Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Well Blow Me Down!

   Wind is a funny thing.  For obvious reasons, it is essential to the sailing life.  However, it can also be a real nuisance.  It can change direction or surge in strength, causing you to be blown off course.  It can also cause some very unpleasant rocking and rolling.  Even it's nonexistence is an issue because then you must resort to motoring (never something a sailor wants to do).  Don't get me wrong.  I like the wind when it is favorable . . . just don't ask me to be so pleased about it when it gets uncomfortable.

   We were still in Port St. Joe and had been expecting high winds that day.  We had prepared.  Extra fenders against the dock. Check.  Ensure lines are tight and secure. Check.  Secure items on deck so as not to rattle or blow away. Check.  We thought we were all squared away (thought would be the operative word here). 

   Because of our precautions, the day had gone fairly well.  We had only had to adjust our fenders a couple of times.  As night drew near, the wind shifted and began to push us away from the pier (something I would be thankful for later).  We went to sleep comfortable with the fact that the boat would fair just fine through the night . . . 4 a.m.  A sound from the galley woke me up.  It sounded like something fell to the floor.  I normally would have chalked this up to the cats and gone back to sleep but, something told me to get up.  As I did (in my half asleep state), I noticed that I was forced to walk slightly to the side of the boat.  Walking down the hallway was like walking on the floor of a funhouse.  We were heeled over.

   We weren't sailing. We weren't moving.  How could we be heeled over?  I climbed the ladder and hopped up on deck for a better look.  We were definitely on an angle leaning toward the dock and only inches from it.  It hit me.  We were aground.  The keel was resting on the bottom of the marina.  I ran back down to wake up Bill. At first he thought I was nuts.  There was supposed to be ample depth in the marina; no chance of grounding.  However, he checked and I was right.  In fact, two of the other three boats on the pier with us were also in the same predicament.

   What happened?  Three words.  Wind and tide.  Wind normally blows water out of marinas, bays, etc. but, when it is really strong, the wind blows a significant amount of water out of these areas.  This cause severe drops in depth.  On the particular night in question a black moon was combined with the winds.  What is a black moon you ask?  It is a new moon when it is at its closest point to the earth.  The closer the moon, the more extreme the tides (Which meant a really low "low tide").  So, extreme low tide plus strong winds equals a stuck boat.

   Thankfully, we, and the other two boats, were just sitting on the bottom not actually sunk in.  So, with some time, patience, and monitoring of the fenders (I did not want another ding in the teak . . . or worse), we slowly began to shift into an upright position.  No dings.  No further issues.  Thankfully we had been pushed away from the dock before the tide went out.  If we hadn't, we would have been leaning right on the dock.

   So, I guess you could say I should be thankful for the wind blowing us away from the dock . . . but, If the winds hadn't been so high in the first place, it wouldn't have mattered which way the wind was blowing us. . . I digress . . . I thought this little incident deserved its own entry since it certainly shocked us and the locals even said they hadn't seen anything like it.  I guess we can now claim that our boat is so good it was heeled over without a single sail raised . . .

Note:  I wanted to take pictures of this strange occurrence.  However, since I discovered our issue in the wee hours of the morning, any pictures taken would have come out rather dark.
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1 comment:

  1. March and even late February can be tough for boaters on the northern Gulf of Mexico. Unusual, unpredictable and stronger weather seems to be the norm and not the exception during that time of year for us. It is even more important to be extra cautious when picking dates for a crossing at that time of year.
    I may see you further south. I leave for south Florida Thursday and will be between Tampa and Marco Island for a week or so. Hope things go well and you have fun.
    Pat Johnson in Pensacola


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