Monday, January 23, 2017

Riding the storm out...again.

In the wee hours of the morning the line of thunderstorms passed over Kintala, announcing its arrival with winds of 58 knots, slightly more than the one in Fox Town. There were tornado watches, tornado warnings, and spectacularly vivid lightning. Rain was so intense that the visibility was reduced to mere feet, making it impossible to see if anyone had pulled an anchor loose or dropped off a mooring ball. The good news was that the deluge lasted for just a few minutes, replaced by a more normal driving rain. The bad news was someone had indeed pulled an anchor loose. As the visibility improved, Deb spotted a rapidly flashing light off our port side, clearly a warning signal of some type. Sure enough, just off our bow a boat loomed out of the night and, just like in Fox Town, appeared to be dragging directly for our anchor, and our bow.

Out on deck, soaked in the driving rain, we started to untie fenders, having prepped the cockpit before the weather arrived in case we needed to wake the Beast for just such a contingency. The dragging boat started to weave back and forth across our bow, her own engine at work while the crew struggled to get the hook back into the mud. They were close, got no closer, and eventually – as the storm passed to our east – managed to get settled back in.

The waves inside the protected anchorage at Boot Key

The storms have passed but the wind hasn't eased much. It blew constantly in the 40's throughout the night, and is forecast to do so until midnight tonight. Tomorrow it should ease into the high teens, then finally fade away. It is uncomfortable. The boat is making a slalom run on its rode, heeling and lurching at each turn. Coffee cups tumble and fall if inadvertently set aside and forgotten, anything that can roll and slide, will. Coffee and cereal may well make up most of our diet today. We are around 36 hours into this slice of weather, all sleep caught in bits and snatches that are not really sleep, just burning minimum energy until the next lurch, gust, or noise demands attention. Cooking is not much of an option.

Though the wind is slightly worse than it was in Fox Town, Boot Key Harbor is much better protected from building waves. Here in the anchorage waves break at two feet or so, and there are people sitting in their dinks pumping out the rain from last night. Kintala's Ding is lashed to her foredeck, our normal procedure for a storm. The boat that broke free was trailing her dink as she motored back and forth, and it had me worried. This morning I can see that they tied it high on a bridle, making it impossible to snag the line in the prop. But I couldn't see that last night. Most of the boats around us, though, are trailing dinks with lines in the water. Drag in a storm, catch the dink rode in the over.

Today will likely pass much as yesterday, though winds of 30 to 40+ are harder to live with than those of 20 to 30. (And there are a few more storms starting to pop up on the RADAR. Small, but this may not be over yet.) We will read, do a little writing, watch a video. Videos are good because they come with sound, and earplugs help dampen out the constant moan of the wind. For me that is a trying sound, making conditions feel much more uncomfortable than they really are. The longer it goes on, the more trying it becomes.

Maybe we can be on our way by Wednesday.


Robert Sapp said...

I wonder what made the front develop as it headed south? When it passed through St Petersburg yesterday evening, we saw a max wind of 29 knots and some brief showers. It left us wondering what all the fuss was about, as we routinely saw much worse in Pensacola. We've tacked on an extra day here in the marina to wait for it to calm down before pushing on to Sarasota for a few days. The type of weather that you describe is what has persuaded us to head south to the Exumas rather than up to the Abacos. We've been told that violent cold fronts are much more common in the northern Bahamas in wintertime.

Robert & Rhonda
S/V Eagle Too
Pensacola, FL

TJ said...

I'm not sure either Robert, but right after it passed over us it got even more solid, with tornado warnings everywhere. From what I can see this wind is being squeezed between the low currently in the corner of TN (988 mb) and a high pressure ridge anchored over the NE corner of KS (1016 mb on our end). That is a lot of gradient and likely helped fuel the energy in the line last night. In any case I'll be glad when the ridge edges into our part of the world and lets things settle a bit. We would like to be in Biscayne Bay by the weekend, maybe in the Abacos by the end of next week.

We have been beat up in the Abacos, but there are good places to hide as well. Some of Deb's Internet friends have been getting beat up in the Exumas this year, and wish they were in the Abacos instead so, six of one, half a dozen of the other...

Stay safe, good to know you are under way once again.

PD said...

Don't mind so much bobbing or even water over the bow on the hook but veering wildly is unnerving as heck. Makes me queasy to think about it. I've tried many of the suggested tricks (anchor sail, long rode, dual anchors) and it sometimes helps but haven't solved that problem yet. Not fun.

TJ said...

PD, I agree. We settled our Tartan down a little by putting the anchor snubber on just one bow cleat rather than using it as a bridle to both. She seems to veer around a little less when the wind tends to strike one side of the bow more than the other. But in here I think the wind is swirling around between the two close shore lines as well as flowing up and over the windward land. It is also gusting like crazy, which always seems to make things worse. According the forecasts we should start getting a break around midnight. I think we might sleep in a little in the morning.

And Robert, we have friends in Royal Harbor, Eleuthera who saw wind gusts near 70 knots yesterday. Other friends who (if I got the story right) took a lightning hit in Green Turtle, and there are reports of other boats being damaged as well. Sometimes I think that all of us "out here" live a lot closer to the edge than we like to admit.

Robert Sapp said...

FYI the only solution to sailing at anchor is to anchor from the stern rather than the bow. It's not traditionally done, but most boats that shear wildly in high winds while bow anchored will lie calmly when stern anchored. Here's an article that relates:

Robert & Rhonda
S/V Eagle Too
Pensacola, FL

pfrymier1 said...

I read the article suggested and some other items online. There are three things I still think about:
1) I've never seen anyone anchored from the stern. Which doesn't mean it isn't a good idea, but does give me pause.
2) Spade and skeg rudders are high aspect ratio and rotate about a shaft which, if anchored from the stern, will be at the trailing edge and could put a lot of torque and bending moment on the rudder. Could this damage the rudder/helm over time? Same is true for the boom, but probably less of an issue unless the wind was exceptionally strong.
3) The article above discusses the possibility (and discounts it) of water over the stern, particularly for open stern boats, which are pretty common for cruisers meant for the Caribbean and coastal waters. I am not completely convinced this wouldn't be a problem. A sailboat is probably not too likely to be pooped from the stern at anchor unless anchored in a very unprotected area, but it could happen. Many modern cruising boats are not really designed for a cockpit full of water. Even with a cut out stern, a breaking wave from the back is going to put a lot of water in the cabin, unless the boat is designed to avoid this. Most modern boats are designed to make it easy to get in and out of the cabin, which also makes it easy for water to get in.

Just some thoughts. You guys have a lot more experience here than I do. Here's to hoping I catch up though!