Senin, 15 Desember 2008

Isle of Hope

We left Charleston with a forecast of North to North East winds, 10 to 15 knots, Friday through Sunday.

The sail started out great. It was sunny and warm. We had all the sails up and we were making great time.

Unfortunately a few hours after dark the weather changed. The weather bouys off Charleston and Savannah recorded winds of 55 mph and waves as high as 17 feet. The wind wasn't supposed to die down for days. We ran for shore, 8 hours away.

We pounded through the waves all night. Wave after wave swept over the boat. sometimes knocking the rail of the boat under water. The blower vent for the engine was scooping up water, funneling it down into the boat. Every so often we would slam into a wall of water that would cause the whole boat to shudder and come to a complete stop.

It was starry out, and the moon was bright. Not a cloud in the sky, but it felt like it was raining. The spray from the waves was constantly hitting us. Thick drops of water being pushed by the 40 mph winds. It was hard to see where we were going with the salt water burning in our eyes every time we poked our heads up to look out in front of the boat.

The temperature dropped into the 30's, and hypothermia became a concern.

Because of storms the previous night, we hadn't had a chance to sleep. Despite all the discomfort, we both began to dose off. Every few minutes the jolt from a large wave would wake us up.

My best description of what this experience felt like would be:

Riding a bull sideways with a blindfold on while being sprayed with a hose and shot at by paintball guns.

Then things got worse.

The waves knocked out our navigation lights. The navigation lights are designed to let other boats know where we are, and which way we are headed. We came into the busy commercial port of Savannah with nothing but a white light at the top of our mast. We were surrounded by container ships. Five or more at any one time. The closer we got to the Savannah channel, the closer these boats got to us, until we were within a few hundred feet of these giant boats. For the most part we were able to steer clear, though there was one time we came very near to being run down. We had a powerful spot light we would flash at the boats to make them aware of our position. Our calls to the large ships on the VHF radio were unanswered.

We finally made it into Savannah and dropped the anchor at the first available spot. We passed out in our bed that was soaked with salt water. We hadn't slept in nearly 36 hours.

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