Even for those who have never been out on a boat of any kind, thoughts of the open ocean conjure up thoughts of massive waves crashing up on distant, or perhaps worse, on familiar shores.
For boaters the phrase can sometimes bring to mind memories of personal adventures, nearly always exaggerated for effect when experiences are being shared, especially with non boating friends. “You can’t imagine how big those waves in Plum Gut were last August. They were breaking over the pilot house. They had to be at least 6 feet. Really, it was amazing.”
In October a good friend was taking his boat to the Caribbean and he ran into a late season storm about 500km south of Bermuda. Yesterday I spoke to him on the phone and heard a bit about his experience. He recounted that the waves were 25′ and very confused. His crew were clipped on and yet were washed overboard only to stop short when they reached the end of their tethers. The boat was laid flat several times and their storm anchor/drogue snapped it’s line. Dick and his crew were successfully rescued by a passing freighter where they scrambled up a jacob’s ladder while his small 35′ sailboat Spring Moon, slammed against the ship while rising and falling 25′ with each passing wave.
Thankfully, Dick and his crew were saved, a better fate than the husband and wife who were separated in the same storm when she was washed overboard and lost. It’s hard to imagine how it would be to experience such a loss. Not something that we, who love the sea and sailing, want to think about.
This video is perhaps the best example of just how powerful the sea is and should certainly give those guys who brag about braving 6′ waves on Long Island Sound something to think about. This is nature’s majesty in some of her greatest moments.
As is said in the famous Breton Fisherman’s prayer, “Oh God thy sea is so great and my boat is so small” No truer words were ever spoken.
So, I am always asked “how big is your boat?” and my answer is, “that depends on how far I am from the dock. Out on the ocean she seems mighty small.”