Monday, July 18, 2016

Storms and Contacting the Coast Guard

The Upper Chesapeake Bay was hit by a powerful storm this past weekend and we were rafted up with two other boats during the worst of it. We were anchored in Bodkin Creek in about 8 feet of water. We had two bow anchors (from the two biggest boats) and one stern anchor (from our boat in the middle) set. In normal conditions, this would have been overkill. During this particular storm, it was not enough.

Today, I heard that the Weather Station was reporting that boats should seek safe harbor immediately. With three anchors down and an hour or more ride home, we were in the best possible situation considering our options.
It was a beautiful, HOT but still beautiful, clear day without storms in the forecast. But then the skies went ominous.
We started hearing reports of hail and strong winds in Middle River. Knowing that we had friends anchored there, we quickly contacted them to check on their status. They had two boats rafted together in Sue Creek and had to split apart because of the storm. I also received a text from them stating "Life vests are required for this storm, Julie."

We got life jackets ready and waited to see if the storm would come our way. And it did. Full force.

We were stuck in the middle of a storm similar to the derecho that hit us in Sue Creek a few years back. Only this time we had other boats attached to us.  Thanks to amazing teamwork, we survived unscathed. Other boats weren't so lucky - I'll get to that in a bit.

The bow anchors started to drag and it wasn't long before our stern anchor line was out of position. In the attempt to rectify the situation, we had to let the anchor and line loose into the water. Knowing that our bow anchors were also no longer effective, we started up engines and very carefully managed to get both bow anchors up. I say carefully because we had to be aware of which boat was in gear at all times. We couldn't have multiple boats putting strain on the lines keeping us together and causing a bigger issue. We also didn't want to cut any boats loose until anchors were up to prevent boats swinging into each other.

Once all anchors were up, we undid lines from Wet Wille and they pulled up the creek away from us. The Black Pearl stayed with us while we rode out the storm for an hour or so while keeping a sharp eye on shore and potential other boats in the basin.

All the while, we were listening to Channel 16 and the frantic calls of other boats seeking assistance from the Coast Guard. This storm really took everyone by surprise. A boat ran aground at Hart Miller Island and many boats could not get to safe harbor. One in particular was desperate for help. You could hear the panic in the person's voice and, unfortunately, they weren't completely sure where they were and could not give coordinates to the Coast Guard. "We're sitting ducks. Please help." I commend the Coast Guard for their patience and calm as they tried to help this boat. They explained where on a GPS unit to look for coordinates yet the boat could not find this information. When nothing seemed to work, the Coast Guard recommended that the boat use a cell phone to call 911. They said that 911 dispatch could use the phone signal to get coordinates and that they should ask 911 to then call the Coast Guard with the information. I don't know the end of this boat's story but I was happy to hear the smart problem solving skills of the Coast Guard.

We later heard that people (on land) an hour west hadn't even seen rain. Like I said, this storm caught everyone off guard.

Once the storm passed we were able to reset anchor and enjoy the rest of the evening - including a double full rainbow.

The next morning, Doug and Matt went out in search of the lost stern anchor with a fishing pole. The anchor line was mostly rope so all they needed to do was snag a small part of it. With a little luck, and a general knowledge of where it would be, there were successful within 30 minutes.

For those of you following the Baycation posts, they will resume shortly.

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