Monday, April 23, 2012

New wind record

By Aaron, photos courtesy of Zachary SO Lough (s/v Panache)
For the last few weeks we’ve been tied up at Hotel Bahia Del Sol.  For $14 a week you get use of the pool, Wi-Fi, $1 beers, and 30% off all your food.  So you can imagine what our daily routine has been like.  Saturday started out pretty well.  Relaxing in the pool was interrupted by a dinghy raft-up out in the estuary with free beer, so we made sure to attend.
01We drifted with the current until the beers were gone
It was just another lovely evening, and none of us had any idea how quickly that was going to change.  Nicole was making potato burritos for dinner and since Zack lives off Top Ramen we had him over.  As we began to eat, the breeze picked up a bit.  About half way through the meal it was blowing over 20 knots.  As we were finishing our burritos, the wind began building and building.  In just a few minutes it went from a breeze to hurricane-force winds over 70 knots with torrential rain.  (Highest recorded wind was 73 knots, about 84mph.)  Definitely a new record high for our anemometer.  All hell broke loose for about 15 minutes.  Then, as quickly as it arrived, it was gone.  We surmised this was our first encounter with a microburst.  The amount of rain and wind was incredible.  And as it tore through here it made a sound that I’ll never forget. 
Zack was anchored about 100 yards up the estuary.  At the time there was about a 3 knot tidal current running with the wind.  His anchor dragged and Panache was bearing down on the marina at an alarming speed.  Zack is one lucky dude.  The boat missed the corner piling and SV Swift Current by about 30 feet.  Zack, Nicole and I followed her, running down the bucking  linear dock with waves crashing over our legs as she flew past.
DSC_2839Here’s the piling that Panache barely dodged
Then, more luck – as the boat is hurtling past the marina she suddenly fetched up on her anchor and held about 20 feet off the linear dock.  We later determined that the anchor had caught one of the cables that are anchored to the bottom to try and hold the docks in place.  We had to leave her there for the time being as the waves were too big to risk getting in the dinghy and you could barely stand in the wind and rain.
04Panache, lucking out on the anchor grab
Other boats dragged anchor as well.  Several boats tied to moorings also broke free. 
06Talaria makes it over to the dock from the mooring field.  Hats off to the hotel staff who jumped in to help all the boats in trouble.
10What was left of Talaria’s mooring.  Several of the links in the chain were rusted down pretty thin.
SV Swift Current, the boat tied up next to us on the outside of the dock, broke two cleats right off the dock.  Her stern went out into the current causing the bow to try and ride up on the dock while nails chewed into the fiberglass.  We fought to get her stern pulled in while Bella Star was trying to launch herself onto the finger pier.
02Trying to get the stern back to the dock.  We couldn’t keep our fenders down because waves were washing over the docks and the boat would buck up so high that the fenders pulled out, then the side of the hull would crash down on the dock.
P4220265Where Swift Current’s bow was digging into the night before
DSC_2844SV Nauti Moments has a Kevlar reinforced bow that got to chew up a bit of dock
The docks here are cleverly built by using two logs to nail the planks onto, then sticking 55 gallon drums underneath to get them to float higher.  Well those drums were popping out all over the place.  Bella Star had one of the barnacle encrusted drums wedged in and by the current and being crushed between her stern and the dock. 
05Got some nice barnacle cuts on my hands from this damn thing, and Nicole got her feet cut up as well.  But she sure looked nice fighting beside me in her little black dress.
09Cleats pulled out all over the place. 
All in all we were pretty lucky and only suffered some scratches in the gelcoat.  The docks themselves could have broken loose, as one did about a mile up the estuary.  SV Tolerance was not so lucky.  Her anchor dragged and she went up on one of the hotel pier’s cement pilings at a high speed.
07Wind and current conspired to do major damage
08The piling from inside
14Once the wind died we used a couple dinghies to power Tolerance off the pier and got her over to a slip.
15The hole is only about an inch above the waterline.  Just a tiny bit bigger and it probably would have sunk right there.
11Talaria collided with Hotspur, bending in several stanchions and one of the dinghy davits. 
12They’re also out a solar panel.  Kudos to SV Knee Deep for dishing out some brewskies!
13Zack and I were unsuccessful at getting the anchor unhooked from the mooring cable.  And as luck would have it, there was open dock space that we could reach by letting out more chain.  I fed it out of the windlass while Zack piloted her over to the dock.  He was relieved to have his baby still floating.  A diver freed the anchor the next day.
P4220269Hotspur took some collision damage and lost quite a bit of her caprail along with sustaining damage to her foam cored hull.  The duct tape is there to keep water from getting into the foam core.
P4220264Fortunately nobody was seriously hurt.  The next day everybody was talking about the storm and exchanging their stories.
DSC_2849The marina staff put in freshly made cleats and restored power to the docks the very next day
DSC_2847The barrels that could be recovered were also reinstalled the next day
DSC_2841Tolerance is uninsured and a total loss.  Mick, the skipper, decided to part it out.  The next day it was crawling with cruisers.  All the winches, deck hardware, electronics, spare parts, lines, you name it, the boat was pretty much stripped down.  It was hard to stomach acquiring gear like this, but Mick insisted that he needed the money in order to make his next move.
We got new mainsheet blocks, a whisker pole with mounts and mast fittings, dive mask, various sealants, PFD with integrated harness and a spare rearming kit. 
Mick gave us some good deals.  He really did Zack a favor, and sold him a brand new 4 person liferaft and an EPIRB for $200.
Tolerance won’t sail again, but she’s still floating.  Mick sold the remains to a local marine mechanic for $400.  He’s got a dock on the estuary and plans to live aboard once the hole is somewhat patched up.  It’s still got a working propane stove, a head, and a couple decent size berths with good cushions.  It’ll make a good little house for him.
We’re glad that nobody was seriously hurt.  Throughout the ordeal everyone was helping each other and making sure everybody was okay.  A typical example of why we’re happy to be a part of the cruising community.


