A Sad Ending

First, I want to say “I’m sorry” to the folks who make comments on the blog posts, and I forget to check and approve them right away.  Sometimes, I get away from the blog for a few days or even weeks at a time because it’s not always the first thing on my mind, every day (which, for a wannabe writer is saying I’m perhaps not as focused on writing as I might be).

On to the actual blog post for today though.

This past week and month has been both a blast and blur.  We had our 40th wedding anniversary on the 5th of August.  It also happened to be my birthday as well.  The main milestone is that I am still alive after all these years with JoAnne and she hasn’t killed me yet.   I’m happy for that.

But more, I’m happy that we are both still around to enjoy the dreams that took hold ten years or so ago – sailing and living aboard a ship, in this case, the sailing ketch Adventure.

This boat has been, I’m positive, several others’ dreams before us. I know the previous owner had similar plans and designs as us.  I know of many people who talk about, but never quite make it to the place we have made it too.  I also know many give up on their dreams when they become difficult.

I believe JoAnne and I have “found our stride” and will continue to walk this world a few more years trying to continue to stretch these dreams into reality.  Living on  a boat is difficult, but easy.  It has it’s ups and downs sometimes daily, like that tides.  Your dreams of living aboard and seeing the world can be blown about by everything from the light breezes to hurricane force winds.  You can watch others’ dreams die.

Sailing Ketch Renata, now at permanent rest

We watched one die this last month as a ship called “Renata” sank finally.  She was an old ferro cement boat.  The couple aboard her were elderly, and apparently had little income other than, we think, a social security check.  They landed in this marina a few years ago, due to some unfortunate circumstances and literally became “stuck here” as money was tight, and I personally believe, their hearts were no longer in it.

The boat sat at the docks for years, collecting crud on the bottom, plant and animal life.  A few weeks ago, she started taking on water, though I believe, knowing the design of the boat, it had been taking on water for months and months prior to the fateful day that landed her under water.  The boat had broken loose on two occasions, being saved both times by marina personnel and people standing by that assisted (including, the last time, friends of ours who happened to be sitting at the docks at the same time Renata broke loose most recently in a wind storm). The first time she broke loose was during Hurricane Matthew, last year.

One evening, the owner, Jerry, contacted the marina and mentioned that his boat was “leaking”.  It went from bad to worse over a few hours.  I believe the hull finally became dangerously soft in places and began sending water into a crack, which likely (I’m guessing, as no one has seen the hull for sure to determine the exact cause of the sinking) caused the crack to enlarge.  Smaller pumps were tried, and eventually, TowBoatUS came in with a huge pump and tried to keep the boat floating. Towboat, the marina, the owner and the USCG made a series of decisions to protect the ICW.

Had the boat sank on the outside dock where she was located, she’d have heeled her masts over to cover most of the ICW canal, thereby becoming a danger to navigation.  Taking her up into the creek was out of the question due to the draft (and apparently had been tried once before, which may have led to originally crippling the boat).  Finally, the decision by the USCG was made to put the boat over in a shallower area, off the canal in such as manner as not to block that canal.

The boat remained afloat for a full 24 more hours before it sank suddenly at about 5pm the next day.  The couple have since been assisted by marina people, live aboards and locals in the area, collecting enough money to get them sent back to their native Ohio.  Both vehicles they owned (neither in good repair) were towed by a trucking company to them in Ohio a day later.

That day, a couple of sailors lost their home, and their dream to the deep blue.  It could happen to anyone, even the best of us, or the worst of us. It can happen to expert sailors when something goes dreadfully wrong, or it can happen to the novice with minor mistakes.  But, it happens all to often.

Watching the Internet talk about these things, and especially Facebook and Social Media and the condemning of these people who have unfortunate events occur to them tells me the human race is rather callous sometimes.  Even I feel as if they could have done more to prevent what happened, instead of relying on the rest of us around them to rescue them.

