Friday, February 13, 2015

The Feeling of Calm

"And right now there is a very unique weather phenomenon happening in the Virgins..." we were listening to Chris Parker giving his morning weather report on our single sideband radio, a report which unfortunately coincides with breakfast time meaning picking up the whole thing between baby screams and toddler demands is near impossible.

"Momma! More yogurt please"
"....cold front.....creating a dam effect..."
(Various baby screeches and yelps looking for more food)
"....significant northerly swell..."
"Momma! More yogurt!!"
(more baby screeches)
"...and now for the Mona Passage..."

And that was about all I got. Something about a weather phenomenon, demands for yogurt and significant swell. I got the yogurt and the report for our area had ended.


I've written a few times about rolly anchorages. At best they are uncomfortable, at worst they are unbearable. They are, without a doubt, one of the negative aspects of living on a boat and cruising because no matter what, you will experience them at some time or another.  The past three days found us smack in the middle of the "unique weather phenomenon" Chris spoke of which just so happened to make our northerly exposed anchorage somewhere between uncomfortable and untenable. We, along with our buddy boat Necesse, had already moved once (from Caneel to Hawksnest Bay) in anticipation of the weather and subsequent wacky swell. Unfortunately for us, the anchorage that would have provided the best coverage was completely full (many other boats were also in search of calm), meaning we had to take the next best which, as it turned out, wasn't good at all.

"We need to move first thing in the morning" I said to Scott at 2:30am when the rolling began to peak. Our boat was rocking back and forth aggressively, so much so that laying in bed actually required effort and core strength. I could hear the books falling off our shelves and the contents in our cupboards kept threatening to bust out of their containment. Of course being a mom meant the only thing I was really concerned about was the kids and their precious sleep. Isla was stirring and complaining that her belly hurt, and upon the next roll which produced a particularly loud clanking noise from somewhere (we didn't have time to investigate) the babies started to wail.


Up to the v-berth I went to calm them and nurse them back to sleep.  All was quiet for a brief moment when all of a sudden I heard the loudest, most terrifying banging noise coming from the bottom of the boat, followed by a shuddering thud. "What the..." Every subsequent roll I brought a BANG followed by a reverberation. My heart started beating double time. "Holy ***, we've broken from our mooring and run aground!" I thought. With the babies on each boob I yelled, very loudly and slightly panicked, to Scott. I didn't hear him.

BANG. Shudder. BANG. Shudder. Ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod.

The babies were full-blown screaming now, terrified. I frantically put them back in their bunk and rushed on deck to see what was going on.

"Scott! What is happening?" I panicked.

"I tried to lower the centerboard to slow down the roll" he said back as he labored to crank it back up.


BANG. Shudder. BANG. Shudder. 

Babies screamed in surround.

BANG. Shudder. BANG. Shudder. 

We needed to move.

Unfortunately it was 3am meaning that moving was really not an option for us. I got the babies back to sleep, calmed Isla and got her back down and Scott got the centerboard up so the rolling no longer produced the horrible vibrations and noises. Exhausted and slightly nauseous, I retreated back to our bunk until daylight. Sleep evaded me the rest of the night.


By daylight our buddy boat had dropped her mooring in search of a calmer anchorage and we followed suit minutes later. The swell had gained size and momentum during the night and motoring into it as we exited the harbor turned our boats into aggressive hobby horses (broncos?). Because we had left in such a hurry, we didn't have time to properly prepare. It was raining. The boat was uncomfortable and stuff was everywhere. I had the kiddos down below, hungry and tired, and all three wailing and wanting to be held by mommy. Scott tried to settle our boat in the wind and waves and I worked on calming the kiddos. To say this little passage was "unpleasant" would be a very large understatement. Thankfully, it was short. 

Thirty minutes later we were in Francis Bay. The new anchorage was better, but still not great. I was exhausted and could feel the familiar "tired headache" kicking in. Scott got to work making fresh waffles for all of us and our friends came over for a couple hours of playtime and breakfast. By noon it became apparent that our new home was going to be just as bad as the previous one and once we heard that the swell was only going to get worse, we dropped our mooring again - the third time in two days - in search for a calm bay and a good nights' sleep.

After a beautiful two hour sail while the kids were all napping (so much nicer to sail while they sleep!) we finally dropped the hook on the other side of the island - the only area where we were certain to find protection from the dreaded roll - and found our calm in Hansen Bay. It was blissful and beautiful. Not a wave, ripple or roll in sight.

I don't think I have ever appreciated a flat anchorage, and a good nights' sleep, so much as I did yesterday.

The feeling of calm. Siigh.


Jessica said...

I was listening to the radio yesterday when the weather report came on and said that on the north side of the Virgins there were 8-10 ft swells and breaking waves of 14-16 ft on shore. I can only imagine how terrible your northern exposed spot was!! Glad you made it to the south side of St. John and found a calm anchorage.

ChrisS said...

That sounded awful! I've always wondered if you could rig something like the Rocker Stopper and some folks say they use DIY plywood versions. Hope you have a better night sleep tonight.

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