  1. Holy crap, I just read this in one breath! So glad you guys are OK, and so sorry to see a boat lost. The Kevlar-reinforced bow has me thinking - I'll hopefully be closing on a Cape George 36 this week (survey is on Friday), and we'll have to do a repair (apparently we hit a deadhead during the sea trial, which bent the bobstay tang so that's getting replaced). Some extra Kevlar there wouldn't hurt while we are at it...

  2. Jan Lounsberry/MomApril 23, 2012 at 6:38 PM

    Aaron, the "little black dress" is ready for ANY occasion!! Way to go, Nicole! MOM

  3. Oh my god. That is crazy. I'm so glad to hear that no one was hurt, but how awful about Tolerance.

    It's hard to believe that just a few minutes of weather could do so much damage.

    Glad Bella Star and her crew are okay!

  4. Holy shit!!! Wow guys so glad no one was hurt including Bella Star!! So how did this storm creep up on everyone? It seemed like a very intense storm so you would think some could see it coming a fair amount of time before land fall. And Pea wants to know who was the photog taking pics while others were fighting off the docks. :-)

  5. Great story and awesome photos! We are glad the both of you and Bella Star made it through okay. It's times like these when the Hans Christian is a curse (so heavy to move about by hand) and a blessing (super tough and built to handle anything thrown at it!)

    How about a post (or email) about how you are/are not liking your electronics. We are about to lay down some serious $$$ in a few weeks.

    Carol & Lance

  6. HOLY SXXT!!! Glad to hear you, Nicole and The Bella Star are okay. Also happy that Zack made it okay,too. A Microburst is a little hurricane that can do a lot of dammage very quickly. Damn hope you got to finish dinner before fighting mother nature. You know I can really live without this kind of excitment.
    A little black dress, What a way to fight a storm. WAY TO GO NICOLE!!!!
    You are in my prays every night.
    Stay safe and have fun.........

  7. Just finished looking at the pictures again. I am wondering what Zack is doing, smiling and is he kissing the boat? You are right he is one lucky sailor and I am happy for him.
    The pictures are outstanding and more then likely so are the brewskies.

  8. Wow. I'm so glad all is mostly well, and that you guys (and friends) are OK. As you say, things can go from Awesome to Suck in a blink, but as a group you're a formidable force too.

    And, Nicole is my hero(ine). Battling storms in her LBD... amazing.

    Fair winds to you all!

  9. Oh my god you guys.... What an experience. we have just read your story with our hearts in our mouths..... Thank goodness no one was seriously hurt. So sorry you had to go thru that... Take good care of yourselves and plse say hi to Ken and carol on SV Nautimoments for us... Good luck to you.
    CJ and Kathy. SV Shannon

  10. Wow - my mouth is still hanging open! What a crazy event! It's amazing that it was so short lived and caused so much trouble. Good to hear that no one was hurt and that most of the boats made it through with little damage. Wow again and good work to the cruisers and marina staff for working together to help each other out!

  11. What a nightmare! Looks like you guys did well though. I don't like to think how it would be anchored out in 70 kts. High fives all around, we're not dead yet!

  12. So glad that Bella Star and Panache made it through relatively unscathed. Great photos Zach - and nice going Nicole in the LBD! What a story!

  13. We heard about this in La Cruz on Monday from Mike of PV Sailing and Catrina of KL. GAH! I'm so glad that you are OK. So sorry to hear about Tolerance. Nicole, I'm going to show those pictures of you fighting to save your boat in your little black dress to Teresa and say, "You can always be stylish while cruising. See Nicole is always prepared to look good in photos!" Hell-yeah, Nicole and Aaron, you are our heroes! Are Molly & Ben still on their boat, knee deep?

  14. Very happy to hear you're both ok. I've been thinking of the two of you. Keep up the good seamanship. I'll let everyone on K dock know your safe.

  15. Wow, just heard about this - so glad you guys are okay! I teared up when I saw SV Tolerance - Every sailor's nightmare... my heart goes out to the crew. Talk about crazy.

    Loved the little black dress comment... I think he gets bonus points for that Nicole!)


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