But, in the end, even the naysayers stood up and helped.  For that, I am grateful, because it tells me that humanity isn’t completely doomed.

I will help anyone as I can.  And I hope if I ever am in need of assistance, my fellow sailor will stand up and lend me a hand if needed.  Judging those folks on the Internet, where your “anonymity” is promised but not guaranteed, is simply atrocious behavior.  For those around the marina and community who talked about these people behind their backs constantly, I feel only sorrow and shame for their behavior and words.

Because they were elderly, I had little doubt they were unable or incapable of making knowledgeable decisions for themselves, which by itself would have been no worse had they lived in a home somewhere instead of a cement boat.  But because they were in a ferrocement vessel that was slowly losing integrity, the remarks beg the question of “Why did no one attempt to help them before?”

I can’t answer the question either.  I didn’t know their whole story until after the sad ending, and even now, many pieces are missing.  Now that I know much more than before, I feel bad for not being able to help sooner.  Then, the days we passed them on the docks and said Hello to them, receiving only a grunt, or sometimes not even acknowledgement we were there says a lot about the way others treated them.

If you’re standoffish, or downright rude in your treatment you might not be acknowledged in return.  Some were rude here, and treated them rudely, but they too, treated others in kind.  So, honestly, I can’t say what would have become of them later in life, had the boat not sank.

Today, I understand they are back in Ohio, under care of their children.  I know nothing more of their circumstances than what I have mentioned here.  I don’t know how long they lived on the boat, where they started from, where they went or how life will go for them in the future, but I can only hope their children brought them back with open arms and will show them the love they have missed for so many years being alone and away from humanity (whether by choice or not).

We’ve had dozens of cruiser friends pass through, all happy in their lives, doing what they wanted to do more than anything.  We’ve watched a few start their journey, and traveled with some who were barely days along in theirs, as we moved into the first and second year of our own journey.  All have been happy in what they were doing, a few with trepidation, some ready (including me more than once) to hang it up and return to a normal, quiet, less rolly life in a house, and not an anchorage or marina.

But for the folks in this story, their days of travel are finished.  They have swallowed the anchor, not of their own choosing.

Fair Winds to Jerry and Dorthy of Renata!

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Matthew in Charleston – DAY 13

The front I’d hoped would be pushing Matthew along has become a part of the storm system now.

Matthew’s eye has buckled for the most part from what I can see of the satellite photos but still has over 100 mph winds along the coast.  It is still moving northward along the coast.

I was all but certain it would have turned by now, and apparently so were weather forecasters at the NHC because I heard a bit ago “the Easterly hard right turn didn’t happen”.  Ack.

I put our dodger and most of the enclosure back up yesterday to help keep rain out of the cockpit, off the instrumentation and off my head.  IF I have to take it all down again, it won’t be as difficult this time.  I’ve become practiced in the past few days.  I did leave the head sail off though because it’s a pain to take up and down if there’s even a tiny breeze.  It’s a light, but big sail (about a 130% sail) and it moves us along pretty quickly when it’s up, the wind is to our back or quarter and I let it all out.

Currently there are two hurricanes, Matthew which has been downgraded to a category 1 hurricane, and Nicole.  Nicole has been meandering around with no clear path or direction yet. But at this moment in time it may follow Matthew into the Bahamas in the north.  However, it is almost certain this won’t happen and Bermuda will get the brunt of that hurricane about next Wednesday or Thursday.

Charleston is suffering from heavy rain, major flooding in streets.

Strong winds from Matthew’s eyewall also slammed into downtown Savannah early Saturday, downing trees and sending street signs flying. As the sun began to rise  over the 283-year-old city, floodwaters inched steadily higher. Police reported numerous downed trees and washed out roads. (USA Today)

Here’s the latest National Hurricane Center path prediction:

I still don’t see it doing a complete circle.  Another front is moving through, look at the first map I posted and you can see it.  It will push off tomorrow sometime, from the coast and the hurricane should beat feet to the right.  As to curving south again, it’s already high enough into westerlies that I don’t think that is going to happen.  Of course, that’s just me.

