Seaworthy Magazine: Thunderstorms - A Few Members' Accounts

I always look forward to the accounts in Seaworthy and as an old [very old ] Coastie I'm always interested in boating safety. My spring storm happened on a Memorial Day here in Florida. My two sons and I had been out for a day sail on our Pearson 303 and were turning into the long Anclote channel that leads to our marina when I noticed that dark clouds-they looked like nothing more than rain clouds- were forming. We continued up the channel.

There were several other sailboats ahead of us as well as powerboats whizzing by our port side trying to beat the weather. As we continued down the channel we were suddenly hit with blinding rain and wind of 57 knots. I was instantly blinded and had to throw my glasses on the deck while I fought to get control of the boat. The sailboat just ahead had apparently turned around and one of my sons called out that it was heading bow on toward us.

I went hard right with the wheel and we skimmed by with only inches to spare. I then turned hard over to port because I knew we were near the right side of the channel. The next thing I knew we were aground on the port side of the channel. I reduced power and shifted into reverse but the engine stalled and the wind caught us and slammed the starboard bow into the port side channel marker and then spun us around and drove us onto the starboard side of the channel.

My oldest son tried to drop the anchor but it just skipped along as we went aground and all we could do was hang on as the boat heeled to about 45 degrees to starboard. As soon as the wind let up we called for a tow and were pulled off with, we thought, no apparent damage to the boat. Later we discovered that the rudder had a cracked near the lower hinge point. We also found that the winds reached 100 knot in gusts and 57 boats in our area had been blown aground from the storm.

Things I did wrong included removing the GPS because I didn't want it to get wet. Also, I have since instructed my son to come to my side at critical times like that so that communication will be easier and he can watch the GPS while I steer. Of course, I will never attempt to go into a narrow channel again if the weather looks even remotely bad.