An Interesting Night aboard “The Abby”

It’s 10:30 Wednesday morning, and we are heading toward Beaufort, NC, having left Nassau on Sunday morning.  The weather has been changeable and has given us everything from NE winds in the wake of tropical storm Alberto to strong SW winds pushing us along.  One thing for sure, we had plenty of variety with what Mother Nature tossed our way.

Beyond hours of crashing into big waves earlier in the week, the most interesting weather came to us last night when we tangled with a line of very strong thunder storms that were traveling perpendicular to our course finally hitting us at about 0500 this morning.

Bob, the owner of The Abby, is big on weather information and subscribes to no less than three services for our trip up the coast.  One service that came in particularly handy last night was XM Satellite Weather. With a special receiver aboard, Bob is able to see, in real time, all sorts of weather information, including how a storm cell was tracking, and of particular interest last night, lightning strikes.  And there were plenty to count as they piled up on the screen, one after another, marching like little (ok, perhaps not that little) soldiers within each of the multiple cells displayed on the screen.  We have all enjoyed looking at the weather channel on TV and then going outside to see what’s happening.  However, doing that on dry land is a poor substitute for seeing it in real time when you are on a “small” boat 100 miles from shore on a pitch dark night.  A unique experience, to be sure.

What struck me most about all of this was the fact that we had a very good idea of what we were facing and when it would hit.  It was sort of like a complex video game with vectors, lots of bright colors and endless options.  To look at the screen, and then outside in the cockpit, provided a bit more reality than most might want in the pitch dark of night.

As it became clear that we were going to tangle with the whole mess, like it or not, Bob decided to begin preparations about an hour in advance of the storm’s arrival to get the boat ready for the inevitable.

We took in the sails and got everything buttoned down as you would expect.  And given the fact that The Abby, like so many boats these days, is tremendously dependant on sensitive electronics, securing these, as best we could, was a high priority.

By the time the storm finally hit, we had turned off everything– engine, all electronics., everything.  The Abby was just jogging along at a few knots with Bob at the helm, while the wind and rain whipped at us.  Actually, Bob got the bulk of the whipping as he was at the helm getting soaked.  All and all, the whole process, including preparation and the storm itself, only took about 90 minutes and we were certainly happy when it was over and that the boat didn’t get hit by lightening.   Getting struck by lightening on the water is not particularly life threatening, but it’s hell on electronics.

To see dozens of flashes light up the horizon really made it clear to me that when all is said and done, nature is really in charge.  We can get more information, yes, but when you are out in it, you are out in it and there is no getting around that.

All the while, our ship mates, Bill and Mark, were off watch and snug in their bunks snoozing away.  Well, perhaps not snoozing but they didn’t seem too concerned.

Oh, did I mention that the temperature, following the storm, finally dropped to a tolerable level in the high 70s?   Yes, it’s very hot in the Gulf Stream and as the storm passed we were getting out into cooler waters.   I guess that that was the greatest relief of all.

And another thing, I just realized that I had not reactivated the SPOT unit this morning.  It only tracks for 24 hours and needs to be reset.  When you read this, look at the “Where’s Pandora” page and you will see when I reset it.

That’s all for now.  More to come from Beaufort.   But, before another post, a nice cold beer (or two) when we tie up at the dock.

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