I am very uneasy. Night has fallen and we are facing straight down the barrel of the first really serious cold frontal passage we have experienced for a while. The western horizon is ablaze in fork lightning, all of which appears to be sniffing out the top of our mast. The deck is secured. Jib and staysail sheets are wrapped and tied so the sails can't come loose. The generator is stashed, baby-stays run and tight, halyards taut, and the Dink tied fore and aft. All good things because the wind … (insert 4 intense hours here)..
|Sorry for the blur - I was holding on for dear life|
Literally in the middle of that sentence Kintala heeled over, struck by a massive wall of sky and water. A book flew off the starboard shelf, dishes clanked around in the galley, the Ship's Log fell off the nav station, and every bit of outside canvas was flailing and cracking like gunshots. All we could do was hang onto something and watch the numbers on the wind-o-meter scroll up … 30 … 40 … 50 … finally topping out at 52+. It seemed likely that we had been victimized by a down-burst from the passing line of storms, a blast that should have eased quickly. But the wind refused to fade. For most of the next hour Kintala swayed and bucked in winds over 40 knots, with seas high enough to wash over the bow, flow down the hawser into the chain locker and the bilge, and trigger the bilge pump. At night, wind howling, lightning flashing, and the boat moving enough to make it difficult to stand, hearing the bilge pump running was enough to leach the last bit of fun out of the evening.
The big concern was dragging. Eighty feet of chain lay in the surf between the bow and the Mantus. The Mantus is a good anchor but everything has its limits. As it turns out 50 knot winds and 5(?) foot seas tugging at it are still within its capabilities. We are holding fast, even though the seas are, if anything, bigger, and the wind has been constantly over 30 knots for the last several hours. It would have been nice if the boat upwind of us had one as well. But it didn't.
In the middle of the melee, while checking to see if we were dragging, we spotted the boat west of us heading our way. There was a light moving on the fore deck so someone was trying to do something, but whatever it was wasn't enough. Deb suggested we wake up the Beast in case we had to move, but with the oncoming craft dragging straight down our rode, I didn't think there was anything much we could do. He finally fetched up about a boat length away, just off our starboard bow. Foul weather gear and life jackets on (yep, it was that rough) we stayed in the cockpit for a while to see if he would hold, the wind still in the high 30s. It looked like all was well so Deb went below. But all was not well for long and the distance between the boats started closing again. There was very little distance left to play with.
With Deb back on deck we worked at getting every fender we have deployed on the starboard side. Then I tied one of our dock lines to the anchor chain. The plan was to cut the snubbing line free and fall back 30 feet or so. Cutting the snubber free was the only option. It was under way too much strain to lift the loops off the cleat. It seemed a small sacrifice to make, a last ditch attempt to keep the boats from pounding each other to death. In the last minute before that decision became the only possible option, the engine came alive on the dragging boat. Very slowly they worked their way away from us, pulling in rode as they went. I have no clue how they managed to miss getting tangled in our ground tackle. It looked to me like they had dragged directly between us and the Mantus. On a night like this one thanks Sister Ocean for any bit of luck one gets.
With them finally reset off in the distance we have settled into a long night. For a while the winds faded to the high 20s as the storms moved off to the east, and we had hoped the worst was over. But they climbed back up to near 40, faded away, and now, with the cold front itself finally hovering over us, they are gusting into 40s once again. The other boat is well clear though, and our deck is only slightly untidy. The Dink is twisted in its lines but still fast, the fenders are still down, (and will remain there until morning even though they are bouncing in the wind and waves), and the aft, starboard side zipper on the Bimini gave way under the 50 knot onslaught. (Deb has already taken care of that.) Uncomfortable and still uneasy, but at least we are still holding and not about to get clobbered by a wayward, fellow cruiser.
It is afternoon now. The Dink is retied, the fenders secured, and the generator is charging the laptops and helping the solar panels since the sky is just now clearing. The winds are still 15 to … 28+, (I'm sitting at the nav station writing and watching the wind-o-meter). They have yet to clock far enough to the north to put us in the lee. The fetch off our bow goes clear to the horizon, white caps and waves sweep though unimpeded. At least the water no longer crashes over the toerail, and we can move around the boat without holding on with both hands. We never did talk with the crew of the other boat. They left this morning. I can't blame them for anything. They had anchored, what looked like, well clear of us. Fifty knot winds? Of course someone is going to drag. When they did they did what they had to do to keep off of us. I would not have wanted to pull and reset the hook in the middle of that mess last night. They did well, and I wish I had had the chance to tell them so.
As bad as it was here, I think staying was the right choice. The winds never moved as far north as the forecast suggested, nor as fast out of the south west. Here, when the winds first unloaded on us, we were still somewhat in the lee of Little Abaco Island. Had we moved we would have been facing the direct onslaught of the storm while hemmed in by the cove of Great Sale Cay. It must have been a regular witch's cauldron in there.
In my last post I said something about buying the ticket and taking the ride. A bit of a glib statement based on what we had seen in the GRIB forecasts over the last several days. I should know better than to ever be glib about the weather. Wind speeds in the forecast were off by more than 50%. The direction change and the forecast easing is hours and hours behind schedule, but maybe we will be in the lee by this evening. Nowhere was a hint of wind gusts to 50+, sustained winds at 40+, and lightning to scare the wee-wee out of a dog.
Quite a ride. It isn't completely over yet. And I'd just as soon not take another one like it anytime soon.