Thursday, June 9, 2011

Safe in Little Harbour

We ended up staying two nights in Provincetown. The second day we went ashore in the morning for a shower, then wandered around on Commercial Street downtown, wandering in and out of the eclectic mix of shops. What a colourful town.

We went to the supermarket and got another couple of jugs of water then took a taxi back to the marina. Ducky carried the heavy load back to the boat without any incident.  The afternoon was blazing hot, so we stayed on the boat, enjoying the sea breeze. Jay took a nap and I took care of a few things that needed attention around the boat.

Around 5pm we moved the boat to the fuel dock to fill up and then Jay made chilli. It was another beautiful evening in the cockpit. We turned in fairly early, knowing we wanted to get up early to leave the next morning. 

Neither of us slept very well however. The wind picked up to about 15 knots around 2am and the banging of the cockpit locker we had left open for the wifi antenna woke me. I went above to close it and then had a really hard time getting back to sleep. By 5:30am we were up. We lifted Ducky on the davits and motored around the pier to the slips on the other side so we could fill our water tanks. Our stern tank had gone dry just before bed. After filling the tanks, we set out for Isle of Shoals.

The weather was overcast, with a bit of a cool breeze on the water. Coming around the tip of Cape Cod, the seas were confused and about 3 to 4 feet. They settled into one direction and smoothed out after an hour, but were about 4-5 feet with the odd one even larger. By late morning they seas had calmed to one to two feet and we had a nice breeze for sailing.   We periodically listened to the weather on the VHF and what started as a chance of thunderstorms, became a watch for severe thunderstorms. The forecasted wind direction for overnight also changed so we decided to skip Isle of Shoals and head for Little Harbour, just 6 nautical miles further on the coast. As we were about 7 nautical miles out, about 5pm, the sky, which had been gradually darkening, took on an ominous cast. We furled in the sails and even as we were tidying up the lines, the wind hit. It went for 15-20 knots of wind to 40-45 knots of wind in about two minutes. We even saw gusts of 55knots (which is 100km). We had pulled in the sails just in time. 

We had pulled on lifejackets and we tethered ourselves into the cockpit. For the first 10 minutes, it was just the wind. Earlier in the day we had stripped the canvass off the bimini  and we were really glad we had. One gust of wind managed to spin the solar panels, but thankfully they did not break off. As the boat was getting tossed by the wind, the lightning and thunder started. As the lightning drew closer the skies opened and it started to pour.   The lightning drew close enough we put the engine in neutral and lashed the wheel and headed below. We had a handheld GPS below which was showing us we were doing 3.5 knots even in neutral, just from the wind.  We watched the handheld closely as the wind was blowing us towards the Isles of Shoals - a lee shore. The sky was filled with sheet lightning and fork lightning and the rumble of thunder. The boat was tossed around, but was handling the weather better probably than we were!  It is nerve wracking to be on the water in a thunderstorm, but we had taken all the safety precautions we could.

After 15 minutes, Jay braved the storm to make a quick adjustment to our course as we were coming closer than we were comfortable to the rocky islands.  The lightning was beginning to move off in the distance. After about 40 minutes, the worst of the storm had passed and we were able to go topside again. We had travelled almost 2 NM off course as we drifted with the wind. We turned the boat and retraced our steps. Within another 30 minutes the seas had calmed and the sky had lightened. We motored into Little Harbour, New Hampshire and grabbed a mooring at 7pm. Whew!

I have no desire to repeat that experience on a regular basis, but both we and the boat handled the weather without serious incident. There is some moisture in the chartplotter after the torrential rain, so hopefully that will dry out without a problem. Also, we need to reposition and tighten one solar panel, but considering the strength of the wind, we all handled it just fine!

No thunderstorms are forecast for tomorrow.

The best part is that after 392 NM we have finally seen some marine life - several dolphins and several whales!


  1. WOW! Glad you guys are safe and that the boat handled so well in the weather.

  2. I saw those storms in your vicinity yesterday on the satellite picture of the eastern seaboard (Environment Canada) and was wondering how you were getting along. Glad to hear you weathered the storm safely and made it in to a safe harbor! mom