Tag Archives: bad weather

Anchor Anxiety

People who live on land cannot know the anxiety felt by someone who lives their lives on a small boat that’s constantly at anchor when they read a weather forecast like this: ”

A chance of Showers and Thunderstorms early in the Morning, then Showers with a chance of Thunderstorms in the late morning and afternoon. Windy. Some Thunderstorms may be severe. Highs in the mid 80s. Temperature falling into the mid 70s in the afternoon. South Winds 15 to 25 Mph, becoming southwest in the afternoon. Gusts up to 45 Mph. Chance of rain near 100%.” Forty five mph winds are a Force 8 on the Beaufort Scale. . .A “Fresh Gale.” Tropical storm winds are anything over 39 mph.

Sitting in your solid house you wonder why that causes such anxiety? Well, consider this: When you live “On the hook,” your life and everything you own is literally hanging on the end of a hunk of metal dug into the sea bed with a piece of rope connecting it to your boat.

Last week I ordered a wind speed device; the Dwyer Wind Meter.

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I owned one way back in ’92 when I was on my 9-month, single-handed trip from Fort Lauderdale to Mexico, Belize, and the Rio Dulce in Guatemala and back. It’s the soul of simplicity. The only moving part is a small foam ball. It measures wind speed the same way a pitot tube does.Face directly into the wind with two small holes at the base of the gauge facing the wind and the little ball in the tube rises and you read the wind speed there. There were a lot of other wind speed jobbers on offer but they all have a few problems as far as I’m concerned. One, they need batteries to function. They all have LCD screens which are often hard to read in bright sunlight. The worst feature of all of them is they have little fans that the wind turns (cancer machines, maybe?). Anything that whirls around on an axle is prime fodder for a break down.

The reason I bought it was to see what the wind speed actually is where I am located. The online service uses recordings from the Sarasota Airport which is 10 miles away.

I tracked the order and it said it had arrived at Bradenton, but not at the address yet. My mail drop doesn’t open until 10a.m. so I waited until 10 to leave the boat hoping it would have been delivered by the time I got there. It was windy, around 15 to 20 mph with whitecaps everywhere. Of course I didn’t NEED it, but I WANTED IT!!!

Getting to shore wasn’t a problem. Unfastened the painter and gave the dinghy a shove and the wind blew me right to the dock tout suite.Only had to paddle a few strokes to be in a position to tie off.

Since chances are good that I’ll be boat-bound tomorrow, possibly Saturday, too, I stopped in at Dollar Tree to stock up on junk food.

Back at the dinghy dock I hung around for close to an hour hoping one of the boats that had an outboard would be heading to their boat and give me a tow, but no such luck. According to the new wind gauge it’s blowing mid teens to 20 mph. With my COPD trying to paddle against that breeze would put a severe strain on lungs and heart. But I wanted to got back to my mother ship.

Generally I don’t go ashore when the conditions are like this but I’d thought about using the following procedure, though.

I handed myself down the length of the next two dock south of the dinghy dock to where I was nearly parallel with the Venture. Now it was a matter of paddling ACROSS the wind, not into it as you can see from illustration. The only thing wrong with the illustration is that the heads on arrows for the wind direction should be 180 degrees in the other direction fro what’s shown.

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It’s time to cook supper now, and of course the wind has dropped to nearly nothing.

Then, on Friday, this comes through on the internet….”Tornado watch in effect until 4 p.m. as strong cold front approaches. Hail possible and gusts in excess of 45 mph.”

Uncomfortably bouncy here at the Bradenton Beach, FL anchorage this morning. It started getting lumpy around 4 a.m. and I had to get up at 4:30 to see how bad it was. It wasn’t nice.

Though the forecast calls for near 100% chance of rain today it’s bright and sunny. Radar shows heavy bands of rain at the edges of its range heading this way but wont get to us for at least another couple of hours. There’s no telling, yet, how wide the band is, though.

The wind is puffing away. The reports from Sarasota Airport, 10 away, say the wind is blowing at 18 mph with gusts of 29.9 mph. My Dwyer gauge shows 15 mph with a couple of gusts in the mid 20s.

So far it’s no worse than other nastily windy days. I have three anchors over the side and check landmarks on shore from time to time and not dragging an inch.

Then: The worst is over. Though it’s still quite breezy, gusting into the mid 20 mph range, the sun came back out around 5 p.m.

I took down my tarp and lowered the Bimini top around 11 a.m. to reduce “sail area” of the boat due to the high winds as the cold front approached the Bradenton Beach, FL anchorage.

It started raining heavily around 1 p.m. and the temperature dropped noticeably. I was hunkered down, snug as the proverbial bug in a rug while the heavy swells tossed stuff around in the cockpit and cabin.

Slowly, almost reluctantly, the wind edged around from southeast where it came across the 12+ mile fetch across Sarasota Bay to the southwest where it was coming across Anna Maria Island from the Gulf of Mexico. Now, with only a mile and a half of open water between the land and the anchorage the bouncing was almost completely reduced. Now the wind is in the northwest quadrant and there’s just a slight movement of the boat. Put the Bimini back up and got the tarp back in place. All’s right with the world.

Saturday morning and it’s bright sunshine, crisply chilly for a mid-April Bradenton Beach, Florida day. Wind’s still gusting up into the mid 20 mph range but coming from the northwest the wave action is minimal. With food and water on board and the battery bank charging well from the solar panels there’s no urgent need to go ashore today. Tomorrow winds are predicted to be less than half of what they are today and the temperature will be a bit warmer. A good Easter Sunday for those of you who believe in that stuff.

 

 

 

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Bad Weather Blues

Had to hold off writing and posting this while there was a break between storms. Yesterday was easily the WORST DAY I’ve been through here at the Bradenton Beach, FL, anchorage.

