Wednesday, February 26, 2014

She survived

She survived.

We get a slow start to the morning.  Sunshine, blue sky, aquamarine waters, a speck of an island.  No other living souls in sight.  Coffee from the old fashioned percolating coffee pot on the stove, in bed of course.  Barbara has declared us to be on island time!

After the morning checkout routine, done each day just as it was in the previous post, I try to solve the electrical mystery.  Everything I check looks ok.  Barbara mentioned last night that it might fix itself by morning.  Evidently it did.  Everything worked the way it should at startup.

Anchor is hoisted a little after 10.  After we clear the end of the island, the genoa is unfurled and the engine shut off.  We hoist the mainsail for the first time this trip.  It is a soft air day, so we are sailing only about 3 miles per hour, but, hey, we are in “no hurry, mon”.  A soft air day is perfect for me to inspect the result of changes I’ve made to our boom and rigging and contemplate additional adjustments. 

We aren’t headed far, just about 25 miles to Great Sale Cay, a very easy day.  Barbara noted far off thunder as we were rounding the island but its distance from us and our bright sunny day gave us no worries.

After about an hour of sailing and adjusting, we notice the sun is disappearing.  We look around and see rain storms north, west and south of us.  It is a good thing we are headed east and they appear not to be coming at us.

In another hour or so, the wind has died.  We decide to furl the genoa and motorsail with the mainsail up.  The storms have actually gotten closer and we are seeing occasional lightning and hearing thunder.

We have a tasty lunch and decide to drop the mainsail and secure it. The west and north storm have combined. 

Lightning is showing more frequently, some visibly striking the sea.  One thousand one, one thousand two, ….one thousand thirteen, soft thunder.  Lightning about 2.5 miles away.  A small open fishing skiff can be seen racing the storm part way between us and the lightning.

More lightning, closer now, perhaps a mile away.  One ponders many things while riding a 50 ft tall lightning rod, feet next to a spare battery, holding a metal steering wheel, leaning against a steel backstay, with a steadying hand on the steel pushpit, next to the steel wind generator tower braces and steel bimini frame, while sitting on two propane tanks. 

An intense bolt of lightning strikes.  One thou..BOOM!  That’s close!  Barbara sees sparks fly from the sea as lightning strikes again not far away.  I wonder, as you are counting the seconds from lightning flash to thunder, does your counting speed up or slow down as the lightning gets closer?

We tried to veer away from the storm but it was too fast for us.  We’ve stowed spare electronics in the oven as a Faraday cage.  The storm catches us and is building and there is more lightning.  I decide to shut down the engine and turn off the remaining electronics.  There is nothing more to do for now except to join a wide eyed, pale Barbara below and let the boat fend for itself and take care of us during what we hope is a short storm.  Barbara wants to know if I am planning to drop anchor since we are only in 13 ft of water.  I decide I do not want to attach us to earth with a long piece of steel chain while thunder bolts are being hurled around.  The charts show us having navigable depths for several miles in all directions.

The storm intensifies with a vengeance.  Thunder, lightning, sky as dark as twilight, torrential rain and above gale force winds.  We did not think to take down the bimini and now it is too late.  It flaps violently.  The boat heals over 20 degrees just from the force of the wind.  Barbara had asked earlier for the storms to give us a little sailing wind.  Now she regrets it.  Apparently storms do not know moderation.

 The portlights are obscured by rain.  I peek out the companionway doors but can only see about 20 feet of horizontal rain and frothing seas.  I return to holding the doors closed.  Through one small portlight can be seen the upside down dinghy straining at its lashings on the foredeck.

These storms don’t last long, perhaps 30 minutes.  The sky begins to get lighter, the wind drops to perhaps 30 miles per hour and easing, the rain still coming down hard but slowly letting up.  I head to the cockpit to survey the damage and retake command of my vessel.  Drifting at the whims of mother nature is not to my liking.  What if there is a skinny water spot the charts missed

Amazingly the bimini is still up, probably thanks to Gerry’s stitching.  There appears to be no damage.  Nothing is lost overboard that I can tell.

The engine is revived and we get back on course.  We’ve only drifted about a mile and partially in the right direction.  We wonder about the two fellows in the skiff.

Earlier, as the storm approached, I called for my fouly jacket.  Now, as I stand at the helm in the rain, I am reminded it does not keep me dry, just slows the water down these days.  Our West Marine Explorer Breathable foul weather gear has not held up as expected.  Now, what used to be waterproof is a windbreaker only.

The rain ends.  We are left with probably 20 MPH winds and storm waves.  Things begin to dry out.  The air is cool.   I notice my legs are dry and warmer than the rest of me.  I’m wearing shorts and no damp cloth covers my legs.  I am reminded of the canvas desert water bags hanging from Dad’s car on summer trips.  My own wet clothing evaporative chilling process is making me cold and keeping me damp.  I remove jacket, shirt, shorts, etc. and immediately begin to feel warmer.  Barbara looks out to find me in only my sunglasses and exclaims she did not realize the wind had been strong enough to blow my clothes off!

Around 2:30 the sun comes out.  If my son, Ben, was with us and perhaps some sailing friends from Montana, we would change foresail, reef the main and sail all night long, spray flying across the bow.  It would be a special time sharing that with Ben.  I can see Tim’s beard blowing back, his wild-eyed grin reflecting how happy he is not to be pursued by “Knot Ready”.  Ray would be living large and in the moment.  Ace would be telling me I am doing it wrong.  Guy would think I’m doing it wrong and wonder why it is working so well.  Tony would think we were racing to Hawaii in the Transpac but be confused that we were on this poor old boat and not his speedy “Vento”.  Kathy would be laughing with glee and Shawn would have a quiet smile of satisfaction.  And on the list could go.

It is just Barbara and me.  By about 4pm, we have the anchor down at Great Sale Cay.  Barbara makes us a “sundowner” of Old Nassau dark rum and guava juice.  We sit in the sun in the cockpit, enjoying our reward and the scenery of the island, the anchorage and six other boats.  We’re on island time.


  1. Great adventure. Thanks for sharing your journey. For a few minutes it was not freezing cold and cloudy.

  2. after reading the above post, Ray responded
    Seeking beaches and rum they did chance

    Across the Gulf Stream, a dalliance
    But with such escapades
    You may have only your shades
    'cause the wind blew your pants to France!