Cruising: Camaraderie in the Squall

Author:
Publish date:
A looming squall is never a welcome sight

A looming squall is never a welcome sight

Darkness had fallen and the howling wind almost drowned out the voices coming over the VHF radio.

“Lights on! Blow horns!”

“Make noise to alert the crew!”

“Shine the spotlight on the cat by the shore, it’s dragging dangerously near our bow.”

These were calls to action, not exactly in panic mode, but certainly more urgent than those usually heard.

The cat was now wending its way about the anchorage, its owners alerted during their cocktails and dinner aboard another vessel.

“We just lost our dinghy!” was the next shouted exclamation.

A short 20 minutes earlier, drops of rain had splattered on our hull, drops that quickly became heavy, thick splashes indicating a rising gale. We quickly closed the hatches and with the first flash of dreaded lightning made a dash to switch the VHF radio first to Channel 16 and then Channel 68.

Now the squall was truly assaulting the 50 boats anchored at Hamburger Beach, Georgetown, in the Exuma islands. Gusts were clocking at 60 knots. Adding deck, steaming and navigation lights to the anchor light—we wanted to see and be seen—I turned to my husband. “Well, this is a first for us.” His face had morphed from its usual relaxed expression to one of concern. He kept the engine idling in gear to keep pressure off the 125ft of anchor chain and 45lb CQR anchor. “Boy, am I thankful we chose this ground tackle when we outfitted the boat,” he said.

The captains on the boats next to and in front of us were also now doing the helmsmen’s two-step: once to port, turn, once to starboard, turn, repeat, all with an eye toward avoiding a three-way collision. Their performance was admirable, as the wind, rain and radio messages provided background accompaniment.

The radio came to life again: “There’s a mayday report of a woman in the water.” Instantly, there was the reply: “She is safe aboard another boat.” More radio voices: two medical emergencies were taking place. “What would we do without our radios?” I said, not sure if I could even be heard over the sound of the whistling wind. Replies immediately came from three separate cruisers—an ER nurse, a doctor and an EMT tech.

And so it went for 90 minutes. The wind eventually settled back down again. The rain stopped. Slowly everyone crawled into their bunks to try and get some sleep, heartbeats still racing.

The day dawned with a clearing sky and benign seas. Stories were shared as we visited the neighboring boats. One couple described the fear they experienced during the squall as they set about re-righting their dinghy and retrieving their outboard from the sea—heavy rain pelting them throughout, soaking through their clothing. In their near-panic, they forgot to close the open hatch over their berth and spent the rest of the night wet and miserable.

As for the medical emergencies, the first patient had been taken to a clinic in town with a suspected heart attack. But it turned out to be a diabetes low blood sugar situation. The second patient had a kidney stone. Each came on the radio net later in the day to offer their thanks.

Such is the close-knit boating community. Looking out for each other is the unspoken creed by which we live. 

December 2018

Related

Waypoint.image.cd

Say No To Waypoints

Ever since they first appeared in my navigational toolbox decades ago I have been wary of waypoints. They certainly do seem helpful, these electronic flags we plant in the ether to guide us to where we want to go. But I noticed early on they also tend to distort our perception. ...read more

Lead-shutterstock_429247

A Cruise up Florida’s St. Johns River

The chart showed 45ft of vertical clearance, and I knew the boat should be able to pass under the bridge. Still, there was that nagging voice in my head that wouldn’t let me be. “What if your air draft calculations were wrong?” it said. “And if you’re just a little too high the ...read more

pic00

Installing a Helm Pod

Our 1987 Pearson project boat came with an elderly but functioning Raymarine chartplotter, located belowdecks at the nav station. Since I usually sail solo or doublehanded, it was of little use down there—it needed to be near the helm. When I decided to update the plotter along ...read more

Panamerican

Pan American Game Success

Team USA’s young sailors went to the quadrennial Pan-American Games in Lima, Peru this summer with high hopes, and returned with a good haul of medals—two Golds, three Silvers, and two Bronze. Gold medals went to Ernesto Rodriguez and Hallie Schiffman (Mixed Snipe) and Riley ...read more

190916-AC75

U.S. Team Launches First America’s Cup Boat

Fast forward to around 2:25 to see the boat in action. First day out and already doing full-foiling gybes: not too shabby! Hard on the heels of the unveiling of New Zealand’s first AC75, the New York Yacht Club’s American Magic team has now launched its first America’s Cup ...read more

GGTobCaysHorseshoeColors

Picking a Charter Destination

Picking a destination should reflect the interests of your group, says People often ask about my favorite charter destination, and invariably, I sidestep the question with one of my own: “Well, what do you want to do on your vacation?” Most often I hear an incredulous, “Why, ...read more

sinking

Waterlines: Chasing Leaks on Boats

Chasing leaks on boats is a time-honored obsession. Rule number one in all galaxies of the nautical universe through all of nautical history has always been the same: keep the water on the outside. When water somehow finds its way inside and you don’t know where it’s coming ...read more

BestBoatNominees2020-Promo

Best Boats Nominees 2020

Bring on the monohulls! In a world increasingly given over to multihull sailing, SAIL magazine’s “Best Boats” class of 2020 brings with it a strong new group of keelboats, including everything from luxury cruisers nipping at the heels of their mega-yacht brethren to a number of ...read more