You’ll (not) Always Remember Your First

Tuesday October 30, 2012

I realize there’s a few days skipped since the last post and you might be wondering how I could jump over something so big as our first hurricane. The answer is simple. It was BORING. There’s really not much to go over. After we woke up from Hurricane Party 2012 the rain was continuing lightly and the winds were a steady ten to fifteen knots with gusts up to twenty-five. Having enjoyed HP ’12 a little too much we rolled out of bed close to noon, our heads still pounding from the Hurricanes the night before. Our big accomplishment was making it the ten feet from our bed to the settees. Matt was even adventurous enough to make it out on deck where the engine was started to charge the batteries and warm the cockpit. The slew of movies began, first with Cinderella since the bright colors were enough to overpower the glare on the tv screen from the light still making it’s way through windows and hatches. When one movie ended another began and we remained mostly immobile except for a few glaces outside the hatch to make sure we were not swinging too close to shore. One interesting thing was that the water in the creek had already started to rise enough that some of the docks around us were almost all the way submerged. We didn’t think it could be the tide and the rain wasn’t hard enough to raise the water level by that much so we wondered if it was the storm surge that was predicted for the area. Letting out more chain just to be safe we continued to read and watch movies, thankful there were still leftovers from the night before so the task of cooking a meal would not be necessary. We had lost internet that afternoon though which meant we were about to go into the worst part of the storm without being able to check updated weather reports or notify family that there still wasn’t much happening and they could ease their worrying. But now the last messages they’ll have had of us until we can get internet again is intoxicated Facebook posts of how great our party was. I was sure both our mothers would be having heart attacks by Monday night without getting any more updates on us.


Anticipation was a little higher when we woke up Monday since we knew the storm was supposed to make landfall that afternoon and didn’t have access to weather reports to see what wind was building to or what part of the East Coast it would land on. We were still anticipating fifty to sixty knot winds in the area but didn’t know how accurate that was or when it would happen. We tried keeping our VHF on for updates or in case Rode Trip needed to contact us, but every fifteen minutes it would emit a long and loud beep and automatically put on a weather report that stated gale force winds would be there within twelve hours and there was flooding in the area.. Nothing that really helped us out. Having to jump up and hit the ‘ok’ button each time it did this we got sick of it eventually and turned it off. Going through almost the same routine as we did the day before the engine went on as did the movies. Movies turned into reading and reading turned into napping. Since we were instilling an anchor watch that night while the worst of the storm would be hitting us I updated our monthly spending while Matt slept. Besides a few gusts up to thirty knots we were holding at a steady fifteen, waiting for the worst to come. As of dinner time nothing had changed. I had assumed by that time the winds would be consistantly strong and whipping us all over the place making it hard to cook a meal, but I was able to go about as if nothing was happening outside and it was just a normal night at anchor. After eating and cleaning it was my turn to sleep while Matt kept an eye on things. Even though we had planned our our usual off shore three hour shifts I was woken up seven hours later (only about four of them were actually slept). Keeping myself bundled under the one blanket that was left out in the cabin I put on a few movies, trying to keep myself awake and give Matt the seven hours of sleep he had given me.


After the second movie the sky was starting to get light and I was having a hard time keeping my eyes open. Popping my head into the v-berth I grabbed out the sleeping bag and unrolled it onto the settee. Quickly sticking my head out of the hatch I looked around and saw that we were not in danger of hitting anything. Getting myself warm under all the blankets the next thing I remember was Matt calling my name three hours later. Promising that I had been ‘keeping my ears open’ the whole time I layed there for another hour before forcing myself out of the warm blankets and into the coldness of the cabin. Matt went above to turn the engine on, now a daily habbitt to keep the batteries charged and get a little heat. He stayed up there putting the boat back in working condition while I forced myself to get the cabin tidy again, something we somehow couldn’t find the time for while stuck in it for three days. When being asked if I wanted to visit Brian and Stephanie who were also putting their boat back together I piled on my foulies and realized I had not even stepped out of the cabin in sixty-five hours. There was still a light rain outside but it was so cold that it felt like it could turn into snow at any minute. After spending less than five minutes on the deck of Rode Trip we were invited below to where constant heat was running.

