United States
Shoemaker Creek

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    • Day 33

      Tropical Storm Ophelia

      September 22, 2023 in the United States ⋅ 🌧 70 °F

      Well, it was bound to happen some time, wasn't it? We are traveling during hurricane season after all. We finally got hit by high winds and rain and it was as horrible as I imagined it would be and ended better than I thought it would. First, let me say that dogs and people are all safe and sound. Dave may have injured his knee and tweaked his back a little, but otherwise everyone is safe.

      When we pulled into Belhaven, our wind predictors (we use Windy and Predictwind and Weather.com) all indicated we would be facing North winds and at their fastest 20 to 25 mph. We felt confident that facing the boat into the wind on a dock (to make Jessica happy we weren't depending on just our anchor) we would be good. Then the predictions changed to a South South East wind at 5am on Saturday. No problem! We will just turn the boat first thing and face into the wind.

      So we relaxed into a full day of rain on Friday, cleaning and watching TV and staying dry. We went to bed Friday night still reading the prediction, but Dave noticed that one of the predictors called for East Wind. The other two still said South / South East. Not much for us to do, but still turn the boat and ride it out. At about 2am, Dave got up and turned the boat. It was a very pleasant evening. The rain had stopped and it was very quiet. Jessica slept well.

      At about 6am on Sunday we both woke up to the wind. We knew it was coming but somehow it seemed stronger than we imagined. We do have some experience with 20 to 25 mph winds, but this seemed stronger. What's more, is the wind was almost exclusively Easterly pushing our boat into the dock. Dave spent time securing lines and re-positioning bumpers and beginning to get a little nervous. Now the weather predictors were calling for a 3 foot swell in tide and 30 to 35 mph winds. By about 830am our boat was knocking very hard against the dock and riding almost over the top. We had no choice, we had to untie and move the boat or it would for sure crash onto the dock.

      Unsecuring the lines and pushing off the dock was one of the scariest things we have ever done. The wind pushed us one way and we tried valiantly to use the engines to push us the other way. We did end up taking a couple of chunks out of the boat but honestly it was impressive that Dave was able to get us free of that dock. Then came phase 2. We had to anchor in 35mph winds and swells that sprayed all the way over the top of our boat.

      We made our first attempt at anchoring not too far off the dock but far enough. Jessica took control of the boat while Dave went out to throw the anchor. If you have ever been walking in very strong wind, thrown your hands out and tried to lean into it, you can imagine what it felt like to maneuver 11 tons of boat direct into the wind so that Dave could throw out an anchor from the very front of the boat completely unprotected by any barrier.

      The first anchor didn't take. Now we have to retrieve the anchor and try again. Even though it didn't take, it doesn't mean it isn't sitting in the mud and requires boat maneuvering to retrieve it. So once again, waves and wind thrashing us about, Dave out on the very front of the bow, Jessica at the controls, we risked life and limb to retrieve and re-set. Never, in all my life, have I shook so hard and been so centered on getting a job done.

      The second anchor took, thank God! We just sat stunned with the engines going for at least a 1/2 hour staring and praying that the anchor really had stuck. It had. Finally, we were able to convince our brains and bodies to believe we were as safe as we could be, while the wind and waves continued to knock us about like we were a toy boat floating down a rocky river. We moved downstairs, turned off the engines and sat and waited the many hours for the wind to stop. It finally calmed down around 5pm.

      The dogs made it through like little champions. Shaking champions but champions nonetheless. When we decided to move off the dock we strapped their life vests on them and locked them downstairs. Dave said in one of his passes he saw them huddled together under the couch in their little life vests. Because it had rained the entire day the day before and because of the morning trauma, the poor little things had not had a potty break and were scared. I am not sure which caused them to shake more, but I will tell you when Dave braved the still rolling waves and wind around 4pm to get them to shore, they came back much much happier and no longer shaking.

      So, it was quite a day. I know I have been more scared than that before, when Katrin was hit by the car, but I would put it up there with things I would never like to repeat. Here is the thing though, we can't guarantee we won't get stuck in that wind again. The only way to guarantee that is to not be doing this and we are not there yet. We can plan not to be on a dock again. Perhaps we can even plan not to be on the boat when it is windy like that again. I am not sure. I do know neither of us loved the experience, don't like the things that have to be fixed as a result of this experience, etc. And yet, we both loved the sunset and the sunrise that followed the storm.
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