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Spring Thunderstorms

By badriance - Published May 01, 2009 - Viewed 2730 times

On occasion, Seaworthy receives interesting accounts from our readers detailing harrowing experiences at sea. Here’s one from Seaworthy reader Dan Arsenault about the potential danger of spring storms, and some valuable lessons he learned the hard way:


“It began as a typical mid-April day in Michigan: 15-20 knot SW winds with 30-knot gusts. We were moving our boat Serendipity from our winter storage home to our summer slip, a trip of six to eight hours from Saginaw Bay. According to weather reports, there was a slight chance of afternoon thunderstorms.


“We were taking the shorter inshore route, which put us on the windward shore (good), which necessitated negotiating a relatively narrow, two mile, unmarked channel past Sandy Point (bad), as it was too early for the Coast Guard to have put out the mid-channel buoy. Serendipity,  a Hunter 37.5, was averaging six to seven knots under headsail. As we approached the channel, rain clouds began building from astern. Kathy, my wife, was at the helm without 14-year-old daughter Jennifer, who was along for the ride. I got out rain gear for everyone, then furled the headsail and went below to fix our position with the loran.


“The Loran was blinking, which should have been a red flag, so I quickly opted to obtain some LOP’s (lines of position) and fix our position on the chart. All was OK and we entered the channel with Kathy steering the heading I had given her and Jennifer watching the depth. Our speed was three to four knots with winds 20 knots on the stern. As the rain arrived, the wind instantly jumped to 45 knots. I told Kathy to just watch the compass and steer our heading as she was shifting into neutral. Jennifer was to relay the depth while I tended to the boat. She also called out the wind speed and before long (15-20 minutes) it was registering 74 knots.


“This was getting serious so I called the Coast Guard to let them know our situation. They put us on a 15-minute watch. As I went back out into the cockpit, Jennifer was calling out the depth: “eight, eight, eight, six...three!” In an instant we were hard aground with waves washing over Kathy’s head and down the companionway. I grabbed the wheel but there was no backing off. I tried plowing ahead and was only aware of the engine repeatedly stalling when Jennifer would yell and point at the red light. The wind noise was unbelievable, making it impossible to hear the buzzers.

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