All of us agreed that we should head out the next day and start making our way south as fast as possible.  Days and nights were getting too cold to stick around this area any longer.  While planning out our next few stops our foodie friends decided that we should have something nice and warm to drink to heat ourselves up.  Stephanie told us about a Thai tea she makes which is a combination of orange tea that is cooled and then condensed milk is added to sweeten it.  Brian thought it would be a perfect time to throw the buttery biscuits he had been making into the oven.  Soon we were celebrating tea time at actual tea time (four o’clock, right?) with sweet tea and biscuits covered in honey or homemade jam.  I love coming over to Rode Trip because we’re always treated with something awesome to eat.  Soon the afternoon started getting late and the two of us had to go back to Serendipity to get the headsail back up and finish the last few touches before leaving in the morning.  It’s finally time to leave our hurricane hole, and even though the storm had absolutely no excitement to it I think we’ll all be happy if it’s the only one we ever have to live through.

I’m in a hurricane!!




Saturday, October 27, 2012

Since Matt had stayed up late last night keeping an eye on the anchor and making sure we didn’t swing into anything we shouldn’t he slept in until late afternoon. That left me to do a tradition I used to have back at home on Saturday mornings and that’s catch up on The Amazing Race online. I used to spend every Saturday morning in bed with a cup of coffee watching all they places they traveled to and get myself excited to start a journey of my own to some of those places. Although I didn’t get my coffee because I was afraid all the banging of pots and pans would wake him I was able to catch a few episodes and it was nice to have a little tradition back in my life. Once he got up it was straight to business and we went about removing the dodger and bimini and stowing them in our garage (aft cabin) which is now actually overflowing. While he finished up other last minute things I excused myself below to start a few loaves of bread since we invited Brian and Stephanie over for dinner and I wanted to make garlic bread to go with the spaghetti. I remember when I used to think that making it from scratch meant buying a loaf of french bread from the store and slathering it with butter and garlic, but making the bread from scratch as well gives it a whole new meaning. As I was in the middle of kneading out my dough Brian and Stephanie showed up to get use of internet again and update us on information passed on by two other boaters in the creek now and one more homeowner that came out for a visit. Apparently if you sleep in too late and aren’t out on deck before noon you miss these kinds of visits. They told us what I had been hearing on the radio all morning and that was the storm was looking worse and worse. Winds were expected to rise even more and now it was predicted to collide with a winter storm moving south and a cold front moving west. Everyone has begun calling it Frankenstorm and telling horror stories about how bad it’s supposed to be. Now instead of looking at getting high winds and heavy rain on Monday we could possibly get snow and have the storm last until Thursday.

 All four of us have been spending the past twenty-four hours trying to calm down family members who are hearing the same reports on TV and radio and are sure that we’re all going to die in our boats. We just have to keep assuring them that we’re in a very protected spot (which we are) and we’re not going to see the bad parts which will all be closer to shore. And this is made even more fun for Matt and I since our phone doesn’t get service in the area and everyone is probably wondering why we’re not answering or returning their calls. We were able to make an outbound call on Stephanie’s phone though and got in contact with Matt’s mom who will then notify my parents (out of the country and on a completely different time schedule) that we’re all ok and there’s no need to worry. With all of that taken care of, for today at least because I’m sure it will have to be done daily, we piled into Rode Trip’s dinghy for one last chance off the boats before we’d be trapped on them for days. Using the dock of the guy who stopped by yesterday we walked through the development to stretch our legs and then got back in the dinghy to follow it all the way up the creek and see how far it actually went. Turns out it was pretty far but would have been way to narrow to try and anchor in. Oh, and we did move the anchor once more this morning, hopefully for the last time. When we were getting back to the boats the winds had started gusting up to fifteen or twenty and making it very chilly outside. I raced below to get my bread in the oven while the other three worked to get a second anchor off our bow.

