Monday, November 18, 2013

Weary Weather

When we left Hampton on Tuesday, it was on the tail of a LO that had passed through on the Saturday before.  We knew there was another front forecasted for Thursday evening (two days later) but thought by leaving Tuesday, we would give ourselves plenty of time to get out of the Chesapeake, head southeast, cross the Gulf Stream by day 2, and then head even further south well away from the storm. 
The waves were choppy as we left Hampton and we kept waiting for them to mellow out as we got further out to sea, little did we know the waves would only keep getting bigger for the next 3 days.  The Gulf Stream as it runs in front of VA/MD is typically 100 miles across, approximately 45 miles out.  By Wed morning, we were well into the Gulf Stream beating into a SE wind.  We decided to tack NE and quickly find our escape to the other side of the stream.  We were absolutely certain that we did NOT want to be in the GS when the front came through on Thursday.  Thursday morning came and every time we tried to veer south and away, we were running into strong northerly current (indicating we were still in GS) that gave us no choice but to continue east.  In total, we were in the Gulf Stream for about 40 hours and she wouldn’t let us go.  By Thursday around 2 pm, it appeared we had left the GS behind but by now we were in a position that we were indeed going to be caught by the front that was forecasted with 30-35kt winds, gusting to 40kts.  Not any conditions I wanted to see.  

We rigged our hanked-on staysail and used a conservative sail plan that was manageable with four people.  The wind continued to climb and we decided at 28 kts we would bring the staysail down and reef the main to storm trysail size (very small triangle just to keep the boat balanced upright.)  As the waves got bigger and steeper, topping out at about 30ft on the conservative measurement.  Winds were blowing the tops off of waves with white wash between crests at about 40-45kts.   About the time we decided to turn on the engine and increase our power to climb the waves, our engine started sputtering.  Baxter and I went below to troubleshoot while Katie manned the helm like a true salty sailor, repeating the mantra “Up and squish” as a method to quarter into the waves without getting abeam to them and having the boat rolled over.  She and Luis said they were managing 40 footers.  Baxter switched fuel tanks and our starboard tank started right up and we all breathed a sigh of relief.

Throughout the night, we could hear rescue calls to the Coast Guard and we, in fact, responded to one indicating that we could see a vessel that appeared to be the one they were looking for.  A fixed wing aircraft flew over our boat so he could then begin a search from that position.  Here are more details about the six vessels that were rescued, or received Coast Guard assistance that evening. 

The Salty Dawg Rally has no accountability for what happened on Thursday.  Every vessel understood the weather and had the opportunity to make their own decisions.  The high number of rescues has a great deal to do with the high number of boats in the storm that night (over 109 just from the SDR).  Some of the boats rescued were friends of ours and everyone is safe and will be okay.  As a sailor, you understand the risks of your route, your vessel, your knowledge, the weather, and your crew. It was an interesting experience for us that like everything in life, requires evaluation and reflection, not judgment or blame.

Luis & Katie take the helm through the Chesapeake
He was so close, we thought we were going to be boarded.  Two days after this, there were quite a few of these cutters rescuing boats around us.
Waves were big (probably about 8-10ft here), but still smiling before the front on Thursday.
I don't usually take pics during difficult times, but this is Baxter's lucky hat!  Who knows what would have happened without it.  This was about 3:30pm on Thursday - the wave behind Baxter is probably about 15-20…they only got bigger after this.
This is what was happening down below.  Everything was levitating and being thrown from one side of the cabin, to the other.  Note to self:  more tie downs.
The blur in the picture is due to the boat moving.  The galley was unusable for about 12 hours.

Kala on Friday morning - happy to be out from down below.





2 comments:

  1. Wow! Glad you guys are safe and sound, looks like quite the adventure (which, btw, was the request in your last post :)).

    BTW...Baxter looks a bit green in that last photo.

    Have fun guys, you've obviously earned it!

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  2. Holy crap. I woulda been down on the anti anxieties with Kala. You guys are awesome. Love and miss MEGA! xx

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