The first sloppy drops of rain hit my face about 1:15am. Close the hatch. An hour earlier we were headed to bed after some hours of mindless TV shows. I noticed lightening illuminating the clouds in the far distance. Not so unusual, but my instinct said “Bring in the cushions, clothes and towels strewn around the cockpit”. I had ignored it. Which meant I had to drag my groggy butt up to go do it now, in the event the rain got a bit heavier. I was lazy, annoyed at being woken, and hoping at least we’d gather some rain water.
“Hahaha!” said the weather gods. “You fool! You have no clue what I’m about to unleash!”. In that moment we were oblivious. We had absolutely no idea how intense things were about to get.
The wind picked up to an eerie howl and with it the sea gathered strength. We and three friend cat(amaran)s, more like sitting ducks anchored on the west side of the world famous Thunderball Grotto, a few hundred metres off Staniel Cay Yacht Club with it’s megayachts lined up on the docks. The wind was coming from the west. Open sea for miles. Open opportunity for nature to create Moby Dick sized ocean waves. And over the next 30 minutes that is exactly what happened. Shiloh bucked and jolted with each growing swell and things in the boat protested. Her walls creaked and groaned with the strain. Bottles and photos and glasses flew about. JW and I stood, holding on, peering out the sliding glass door into the cockpit and at the growing mayhem beyond. Rain pelted down, thunder clapped and the lightening strikes created flashes of daylight in the anchorage. We put the engines on but just couldn’t imagine heading out there to deal with what may come. We’d surely be thrown overboard!
I literally could not believe our anchor could hold us. The dinghy flew up to great heights behind us in the wild waves, and thudded back down, over and over. It was literally unbelievable. It looked as if it would flip with each sequence. We radio’d the friend boats. No one could offer much solace. We all huddled in our respective little vessels, praying in our own ways that this would stop. Nausea overtook my adrenaline at one stage and I fought the urge to hurl my protest into the ocean as well.
“Let’s go sailing!” we said… “It’ll be fun!” we said….
“It’s a holiday life!” they say! Except when it’s not.
Also, having sailed in the Caribbean and the Bahamas for seven years we know that the wind mostly never comes from the west. Except when it does.
I knew it was really serious when, through the mist and pelting rain I could see the 150 ft megayachts bouncing about on the docks.
And then just like that, two hours later, the storm moved away. But it refused to take it’s bratty stepchild, the incessant swell, with it. We were left with the bitter aftermath. Discovering a couple of the boats had snapped bridle lines, our dinghy fuel tank had flipped and spilled it’s greasy contents into the dinghy, creating a bouncy soup of flip flops, oars and sopped oily rags… our water catcher jug – remember that?! It had been my only hope from the storm as it arrived. Yeah, well, it had been thrown overboard and managed to gulp up a load of sea water. Sigh… we hauled it back onboard and hauled our weary selves to bed.
But it wasn’t to be. “No!” said those pesky weather gods. “You didn’t want to sleep did you?! I have other ideas! You can levitate off your pillows for the rest of the night and swear under your breath as you watch the sun come up over the hatch.”
And the weather gods won. This morning we heard that other had faced a much worse fate than us from that evil storm. A mile away at Big Majors Cay – where the swimming pigs live! – boats were dragging and crashing into each other and the beach. Today’s damage count will be high. But there are more of the same expected for tonight. We need a safer anchorage. So we are on the hunt.
The ‘holiday’ plans of drinking peanut coladas on the Yacht Club patio will have to wait…