Friday, September 16, 2011

Quite the Scare

The plan: dinghy over to Mt. Hartman Bay (squeezing through the reefs) from Clarkes Court Bay to play volleyball at 3 pm in Secret Harbour Marina, stay for a couple of drinks during happy hour and return to Irie before dark.

The reality: volleyball was fun with a lot of players and four teams in total, the wind picked up while we were hanging out with new made friends having a drink or two, the situation turned crazy! The wind grew stronger and rain poured down, all the way into the bar. All the cruisers who were present congregated in a corner, shivering from the cold. Phone calls and VHF calls came in about boats dragging. People started heading back home in the midst of the storm, trying to save their sailboat.

Mark and I did not have a flashlight or handheld VHF radio with us and knew nobody in “our” bay. Alianna left that morning. We had no idea in which shape Irie was, but felt confident about her anchor gear holding. That’s why it takes us a relative long time to anchor: we make sure the anchor is set and have adequate scope out. We’d like to sleep at night, or in this case, feel comfortable enough about Irie riding out 40 knot winds with nobody on board.

The storm made the sky turn dark and “sunset” was approaching, so Mark and I bit the bullet and left the security of the marina, straight into the wind  and madness for a couple of miles. The rain hit us in the face, making the visibility extremely poor, waves kept crashing over the bow of our dinghy and us. (Sea water is so much warmer than rain water!) Our dinghy and engine did a good job (and Mark as the driver) to keep us from flipping over, while we got into the eye of everything nasty. The only thing absent was thunder and lightning. We managed to avoid the reef (where are those sticks marking the channel?) Our “exhilarating” trip back brought us through the swirling Hog Island anchorage and under the bridge, where two cruising boats drifted onto shore. Gulp! One was being pulled off by a powerful motorboat.

We rounded the corner, soaking wet and barely able to see, but we did notice our little Irie… safely at anchor and waiting for us. She was pitching wildly with the big fetch, but once on board, we set out the rest of this heavy and unpredicted weather, happy to be home. The night was long, with a few more violent squalls and a big commercial vessel (Seahorse II) dragging into part of a Clarkes Court Bay anchorage, threatening cruising boats at anchor. Many had to pick up the hook themselves to avoid collision and the scene was one of mayhem and danger. Part of the night, we had our engines on, just in case something were to happen, since we didn’t have a lot of room to spare on our lee shore. The VHF radio was active all night, but no major catastrophes occurred. Here’s to our beaten up dinghy and engine, a diligent anchoring technique and reliable anchor gear!

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