Tuesday, December 22, 2009

High tech...Low tech...No tech...

I made it through the big winter storm of '09 fairly well, but it has been slightly costly - my cell phone and the remote internet antenna were victims of water damage, and not even damage of direct rain or spray. So I apologize to all that have not heard from me, I try to do the best I can with what comm systems I have that work at the time. I tapped into the internet right now, and I suppose I am going to have to try and get a new phone, since after 3 or 4 days of drying out my phone is still not working right.

I left Edenton on Friday, Dec 18th, knowing there was a developing low and cold weather on the way. After watching the weather channel at Gary and Alice's, I decided that as bad as it was going to be, it was not going to be as rough, or probably as cold as that storm I rode out in the bay on the way down, so I set out fairly early, after Gary and Alice brought me coffee and biscuits for breakfast. The option was to set through some extremely cold weather at the dock in Edenton, probably having to pay for the next few nights being tied up, or head towards the Outer Banks and hopefully a bit warmer conditions. (the public docks at Edenton are good for 2 nights tied up for free, after that there is a charge) It had been cold that night previous, around 32 in Edenton, but the morning was warming quickly as I cast off docklines around 0730 and motored away from the dock.

Gary and Alice saw me off as I raised sail and headed down the channel. The wind was coming out of the Northeast, and I suppose it was right around 10 kts. I was making good time out of Edenton Bay and out into the Albemarle sound, about 5.5 kts, 6 kts at times, and I cleared the Sound Bridge right at about 0930 or so. Gary and Alice were on shore at the base of the bridge as I got ready to slide through, and as I came out of the bridge abutments, I heard a horn blow and assumed it was them. A call interrupted by bad cell reception confirmed this, and I set a course as tight to the wind as I could manage, trying to make the best time I could down the sound. Knowing bad weather was coming, I took a gamble, and tried to make my tacks as long as I could at the best speed I could muster, my logic was that a moderate speed in the right direction was better than blazing speed tacking back and forth. I am not a sailing tactician, so I don't know what course of action is more productive, but I feel I made a pretty good choice, as I made just over 60 miles in just over 12 hours.

As the day wore on the wind changed direction and gained velocity. At times when that happens the wind velocity can offset a slight change of wind direction, giving the boat what is called "a lift". For me it worked out, and I was able to just about hold my original course, and was still making good time. The wind was pretty much coming out the East now, and as such the waves were beginning to build, having 40 or 50 miles of open water to gather height and strength. By noon I was beating to the windward pretty well, and plowing into some pretty good size waves. The wind was continuing to increase, and I put a reef into the main, leaving the working jib up. I started to pound pretty well into the waves, some burying the bow and completely washing the deck. It was at about this point that I decided that the conditions were bad enough to warrant putting my phone below and out of the weather. What I didn't count on was the slight leak that I have sometimes around the companionway soaking my phone.
I made 4 tacks total during my trip down the sound, and by 1530 I was on a lay line (direct course) for the Roanoke sound. I had about 16 miles to go, and was making between 4.5 and 6 knots, so I figured I'd get into protected water just about 1800 or shortly there after. The rain began right after that, and I sailed on in the spray and rain, which had started pretty lightly, and then began to come down. Funny enough, it was still fairly warm, and with the Kokatat suit on I wasn't too uncomfortable. I was just about on my marks, and I got into good water, with fewer and smaller waves just after dark, at about 1745. The rain cleared off right about that time, and I began to pick my way into the channel after dousing the sails. It was then that I went for the phone to notify everyone I was ok, and I realized that the phone, although inside, had still gotten soaked. I got out one call, which was interrupted, and then it died completely.

The trip through the channel was pretty daunting, I knew it was a tight channel, and was marked fairly well, but, a lot of the marks were day markers (not lighted), and there was a fish trap extending into the channel at one point, that I did not see in time and plowed right through. Fish traps are a series of posts driven into the bottom, that suspend a net, which leads to a "corral" formed out of net and many posts. Luckily for me I was just below the corral when I saw the posts appear out of the darkness, but by that point I was unable to avoid running through the line of posts and the net I knew was strung between them. A few tense moments passed, and then I was through, fortunately the shape of the keel prevented the prop and the rudder from getting fouled, which would have been disastrous. After I safely cleared this hazard, I checked my position, and my charts, and the trap definitely did extend into the channel.

I made anchorage around 2030 or so after making a slow journey down the channel, from marker to marker, and set out a Bahama Rig with my anchors, knowing that the weather was supposed to deteriorate and get worse, and that the bottom of the sound was silty and had not provided good holding previously. A Bahama Rig is when you set out one anchor, and then move the boat, or dinghy out a second anchor at about 180 degrees in relation to the first anchor. I wasn't comfortable motoring the boat with an anchor and anchor rode in the water, (a fouled propeller is no fun to clear, and I didn't want to chew up my anchor line) so I got out the dinghy and inflated it. The wind was up to about 25 or 30 kts by now, and the dinghy was bucking around like a kite as I pumped it up. I got out the second anchor and got it set, and found that this rig worked quite well, as the boat held position and did not drift about at all, despite gusts that topped about 50 mph. After anchoring and securing the boat and gear on deck, I checked the barometer, which was down around 29.25 inches, I think the lowest I have seen it go while I have been actively observing it. The storm passed straight over Roanoke Island, and it dumped a ton of rain, filling the dinghy easily with 3 inches of water. I am glad I was no further north than I was, or up in Solomons, as it seems everyone back home and up in MD got pounded with snow. (see Liz' post with the snow pics) I am waiting for some gloves Gary and Alice ordered to arrive, and then I head south again - Thursday the temps are supposed to rise, and the nights will not be below freezing as they have been, and the day time temps will be in the upper 40's and low 50's.

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