An hour later after we were able to clean up the mess we had made during our preparations of the hurricane and dinner Brian and Stephanie came back over for Hurricane Party 2012. It may be two days before the storm itself but unlike landlubbers we don’t have the luxury to do it the day of the storm. As dinner was cooking I unloaded all the alcohol and mixers Stephanie brought over and went about making a Frankenstorm. While walking around that day we decided this storm needed it’s own drink and we were going to make one for it. A ‘Sandy’ sounded too dainty and that’s not what was being called for. When we realized it would have to be a Frankenstorm we thought about any liquors and mixers we had between us but everything always came up as fruity and that didn’t seem fitting either. Telling her that our Kraken, a dark rum, kind of reminded me of Kaluah we thought we’d try mixing it with milk to see if it came out to be anything like a White Russian. Out came the stemmed glasses and in went the Kraken and milk. After stirring it up I handed and glass to everyone except Matt who was not intrigued by the combination and we had a toast. Taking a sip of our new concoction I think it perfectly embodied the Frankenstorm. An unusual combination that could have been a little better but wasn’t as bad as you were expecting it to be. If that’s how actual Frankenstorm turns out for us I will be perfectly happy.

After that trial we quickly moved onto Hurricanes which were much sweeter and easier to go down. The spaghetti and garlic bread turned out great and got lots of compliments from the foodies who seem to be able to cook everything and anything. When the plates were cleared we pulled out Settlers of Catan and even though I was doing much better this time and thought I might actually have a strategy we ended up having too many Hurricanes and became too distracted to finish. Somehow we managed to stay up until close to four in the morning just enjoying ourselves and getting in all the fun we could before hunkering down for Frankenstorm.

(photos to come)

Hurricane Holing

Friday October 26, 2012

We interrupt the next scheduled post to bring you preparations on Hurricane Sandy.

 This morning we had to leave our sweet little spot in Jackson Creek to find a hurricane hole to settle in to for the next few days. Already having gone over it countless times with Rode Trip the guys had found ‘the perfect secluded spot’ that we hoped no one else would know about although I was never shown the map on the touchpad and had no idea the name of the location we were headed to except for it was off the Piankatank River. Making a quick stop at the marina we filled our disel and topped off the water tanks which were getting low enough to worry us should we be stuck for longer than expected. After we had upped anchor to get to the marina another boat had just come in the channel and into the creek. Passing us by they asked if we were on the way to the marina to be pulled out or if we were on the move. We quickly replied as they passed by that we were on the move and the answered they were in line to pull out and wished us a safe journey. Then speaking to a few fellow boaters at the docks while self serving the fuel Matt got into a conversation with the other boats around and all of them were being pulled out as well. So far it seemed we were the only souls brave enough to stay in the water. This of course to Matt meant that we surely were crazy and everyone else must know something if everyone else was being pulled out. We knew our insurance we cover a good portion of it and we shortly debated if we should follow the pack. Going to the office to pay for the fuel I made some small talk with the clerk on the situation since he looked like he had been around long enough to see a few of these roll in before. Knowing their schedule was jam packed already I asked if he thought it was wise for us to pull out at any of the marinas in the area, trying not to have his decision made by if they had time to squeeze in one more boat, and he asked where we were planning to go. “Up a river, up a Creek” was all I could tell him since that’s all I really knew, “Hopefully someplace no one else knows about and it won’t be crowded”. I didn’t even give him a remote location and he replied with “The locals know. There isn’t a hurricane hole around here they don’t know about. And we’re telling anyone who asks to go to Wilton Creek, about a mile up the river here. You’ll be fine though.” Hmmm, his broadcasted location sounded eerily similar to what the guys described to me and if there was one thing I didn’t want it was a hurricane hole full of other boats.

Pushing ourselves out of the slip we saw Rode Trip lifting their anchor and we all made our way back out the narrow and winding channel and toward Fishing Bay where we’d enter the Piankatank. Even though yesterday was sunny and warm and beautiful the temperature had taken a big plummet and the wind whipped through cloudy skies. As soon as we were in open water again the wind jumped up to twenty-five knots and the bay became choppy. A light fog rolled off the tree tops and chilled the air even more than it already was. Although I knew better it looked as if the hurricane was only a day behind us and all of a sudden didn’t feel so silly or over prepared for staking our location three days before the storm was predicted to come. Making our way further up the river the protection of trees on each side calmed the wind down five to ten knots but it was still blustery and cold. Just using Rode Trip as our leader since I was still in the dark of where we were actually going I scanned ahead on the chartplotter to survey each creek coming up. Most of them appeared to be pretty shallow, about five to six feet even at the entrance, so I assumed they were not the ones we’d be staying in. As we passed the last bend in the river before a low clearance bridge we would not be able to go under there was only one creek left on the map. It was long and started out deep going down to five feet near it’s head. I scrolled further in on the chart. Name: Wilton Creek. Now knowing for sure that this is where the marina was trying to send everyone and their mother I just hoped we had gotten there early enough to find a spot far up the river so if anyone else came in the creek they’d have to be behind us. After Kim & Scott’s stories the night before my worst fear was some unbenounced cruiser who’s anchor was dragging and they came careening right at us with not much we could do to stop them. Rounding the corner into the creek we saw no one. Moving further up the creek we began to see boats on docks but so far no one was anchored in the middle. Going up to the point where the charts showed a six foot depth our sounder was still showing nine feet and we figured we’d keep going until it showed seven.

