Friday, February 5, 2016

Key West - 35 kt gusts during the night

Not a pretty sight! No crew was aboard
The run of bad weather continues into February for our trip south this year. We were tied up securely, we thought, as we turned out the lights for bedtime around 10;30 pm. We have lines to two pilings to keep us centered in the slip, two line aft from the mid cleat to the same pilings to keep us from running forward into the dock and two lines from the forward cleats to the dock to keep us centered there. All was fine until about 1:00 am when a front came through. The wind suddenly increased to 25 to 30 kts from the aft pushing us into the dock. With gusts to 35 kts, we had to readjust lines to prevent knocking into the dock.

It was all hands on deck at 1:00 am (actually in the cockpit, it was raining cats and dogs outside, I was the outside hand). It was impossible to adjust the lines manually by sweating the aft lines, something more was needed. So Ann manned the helm and started the engine. She put it in reverse to take the tension off the aft lines so I could tighten them which I did. I thought at the time that the issue of clearance to the dock forward of the bow was solved, I was wrong. I only had one 5/8 inch line per side from the mid cleat to the piling, not enough. Recall that a gust of 35 kts has a little more than 5 times the force of a 15 kt wind! These thoughts come to mind in a driving rain on a bucking boat in the middle of the night.

On a windy day (20 to 30 kt winds), the Eco Center was in order, all inside and free
At 3:00 am after continued high winds in the 25 to 30 kt range with higher gusts, I checked the clearance again and found that the two lines had stretched and the boat needed to be backed further off the dock. So once again I rousted Ann to man the helm and put the engine in reverse so I could tighten the lines. One line per side was not going to do it so I added two 5/8 inch lines per side to the same piling and tightened them as Ann backed the boat. This strategy did work, the two lines not only added strength but stretched less than the one line per side. Meanwhile, the boat is rocking and rolling, even in the harbor. During all of this one had to be careful not to fall overboard, the driving rain didn't help matters.

As bad a night as we had, it didn't compare to what the crews on the anchored boats endured during the night. I heard that they were all up during the night on anchor watch and many ran their engines to lessen the strain on their anchor. The anchorages here at Key West have no protection from a north wind, the direction of the winds last night.

When dawn arrived, I walked over to the harbor master and learned that one boat broke loose and was battered up against the breakwater for the harbor, was holed and sank (see photo). We heard of another boat that came to grief off Sunset Key. Looking out over the anchorage area in the morning I saw nothing but whitecaps. The boat that hit the breakwater had no one aboard, I don't know about the sailboat that came aground off Sunset Key.

John Kwak, a fellow member of the Poughkeepsie YC, is waiting for weather at Venice, Florida for an overnight sail to Key West. He called my marina and found they were booked for the next two months. I found the same situation at the Galleon. It seems that everyone is waiting for good weather and when it doesn't come, they just extend their stay. The Galleon harbormaster said that many boats that were paying day to day extended to a weekly rate and some even to a monthly rate to save dockage fees. In short, everyone is backed up.

To make matters even worse, we have one day of respite and then the winds return in force with 25 to 30 kts predicted starting Monday evening and continuing for the next two days. Meanwhile, the "calmer" winds of only 15 to 20 kts continue until then. However, we are secure in our slip and have it reserved until April 2. I would hope the winds die down sometime before then! We are looking forward to uninterrupted sleep tonight, we hope.