A Summer Gale

img_5994.jpg We've been exploring the northeast at a more pleasurable rate lately, moving our boat on the weekends and staying in one place during the week, an opportunity to explore, work on the boat, and stay caught up with the office. For this to be possible, it does require that the weather cooperate on our schedule, which in the past few weeks it has done amazingly well. Sailing from Greenport to Block Island we'd have more enjoyed smaller than the 4 foot seas that greeted us, but the wind on our stern allowed as to jibe back and forth and maintain a comfortable angle to the waves as we passed through Block Island sound.

This weekend, however, the forecast has remained rather fluid, the prediction seeming to change every time I reload the web page, from complete calm with little 2 foot waves up to a full on gale with 9 feet swells. In that same vein of poor predictions, last night the forecast called for a little wind and rain and a small craft advisory in the area. Shortly after night fell, however, winds climbed up toward 40 knots (~45 mph) putting us at an 8 on the Beaufort scale. By midnight we'd already witnessed a power boat playing bumper-boat through the mooring field complete with a yapping dog and panicked woman, fortunately quickly followed by a tow boat who went on to have a very busy night.

img_6012.jpg The whole day was a wet one, with plenty of rain and wind keeping us indoors working and reading. Mid day when Jamie was preparing lunch, our propane tank ran out, so we enjoyed pronouncedly al dente pasta and made plans to eat dinner at the local Oar restaurant. Jamie quickly tracked down a local company able to fill our tank, but not until the next day.

The weather had not let up any when night fall came and hunger got us actively thinking about dinner. We put on our full rain gear, tightly fastening the Velcro around the ankles and wrists to keep the prolific water out, and braved the elements in our little 8' dinghy. I was thankful for the tube kit on our Walker Bay, as it was a choppy ride and the extra flotation certainly made me feel more secure. Fortunately we are not moored very far from the dock, and within ten minutes we were peeling off our rain gear inside the Oar and sitting down to dinner.

img_6021.jpg The return trip an hour later was a little more exciting, as the weather was only getting worse. Our waiter lives on a boat anchored in the Great Salt Pond where we are moored, and when we had commented about the worsening weather he shrugged it off suggesting it was just a passing rain band from a small storm. When we actually got back on the water, however, the waves had only grown and the wind was blowing the white caps into our faces. Fortunately our boat was down wind from the dock, so it was a reasonably comfortable ride. Had the wind been blowing in the other direction, I doubt we'd have chosen to make the trip. Finally reaching our boat, Jamie suddenly suggested I may want to slow down though in fact we were unintentionally surfing the down the face of one of the large and growing waves. We swung around and quickly caught the stern of our sailboat, tying the dinghy securely and happily seeking shelter from the storm below in Miramar's dry cabin. (Granted, we're still working to stop a few leaks, but inside was without question much dryer and more peaceful than outside.)

By the time we'd settled into bed, the boat was rocking around reminiscent of being out at sea in a storm. The Great Salt Pond is large, and when the wind blows there's plenty of space for the waves to build. At times they'd crash against the hull with a loud thud as if something had hit us, and still the wind was increasing. The weather station was registering winds over 40 miles an hour at this time, though the next morning many boaters were claiming they'd personally clocked gusts at over 70 miles an hour. Many boaters do tend to exaggerate I'm beginning to suspect. Though not I, of course.

img_6030.jpg Closer to midnight, someone started blaring their horn and I ran up on deck to see if someone needed help. A large power boat had evidently come free from its mooring or anchorage and was blowing straight through the mooring field, disturbingly close to our boat and another sailboat next to us who was blasting the horn to try and wake up the boat owners. Spot lights quickly came on all around us, and oddly a dog became visible on the dive platform on the back of the rapidly drifting boat. A lady's voice was heard from the boat over the gusting wind, obviously panicked, "what do I do?" before she drifted away hitting at least one other boat on the way. Fortunately moments later she was followed by a local tow boat with its lights flashing, quickly in pursuit to help her before the boat ended up on shore.

img_6023.jpg With 8,000 pounds of ballast and displacing 22,500 pounds of water, our 37' Tayana is a very heavy sail boat for its length. This generally makes it more comfortable in lousy weather, but it also means that we were putting a lot of weight on our mooring ball, something I couldn't help but think about as the wind continued to wail. Walking the deck at one point to be sure all was well, it seemed we were suspiciously close to our neighbor. It's always very difficult to judge the size of waves, and even easier to exaggerate the size of waves, but suffice to say that they were occasionally splashing onto our deck and far larger than I'd ever expect to see in a reasonably protected anchorage. The winds were strong enough that our mooring ball wasn't even visible as the weight of our boat had dragged it underwater. We were tied to it with two lines on two different cleats, and hoping that the mooring itself would hold. (I was later told by the harbor master that our mooring ball is connecting by heavy chain to an 800 pound mushroom anchor, so we certainly wouldn't expect it to drag.)

img_6027.jpg We eventually managed to wedge ourselves in well enough to fall asleep, and by morning the winds were abating. We found that our radar reflector had blown apart during the night, but we'd had no other damage or losses. Around us, however, we saw several boats where the furlers had come undone and their fore sails had unrolled and been quickly ripped to shreds by the wind. Another Tayana like ours had drug on its private mooring all the way across the basin and landed itself next to a power boat to which it had rafted up for the night. And turning on the radio, we heard reports of much flotsam being reported in the pond, from signs to unmanned dinghy's, and the harbor master was busy relocating a number of boats whose moorings had indeed dragged during the night.

img_5425-0.jpg The storm has since blow over, one in a long and seemingly endless string of them as we've worked our way up the coast. The sun is shining, the mooring field is alive with activity, and the forecast currently predicts favorable conditions this weekend. Though I'd never have believed it last night, we may be able to continue along on our explorations this weekend. Jamie and I are both a bit tired as inevitably we didn't sleep all that soundly. Quixote, on the other hand, slept as sound as cats generally do, and is happily running around on the deck chasing bugs and enjoying the respite from the rain.

2 comments on A Summer Gale

  1. captain ron's picture
    captain ron
    Tue, 07/28/2009 - 18:25

    Ahh, the lessons just keep on coming! I love to read each and every one, as they take me back 'to the time when...'. In all my time on the water I've never seen a boat go floating by in a mooring or anchor field, but it is the bane of the cruiser's life, and I hear it's far too common in the more popular cruising grounds. They tell me I'm going to see lots of it this next week as I cruise the waters of the Aegean.

    Congratulations on surviving yet another adventure. And on becoming an Uncle X 2!


    PS: I've NEVER been able to tip my Walker Bay. Granted, I don't go out in the stuff you do, but... :)

  2. Jeremy's picture
    Fri, 07/31/2009 - 09:52

    Knowing that you've never managed to tip your Walker Bay tells me I don't ever need to worry about it again... I'm sure you've actually tried! :)