With hurricane season fast approaching and one storm already named, weather is dominating our thoughts these days.
Last week we were hunkered down in a marina waiting for a second low to whip past us with 30 to 50 knot winds. Then our boat broker told of a customer who, after only one month after buying his vessel, experienced a direct lightening hit that fried every piece of electrical equipment on his boat. Great.
While there were a few days to try to make some northing, “persistent squalls” were forecasted packing winds in the 30’s and 40’s. Most adventurous sailors think twice about going out in more than 25 knots while the average cruiser gets nervous after 15 knots. And its not linear: 30 knots isn’t twice as strong as 15 knots, it’s more than 8 times as strong. The 50 knots predicted is ferocious, to say the least.
We finally made our escape across the Northeast Providence Channel between Eluethera and the Abacos. The seas were heavy from the recent blow, and there was light wind and directly on our nose. Motoring in moderate rollers is not that fun. And to cross the T, an hour out, we heard a “Securite” announcement on the radio warning all boaters of a waterspout (marine tornado) that had touched down 15 miles south of us and had been active for the last 24 minutes. Two more were forming, the voice said, with more to come.
At that, we turned on the second engine and pushed the engines to about 75 percent. No point waiting around to see what would happen. I spent the next several hours watch the puffy morning clouds turn into monstrous thunderheads rocketing moisture 50,000- to 100,000-feet into the stratosphere.
Then the waves got heavy for a while: a few over 12 feet and a steep 7-8 seconds apart. The fishing lines were rolled in: the last sign that said we were no longer having fun; we were trying to get somewhere.
We entered the Sea of Abaco with little incident, even though one wave broke in front of us while we were entering the cut between the World’s third largest barrier reef and the Atlantic Ocean.
Since then, the winds have piped back up to 25-30 knots as a high pressure on the East Coast squeezes the trough that has been generating all the squalls and threatening to produce the first tropical storms of the season.
Now we are stuck in the Sea of Abaco as the only way out is through cuts — all of which have great breaking waves — but the forecast finally looks good for next week. And then we’ll be on to Florida and up the US coast. With luck we’ll meet the insurance company’s requirement that we be north of Jacksonville by June 1st.