Calm before the calm
16 August 2007 | Mount Hartman Bay
I think Tom Petty said it best, "The way ay ay ting is the hardest part". Ber ner now ner ner now neeeer ner.
When I got up this morning things just looked ominous. I know it's probably because I am aware of Dean burbling out there somewhere but the feeling is there all the same. Everyone around the dock is busy securing things or doting on the latest weather forecast.
The Internet at the marina is still down so I have been pulling information in over the SSB every 6 hours when the national weather service updates it. Dean has performed as advertised so far and continues on a 280 degree track heading for Martinique.
Hideko and I finished all of the little jobs on our list and got everything on the outside of the boat secured. I have taken to tying a short piece of dock line in a large loop around a stanchion base and then clipping the halyards to this. It has worked great because the halyard is away from the mast and all clanking is eliminated (not very innovative) but the great part is that the shackles and blocks don't squeak and chafe on the stanchion bases. I decided not to take the jib down because we should see nothing more than 25 knots gradient. The squalls coming in may get up to 40 or more but they go by pretty fast. I checked the furling line and made sure that I had two really good wraps on the jib. I secured the main sail bag and zipped up the front plate that keeps the bag from acting like a parachute. We took all of the gear off of the rail and stowed it below, Rolled up the windscreen, cleaned up all of the lines and tails, among other tasks.
We left the dingy in the water because we wanted to have access to it if there was a problem or if someone in the anchorage needed help. Our dingy and Kelp Fiction's are secured on their own cleats on what should be the leeward side of the dock for most of the day. About mid day we took a break and went out for Chinese food with Fred and Cindy. It was a short but welcome respite from the monotony of waiting.
When we returned I decided to put out an anchor to the northwest. As far as I could tell our key wind directions were going to be southwest in big squalls and south in the strong gradient wind after Dean passes. We are on the north side of an east/west dock specifically because the data was pointing to southerly winds as the heaviest. I know what it is like to be mashed onto a dock and I don't like it. We could certainly have big winds from the northwest if things change. Having an anchor out is probably superfluous but if we need it I'll be glad it is there.
Hideko and I loaded our FX37 Fortress and the chain leader into our dinghy and paddled out to the edge of the mangroves. This anchor serves as our stern anchor, we have about 25 feet of 3/8ths chain on it and the rest is 5/8ths nylon. Back on the boat Hideko feed the rode out as I paddled. I lowered the Fortress to the bottom where it landed nicely in the black mangrove mud. The whole time I was hoping I would not have to go down there and mess with it. Back on the boat we put the rode on the port primary winch and cranked it in until it quit wanting to crank. Fred was in the dinghy at this point watching the anchor. It disappeared into the mud early in the process. Perfect (until I have to retrieve it I guess). The anchor cleanly pulled the boat to the limit of the dock lines in 15 knots of wind. I was hoping that it would do the same in 40.
Danforth type anchors like the Fortress foul easy, they trip when you swing around them, once tripped they often don't reset and they have other short comings. All that cataloged and noted, they are amazing when properly set in mud or sand and pulled from a single direction. They are also light and fairly inexpensive. A boat anchored in the middle of this harbor rode out Ivan on a Fortress. Once dug in it stayed right where it was set. After the storm they tried to retrieve it and could not. A diver found the tang 3 feet down in the mud and could not get it out. It is still there today. I hope ours is not quite that buried.
After setting the Fortress up Fred, Hideko and I sat on the deck surveying the set up. It was exquisite. We were tied up to the windward dock six ways to Sunday and we had nine fenders out with an anchor off to port in case the wind did anything but light and variable from the north semicircle. Then we all began to ponder the possibility of folks blasting by in dinghies. The nylon line ran straight out from the winch at about seven feet off of the water angling down into the harbor at the edge of the channel. The marina is accessible from the main channel to the south but a fair amount of local boats head around the north end by the mangroves too.
As we considered the hazard to navigation a skiff came blasting up the east side of the dock. Yikes! We all jumped up and down and tried to get him to slow down. He didn't. But he did duck and zig a little to the left as he came around the end of the dock. In stride he sat back up on the other side of the line and motored into the marina. We realized that this was the dock master whom we had informed of our anchoring operation in advance. I decided to lower the shiny new anchor rode down into the oozing mud all the same. If we needed it in the night I could just winch it up and hang a strobe on it.
I have another anchor, a 66 pound claw, that we prepared to deploy off of the Port bow if need be but after the 11AM weather report I am fairly optimistic and don't think it will be necessary. We left the Rocna on the bow roller so that if we need to leave fast we can drop all of the dock and anchor lines and still have our primary anchor ready to go.
The conditions at the end of the day were light and variable, but with diabolical looking dark clouds all around the horizon. Fred and I were walking around the dock just to see what was happening in the bay around the marina. Less than 24 hours before landfall boats were still coming in. It started to rain. There is a really nasty bit of reef across the entire entrance to Mount Hartman Bay. Part of the reason we picked it. Not the kind of thing you want to navigate in failing light and a building squall however.
As we looked out we could see 8 Sunsail boats trying to enter the bay. I suspect that they were from the Blue Lagoon on the south end of Saint Vincent but I'm not sure. Some looked like charter clients but others were obviously Sunsail staff.
There are three ways into Hartman: the long way with a deep channel and fairly wide access all the way in, the long way with a short cut, where you have deep water but have to run a little bit of a gauntlet, and the short way that goes through shoals and narrow draws with breaking waves all about. The first five boats split between the short way and the long way with the short cut. Boat number six picked a fourth way. I saw the boat sort of stop, then turn beam to the wind, then show her bottom paint. Not pretty.
It started to pick up in the bay and was obviously getting going out near the reef. Fred and I thought to go out and see if we could help but the Sunsail team was already in action with one boat anchored near by and at least five dinghies darting to the scene. They ran a halyard out to the largest dinghy, put a captain on board, heeled the boat hard over and spun her slowly into deeper water. As the rescued boat and the last of the Sunsail crew dropped anchor it began to pour.
I went back to the boat to wait things out. Hideko and I listened to Chris Parker at 7PM and things were progressing as expected, which was good news for us. As I was thinking this though a guy anchored in Rodney Bay Saint Lucia came on the net. It was sort of eerie to hear the forecast for a boat directly in a possible track of Hurricane Dean. I went to sleep feeling a bit of dread and sympathy for our sailing comrades in Martinique and Saint Lucia.