Put the "ing" in your Boating

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but not the others!

You never know when a storm is going to hit, even if you pay close attention to all the weather forecasts.

One day in Abaco, Bahamas, we knew there was a storm coming and, like other boaters, picked what we thought would be a safe marina. It would have been safe, if the storm had done what it was forecasted to do.

The following story is from our log written as the storm was happening. Our knots came in very handy because we had no time to even think. We just had to tie the right knots and tie them quickly in a storm with wind and rain and rough water throwing the boat around.

From Brenda's log..

Yesterday we moved from our mooring in Fishers Bay to a more secure location at Guana Marina for the forecasted storm. The cold front over the whole eastern US is coming our way from Florida with gale force winds (34 to 40 knots which is over 50mph) from the S, then forecasted to move around to SW, W then NW during the afternoon. The marina at Guana is exposed to S and SW winds but will be protected from the W and NW Sunday afternoon and night.

Sunday morning was typical Abaco weather with sun and light breeze and 80 degrees with centre consoles coming and going to the local bar for an afternoon of sun and fun. We decided to walk to Nippers beach on the ocean side for a swim and lunch at Nippers as it was getting uncomfortably lumpy to stay on the boat. On the lee shore it was calm.

Seas started to boil

By early afternoon, the front came in and seas started to boil. Sonsie, a 41’ Trawler Motor Yacht, was bow in facing west in our slip. On our port side also bow in was a 55’ Jefferson Motor Yacht. Next were a couple of 40’ sloops and on the end of the T-Dock was a 70’ Cockpit Motor Yacht stern into the wind about 80,000 lbs. On the first slip on the other side of the dock beside the 70’er was a 44’ Atlantic Trawler Yacht bow to the wind. Opposite us was a 30’ centre console with triple outboards bow to the wind and a couple of houseboats broadside to the wind. A cat sailboat was two slips down on our starboard side.

Boats Galloping

On our return to the dock from the beach early afternoon, we were astounded to see the bows of all these large yachts and sailboats galloping at different times like horses on a merry-go-round with about 6’ to 8’ of travel moving some of the pilings and breaking others.

We spent the afternoon in the Art Café where we could keep an eye on the boat and Doug made regular trips to the dock to check the lines. We had Road Runner (our laptop) with us so were able to make good use of our time writing articles.

By early evening, everyone was back on the dock dreading the thought of getting on their boats as the storm was worsening. The smaller boats were leaping viciously in their slips like bucking broncos as the wind howled making boarding very dangerous or impossible. Even moving around on the larger boats was very challenging.

The starboard hull deck joint molding/sheerline of the 57’ Jefferson beside us was threatening to land on the flat top of the midship piling. He had been rubbing on it earlier, but as the tide rose, the boat was galloping above and below the top of the piling. We helped him to quickly correct that situation so that his deck wouldn’t be torn off. The 70’er on the end was wearing out his fenders and had to keep the aft cockpit bilge pump running to pump out the waves crashing hard against his transom and spraying into his cockpit. All of us thought he should have turned around and retied with his nose into the wind earlier in the day, but he was counting on the weather forecast that he had been monitoring on his elaborate electronic equipment installed specifically for that purpose.

The 44’ Atlantic broke the top of his upwind starboard piling and snapped his line on the upwind port piling creating a bit of a tense situation. His bow has blown off the dock and his port stern is twisted tight against the dock. There is nothing he can do but ride it out now.

The sailboats are heaving so high and so low you get seasick just watching. The boats are traveling a good 10 feet now. Some of the crew have rented a room because they are already seasick. We chose to stay onboard Sonsie and ride it out being available to retie if necessary.

The devastating news came from the 70’er who had the weather program onboard, that the storm had stalled and we were in for a rough night. It was supposed to move to the West mid afternoon, but now there was no telling when that would happen. It continued to blow directly in on us from the south.

Tying for a Storm

Doug says he has never seen so many botched up clove hitches and round turn and two half hitches around pilings in his life. The majority of them will have to be cut after the storm. Back in 1988 when Doug came to the Abaco Islands with Don Bere from the Blue Seas Boat Company, Don showed him the proper way to tie a boat in tidal waters especially tidal stormy waters. Doug was the only one on the dock who tied this way.

Don Bere’s method is so simple when you think about it. You feed the line through the spliced eye and drop this loop over the piling, then run the line back to your boat cleat. Doug did this with 10 lines and ran them all back to the deck cleats tying each with figure eight cleat hitches.

The Storm

As the day and night came and went and the tide, wind and waves changed, Doug was able to stay aboard and walk from cleat to cleat adjusting as required. With gale force winds all night and the boat galloping in the slip, it was too dangerous to get off and adjust lines on the dock. The other boaters couldn't adjust their lines because their botched up knots were all jammed on the posts and the other end of the line with their eye splices were tight on their deck cleats. They couldn't let out or pull in their lines.

The winds were still howling at 10:00 o’clock at night and all boats were still galloping nonstop when the lightning and rain started. The islanders were all praying for rain to fill their empty cisterns but for us it was just another wrench thrown into the works. If only the storm had obeyed the forecast and swung around to the west, we would have been protected from the point.

Thunder and lightening started around 10:05 followed by a heavy downpour with really strong wind gusts. We couldn’t have slept no matter how tired we were.

Doug just kept patrolling the boat checking lines, leaks and observing other boats with his flashlight pointed out through the canvas. What a storm!

We sat on the aft deck with the light on (everybody left their lights on just in case) trying to keep our eyes on some distant point to avoid becoming seasick with the motion. The rain on the hardtop and the thunder were deafening at times and flashes of lightning repeatedly lit up the noisy night.

The canvas was holding up and Doug’s silicone dam on the hardtop was deflecting the water out and away instead of onto the cushions on the bridge. The lower windshield was leaking but Doug was able to find the source of the leak to repair later.

By 10:15, he discovered more canvas leaks on the bridge and the wind gusts were getting quite severe causing more galloping and we wondered how the big yachts on the end were doing.

At 10:20, Doug shone the high powered spot light out the transom to see which direction the moored boats were now facing to give us an indication of wind direction only to report that he couldn’t see a thing because the rain was thick and swirling like a blizzard.

At about 10:22, all the snaps on the starboard canvas on the bridge let go and the panel was flapping in the wind. It took two of us to get it snapped up again.

Mother nature took pity on all of us around 10:35. All of a sudden, the blizzard–like conditions were gone and so was the noise. The lightening and thunder stopped just as quickly and we just stood looking at each other in amazement wondering what just happened. The storm had finally moved more to the west offering protection from the seas and the galloping gradually turned into cantering making it much easier to move around and we started breathing again. This is the wind shift we had expected in the afternoon not this late at night. But, better late than never. Now the storm can continue from the west through north and we’ll all be okay in the Harbour at Great Guana Cay.

Tomorrow morning we can share stories of our wild wicked night in Abaco. We tucked in for the night at 11:00 and were rocked to sleep.

Next Morning

It is now 7:30 Monday morning and the wind that continued all night is still blowing strong from the NNW but the point on the island is protecting us.

It is still wild out there with a gale warning in place and they are advising everyone to stay put. For anyone crazy enough to go out today, they advise us to be on the lookout for all kinds of debris, coconut trees and pilings floating around in the water. Winds were reported to be 73 knots on Great Guana Cay last night but we survived without any scratches or damage.

However, the crews from the sailboats and yachts on the dock are all gradually working away at separating their dock lines from the pilings with a combination of tools that includes screwdrivers, hammers, pliers and knives. As Doug suspected, some lines had to be cut and boats were damaged as they rubbed and hit the dock and pilings all night.

The bimini top on the 38’ Bayliner moored in the harbour is shredded to ribbons. Some pilings were broken off while others were gone. Much to our surprise, no boats dragged their anchors or ended up on shore. But, many were damaged and this could have been prevented if they had known how to tie knots correctly.

Today is another day in Abaco and we’ll no doubt hear many, many stories of last nights gale.

PS

Early last evening when the winds were just starting to build, I didn’t realize Doug’s ulterior motive of handing me a pen and a writing pad and telling me to write down the events of the storm. It turned out to be a great distraction for me. I was too busy observing and writing and checking the boat to get nervous or afraid.

Sneaky devil. I guess he is getting to know me.

Be Prepared

You may never be in this situation, but you will no doubt be called upon to know how to tie your lines and which knots to use in an emergency.

Knots are free and reliable, they just take a little time to learn and you can use them for a lifetime.

Knots are the cheapest insurance policy you can buy.

Invest a little time learning and the rewards could be huge!

Learn the 6 Knots You Should Know

Also see :

Are Your Lines Protected?

Shore Up your Cords.

Paradise Found. - Our Abaco Holiday Story written for Power Boating Canada Magazine.

Brenda Dawson

080825

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