The build up was greater than the story, but the story turned out to be better than the build-up. (I’m not sure if that even makes sense, but our trip to the US turned out to be a lot different than trying to out-race a storm).
It was a lovely sail from the Abacos with fair wind and following seas (something very difficult to find, but often wished). With 15-knots of apparent wind, we put up the spinnaker and raced downwind at better than 10 knots and by the time we reached the very calm Gulf Stream we were doing better than 13 at times. But I couldn’t let well-enough alone and “adjusted” the spinnaker until it wrapped itself around the jib so many times it couldn’t be forced, cajoled or begged to come undone.
Not only did we lose use of the spinnaker and the jib, but we were in deep trouble, as squall would have ripped it open and created quite a frightening ride while we tried to gain control.
Oh yeah: it was 2 a.m. This is why you shouldn’t fly a spinnaker at night.
But after a much bellowing and yanking, we managed to drop it on deck, then gather it up before it could open up and drag itself and one of us into the ocean.
We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale just as the second tropical storm of the year formed (on the first day of Hurricane Season, by the way) a scant 90 miles from us. With 50- to 60-mph winds, it blasted the West coast of Florida and slowed down to a manageable 30 to 40 by the time it reached us in St. Augustine.
Two days later, we left St. Augustine to sail north for Beauford, North Carolina, but were alerted by NOAA saying it had tracked some sever thunderstorms coming our way with winds in excess of 60-mph and penny sized hail! Gadzucks!
We called the weather expert and he said there shouldn’t be more and to press on. Not sure what to do, we gave up about half of the 40 miles we put between us and the coast to seek shelter. NOAA updated it’s predictions and said we could expect more until about 10 p.m. Actually, it turned out to be midnight.
As we would be arriving on shore about that time, we figured it was better to try to out race them, as we did the first, instead of arrive on shore as they were expected to hit.
At 6 p.m. I gave the watch over to Jackie with clear skies and the mean storm behind us and out to sea. She woke me up at 8:30 saying another one was coming.
Seconds after we shortened sails the winds picked up to 35 to 40 knots. Then the sun set. Of course.
For the next few hours we steered around them (you could see them coming) and managed to cut below and inside of the nastiest thunderstorm I have ever seen, and riding a motorcycle across America one summer, I saw some real nasty ones.
One stalled in front of us, so we changed our course to be upwind of it. But another squall inshore of that one killed the wind so it hung with us for two hours. I watched that thing in horror as it NEVER stopped firing lightening for 90 minutes. I’m talking constant lighting, like a giant machine gun going constantly for an hour and a half. (I’ve got video if you don’t believe me). And because it stalled, it wasn’t blowing away from us like the others and I was hoping it couldn’t smell my fear and come back to light us on fire and then make sure every single ash was incinerated a hundred times over before we could make it through.
Oh yeah, we wrapped the spinnaker around the jib again.
But here we are in beautiful Charleston, South Carolina on the one-year anniversary of our adventure. It was fitting, because we visited this place earlier this year, as we were making our way to the boat. Now we are headed up north to sell it and start another adventure.