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Old 01-31-1999
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Sue & Larry is on a distinguished road
Storm Survival in a Crowded Anchorage

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  • Preparation for Weathering a Storm at Anchor
  • We can see the thunderstorm building in the sky to the west. The deep rumbling forebodes a very large system, and it looks as if it's rapidly coming our way—so much for our planned trip ashore.

    Larry and I scurry about and ready Safari for the onslaught. We've got two concerns. One is to do everything we can to reduce windage, and the other is analyze our location in regard to the other boats and obstacles around us in this crowded anchorage. Do any look like they could become a problem?

    We've been through enough of these drills that we move together wordlessly as we batten down the hatches. We fold up the bimini top and zip on its cover. I double check to see that the jib has been rolled up correctly (with several wraps of the sheet around the furled sail) and that the sheets are tightly secured around the winches. Larry makes sure all the halyards and other lines are tight so they won't whip about in the wind.


    This jib is correctly furled for the oncoming storm

    Larry is below fastening ports and hatches and hands up my foul-weather gear. I make sure the fenders are handy, and put the key in the ignition.

    Somehow I've become the one who stands watch at the wheel during these storms. I think Larry sensed early on my fascination with the powers of nature and just lets me stay out here while he busies himself with other stuff. I don't really mind though. These storms captivate me. I like the heightened sense of awareness in the air—the birds darting around frantically looking for cover, the sky changing rapidly, the drop in air temperature, then the momentary calm.

    Now there is more rumbling in the distance and a loud crack in the air as the first lightning bolt strikes. I jump a little and take a sharp breath. Hinckley runs below and hides under the stove, but Endicott, the true boat kitty, stays up top to watch with me. I put on my foul-weather gear and stand behind the wheel, ready for action. Another lightning bolt blazes through the sky and Larry yells at me, "Put on your rubber boots and stay away from the rigging!" I hate wearing shoes on the boat but I know that he's right about protecting myself, at least a little. I look up at the fuzzy "ion dissipater" we added to the top of the mast and wonder if it really works. It can't hurt, I decide.

    Like groundhogs that just saw their shadows, everyone around us is disappearing below, fastening the hatch boards behind them. It puzzles me that they do that. How can they leave themselves uninformed on how the storm is affecting their boat? And, don't they know they're missing an incredible show?

    Now I can see the wind approaching as I've never seen it before. I see solid white sheets of water skipping over the harbor, heading straight for us. I reach down and start the engine. By the time the white sheets of water engulf Safari, the rain is horizontal. The wind is now blowing 50 mph.

    The tight anchorage concerns me. There are many boats to our starboard and very shallow water behind us and to port. By now I've got the engine in gear with just enough revs to hold Safari in place. To my amusement, I discover I'm not the only one using this tactic in the storm. There's a group of mallard ducks just 25 feet off our beam, huddled together, beaks pointed straight into the wind and paddling furiously just to stay in place. "Hang in there little fellows!" I cry out.

    Sue stands watch during a storm

    I'm having a hard time seeing now. The wind is coming in waves of stronger and stronger gusts and the rain is pelting into my face. I consider putting on the scuba mask Larry readied for me.

    A couple of boats over, I can see a big hard-chined, steel-hulled boat starting to drag. There's no dinghy tied to the boat so the owners must be ashore. It's heading straight for the pretty 35-foot sloop anchored just to one side of us. They're below and are unaware of what's happening. Larry tries to hail them on the VHF to warn them, but they must have their instruments turned off. We then try to yell over but our cries are unheeded, carried away by the wind.

    It's not long before the steel boat collides with the smaller boat. I cringe. The couple on board scrambles out of the cabin as they feel the impact from the two boats scraping together. They look pretty upset as they rush about and try to minimize the damage. We noticed later that they got some pretty ugly scrapes down the side of their boat. We feel sorry for them, but know that they won't be spending the next storm down below.

    The high winds and the torrential downpour soon pass, as is common with these storms. I shut down the engine just as the sun breaks out and casts a magnificent double rainbow, painting the sky behind us.

    A rainbow appeared after the storm-all seemed much brighter.

    We quickly survey Safari and see that all looks well. We both breathe a sigh of relief. Winds peaked at 70 mph during this storm and we learned afterward that it toppled trees in the nearby town. With the return of the calm to the anchorage, fair-weather sailor Hinckley climbs out from under the stove and joins Endicott up top, just in time to greet the mallards heading our way. Weary from paddling, they're optimistic that we'll spare some dinner for our fellow storm mates. After admiring the rainbow and tossing some bread to our little feathered friends, we retire below to a well-earned dinner for ourselves.

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