Hurricane Michael on a Sailboat

Two caveats to this story before I tell it:

  1. Those of you who enjoy our YouTube channel will be happy to know we filmed most of our experience riding out hurricane “Michael” in our sailboat. It’s likely to show up in the next episode or the one after. I apologize also, said episode is due today but due to hurricane hiding we have had to stay in places with no wifi or cell coverage. We are way behind on everything from YouTube to text messages to Facebook/Instagram.
  2. We are in NO WAY experts on hurricanes or sailboats or sailboats in hurricanes or baking cookies, though we are better at the latter than all the former. We posses no expertise on the former but simply read everything we can before putting ourselves in their paths.

All that said, let’s get on with it shall we?

You may know that we had to hide from Hurricane Florence a short time ago. We stayed on the Sassafras River and stripped the deck of the boat of all canvas and windage. We we’re fine and barely got hit by that beast.

This time around, Michael started in Florida and came across land to the Chesapeake Bay where we are currently on our passage South. We had no choice but to take a direct hit. We didn’t have the convenience of an out of the way hiding spot.

Luckily, Michael was reduced to a Tropical Storm by the time he slammed into the Chesapeake. Here is what we did…

We found ourselves leaving Annapolis, Maryland after attending the Annapolis Sailboat Show knowing Hurricane Michael could get close, if not hit spot on. We sailed to Solomon’s Island after researching several options to ride out bad weather. We also knew a Hurricane, after passing over hundreds of miles of land would lose a lot of it’s strength.

We saw reports that the 50 knot sustained winds expected would be from the North-East through North West. We found a great spot in a small cut up a river to hide, providing as much protection as we could get.

We led Lady K up the river and turned North into the small cut. The cut was about five hundred feet long and two hundred feet wide flanked by fancy houses on all sides. Some ten feet deep, it provided very good wind blockage from all sides we expected wind from, however as we entered early in the day, the wind was behind us from the South.

Anchoring expecting a North extreme wind while the wind is actually coming from the south in such a small cut is difficult. We opted to deploy a stern anchor, which we have never done before but are equipped to do.

We motored into the cut and threw our 35 pound Bruce Anchor off the stern as we entered. We let out the sixty feet of chain and about a hundred feet of three quarter inch rope. This made the boat come to a stop in the cut facing North, and hanging on our stern on a very strong anchor with the South wind keeping K pointed North.

We then positioned our dinghy, Baby K, in front of Lady K and deployed our main anchor down into the dinghy. The main anchor is a fifty five pound Rocna. We used the dinghy to bring our main anchor another 250 feet up the cut directly to the North and dropped it in the water out of the dinghy.

Returning to the big boat, we drew in the excess and set the big anchor. Now we were strung North/South between two very large anchors in a narrow cut with very tall trees to either side.

The storm came.

By 10:00pm the winds grew to over twenty knots sustained and gusts to thirty or so. The boat shook and sailed violently back and fourth pulling on the Rocna bow anchor. Everyone who asks about weather in a sailboat and what the scariest thing is always gets the same answer – the sound. It’s not how violently a sailboat can rock or twitch back and fourth, it’s the sound of a forty knot gust ripping through the rigging and mast. It howls and screams!

It dies down a little after midnight and Candice got some rest. I laid awake waiting. The wind reports said the worst would come at 2:00am.

They we’re right.

By 3:00am I was sitting bolt upright in bed balancing as the boat rocked and rolled, wind screaming as it ripped over us. I could hear the trees in front of us trying their hardest not to snap in the pressure.

The wind came around beside us for a few hours trying as much as it could to blow us the fifty or so feet to the stone and rock wall. I laid awake thinking over and over about what would happen if either anchor slipped or dragged. We would careen to the starboard hard over in to the rocks. Maybe we would run out of water before the boat slammed into stone but even then, we would heel over hard and our mast would tangle into the trees.

If either anchor gave even the slightest, surely we would lose the boat.

The reality set into my mind through the wee hours and my mind refused to let me sleep despite how tiring the whole ordeal was.

One of the cell phones on board managed to get one bar of service and I kept looking at it, loading wind apps and websites to find out when it would finally let up. All pointed to the same sad outcome – we would be in this shit until noon. 30 knots sustained, gusts to 50. “Ten more hours” I would tell myself. “Eight more hours.” “Six more hours.”

I changed my clothes several times because every time I ventured outside to check the anchors or fix something on deck that had come loose I got soaked. I didn’t bother with rain gear because navigating the deck in these conditions is hard enough without extra heavy clothing.

The stern anchor was the scariest part. I knew the “two sizes too big” Rocna we had on the bow behind 250 feet of rode was plenty to withstand the forces, but the “appropriately sized” Bruce anchor we on the stern was barely holding. The rode was tight off the stern and at any moment, it could drag. “Please, please, don’t let us lose the boat!”

I finally dozed off at 6:00am.

By 7:30am I was awake again having a coffee with Candice. 25 knots sustained, gusts to 45. “When will this end?”

I write to you now the day after, still very tired but very safe as the worst has passed. I know 50 knot gusts aren’t the end of the world but I can say, it certainly feels like it might be when your home and everything you own is right in the thick of it on a lee shore made of rocks.

A lot of lessons learned and experience gained, we survived. Thank you for reading <3

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