Finally, this is what Monday should look like:

Winds of Change

When we made the name of this blog originally, it was “Winds of Change”.  Then our first boat became Winds of Change.  It’s a line from a Jimmy Buffet Song.  And Winds of Time is another line from the same song.

This boat was supposed to be called Winds of Time.  But she because Adventure.  Her lines, and beauty spoke to us, and told us about the Adventures we’d have by calling up on her magic.

She has indeed turned out to be a magical Adventure ride for the past year.

Adventures, though, are rarely perfect examples of a perfect life, with perfect views, perfect weather, perfect mountain climbs or perfect ocean crossings.  In fact, a true adventure is one that places the adventurer out there in the forefront of exposure to weather, wild savages, raging rivers, earthquakes or ocean storms.

And our Sailing Ketch Adventure has been nothing less for us.  We’ve only lived aboard for a year, with a break because of a break.  JoAnne broke her back, so we had to leave.  When we returned, Adventure had “calmed down”.  She took to sailing like a champ, and I remembered some techniques I had forgotten.

For the past few days we’ve watch a massive hurricane grow in the south Caribbean Sea and build up to a Cat 5, then back to a Cat 4.  It started a meandering path northward and crossed the tip of a Colombian peninsula, the western tip of Haiti, passed with in 80 nm of Gitmo in Cuba (RIGHT where I said it would go, my exact words on Facebook was 90 nm East of Gitmo) and has proceeded to cross into the Bahamas and turn slightly towards Florida.

I have been using a combination of the Euro model and US weather forecast maps, along with a bit other data and a little bit of guestimation based on my years of storm chasing.  This is like storm chasing on a giant scale though.  It’s not as precise as I’d like to be, but so far it’s working.  I started tracking and doing my own work on hurricanes a few years ago because I knew one day I’d be sailing a ship.  I want to be SURE.

Now… I’m going to say something that might make people mad, so be warned.

The National Hurricane Center is great at what they do, but they’ve been WRONG since Katrina.  Katrina was a terrible disaster.  And they mispredicted it, didn’t warn people properly and later George W. Bush was “blamed” for the hurricane’s damages.  Kind of stupid if the forecasters didn’t do it right.  And rightly, people who SHOULD KNOW and didn’t give warnings shouldn’t be working in the NHC any more.

Today we watch as Matthe is being projected to turn east shortly and head south and east.  Back to the Bahamas unfortunately, but, out to sea eventually.

Right now, if you take a close look you will see a front moving offshore.  It’s been there all along, it’s been moving across the country all along.  If they aren’t plugging that data in, they aren’t doing it right.  I can’t say what they are doing with the data they are using or how they entered it.  But I suspect the NHC isn’t using the right data at all.

Why has the EURO model been consistently right, and the NHC has been consistently wrong, and going to extremes to scare the public into being “prepared”?  I mean, I agree they should warn the coast, they should tell people to prepare and that’s what FEMA is there to do.

But, honestly, they are scaring people across the US Coastline with hurricanes and then at the last minute they are turning off the shore and mostly missing.  I don’t get it.

I spent yesterday removing all the canvas on the boat.  People are screaming to have their boats removed from the water.  Panic, chaos, confusion….  No need.

So today, and through the weekend I’ll watch more instead of preparing to head south and wait and see.  Because the NHC has cried wolf so many times now.

Do I trust my own predictions?  No, I’m an amateur, but at least my last dozen or so storms I’ve tracked have turned out exactly like I thought.  Whether that is lack of confidence in my own work, or the lack of confidence in the NHC now, I’m no longer sure.

A prudent sailor won’t head out into a storm like that.  And luck is not “found”, it’s created.  You don’t put yourself in a position to get your self killed.  So, I’ll wait.

