C'est la Vie is a 1966 Charlie Morgan 34.

Her home port is Everglades City, FL. Our typical cruising area is Southwest Florida, the Florida Keys, the Southeastern Atlantic Seaboard, and the Bahamas. We are C'est la Vie's third owners and purchased her in 2005. We continue to maintain and update this classic vessel. Please post any questions or comments about C'est la Vie or our travels via the comment links below.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

July 29, 2010 Tempestuous voyage

July 29 Transition between Charleston, Sc to Southport, NC
Good Morning! We woke up rested and ready for another transit outside. We listened to NOAA no storms were predicted. The winds were to be light and the waves 1-2 ft. Perfect for our overnight. We needed to have this kind of day out in the ocean. I didn’t want to be beat up again.
We rode the out going tide feeling so set up for our 100+ mile transit to Southport. We hailed a boat that was incoming and checked to see if NOAA was correct. Sure enough they reported the same. With smiles on our faces we were out into the Atlantic ready to transit Bulls Bay and Long Bay on our way to Southport. We are on our way to NC!
I was on the helm out of the inlet. It was noon and we decided to switch so that we could be on our previous schedule. We get Otto set up and began the 4 hour watch routine. This is great. We have the Genoa up and the main sail set. It is not nearly as humid out on the water as it was on land. The sun is out and we have a hazy horizon but with Otto on we are making great time.
Jeff was on watch and he just did not like the look of the horizon. I did not know what he was talking about. “Anne, look at the clouds. Do you see the column there and then the one over there? They might have rain but what is in front of us is massive and might be a huge thunderstorm.
We tried to get NOAA on the radio. It was picking up Jacksonville, fl weather and we needed Myrtle Beach, SC. This was not helpful. Back to listening to Charleston weather. We were too far away for Wilmington. The fact that we could not raise the Myrtle Beach weather fueled Jeff’s fears that what I thought was just haze was in fact something we needed to be aware of. So, we dropped the Genoa and then proceeded to put 2 reefs in the sail. I really thought this might be crazy as we were only feeling 5-10 knots of wind. Really light air. I kind of resented it as our speed went from 6 knots to 3.5 knots.
At around 7 pm Charleston weather came on with warnings of severe storms and this warning would remain until 8:45pm. Uggh. That is when I learned again not to second guess Jeff when it comes to reading weather.

Soon, the squall line was upon us. It looked like a gray portabella mushroom cap from Alice in Wonderland. Under the cap it was dark and scary with flashes of light, the top was not much better at least there was no caterpillar. There were layers of clouds on this front. I have never seen anything like this. It was huge It went from light behind us to darkness in front and to the side of us. I began to get a bit nervous. Clenching my teeth and looking to Jeff for directions.
Jeff took the helm and then the winds began to blow. The clouds were sucking all the air up and growing in size. Lightning was next. Finally, the rain hit-cold, hard, driving rain. We were in the mix of weather for about 4 hours. The most intense of it lasted about and hour. I was in shear panic mode. All I could do was hold onto the hand held VHF with at death grip in case our boat was struck by lightning and broken and half and we were swept out to sea at least I could push the distress button. It made sense in my head at the time. Jeff made me put it down as it was made of metal.
The flashes went from flashes like getting your photo taken and far off growling noises to rips of light across the sky and a CRACK and vibrations that I felt at my core. I was scared. If I had to be on the helm I don’t know if I could have done it. I was stiff, my lower lip was quivering and I tried so hard not to hyperventilate. Tears were streaming and I just kept thanking Jeff under my breath for being so damn brave and so together and so focused and ….Thank you.
As the storm let up and I moved a bit Jeff asked me to go downstairs get warm and dried off. It would be light rain from now on and if I did that then I could take the helm so he could do the same. I did not want to go away from him. I was afraid that he would be swept away or hit by lightning or something else just as terrible. I was really in a negative spiral.
I reluctantly agreed and went downstairs. I found a mess. My plants had fallen over during the worst of it so dirt and basil was all over the floor. I mopped up rainwater and sea spray that came in through the vents. We had taken on some water and it was pooling in the lockers under the quarter berth so it was seeping out through the floor near the stove. It was not as bad as it could be since every basket was in place and all of our food and books and pelican cases were on their shelves.
As I dried myself off and changed clothes an alarm went off. Again to panic mode. What was this noise, what was happening, Jeff!? “Push the button on the white panel”, he shouts over the roar of the engine. I have no idea what he is talking about. I shoot out of the cabin and into the cockpit and tell him he has to take care of it. Down he goes and in an instant the alarm is silenced. He yells up to me” it’s the high water alarm.” Oh shit. I begin to go into worst case disaster mode. Have we been struck by lightning and we have a hole in the boat? Is the hull broken from the waves? Why can’t the bilge pump get all the water? Where is this water coming from?
Jeff opens the engine compartment; I stay at the helm and remain calm as the light show is still quite impressive, mostly cloud to cloud creating spider web designs. If it didn’t frighten me so much I might be able to appreciate the beauty of the designs the electricity was making.
Jeff figured out that the filter on the lower bilge pump was clogged and was not keeping up with the rain and sea spray. He removed it and the pump did it’s job and the alarm dried out and stopped howling. Phew.
The rest of the voyage, 7 hours, was a piece of cake. Can you believe that the wind died and we had to motorsail the rest of the way? We actually were able to ride the flooding tide into Southport and arrive at the free dock for slack tide as if we had planned it that way. It took us just about 23 hours to go 124nm. That’s pretty darn good for the sailboat!

1 comment:

  1. I don't think I'll ever get used to thunderstorms on the boat! During my first storm experience at Cape Fear, I was so nervous that my knees were shaking. Way to hang in there.