Monday, August 22, 2011

Our Friend Harvey

[updated with photos.]

(My dears, the internet is a lazy sod here on Roatan. We normally pick up our messages and check the weather at nearby Fantasy Island resort (for reals). Alas, the internet has been down for the past week. I see your eyes popping out - a week? I might as well tell you I haven't eaten in a week. And when one kindly asks the front desk when internet might return, one receives a shrug in return. "The problem is at the provider." (This I already knew, as I'd already searched out the modem and reset everything I could get my hands on. The boat life teaches one self-reliance.) The upshot is that, while I can post these missives via ham radio, I can't include photos that way. This is a shame, as a funny picture can go a long way towards pepping up a mediocre post. But, in the meantime, we'll do it this way.)

You might think that living on a sailboat consists mainly of sailing. You are wrong. Living on a sailboat means mainly not sailing. We have met many, many cruisers who stopped for fuel and just never left the marina again. We are an anomaly, as, in our case, 'not sailing' means exploring an area, or, as we are doing now, waiting for packages to arrive. We haven't yet met our magic port.
'Not sailing' also means that, when you want to stop somewhere, you can, ie. your anchor system is doing its job. That is non-trivial. For our first eight months aboard, we used a ninety-pound CQR anchor. It was pretty good, but we did drag a few times in high winds. In Mexico, we got a great deal on a never-been-used 'used' 136-pound Manson ray anchor. It was mirror-shiny and pretty and Erik loved it like a third child. Had I internet cooperation, I would post pictures of proud Erik with his Manson. You'll have to imagine it, instead.

[...and now I can!]

Just one last smudge...
...and there!
Tremble at my awesome stopping power!
You wouldn't think those extra forty-odd pounds would made a difference in stopping a 42-ton boat, but boy-howdy, they do. The first time we set the Manson, it bit in and stopped us dead. Huzzah! High-fives all around. Erik normally doesn't sleep on blowy nights, in case we drag. (I sleep like the dead. The deal is this: I get up with early-riser Indy every day. He gets the dramatic blowy nights. I think I made out like a bandit.) But with the Manson, even Erik got some sleep.

We watch our weather pretty carefully, whether by SSB or word-of-mouth, and last week we saw Tropical Depression 8 become Tropical Storm Harvey. It was headed right for us. We'd been warned that when the shrimp boats start to pile into the little hurricane hole around the corner, we should get in there too. Sure enough, Friday came around, and in they went. In we went. We knew we'd probably only get the edge of the storm, but we decided it was good practice, no matter what. No point waiting to iron out your techniques in an actual hurricane.

Unfortunately, we're big. And aside from the shrimpers [Correction: fishing boats.  How could I have been so wrong?], there was another sailboat there, right where we needed to be. This edged us out of the good holding and onto a crummy bottom, where even the Manson didn't want to dig in. We did our best, and set the old CQR in the other direction as a safety measure.

At one am, Erik shook me awake. "Amy, I need you up. We're dragging." (Rule: bad weather only comes between midnight and four am.) I'm normally a deep sleeper, but the adrenaline got me out of bed in a hurry.

The wind was howling, and the rain sheeting down. Our dodger was off bring repaired, so the cockpit was fully exposed. We'd foolishly left up the awning over the mainsail as part of our water collection system, but the canvas was helping to sail us off the anchors. Mangroves beside us, resort dive boats behind, the second sailboat on the other side and shrimp boats ahead, we were boxed in. Erik had to use the engine to keep us in place. We cursed having done "the prudent thing" - in the bay, we were on both a mooring ball and the Manson anchor in great holding. Had we moved into the hole only to crack up the boat? I stood in the cockpit, shivering with long-forgotten cold, and longed for the days when a thunderstorm was something fun to watch through a window.

Then a miracle happened. The secondary anchor bit into something and stuck. That was enough to stop the Manson, and we stopped moving. Hooray! My services were no longer needed. After another half an hour to assure ourselves that we really weren't going to move, I went back to bed. Erik suited up in his bright yellow foul-weather gear, and stayed up until the storm blew past. Indy and I found him stretched out in the cockpit the next morning, wrapped up head to toe, finally asleep.
Even captains have to sleep sometime.
We're back in the bay now, and have been making plans about what to do when The Next One comes. Since we are alone out here (hurricane season, y'all), we may tie to a few mooring balls and set both anchors. And If the wind doesn't shift and hopelessly cluster us, we might stay in place even out here. Here's hoping.


Kate said...

Glad you are safe!! Too exciting for me.

Anonymous said...


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