Seaworthy Magazine: Thunderstorms - A Few Members' Accounts
In the summer of 1993 I lived and boated on Long Island Sound. My boat is a single screw 25 ft Bayliner.
I had just spent the day rafted up with several other boats when I noticed some black storm clouds rolling in from the west. I decided to leave and try to beat the storm front and get back to my mooring in Huntington Harbor as I've done in the past. However this time, things did not go as planned.
As I approached the channel marked by the Huntington Lighthouse, the winds started picking up. The normal speed limit is 5 mph in the channel and in normal weather, it can be a challenge because of the high traffic. This time it was even more congested because many other boaters had the same idea as me.
By now the winds were just starting to pick up but not that bad. As I entered the mouth of the harbor the front was intensifying in velocity and I became concerned about my ability to control the boat at 5 mph. The boats in front of me started to pick up speed and I followed suit.
When I approached my mooring the gusts were about 25 mph. As I turned by bow into the wind, I tried to mentally rehearse how I was going to leave the helm, run forward, pick up the pennant and tie on.
By the time I was set up and giving it my first shot, the squall line hit at about 60 mph (I found this out later). Needless to say, my one and only attempt was a failure.
By not I'm in a highly frantic state, looking for alternatives to mooring. I was worried about my safety and all the other boats moored around me and the damage I might do if I lost control.
Suddenly, through the rain, I heard several neighbors who were on the community dock yelling at me to bring my boat into the dock. Without thinking, I ran forward with a 15ft. bowline and hooked on my bow cleat. Leaving the line on my bow pulpit railing, I nosed the boat into the dock where the three men were standing.
As I got close with the wind dead on the bow, one of the guys grabbed the line and secured my boat with just the bowline. They ran for cover as my boat swung hopelessly back and forth. I went below, got a shot of "JD" and tried to settle down.
This whole adventure lasted no more than ten minutes but it seemed longer. The only damage that was done occurred when my boat hit the cover of an outboard motor on the other boat on the dock.
Lessons to be learned are simple. First, I probably should have stayed out in Huntington Bay, put my bow into the wind and rode it out as some of my friends did. I also could have beached the boat as our community had its own sandy beach.
I now boat on Lake Lanier in Georgia. As a normal practice, I have made mental noted of where I would beach my boat if ever I had to experience squall lines again. Before my bad experience, I never thought of contingency plans… I do now!