Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Looking Back

As I mentioned in my last post, we sailed back to our home port of Montague, PEI from Ballantyne's Cove, Nova Scotia in early September 2008 on the last day of our first major cruise with Obsession. We had had an eventful crossing through the Strait of Canso and across St. George's Bay the night before. But our last day was also far from uneventful. As I look back at my log entries from that trip, I notice we motorsailed for a good part of the day. When we had set out that morning from Ballantyne's Cove across the Northumberland Strait, there was a great breeze and we were doing 5.5 knots under full sail on a broad reach. After a few hours, the breeze slackened and our boat speed fell to 2.5 knots. The weather had been forecasting 15 knots by noon, it was 1230 and there was only 6 knots apparent according to our handheld windmeter. We left the sails up as the wind direction was right and there was almost no swell (unlike the night before), and turned on the engine.

We were over half way across the Strait when the oil alarm went off. We immediately turned off the engine and checked the oil levels. All was well. We let the engine sit for 20 minutes and then turned it back on and all was ok. The alarm did not go off again and water seemed to be coming from the cooling system as usual.

We had been running the engine a bit harder than usual though when the alarm went off. The clouds had started rolling in. Thunderstorms and rain was forecast for that evening and we wanted to get home before it hit. We had been motorsailing for about an hour, riding a favourable current which was giving us a speed of about 7 knots according to the GPS, when the clouds darkened and it started to rain. After a few minutes there was a flash of lightening way off in the distance. Jay was in the middle of making nachos in the oven. Afraid that the wind might suddenly increase if a thunderstorm hit, I called to Jay to come up and help take down the sails. He turned off the oven and we pulled the sails in and continued under motor alone.

About 3.5 nm from Panmure Island Lighthouse it was raining and I was in the cockpit in all my rain gear steering, eating the nachos which Jay had put at the top of the companionway just under the dodger. It started to rain harder. Despite the fact that we had checked the weather forecast and weather radar over and over before heading out and while under way (Blackberries are handy that way) the rain and thunderstorms which were not supposed to hit until evening, found us around 2:30pm!

Our first time in a sailboat in a thunderstorm. We were still 2 NM from Panmure lighthouse when the lightening started in earnest and the rain started to come down even heavier. All of a sudden I could no longer see Panmure lighthouse.  What rain!!! We checked we were in no danger if we drifted, so we left the engine in neutral (being afraid that if we turned it off it might not start again given our experience the night before) and went below. Being careful to touch nothing metal while the thunderstorm passed over us, we huddled in the salon waiting. What an eerie feeling to be below and hear the crack and boom of thunder and lightening all around you, but not be able to see it. Luckily, the wind did not pick up. It only lasted 15 minutes or so and then the thunder and lightening moved off and we came back out. The rain did not really let up much though. Visibility was terrible and I was relying on compass and GPS as I put the engine back in gear and pointed Obsession once again towards Panmure Island. The last ninety minutes of the trip it continued to rain hard in downpour after downpour. As we entered Cardigan Bay and motored up the Montague River, we would watch wall after wall of rain approach, completely obscure our visibility, and then pass over us after a few minutes. Often, we could not see the nearby shores of the river. Surrounded by curtains of rain and fog, it was as if we were completely cocooned and in a little world of our own, all alone. Then, as the heavy rain would move on, we would catch glimpses of the red shore, until the next curtain of rain approached.

When we arrived in Montague that afternoon, we were soaked, but more experienced sailors after our three week cruise.

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