deg, a mile to both shores, and we both had on loads of clothes.  Swimming to shore was not an option. If we had gone over,  hopefully we would have had the waterproof VHF & GPS in hand.

In retrospect, we needed to have local, recent forecasts, and more importantly, should have talked around.  Others captains were in the know, and chose not to go out that morning.
The difference between an ordeal and an adventure is attitude

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