Friday, August 23, 2013

Riding The Storm

I’ve heard the term before (riding the storm),  but I never really experienced it, until July of this year.  David and I were going to Marco Island to watch the fireworks and fish.  It was the usual hot Florida summer day and the storm cells that week formed anywhere, at any time.

It was impossible to anchor long enough to get a hook in the water before a thunder cloud threatened our safety.  We were off of Coon Key, searching for Triple tail near a large marker.  A storm cell formed, David announced we got 5 minutes.  By the time we lifted anchor, the waves and wind was sending Anhinga 8.4 knots towards the river.  She liked that. 

If anyone has been in the Marco River, one would know right away it is a great safe haven for storms.  Outside in the Gulf a storm could be raging, but inside the river, a boat would experience only ripple of waves.

The sky was kind enough to halt it’s downpour until after the fireworks were over.  We decided to leave the next day.  David took stock of the weather and saw that there were two storms in the gulf, but a wide margin of clear skies were between them.  The entrance to the river was a bit deceiving.  It’s  a blind exit into the gulf.  We casually motored out, watching others in their yachts motor inward.  David put up a reef main, knowing the winds would be high.  Once out of the river’s mouth we found ourselves not yet in a full gale storm, but as we looked back we could see an high energy large thunderhead with soft rolling clouds around the top of it like a halo.  We were in the warm strong wind the storm pushed ahead of itself.  It was about 40 knots.

The main slammed against its starboard stay, as the wind was directly behind us.  David could not get the main down and this was vital for our safety.  He couldn’t leave the helm, so he told me I had to go and pull the main down.  I wanted to tell him he was crazy, it was not safe and I didn’t know I could do it, but when I looked at David’s face, I knew it was a job I had to do.  I only had my bibs on and a t shirt.  I held the hand rails tightly along the port side, then dragged the main sail down, it was hard.  I barely got a hold of the halyard line to pull it around the cleat as my butt smashed down on the cabin with my legs wrapped around the mast.

What I did not know at the time, David’s plan was to throw some of the jib out, to steady the boat.  The jib tore loose from its roll and slammed all the way out.  I was flat on my back at that point as Anhinga tipped about 30 degrees and her side railings was slicing through the water.  I grabbed onto the hand rail and nothing could stop my mouth from letting out a girly scream.  Flat on my back and tipped towards starboard, I could not even sit up as the wind pressed down on me.

Then I heard David from behind me yell, “Don’t worry… we are still under control!” I was safely secured to the mast by my legs and my hand on the rail.  I was in an exhilarating position; I thought to myself, I’m glad someone decided to tell me because it really doesn’t look like we are in control!

  Yet, I trust my salty dog with my life; he is experienced and knows what to do in an emergency.  My second thought was, “I’m going to stay right here until he fixes this.”  Just then, I heard the grinding sound of the winch as David slowly pulled the jib in until we had about 2 feet of triangle sticking out.

Anhinga righted herself up properly and we had a fast sail home.

I learned a few things:
To gain proper experience, one must allow oneself to reach out of the comfort zone.
Trust the one with the most experience behind the helm
God is still in control of the wind and the waves.
Experience in the storm will help you through the next one.