The Storm  

rm_wiz452 53M
5 posts
3/31/2006 8:52 pm

Last Read:
5/28/2009 6:31 pm

The Storm

The Storm

We were sailing her home from Baltimore. I purchased her off a charity Web site the month before for $500. I bought her sight unseen, except for pictures on the Internet and we all know how much we can trust pictures on the Internet! The pictures were bad enough that I believed them.

It all started when I did a Google search for something or other for my existing boat. The first hit was an ad for a 30 foot sailboat in Baltimore. The asking price was $5,000. That was a bargain price for a 30 foot boat but I really didn’t need another one ‒ particularly at that price. I let it go but bookmarked the page.

A month or so later I checked back. The boat was still there and the price was reduced to $2,500! Imagine, a 30 foot sailboat for $2,500! There must be something wrong. I let it slide.

About a month later the price was $1,000! This boat must be a real dog, I thought. I did a little Internet research and found the marina. I called the dockmaster and asked about the boat. “Oh, yeah. I know the boat. Fine boat. Hauled her last year. Great shape she is.” Well then, why is it priced at only $1,000? “That low?” he asked. “Guess it coulda been the liveaboards.” He said.

A family had been living on this boat for the past year or so. They had removed the sails and trashed the interior. The inboard motor was gutted and all the DC wiring was replaced with AC. Other than that, she was in fine shape. Everyone that came to look at her ran away as fast as they could.

At a Grand, I passed. Who needed the hassle? But like anyone watching a car wreck, I went back to the Web site again and again. One day the price was $500. I called the 800 number. “I’ll take it!” I said. The next day I wired the money and a few days later the title arrived. She was mine!

The next weekend I drove down to my boat and took my sails, motor, life jackets, oars, GPS, and anything else not tied down on my boat up to Baltimore to see what I had bought. When I got there, everything the dockmaster said was true. She was a beauty with a little ‒ OK, a lot of work to be done. I spent the weekend wiring, re-rigging and setting up the outboard motor mount. When I left Sunday evening, she was almost ready to sail away.

I went home and emailed the crew of my other boat. The invitation went something like this: “Who would like to go on an adventure with my new boat? She is in Baltimore and needs to come to Virginia next weekend. We will go up on Friday and arrive home on Monday. I can’t guarantee we will make it but the Bay water is warm and we can swim to shore. By the way, I bought her for $500.” My usual crew declined, citing busy schedules. Not wanting to make the trip alone, I searched the Internet and found a willing sailor. We met at the train station in Baltimore and took the bus to Dundalk, where she was moored.

We spent the first night making sure everything was in order. The next morning at first light, I got us underway. We passed under a drawbridge and by fort McHenry, where the Star Spangled Banner was inspired. We sailed past dormant steel mills and factories toward Annapolis. She sailed like a dream! Perfect balance and responded to the slightest touch. Even though we were beating against the wind and waves, we never got wet and hardly bounced on the waves. The end of the first day found us in Shady Side, MD at a family restaurant that was closed to the public to celebrate the birthday of a local. They welcomed us a friends. It was an enchanting evening.

The next morning we set sail before the sun rose. We wanted to make Soloman’s before dark. The sail was going well until early afternoon when clouds began gathering. We turned on the weather radio and it warned of storms in the area. The wind died and we drifted slowly south. At about three a black cloud began building over us.

After some discussion, I decided it would be best to forgo the bars of Soloman’s and make the closest port ‒ Flag Harbor, a tiny marina cut out of a creek along Calvert Cliffs. This was the only port between Chesapeake Beach and Soloman’s. I had never been there but found it on the chart. We set a course and started the motor. The cloud above our heads did not move but seemed to get blacker and blacker.

Soon after starting the motor, the wind changed 180 degrees and started blowing from the cloud. The breeze grew in intensity by the minute. I gunned the motor. Any experienced sailor knew the change in wind direction meant the cloud above was about to explode in a violent fury of wind, rain and lightning. We had two choices ‒ keep running or turn around and face the storm. Normally, in open seas, the choice would be to head into the wind and ride out the storm. In our case, Flag Harbor was only a couple of miles away. With luck, we could make the inlet.

Suddenly, the heavens opened up and torrents of wind whipped rain pelted us. We had been working to drop the sails but increased our pace to avoid disaster as the wind increased to near gale force. The boat began healing and tossing uncontrollably. Waves increased in size and pounded us. With every following wave, the outboard would rise out of the water and whine loudly with the propeller churning air instead of water.

The rain came down in sheets and we could no longer see the shore. I had been steering on a compass heading and kept on course as best I could. The radio had been chattering with boaters calling one another as the storm hit. As we blindly pointed toward shore, the unmistakable sound of “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday” blared out. “Shit!” I thought. This is worse than I expected. We were in no position to help anyone. We kept on the same heading with our outboard screaming on every wave.

Suddenly, the rain let up just long enough for us to make out a light in the distance. It was a light reflecting off the windshield of a boat! “Damn, I hope that boat is in the harbor and not in someone’s back yard.” I thought. Then, through the rain, I saw the entrance to the harbor! It was only about 20 feet wide and marked by homemade channel markers. We were right on course.

A few tense minutes later, we entered the harbor. Because Flag Harbor is literally carved out of the side of a cliff, as soon as you enter, the wind completely stops and the water calms to glass. The scene was surreal with us slowly puttering into the marina while the storm churned up two to three-foot waves in the Bay.

We pulled into the nearest slip and changed out of our wet clothes. We celebrated with a toast of straight Gin. When the rain ended, we took a shower and had dinner. Later we found out the Mayday call came from a boater who had witnessed a small boat capsizing a few miles from our location. The family was plucked to safety by other boaters in the area. Several other boats ran aground or were swamped in the storm.

After dinner, we turned in and listened to the storms rumble across the sky all night. The following morning we again got underway at first light even though storms were still in the area. We sailed about seven uneventful hours to the marina and her new home.

She has been mine for almost two years and she is ready, willing, and able to travel to ports far and wide. Often, I feel like taking a right turn down the Bay and not stopping until I reach Bermuda! She could take me there if I pointed her in that direction…

sugarsweet6677 49F

4/1/2006 2:56 am

i really enjoyed reading that , thanks so much for sharing it with us all .

__Huntress__ 55M/57F

4/1/2006 4:14 am

I thoroughly enjoyed this post ... somewhere, I am a sailor at heart and this just took me away ... !



4/1/2006 5:25 am

Enjoyed, thanks! {=}

just a squirrel trying to get a nut

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