Caught in the storm!

The following takes place 2 nights ago. Haven’t had wifi access since so couldn’t publish it then:

We spent a peaceful night at anchor in the Antipoison River in Virginia, near Deltaville. No internet or cellphone service.

Still in the Chesapeake, our next stop was to be Norfolk where we would enter the Intracoastal Waterway. Winds were against us for the first part of the day so we motored. Winds changed and we sailed.

Everything was going well until our VHF radio beeped loudly, an emergency broadcast from the National Weather Service. The terse announcer said,”A line of severe thunderstorms capable of producing winds of 50 kts, hail, water spouts and lightning strikes is heading for the Norfolk area.” We were 3 miles north of Norfolk. We immediately started the engines and took down all sail. As the sky darkened we reached the channel into Norfolk. The current was against us at 2.5 kts. Our speed over water was 7 kts, but our actually speed via GPS was only 4.5 kts. The storm moved towards us at 15 kts. There was no way we could outrun it. Janice put the dog in the salon and cinched on his life jacket.

We abandoned our original destination and headed for Willoughby Bay, a mile from our position. We reached the bay and luckily there were no other boats there. Suddenly, we were hit broadside by a 45 kt gust of wind and hail. Lightening hit the water all around us. It felt like the oxygen had been sucked out of the air and Janice almost fainted. Even with no sail up Latitude Adjustment began to heel (cats aren’t supposed to heel). I tried to turn her into the wind, but the wind kept shifting. Visibility was zero. I told Janice to drop an anchor and we came up with a plan, but soon realized that it was too dangerous to send her up front. If she fell overboard that would be it for her.

My next goal was to keep the boat towards the center of the bay in order not to be grounded or hit anything near shore. Radar was useless; all we could see was rain clutter. The only navigation method I had was the GPS chartplotter and it jumped all over the place.The wind driven rain and hail hurt my eyes. Janice gave me her ski goggles.

As quick as it came on us it stopped. The sun came out and we saw a beautiful rainbow. More importantly we were in the middle of the bay away from all obstructions. The entire experience probably lasted about 20 minutes but it seemed like hours. We were soaked. The radio barked warnings about tornadoes in the area. On shore, we could hear warnings to employees to get inside.

But wait. It’s not over. We anchored in the protected portion of the bay and as soon as the anchor was down another storm cell hit us. We sat in the salon and watched as we were pushed close to two anchored barges. Then we swung close to a small sailboat anchored near us. Then we saw a channel marker behind us. The anchor must have dragged more than 200 feet. Just as I was about the start the engines and take the pressure off the anchor line, it was over. This anchor has never dragged before. Never. For you sailors, we had 10:1 scope out.

We re-anchored, and we watched nature’s fireworks for the rest of the day and that night until about 8 PM.


This entry was posted in Chesapeake, Travel and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Caught in the storm!

  1. Marshall says:

    Nothing like a little excitement on a trip!

    Do you know what the surface bottom was that you dragged in?

  2. Alan says:

    Don’t really know, but not good obviously. There was no mud on the anchor unlike most places we went in the Chesapeake.

  3. Eileen Bishop says:

    We remember that Chesapeake storms can be sudden and fierce. We’re so glad you are safe.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *