June 16, 2008

Heavy Weather

Is anyone else wondering if Mama Nature is unhappy with us? Because spring is dishing out some honkin' heavy weather and, following one of our nastiest winters in recent memory, I'm starting to think maybe we inadvertently offended a god or two somewhere.

Was it something we said? Something we did?

Dave and I spent last Saturday night on board. Waking up Sunday morning, in my kinda-asleep-kinda-awake segue, I realized the sky was getting darker, not lighter, so I got up to investigate. At that exact moment, a massive wall of black clouds was racing towards us out of the west at, found out shortly, 38 miles per hour. Pretty fast for a wall.

I did what all good sailors do when faced with heavy weather: I made sure the wine glasses left topsides the night before were stowed safely below.

Then I pulled in the cockpit cushions, closed the hatches, and suggested to my co-captain that he move a specific part of his anatomy out of bed and be ready for a little rock 'n' roll.

I finished pulling on my clothes, peeked out a salon window, and saw a dust cyclone spin east out of Grant Park into the harbor, pretty much heading right toward us. The word waterspout briefly entered my mind. I chased it back out. I totally didn't know what to do with that possibility, and figured it was better not to waste time thinking about something I had zero chance of dealing with.

The cyclone passed to the north, but at that same moment, the wind rose to a freaky whistle, cued the lightening and thunder, and before we knew it we were rocking 35 degrees to port then starboard, then port, then starboard, on winds blowing with gusts to 58.

In those high-adrenaline moments when you taste metal, it's hard to remember to pick up your camera and snap a few pix. So I'm unhappy to say I don't have images to show for the experience, except these:

In a weird meta-experience, we found ourselves peering at the NOAA website --

-- watching a real time radar display showing what was going on right outside our boat:

This little tempest spent the rest of the morning pinning us down below, watching swaths of rain, hail and lightening march across the screen and brush across our hatches.

Another band of weather moved through the area later in the day, there seen passing well to the south, thoughtfully not disturbing a housekeeping opportunity:

If the forces of nature contained in what we learned later was Special Weather Advisory 536 had caught up with us out on the water rather than at the relative safety of our mooring, this would be quite a different post. That's happened. It's not fun, but as long as we get our engine started and our sails down, Smitten can pretty much plow through anything. Not sure about waterspouts. (That may be a good topic for further research. Armchair research.)

Happily, that wasn't the case on this day that came in like a lion and went out like a lamb.

No comments: