Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Anticipation: The Approaching Front, Part 2

Umatilla, FL



Part 2 - At anchor

Above shows yesterday's scenario.  A front was approaching from The Gulf.  Suppose we had been at anchor in the ICW.  That is a situation that we faced many times in the past 12 years.   In many ways, it is worse than an approaching storm at sea.

First, there is the dread and anticipation caused by the weather reports.  Note that I blame the reports more than the weather.   Modern weather reports in the USA are designed to be scary and sensational.  They talk about the worst possible outcomes every time.  Further, they cover very large areas, and we are frequently visitors who don't even know the names of the counties.   Again and again, I swore that I would never listen to the weather forecasts again, but of course I do.  Damned if you do and damned if you don't.

The advent of smart phones made things much better.  On my phone I can see if a particular storm is headed for me, or if it will miss me.  That the the only information I need.

To prepare, we take down all the sails,  check the anchor (almost aways only one anchor), and pick up any loose items on deck that could blow away.  In rare circumstances, we take down all canvas and stow it below, and bring the dinghy on deck and tie it down securely.   Then we just wait it out.   If it is daylight, I like to watch outside from the companionway, sheltered by the dodger, to see what happens.

The good part is that the intense winds of most thunderstorms lasts only a few minutes.  On large bodies of water, that is too brief to create really big waves.   So the reality of the storm almost never matches our imaginations as we await its arrival.  Still, the arrival can be quite thrilling.  The initial gust is the strongest and more than once it heeled Tarwathie over 60 degrees, even though we had no sails up.  To inexperienced sailors, that would feel like the boat was going to sink.

I must confess, the worst thunderstorm we experienced while at anchor, we slept through.  That's right, our anchor dragged and we didn't notice.  We were anchored in the Pasquotank River, just 1/2 mile north of the Elizabeth City Bridge.  Severe storms were forecast, but late, so we went to bed.  I probably woke when the storm arrived, but went right back to sleep.   In the morning, I discovered that we had dragged, and that the anchor chain was wrapped around some submerged pilings.  That is what saved us from being washed up  on shore.  It took a lot of work to get the chain unwrapped, but after that we were on our way.

It was not my proudest moment.  We are fond of bragging that we can detect even slight anomalies in the motion of the boat in bad weather and wake instantly.   That was certainly true in many cases, but in this case I (we) slept through it.

EDIT: Two days ago, I read an article about false memories.  Of how our brain tricks us.  Before posting this, I searched for the original blog post about that incident.  It was very different from what I just wrote.  I remembered only waking the next morning, not what we did that night.  Read the contemporary version here in the post entitled Nocturnal Misadventures  to see how false my memory was.

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