Hurricanes and Boats

Simply put, hurricanes and boats don’t mix well.

Matthew is proving to be a pain in the ass for a lot of folks right now.  People in Haiti, soon Cuba and then the Bahamas.  After that, according to the models (which I want so desperately to disbelieve) Florida, and most of the East coast of the United States will be in for a bit of roughhousing as well.

Latest Tracks for Matthew

I’m far enough north that it should break up and just be a tropical storm by the time it gets to us, especially if it hangs over land for any length of time.

But for whatever reason (I can’t see the reasons) the models have pushed over to the west and it’s promising to be a beast.  I see a front coming through, and pushing out, and now there’s a dry, low pressure system in the middle of the US which may reach the coast about the same time, and that might be pulling the hurricane in somewhat.

On the other hand, there’s a mess of rain and another front west of that high.  It usually takes 3-4 days to cross the states with weather systems.  Hmmm.  MAYBE it will get to the coast in time to push some more.  I don’t know.  I’m not a forecaster, just a storm chaser that looks at the data and predicts local mesoscale conditions.  Hurricanes are big, bad, Red-Spot-on-Jupiter things to me and are as distant as that planet is from Earth for me.

I’ve been in two.  One hit DC a long time ago and water levels came up 8 feet up the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers.  The second was in Jamaica in the 2ooo, when it missed us by about 90 miles on the north coast of Jamaica. But… it RAINED like the ocean was pouring over us.  I’ve never seen so much rain for so long in my life.

The plan today is pretty simple.  Down comes the headsail and sheets.  I’ll remove everything off the deck and bring it below today and tomorrow.  And we will bring our tarps (we use as tents topside) below to cover things down here inside the boat.  JoAnne will pack and we will be ready to bug out sometime on Saturday morning most likely, because the predictions are showing it coming up this way Saturday night and Sunday morning.

The last of the preps will involve moving the boat out, adding lines and hoping for the best.  We’re not going to stay aboard the boat if the hurricane approaches us.  We’ll head inland and stay out of the path as much as we can.  I’m planning to take most of our clothes, our foulies, food, water, electronics, important papers, car and our mortal bodies away from here.  We went through a Nor’easter in the Bay… and that was not good, with the shallow Bay, short chop, poor JoAnne getting sick.  Staying in a Marina is not going to be much better.  And there’s little here to keep us safe, and in fact, it might be pretty unsafe to remain here.

I maybe take one of the ham rigs too, just in case.  We have terrible luck with the phones, so a ham radio might come in handy.

So, all my hoping and my “estimating” isn’t coming true.  All I can say is that the hurricane tarried a bit too long in the Southern Caribbean Sea and the weather that would have push him off is long gone now….

This sort of thing is, by the way, why I have been a “prepper” most of my life and even wrote a book about it.  I sure hope it all works right this time. 🙂

I guess that’s it for now.

If y’all believe in prayers… better get busy.  The entire coast of the US, Bahamas, Haiti and other poor people in between are all in danger’s path.

Hurricane Matthew

Against the odds, against the forecasts, and against the models a massive hurricane has formed in the Caribbean Sea.

This morning when I checked it had been upgraded to a Category 5.  It is sitting in the southern Caribbean Sea, south of Jamaica and appears to have taken a slight left turn, and will probably, quite suddenly swing northward on a collision course with Jamaica, the across Cuba, and onward into the Bahamas.

The conditions were really NOT all that conducive for forming such a massive hurricane which is why I said “against predictions” above.  But, predictions, humans and computers programmed by humans are fallible.

Right now, the various models show the path taking a plunge to the north, through MOST of the Bahamas and on up the coast.  Since yesterday evening, that has changed slightly and models are showing it moving north and then pushing eastward.

I’ve been watching some fronts moving across the states which might prove to save the day.  If the timing is right, and I say IF, the two fronts should converge around Tuesday and push the hurricane east ward.  Unfortunately, there is also a pretty big High sitting off the coast and that might cause some problems.

