All the responses are much appreciated. One big learning for me was that even running under a bare pole with the engine, the hull had more windage than the engine overcome. I figured if the sails were down, we’d just point north and power on through. Nice to learn when you have a few square miles of empty water around instead of a few hundred yards off a seawall.
To address everyone’s points:
I too was having trouble figuring out the wind direction and speed. When on the water, I assumed the wind was out of the Northwest. However, as I wrote up the original post, I realized it was probably directly from the West. In terms of the speed, beyond saying it was blowing like stink, I’m not sure. Definitely over 30, likely over 40, probably not over 50kts.
We had just one set of sails onboard. One of the reasons there was no canvas up was mentioned above. There would be no problem steering under power with no sails up, right? It was really one of those mind-bending, assumption-crushing “Well, how about that” moments. Only I think I used some different words at the time. Additionally, the captain had no interest in risking getting a sail blown out.
In terms of sea room, the wall of the Gulfstream was about 20 to 25 nm offshore, and we were about 16 to 18 nm offshore. So we might have started seeing bigger waves piling up at any time if we were pushed much more to the east.
Explained above why we didn’t put up some sail. To add to it, I was just visiting on the boat and wasn’t sure how well it would heave-to. That should be added to the Learnings list: Practice heaving-to and storm preparation before heading offshore.
Mora na maidine dhuit.
At one point, I considered unfurling the genoa a little. But my expectation was that, if anything, it would blow the bow further off the wind.
What you described about the yellow clouds was exactly what happened, except for the storm direction. It was just before sunset. In a sky of black clouds, there were just a few yellow ones poking out, just one or two yellow cottonball clouds offshore and one or two above the beach. The thunderstorms over land had stalled out, so the offshore weather poured down. Lots of lightning, heavy rain.
I’ve seen green clouds in both Orlando and Atlanta before tornados came through. That’s why the yellow clouds caused such trepidation.
Overall, a good learning experience.