When the local weather forecast began predicting 60 mph winds for the last day of 2008, I was somewhat skeptical. The weather weasels were mostly wrong about their forecasts. Whenever the forecasts were for severe winds, we might get 15 knot wind gusts at best. Alternately, when the forecasts call for calm skies — it is THESE forecasts, that produces the weather drama – tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, high-octane winds, you name it. I’m thinking my next career will be predicting weather by suggesting the opposite of the mainstream meterologist…
It was only a few days prior, that we decided to abandon ship for the holidays – and spend some time camped out with our daughter in Silver Spring. It didn’t take long to appreciate the surplus of land luxuries…such as TV, running water, hot water, microwave ovens, HOT food and flush toilets to name a few. After nearly 2 years living aboard Cat Maudy — some might say an extended camping trip — this was quite a treat. We were living large on land, it was 18 degrees outside – and we hoped Cat Maudy wouldn’t mind if we took a brief leave of absence.
So, when the winds TRULY blew in the 50+mph range – we needed to check on the lines and be sure that Cat Maudy wasn’t too upset that we left her alone to weather the storm. I volunteered to make the trip to Baltimore. Of course, I had to grab a quick swim-workout FIRST at the nearby gym a few blocks from the marina. The swimming pool is enclosed in a “bubble” structure, a series of metal frames, topped off with a skin of dacron. Lap after lap, I couldn’t help but to focus on the metal frame – as it shook so violently that I thought the frame would eventually be lifted from the ground. The wind gods were not holding back, and I was seriously questioning my “need” to exercise via this bubble encased swimming pool. An hour and a half later, the swim structure managed to hold and I was buzzing with endorphins. It’s time to tackle a “line check” of Cat Maudy.
I parked my volkswagon beetle nearest to the A dock at Anchorage Marina
, and sat in the car for a few moments watching the surface of the water rip over the docks. The wind gusts shook my little beetle, and I was doubting if it was a good idea for me to attempt to run along the dock – and risk being blown into the frigid Patapsco River waters. At 112 lbs, 40mph gusts generally knock me around pretty good. Anything more that that, I am no longer in control. But the winds were gusty, so my strategy was to make all forward motion during the lulls. I opened the door of the car, and immediately any paper lying inside the car that wasn’t “locked down” went flying out the door. Within seconds, the papers (I’m guessing business papers that I needed!) ,were over a 1/4 mile away – and still traveling with the wind. I sure hope these papers weren’t too important. Oh well….nothing I could do now.
I briskly walked toward the gated entrance to the A-dock, and stood on the LAND side for a moment. The metal platform and gate was shaking. The winds had kicked up, and I wanted to “time” the opening of the gate for when the winds dropped to under 40mph. It seemed like the winds weren’t subsiding much, so I decided to open the security gate and step toward the dock. The moment I opened the gate, the wind gods let loose. I had all I could do to avoid being swept into the Patapsco, and wrapped both my arms around the handrails, hoping that the bolts holding the ramp to the dock would hold. This is crazy. Cat Maudy is so close, maybe 75 yards, but the stretch along the dock would have nothing for me to hold onto. I waited for a few minutes – and FINALLY a brief lull. I ran, past the first three oversized powerboats, ducking behind each for a bit of reprieve against the wind. At the last large boat, I paused…waited….listened to the roar of the winds…..re-calculated…and decided that I was in a wind “lull”. I would have to run the entire stretch of dock to get to Cat Maudy and hope that the wind doesn’t kick up over 40mph until I can board our boat.
Couldn’t help but to notice wind damage to other boats on our pier – during my olympic sprint to our side-on slip. Fenders were busted and deflated, and boats were banging up against the docks without the protection of a soft landing. Any item not lashed down on the dock, had been blown into the water, sails were unfurling, and the marina crews were busy tying down boats for owners who rarely check in on their yacht investments. Yes, I observed ALL of this during my sprint! There was a lot of action at the marina.
Luckily, the lull lasted long enough for me to board Cat Maudy. The lines seemed to be holding, everything inside seemed good, no extra water in the bilges or engine locker….yep, everything seems good…except it’s a bit cold inside. Oh yeah, that’s because the heat isn’t on. The heat SHOULD be on. And that would be because we have no power. The power SHOULD be on. Aiii. After a quick call to Pat, we decide I need to see the crew at the marina – and try to get the power restored. This means I need to run back on the dock to shore….grab a marina guy….run back out on the dock to Cat Maudy….wait for power to be restored….and run back on the dock to return to shore. Joy. How many times will the wind gods be kind to me before they blow me overboard?
Feeling lucky, and sprinting all out – I make it to land in one full swoop. I run into Lee at the marina and ask if the power is off on the A-dock. He says no – but he’ll walk back with me to check it out. We head back to the dock. Lee has some weight on him. I’m not sure if he noticed that during our walk along the dock…I hovered behind him….ready to grab on in case the winds pushed too hard. I kept up a vibrant conversation with him to keep him distracted from my “hovering”.
Turned out that the wires to our dock post were fried. They needed to be replaced. A second marina guy (Nate) appeared shortly on the job – fixing the electrical problem. I sat inside the salon of Cat Maudy – shivvering, and bundled in a wool blanket…contemplating one last sprint to shore along the dock once the power got restored, listening to the halyard bang relentlessly on the mast, feel the boat vibrate when a particularly strong gust took hold….while the two marina guys were outside, braving the winds, on the edge of the dock, bare hands exposed to a wind chill factor in the teens, rewiring the electrical post. OK, I’m feeling a little guilty here.