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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

San Domingo Creek/St. Michaels

Riding Out Hurricane Irene
We are originally west coast sailors and have never experienced a hurricane; it is such an east coast thing.

In summary I would say that the most stressful aspect of a hurricane is the waiting. During the waiting, major decisions are made that could have a profound impact on results. A primary concern was where to go. We dismissed the hurricane hole because of close quarters with derelict boats. We dismissed the headwaters of Harness Creek since we knew boats had trouble finding good holding ground and many docks and boats lined the creek, all hard objects to encounter as opposed to mud on the main cove shores. We finally settled on staying in the main cove, but would move closer to the protection from the land and tall trees on the east and north. We re-anchored Friday and the other boats shifted around us to also gain protection. Now we had to live with our decision.

Our devotion for Saturday morning could not have been more perfect. “How long will it be ere they believe me?” (Numbers 14:11) It was about Joshua and Caleb, their positive report about the Promised Land and how disappointed God was when the multitude grew faint at heart at the giants in the land. It reminded us that the Lord will see us through things that look impossible, we just need to have faith in His deliverance and we have to do some fighting.

We visited with the other cruising boats and checked in on their plans. We felt it would be helpful to get to know others we would share an anchorage with during a storm. Everyone seemed to deal with the stress a little differently. Some masked it with jokes. I have been told you can read my face like a book, I have no doubt it was advertising my concern in neon lights. We all compared weather reports and found them to be a little conflicting, ranging from 30 knots with gusts to 40, or 50 knots with gusts to 65 knots. We knew it was best to prepare for the worst. We removed our jib and granddad (mizzen) and made sure the main was securely zipped with no front openings. The decks and cockpit were cleared of readily airborne items. We set out a second storm anchor, a 66 pound Bruce with 50’ of chain and 200’ of 5/8 double braid rode. We put all that out with the dingy in about 5 feet of water. If it held well, it was going to be hard to retrieve. I focused on the part about holding well…we could deal with the retrieval aspect later.

While waiting in the dead calm and high humidity, a great stress reliever was our friendly family of ducks we had been supplying with oats during our visits to Harness Creek [these were bulk oats that we did not like, not the good Quaker Oats given as a gift from Shari!]. The oats sink from the surface rather quickly and the young ducks would reach under water further and further until they had to paddle to reach down, all the while their unsinkable derrières darting and bobbing and often bumping into siblings’ bobbing derrières. This just never got old. It was a relief to giggle during the stressful waiting. We thanked God for these silly ducks. We were able to feed them up to about 15 knots, at which point we wore more oats than we fed them. Momma insisted that we try anyway. Finally she left and tucked her four ducklings away for the storm.
From Hurricane Irene
As Myron suspected, by 11 am we began to feel the winds strengthen. We were thankful that the vessel next to us gave us access to their internet service. This allowed us to keep current on Irene and the winds at Thomas Point Light just east of us (see chart below). As the winds increased, I found the noise to be incredible. I told Myron I thought I heard a jet flying around in this, but no, the noise of the wind was so loud it sounded like a jet engine. Around sunset, the trees were breaking around us. It sounded like a shotgun and then you would see a tree or a large limb fall. Once darkness set it, there were brilliant flashes, usually one or two orange flashes followed by a blue then a green flash. This was not lightning. It was the canopy purge (falling trees and branches) putting the power transformers through their paces. We watched the power go off and on around the shore and knew that the land folks had enough troubles of their own.
From Hurricane Irene
We had an exciting time when we chose to re-anchor to gain distance from another vessel that was coming near us. At about 2 am, we started up the motor, Myron drove Hold Fast taut against our secondary anchor and we pulled up our primary, the Manson. We reset the Manson further away from the other vessel. It was a risky action conducted in the dark when we were getting gusts of over 40 knots, but limbs and vessel were spared and we were able to get better separation. We prayed before and thanked God afterward. We pulled up the Manson a second time before daybreak, but did not reset it. At this point we were on the Bruce and later took the Fortress off the port stern with the dink to keep us off the shore. We heard talk on the radio now, many folks excited that the worst was over. However, we were watching the barometer climb as rapidly as it had fallen, forming a “V” on our barometer tracker, a good indication that we were in for more strong winds. They hit hard from the NW about 6:30 am and lasted for several hours. This may have been the worst for us because we were no longer protected by the point with tall trees. It is one thing to knock Hold Fast on her side momentarily; it is another to hold her there. I was extremely excited when I could finally see blue sky to the southwest beyond the end of the hurricane bands. Oh happy day!
From Hurricane Irene
Recovery of the Fortress and the Bruce was a chore indeed. We could not pull up the Fortress with the dingy, nor could we pull up the Bruce over the bow. We abandoned the Bruce and retrieved the Fortress over the stern with the jib sheet winch. It actually pulled the boat down! That Fortress must have gone four feet down in the mud. We got it up and moved to re-anchor then set about to retrieve our Bruce. At 66 pounds with 50 feet of chain at more than a pound a foot, this was going to be hard work. In the water, I could feel the edges of the Bruce near the surface of the mud. We worked the Bruce backwards with its chain and finally felt it give. Getting it up in the dingy was a major accomplishment as well. Miracle retrievals by the grace of God. With all that done, it was a matter of cleaning up the mud and putting the boat back into working order. It was Sunday evening and we had only about an hour of sleep since Friday night. By 8 pm, the anchorage was peaceful, true again to its name “Quiet Waters Park.” Unfortunately my ears were still ringing though the noise of wind was long gone.

We were basically up for 36 hours under physical demand, it was time to eat, shower and sleep. We bade Irene adieu and hoped never to see all that again.

Tonight we are at a new anchorage and we just stepped on deck to take in this beautiful calm night, so calm we can see the reflection of the stars on the water. That is a first. Yet while here in a dead calm, we see on the internet that Katia is making tracks towards the eastern shore. Really?! *SIGH*

"He leadeth me beside the still waters..." These are the most still waters we have seen yet. I am going to bed and enjoy the serenity. Will ponder the Katia dilemma tomorrow.

Love to all,

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{GMST}38|46.147|N|076|13.441|W|Anchored San Domingo|St. Michaels{GEND}

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