Spacing ourselves widely apart, Rode Trip dropped their anchor just north of us and we dropped close to an inlet in the creek we thought would give us better wind protection. After backing down on the chain at a six to one scope though we realized that we were alarmingly close to shore and when more chain needed to be let out for higher winds there was a good chance we might swing in to shore. We though about moving to a few different locations but because of a dock on one side and and piece of land jutting out on the other we couldn’t see a good spot that would give us 360 degrees of swing with 100 feet of chain out and not bash into something somewhere. To get a little perspective we dropped the dinghy and went to visit Rode Trip to see how their spot was and also check some weather forecast since they usually have internet on their touchpad. Sitting on their deck and assessing the situation we found we were much further from them than we had originally thought and if we came a little closer there may be a spot in the middle of the creek that gave us the swing room we needed. Working the windlass the anchor came up covered in a thick heavy mud that seemed to have suctioned it down. Even though it smelled like crap I was happy to see the creek should be giving us good holding. Making sure to mark on the charplotter where we dropped anchor this time we backed down once more but still weren’t sure of our decision, based on the predicted wind directions for the next few days and where we may swing. Now we seemed too close for comfort to the jutting land but as I mentioned to Matt, we still had a few days before the storm to get a better prediction of winds and could still change location if necessary.

With that taken care of for the moment we started hurricane preparations with the assumption we could get up to sixty mile per hour winds in hour hole. The first thing to go was the headsail which we rolled up and stored below. Then jerrycans were moved from the deck into the cockpit. All lines were tightened and wrapped. The dodger and bimini would be coming down as well but we wanted to leave them up for another day just to get their protection as long as we could. In just over an hour we had done everything we felt we could do that day and moved on to other projects like sanding the toe rails at the foredeck. While Matt sanded and I sat reading we had a visitor stop by, someone who lived in one of the houses on the creek who was out kayaking and came by to talk to us about the storm. He eased our fears when he said that usually not more than ten boats would ever be in the creek and not more than two or three ever came up as far as we were. That helped out tremendously as we were worried that there was too much space between us and Rode Trip and that some eager last minute sailor would try and squeeze in. As we talked to the guy a little longer he showed us where his house and dock were and said we’d be more than welcome to tie our dinghy up there if we wanted to get out and stretch our legs and if we needed a ride into town to the grocery store, ect., he’d be more than happy to take us. Then we found out he also had a Sabre 34 and the two guys went on about hull designs and specs while I smiled and nodded.

In the late afternoon Rode trip came over for quick use of our internet and we all went over weather reports and what’s predicted in the area. It sounds like the rain will start tomorrow, wind will begin to pick up on Sunday, and the storm will hit or come close to us on Monday. We looked at grib files for the next few days and also checked out information on NOAA about storm surges in our area for past storms. I think if it’s four feet or less we’ll be fine. All that was left to do was plan a time to get together and drink hurricanes (a combination of rums and fruity mixers) that Stephanie had stocked up on in town. We decided that Saturday would probably be the latest any of us would feel safe leaving our boats unattended and made plans to get together the next night. Stephanie and I like to joke though that we’ll end up doing a girl boat and a boy boat so us girls can hang out and play games while the guys talk boats and weather. I’m not sure if either of the guys feel good about leaving us alone on a boat during a storm. I think I’d have to second that motion.

Nice thick mud to drop our anchor in.