Day 5a – 36 Hour Tropical Storm!

Day 5 – Nov. 3rd, Endured a 36 hour Tropical Storm!

Sirius Sat Weather Screen, notice all the weather around the boat, and boat speed at 8.1 knots.

Sat Weather Screen, notice the weather around the boat, and the boat speed at 8.1 knots.

Just when we thought all was well, and we were only a day and half from St. Augustine’s, Florida, the winds started to pick up. We could see some precipitation on the Sirius Satellite Weather, we thought it was just a little bit of rain. We sailed on, and the closer we got to it, the stronger the winds became. We could now see the depression growing in size, and taking up more area on the screen, it grew to about 200-300 km in diameter. There was no away around it now, plus the cold front we were talking about earlier, was now creeping up behind us. We were getting it from all sides. Through the night the winds increased to 30 knots, gusting to 35 to 40 knots at times. We would estimate the wave height at over 12 feet, however we could not see them in the pitch black of night. At this point we were almost 150 miles or close to 300 km from shore. There was no sign of life out here, at least not the human kind. We did not hear a thing on the radio, or see any ships even on the AIS that has a range of 50 miles. The boat was rocking and rolling, handling the conditions remarkably well. Through out this night and into the next day, we were sailing 8-9 knots, at times reaching 10 knots. Surfing waves 11-13.5 knots.

Riding down some swells.

Riding down some swells.

As the the winds increased throughout the night, we kept putting in reefs (shortening the main sail, lowering it bit by bit), fortunately on our boat this can be done completely from the cock pit. Inside the luxury of our full enclosure, we kept warm, dry, and away from the wind and flying rain pellets. I could only image what it would be like sailing out side in the elements in these conditions. I wanted to put in a plug for Island Canvas who built the enclosure, it sustained winds of up to 40 knots, sustained wind at 30 knots for almost 36 hours, and held up perfectly, the windows on the starboard side were getting blown in, but did not lose their shape at all. The enclosure even kept me from falling overboard once.

The boat was almost knocked down a couple of times. A wind gust of close to 40 knots, and climbing a very large wave side ways at the same time, and the boat was tossed by another breaking wave side ways for an instant the boat was almost horizontal, about 60 to 70 degrees of heel. It only lasted a second or less, and she righted immediately like she is suppose to, she carried on her path within a second without losing a beat. Cez was tossed from one berth to the other, air born in the salon, banging his head on the nav table, and bruised his rips on the compression post. I was in the head (bathroom) at the time, won’t go into details about what happened to me, but you can imagine it was not pretty, nothing is really pretty when your pants are down at your angles, but this was ugly to the power of 10. Once I recovered, I noticed water was gushing in the side of the ship. Great, now we are taking on water and are going to sink I thought. Where was the water coming from. I noticed the sink was full, and it was coming from the drain hole of the sink. This has never happened before. Even with the boat heeled to the drain hole, which is normally well above the water line, this should not happen. With the boat speeding at close to 10 knots at times, and the water smashing against the hull at who knows what speed, water was being pushed right through the drain hole at such force, that it pushed through all the plumbing and up into the sink. The force filled the sink and was now overflowing. I acted quickly and found the thru hull drain valve, and closed it. This prevented any more water from coming in. Turned out to be nothing serious, but you can imagine the force of the water to have this happen.

I went up to the cock pit to tell Paul who was helming what happened, and ask him about the near knock down. He said, not to worry, par for the course, the boat is handling as she is suppose to, even better then he thought it would. I looked at the Sirius Satellite Weather, I noticed about 10 miles ahead, winds were registering at 60 knots. I told Paul about what I saw, his face went into a little state of worry. He said, “Your kidding me right?” then he said, “Lets take down the main completely”. Both Peter and Cez, came up from bed, and volunteered for the task. I asked Cez to do it, since he has sailed with Black Diamond longer, and knows the configuration of the boat, and would have an easier time at it. We harnessed him into the boat, and sent him out the front dodger window. This was far safer than trying to go out the side. Cez was a trooper, and had the main down and lashed within a few minutes. I asked him how it felt to be out in 80 km winds, with rain pellets pounding your face, trying to balance on the roof, holding on to the boom for dear life. He said, “Just don’t ask me to do that again”.

