Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Gale Warnings

Storm warning NOAA broadcasts began over the VHF radio on Saturday. At home in Narragansett Bay the broadcasts are rarely accurate. Here in Maryland mariners heed the warnings and move to protected anchorages in advance of the storm. So far, the forecasts have been very accurate.
In preparation for this weather that was forecast today, we anchored off Chesapeake Bay, up the Tred Avon River in a protected creek at Oxford in Talbot County. The anchor appeared to be well set. I backed down on it and all seemed well. After taking care of business we noticed that the only other boat in the anchorage was a cruising boat we'd identified as one of the boats we'd heard during morning check ins over the SSB radio. Joe dinghied over to introduce himself and found out that they were local Oxford sailors returning from a year of living aboard. Whenever sailors get together the topic of conversation usually turns to weather. They were planning to leave in the morning for an anchorage that offered better holding. Lesson #1: When locals offer a tip for a better anchorage and substantiate it with reasons such as, "Well the watermen have littered the bottom here with chicken necks (crab bait) and shells (crab shells) and I don't trust his place in a blow. Anchors just slide right through this stuff." Listen to them, find out where they're going and go there!
We chose to stay. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Around noon the winds began gusting up to 30-40 knots. Warnings were up to 45 knots and may have reached that speed. At 1:00 PM a tornado watch was in effect for Talbot County. Simple Life (or as I occasionally refer to her as not so simple life) began dragging her anchor during one of the heavy gusts. Joe took notice of our slow backward drift and before long we were scrambling around like monkeys in a room full of computers.
He stood on the bow readying the second Danforth anchor while I was at the helm attempting to keep the boat headed into the wind. After a few tense moments Simple Life seemed to settle in and appeared to be holding. When everything had settled down we discussed our dilemma and marveled at how our confidence in our anchoring technique had clouded our normally good judgement. The moral of this story is; never feel too confident and don't disregard local advice. Hopefully this story will end well. It's 2:00 PM and storm warnings are in effect for 10 more hours. Hold onto your hats kids it going to be a long bumpy ride...
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