Kelley's Island Storm June 21, 2008
Kelley's Island Storm June 21, 2008Report Abuse
June 21, 2008
Kelley's Island Storm
Last weekend Jack vanArsdale, Adam Bartos, and my 18 year old son, Paul, sailed Kelly IV with me. The weekend proved quite different from our plans.
The weather, as always, dictates our plans as we try to go places where the weather, wind, and waves enhance rather than challenge the experience. Last weekend NOAA called for the same forecast all weekend: winds from 5 - 10 knots from the west through the day, shifting to the NW and North overnight, with a chance of scattered thunderstorms. With this forecast it seemed we could sail north on a beam reach up the east coast of Kelley's Island, then steer northwest on a close reach to the anchorage on the southeast of Middle Bass Island. That anchorage looked like it would provide great protection from the SW, W, NW, N, and possibly NNE. In other words, from all winds forecasted. Although thunderstorms were forecast, it has been my experience that these scattered storms are usually relatively light and few and far between. I expected that we were most likely to miss any storms altogether and at worst maybe catch 30 minutes of higher winds and some rain, then it would be quickly over. Based on this, we sailed from Sandusky Harbor Marina with a wonderful SW breeze.
Adam was enjoying his first sailing experience and it was a terrific example of what we all look for when sailing. The sun was bright, the green trees on the island were glowing, the golden beaches were glistening, the small, medium and large fishing boats were all scattered across the beautiful waterscape. The waves were minimal so the sailing was a smooth and comfortable glide across the water. Once we turned the “corner” and headed northwest towards the Middle Bass Island anchorage we noticed that the clouds to the west were building to a darker and more ominous appearance than we’d prefer. Of course, we still thought that the worse we’d encounter was a brief windy, possibly rainy encounter with one of the scattered storms. As we crossed the northern shore of Kelley’s Island, we considered pulling into the anchorage to our port, but the forecasted NW to northerly wind forebade an anchorage on a lee shore, something to be avoided. The clouds went from a frowning gray to a formidable black as we continued westward. By the time Jack had steered us to the northwest corner of Kelley’s Island, the storm was upon us in earnest. Winds were gusting to a high, blustery degree, waves were beginning to build and the black sky was fully covering our destination to the northwest. We decided to run away from the storm and head due west to clear the island, then turn south to further the distance between us and the building thunderstorm.
Jack steered Kelly IV steadily through the rolling waves and pointed her south toward the still clear skies over Catawba Island and Port Clinton. As we approached the southwestern corner of Kelleys Island, we first thought we could make for the small marina on the southwestern bay in the only town on Kelley’s Island. As it turns out, the wind kept building, the black clouds kept moving further south until they were totally over Kelly IV. By this time we had furled the jib entirely and put both reefs into the mainsail. Even so, we were sailing at 9 knots on a clear run directly downwind. We turned the corner at the southwest of Kelley’s Island, jibed the main without breaking anything, and continued our downwind run. As we raced past the marina entrance it was clear we were better off just running before the storm and enjoying the brisk, if rolling, ride before the wind. Occasionally the wind would try to broach the boat or ignore our steering effort, but the only time it caught us, the boombrake did its job and the unwelcome jibe was easily handled without anything bending or breaking. Otherwise it was just a bouncy, rolling ride over small but very steep and choppy waves. We rarely saw waves more than 3 feet high (I know, Jim and Troy are already saying the waves had to be fifteen feet!) but constant rolling made life a little edgey. First Paul went below to build a PB&J, then Jack became the “Hero of Kelly IV” by volunteering to go below and create a lunch to sustain the crew through the rough weather. Jack put together cold cuts, cheese, mayonnaise, even bubbly hot chocolate so the crew was able to continue to fight the cold wind, wet blowing rain, and bouncing, rolling sailboat. Jack’s lunch did the trick as Adam and I were both beginning to get a little green around the gills. With a hot chocolate and solid sandwich, all of us were back on track and ready to sail Kelly IV wherever she needed to go.
As Kelly IV passed Cedar Point on our starboard beam, the wind abated, the sky cleared and we made plans to turn back to the marina on Kelley’s Island. Unfortunately, we were too confidant of the end of the storm. Within 15 minutes it came roaring back, winds quickly built to over 25 knots (my estimate) and we were rapidly getting blown southwest of Cedar Point. As skipper, it seemed like the brief, scattered thunderstorm of our forecast was turning into the all day storm of a frontal change. Later it turned out that a front did plow through, and it felt like it was lasting much longer than I had predicted as we worked our way through the wind and waves. With the wind back to its earlier fury and the marina on Kelley’s Island looking like a serious fight upwind, we behaved like gentlemen (gentleman NEVER sail to weather) and we decided to sail a beam reach into Sandusky Harbor and return to our home marina, southwest of our position.
Paul had taken the helm by this time and was doing well, but the leeway from the stiff breeze prevented us from making good toward the entry bouys at Sandusky Bay. We decided to turn on the trusty “iron genny” and fired up the recently commissioned diesel engine. Unfortunately, no matter what Paul did, we continued our leeward slip towards Vermilion, OH, to the southeast. I took over the helm and for 10 minutes could do no better than Paul. Finally, I decided to shut off the motor, it was doing us no good anyway, and just run before the wind as we had done before. The bother to this plan was that we might really end up in Huron or Vermilion, OH, 20 miles downwind from our home harbor. When I grabbed the lever to put the motor into neutral in preparation of shutting her down, I sheepishly discovered that we had never put the motor into forward gear! With this revelation, I called out to the crew that I thought we might motor into port after all, and shifted the diesel into forward gear. As hoped, she jumped forward and began the relentless onslaught towards Sandusky Bay’s entrance. The wind still forced a significant leeway, but by steering more westerly than the compass bearing to the entrance, we easily made the sea bouys. Within the hour we were entering Battery Park Marina. Why Battery Park Marina, you ask? Well, halfway into Sandusky Bay it dawned upon me that we had run the motor quite a bit with the windward effort two weeks ago and the fight with the thunderstorm this weekend. It occurred to me that we might be running low on fuel. Jack crawled back into the quarterberth to read the fuel tank guage, but the bouncing, rolling boat prevented a clear reading. The tank was something between almost empty to overflowing. Not knowing the correct tank level, we decided to pull into the first fuel dock, Battery Park Marina.
Murphy’s law being what it is, the wind died just as we pulled into the marina, which made the docking procedure quite easy. After a brief respite to clean up our wet foul weather gear, we warped Kelly IV past another sailboat. They needed the gas pump we were tied up to, we needed the diesel pump they were next to. The warping completed, we topped our fuel tanks, emptied our personal “tanks”, and returned to Sandusky Harbor Marina.
Although we had only been sailing for 8 hours, we were rather bushed and decided to give Jack, our chef, the night off. We bought dinner in town and relaxed over soft drinks (for the boys) and adult beverages (for the adults).
Sunday’s forecast called for more of the same, so we stayed in the marina and completed several jobs including installation of a handrail in the main cabin (that would have been nice 24 hours earlier!), inspected & repaired the primary CQR anchor and line, and installed a new cleat for the jib furling line. It turns out that Adam and Paul joined Jack as very important and helpful crew accomplishing both difficult and valuable boat jobs.