Friday, September 3, 2010


The wind has started from the Northeast, quiet and cloudy. We watch with nervous energy.

It blows. There's a light steady rain on fiberglass. The boat is rocking and groaning. Every once in a while the boat heaves a big stuttering shiver. I flirt with sleep. It plays hard to get.

The motion changes, the wind picks up. All the sounds that had made themselves familiar the last three hours have left and sent in a new platoon of noises. The most unsettling of them is a high mew like a kitten, mew mew mew, mew mew mew. Sleep still taunts and runs away leaving me feeling slightly queasy.

I was roaming around restless and stopped to look out to port. A man was walking down the boardwalk and turned up our dock. He bent his head against the wind and rain. A few minutes later we heard a loud horn blow. Wee hour mysteries.

Okay, that was a big gust. A loud bang and the trash flew open on its track. Hmm. Getting more queasy.

I'm seeing what they mean by "bands." Every 10 minutes or so, we get blasted. That damnable cat sound is consistent and annoying. My muscles are getting sore from being thrown about in a washtub.

This should be the worst of it, the next hour. We talk briefly about the cleat on the dock giving way, then quickly change the subject. Conversation is difficult amidst the cacophony.

Chip is sleeping. Amazing. I watch. A storm blast wakes him, and the boat shimmies. We turn on the spreader light halfway up the mast and look up through the hatch. The rain is almost horizontal.

A sudden pelting like gravel thrown on the deck. I jump up to turn on the foredeck light. It looks the same as before. Hail? Not sure.

We've started to get stripes of quiet, calm. Taunting. But then it comes back with a vengeance. Perhaps we'll be finished soon. I hope. My nerves are frayed.

We've passed now into what will surely be the final hour. The gusts are so strong, the boat bump-bump-bumps along like it's passing over a wooden bridge. The bigger world out there might know where Earl is but in our isolation we track it by wind direction, still north, and the plummeting barometer, still going at 29.7.

According to FM radio, Earl will not be passing Nags Head until 8 a.m. Could that be true? We have 5 more hours of this? Really?

Sure enough. This has not let up. The rain pounds. The wind howls. The boat pitches. I snatch little bits of sleep between bands.

"We expect winds to continue for several more hours and ease around daybreak." This according to automaton man on VHF weather channel. Bastard. And so we enter the fifth hour.

We both prowl around restlessly. Minutes ago we were standing three feet apart facing starboard, holding tight as the boat bucked. Two items started flying across shelves, one in front of each of us. We each in unison reached out and grabbed the one nearest us.

I guess the hours before dawn are always the hardest. We both fret. The water rises. We realize now that if something happens, a line breaks, a piling gives way, there's not much we can do. I question our decision to stay onboard. The water's too high now to get off safely.

Howling wind. This is the worst, and we're tired, nerves shot, watching the minutes tick by, cringing at every gust. I study the eastern sky, begging the sun to rise. We listen to FM radio to hear human voices. We strain over the noise only to hear them saying schools are closed today. There's some news.

The sky is brightening. Chip just went on deck to secure the boom. It's still wailing. The power has gone out in Manteo. No more AC.

The barometer has gone up a smidge. Could we be almost out of the weeds? Woods? Winds?

No, it's getting worse. The wind is intense, sometimes sounds like a low-flying jet. The rain is pounding. We rocking so severely that I'm seasick. We're suiting up and waiting for the first chance to get off the boat. She has proven herself capable. We need a break.

We left the boat just before 8:00 and huddled in the dockmaster's office with some other wet folks, the wind and rain still howling. McDonald's was the only place open selling hot food, so we got nourishment, coffee at Front Porch and then settled onto a now perfectly still boat for a 5-hour nap.

Cara Mia sustained no damage. I'll review the lists from yesterday once we've had an actual night's sleep.

I like reading my wee hour thoughts. Time will tell which ones will take root.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the blow by blow..Hope you got some rest today!!! Kim B

Donna said... guys are amazing!! Glad you survived and so did your boat.

Suzanne said...

mail.comGlad you made it thru the night. Isabella was anchored out in Clubfoot Creek. Winds only reached around 35 mph. We retrieved her yesterday and spent the day cleaning her up and putting away the Fortress Anchor. She's back to being herself. She's headed out tomorrow for a sail.

Take care!

Pete and Suzanne