Sunday, January 17, 2016


I am not a big fan of zombies, finding the whole idea a bit grim. I don't care for zombie movies, wouldn't want to meet one in person. Well, not the movie version of a zombie anyway. I suspect there are a lot of zombies in the world, only they wear normal clothes, don't have body parts rotting and falling off all over the place, and don't bite people. A couple might be running for President and, come to think of it, I wouldn't want to meet any of them either. But I am feeling a bit like a zombie today.

A cold front went though Vero last Friday morning. Before it came, we added a couple of mooring lines to the two already holding the boats, and were glad we did. (We are rafted two to a ball here in Vero.) The wind honked, the boats danced, and it rained hard enough to fill the Dink like a kiddie pool. Even as that front headed out to sea the gurus on the Deep Weather app started talking about the next one, due very early Sunday morning. All of this in the middle of January, in Florida.

Yesterday was Saturday, a break between the storms. The crew of Kintala took advantage of the nice weather, taking a long walk into town to find some ice cream. Back at the boat in the afternoon we started watching the weather as it got organized for its assault on Florida. At Deep Weather, the conversation grew animated. That was a pretty good trick since Deep Weather is a text discussion between science types, people who generally talk of lifted indexes, instability, pops, and percentages. In spite of the tech speak, the underlying tone was clear. Florida was in for a serious bit of weather.

As the evening wore on, Deb started getting restless. Deb doesn't get restless. To most people even a restless Deb would appear to be moving quietly through the world. But we have been together for a long time, and I noticed.

“I think we should check the mooring lines.”

Mind you, I am all for checking mooring lines. But it was now dark, quiet, and I was comfortable on the settee. We had added two lines barely a day before, and I had checked them after the first front had gone through. All was well with our world.

“I really think we should check the mooring lines.”

Okay then. Up off the settee, on with the jacket, flick on the deck light and, what was this? The mooring ball lay between the two bows. Two lines, though still attached, lay limp and sagging in the water. One line was taunt, holding both boats from running even further over the ball, pushed by the current. And the fourth line was looped under the mooring ball, a tangled mess with the other three. We had to launch the Dink to get it all straight. There were half dozen razor cuts on my right hand after working the jammed line out from under the mooring, courtesy of the little critters living on the ball. Under a wind load and getting worked, the line would have been shredded in minutes. Sure, there were three other lines, but the thought was disquieting.

The wind was forecast to reach 40 knots. Vero is well protected, but 40 knots is 40 knots. With the lines reset it seemed a good idea to take a look around the deck. What was this? The staysail was wrapped in but a single loop of sheet. The jib had a nice bit of canvas hanging out, just waiting to catch wind. Sheets still ran back to winches. Both sails got rolled up tight in several wraps of line, and the sheets were tied forward. When big winds are in the offering we normally add a few ties to the main sail and cover. Big winds were in the offering, and we were already out on deck.

The generator sat on the helm seat, its normal location when being used. But it would be hard to steer the boat with the gen in the way and, who knows? If everything turns to manure we might have to steer the boat. The little Honda was moved and the shore cable stowed. All in all nearly an hour passed before I got back to the settee.

At 0130 I did a final check of the radar and climbed into the v-berth. At 0530 lightning woke me up and I climbed back out. The radar was ugly. A thick, deep maroon python snaked across Florida, heading our way at a reported 60 knots. There were hook echos in there as well. Somewhere people were getting hurt, property destroyed, and lives upended.

I got dressed to go on deck, prepared to do whatever might need to be done. I was thinking of the things that could go bad, what to do in response and, should the night fall completely apart, how to get off the boat in one piece. It is a mental thing, like getting ready for race...or a fight. There is a certain grimness about it.

I used to teach high altitude flying and weather at a university. At the beginning of the class we would talk about what it takes to have a long life in the sky. I told them, when things go to hell, sharing the cockpit with the person who got 100% on the tests or made the softest landings, would not matter. No, the person you wanted in the cockpit was the mean bastard who simply wouldn't accept dying that day, the one who would be working the controls and power levers even as the wings bent and Mother earth filled the windshield.

By 0630 radar showed us on the back edge of the rain. It had been a non-event in Vero. The storms had spent their energy to our west. I went back to the berth for a couple more hours.

Living on a boat is safe, or so they keep telling me.“They”, in this case, mostly being the boating industry whose main job is to sell more boats. But we live very close to the weather out here, and the weather seems to be copping an attitude. Sometimes, particularly in the dark with maroon pythons heading my way, I wonder if the day will come when choosing to live near the weather will mean choosing to live with an unacceptable level of risk. Four reinforced walls and a stout roof, all sitting on a stone foundation, will not protect one from everything. But it is a damn sight more secure than a plastic hull tied to a ball with a few ropes.

Such thoughts fade as the day dawns and the sky clears. It is sunny now, the air dry and cooling. By evening the winds should fade. It will be a nice night for sleeping. Good that. The last 18 hours have left me tired, sore, and sleep deprived. The older I get the longer it takes to shake off the “grim” of an uncertain night.

And though we didn't need them much, I am really glad we checked the mooring lines.  

1 comment:

Robert Sapp said...

Bad weather, which for some reason almost always seems to come in the middle of the night, is probably the thing we fear most about our upcoming adventure. It's our hope that once we get south of Cuba and into the Caribbean, we'll be beyond the reach of the seasonal parade of winter cold fronts.

Rhonda & Robert
S/V Eagle Too
Pensacola, Florida