Monday, July 27, 2015

Coming Home's Not easy

Oh I know I've come home for a reason
But that reason escapes me now

The lines, from an old Sting tune, bounced around in the space between my ears as we pounded our way through the last 20 miles of this day's 130 mile run.
6 to 8 to 10' snarling, slamming seas. Headwinds winds that were constantly 40+ mph with gusts to 55; truly the worst continuous seas Crew Istaboa has dealt in our 15 years and 30,000+ miles of offshore cruising. (Yes, we're proud pleasure boaters)
I kinda remember something I read a long time ago... 'When you go to sea in small boats, never fret over finding heavy weather; eventually, it will find you.'

It did, but this is not the story of a harrowing escape from a deadly storm, it's about perceived danger, the anticipation of a worsening situation , and, simply put, me thinking too damn much.
Fortunately, Istaboa carried us through this rough stretch with steady grace. She's a damn fine boat and she proved herself yet again.

Thinkin' too much?:

I had started worrying about the late afternoon thunderstorms a few days before leaving Great Harbour. In the back of my mind were thoughts of hitting the cut that leads into Palm Beach with a big blow and lots of lightning at sunset; this situation would force us to plow through a storm or wait and enter in darkness. (Yes, my worries were well-founded) Both of those options weren't good. My optimistic side calculated 50/50 odds of that happening so I decided to be positive and put it all out of mind... sort of.

Of course, when the time came, we landed on the wrong side of that 50/50 chance. Should've gone with 'glass half empty' because what I had worried about happened exactly as feared.
If you look at our track you'll see where the storm first hit. Our Spot Satellite Transponder couldn't see through the storm and could no longer track as we closed in on Palm Beach.

But, at this point Mel and I were quite comfortable in the pilot house taking it all in as if sitting in a theater watching an action movie.
Big water washing up and over the Portuguese Bridge and sometimes smashing face first into the pilothouse windows. We can now accurately describe green water.
The boys weren't happy, but we were fine. All systems were working as they should; We both commented on how well Istaboa was handling this weather.

Then I start thinking too much again...

Looking out the pilothouse seeing the storm's black skies, streaked with lightning, positioned just to the south of our destination —the loud rumble of thunder— I was staring at the intense cell on the radar display and realizing the squall was moving north. Calculating our speed and the storm's movement, it became evident we'd collide at the precise moment we'd be entering the inlet.
A voice in my head was saying, "If you're struck by lightning, you'll be dead in the water.",  and a visual was rolling before my mind's eye of us helplessly washing up on the rip-rap of Lake Worth Inlet.

For the first time that day, I pulled the throttle back and slowed down.

Internally, my mind was racing and jumping to many conflicting conclusions. (one of which was, 'don't get excited.')

Then Mel suggested hailing TowBoatUS on the radio to ask about weather at the inlet. When I did, the friendly voice of a TowBoatUS Captain immediately answered and with calm demeanor told us something like, "Yeah, Wow, I bet you're in the rough stuff, it's been blowing hard. If you're okay, just keep on coming. It's all better in the inlet. Settles right down; the storm is moving north"

"Oh!   Really?   Thanks... — Istaboa back to 16".

There was momentary silence in the pilothouse.

My anxiety ended as quickly as it began and the anticipation fueled stress eased like the winds and seas at Lake Worth Inlet...  and all was right with the world.

Calm, once we eased through the inlet and rounded Peanut Island. Rain, washed the salty sea from our decks. Ease, as we motored into Old Port Cove Marina and tied up at the fuel dock with just a moment of twilight left.

Success = Relax

In hindsight, it was a great day to do this long run. If we were waiting for a better day, we'd still be at Great Harbour. (which would've been okay with us) 90% of our weather was damn near perfect.

And, the good that came from all this? We're now confident our stabilizers and autopilot will perform well in really harsh conditions. We'd had issues with both systems in the Chesapeake and repaired them, but never had the opportunity or the inclination to sea trial in such seas.

Istaboa was steady as a rock.

And, as written at the beginning of this post, Sometimes coming home's not easy, but we're home.