Blue Led Spreader lights on for the photo.

Blue Led Spreader lights on for the photo.

We were now surfing under 110% jib only, and still making similar speeds. Unbelievable! When we got back to the dock the next morning, the only damages we found was a bolt missing from the Furlex furler system that held the jib on. I think the force of the wind, and one too many accidental gybes on the fore sail caused us to lose the bolt. It appeared not to have been life threatening, we would not have lost the head stay, which actually holds the whole mast up. We may have potentially just lost the ability to furl the sail. As for the main sail, we always had a preventer on it to prevent accidental gybes of the main sail (Preventing the main sail and boom from smashing from one side to the other).

Notice the speed and volume of the spray on the side of the ship.

Notice the speed and volume of the spray on the side of the ship.

We were in pitch darkness, all we could see was the spray and foam coming out from the side of the hull. I remember saying it looked and felt like we were in a space capsule re-entering the atmosphere from space.


The back of the boat looks like we have a 300 horse out board.

The back of the boat looks like we have a 300 horse out board.

I checked the weather station again, and found the 60 knot storm ahead was down graded to 22 knots. Thank God! I guess my prayer in the cabin paid off!


s/v Black Diamond

With almost 30,000 Nautical miles of experience and 1,800+ sea days and nights on the water. (1,800 sea days is like 5 years on the water, 365 days a year!) I am an RYA Skipper and ICC International Competent Captain, currently working on my RYA Yacht Master with a Commercial endorsement for a 200 ton vessel. My qualifications include; MED A2 Emergency Safety at Sea, Helicopter Rescue, Life raft deployment and use, Offshore Rescue and Fire Fighting at Sea, etc, STCW Code A-VI/1-3, Canadian Equivalent Marine First Aid and CPR/AED. I am an Open Water Certified diver and completed various CYA & Canadian Power and Sail Squadron certifications which include Power/Sailboat handling, Seamanship Sail, Piloting/charting, CYA Coastal Navigation, GPS Navigation, Extended Offshore Cruising, VHF Radio operation license and a Toronto Harbour License. I am now providing skippered charters and yacht deliveries globally, including crew positions for offshore passages. However, my specialities are the Bahamas, US East Coast, The Great Lakes, Welland Canal, Erie Canal and the Adriatic Sea, Croatia, looking to add Greece. Feel free to contact me at [email protected]

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5 Responses

  1. Andy Mattingly says:

    Great stuff! We have enjoyed following you along your trip! Like I told you before, we will be making the same trip, next June, from Mi. to our new home in Stuart Fl. While I always enjoy sailing in a little “weather”, I hope ours is a little tamer than yours. The Serius Weather is great, we have it too. If you have any suggestions for us and out trip, we are all ears? Any suggestions on who to have drop and step the mast?
    Thanks again for the updates. Perhaps we will cross paths one day? Where are you going to be slipped, in Fl?

    Andy & Deb Mattingly
    Catalina Morgan 440 “Island Time”

  2. thomas vincent says:

    Hey Guys…just read the summary of the storm….I’m a little of a sailor and my heart was racing listening to the read…..yikes…great to see you made out okay…and I’m sure the experience and strength of the boat bodes well. Good Luck…Thom Vincent. International Skal Councillor – SICAN

  3. First of all I want to say superb blog! I had a quick question that I’d like to ask if you do not mind. I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your thoughts before writing. I have had a difficult time clearing my thoughts in getting my thoughts out there. I do take pleasure in writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are generally lost just trying to figure out how to begin. Any recommendations or tips? Many thanks!

  4. s/v Black Diamond says:

    Thanks for the compliment… I just put the rest of the world out of my mind, and focus on recreating the moment I wish to write about. Then it just starts to flow, sometimes too fast, and my grammar and sentence structure is awful, but for me the ideas and content are more important. I then try to go back later and correct, but usually not! Ha ha LOL.

  1. November 19, 2008

    […] just finished enduring a 36 hour tropical storm, so it will be interesting to see what else they get up to. Make sure you check out Ed’s […]

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