Get the Hell out of Dodge

Get the hell out of Dodge.

We were in 5 feet of water with 150 feet of chain out and we continued to drag slowly, but surely, towards the shallows less than 100 feet away. Been there, Done that. But Not Tonight.

It’s almost 11:00 p.m. So, I get out of my nice cozy bed, put on my work clothes and proceed to make the boat ready to heavy seas.  The nice following seas and waves we had getting here would now be on the bow.  Steady 20 knot winds, a 45 mile fetch, had built the seas to 5 to 6 feet and with a short 6 second period, we were going to get wet.  Nothing I had not encountered before, but now, I had daunting task of making Dauntless live up to her name.  45 miles to go, plus we had to tip toe back up the narrow channel.

I looked long and hard at the chart.  The ocean was only ½ mile east of us.  The chart showed an unmarked channel that should have just enough water for us to get through.  It would save us one hour of the narrow channel.

But with strong winds opposing us, the seas would be breaking at the mouth of the inlet. I thought of Barnegat Bay and the channel that almost ended our dream before it even began.  I had learned a lesson, 6 to 8 foot waves are uncomfortable, but only become boat threatening in shallow water.  I would not tempt Fate again.

After making sure all the furniture was secured and everything put away, 45 minutes later, I was ready. Everyone else was still in bed; I start the engine and hauled the anchor. I told our guests that we were moving, but all was OK and just to stay in bed, as it was going to be rough.

As I headed the bow north northeast, I once again longingly looked at the chart with the ocean only 15 minutes away.  But the lesson of Barnegat Bay held me to my plan and I proceeded to follow my path I had just used a few hours earlier.

An hour later, 00:45 I was turning due east into the narrow, but marked outlet channel, when Julie joined me in the pilot house, as a waning last quarter moon, filled the pilot house with a rosy glow.

We were ready for the angry sea.

We didn’t know what to expect with the oncoming waves.  Dauntless does so well with a following sea that one hardly notices 6 foot waves from the stern, heading in to them, is a different story, made even more difficult because we had no leeway to maneuver in the narrow channel.  And while we had just come thru this channel, the lesson of Barnegat Bay was always with me, as I still feel that is the only time the boat was at risk, in hindsight, we may have been literally within seconds of disaster.

With short period, oncoming waves, I reduced power to 1500 rpm.  Our initial speed of over 6 knots quickly evaporated as we would climb one wave, our bow pointing high to the sky, then almost weightless; suddenly plunge into the trough of the wave, with the bow pulpit almost burying itself into the next oncoming wave.  I watched with dismay as our speed went from 6.2 to 5.8, 5.4, 5.1 and finally 4.8 knots.  With 49 nm to go, our trip was now going to be 10 hours, of up and down.

Luckily, I had the foresight to put a transdermal scopolamine patch on before departure.  I would need it.  As the boat settled into its yo-yo routine, I resigned myself to a long night.

Julie wanted to be in the pilot house, so she suggested I go get some sleep. I agreed, I was exhausted and even a few hours’ sleep could make a big difference.  I briefed her on our course and conditions and went to our cabin.

The Krogen 42 master cabin in under the pilot house in the bow.  As I got into bed, holding on for dear life, I remembered that I had sleep in worse conditions.  When Julie and I went cruising with our Dutch friends, Jan and Carin on their wonderful Malo sailboat, in the Outer Hebrides, our first night at St. Kilda bay was every rolly.  The anchorage was open to the southeast, the direction of the swell.  Julie and I slept very well (after being on a sailboat all day on the open ocean, how can you not?). Thought-out that night, I remember thinking I was on a corkscrew roller coaster.  But I slept and I remember thinking many times, now we turn upside down as we roll to the right.  Think of a fighter plane making a diving turn to the right.

So, I did not expect a problem with this boat movement which was madly pitching up and down, there was little (for Dauntless) roll.

But as I tried to go to sleep, I noticed a very disconcerting sensation.  With each pitch upward, as we crested the wave, Dauntless seemed to hesitate, before the downward plunge began. So lying in bed, I found my body waiting and waiting and waiting for that plunge.  No sleep could be had here, so after 15 minutes of up and down, I returned to the pilot house.

Julie then decided to try to sleep on our sofa in the saloon.  She went right to sleep, so after a while I decided to try it too. The weightless hesitation was not really noticeable near the back of the boat. With the autopilot set and no boats in sight, I curled up next to Julie like spoons and promptly went to sleep for about an hour.

Returning to the pilot house, all was as I left it.  All systems were fine, and we were on course moving at about 4.8 knots.  Seas and winds were still strong off our bow (due east) and occasionally, the pilot house would get a bath as the wind would take the top of a wave over the bow.  Not green water, but a thorough dousing.

As it became light out, a sail boat passed to our north and we discovered two flying fish on deck.  We could see the spot where the fish had hit the salon window, about 5 feet above the decks, 8 feet above the waterline.  Though most of the night, I thought the waves were 4 to 6 feet (in Long Island Sound, I had the most miserable 15 miles ever as I headed into 8 to 10 foot short period waves, the boat only making 3.5 knots. Virtually every wave put spray on the foredeck and against the windows and then the really big waves put spray over the top of the pilot house, once seemingly not even touching the pilot house)

At 11:15 a.m. 26 December 2013, we were anchored in Shroud Cay, the Exumas, the Bahamas.

My guests were able to have a beautiful day (remember this was their first day at an anchorage in the Bahamas) and I felt it was a job well done.

This is more like it

This is more like it

Sunset after a loooong day

Sunset after a loooong day

I made a mistake in our destination, but instead of exacerbating it, I bit the bullet and the problem was solved.

I could now enjoy my day.

Thanks for reading.

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