If you’re tired of reading about my complaints on the nasty southeast winds take a guess how I feel having to go through them.

They’ve been blowing hard the last couple of days and I avoided going ashore because of the “Couldn’t make it back to the boat” syndrome. But with fresh food in the cooler and no ice I needed to do a shore run. There seemed to be a bit of a break in the weather and I made a sprint to the dinghy dock. By the time I got back, and it’s only about a five block round trip, the winds were back up in the 20 mph range. My dinghy is a cockleshell and trying to paddle against it is nearly impossible at times. Yes, I’d like to have a small outboard but 1) they cost money I don’t have, 2) If you have any kind of motor on your boat you have to register the vessel. 3) I don’t have a title for the dinghy so there’d be an added level of bureaucratic bullshit. 4) Oars would be better but it was a choice between a $22 kayak paddle and $120 for a set of oars, oarlocks and the lumber and time needed to attach a gunwale and all. So I stick with the paddles.  Fortunately when I got back with my bag of ice and four gallons of purloined drinking water one of the charter boat captains was just discharging his passengers and volunteered to tow me out to my boat. I didn’t hesitate to agree to the help.

Things continued to deteriorate hourly after that.

Shortly after sunset, 7 p.m., the large Danforth secured on deck started moving around and rasping over the non-skid decking forward. Brrrrrrrddddgg! Brrrrrrrddddgg! Brrrrrrrddddgg! There was no way I was going to be able to fall asleep with that going on. I slid the hatch back and stuck my head outside. The waves were well over three feet high and the wind was screaming. The boat seemed out of control, but the anchors were holding and other than rising and falling I wasn’t dragging. Discretion being the better part of valor I decided that the anchor wasn’t doing any more than frazzling my nerves and it wasn’t worth risking my life by going out on deck to do anything with it. The last time I was confronted with a similar situation I attached the bitter end of my ½-inch line to the anchor and tossed it overboard to be retrieved later. It was too late now to do the same thing, though.

Hour after hour the wind howled and gusts rattle my little boat. I fully expected the mast gallows to collapse. I went to bed fully clothed in case I had to get up and go outside and do something to rescue myself. I finally fell asleep.

Around 3 a.m. the rain started pelting the deck. It put me back to sleep. I love that sound. It was still raining when I got up for good around 7 a.m. The wind had done nearly a 180 and was coming out of the northwest and had died to practically nothing.

When the rain had slacked off to a drizzle I stuck my head outside. Nearby was the large charter catamaran that’s been tied to the dock near shore since I arrived here a year and a half ago was no anchored just a few yards away. Strange, it hadn’t been there when I went to bed. And where was “Grace,” the little 22-footer that was usually there? Huh! Perhaps hiding on the other side of the cat though I couldn’t see “Grace’s” mast.

I checked one of the two weather sites I read and found that the wind had been gusting to MORE THAN 45 mph during the night!

Since I was down to only half a tab of my blood pressure medicine and with the wind down and the rain not threatening I decided to make a run to the pharmacy while I had the chance. Before I left, though, I went forward and hooked the Danforth to the bitter end of the ½-inch line again. As I looked up I saw, over on the rocks of the Bradenton Beach fishing pier parking lot, “Grace.” She’d lost her anchor in the night and the winds and waves pushed her ashore and onto the rocks. I’d damned near come to that fate a year ago. I was dragging anchor and fetched up about 60 feet from the rocks when my “desperation” anchor bit and took hold. That was the day before I bought the Boss anchor and the 70 feet of chain.

wreckIt’s four p.m. The sky’s gloomy with rain clouds though the weather radar on line doesn’t show any rainfall in the area. And when I looked towards the pier I saw that with the high tide they got “Grace” floating again. Apparently she hadn’t been holed. Tod, one of the genuine characters here in the anchorage had a line over to “Grace’s” bow and was towing her to a new spot to anchor. Hopefully they won’t go through that exercise more than once.

afloat

 

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Blustery Weather

At least it isn’t freezing, but it’s definitely not comfortable. All day yesterday we had the dreaded southeast winds kicking up a storm in the Bradenton Beach anchorage. People were really struggling to row and paddle out to their boats against the wind that was gusting into the mid thirties. My anchors, at the ends of their rope and 1/4-inch chain rodes were well dug in but I kept an eye on my position for possible dragging…..eternal vigilance, ya know.

Went to bed bouncing. Around 3 a.m. a brief rain squall blew through. Sometime between then and the next three hours the wind did a 180 and while still blowing a steady mid 20s it was coming now from the northwest. The surface of the anchorage, while not a mill pond, is comfortable. The wind’s supposed to stick around for the next few days, though, but I’ve got plenty of food and eight gallons of drinking water so I’m fine.

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Yucky Weather

It’s days like this that make me wish I was living in a van down by the river instead of on a 22-foot sailboat anchored in Bradenton Beach, FL.

It’s completely overcast now that the dense morning fog has lifted. The wind’s strong out of the south gusting to 25 mph. The boat is bouncing around in the two to three foot whitecaps we get here when the wind’s whipping across the 15 mile fetch of Sarasota Bay. It’s not real cold. Mid 50s. Rain is forecast for later in the day.

When the conditions are like this one becomes boat-bound. Could get off if it was an emergency, but since it’s not then one stays put. In a van you can at least chug on down to the store or a mall. People in vans and RVs don’t have to worry about their anchors dragging and running aground or into the rocks to leeward. And they don’t have to worry that another van or RV is going to break loose from its mooring and run into THEM!

But I have plenty of food for several days and good books to read so it could be a lot worse. At least it’s not snowing!

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