01 September 2007 | Martin's Marina
I had set my alarm for 3:15AM. My last update the night before indicated that Tropical Depression 6 would arrive around 5AM. I wanted a little time to get conscious and walk the dock before it showed up. It had been raining pretty good for most of the night so I got out my foul weather jacket for the first time since we crossed the gulf stream. It was scary calm.
Walking around the dock I didn't find anyone else awake except the crazies from Trinidad still partying from last night and Jay on Blue Star. Jay was pouring over computer screens inside his saloon. I couldn't get his attention and I didn't want to knock on the hull and wake folks up at 4AM. I was sure that he had the latest updates so I stood on the dock gesturing madly for a bit. It had been light and variable for most of the night but I was seeing a bit of east wind building. This was not favorable because you would only see east wind if you were on the north side of the path. The strongest quadrant in this hemisphere is the north quadrant so it is always best to be on the south side of things. After the equivalent of morning exercises I desisted in my gesticulations and retired.
Back at the boat I sat up and waited. The next National Weather Serive update would be at 5AM and is usually online within 20 minutes. As it got to be 5AM I packed up the laptop and proceeded out into the cockpit. I turned around and returned to the saloon. I was soaked. It was howling outside. I no longer needed to check the forecast.
Usually things heat up quickly but it takes a while before you see the worst of it. This also concerned me because it was already blowing a sustained 35 knots. The boat began to buck around a bit as the wind came strong from the south and the marina began to get choppy. Swingin' on a Star was very well tied up and I had let her out a good four to five feet from the dock to provide some, but not too much, spring.
At this point the entire crew was in the saloon looking concerned. I told everyone to stay inside out of the weather but asked Hideko to keep and ear out for me. I wanted to get onto the dock to keep an eye on the lines and things in the rest of the marina. I had also set a mental threshold of 60 knots, beyond which I would put our guests ashore in the concrete bar structure.
By 6AM it was blowing 45 sustained from the south and gusting to 55 knots. I am guessing that folks in Port Egmont were having a better time of it than we were in Mount Hartman Bay. Several boats from Prickly Bay had moved over the day before and were riding things out at anchor along with the regulars. Fred was up and about on the dock at this point and we both fretted about our dock lines as things really piped up. I had to make a tricky five foot jump to the dock from our deck because our lines were all the way out, tight and rolling.
This made me reflect on the benefits of being on a single bow anchor in a storm. Facing the wind and seas is always preferred. We were ready for nasty east and west stuff, and good for seas from the south. As the south wind picked up I became a bit concerned though. Catamarans have a huge amount of windage compared to mono hulls, and while being blown off the dock is always preferable to being blown on, being broadside to big wind comes with its issues. Visit a hurricane zone and talk to folks who rode it out and you will hear a lot of cursing about the flying catamaran that wiped out C Dock, and such. Our boat has a good 5 foot of freeboard and a wing deck (not a pleasant descriptor in these conditions) that comes up another two or three feet.
After evening out all of the lines so that they were sharing the load as much as possible, I asked Hideko to come out and help me add another line amidships. The rain was really sheeting horizontally at this point. Hideko worked things from the deck while I handled the dock side. Once this line was on there was really nothing else to do except let it blow. Hideko went back inside and I walked the dock to see if anyone needed a hand. There were several problems on the dock.
The marina had a large fiberglass launch loosely tied up on the windward side of the dock. This thing is a tank, I had thought it was steel at first. In actuality it is a massive hunk of fiberglass. It was also right across from Blue Star. Jay was watching it nervously as it hoisted itself repeatedly up onto the edge of the dock right across from his catamaran. In retrospect I doubt it could have taken flight in the conditions, but at the time we didn't know when the storm was going to peak or how bad it was going to get. The boat had already smashed down a power post on the dock. Jay added some extra lines to the beast in hopes that if it flipped it wouldn't get across the dock.
There was a beautiful Swan just in front of the launch with only three fenders out. She was taking a serious beating on the concrete dock and had scarred her topsides a bit already. Some of the guys from the marina brought out more fenders and everyone pitched in to keep the boat on them as much as possible. I don't know where the owners were.
The 53 foot Halberg Rassy across from us was also on the windward side of the dock. A couple of guys were taking care of her for the owner but they were not around during the fun at 6AM. Fred and I checked on her every so often and put the fenders back in place as best we could. The lines that held her off the dock should have been tightened up quite a bit in my estimation, but I wasn't about to mess with anything without the owner present. This boat could obviously take most things a mere Storm could dish out and was doing fine with the exception of the fenders squirting out of their slots.
I walked down to the end of the dock every once in a while to see what things looked like in the anchorage and out in the open. As I arrived I saw that one of Monaco's Picos (a little Laser like sailboat) had blown into the water. I helped the guys haul it out and tie it down on the dock. I was surprised that they weren't tied down in the first place. A Pico heading for your rigging at 40 knots would be no fun.
The folks from Trinidad were hanging out on a really nice 67 foot Bertram sport fisher across from Monaco. They were tied up with half inch line and had been partying right up until the Storm interrupted things. After two of their lines snapped they got out every line they had. None were really beefy enough but Jay helped them get things balanced so that they didn't pop any more. I don't think the guys really knew that a storm was coming. Hey, when you can do 30 knots under power you just blast out of the way, right? They all seemed to be having fun with the storm. That is until a large schooner in the anchorage broke free and started dragging down on them.
The anchorage in general looked pretty nasty, but tolerable if your anchor was well set. No one else that I could see was loose other than the schooner. Fred and I considered dinghying out to the Schooner to see if they could use help or another anchor. It would have been pretty harsh out there in a RIB. After watching the loose boat for a bit it became apparent that there were two guys aboard and that they were running the motor and seemingly managing to keep the boat just off of the dock. I felt bad for the crew as they had to drive the boat against the storm for a good three hours. I'm sure they had a long nap later in the afternoon.
By 7AM some sun was starting to get through and things had calmed down a bit. I walked one of the taut dock lines like a tightrope to get back aboard Swingin' on a Star. Hideko assured me that everything was alright aboard. Razmig and Atsuko had actually gone back to sleep. I looked at the wind gauge at the nav station and was surprised to see it still blowing 30 some knots. I guess when you get used to 40 knots blowing, 30 seems sort of mellow. It blew 30 for another hour and then gusted to 30 for an hour or so after that.
Later in the day I discovered that we had suffered a direct hit from Tropical Storm Felix, formerly known as TD6. Our only damage was that the top fastener on our radar detector came loose. It was an interesting experience and made me feel good about our boat and especially the deck hardware. Fred made Lattes and we called it a day and took a nap.