Home > Wharram World > Letters from Peace IV > 2004 > Slight Chance of Scattered Showers

Slight Chance of Scattered Showers

By Anne Clement

It was hard leaving the luxury of Bill Tait's Palm Coat, Florida home and dock but you can be certain we will be back in the winter to see his new building shed and keels laid out either for his Wharram Designs Ariki or Tiki 46 which he intends to build.

As Nev still had fever, we put him in bed at Fernandina, Florida and did not see much of him until we got to Beaufort North Carolina. The boat is not new to Peter, and he is a very good sailor, but this was his first longish passage and this one was nearly 400 miles. I have made many passages over 500 miles including several alone in my old boat, but this boat is not yet set up for single handing and I was grateful for Peter's strength and sailing abilities which are in many ways better than my own.

We left Fernandina at 1800 on Apr 28 and motored both engines not full throttle between 4 and 5 knots into 3 foot waves trying to keep Nev comfy and the boat going. Sailing was not possible because we were too close to the wind. Then just as we expected to turn a little off the wind to begin sailing when we were truly clear of the land, "all hell broke loose".

I got the jib going which woke Peter as I planned. Then, just as we were raising the main the last couple of inches, the large stainless steel shackle holding the gaff peak block broke and the gaff got stuck half way down. We could not sail that way at all nor furl the sail. We had to turn back and make repairs.

Then we needed to refuel but the transfer bulb broke, then the boom gallows came apart, and just at that point Nev's fever peaked and he needed my help below. Peter remained cheerful and we got the gallows back together (it will have a lashing at the next opportunity), and he had the sail under control quickly. I got the boat moving well under jib and steered by Monitor and then went below to Nev. His fever had reached 102F and went up and down rapidly over the next hour or so. Then we transferred fuel with a different method, and finally had a cup of tea while we planned repairs to be done in Fernandina because repairs were needed aloft and that is safer done in quiet waters. We were not on a race, and cruisers do not take risk unless it is necessary.

It was a night of scattered showers and talk was of traditional boat designs which is Peter's great interest. He works at Mystic Seaport cataloging designs in their archives and he is delighted to talk about traditional or modern boats and that is also my favorite topic. But we did not take turns sleeping as we should have. A mistake which I, as a former single hander, know full well. The most important thing to have on any boat is a rested crew.

Once in Fernandina it was discovered that I was the lightest weight person aboard (God help them), so I was preparing to go up the mast when our friend John came over from another boat in the anchorage and offered to go. Bless him! I hate heights. We had met John, his wife, and their little daughter and offered them free use of our mooring just as we were leaving to sail south. They were happy to return the kindness and we were happy to accept.

After a cup of tea, we headed right back to sea to take advantage of the good weather but Peter and I again enjoyed the beautiful day, talked, and did not sleep. Nev slept, but could not come up on deck.

So, on April 30 we sailed through pods of dolphins under full sail doing 5 to 7 knots in light wind while talking of several ways to simplify sail handling, laughing and enjoying the day. At noon the water color turned to that purple blue of the Gulf Stream and that afternoon Peter caught a Mahi Mahi which is a first rate eating fish. Peter was delighted to finally see one of these beautiful creatures and since fish is on our South Beach diet, we had a huge banquet. Nev came out to eat but went back to bed after.

The great thing about having guests aboard is that you always learn something. Peter brought his laptop computer and electronic charts of the entire US East Coast plus Atlantic islands and showed me how to use it. He is a research scientist so all the computing part is easy for him and he teaches it easily and soon had me using it in addition to my dear old reassuring paper charting. While I will always use paper charting, just in case electrics fail, I truly appreciate the excellent e-charts with the little boat symbol showing exactly where you are on the chart. It makes anchoring so simple! It makes it so easy to enter harbors at night. But it can go off in a second and you must be prepared for that. I added a laptop to our "someday list".

The wind got up to 12 knots that afternoon and Nev was complaining because the headache he had hurt more when we went faster than 7 knots so we dropped the foremain. A fish boat seemed to keep changing his course to maintain dangerous heading. We altered course 20 amd 30 degrees but finally I had to take major action to avoid being run over. Unsettling.

The "slight chance of showers" in the weather forecast became a sarcastic refrain when it came down in torrents for over 24 hours. You know how it gets with what seems more water in the air than in the ocean. One rapidly moving squall caught me out and the boat went into irons. Then it caught Peter too so I felt better.

On May Day morning, the wind was well over 20 knots and that is when they continued with the forecast "slight chance of showers and wind 10 to 15 knots. It got stronger. We were doing over 8 knots while spilling wind under main and jib in torrents of rain. Then the onshore wind and waves increased as we approached Frying Pan Shoal off Cape Hatteras. Visibility was not great. We were wet and tired but amused that we were still having fun.

I got a fresh weather forecast then and heard a special marine warning that a squall had formed right where we were "including tornados and water spouts embedded in it." Our wind generator shuts itself off at 36 knots of wind and it did that for about half an hour as we rounded the shoal. Peter had on his laptop so the batteries must have been calling for more charging at the time.

Finally the weather forecast warned of flooding ashore and severe weather offshore. We put the boat in irons while taking down the main. So civilized that way! Under jib alone, we did 8 to 9 knots with wind on the quarter and entered harbor quite tired in the wee hours of the morning. Heads hit pillows by 4am.

At 8am, Clifton and Laura Thompson came aboard, saw the disarray and immediately bought plans to build a Tiki 46 just like ours. What can I say? Some people have the sailing bug!

Love, Ann and Nev

Peace Four

© Anne and Neville Clement, 2004