I’m not a meteorologist but I’ve studied it enough over the past 40 years to have a bit of knowledge on the subject.  JoAnne and I storm chased and spotted for the NWS in Colorado for about 20 years.  So we have a bit of background in mesoscale events.  This is not meso.  This is massive.  Synoptic observations and data are easy to get these days, but I’m again, no expert in reading it all.

My “take” on this hurricane is that it WILL blow out over the Atlantic after reaching the Bahamas.  It will weaken after hitting Jamaica because going over land reduces it’s power.  It will build a bit, but hit Cuba further weakening it.  By the time it hits Bahamas I think it Cat 3 or even a Cat 2 is all it will be.  With LUCK and timing, the fronts should be above it and pushing outward to the East.

The Earth’s rotation as it travels north will also cause it to spin out away from the US.  And prevailing westerlies.

At this point, I HOPE I am right.  And I hope that the folks in Bahamas, Cuba and Jamaica all fare better than a category 5 will give them….

In other news, we’ve had rain, rain, rain for the past week.  Either in Richmond where we visited a couple of days for my eye check up, and all the way here to the boat.  Lots of rain.  We had super high water a couple of days ago, washing over C Dock and some of the others.  We’re on a floating dock, so the only issue we had was a dinghy full of water because SOMEONE forgot to pull the plug when he hoisted it onto the davits.  Fortunately a kind neighbor noted something amiss and went over in his dinghy and pulled the plug for me.  Normally, I remember to pull it, but for some reason I just spaced it.  THAT is the kind of thing that sinks boats.  Not remembering the little things.  Live and learn.

Windows still leak somewhat, here and there.  I think I have discovered one of the major leaks though.  I believe at this point water from rain is coming in through the traveler area in front of the cockpit.  I can’t pull out the stuff due to the building of the boat.  I think I can seal it though.  As to the windows, I don’t have the right gasket material and not too sure where to get it. So, I thought I’d do an experiment.  I cleaned out the old, dried up gasket from one of the portlights and used RTV in the place where a gasket should be.  I let it cure and sure enough, it works.  Not the best thing, not permanent, but it DOES work in a pinch.  So…. I’ll keep a few tubes of that stuff around for emergencies.

Front area cleaned up, and I can walk in there, I can access the anchor locker if needed, I can move stuff out of the forward head easily now and we can use that bathroom if necessary too.  Hung our walking sticks, and some other long items up front from bungie cords.  Tools accessible now.  Front name plates are varnished, the red paint is on them, and at some point I can paint in the name of the boat on the forward plates…. maybe it will quit raining for a few days this century….

Plans now include a trip to a military commissary for paper products (TP, paper towels, plastic trash bags to store things) and of course “boat alcohol”.  LOL.  Cheaper, no taxes, but it’s a long drive.  While we still have our car.

Our friend Kurt has promised to store our car for this winter/spring coming up until we come back this way.  So we have that going for us.

I have a radio modification to perform on one of my rigs before we bug out.  And I’d like to install the vhf/uhf rig some where in the boat where I can get power to it easily and get an antenna up on top somewhere.  Might put that off awhile.

Eyes were pronounced “awesome” by the Doctor.  I am 20:25 unaided by glasses, but do require reading glasses for up close.  Can’t focus that close now.  I can free dive soon if I want, or use a mask.  So I’m good again, and I can SEE.  Wow.  Just wow.

Basically, all the BIG jobs are done.  Just the little stuff.  And waiting out hurricanes.  I recall at this time last year, we were sitting in Galesville, Maryland awaiting Hurricane Joaquine which was making a bee line up the coast…. and was very similar to this one, except it started further north, went west, and then turned suddenly out to sea and never threatened the coast at all.  Almost exactly a year ago today….interesting isn’t it?

Fair winds.  Catch you on the next update.